Wednesday, December 23, 2009

~If You Want to Write~ but Painters, Musicians & Artist in General -Take Note Too

I am reading a wonderful book called If You Want to Write A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit written and first published in 1938 by author and teacher Brenda Ueland (1891-1985).

One of her primary premises is that to be human is to be talented because everybody who is human has something to express, and everybody is original and has something important to say if he tells the truth. "But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be."
(p. 4)

She sees creative power and imagination as very tender and sensitive and usually "drummed out of people" very early in life, and so she sets out to share and encourage the possibility of being blessed by using one's creative powers. In a foot note she writes:

"Whenever I say "writing" in this book I also mean anything that you love
and want to do or to make. It may be a six-act tragedy in blank verse, it
may be dressmaking or acrobatics, or inventing a new system of double entry
book-keeping. But you must be sure that your imagination and love
are behind it, that you are not working just from grim resolution, i.e., to make
money or impress people." (p.14)
She understands any creative work where the feelings imagination and intelligence are employed to have intrinsic value. Writing teaches the writer, stretches a person. "It has done you good." (p. 15), she wrote in her succinct way.
In addition to the much she learned over the years from her students, friends and writer contemporaries, she draws greatly upon the lives and work of Chekhov, William Blake, Vincent Van Gogh and Mozart.
Even though I'm just a few chapters into this book, I've enjoyed aspects of it so much it would feel selfish not to share of its existence and I'd like to hear from others who are already familiar with Ms. Ueland's work. I had never heard of her and just stumbled upon a used copy of the 1987 second edition from Graywolf Press. I've since noticed on Amazon that it's been republished again. It seems deigned to be a classic. I'll leave you with one of her definitions of art:

"But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love (1) and enthusiasm for something, and
in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty
in things to others, by drawing it.

1Or it can be a feeling of hate and abhorrence too. through the work of the men who have worked from love
seems to be greater than those who have worked from
Well, I'm heading back to a little music, some exercise, my reading and writing and preparing for Christmas.

Happy Holidays to All


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sweet December...Burma

I thought I was posting about Sweet December and Burma on this blog...but I had actually opened a window over at Bread on the Water so I hope you'll drop in over there and read a bit about Burma...a land where many of the rights we take almost for granted are seriously compromised.
The Burmese people it has been my privilege to meet are some of the sweetest folks I've met...well go on and read what I posted earlier and maybe you will even have a word to share with me in response. I always welcome your comments.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ageless as the Star and the Lily

In Praise of the Friendship of Books
Quotations from the writings of Oswald Chambers
(c) 2000 JPR

“Books…friends that are ever true and ever your own.” I certainly feel this way about some books and as for Oswald Chambers, the man who penned these words, I count him, through his writing, as such a friend. His days began in the year 1874 and ended in the year 1917, years before my days began. He had not himself rushed to publish, but after his death those who had known and loved him sought to preserve and share what he’d written, gathering his lectures, lesson notes, journal meditations and letters. Numerous titles were published posthumously and some remain in print.

I had made my first acquaintance with Oswald Chambers, as many people do, through the renowned collection of short readings, My Utmost for His Highest. My husband presented the slim volume to me. I had no idea what a challenge I was being given, nor what a friend I was about to meet. Morning after morning I let this man’s words encounter me, but it was not until seven years later that I discovered other writing of Oswald Chambers on the bookshelf of one of my generous friends.

Even though our homes were distant and our visits rare, my friend insisted that I borrow his entire collection of Oswald Chambers, including the 1959 out of print Oswald Chambers, His Life and Work. Knowing that I might never have my own copy of this treasure, or be able to borrow or read this book again, as I read (1996) I created a notebook of favorite passages from this work . That notebook has been tucked away on a shelf for the past four years. Tonight, I came across it and found that it is filled with quotes of a translucent nature that beg to have the light of additional sharing shine though them.

In the pages of Oswald’s biography, when I say I encountered a friend, I mean, to borrow his words, I encountered “a living mind competently expressed.” Oswald was willing to think vulnerably and strenuously. “To think is an effort; to think rightly is a great effort, and to think as a Christian ought to think is the greatest effort of a human soul,” he wrote in a paper he titled “Holy Patience.”

Stick to the Point

Oswald wrote and lived obedient to his own maxim to “stick to the point.” Listen to the pure poetry of his internal dialogue, the economy of his self-counsel, which is found scattered throughout his journal entries. “Be definite…Never lower the ideal…I refuse to worry.”

As I glimpsed how truly thinking this way could shape and energize otherwise lost time and energy of my days, I lamented. Oh the time that I have cast away in the billowing sails of the ship named “waste and worry.” My friend was ready with another word for me, “Arise and do the next thing…never let the sense of failure corrupt your new action.”

And at what pace does one need to stride to keep in step with such a friend? “Unhasting, unresting…” How do two small words capture such dynamic balance?

“Unhasting,” it is a challenging word; laments about the fast pace of life these days are common. Oswald wrote of how he found it a blessed thing in life that “a man carries his kingdom on the inside, and that makes the outside lovely.” The cry of his heart was for the courage to rely on God’s provisions; redemption in Christ Jesus and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to avoid the world’s polarities of rationalism and common sense on the one hand or worry and fear on the other.

Oswald Chambers was known for urging others to recognize any experience that ought to be theirs but was not, and to promptly confess this before God and to put one’s self in the right attitude to make it one’s own. He thought of counseling and teaching as opportunity to experience holiness in human relationships. He prized “spontaneous moral originality.” He urged that organization must be seen “to be the scaffolding,” and that it not be confused with the body that erects it.

This focus on the essence and the essential is delightfully present in so many passages that may have been just the scribbles of some moment he claimed in quietude.

“The thing that comes to me just now is that children, love,straightforwardness, simplicity, are all very old,so old that there is no time about them. They are ageless and they partake of the order of the star and the lily. The busy-nesses, the importance, the worrying, and the doing-goodness are all recent and passing.”

And so is my friend, Mr. Chambers, “very old, so old that there is no time about” him. He too partakes of the “order of the star and the lily” and the order of friendship that transcends time and place and is passed down and along to us in books.

Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Common Thread

I dislike having to categorize where one day's writing goes versus another. Organizing my journal feels like splitting hairs. There's just one of me, why did I sprout twenty-two labels on this blog and why do I have two blogs? As diverse as the thoughts, feelings and happenings are that prompt me to write, there's a part of me that resists categories and acknowledging divisions. I don't like politics of any kind. For years I managed to pretend politics were of no account, but there is no realm where they do not seem to penetrate. School yard, grocery, bookstore, doctor's office, church, where can one go? Yes, even my notebooks...but I long to just spin and weave with a common thread... I say...with my own embroidery in mind.

Don't get me wrong about wanting to ignore divisions, boundaries are good things. For your visual and mental convenience, I've even started a new paragraph here, hoping to protect all of us from blurry thinking. I see boundaries in nature....niches of functional richness, spacial and temporal and seasonal variations of an environment both allow and limit what grows, and who sings or crawls in any particular place.

Gretchen Johanna at Gladsome Lights leaned on George Bernard Shaw to solve her dilemma of categories : "Crude classifications and false generalizations are the curse of organized life..." wrote Shaw and so G. J., acknowledging her debt, labeled her archive of posts "Crude Classifications." That helps me, remembering that many of our divisions are but "crude."

Here is an example of the ubiquitous nature of politics: I recently read an interview of a young author,editor. publisher who among other literary efforts, compiled and edited a book of birth stories. Here she is discussing feedback she's received.

Despite the fact that I didn't have a political agenda when I edited the book, I've noticed that people do have a political response to the book. I didn't have any criteria for the essays except that I wanted each essay I selected to reach the highest literary standards. I've found Christians who like the pro-natal aspect of the book but object to the fact that I've included a couple of essays by lesbians. Natural or home birth proponents have objected to the fact that I include hospital births in the book. And hospital birth proponents have argued that the book is biased towards natural birth. Whatever. About half the births in the book are hospital births and half are natural births so I don’t see how there could be a “bias” from either side. And I included essays by Christians, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and who knows what. I honestly didn't care about that part of it. I just wanted to show that whatever TYPE of birth a person experiences, and no matter what spiritual persuasion a person has, the process of giving birth is life-affirming (even when a baby dies, as happens with one of the birth stories in the book) and that process changes men and women in profound and measurable ways.

I take her at her word, she either didn't have an agenda or was not fully conscious of it, but either way she has set out on an up hill battle. I see her desire; she's looking for a common thread and she, not a mother herself, chose to edit a book focused on something that we each and all do in fact have in common, being birthed. Other of her ventures reveal that she is neither unaware of nor ignores the divisive facts of life; it's more like she's willing to head into the eye of the storm in hopes of transcending them.

But of course it is very political to write about anything primal because the body politic wants control and claim over anything of the essence. That is a very old story. It does no good to proclaim our innocence, even if sitting home sewing crib quilts for peace, the critics , representing a full spectrum of goodwill to skulduggery are likely to come and point out how one's underlying assumptions are revealed by every choice, by what one has deigned to include or exclude. It is out of our assumptions that our more specific and concrete beliefs arise. And our beliefs do shape our methods and if we are worth our salt, so to speak, then our methods ought to line up and bring about our goals. Not to just circle about here, but those goals, in a life of purpose should be a practical reflection of the most primary assumptions, the foundation of our being. As tempting as it is to try and ignore politics, there is a war going on.

Divisions themselves are full spectrum, from positive and purposeful to destructive profligate, and within one division others often occur; while occasionally reunions or offers thereof do happen.

The wires of communication are hotly lit of late with news and opinions about the the recent offer that the Roman Catholic Pope has made to priests and parishioners fleeing the Episcopal Church. While some focus on the divisions that exist between these two ( three, four ?) bodies established over the last four hundred plus years, I read one analysis that explores some of the forces in the world that these entities struggle with. Richard Fernandez describes, in Lighting of the Beacons, some of the division and competition he sees this way: "From one side, there is the religion which pretends to be a political movement — socialism/communism. From the other flank there is the political movement which pretends to be a religion — Islam. Both religions have massive amounts of money, heavy weaponry and great cultural power."

It's an impressive essay, but I won't quote more of it here because it needs to be read in its entirety to be appreciated. Fernandez receives hundreds of comments within hours of posting on his web log. Many of the comments are essays unto themselves, some quite worthy of attention.

As I said, the thoughts, feelings and happenings that prompt me to write are diverse and as tempted as I am to resist nailing things down categorically, there is a difference between splitting hairs and seeing the real fissures in the world. It's a big conversation to enter and I never do so without trepidation but I trust that ultimately, whether in the wild or the civilizations of man, not one bird is forgotten and the hairs on our heads are counted. And I aim to lean into the word found in a letter to the Romans 12:18:
In as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men
In other words, while standing amongst clear distinctions, it's also up to us to find a common thread.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sun After a Storm and a Writing Prompt

Water is always needed on the California Coast and we finally got some. It didn't fall straight down came every which way, but we aren't complaining.
Before the Tuesday storm,
and I heard it was just the leftover of a typhoon
that Japan took the full brunt of, things were mighty tidy in the courtyard.
Only little limbs fell and the redwoods and cypress and pines got scoured by the wind and look lovely clean and much greener now.
It sure helps to have sunshine after a storm. The old house absorbed water like a wick.
After the rain, new buds bloom...
I threw open windows to the portal on the sea....
This picture I took reminds me of a writing prompt in a series of workshops I participated in...
"If I were a gate..." I will have to find that poem I wrote and post it on "Writepurpose" sometime.
But maybe, while I get back to of my readers will write a poem...
just take the prompt...and off you go...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Global Consternation

Sometimes I begin to post and either I think better of it or I get interrupted...I found this lurking in the drafts dated August 2, 2009:

Journal entries gliding out easily at the end of the day are not as likely for me as capturing first thoughts in the morning light. Before the rumble of the day, before I've girded myself up for people and activities, to think and feel and release a page in one smooth uninhibited scroll is natural, like an uncoiling, a spring released. Not that most of those pages are ever written to share, but they open the doors of perception to use Huxley's coinage, and then sometimes other writing follows.

When it's quiet, and I am too, I can access the inner realm with fewer twists and turns than it takes on an average day. It's evening now, the sun has set in obscurity and it's relatively quiet. I'm hunting and pecking for "what it is..."

Under the duress of intense emotions, words at work in me flow out easily, but that's more as if something is leaping out of me, rather than I entering in to meet and shape and retrieve and carry out a gestalt of thought. Or if it is an entry to within, it's more like Alice falling down the rabbit's hole.

Wonderland is where we live. When it is wonderful, as it often is close to home...I wonder and marvel. But of course we also live in a great wide world and in larger realms, trouble brews and many mad hatters would pour us a cup. And it isn't just that there's no room at the table and one must move down, make room, it's that the table itself is often needed to stage a makeshift emergency room.

So it's October now, I know this thought wasn't finished; it is terrible to spell out the problem and not even lean toward something that one can do. There are so many needs out in the big world. We can pick areas and send what help we can if we can't lay our own hands directly where the pressure is needed. I know I stay pretty busy just listening to people directly in my life, being there for them as best I can, doing my job every day, taking care of our know trying to cook like I know something about nutrition and taking time to exercise and then also exercising that big muscle on top of my shoulders and...well... then before I know it the sun goes down. But I can't read the paper, or the web or click past the televised sound bites and not care and not have something to do or say about what's going on...can you?


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Guard was Down

You have seen today's headlines...dressed as a diplomatic guard a man asks to use the toilet facilities in the lobby of the World Food Center in Pakistan. Hidden behind his vulnerable sounding request was 16 pounds of explosives. As I first read the story I am thinking in normal human terms, this person has a primal need, we all have these needs, someone took pity on him. It takes me only a moment though, as touching as my first thoughts may have been, a guard had to let him pass.

People need to eat and five people who made it their job, their focus to feed displaced and hungry people in Pakistan, have been murdered. The survivors, those workers who live on and the neighbors of the compound in the surrounding residential area in Islamabad are traumatized. Whether the guard let his guard down or was part of the plan...all human relations are challenged by such treachery.

They were feeding the displaced, those who themselves have no accommodations of their own, those who are daily hungry. To the memory of those killed, in their honor, I paraphrase from the Epistle of James: Pure religion is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction...


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Government Run Programs - Good Track Record ?

The Monterey County Herald Newspaper has an OPINION page and here is a letter to the Editor and the Reading Public printed Tuesday, September 8, 2009 written by a citizen named Ron Phoebus and titled, which I believe the News Editor does, as:
" Government-run programs don't work "

The U.S. Postal Service was established in 1775—234 years later, it's broke! The government has also run: Social Security for 74 years—broke! Fannie Mae,71 years—broke! War on Poverty, for 45 years and more than $1 trillion wealth transfer to the "poor"—didn't work! Medicare/Medicaid, government-run for 44 years—broke! Freddie Mac after 39 years of government sponsorship—broke! Eight-hundred billion in pork filled TARP—not working. Cash for Clunkers: Here's a real winner. We (taxpayers) give ourselves $4,500 to buy a car from a factory we own (nationalization of GM and Chrysler), with money we have to borrow (from Communist China) at interest rates our great-grandchildren will still be paying. Most of the cars purchased were Japanese! What was the contribution to productivity? Now, there's another fine government program. And you want government-run health care? Go ahead, bet your life on the government's track record!

Thank you Mr. Phoebus. While Mr. Phoebus may use a few too many exclamation points, I imagine that he had to get a little excited to motivate himself to get involved in this debate. It's not that people like Mr. Phoebus are unwilling to pay for postage, pay into social security, loan money for housing, fight poverty in our midst, resuscitate the code blue economy, have safe economical cars on the road and a chicken in every pot too, but it's daunting to gather up those big numbers( how many zeros does 8 hundred billion have?) and summarize the history, all the while thinking about the hopes of each of those government program versus the actual reality. Of course he used all those exclamation points.

We do need reform in the laws and ethics of the Health Care Insurance Industry. Our hospitals need protection from misuse of services. Tort Reform...Eligibility Law, Health Care Portability...changes need to be made...but the government does not have to become the provider.

It does take getting a little excited, a little worked up to vest yourself in the public realm, to communicate or do anything about the events in the world around us. So in lieu of getting worked up myself, rather than staying focused on the work I have to do, and in an effort to thank this local stranger, I reprint his letter to the local news editor in hopes of multiplying his efforts by whatever number my modest readership represents.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Ishimwe Center a Home for Children in Rwanda

There is a Rescue Home in Ruhengeri, Rwanda that continues to expand in heartfelt response to the pressing needs of children. Ishimwe Center has decided it is time to expand their vision to care for more children without abandoning the primary goal to raise all the children as a family rather than in an institutional setting.
The nanny and the gardener and some of the family

The couple that began this mission are readying themselves to leave their employment and comfortable California home to move to Rwanda to be with the children full time. I hope you will visit their website and read the story and hopes of Rwandan born Faith Shaw and her English born husband, Roger.
Faith Shaw at the Home in Ruhengeri

Little Faith & Hope are part of the family

Recently Ishimwe Center nanny, Judith, came across a child whose parents had both died and then subsequently her remaining grandparent died. The center really was already full, and everyone agreed that no more children should be brought in, but what do you do when you see the face and know the needs of someone truly bereft? The orphaned child hung around the house of a neighbor but the neighbor truly couldn't provide care. Judith became aware of this child when she visited the neighbor. She found herself returning to visit and check on the child and saw that the child was suffering from a skin disease.

As Faith and Roger wrote:
“We had told Judith not to take any more children, but
perhaps we didn't drive the point home and after all she has a soft heart and
was face to face with the suffering. She brought the child to the Rescue Home,
thinking it was a girl about 4 or 5 years old. Later she discovered it was a
boy. When she told us, we also did not want to send him away.

Furthermore, Judith told us that the boy had a sister, one year
older and now struggling alone, but she had only dared to bring one child. We
decided not to break up the remnant of the family and sent Judith back to rescue
the sister. Now both are living at the Rescue Home. The girl (left) is called
Ishimwe (what a great name! So that's what the Ishimwe Center is all about!) and
the boy is called Niyonkuru (or Christian).”
Ishimwe & Niyonkuru

Faith has traveled to Rwanda each year to stay with the children and the people hired to care for them. Roger also goes when his vacation time has allowed it. This March they were able to buy 4 acres of raw hillside land on the outskirts of Kigali. You can read more about what they hope to build and how they plan to both offset running costs and help integrate the children into the local community, by raising and growing food, and building a computer learning center, a day care center and a multi-purpose hall.

I met Faith at a fundraiser a few years ago where she had been hired as a translator. All my encounters with Faith and Roger have been a joy and I will be sorry to have my new friends physically so far away, but the joy of visits will be replaced with the joy of knowing people who are inspired and stretching themselves in love. I will continue to enjoy the energy, peace and fragrance that flow out of their purpose and commitment.
Flavia & Ruka are part of the family too.
Go check out the website of Ishimwe Center and see if it doesn't make you smile.
Thanks for visiting me. I always enjoy your questions and comments.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Classic Cars in Carmel Clunkers ? No Way.

It was a little chilly out, August 13th, and I had lots of other draws on my attention, but I did snap a few of the classic cars that were driving in the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance. Capturing moving cars was a section in my new camera book I hadn't read yet. Why post them here on my Write Purpose Blog? Well, I'm just glad that these automobiles were not deemed clunkers!

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

This one had some trouble tracking the lane. Must have been a bit of work getting out to Big Sur and back.

This one apparently took best of is a 1937 Horsch 853 Voll & Ruhrbeck sport cabriolet. It usually lives in Sparks Nevada. Can you imagine it got shipped out to the Kahleefohrnya coast!

My favorite of the parade and I didn't get the picture I wanted.

That's all folks.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cash for Clunkers?

It's not that I haven't been writing, it's that I haven't been posting here much. I have been doing a lot of reading. There is so much to pay attention to these days.

In my family it was a given that you took care of things and made them last and reused and recycled and preserved things, so the cash for clunkers program goes against the grain for me.

I saw a comment on a news article that really summed it all up for me:

I hope "Robertshaw: 8/8/2009 2:11:00 AM " doesn't mind that I share his thoughtful words with whatever few people read my blogs, because I think he has it right.

The trade-in cars are being characterized as disgusting, beat-up, rusted-out,pollution-spewing, smoke-billowing, coughing, belching pigs; running only on three out of eight cylinders; guzzling the bulk of the North American refined petroleum supply; and posing a danger to neighboring motorists owing to their utterly dilapidated state of repair, the precariousness of their baling-wire and
duct-tape fasteners, and the parts which consequently are falling off the cars and onto the road -- when, in truth, most of these so-called "clunkers that shouldn't be on the road" aren't doing too much worse than their brand new counterparts gas-mileage wise, are more solidly built, offer greater protection for their occupants, have a good deal of serviceable life left on them, and eventually provide good, used parts to others who are trying to extend the lives of THEIR cars. Not only does the so-called "cash for clunkers" program benefit only those who are able to afford to buy new cars and the dealerships which sell them, it also punishes the poor and others who are trying to practice thriftiness and good stewardship by trying to get the most life from their cars and who rely on these affordable, used parts to keep their cars running. Under this horrible program, these parts are destroyed so that no one else can benefit from them. Those lacking a car but who cannot afford a brand new one -- or who have no business buying a new car and who instead should be doing wiser things with the money -- are not able to buy any of these "clunkers" which typically have years of good life and service left on them. These now are destroyed -- again in the name of taking these "Dracula monsters on wheels" off the road. It is unwise, a crime, a waste!

Thank you again, citizen Shaw.
Our tax dollars at work?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Touch of Beauty...for Parched Hearts

Tonight I sat and read several blogs of complete strangers...I was struck with how many folks are depressed and write about it in their blogs...and so I came back to my blog and wrote this very short vignette. I know that depression is not a simple struggle and that this is a very small offering indeed, but I hope you like it.

Once there was a woman who got so very depressed she stopped taking care of her little garden and then her house and eventually even her self. The more things piled up around her, the more tired and discouraged she got and the harder it became for her to even imagine making herself some tea or clearing a path through the clutter of her own belongings. She sat in her chair and pondered, sinking deeper into a morass.

One day a child walking by her house noticed one single rose clinging to the vine near the gate and wondered where the lady was that she had often seen in the garden. There had been such lovely flowers blooming on the fence.

The next day the child picked some roses in her family's garden and approached the woman's door. She knocked. She waited listening. All was quiet. She knocked again. The woman inside could not imagine who was at her door. She didn't really care who it was. She wouldn't let anyone in.

The child knocked, very gently, one more time. Something stirred in the woman. She rose and made her way to the door. The child stood with the flowers in her fist and offered them up without a word.

The woman took the flowers. "They need water," the little girl said. She smiled and turned and skipped out of the gate.

The woman stood at the door and saw the rose vine withering on the fence. When had she last watered?

She took the flowers inside and went to find a vase. The vase was dirty, but she held it in the water and washed it carefully. Gently, she made sure the stem of each flower reached down into the water. She took the flowers to the table. The table was a clutter of papers and dirty dishes. One by one she set things away and wiped the table clean.

She set the flowers in the center and sat quietly for a moment admiring the gift of the child. Then she rose and walked out to the parched garden and watered the hardy plants that had hung on through the drought of her heart. Perhaps tomorrow, she thought, she might sit on the porch a bit. If the child passes by, she could say "thank you."


Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Squeak for Voices Stolen

Stolen, it's a common word in our world. Riots break out in Iran with cries of a stolen election. Is it true? Can we know? Or has our trust been stolen in the sources of news that can reach us so quickly and sometimes mislead us. Should I trust the headline that says the election was "fair and healthy"?

Identities are stolen. Innocence can be stolen, but don't let them steal your hope.

Yes, your thunder can be 'stole.'

Or your pig...."he stole a pig and away he run..." What happened to that guy or the pig? "The pig was eat and Tom was beat and Tom went howling down the street." Perhaps Anonymous wasn't telling us an actual true story in "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son" but it's a believable story.

Much thieving occurs under the mighty drug of self delusion. What a classic character Tolkien created in the whispers of Gollum, "It's mine, all mine, my precious."

As Woody Guthrie sang in his Pretty Boy Floyd :

As through this life you travel, You'll meet some funny men
Some rob you with a six gun And some with a fountain pen.

I've been learning about some pen and ink "t" crossing and some "i" dotting that may line right up to spell a "thief" in my personal realm. Once I have the facts, I might squeak about it a little bit, although I suspect that pig has already been "eat." Most probably I'll arm myself with the reminder I need...or maybe I'll remind myself of the armour I need.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Gospel according to Matthew 6:19)

All right, I'll work on that. I may need to steal away a little quiet from this noisy world to hear aright, but I'll work on that. And it's also good to remind myself to keep my own word true in all realms; a form of not stealing from myself. Truth is alchemy - a transformer of the common into the precious.

If someone does steal your voice, if your one vote is stolen, that's a hard thing; which is one of the reasons it's hard to read about the elections in Iran and wonder who did have a say? There are over 42 million young people in Iran. From Tehran ( APF):
"The main mobile telephone network in Iran was cut in the capital Tehran Saturday evening while popular Internet websites Facebook and YouTube also appeared to be blocked."
If the elective voice of the Iranian people was stolen, I hope they won't lose hope. Because I am able, I'm just squeaking a little here for those who may may not currently be able to squeak for themselves or may be in danger when they do. No matter where you stand, bad things can happen in the street, look at Tom and the pig. You can read the Tehran APF story here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why did God Invent Writers?

The reader knows that the author in his memoir, The Tender Bar, is in fact going to become, not an attorney, but a writer, so it makes the conversation he records with a priest on the Amtrak stand out as a turning point for him.
"Can I tell you something?" the priest asked. "Do you know why God invented writers? Because He loves a good story. And He doesn't give a damn about words. Words are the curtain we've hung between Him and our true selves. Try not to think about the words. Don't strain for the perfect sentence. There's no such thing. Writing is guess work. Every sentence is an educated guess, the reader's as much as yours. Think about that the next time you curl a piece of paper into your typewriter."
(p. 225 The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer 2006 Hyperion N.Y.)

Unfortunately the author also tells us a few pages later that "The inspiration I took from my talk with Father AMTRAK wore off as quickly as the scotch." ( ibid p. 226)

I am feeling something similar about reading this 416 page tome. While it's inspiring in style, and well crafted, I can't wait for this guy to get into rehab! I suppose that means the author, whose voice is quite likable, has engaged me and that there is enough insight in his narrative voice as he recounts difficult events and his frequently misplaced hope and admiration, for me to trust that he will do more than survive the bar, his doomed lusty first love and the self defeating behaviors he documents so well. He's got me concerned for him, but I'm not yet fully convinced the tale is worth recommending.

This is what being in a book group does....gets you to read books you may not have otherwise encountered and finish them before you pick up any of the others you have stacked up and ready to read.

But this little word from Father AMTRAK also caught my eye because for just a moment it made me miss my typewriter..."curl a piece of paper into a typewriter..." I can hear the ratchet sound as I roll the wheel. ~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, May 15, 2009

Misattributed Quotes...

I recently reminded a young friend of mine that when he pops quotes of others on his Facebook page he really ought to attribute them to their author rather than just borrow them. To acknowledge sources of information is basic, but sometimes good information comes through the grapevine misattributed.

Tonight a quote was shared with me:
"A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything that you have."
The person sharing the quote had been told it was from Thomas Jefferson.

Remembering my admonition to my young friend, I decided to check the attribution; it didn't sound like Thomas Jefferson's language to me and the quote was memorable enough that I might drop it somewhere some day, like on my blog, and wouldn't want to be wrong about its origin.

I quickly googled my way right into numerous discussions of the various people this quote had been misattributed to, not only Thomas Jefferson, but Davy Crockett, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

Who said these words? It was President Gerald Ford addressing a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974. who said "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything that you have."
And he had said something very similar many years before as a representative to the U.S. Congress that is quoted in Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians 1960 P.193 (source wikiquote).

When I read that Thomas Jefferson did communicate to Edward Carrington, Paris 27 May 1788,
"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground." That made linguistic sense to me.

And when I read that in 1965 Ronald Reagan did say " Government is like a baby, an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." Well, I could believe this too.

If you "google" these quotes I've shared they will come up in multiple valid sources.
The moral of the story is check quotes out when someone tells you "so and so said..."
But then the moral is also, wow, these guys were kind of on the same page, weren't they?

What page is our government on now?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The memory comes, a small sepia snapshot
with black triangle corners
to hold it in the pages of
days gone by.

Then frame-by-frame a blurry film
The limbs move. The head turns.
Our eyes meet.

Her hand reaches for the flowers
that I’d found
pristinely waving in the breeze
on the mountain ridge.

She takes the bedraggled flowers
from my hot little hand
tenderly she straightens the stems
“Are these for me? You picked these for me?”
She looks again at me.

‘It’s so pretty up there, Mother, You should see it.”
Slow smooth, the curve of her mouth begins
and the little teeth peek out and she laughs.
“How far did you go? Were you at the top?”

I nod, somehow believing if only she would come and see
she would stretch the boundaries she has set for me
to forever and beyond the long blue horizon.

“Someday,” she promised. “We’ll go together.”
She fills the blue glass vase,
tucks in the shooting stars, the limp poppies,
the yellow lanterns.

There is no photograph, but in my heart,
my mother’s smile, her hand reaching toward the flowers
and my hand, empty now.

© Jeannette

Friday, May 1, 2009

Umrigar on Words to the Would- be Writer

I am somewhere in the middle of reading Thrity Umrigar's Novel, The Space Between Us. I didn't pick it, and thus far I haven't figured out who in the not quite yet coalesced book group I am in did, but I find Umrigar's writing to be rich in complexity, bold in theme and tender of heart.

When I am done reading it I may want to write about the story or the applicability of the underlying themes, but I happened to flip to the back of the book and found a post-story section called "Words to the Wise Would-Be Writer...Fifteen Tips."

A journalist for many years and now a creative writing and literature professor at Case Western Reserve University, Umrigar has much to offer.

Here is her "tip" # 15 : " And finally, write for the right reasons. This is a bit of a personal superstition, I suppose. But the ability to write is a gift, a special grace. It should not be used for cynical purposes. Resist the temptation to write according to a formula or to imitate what is currently commercially successful. Write what is in your heart. Write the stories that make you proud of yourself, not embarrassed. And never lose the ability to know the difference." ( Page 16 of the "Read On " section of the Harper's Perennial PB Edition)

While it is delicate of her to suggest that her tips embody personal superstition, I don't see them that way. *See what you have ( in this case the ability to write) as a gift, resist various temptations, write what is in your heart that will be for the good and grow and hang onto your ability to know the difference.*

It's a good word for me...reminds me of the writings of a guy published back in the 1st century A.D. named James.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Culture Bandits

Some of us are more impacted visually than others, but the visual environment effects all of us. Culture and environment are inextricably entwined. Companies that make money without care for the culture they create can only survive if we feed our nickels and dimes into their pockets.

I like the gas station in town, it's actually full service and the guys that work there are kind and helpful. What I don't like is the advertisements in the window of the mini-mart.

Full Throttle Blue Demon is apparently a COKE creation and the 2 foot by 3 foot poster ad is uninspiring to say the least. Pair that with a Skoal "Bandit" ad and you have a picture of the confused way the commercial community lauds the wrong guys. When people go out and act like demons and bandits we lament their behavior...we do don't we? Why is good light wasted on bad guys?

I say vote with your pocketbook. If all of us resist buying products that are in some way not good for us, then there will be enough of us to make a difference. The culture you impact will be your own.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Do We Tell Stories?

Sometimes what wants to come out wants to be are four pages. If you click on the image it will enlarge and should be legible. Please tell me if it is not. When you finish a page, you can use your browser's back button to return to the post and then click on the next page.


Night time Journal March 11, 2009

It's March 11th, 2009 and the 32nd anniversary of our meeting each other.

It's been noisy at our little cottage. Perhaps I'm sensitive to it of late. Purposing to eat less and more carefully takes energy and is some transitory stress. I have to plan more what to eat and can't work at something else up until the moment I'm truly hungry.

I don't know why I'm not asleep, except that it's quiet now and I'm enjoying listening to the night. I didn't pick up this journal with anything particular that I need to write about. Early this evening I reviewed a number of essays that I had written back in Sebastopol, before I was ill in 2003. I see that my mind was honed and pressing to communicate. I'm glad to be well again.

Some days seem like an extended juggling act; one where the balls, once thrown, enter an orbit of unknown duration and so one presses on handling other tasks while knowing that that there are numerous balls ( and maybe a few other objects) destined toward us that will require our rapid response at some unknown point in the right now, or later, or later, or now.

Mark has been reading about FDIC bank insurance being depleted. So what little money we might have, we might not have? This doesn't seem like good bedtime reading to me, it's a hefty thought to long is it's full return orbit? I think I will juggle the full moon peeking in both sides of the skylight curtain instead. No one can ever know the future. Can we in any real way prepare? I think I will just juggle living as rightly each day now as I can. It is enough.

Ah, Mark has fallen asleep and that seems very right. I think I will join him.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dragons at my Desk

Writing groups often jump start participants with prompts. Here’s a response I wrote a few years back to the prompt “dramatize what gets in the way of your writing.”
At least it fills the “dramatic” bill…hope you enjoy it.

Why, when I sit at my desk to write, do other tasks suddenly flood my mind with their seeming importance? Why didn’t I notice the drooping plant before I sat down? It’s a rare quiet day, a great opportunity and yet I recognize the familiar approach of the dragon of distraction. Dragons can be fought…“Today is the only day I’ve got,” I cry, as I wave my pen in the air.

I push the telephone and its temptation to the farthest edge of my desk and straighten an empty page. It was Saint Augustine who said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance; but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”
For uncounted moments I hear nothing but the steady scratching of my pen.

But small dragons come quietly and wait for their advantage. One perched rather near asks seemingly innocuous questions about the unpolished and incomplete state of my novel. It’s true; my manuscript is nothing more than a very rough draft. In the increasing heat of this critic’s breath, I grow weary but I know dragons can be fought. I remember a quip from Jane Smiley, her words glitter like a small shining shield. “Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist…”

With another of my dragons, if not vanquished, at least thwarted for the moment, I rustle my pile of unbound leaves, feeling content with the sheer number of pages, with their simple existence. They are safe from the flaming mouth that would have set them afire. My story exists, that’s enough for now. Polishing and completion will come. Why I’ve even got a little heat of my own. I feel content. The mountain of memory within me has heated and rumbled with creative tension and flowed forth like lava sending the dragons reeling back from the molten river’s flow.

But later, when I return to walk through the cooled written landscape, when the lava is but rock and ash, I find what seemed like the weight of tons inexplicably light and airy. It is but pumice dispersed over a bewildering terrain. I see how small and inconsequential the lumps that I am strong enough to pick up at any one time appear in the grand scheme. I myself can barely define a path through the landscape of my manuscript. I again grow aware of the heavy thumping that heralds the return of dragons.

“You’ve probably missed the point,” says a small sharp-tongued dragon.

“Or lost sight of the larger picture,” says another, circling about the cooling valley of my manuscript. “And what will it matter, anyway?”

I look down at my small hands and realize what sharp stuff it is that I am handling, how it can tear at my flesh, and suddenly it seems very inadvisable to go on, barefoot as I am. Perhaps the heat of my creativity has produced nothing but dust and rubble. I know, as Andrew Jackson advised, I shouldn’t take counsel from my fear.

But I retreat from the pen. I pick up a book, For Writer’s Only by Sophy Burnham, an annotated compilation of the angst, struggles and advice of many authors. I read John’s Hersey’s comment, “To be a writer is to throw away a good deal...” Hey, if that’s the criteria, I’m well on my way. And as I laugh at myself, the struggle is over for a while; what kind of self-respecting dragon would want to hang around and pick on a writer like me? ~~~~~

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Jazz of Bailouts

I try to keep up in current events, I really do. But sometimes reading the economic news tires me out. My husband attempted to rouse me from my accidental nap on the couch asking me what “heuristic” might mean in the sentence, “Jazz improvisation is a heuristic process.”
“The dictionary is on my desk.”
“But can you just remind me what heuristic means? Do you know?" he asked very nicely.
“Um, figure it out,” I said, throwing the paper to the floor.
“You're right,” he said, already in the dictionary, “heuristic implies figuring it out, or exploratory problem solving.”
“Ah," I said.
Sounds more like current economic theories than music to my ears. America is exploring what will happen if we borrow to spend our way back to financial solvency. Will it work? No body knows. It's heuristic heroics in action.

Heuristics, the word and the theories are worth study. It comes from the Greek to discover and is akin to the Old Irish for "I have found," and gives us the word "eureka," which Archimedes is said to have exclaimed when he discovered a method for determining the purity of gold. In the 1849 California Gold Rush miners often cried out “Eureka” when they found gold. A quaint town in northern California carries Eureka as its name today.

Gold mining brings us right back to speculation and it is speculation that a heuristic process uses to serve as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem. The goal, of course, is to learn through a series of subsequent discoveries or findings. Hang onto to this premise about serial learning, it's important.

In Computer Science, heuristic can refer to using a problem-solving technique in which the most appropriate solution of several, found by alternative methods, is selected at successive stages of a program for use in the next step of the program.
Heuristic is also likened to a rule of thumb. It's a simplification or educated guess that reduces or limits the search for solutions in domains that are difficult and poorly understood. "Difficult, poorly understood," we are in the right key and scale for the economic woes.

Heuristic also implies providing aid in the solution of a problem with aid that is otherwise unjustified or incapable of justification. How do you say "bingo" in Jazz lingo?

The antonym is algorithmic; a commonsense rule (or set of rules) intended to increase the probability of solving some problem.

So our government efforts to solve the economic meltdown in America seem to fit a definition frenetically heuristic. Unlike algorithms, heuristics do not guarantee optimal, or even feasible solutions and are often used with no theoretical guarantee. Doesn't that define the economic solutions we've seen thus far fairly well?

I hope the powers that be will at least wait to observe some actual intended consequences of the $700 billion TARP and the $825 Billion Stimulus, before deciding we should borrow anymore from the future. If the first exploratory efforts don't work, how would that indicate we should print or borrow more money? And shouldn't we have voice? Maybe you'll send your elected representatives a jazzy note of your harmonic discord soon.

Plein Air ~ for Harriet ~

He was late again. What was she going to do with these feelings? What would it be like to not censor myself at all, she wondered as she plucked up a soft camel hair brush off his watercolor table. She imagined how he’d scream if he saw her using it to flit the thin patina of dust off the quiet black telephone. She watched the motes drift in the golden shaft of sun pouring through the skylight. What if his myriad rebuffs, hidden in shadows and turnings, were spotlighted like one of his young voluptuous models? What if she announced them each as duly noted? Was she willing to pay the price?

There was no changing the rules he lives by, that was clear. All she’d said last week was, “ I’m concerned about our relationship.” She only wanted to open up avenues, not make the going more awkward. But within moments everything had crashed and there’d been wreckage in the streets of communion and long after the initial commotion it seemed like horns were blowing and no matter what color the lights strung above the intersection, she could get nowhere.

“If you were more secure you wouldn't even come up with these ideas,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it. An artist must be free.”

And what must an artist’s wife be, she wondered? For days afterward she had been determined to be pleasant and stay in the moment, as he loved to say. But this afternoon, watching the clock mark hours he’d promised to her, she wanted the thoughts and feelings that rumbled disconnected within her to plug into her life. She wanted the surges of power that arced though her mind to light a path for her. She wanted the parts connected to the whole.

She heard his car turn in. She looked at the thin gold watch on her wrist and the way the sun lit the yellow hair on her trim tan arm. It was almost two o’clock and he’d asked her to meet him at noon.

He came in whistling, holding out a canvas. He brought the smell of a wild field and the oils of the drying pigments with him. Unbidden she felt a rush of tenderness for him; he really had been painting.

“I tried calling you but my cell wouldn’t work. Lookie here. The light was so fantastic in the canyon as the noon sun penetrated the forest. I had to capture it. Do you like it?” He held it out at the just the right angle for her to see what he had painted. Light streamed like liquid though a fragile canopy and tenderly lit the creek in Rocky Canyon.

Color by color, stroke by stroke, it was all of a piece. There’s no point in talking about us today, she thought. He’s so pleased with himself. He’ll accuse me of making a scene. “It’s beautiful,’ she said, barely able to trust her voice. “You really capture it. Your work gets better and better.”

He smiled. “You think so?”

“So what do you want to do now?” she asked, wondering if he could hear the little edges of her words as they caught on her throat.

“Why I must clean up. And then I’m hungry,” he said. “I’m quite hungry. You know how a day of plein air piques my appetite.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are you Writing a Book for Me?

I love to read. I read to meet other persons whose struggles and visions and response to life give strength to the day. I read to meet friends in the pages of other times and places. I read to travel where my feet may not go in this lifetime.

I long for stories that I could unabashedly hand to my daughters and say, read this, it will help you on your journey.

I read stories and look for the tangle of threads that is about to become smooth and woven, stories that shimmer with transcendence and penetrate the day’s complexities in all their shadings.

I look for books that I could gladly hand to my husband; stories that know that man and woman do share interior realities and that the trail home usually does involve a Hansel and a Gretel, bread and stones.

I love to find stories that have explored beyond the magnetic polarities, which don’t paint human faces on the enemy and yet, foible by folly reveal how we trip and fell ourselves.

And sometimes I ask myself what keeps me from writing such a story myself? Is the part of me that doesn't yet write busy learning or busy unlearning? There’s the knowledge of how truly little one knows, and the caution for the world doesn’t need more stories unless love increases. Like Hippocrates oath of old, I must first do no harm.

What I haven’t written sometimes feels larger and harder than the tender vessels in which it needs to be, in the very blood of my life, decanted.

But maybe you’re writing a book for me.