May 25, 2009
No, you haven’t landed on the wrong blog. Though I usually only post about Tarot on my other blog, Spirit Blooms, in honor of World Tarot Day, I’d like to share my love of Tarot a bit more broadly, and also to honor some of the people of Tarot, including writers and artists that I think are rather special.
By the way, I understand that today is also World Towel Day for Arthur Dent fans (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). (more…)
May 15, 2009
flitting from flower to flower, exulting in the color, shape, and scent of spring. Each one is more beautiful than the last. I needed to worship someone for making flowers, so I looked up Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and found some amazing artwork to worship as well. (Uh-oh — she’s worshiping graven images!)
From Botticelli to Rembrandt, many people before me have felt driven to seek out a higher power responsible for flowers, and to give thanks. Rembrandt painted his Floras as plump women who appear pregnant. Others have painted her with one bare breast. Always she’s surrounded by or bedecked with flowers.
Botticelli’s Flora (above) looks a bit gaunt to me, and worried. Does she fear Mellona will be late sending the bees this year? (Mellona was the Romans’ name for the protector of bees.) Flora needn’t worry if she’s in my neighborhood. The bees are out in force, ecstatically worshiping flowers all over the place.
Note: The photo of the bee is by Jon Sullivan and made available by him to the public domain via PD Photo.org. Thank you, Jon! Thanks to Wikipedia, too.
September 2, 2007
When I stopped commuting to a busy office and switched to staying home most days, I worried a little whether my new life would be too quiet or uneventful to suit me. But I’m never bored, and I’m sometimes amazed how much can happen right outside my door. I’ve been able to slow down, tune into the seasons, and let them slide gently past. I can be a mushroom, staying indoors and focusing on my inner world, as writers do when we’re working, or I can step right outside and find endless variety, especially in the forms nature takes.
I posted earlier this summer about hummingbirds. There have been lots of birds this summer. The mockingbirds twirled in cartwheel displays, showing off the white of their wings, and flew in wild, veering trajectories to catch cabbage white butterflies. They sang for hours on end, and swooped at anyone who ventured within range of their nests. A nearby rooster crows most mornings and sometimes all day. I’ve seen a phainopepla, a few hawks, loads of crows, orioles, black phoebes, brown towhees, and house finches. My husband saw a California thrasher, who sadly chose a rare time when I was at the post office to stop by for a snack of insects. Now and then a flock of common bushtits flies through, chittering in light tones. They never seem to sit still, and I like their tiny, perfect round shapes, so like the birds in picture books that I read as a child.
We’ve seen butterflies of all varieties this year, as well as plenty of bees, lizards, bats, and the tarantula hawk, and the summer has seen a variety of mushrooms sprouting in the yard, which seem to be able to blend in with their surroundings. (Click on images to view full size.)
Our daily visitors include the ubiquitous scrub jay.
I’ve noticed that a variety of clouds can inhabit different parts of the sky in the same moment.
I even got to thinking about the little fuzzy-edged ones, and wondered if painters who pour watercolor ever pour white gouache to make clouds. That sent me on a lazy search that introduced me to the work of artist Vickie Leigh Krudwig.
We’ve had our hottest weather of the year in the past two days, and today promises to be even hotter. Thirty minutes ago it was 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside. As I write this, it’s 99. Yesterday’s sighting of a swallowtail butterfly almost as big as my hand, and this morning’s sunrise, almost make up for the heat.
I’m attempting to ignore the fact that the sunrise was followed a few hours later by a 4.0 earthquake about 40 miles north of us, which jolted us to our feet. As I write this, thunderheads are forming just east, which looked like this an hour ago,
and like this half an hour later.
I don’t expect a triple whammy day of heat, earthquake, and thunderstorms. I’m looking for the next butterfly. But I may close the car windows just in case.
April 2, 2007
I’ve mentioned before how much I love guitar music. Well, I did it. I’ve wanted a guitar of my own for many months. I finally bought myself one — not too expensive, and not a piece of trash, just a nice, modestly-priced beginner’s acoustic guitar. I’ve begun learning to play it, and I’m hooked. My guitar is my best new friend, and is rapidly becoming essential to me.
I hesitate to mention the following in the same post as my halting beginner’s attempts. If you heard me play, you’d think it wasn’t even the same instrument as what these guys play, and it’s not exactly, since mine isn’t a classic guitar with nylon strings, and theirs probably cost thousands — but anyway, the word “guitar” is involved.
Essential Guitar: 33 Guitar Masterpieces may be the best money I’ve ever spent on anything. It’s a 2-CD set. The first is 77 minutes long and the second is 75, so I get 2-1/2 hours of bliss for less than what I’d usually pay for one CD. It includes Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, performed by Pepe Romero on the guitar with the Acadamy of St. Martin in the Fields (I needed to replace my old LP recording of that), plus 30 other classical compositions and traditional Spanish pieces, performed by various guitar masters including Pepe Romero, Los Romeros, Julian Bream, Andrés Segovia and others. The composers include Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Bach, Vivaldi, Albéniz, Scarlatti, and more.
Have you ever heard music that you wanted to last forever, maybe even to dive inside and live there for a while, immersing yourself in sound? That’s how I feel about this collection. The only problem I have with it is that I bought it thinking it might be nice to listen to while I write. Not so. It’s terrible for that. I’ll sit with my hands poised above the laptop keyboard, assuring myself I’ll get some work done while I listen. The music takes hold and carries me away.
I’m not expert at describing this or any type of music. I just know what I love. You might too, if you enjoy classical or Spanish guitar — unless you have absurd expectations about combining listening with work.
February 25, 2007
Aside from the novel, I’ve been reading, writing, learning about, and pretty much immersing myself in poetry. I’ve posted some bits and pieces, mostly practice and works in progress, over at Spirit Blooms in the Poetry Sketchbook category. Feel free to drop by there if you’re curious. Though I’ve taken creative writing workshops in the past, I’ve never taken a poetry workshop, and I think I have a lot to learn before I go even that far. Right now I’m refreshing my memory with basics that I learned when I was young but are now a bit fuzzy.
Beverly Jackson has been an inspiration with her poetry posts, (not to mention her abstract paintings — wow!). She recently shared her experiences at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway – Cape May N.J. and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival on her blog. She also provided examples and book recommendations she got from poets there. Dig into her January archive to read the first of those posts, beginning here.
Right now I’m reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, which I mentioned in a previous post.
My renewed interest in poetry arrives just in time for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s bicentennial, which the United States Postal Service is commemorating with a special stamp — the second to bear his likeness. Longfellow is one of only two writers to be immortalized on more than one US postage stamp. Herman Melville was the other, a distinction he earned, in my estimation, with The Encantadas alone — his sketchbook about the Galapagos Islands.
The stamp displays a portrait of Longfellow, as well as a depiction of Paul Revere’s famous ride. The Smithsonian Magazine’s online biography, Famous Once Again provides lots of interesting details about Longfellow’s life. I never knew, for instance, that he was proficient in so many languages — ten altogether, at one point in his life. He’s considered the “uncrowned poet laureate” of the 19th-century US, and February 27 will be his 200th birthday.
I’m out of touch with today’s curriculums, but when I was young, just hearing or reading the first line, “Listen my children and you shall hear,” could set the cadence of Paul Revere’s Ride beating in my mind. Do kids still learn Longfellow in school? I was older when I read Evangeline, but the first verse is just as deeply embedded in my mind. I’ve since gone back for a taste, drawn in by the same first lines:
“THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers –
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?”
I had no idea what a Druid was when I first read that, but the poet drew me into that forest and I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about it. I wanted to know what happened to the Acadians who once lived there.
January 3, 2007
My sister emailed me about my post, Interconnections, parallels, and epiphany. She got me to thinking about how individually we process things that happen in our personal lives through our writing and artwork. (Aside from teaching yoga, Helen creates paintings and collages.)
Working with people in non-fiction-related activities has fed into my fiction quite a lot. That was especially true when I worked in an office. I don’t mean anything as obvious as basing a character on a real person. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. Working with people helped me understand better how we interact, provided observations about life, and helped me train my ear for how people talk. In fact everything I experience while away from creative activity tends to feed into it. This includes all the trials, lessons, emotions both powerful and subtle, and all other information and events that life sends my way. In creative expression we have the opportunity to turn dross into riches, or one form of richness into another.
I think perhaps creativity is 50% input and 50% output, or maybe it’s a form of breath, inhaling one thing, processing it, then exhaling something different. The inhalation has to take place, or . . . you run out of air, you suffocate. It follows that the exhalation must also take place, which may be why people who experience trauma sometimes wind up with post-traumatic stress (PTSD). They have no opportunity or ability to process, honor, and exhale what that trauma creates inside them. We can get stuck in grief, too, whether it be grief for a loved one who’s died, or something else in our lives that has moved on or faded away.
Of course what we breathe in is critical to the process. But fiction and art are so eclectic, almost anything will feed them, depending on our willingness to shape the product of our creativity to fit what must be expressed.
There are times when we attempt to create but haven’t gone through enough inhalation to sustain the process. I suspect that’s the cause of many blocks we experience, except when they’re caused by our unwillingness to face whatever in us we must face to fully process it as creative product.
Now that I spend more time at home, even a walk or a drive to the grocery store and talking to the clerks or people in line can be part of that inhalation process. The same goes for reading, listening to music, poetry, interacting with neighbors or my pets.
Fiction or art — or any creative activity — is where we can take in the confusion and chaos that the world dishes out and make sense and order out of it. Creativity doesn’t have to be engaged in with the hope of making money. Perhaps in many ways it’s more satisfying when it’s not. Many people enjoy needlework, cooking, gardening, decorating, woodwork, or photography. Even self-grooming and assembling a wardrobe can provide an important outlet. I don’t think of that as vain, I think instead of hunter-gatherer clans in which self-decoration is a primary creative endeavor.
I put my own peculiar stamp on whatever I take in before returning it to the world. We all do. We might as well do so creatively, constructively, lovingly. It could be that we need this as much as the air we breathe.
July 11, 2006
The cat’s litter box is clean. That mundane detail isn’t your favorite sentence I’ve ever written, I’m sure. Mine either. But my day often seems to revolve around whether that task has been accomplished, and what comes after it. I go through a list of chores, on the days I think to make one, eventually reaching the line that has to do with writing, after checking off a lot of other stuff. Today writing comes after important things like the cat’s box, which is of utmost importance to her, though slightly less to us except through our affection for her, since we don’t use it and it’s out in the garage, easy for us to forget. Vacuuming comes next, mostly pet hair this time of year. That task must be accomplished while the day is still cool enough to have windows open, or not at all. A late-in-the-day shower will be in order, after all the creepy stuff on the list is done. (Bear with me, I do have a point here, this isn’t merely a run-through of my chores.) (more…)
June 18, 2006
Writing is risky. Especially writing fiction. As Forrest Landry points out in his latest post at For The Trees, alarm and ire have arisen over the number of writers who give up these days and self-publish. He pointed to a blog post by E. Ann Bardawill at Something Fell, on The Killing of Mockingbirds. She used Richard Adams’ Watership Down as an example, and that drew me in because it’s one of my favorite books. (more…)
April 28, 2006
Far be it from me to judge what exactly happened with Kaavya Viswanathan’s novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. I haven’t read it, and I don’t intend to—wouldn’t intend to even if the publisher hadn’t turned around and pulled it off bookstore shelves. But when I read all the off-shoot accounts of the state of book packaging today, I find myself sympathizing at least a tiny bit, as Rachel Pine seems to, with the young author. Not enough to defend her, perhaps, or to excuse what happened, but honestly—what a confusing business this has become.
I recall an old episode of The Avengers on TV, in which a publisher created a computer to crank out formula novels, then passed them off as having been written by a human being. I thought for sure that was pure fantasy until I began reading about this plagiarism case. Kaavya Viswanathan’s name is on the book’s copyright page, but according to what I’ve read so is Alloy Entertainment’s. So who is to blame? How did this happen? (more…)
April 23, 2006
I’ve decided there are three kinds of writers when it comes to word count. Those who wind up with too few words, and those who wind up with too many. Then there are those fortunate souls who write just the right amount.
I’m in the second category. I’m a wordy writer, and it frustrates me to see how many extra words I write. If I’d been able to keep my words in check, the story surely wouldn’t have taken so long to come together. Or would it? Why this need to expand so much on what can be said with so many less words? (more…)