Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Wings

The sound startled me-almost like thunder, a rapid tatoo rising from the copse of bushes just ahead. The dogs heard it, and stopped in their tracks ~ Magic on guard, Molly slightly fearful, heads cocked expectantly.

They rose majestically above our heads, a whole flock (or is it a gaggle?) of Canadian geese in perfect V-formation, their wings working furiously to heft their heavy bodies aloft, desperate to rise above earth and all its dangers. My head rose instinctually to follow their movement into a sky so sharply blue and clear that it pierces my eyes. For one instant, in the course of their trajectory heavenward, I might have reached up and grazed the underbelly of the leader, but I was frozen, held silent by their power and beauty.

My breath caught in my throat, watching them soar until they reached cruising altitude, their wings settling into a steady rhythm, propelling them forward across the sky. I realized I had stopped breathing for those few seconds it had taken them to rise above the ground, had placed a hand over my heart as if to hold it inside my chest, for it was beating with its own furious rhythm and desperate yearning. Oh, to be able to rise above the earth, to shake off all its dangers and cares, to launch myself into freedom with the power of strong wings to guide me.

In a few moments, they had passed from sight, crossing the road and turning toward the southern half of the park. Would they set down in a quieter, safer place, or decided to fly on, letting their wings carry them to destinations unknown? How would they decide, how would they know when time and place were just right? What instinctual knowledge guided them?

With a sigh, I gathered my self and my dogs together and continued to trek across the park, anchored to land and life, nothing to raise me above the reality of daily life. Yet the powerful rush of those wings, those racing engines of freedom, remained in my memory, prodding me to spread wings that often seem riveted to my sides holding me hidebound to earth, whispering words of encouragement in my ear. Soar...Fly.
~~go aloft on more wings here


Friday, April 27, 2007

Clearing the Cobwebs

If your house is anything like mine these days, there are lots of cobwebs floating around. The spring sunshine illuminates them hanging from the light fixtures and tucked into corners, and I even discovered one entwined round the pedal posts on my piano. My mind has its own cobwebs, a veritable haunted mansion full of them. Perhaps clearing away a couple of the larger ones will free up space for some positive, creative thought formations.

~getting closer to making a decision about my life next year, i.e., whether to continue with my job at the high school or not. As I was writing morning pages yesterday, it seemed perfectly clear that I needed to give up that job. Then it occurred to me that I continually use the term "give up" when I think about leaving that position, a term you would use about something you were relinquishing against your will. And that is exactly what I will be/would be doing. That job is my labor of love, and I am loathe to "give it up" (there I go again). However, I am exhausted with this feeling that my life is out of control, that all my time is consumed by work (even work I love), and there is no time left for me to take proper care of myself or my family. Something has to give...

~trying to embrace the idea of change, and find the strength to initiate change in my life. While sitting at the piano during a musical rehearsal the other day, I realized the type of work I do as an accompanist perfectly mirrors the way I live my life. Sitting and waiting for my cue, taking direction from someone else, being necessary and important, but always slightly in the background...that's me, on the bench and off! The months ahead may bring some major (happy!) changes for our family, and I want to be able to direct my own life so that I can take full advantage of them. If you're watching American Idol this year, I call it the "Melinda Syndrome." One of the contestants, Melinda Doolittle, has been singing background vocals for several years, and had no idea that she was "good enough" to be a solo star in her own right. How amazing to watch her emerge from her safety zone in the background and discover that she is indeed star material. It's about time for me to step out like Melinda and stand in the spotlight of my own life for a change!

If only these cobwebs could be handled as neatly as those lurking in the corners of my ceilings and doorways. But it will take more than a quick sweep with the feather duster to eradicate these complex concerns. Hopefully the spring sun will illuminate more than dust bunnies, and shine some new insight into my life.

photo from here


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Write On Wednesday-Blocked

I've tried all my usual tricks~reading my favorite "writers on writing," taking a long walk in the park, playing some Mozart at the piano, uncorking a new bottle of Shiraz straight from Australia~nothing's working. You would think after almost a week of not writing that my mind would be bursting with things to say, that words would be foaming up in the well of my imagination, that ideas would be fighting their way through my fingers and onto the page.

Not so.

In fact, I believe I'm suffering from writer's block, and it's really quite frightening.

Since I started writing on a regular basis about a year ago, I've never been at a loss for ideas. On the contrary, I usually had more things to say than I had time to say them. Admittedly, my life in the past few weeks has not been at all conducive toward the gestation of creative ideas. It's actually been quite emotionally and physically draining, so I've been telling myself that this creative dry spell is normal under the circumstances.

It's more than just not feeling like writing...I've been there many times, thinking back to the NaNoWriMo days, when I was determined to get those 50,000 words on the screen by the end of the month. Somehow, just getting in front of the page, letting a few words trickle on to the screen, acted like priming the pump, and the words would then begin to flow until I was treading through waves of them.

But today, I really feel like writing, I have that vicseral sensation of wanting to put words down on paper, but the words that come to me aren't satisfying, they don't convey anything like the feelings or ideas they're meant to convey. They seem banal, worthless, just plain bad.

There's a devlish little voice inside of me saying, "Relax, you've had a hard week, just drink your wine, watch American Idol on TV, forget about this whole writing's dumb anyway. What good is ever going to come of it? Why waste your time?" I have to admit, I'm very tempted to heed that naughty advice. It would certainly be easier to lie on the couch for the remainder of the evening, letting my mind succumb to the mindless entertainment provided by reality shows and reruns.

However, I much prefer the stimulating conversations I've grown accustomed to having with myself, and with all the other writers out in blogland, the friends I've come to know in the past year who use words to make sense of their lives and the world around us. And I'm afraid ~ fearful that my ability to participate in those coversations is on the wane.

Julia Cameron says that an artist's blocks are "artistic defenses against what is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a hostile environment." She recommends "blasting through the blocks," by thinking about what's holding you back from continuing with your work. "What resentments, anger, fears, might you be suppressing that act like a restraint on your creative thoughts?"

Resentment? I resent never having enough time to write, that's true. Anger? Yeah, I've been angry lately, with the world in general, about a long list of things that range from the trivial to the horrendous, and all of which serve to make life more difficult. Fear? Well, who isn't fearful, in a world gone mad with destruction and hatred? Could these negative emotions have solidifed into creative roadblocks that derail imagination and spirit? And, if so, how do I "blast through them," allowing a passageway back to creative thought and expression?

In the past few weeks, circumstances have collided, making me feel as if life were completely out of control. Perhaps I need to take the reins of my life in a postive way in order to start chipping away at those blocks of resentment, anger, and fear. Perhaps then I can open the door and welcome all the words back into my head.

So, how about you? Have you ever felt your creative spirit blocked by resentment, anger, or fear? How did you "blast through the block?"


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Brief Hiatus...

My life runneth over this, travel, family responsiblities, and that horrid competition I wrote about here....
so I'm on a brief hiatus from blogging
I leave you with a photo of one of my favorite spots~a little bit of tranquility to focus on :)


Friday, April 13, 2007

The March of Time

As I wrote today's date in my morning pages notebook, it occurred to me that today is my grandmother's 100th birthday. She passed away in 1992, so she's not here to celebrate, but it set me thinking about the way life moves along "in it's petty pace from day to day" until, before you know it, a century has come and gone. I can look back now on the trajectory of her life, an ordinary girl from a small Kentucky town, second in a line of six daughters, and see the ways her character impacted my mother's life, and mine, my son's, and even his children and their children beyond.

In reality, the legacy of an "ordinary" person is anything but ordinary. I always credit my grandmother for my love of books and reading, because it was her voice that first brought me all the stories I loved to hear~Peter Rabbit, The Bobbsey Twins, Heidi, The Little House Books. She was always willing to read to me, and even though I never saw her reading anything for herself, she would drop whatever she was doing if I came to her with a book in hand. And it was she who provided the genetic "imprint" for my piano playing. After my own piano was delivered, I would sometimes catch her when she thought no one was listening, gloriously banging out the old hymn tunes she had once played in the little frame Baptist church next to their old farmhouse in Millwood. I would listen in fascination, seeing and hearing a completely different aspect of her, but an aspect I now recognize in myself.

There would have been very little about life in the first half of the 20th century to prepare her for life in the 21st. Always overly cautious and fearful of change, she would no doubt have been horrified by modern life, particularly the way people (meaning me!) spend so much time away from home. For her, if you were fortunate enough to have a nice home, you should be satisfied to stay in it. I didn't quite understand this, until I learned that the only one of my grandmother's sisters to leave home had contracted tuberculosis, which she passed on to two other sisters, and to their father, all of whom died within one year. And yes, as much as I love to travel, I often have to tamp down those little demons of fear, nagging me that I would be better off at home.

Yet, so much of the rest of her philosophy of life is also mine~that loving your family and taking care of them is the most important work you can do, that caring about your neighbors and helping them is what it means to be a Christian (whether you go to church or not!), that you should never be satisfied with anything less than your best work, whatever it is you're doing. These are values that came through her to my mother, and to me, and that I hope I've passed on to my son. Basically, she was just an ordinary girl from a small town in Kentucky, but she left me some pretty extraordinary gifts, for which I'm grateful.

Now that I've spent half a century on earth myself, I'm more than amazed at the swift passage of time. Thinking about my grandmother today reminds me to make the most of the next half of my century, and to continue her legacy to me in a way that will honor her memory into the future.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Write on Wednesday - By Any Other Name

I'm never quite sure what to say when people ask me what I "do." What they really mean, of course, is what do I do for a living, what I get paid for doing. Depending on who's asking, I'll answer that I'm an administrative assistant (or an administrative professional, as I've been hearing lately). Sometimes, I'll say that I'm an admin assistant and also a musician. I have never said "I am a writer."

Why is that? In the past year, I've probably spent just as much time writing as I have working in my office job, or playing piano for my school groups. I've written dozens of haiku and poems, I've completed three short stories and one novel, not to mention close to 250 blog posts on various subjects. I've filled 8 spiral notebooks with handwritten morning page meditations, yet none of my family or friends (except those of you who are reading this) have any idea that I've been doing all this scribbling in my "spare time."

I'm just starting to get my head around the idea that I might be a writer - see, I still can't quite say it for certain! But Brenda Ueland says it, Julia Cameron says it, Natalie Goldberg says it~if you wrote something today, you are a writer. Unfortunately, I've been well conditioned by this product driven world we live in - a world that tells us that unless you've created something that's in demand, something that people are willing to pay for, then you haven't really produced anything worthwhile. It doesn't matter that I spend lots of my free hours sitting in front of this screen, searching for just the right words to convey my ideas about something, or that I study the craft of writing by reading other writers on the subject, or that I feel a sublime sense of well being when I manage to get a sentence or a simile just right. The satisfaction I get from writing~ from using language to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions~is extremely valuable to me. Isn't that reward enough to convince me that I am a writer?

In the past, it's been easier for me to define myself as a musician, because people listen to my music. The reward of playing for an audience is immediate and intoxicating. You see their reaction in the smiles on their faces, you feel their involvement in the energy that pervades the room, you hear their enjoyement in the excited applause. I admit that I love that instant reaction, that feeling of providing the audience with something that entertains and enlightens them. The writer's "product"~the essay, the story, the poem~is "consumed" somewhere else. The feedback is rarely immediate, and sometimes doesn't come at all.

Except, of course, in this world of blogging. What a gift to those of us who need to feel as if their words are being read, being consumed by someone, somewhere, who might find them meaningful. The internet has provided writers like us with a place to share our stories, our perspective, our experiences, and ~even more exciting~ to engage in a dialogue with other writers. At least in this space, I find myself much more comfortable saying that I am a writer.

Perhaps, some day, I'll be able to say it to the rest of the world as well.

So, how about you? Do you call yourself a writer? Shouldn't you?


Monday, April 9, 2007

A Brand New American

About eight years ago, my son began the lengthy and complicated legal process involved in allowing his fiance to immigrate to America from her native Thailand. He hired an attorney who specialized in immigration law, particularly in obtaining the K-1 visa that she would require to enter the country. I was totally amazed at the number of hoops they had to jump through, the paperwork, the waiting periods, the status levels. Even though they were legally married within the prerequisite 90 days of her entry into the United States, over the last several years they have been required to make numerous visits to the immigration office in Miami, offering photographs and affidavits that proved they remained married and had a "true loving relationship." There was a period of about two years after their marriage when she was not allowed to leave the country~a period during which she missed significant events in her family back in Thailand, events like her sister's wedding and her grandmother's funeral.

But all of that ended today. This afternoon, my son and daughter in law made one final trip to Miami where she became an American citizen.

As a third generation American, I guess I've always taken my citizenship a little bit for granted. I do my share of whining about the way things are here (especially lately!), but I'm happy to enjoy the benfits of living in a country where so many good things are readily avaiblable. The tragedy of 9/11 struck me to my core, and I was as fiercly defensive of my country at that time as a mother is of her child. Over the years, I've played around with the idea of moving to another country (like England), but even if I did, I doubt whether I would relinquish my American citizenship. So I'm touched that my daughter in law wanted to do this, that she chose to pledge her allegiance to this country.

American entices people from all over the world with it's largesse, it's abundance, it's variety and choice. Sort of like belonging to the popular crowd in school, it's something people desire to be a part of. And I believe in the ideal of the melting pot, that American should be a place where people from other countries can seek new opportunities, religious freedom, or refuge from oppression. If we look back far enough in our geneolgy, everyone in this nation has an ancestor that chose this country as his new home, that came here looking for something new, different, better. My Armenian grandfather owed his life to the United States~ he was so proud of his citizenship that he considered July 4 his birthday, and we always celebrated it as such.

But today, I'm most proud of my daughter-in-law, for all the work and effort she's made to get to this point (and for scoring 100% on the new, more difficult citizenship test!!) She is a lovely, intelligent, caring, and hard working young woman, who is a great asset to our family, and will be a great asset to our nation.

Congratulations, Nantana!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Write On Wednesday-Aha! Moments

Last night, breaking one of my own unwritten rules, I read through old morning pages notebooks. I shy away from reading these things I've written, these morning thoughts that I allow to stream onto the page directly from my still sleepy subconscious. I'm afraid of how inane these words will seem, that they represent nothing more than the dissatisfied ramblings of a middle aged woman, one who is always too polite to speak her frustrations aloud and so lets them spill onto pieces on paper.

It was not without trepidation that I unearthed the pile of notebooks and started paging through them. But I'm trying to make some decisions about my life and its direction, and I was hoping that somwhere in these volumes of words I've written over the past seven months, that some sort of synthesis would occur, some words or phrases that would leap off the page, cause me to do a double take, and say, "Yes, that's it! There's the answer, right there in black and white!"

There is a strange alchemy that occurs in the writing process, a defining of the dross of our thoughts into the gold of insight and inspiration. "The power of the word is real, whether or not you are conscious of it. Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize," writes Sonia Choquette, a spirtual teacher. Natalie Goldberg calls it "composting," the method of allowing our experiences to sift through our consciousness and onto the page, until our thoughts become like rich, fertile soil.

Sure enough, there was gold to be mined in those morning pages notebooks of mine. There were some words that kept appearing over and over, words that immediately sparked the "Aha!" in my mind, telling me exactly where I needed to focus energy for change in my life.
Spending a few moments writing each day, I've used the written word to connect to my subsconscious thoughts almost the way a therapeutic hypnotist will allow us access to our deepest feelings.

Writing is powerful. It connects us to ourselves in unexpected and surprising ways.

So, how about you? Has your writing provided you with any "Aha!" moments lately?


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

One Deep Breath-Spring Sounds

I love waking up to the joyful conversation of birds in early can tell they're excited about nesting, loving the warm breeze, and looking forward to a tasty breakfast of plump worms (yum!)

spring sunrise
bird's chorus sings
joyful alleluia's

Equally joyous are the sounds of children's voices from the elementary school down the street,
raised in excitment at the promise of warmer days to play outside, and spring vacation coming soon.

eager young voices
all a-twitter
on the playground
for more sounds of spring in haiku, click here


Monday, April 2, 2007

I Get By...

For a Monday, today has stacked up pretty well. However, I think I earned a good Monday, since my entire weekend was spent sitting on piano benches. Contrary to Mae West's famous quote, you actually can get too much of a good thing, and the past two days proved it to me!

This morning I managed to get in a walk before driving Magic and Molly to the groomer for their monthly haircuts and baths. Imagine my delighted surprise when Tami, my lovely friend/doggie stylist, gave me this gift~

This darling decoupage box is covered with pictures of M & M and filled with little bows for Molly and kerchiefs for Magic.

Tami is one of those people you meet during your life that warm your heart with their willingness to go the extra mile. When Magic was just a puppy, he apparently had a bad experience with the groomer I was taking him to at the time. She obviously hurt him, whether intentionally or not, I'll never know, but the result was the same. He was terrified of being groomed, and when Magic is frightened, he's gets aggressive. I was in a horrible quandry. Shih-tzu's must be groomed regularly... they get matted very easily and then you have to shave their hair all off!. (Trust me, that isn't a pretty sight, because we had to do it to Magic once or twice!)

I was at my local PetSmart one day, and happened to be talking to one of the salespeople there about the situation. She called Tami over from the store's grooming salon, and she suggested we begin a grooming rehabilitation program with Magic.

"Bring him in a couple of times a week and we'll work with him," she said.

So we started popping over to PetSmart every so often, and Tami would sit on the floor with Magic, just talking and playing a little. Then, we'd put him up on the table. At first, he'd start growling and snapping the minute he was up there. But she was very patient (and wearing a big glove!). She started out with just a little brushing, maybe two or three minutes, followed by a treat. Gradually, and this was over a period of several months, we worked up to actually cutting his hair, and then finally, he trusted her enough to have a bath and a full haircut!
This whole process took about a year. Not only did Tami spend all this time with us, she refused to ever take a penny! She said Magic became sort of a "pet project" for her, and the day she was able to completely groom him from start to finish without one growl or snap, she was as proud as if her firstborn had graduated from college. Now, sometimes he actually licks her face when she's grooming him~what a success story! What a gift for me, too~ I trust her with both my dogs, because I know she's a kind and caring person.
So often we don't realize how going the extra mile can mean so much to someone. Sometimes, I'll run into students that I haven't seen in a long time, and they'll tell me about things I did for them that meant so much to them. Often, it was such a small thing that I don't even remember it, but to them, it was meaningful. Those comments make my day, and remind me that every one of us can make a difference to someone else, often with very little effort on our part.

So, now I have two shiny clean doggies, and the rest of the afternoon to enjoy a little rest and relaxation. I just made a cup of tea in this nifty little tea maker (it's the greatest! if you like tea, click right over here and order yourself one!) and I'm ready to enjoy my afternoon "cuppa" with a couple of crisp butter cookies. I hope your Monday has turned out as well as mine :)

Afternoon tea, courtesy of my new Ingenuity tea maker from Adagio teas, and my mom's famous butter cookies.