Thursday, August 31, 2006

Laughing and Survival

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A postcard sent to me for my postcard confessional project.  This one is from California.

I haven't had much to laugh about lately, smile maybe, but not laugh.  I won't go into detail, but we all know how it goes sometimes.  I haven't posted in several days, nor have I visited other blogs, nor have I responded to e-mails.  But I am okay.  Not on top of the world okay, but surviving okay.

That's why I was delighted today to see this postcard.  I taught until 7:30 tonight and when Allen picked me up at the college, the postcard was lying on that hump in the floor between the driver and passenger side.  As soon as I read it, my heart just melted, and I laughed and laughed.  It's been a while since I've received a confessional postcard, and this one sure came to me at a great time.  I'd just spoken with my Women's Studies students this afternoon about "Venerated Madonnas," one way women are still sometimes defined today.  I thought to myself, "No Venerated Madonna here!  This woman has a fully functional body and delights in it."

Thank you for this postcard, whoever you are.

I have many ideas for stories I want to write, but at the very least I must get past these first few weeks of classes.  I do continue to add to my notebooks and am doing targeted reading which helps to keep me connected to my projects.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Moving to a New House

I snapped these photos today. I just couldn't resist. The lease ran out on our son's apartment and he doesn't move into his new place for three more days. So we brought his stuff here. The top photo shows what it all looked like as soon as Allen pulled up into the yard with our son's things. The bottom photo shows what happened about five minutes later. It sure doesn't take a cat long to find an open drawer.

The photo got me thinking about how many places I lived:

1-When I was born, six of us lived in a tiny eight wide trailer out in the desert of Southern California. I don't remember living here.
2-Next I lived in a ten wide trailer in NC. There were six of us, until my grandmother died when I was nine. I used to sleep with her, which was fun. I used to keep her awake asking all sorts of questions.
3-Then we moved into a brick house just across the street from where our trailer had been.
4-For a short time I lived with my elder brother. My mother and I moved in with him after my mother left my father. She went back to him and we lived in the brick house again.
5-When I got married, I lived in a one bedroom apartment in downtown Jacksonville, NC, right across from a shopping center.
6-Allen and I bought a cheap trailer and lived in this for many years.
7-I stayed in a small eight wide trailer with the children during the week while I took classes at East Carolina University.
8-Allen and I rented a brick house close to the University when I was working on my Master's in English.
9-Allen and I, plus our three sons moved into a two bedroom apartment in Bowling Green so I could get the MFA Degree.
10-We moved into a duplex apartment, a great old house with stained glass windows. We lived there 10 years!
11-Our present home, a 100 year old farmhouse.

I read somewhere that a house is often symbolic of the human body in fiction. I've never thought of moving days the same way since. How many places have you lived?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

To the Lighthouse

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Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie.

Why create? Virginia Woolf answers this in her novel, To The Lighthouse. We create because we have to, because it keeps us sane, because it's a way to feel what it means to be alive. This is what Woolf says at the end of her novel. The character is just finishing a painting:

Quickly...she turned to her canvas. there it was--her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues. its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue. I have had my vision.

Lady of the Lake

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It was chilly out on the lake and I loved that.

The Big Splash

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Allen and Buddha get splashed by Lake Erie.


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Photo: Durga gives her grandmother the stolen guava.

Those of you who used to visit me at the old AOL Journal may remember I did some entries on fairytales and myths, including Thumbelina and Persephone. Those stories have become very central in my thinking about how to tell women's stories. I finished a story this summer that somewhat draws from archetypes present in Thumbelina and Persephone. I'm working on another that also draws from the same archetypes. I think one of the breakthroughs writers make is when they recognize these ancient patterns in modern life.

As I worked on this latest story, I couldn't help thinking about a favorite movie of mine, Pather Panchali, which is no longer available to buy at Amazon, unfortunately, but which can be rented pretty easily enough.

I've read several reviews of Pather Panchali, and not one really talks about the women in the film to my satisfaction, so I hope to do that here as a way of emphasizing the Maiden/Mother/Crone archetype. Most of the reviews I've seen call Durga (the "maiden") a petty thief. I disagree, and here is my take on the movie. I've canabalized from my Amazon review. I do those from time to time, as a "no pressure way "to sharpen the critical skills.

Reviews generally focus on the main character, Apu, yet Pather Panchali is also a powerful portrayal of various phases of women's lives: maiden, mother, and crone.

Durga, the maiden, is often described as a petty thief, yet her acts often seem heroic to me and serve to underscore the pettiness and selfishness of her neighbors. Durga steals guavas and also a set of beads. Why should Durga have to steal guavas from the land that used to belong to her father? Why can't the neighbors share? They know the family is struggling with everyday survival. Does Durga eat the guavas herself? No, she gives them to her grandmother.

As for stealing the beads, Durga's desire for something pretty, while not so heroic, is perfectly understandable when one takes into account how little Durga is appreciated in a family that dotes on Apu, the boy. Yet there are no villains in this movie. All characters are fully rounded. The mother, who often seems cruel, is also a sympathetic character who tries to keep her pride in tact while descending deeper into poverty all the time.

(In fact, Durga's mother also "steals" a guava. This happens much later in the movie and suggests to me that the mother now understands the maiden's motivation for "stealing" the guavas: love).

The grandmother (Crone) is, to me, the best character in the whole movie. She's as mysterious as she is mischevious. The petty bickering between Durga's mother and grandmother doesn't show an absence of love but results from the pressures of day to day survival. The women, in fact, are woven into the same tapestry of life. In one brilliant shot, the mother is shown holding her weary back while the grandmother, bent from years of hardship and work, shuffles in the background. Life is hard and the inevitability of old age is just around the corner. How is one's hard work and sacrifice repaid? Are we destined to end up like Durga's grandmother, whom nobody seems to want? Nobody, save Durga, who has a pure heart and shows her love by bringing lovingly her hungry grandmother stolen guavas.

Yes, this is the story of Apu, a young boy, but it's also the story of the three main phases of women's lives.

Remembering ancient patterns of storytelling have become invaluable to me. These patterns exist deep within our psyche, and readers will recogize them when they read your stories.

After Working into the Wee Hours on a New Story

After working into the wee hours on a new story and then having a restless sleep, I was treated out to a picnic at Marblehead, on Lake Erie. I did take some books and notebooks and scratched a few notes. I'm now keeping three separate notebooks, a green one for Ohio River work, a red one for creative non-fiction, and a black one for meditations.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Photo from my high school edition of Edith Hamilton's Mythology.

I have partaken the heavenly food;
I have received the message from the place of perfection--
...I have found my deeper life

--Theodore Roethke, from his notebooks (published in book form under the title: Straw for the Fire.)

I'd like to thank those who commented on the last few blog entries here. In particular, I'd like to thank Beth, Christina, Gretchen, and Vince who pointed out things about the entries I hadn't noticed. Gretchen also often sends to me original poems that inspire me.

Your caring and astute comments led me to some important revelations and as a result I wrote 8 double spaced pages tonight about a subject I've been avoiding. In one of those magical moments, my recent and prolific reading, my experiences, and the bits and pieces I wrote in my blog came together to form something that I think makes some sense.

In my life I try to keep things in certain tidy piles. This blog is about the creative life, so I don't talk about my personal or family life unless it illustrates some aspect of creativity. I save all my turmoil, raw emotion, and all I need to come to terms with for my poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction writing, which may or may not get published. I don't deal with those things here because it saps my energy I need to create the works.

But to my surprise, the piles spread out and touched each other tonight, thanks to the efforts of good friends who care about the writing life.

Thank you!

Congratulations and Releasing Times

I'd like to congratulate some cyber friends who have recently had work published in Releasing Times, a journal of reflections by women in their 50's and 60's, edited by Julie Gallagher.

Beth of Beth's Front Porch
Judy of Talking to Myself
"Teagrapple," who leaves messages here from time to time

Both Beth and Judy published works that originally appeared in their blogs, proving how beneficial blogging is to our creative lives.

Congratulations, and keep writing!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Village Fool

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Meet Lolita. About six years ago she showed up in the yard. She was so little she fit inside my husband's shoe. I remember that because when Allen saw her he said, "We don't need another cat." I don't remember how many cats we had at that time, but it was a lot. He set the kitten on the ground, patted her behind, and sent her on her way. The next morning we found her inside his shoe, fast asleep. That was it, of course. She belonged to the place after that. I named her Lolita because she walked about sexily, as though on high heels.

So that's Lolita, lying on her back next to the water basin. That's what I saw when I glanced out the back door this afternoon, Lolita lying as though dead next to the water, as though she'd bent to take a sip and then simply gave up on any other plans right there. It's been that kind of day.

Whoo-ee, it's been hot. Lolita should take care of any doubts you have about that. Of course I had to snap the photo through the window: to open the door may have disturbed the pose. It's a bad snapshot, but you get the idea.

So it's been one of those days. Hot and lazy. We don't have central air at our house. We have a little unit sticking out of the bedroom window. The rest of the house is hot, hot, hot. I've been moving listlessly around, reading a bit, journaling a bit, scrapbooking a bit. Thinking more about being a writer than being one.

This is one of things I thought about.

There are all kinds of writers. I'm the kind of writer that almost always writes from the perspective of "not knowing."

I thought about this today when I ran across a delightful little story called "The Bull's Eye."

A long time ago, a nobleman who was a student of military matters, passed through a tiny village where he saw a hundred circles drawn on the side of a barn--and in the center of each circle was a bullet hole. The nobleman was amazed and asked who the expert shot was. "Oh," someone said, "that's Nar, our town fool!" The nobleman was amazed and said he should like to shake Nar's hand, even though he was a fool, because such expert shooting was rare indeed. "Oh no, no, no, you don't understand," said the villager, "Nar doesn't draw the circle first and then shoot. He shoots first, and then he draws the circle."

There are times, of course, when a story comes to me full grown. I draw a circle on the side of the barn, and take out the great big rifle, and POW. I mean, really, POW! Nail it. Right through the heart of it. I stand strong the whole time in the knowing, in the soundness of my ability. But most of the time I just don't have a clue. I take out my little 22 and shoot the barn first with a little idea, then I try to draw circles around it. It feels a little like cheating, Anyway, I don't feel smart while I'm doing it. Also not particularly smart after I've finished. I mean, for heaven's sake, shouldn't I be able to aim and fire by now, and hit the big idea right through the middle?

Sometimes I can't even draw the circles around the bullet hole. My hand shakes and everything goes awry. But if the story is sound, I will end up with what LOOKS like a perfect bull's eye. Invariably, someone will say to me, "Wow, how did you do that?" I will smile enigmatically. I won't tell them I shot the barn first and then drew the circle around it. I don't want them to know I'm really just the village fool. I'll let them think I went POW!!!! The big gun, yeah. Like one of those really great authors. POW. Yeah.

Whew, is it ever hot in here.



About Me

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych



Little Deer

Little Deer



Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back