Friday, October 27, 2006

It is easier...

in our society to be naked physically than to be naked psychologically or spiritually--easier to share our body than to share our fantasies, hopes, fears, and aspirations, which are felt to be more personal and the sharing of which is experienced as making us more vulnerable. --Rollo May
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It's heading into that really busy part of the semester, so I'll probably be posting here a lot less until Christmas Break. I'm doing a teaching overload. I'm also preparing for a seminar I'll be teaching next semester called "From Angst to Art." It's about writing and healing. The quote above, by Rollo May, will figure prominently in the syllabus.

I've been visiting your journals. Some of you are sick, some are well, and all of you are busy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A quote by poet Stanley Kunitz

The moment is dear to us, precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for the magic that will make the moment stay. Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as to time?

Get Your Nose Dirty

Our sweet dog, Buddha, with an unusual prize, an ear of feed corn from an adjoining field.


There's a lot of arguing about whether or not people should write every day. Some people feel guilty if they don't. I used to, but I don't anymore. If I write before I'm ready to, I just write junk, and it has no redeeming value at all. I'm not saying that I don't sometimes have to fight fear and procrastination and make myself sit down and write. But I am saying that if my spirit is dry as dust, I know I won't have the energy it takes to write anything good. So I wait. I read, I think, I pay attention.

That's what I mean about Buddha's corn. He paid attention, and he found himself something unusual, something out of his ordinary experience of sticks and limbs and rubber toys. He carried the corn around for a while until it felt like it was really his. He was pretty proud of it, too. He slobbered it up real good. Then when he was ready, he buried it in our field. He dug a hole and then used his nose to push the dirt over the corn. He looked back at us, Allen and I, and this dog's nose was very dirty. He pranced and snorted. He was very content.

So that's what I do, find myself a prize, some unusual happening or observation, a great metaphor that shivers me timbers, and after I've carried it around a while, played with it, pranced with it, ran through the field with it, I bury it for later. I bury it in my memory or plant it in one of my many notebooks or blogs. Then, when I'm good and ready, after other stuff has happened and I maybe have myself a little epiphany, after I understand how special my prize is, I dig it up and use it.

Sure, this is messy. You get your nose pretty diry. It's not systematic. It's not a sure thing. You won't write a ton of books like Joyce Carol Oates does (who, bless her, says she does write every day). But you can go about your days contentedly, searching, like Buddha, for more prizes. Pretty soon, it accumulates. It starts to grow, maybe, green shoots at first, and then a big tall plant. Sooner or later, you'll make that little find into something great. Patience!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First Snow

It snowed today! We drove through pockets of sunlight and through snow squalls this afternoon on the way to the university. For much of the afternoon snow fell on our campus, big white flakes. It was windy and cold. I was happy.

For the Woman Out There Who Might Be Contemplating a Great Change

it was a dream
by Lucille clifton

in which my greater self
rose up before me
accusing me of my life
with her extra finger
whirling in a gyre of rage
at what my days had come to
what,
i pleaded with her, could i do,
oh what could i have done?
and she twisted her wild hair
and sparked her wild eyes
and screamed as long as
i could hear her
This. This. This.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Handmade Things


I've been thinking and writing about my Ohio River experience, but I've been writing about adolescence, too. It seems that for the last several years, I've focused a great deal on the social and psychological upheaval of adolescence. In a present draft of a story, I have written: "So I hadn't seen Tucker for a week and was sullen about it. But Tucker would follow me to the healing; I'd made sure of that. He'd follow me anywhere because we'd not yet gone all the way."

I have a wicker basket on my hall dresser, filled with my childhood toys. This handmade doll was given to me by my girlfriend, Barbara. We were in the eighth grade when we decided to make each other a doll. This doll she made for me looks just like she did when first made, all vivid yellow and red. The tunic is fastened by little snaps in the back. The details of the face and green hair are heartbreakingly poignant. The doll smiles. Her button eyes are wide with wonder. Within two years, Barbara and I started dating, and we were both married within four.

A lot of my stories seem to grow out of the consciousness from which this doll was made, the borderland between childhood and womanhood. Adolescence is scary and full of change, upheaval. There's something dark and frightening about sex, about losing yourself to another person.

But adolescence also embodies the potential for love. It's all darkness or light when you're that age. Either/or. Looking back on that time with the capability of seeing all the complexities is exciting.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Applebutter Fest

The antique knitting machine that was used to make my socks. Applebutter festival, Grand Rapids, Ohio. Behind the artisan is the canal. In the old days, barges were pulled along the canal by mules, walking the towpath trail. Now, the towpath trail is a hiking trail. It's one of our favorite places to walk. The festival takes place on the banks of the Maumee River.


Allen and I try to go to the Applebutter Festival in Grand Rapids, Ohio each year. I remember we used to take our boys to this festival with us when they were little. There are all sorts of sputtering antique engines, crafts, and, our favorite, the historical reinactments. Every so often, cannons fire over the river, giving everyone a start. The main menu items are bratwurst and saurkraut. This year, I bought a pair of socks that had been made on an unusual antique knitting machine, used during civil war days.

It's past midnight now, and the events of the day are mixing with old memories. I just now read this poem by James Wright:

Trying to Pray
This time, I have left my body behind me, crying
In its dark thorns.
Still,
There are good things in this world.
It is dusk.
It is the good darkness
Of women's hands that touch loaves.
The spirit of a tree begins to move.
I touch leaves.
I close my eyes and think of water.

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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

Wishing

Wishing

Little Deer

Little Deer

Transformation

Transformation

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back
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