Monday, January 28, 2008

10/50

1. I made curry this weekend, and nan.
2. I had coffee by the fire.
3. I practiced "Unchained Melody" on my keyboard.
4. I watched three episodes of The Sopranos.
5. I was very disturbed by two of the episodes because characters were killed that I had come to care about.
6. The two disturbing episodes keep turning in my brain.
7. It snowed over the weekend. A very pretty snow. But it remained very cold until Sunday. Sunday was a little warmer.
8. I didn't work on my new short story, but I thought about it a whole lot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

9/50

1. On Sunday night Allen and I went to a Bluegrass Jam at El Camino Real restaurant in Toledo.
2. I worked on a new story last night, writing by hand in a composition book. I filled 10 pages.
3. I received a wonderful letter from France. It was from Liz, a former student. That is Liz, kneeling next to the grave, in the video on my sidebar. If I get permission from her, I will share parts of her letter.
4. I just saw that Heath Ledger, age 28, has died.

Monday, January 21, 2008

8/50

We Think by Feeling, What is there to Know? (Theodore Roethke)

There must be different qualities of feeling. There is a kind of feeling which is unthinking, immediate, such as what happens when we are manipulated and give in to jingoistic tendencies.

I know there is a quality of feeling that can cause a sort of blindness: love can be like that. It must be why the ancients compared it to the moon, luna, lunatic. It makes one totally unreasonable and vulnerable. Anger can cause blindness and tragedy, so can its cousin, jealousy.

But there *is* a quality of feeling, which is more like intuition, perhaps, which I believe is almost synonymous with the imagination, that mysterious force authors have talked about for centuries. This is the kind of feeling Roethke sought to tap into, that vast river of feeling that connects us to the cosmos. To "think" with this kind of "feeling" is to be whole, connected, intuitive, and spirit-filled. It is the quality of feeling I seek and hope to be guided by.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

7/50

Collecting stories.


Humans, like crows, are inclined to collect things. Stamps, bottles, butterflies, bugs. Stories. We have our personal stories, of course, Aunt Millie finding love or Uncle Bill getting drunk every Christmas. The time I fell into my mother's washbucket.


What I mean is published stories, those we collect in book form, those we take from the shelf when we ache for wholeness. We collect stories because we love them. We remember the adrenaline rush we received when we first read them. We collect stories because we are human, because we are like the crows. We decorate our nests with stories. We cock our heads, like crows, admiring our obsession. We know that inside the story, all is well.


Given the truth of this, I wonder how anybody talks about a story without her heart bursting from joy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

6/50

What about my writing? I have three stories out for consideration. I spent time over Christmas break thinking about my new novel; I also wrote several pages that I liked. I started a new story. For me it is always a matter of balancing the teaching, the learning, and the writing. It is about letting experience and memory accumulate so that it spills over into story. I am in the trenches right now. I am doing the dirty work.

5/50

1. It feels strange to say that the first week of Spring semester is over and a new week is about to begin.
2. After a lot of talking and looking, Allen and I have bought a music keyboard. We had to drive up to Ann Arbor to get the one we wanted.*
3. I haven't had music lessons in over 40 years. Rusty isn't the word for where I am right now. But I got some refresher-books and have been practicing a little each day.
4. I am interested in how the two stories "Hills Like White Elephants" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" shed light on each other.
5. It's going to get very cold and snow this week.
6. Allen is going to take Sweet Pea to the vet in the morning. We are having her spayed. I hate to think about how alone and afraid she is going to feel. I will be glad when she is home and safe.

*We got a Yamaha keyboard. It is YPG 625. (Yamaha Portable Grand, model 625.) It has a full keyboard with weighted keys. It came with a stand and bench.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

4/50




Snowy Saturday Morning.

Top photo: My prized contorted hazelnut. I call it my twisty tree.

Bottom: Whatty-woe running towards the house.


I wanted some pictures of the yard before the snow melts today. The tree was one of the first things we planted when we bought our property in 1999. I know the bottom photo is a bad composition, but I like it. It shows the grass stubble poking out of the earth and the vitality of our black cat as she stretches herself to run.

The cat came with the property, too. She was half-wild and had just had a kitten which she was trying to protect and feed although she was skinny and vulnerable herself. She was called the "neighborhood cat" by the people we bought the house from because no one was responsible for her, although people sometimes set out food for her. Now she is part of our family. We called her "Whatty-woe" because we thought she'd already been through a lot of sadness. She's very tame and sweet now. But still has the wild within. The black cat in my novel was inspired by her.

Friday, January 04, 2008

3/50


The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon-Marigolds.


I once owned this book as a teenager and this is the cover my book had. I remember staring at the girl and thinking how sad she looked, how eerie the background was. The illustration seemed to be something that would be used for a sci-fi/horror movie. The title lent itself to this interpretation, too. I was surprised to find out it wasn't about outerspace at all.


I just finished reading this play. The first time I read it must have been 1970 or so. Maybe 1972. I recently sent a copy of the play to Erin of Erin's Everyday Thoughts because she is joining a writing program with an emphasis on children's writing. I remembered that this play had a huge effect on me, so I sent her a copy and also ordered a copy for myself because I wanted to experience it again.


While reading the play this afternoon, I began to think I must have misremembered: could I really have read this at such a young age? Had the play really been available through my school book club?


It's much darker than I remembered, and the language is sometimes very strong. The characters are realistic, which is a plus, but they are very cruel to each other. The ending is bleak. Yes, there's a hint of something positive, but the positive aspect threatens to be engulfed by the shockingly cruel act at the end of the play.


So I had to look at the description of the play on Amazon again and also to try to find a book cover that was familiar to me. And, sure enough, this play by Paul Zindel has been published by Harper Teen. And I definitely know I got this book from school because because school was the only place I bought books. It's quite plausible, in fact, that our whole English class read this play and discussed it and that we may have been encouraged by our teacher to watch the movie version when it came on TV. I seem to remember these things happening, but I can't be sure. It was 26-28 years ago!


Somehow I can't imagine a high school teacher here in Ohio assigning this book to her (his) students. Could they really do that without parents complaining? I've seen news pieces about books that were much less edgy than this one being complained about and sometimes removed from classrooms.


What I do remember--and the reason I wanted Erin to have it--is that I loved the play when I read it all those years ago. It is about eccentrics trying to live together as a family and not doing very well at it. It is about a bookish girl whose school accomplishments take a backseat to family drama. It was quite possibly the first book I read that showed me my own rather odd family situation was not singular. The book gave me a great sense of relief. I feel Zindel may have even planted a seed that eventually grew into me wanting to be an author myself.


The themes in this play may be a bit darker than Erin will ultimately want to deal with in her own work; however there is much to be learned from how Zindel develops characters and organizes action. Reading the play this afternoon, I was impressed with how smoothly the play moves, how sharp the dialogue is, and how revealing of human nature the themes are. This play is so honest, almost brutal. It is just what I needed all those years ago.

2/50

Photo: Our back yard at sunset. I waited for news about the Iowa vote and read D. H. Lawrence.

My afternoon and evening were spent rereading D. H. Lawrence's great travel memoir, Etruscan Places. I was moved to do so after meeting someone online who is teaching a course at his university on death and the afterlife. Lawrence's observations about the Etruscan tombs shed light not only on the Etruscan Civilization but Lawrence's own poems about life and death. One of the fascinating observations made by Lawrence (repeated in the recent films called Art Made the World by Nigel Spivey) is that paintings on the walls of Etruscan tombs showed death as a continuation of life as lived on earth until the Etruscans' civilization came under threat of annihilation by the Romans. It is during this frightening, dark time that the paintings inside the tombs begin to reflect a concept of two possible afterlives, one a paradise, the other hellish. Lawrence has great respect for the Etruscans, less for the Romans, as he illustrates in the very beginning of his memoir:


The Etruscans, as everyone knows, were the people who occupied the middle if Italy in early Roman days, and whom the Romans, in their usual neighbourly fashion, wiped out entirely in order to make room for Rome with a very big R.


Continuing the sarcasm, Lawrence says,


...the Etruscans were vicious. We know it, because their enemies and exterminators said so.


Isn't that writing just so delicious?


But Lawrence doesn't rely on sarcasm alone; he comes right out with his opinion of the Etruscans, writing: "Myself, the first time I consciously saw Etruscan things, in the museum at Perugia, I was instinctively attracted to them." Lawrence goes on to describe Etruscan paintings and artifacts with knowledge and sensitivity, showing profound respect for the spiritual lives of the people who produced these things. One of Lawrence's major concerns is that the deep mystery which was at the root of the Etruscans' spiritual lives should be preserved.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

1/50



This is 1/50 of the posts I have vowed to produce in 2008.


These are some photos of the latest snow. I looked out the door and noticed the snow on our old wood heater. We used this old Ben Franklin for about four years, until it got a bad crack in the back of it. The two bricks served as our way of securing the doors. We've had our new Jotul two years and are loving it. It is much more safe, clean, and efficient than the Ben Franklin. I thought the Ben Franklin looked both beautiful and sad this way. The snow-covered stove is characteristic of the kinds of things I've noticed since very small. I've always been drawn to images of impermanence.


As a transplanted Southerner, I still am in awe of snow. The other photo is simply a snap shot of our back yard. The snow covered dog pen has a similar feel for me as the snowy stove. I look at it and think of spring and summer when Buddha and Sweet Pea are running in the pen. The snowy pen makes me think of a great sigh amidst the flow of human and animal activity.

The New Year

1. This is my 300th post.
2. I vow to create at least 50 posts during 2008.
3. I vow to complete at least two short stories and to work on my new novel during 2008.
4. That is enough vowing for now.

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Dreaming

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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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