Category Archives: Language

Water, Words, & Grief

The simple sentences from these grieving parents touched me like poems. From The Daily 360° from nytimes.com

Miguel:
I’ve had a lot of problems
on the water and the land.
I recently lost my daughters…
I used to think only of fish when I came out here.
Now I see my daughter’s faces in the water.

Juana:
This beach is my home.
I leave my problems in the sea.
I watch my husband fish
and we support each other to leave everything behind.
I focus on my work and it relaxes me.
I’ll never leave this beach
because I forget about my problems here.

Miguel:
I live for the water
and I try to move forward.
There is no other way.

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

Barbara Kingsolver on Our Post Election World

UPDATE: I’ve excerpted the end of her article; click the links to read the entire peice.

I’m relying on the words of beloved author Barbara Kingsolver’s words about what’s happened to our country and  where we go from here.  From the Guardian 11/23/16

If we’re artists, writers, critics, publishers, directors or producers of film or television, we reckon honestly with our role in shaping the American psyche. We ask ourselves why so many people just couldn’t see a 69-year-old woman in our nation’s leading role, and why they might choose instead a hero who dispatches opponents with glib cruelty. We consider the alternatives. We join the time-honored tradition of artists resisting government oppression through our work.

If we’re journalists, we push back against every door that closes on freedom of information. We educate our public about objectivity, why it matters, and what it’s like to work under a president who aggressively threatens news outlets and reporters.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-9-49-01-amIf we’re consumers of art, literature, film, TV and news, we think about what’s true, and what we need. We reward those who are taking risks to provide it.

If we’re teachers we explicitly help children of all kinds feel safe in our classrooms under a bullying season that’s already opened in my town and probably yours. Language used by a president may enter this conversation. We say wrong is wrong.

If we’re scientists we escalate our conversation about the dangers of suppressing science education and denying climate change. We shed our cautious traditions and explain what people should know. Why southern counties are burning now and Florida’s coastal cities are flooding, unspared by any vote-count for denial.

If we’re women suffering from sexual assault or body image disorders, or if we’re their friends, partners or therapists, we acknowledge that the predatory persona of men like Trump is genuinely traumatizing. That revulsion and rage are necessary responses.

If our Facebook friends post racial or sexist slurs or celebrate assaults on our rights, we don’t just delete them. We tell them why.

If we’re getting up in the morning, we bring our whole selves to work. We talk with co-workers and clients, including Trump supporters, about our common frustrations when we lose our safety nets, see friends deported, lose our clean air and water, and all the harm to follow. We connect cause and effect. This government will blame everyone but itself.

We refuse to disappear.

We keep our commitments to fairness in front of the legislators who oppose us, lock arms with the ones who are with us, and in the words of Congressman John Lewis, prepare to get ourselves in some good trouble. Every soul willing to do that is part of our team, starting with the massive crowd that shows up in DC in January to show the new president what we stand for, and what we won’t.

There’s safety in numbers, but only if we count ourselves out loud.

 READ MORE

Finding the Right Words… Part 1

Dear Readers,

Since the election on November 8 I have started and bailed on 4 posts, unable to wrap my head/thoughts/words around the election of the 45th president. I’m going to do my best to weave those aborted essays into something coherent, so I can move on. Here’s Part 1. The verse is from a poem by William E. Stafford

How I Became a Liberal

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

Alas, I am one of those out-of-touch ‘elites’ who, despite my rust-belt roots and my current bank balance, delights in a healthy planet, education, real science, and a sensitivity to and celebration of other cultures. How did I become so solidly Blue?

1968presidential-electionMaybe it’s because,of this:  in 7th grade Civics our teacher used the presidential election to get 35 moody 13 year olds excited about politics. We had to join a campaign team – either Republican Richard Nixon or Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

I was born into a family that voted Republican. We were part of Detroit’s white flight to the suburbs, landing in a WASP suburb famous for redlining. Black folk were domestic workers and I never met any Jews until I went to college.
In that very white, very Republican Michigan suburb, every kid in the class wanted to work for Nixon. That’s who our parents talked about as the good guy. I got stuck on the Humphrey team. As our classroom campaigns rolled along we became engrossed in the real Presidential race. I worked hard to get Hubert elected, most of it falling on deaf ears. I remember my disappointment when he lost.

This was also formative: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In was a revelation. Here were people that felt my tribe. Before long I was itching to join anti war protests and fighting with my dad.  He threatened to vote for segregation candidate George Wallace that year.

A Clouded View

When I come downstairs in the morning I open the door for my two critters, who trot happily out the door. They always greet the day with tails held high, so delighted to greet the world. I sip my coffee and come to consciousness more slowly.

PuppyKitty
Char (l) and Lily

In fact I’m cautious how I approach the day. Will I get it right, make progress, be successful? Or will I fail to complete enough tasks to feel at peace? Did I do well enough yesterday? Will I be ready for tomorrow? These processes are running constantly, just below my regular awareness.

Yesterday I was reading a list of affirmations from my therapist. I mentally knock them off: nah, not me, unh-uh, not for me, nope—then I come to one that hits a nerve:

“The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”

Somehow this one stops me, For a flash I see it: a perfectly beautiful world, my pets here with me, blue sky, soft green grass, the shimmering water beyond. I hear birds and feel the soft air on my skin, and think “how could I not see this a moment ago?” and with that, a shadow falls over my thinking again, doubt and judgement resume their program.

I felt a cloud of negativity lift, and I saw the world clearly, just for a moment. It was a bit astonishing. I’ve worked hard at keeping destructive thoughts at bay. I’ve learned to rely on my higher power and find peace in uncertainty.  But this – this grey film over my reality, I don’t want to see the world through gloom colored glasses!

I listened to the magical wordsmith Caroline Casey yesterday:

Expectation and Disappointment are dance partners. Better that we dwell on Willing, its dual meaning of intention and availability.”

Now that I’ve seen beyond the veil, I can’t lose this: a brighter world is right there, just behind that grey. That if I feel low, hopeless, or worthless it’s  only my old distorted view, and I can shift perspective.  That I can upgrade my thinking by deciding where to focus.

And when I forget, please do remind me!

wingcloud

To Stand Under

How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?

Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research  this week on the podcast On Being.

Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of

“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”

Her book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People asks the question:

“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”

 

Who is ‘Other’?

According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.

But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.

Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.

Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understandingUnderstand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.

You are the Unreliable Narrator!

For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.

Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?

Please share your insight!

Thanks to Univ. of Haifa School of Social Work for the header image.

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?”

I heard poet Tracy K. Smith read her poem by this name on Studio 360‘s tribute to David Bowie. Tracy won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection called “Life on Mars,” inspired in part by the Starman in his many identities.  She credits him with showing her “the imagination as something that is capable of creating a whole new world and a whole new sense of self.”

I thought it was a pretty fabulous poem.
“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes” — Tracy K. Smith 

1.
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being – a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

2.
He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours

Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.

3.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
he’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before the rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
Go ahead.

Holiday Goodies

A Merry Christmas to All

Here’s a few treats for you to make the Season bright. 

Enjoy this beautifully told tale of friendship, gifts and shared holidays:

My Christmas message at Clearwell’s blog bears repeating here, if you can forgive the pun. Please watch this sweetly beautiful animated tale of Bear & Hare, dear friends who have never spent Christmas together, until now.

Get the whole story about this video at Clearly Connected Conversations, HERE.


Christmas Message from Poet Meisaan

From the blog Curving Toward the Center, a series of beautifully simple writings  on the theme of alternative worship and meditation from poet and children’s author  Meisaan. 

What You Accept

What you fear amounts to a thimble of water, says the Lord;
I am trying to give you an ocean of love

© Meisaan Chan


Be Kind to Yourself

beKindtoYourself

thanks to Kristen Neff & Johnine Byrne


 

The Swans are Here!

The winter swans have arrived on Piscataway Bay. They chatter and coo and warble even in the night.

Tundra Swans

Year End Blessings to ALL!

I’m a Winner!!!

Although four days ago I want at all sure it was possible, I just validated this years novel at 50,631 words and got all the fun NaNoWriMo winners goodies: Congratulations video, a purple bar, and badges, banners and a certificate!

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.35.06 PMBut the best reward is, of course, having done it. When it got boring, I wrote. When it got scary, I wrote. I even wrote in my sleep and found a subplot. (turned out to be a red herring, but actually a necessary one!) When it got hard, I wrote more.

At 60 years old, overweight with a bum knee, I can’t run a marathon, but for the 4th out of 5 years I CAN WRITE ONE.

This year’s story is a continuation of last year’s Only the Rust Remembers, a dystopian post climate disaster adventure story about three unlikely companions. The civilized world has contracted into what is now Ontario, and has rebooted the heavy industry around the Great Lakes.

In Book 1, it’s 2173 and in Gary, IN a blast furnace explodes, catapulting 2 of our 3  heroes on an unexpected journey. In Book 2, the three of them set sail on a steam tug boat across Lake Erie. But one of them is in the brig! Will they escape the Security Forces that are hunting them? Will they find Tayya’s grandfather who holds the secrets to the past? WIl Hal ever speak to either of them again?

You will have to read it find out!

I learned during this NaNo is that there is a Book 3 to this story. Tayya will need to return to the rising revolution she left behind in Salt City. Garez and Hal may not be so eager to go back. So stay tuned, the epic will continue.

And, I have made a commitment to the path…. of EDITING! The beauty of NaNo is that it’s a big crazy push to wrote a Rough Draft, ROUGH being the operative word. It is not suitable for anyone to read. Before I have a First Draft I need to essentially rewrite each one of these chapters, polishing and clearing up problems with grammar, plot, and continuity as I go.

The good news is that three chapters of Book 1 are already revised. And now that I’ve invested so more into these characters I’m committed to seeing them through to the end.

Thank you to all my Writing Buddies*** this year, for all your encouragement! I am so proud to have so many successful NaNos in my local writers group!!! We will have lots to celebrate on December 7th. 

***

Cheryl Holloway and other members of AWWG