Saturday, March 31, 2012

Take Out That Pen

Several online groups are encouraging people to exchange postcards or letters. The catch—they must be handwritten. How delightful—catalogues and bills sharing space with handwritten postcards or notes.

I just discovered that there's a snail mail pen pal site—how's that for retro? Long live the pen and longhand letters.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How Much is too Much?

I can't be the only one who thinks that the value of the lottery is obscene? There are people who live in crowded housing, people who have no housing, people who live in camps for the disenfranchised, children who have never stayed long enough in one place to call any place home. How many people have lost their homes?

What reason do we have for this bulging lottery?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Memory of Adrienne Rich

Two years after Adrienne Rich published Of Woman Born—her book about mothering and the toll it took on women, especially when they were solely defined by being mothers—I attended my first Feminist Writer's Workshop.

We came from all over because the invited poet was Adrienne Rich. Mary arrived from Germany, Linda from Italy. Leslie drove up from Shreveport, Louisiana. Utah was represented by a woman who owned a cattle ranch. Two women arrived from New York City—one worked in public relations while the other played the violin with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Lynn drove from Vermont where she lived in an old house close to the Long Trail. She wanted to be a poet. I drove seven hours from Massachusetts to a college in Upper New York State to attend the workshop. There were others—twenty in all.

I expect that we were all feminists, some first wave and some second wave, and many of us were questioning our sexuality. It was still three years before Adrienne Rich published her famous essay, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."

The evening of our arrival we all gathered in a comfortable room and waited for Adrienne Rich, but instead we were told by one of the workshop leaders that Adrienne was quite sick and couldn't come. After our initial disappointment we salvaged the evening by taking out her books and reading her words—for hours. First we read from Of Woman Born and then we read her love poems, Twenty-One Love Poems. When that book came out it was considered "dangerous" because she spoke of love between women. That book gave many of the women seated in that room courage to be who they really were.

It was after listening to Adrienne Rich's love poems I sensed that I could write honestly.

That week away we wrote poetry, essays, short riffs and congregated to read Rich. "The Personal is Political" we said echoing Carol Hanisch's 1969 essay. But it was Rich's words on everything from being a woman to economic equality that gave us a model for our own writing.

Years later I heard Adrienne Rich read her poetry at Brandeis. She read a number of poems, but the one I recall vividly was "Transit". Some lines:

When I meet the skier she is always
walking, skis and poles shouldered, toward
the mountain,
free-swinging in worn boots...

This skier isn't young, her hair is gray, but she's strong and impatient. She passes the narrator as "I halt beside the fence tangled in snow..."

The narrator remembers when they both climbed Chocurua together and she watches her walk , "how her strong knees carry her" simple
this is for her, how without let or hindrance
she travels in her body
until the point of passing, where the skier
and the cripple must decide
to recognize each other?

Margalit Fox wrote, " Ms Rich was concerned in her poetry, and in her essays, with identity politics long before the term was coined."

Her last book of poetry was Tonight No Poetry Will Serve 2007-2011

Burn me some music        Send my roots rain        I’m swept
dry from inside        Hard winds rack my core

And when I close my eyes I can hear and see us at the Feminist Writing Workshop reading her poems and her book— and finding our lives within her words.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Axis Mundi

For the last few months I've been taking mixed- media courses. Somehow whenever I start to create something I am assailed by a need to control what is happening on my support-- canvas, paper, board. Other students get right into the spirit with a flair for broad strokes, bold colors, and expansive gestures. Their work embodies a free spirit while mine exudes control.

I want to reach that point. I want to dance across the page with a paintbrush dripping with magenta paint. No, the paint color needs to grab attention, shriek and pulse. My muted tones need revving up. I want to splatter the paint, drip it, fling it and work with the lines and starbursts on the paper. I want to reconfigure what has spontaneously been created.

Tomorrow all the participants in my mixed- media class will bring in one work from the past nine weeks and share our discoveries. One student has been busy printing page after page - each plate is inked one color with a loosely placed piece of lace on top. Before being readied for the printing wheel to be turned, the artist has only a vague idea of what will happen beneath the jaws of the press. This spontaneity often causes a wave of anxiety and then a release of sheer euphoria. The resultant print, showing the light and dark depending upon the placement of the lace, is a sensual delight.

There are others, like me, tethered to a tight mode of working. Do they yearn for abandonment?

But we all have our Achilles heel and mine is an inability to be comfortable wielding a paintbrush with my arm swaying to an inner drum beat. I don't own glitter or stamp pads. I have not stained paper with tea bags, nor have I glued down buttons. Yet, what freedom could be won if I allowed myself to be wooed by lovely beads, shimmering colors, and pencils able to create three dimensional effects.

Whether I can grasp those techniques and clasp the brass ring of spontaneity in my next piece is the challenge. I've purchased an ink pad that makes paper look like distressed burlap when lightly applied with a soft cloth. My major purchase has been pens that glitter. Armed with these tools I am ready to pursue the road to the creation of a piece of art that looks like it was fashioned by a rebellious artist chafing at the binds of conformity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leading the Study

Tomorrow I'll lead the study on the Transfiguration. The pastor is away and I volunteered to facilitate.

What do I know of metamorphosis? Kafka's story is all I really know, but this is different. Maybe the question can't be what do I know, but am I standing in awe. What is happening?

Do we really need to parse everything?

It is enough to stand back and listen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Words and Actions

How do we stop hate? Every day when I open the newspaper, listen to the news, or even on occasion overhear a conversation, there are varying degrees of dispute. Some are civil, but too many veer into unabashed hate.

Often the people involved can't see that what they are doing is engaging in an act of hate for another person. Every time someone pokes fun at a gay person it isn't funny, it is engaging in an act that hurts, destroys, and sometimes causes the other to be unable to tolerate the barrage.

Every word of hate is like a ripple in the water-- it spreads. Recently someone battered a young woman to death simply because she was from Iraq. The person, or persons, equated her with a terrorist.

Radio stations employ Talk show personalities who entertain by destroying lives-- verbally. Their audiences are large. People seem to gravitate to that type of personality. There are people who use their incendiary words to fuel their own prejudices and end up acting out the final scene--killing someone.

Many people feel that abortion is wrong and some people will make cogent arguments to support their beliefs. Other people resort to hateful rhetoric which inflames and gives an unstable person permission to kill.

When will we learn that words have an enormous power to unleash actions?

We allow stereotypes to define people. Wear a hoodie, baggy pants, and you're apt to be the target of someone's rage.

Look as if you or your parents or grandparents came from Iraq or Iran or any of their neighbors and you are suspect.

Not all religions are of equal value to some people. Since when did people forget that there is a separation of church and state in this country?

The question isn't only how do we stop the people who ferment, but whether we move into a climate of understanding , of rhetoric laced with a good dose of compassion.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

To Each Her Own

From the OED---Letterboxing

1. orig. Brit. An outdoor pastime in which participants hunt for hidden boxes containing a distinctive rubber stamp, with which one may stamp one's personal record of boxes visited, and a visitors' book, in which one's visit may be recorded.

This activity typically takes place in the countryside, and originated in Dartmoor National Park

It's innocent enough --this hunting for hidden boxes. My ignorance of the sport remains a small hindrance when Google is close at hand. A few letters typed and a plethora of sites offer elucidation.

This sport, or the legend surrounding its beginnings, began in Great Britain in 1854 when James Perrott, a gentleman of course, left his "calling card in a jar in a remote area of Cranmere Pool on the moors of Dartmoor. Since Perrott walked as a guide on the moors he "encouraged his clients to leave their their cards in the jar, as well."

Sometime during the early 1900's the bottle disappeared and in its place a tin box apeared and a "visitor's book was provided."

In time visitors became creative and started to leave self-addressed postcards. Perhaps the next visitor would pick up their postcard and return it via mail.

Now there's a stamp left in the box and you stamp your log book attesting to your discovery of the box—and then you stamp the letterbox log. And because ink pads dry out—each letterboxer ( is there such a word?) carries an ink pad.

The British suggest that you wear boots when looking for these boxes lest you pass by stinging nettles. Nettles with their hairs ready to spring into action. The tingling pain, irritation and red patches can last for half a day.

Isn't it odd that nettles, when cooked are quite good. My favorite recipe, where I don gloves as well as boots and search for nettles, is Nestle-Mushroom Pie with Pinenuts. You can find the recipe here.

I'd like to walk , using a trail map, at Dartmoor National Park. The hike to Crannmere Pool is arduous and the scenery is depicted as foreboding. Then I'd contnue and try and find the stone ascribed with the poet Ted Hughes name.

The question for me is whether Hughes wrote any poems about that area.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Peeked in This Week

Today's temperatures were twenty-seven degrees cooler than yesterday's high. And the day before we broke a long standing record— for a high on that particular day. We all knew that nature was engaged in a tease, but still to walk about with short sleeves, cropped pants, and sandals felt delectable.

Even today, which felt cool, was warmer than expected for this time of year. Tomorrow and the day and the day after slide back down to "what should be".

We all need those escapades into places that are unexpected—whether it's as simple as a spate of hot weather during a time when spring is week's away or stopping what you usually do and veering off in another direction.

How invigorating it feels to alter the usual, to change, to take a risk. Whether something exciting happens or even an epiphany, the turning in another direction creates some tension. And this tension may lead to new ways of looking.

Sometimes I become comfortable doing things the same way —the safe way, but when I stop and veer sharply in another direction or along another path I see new solutions—

Friday, March 23, 2012

Whether An Abstraction is Created or Exists

Age, the patina of decay, the lifting paint scabs, the rusted spots, all revealed —but not as a reality. They exist in an artistic setting apart from what they might appear in the daylight.

A musty aroma pervades the hallway, but doesn't show up on any photograph, neither does the erratic heat which turns off and on without following a logical process. Indoor icicles form on window ledges in some rooms, while several rooms resemble furnaces belching red fire.

Once these rooms housed elementary students. Blackboards remain. The bathroom walls scrubbed clean of graffiti hide their past. No one giggles. No one tattles. No one races down the hallway late for a class. No spelling bees. No multiplication tests. No answers written on sleeves.

No fire drills. No ball point pens that leak. No best friend.

A conversion turned rooms filled with desks and chairs into art studios. The heat and cold remain, the bathroom walls remain, several toilets don't work— stall walls lay bare layers of paint.

In one room where the pipes knock in an erratic rhythm, adults paint abstractions —using acrylic paints. A few use palette knives to add texture to their paintings. The instructor had set up an arrangement of disparate objects, resembling a robotic figure in a state of disarray as a model. Arm wide canvases hang over easels. Artists hover over the canvases, poised and set to apply more paint. I am absorbed into these paintings.

One woman flings magenta paint into a corner of her painting, steps back and assesses the result.

"What do you think?" she asks. "Is it too much?" "Just enough." "Perhaps I should live with it for awhile."

I realize that the question is rhetorical and walk down the hall to revisit a plaster head. I've seen this head for six weeks and two weeks ago someone added a straw hat.

This week someone added a red feather.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An American Right

Yesterday when I was on my way to buy an iced coffee, I spotted two men standing in front of a local CVS. A small table covered with posters attested to their mission.

The posters, all the same, depicted a picture of President Obama with a small Hitler type mustache. When one of the men stopped me an d asked me a question all I could say was, "Those are disgraceful. You need to learn some history."

And I'd feel the same way whether that mustache was on any member of the House or Senate or any presidential hopeful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Breath of Air


Art — in an alley way between a parking lot and the street. Why call it graffiti? Call it art. No one is chasing the artists away, no one is referring to their work as mere doodling. If you're lucky you might walk through when someone is creating a picture—redoing, painting over, tagging.

The alley is called Modica Way and it's alive —

Today I went down to Central Square to buy some art supplies and walked through the alley to get to Mass Ave. Several people stood around reading the words, checking out a few new sections.

Whether it's mural art or contemporary art it makes me smile.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monster on the Loose

When I wrote about the private being invaded by the public I never imagined that the very next day I'd read this in The Boston Globe: "In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around."

Imagine going to a job interview and being asked for your Facebook name and password. This is truly invasive. Whether this is legal is another question.

The article did mention that "when the ACLU complained about the practice "—being employed by the Maryland Department of Public Safety "the agency amended its policy, asking instead for job applicants to log in during interviews."

Either way whatever you write, wherever you go, you're never far from scrutiny if you're writing on Facebook or Twitter or whatever other social networks lurk in cyberspace.

I don't have a Facebook presence, but I do have a Twitter account which I rarely use. Will someone find it objectionable to know that someone in Russia puts Chekov quotations on his Twitter account and I get his Tweets?

It's invasive and frightening—

Perhaps someday we'll have an agency devoted to culling through Blogs searching for unacceptable material. And who will define what is verboten?

Hannah Arendt said, There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.

In this new world where privacy is being eroded— be careful of your words—in cyberspace.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Whether What's Private is Becoming Public

What's private and what's public? With the digital age and the speed of passing on information it's difficult to keep anything in the private realm. The ubiquitous paper trail is now a pathway created on the internet and available to anyone wise enough to figure out how to avail themselves of information.

I remember my first five year diary. It came with a lock and key, but you didn't need safecracking skills to pry open the diary. I wrote a note on the first page addressed to anyone reading that page—"Don't Read On. This diary is private." Even with that note—penned in huge purple balloon letters on the first page, I never truly felt comfortable. To my ten year old mind a slip of the pen could result in a secret being read and spread. When I wasn't writing, I stored the diary under my mattress.

When my Aunt Rose gave me the diary I asked her the proper form of address. We had just studied informal letters in school. "Just write, Dear Diary," she said. And I did.

Dear Diary, I am playing Cinderella in the school play. Joyce is Ashes and Brian is the prince.

Dear Diary, I lost my skate key.

Dear Diary, My grandmother made mustard plasters for the next door neighbor.

I wonder if my grandmother knew that when Lincoln was assasinated the first doctor on the scene applied a mustard plaster to Lincoln's chest?

Recently the question —asked within government circles:

With more information online— the question —how public should our private information be?

Social Media groups keep crossing the line.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whether or Not They are Worth Their Salaries

Anticipation. Every spring I look forward to the start of the baseball season—perhaps this year we'll have an exciting team, win it all.

Here it is March and our weather is spectacular—high 70s and in some places 80 degrees. The heat just hastens the allure of baseball. Growing up I lived several subway stops away from Yankee Stadium and on the few occasions that I went with my father we sat in the bleachers, "Affordable seats," he'd say.

It's no longer affordable to go to a game unless it's a minor league game. Besides the cost of a seat there's parking—or the train. Add on to that the outlandish cost of a bottle of water, a hot dog, or any of the other eatables and the cost keeps going up and up.

I try to ignore the salaries that professional athletes garner. Who could possble be worth ten, fifteen, twenty million dollars a year? In fact who , in any field, is worth millions a year?

Is there a ceiling? There's a bottom. Some people I know refuse to watch professional sports because of the outrageous salaries—but then you'd have to add business CEOs, actors and actresses—and so on.

So I'll anticipate the season with some moral tinges brought on by recognizing the absurdity of paying athletes those outrageous salaries.

So while I abhor the wrangling for even higher and higher salaries—I won't take the high road and refuse to watch . What's a fan to do?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

To All Those Teams Who Toil Behind the Heralded Teams

I admit that I'm captivated by March Madness, but I always root for the underdog-- the school that no one gives a chance. The lowest seed to ever win March Madness was Villinova as an eighth seed. Suppose one of these days all became unhinged and a fifteen or sixteen seed won the whole tournament?

But if an eight seed won once perhaps a ninth or tenth seed could pull off an incredible upset. Whether that happens or not depends upon so many variables : the position of the moon, the alignment of the planets, the dreams of all of us who never even win a scratch ticket prize worth more than one dollar.

Here's to all those who toil behind the heralded ones. Occasionally the kingpins fall off the edge of the planet.

Yesterday two fifteen seeded teams upset two heralded teams -- both two seeds.

Maybe this is the year.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Today I saw flower shoots, some open, some tightly closed fearful of accepting this unseasonable weather--suspecting that the cold will return. I am ready to put away the heavy clothes of winter, ready to wear shoes that don't flaunt how impervious they are to snow, slush and mud.

Spring, with it's promises, is akin to that new book or unused tablet, or first taste of local tomatoes. Spring is the season of possibilities.

Whether I exercise those possibilities is always the question.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Every Thursday for the last eight weeks I've packed up all my gear, loaded the car, and headed to my Mixed Media art class. Each week another technique is explored—some more successfuly than others. Over the weeks our class has thinned out— several people always drop out of classes. This week only three others showed up—six were no shows—several were sick, one was in Hawaii and two just opted out.

This week our instructor wanted us all to go outside and forage for items in the woods or dropped on the ground. Trash bins, I gathered were out of bounds and removing items from the sculpture garden would be unacceptable. Whether I participated or not had a lot to do with time.

Because I was interested in finishing a piece I had started the week before, I chose not to roam the woods looking for treasures. Two of the remaining three left to find these natural gems. They returned with bark and polypores, twigs and acorns.

I worked on my piece—a tight, controlled piece with colors selected in accordance with proper color theory—attention paid to color saturation, hue, value. After two hours I had completed a meager amount of work—certainly less than I expected.

The two forest scavengers spread their gatherings across the table, took out items they brought from home and began to create assemblages. They worked with abandon—gluing, snapping, adding items. At the end of class they both had finished an assemblage—just some additional gluing required.

The other woman who chose to remain in the studio was busy printing—but did not feel the output was successful. "A wasted time," she said.

What does that mean? Does it mean success—something that works, completion of a predetermined amount? Whose definition do I accept?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Different Responses

Sometimes the question to ask is how instead of what. Poets know that it is senseless to ask what a poem means, ask instead how it means. Look at the language, both literal and figurative, respond to the music, the cadence of the poem— and visualize the images, the metaphors.

The dictionary defines how: In what manner or way.

The dictionary defines what: Asking for information

So often I ask what does this mean when I should be asking how does this mean. Whether I ask the question one way or another the answer will be quite revealing.

I ask myself what I believe and then I ask how that belief affects my life. Two different responses.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whether the weather cooperates...

We've had several days of unseasonably warm weather and that means that it's time to clean the golf clubs, polish the shoes, check to make certain that last year's glove will still be serviceable and check the status of balls and tees.


Last year's glove is not a possibility. I left it folded up in my golf bag and when I opened my bag the ripe aroma pointed , quite pointedly, to my lack of foresight.

I've cleaned five clubs—start off slowly—collected five balls, some tees and my golf shoes. I'm ready.

Each year is akin to the beginning of a school year. I always bought new notebooks, pens, and dividers. There was something exciting about that pristine notebook. It held promises.

The start of golf season also holds promises. Perhaps this is the year that I'm consistent. Perhaps my short game will improve, perhaps I'll always have a good drive,or at least acceptable drive, when I start playing the first hole.

Now that everything is set all that remains is the cooperation of the weather. Whether we play or don't totally depends upon a continuation of unseasonable weather.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whether or not ekphrastic poetry suits me?

Recently I came across a Natasha Tretheway interview where the interviewer asked Natasha what she saw " the dangers and benefits of writing ekphrastically..." in her work.

She noted that it gives her something concrete to start with — "but care" she said "must be exercised not to misread the image."

That means, I expect, to see all images within their historical context.

I pick up Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century, open the book and randomly select an artist. In this case it is Martha Rosler. Her work and all art , she says, exists "politically, or to be more exact ideologically—from the crudest mass-media product to the utterly esoteric praxis of the art world."

Context: everything is political. So that's the lens I use to look at one of her pieces.

I select a photo of a woman leaning against the wall in what appears to be a subway station. She looks forlorn, worn out. Behind her and half covered by her body is a poster with the words: A Drawing lesson. To the right is another poster: At first glance it's political, but then I realize that it's advertising a movie. The words —What Do You Do When Justice Fails cross the top and beneath the words a woman's face.

she sells
knock downs
to people who put clothes
on lay away and wait
for the day the numbers
fall right
tonight she'll
eat leftovers
and wonder if she
should buy a ticket

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting There

For most of my life I've been a spiritual seeker—jumping from one possibility to another until finally stopping long enough to stay in one place. I read the Word, ascribe to the creed, recognize my need and envy those people who seem snug and secure. Perhaps I worry about the transformation that should be taking place. Am I the same person I was before? And if I am not , what's up?

I'm not hiding my light under a bushel, but it seems dim. What do I want, a crescendo, drum roll, cymbals clashing, thunder?

Perhaps a note would do. An email that I'm walking in the right direction, relationships take time.

Perhaps a tap on the shoulder would do. A sign that says—Right Around the Corner —keep going personal encounters take time.

Whether or not I get there, I'll keep walking. I know the direction, have the maps, and checking my mileage and direction isn't such a poor pastime.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Disappearing Hour

Ever wonder where that hour disappeared to when you turned the clock ahead? I'm not interested in a scientific explanation because that won't satisfy my sense of wonderment. Whether or not there's a logical explanation won't do—I am into the magical realm. That place where children and adults who refuse to acknowledge the passage of time reside.

I envision a stockpile of hours acculumated over the years—hoarded by wizards who do not realize how a few days more, months, years can invigorate people. Instead of rushing through life we could dip into the stockpile to slow down and take more time to experience life.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Caught in Motion or On the Way

The question is really about whether you prefer action frozen in time or blurred indicating that it is in the midst of happening. I hear a voice saying, "That's not how real life moves along. In real life you can't change a setting, slow down your shutter speed, increase your shutter speed—control life's speed."

How many times do we see life in slow motion? I recall a bloody nose in first grade. The school nurse called my mother and asked her to pick me up. I waited in the nurse's office for what seemed like hours. Time slowed down and the door never opened. The clock's hands were caught in one position. The hours were probably ten or fifteen minutes.

I heard someone who had been in a car accident say that the car that hit his car appeared frozen in space before ramming into his car. And that moment before impact lasted for an eternity.

Sometimes the action is blurred, moving quickly from one spot to another. The rapidity almost eradicates the actors. "Did that happen?" The edges, like the bleary photo, lack sharpness. It isn't possible to pinpoint the action or the actors. "What does it all mean." Clarity shrouded in haze.

Tomorrow I'll go outside and attempt to manipulate time by playing with shutter speed. Perhaps I'll take a photo of the young man who wears a hooded gray sweatshirt—pants hanging low enough to reveal skin—as he shuffles along, skateboard tucked under his arm. Slow speed and I've captured him in the rhthym of adolescence , fast speed and I've frozen an iconic photo of his life.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Whether or Not it really Matters

I’ve been playing around with art for years.

In the seventh grade I attended the Art Student’s League with a friend. Every Saturday morning we dragged our materials on the IND train. I expect that we were the youngest in the drawing class because after we finished months of still life drawings we moved on to life drawings.

I recall spending more time looking at my drawing board then at the model, but I do remember Susie. She used an eyebrow pencil to draw on bangs and rather than a model’s figure she was rather rotund. According to the instructor Susie held a pose for a remarkably long time and could easily resume the same pose when her break was up.

Occasionally a male model posed —with a strap. My mother came to pick me up one Saturday, opened the door and gasped. I tried to ignore her, pretending that she was someone else’s mother.

Unfortunately my charcoal still life won a gold key and blue ribbon at the Scholastic Art Exhibit. My sense of a work ethic seemed to dissipate with the key.

While at Music & Art High School, an exam school for “talented” art and music students—although one teacher bemoaned the fact that they took in more students than really qualified, I took all the necessary art courses:pen and ink, oil, watercolor, design and so forth. In my senior year I majored in stage design because I had put in too little effort in the other areas and thought I had some sort of innate ability around set design. That was not the case.

Some of my friends spent hours and hours honing their skills—I wanted my drawings and paintings to be good with a casual amount of labor.

Stage Design was fun—a group of us went to see plays off Broadway and discussed the merits of the play and the stage design while we drank espresso in one of the Village cafes.

Over the years I’ve collected sundry art supplies, organized them in a makeshift basement studio and periodically took courses. But the same itch follows me around, a spectre—the desire for a finished product without really putting in the time.

One of my collages was accepted in a juried art show—

So now I want each piece to be worthy—but the time, the repetitions, the sweat—all seem too arduous.

I guess , for me, it isn’t really worth it. But why the disappointment?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Whether to Listen or Answer

Sometimes I think that listening without attempting to speak is more difficult than answering a question.

There's also contemplative listening where what you hear spreads like the tide —filling all the spaces.

I sometimes listen to well-known personages with that type of listening, other times I am in a state of disagreement. I argue with pundits I hear speaking on the radio even though they are unaware of my silent rebuttals.

When a question is asked there's always someone ready to jump in with an answer or a response. Those are the void fillers. They fear that empty time —a noose hovering in the air, an intake of breath with no release, a place caught between words.

Those places between words contain multitudes, a swarm of sound combinations. Stories. The writer sneaks between the words and finds a narrative thread—unrolls the spool and finds the tale.

Along the way snarls appear confounding the writer who stops and listens to his characters. And then —listens to them or argues with how they want to proceed.

And that brings me around to how arduous it is to simply listen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

This or That

Whether I watch the results of the election returns or not doesn't have any bearing on the results. What I learned during this primary election is that money counts because then you can buy a significant number of negative ads.

I also learned to worry about the strident tones of some of the candidates especially when it comes to civil liberties. Do some of these candidates fear gay and lesbian individuals? Do those candidates ever read the statistics of suicide rates for gay and lesbian youth?

Can someone explain to me why people who have very little want to vote for a candidate who doesn't believe that the very rich should pay more taxes?

Whether I agree or not I worry that some voices are sounding hawkish.

I wonder if we'll have months and months of negativity.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Whether Reality Matters Anymore?

Imagine a building encased in ice? Why not?

$300.00 a night for a room in Quebec's Ice Hotel replete with a bed made of ice. And here I am in my almost warm study encased in a turtle neck and a sweatshirt, with my shoulders hunched up to my ears.

The Ice Hotel in Sweden advertises-- sleep well at -5 C.

Imagine this skyscraper inside of an iceberg? Why not? Everything is possible with editing effects.

How do you discern what is real? Or is it a different reality. One you create.

We now have writers who toss aside facts when they alter their own truth. One writer recently said that in the pursuit of truth fidelity to facts becomes irrelevant. Thus a new self-defined reality emerges. But what is the reader to think?

Will we become inured to the metamorphosis of facts or photos?

Will we accept myriad permutations of a photograph?

Will facts lose their relevance? Perhaps our reality will be transitory.

There's even a Church of Reality where reality is studied. Their web site states that they are not a scam and, according to their own words, the IRS has approved their tax exempt status.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Handwriting, Typewriter, Computer

The question I pose for myself is whether my creative juices work better when I am penning a piece, typing it ( if I had a typewriter) or using my computer.

Several well known gurus of writing, of priming the pump, of getting in touch with those things you really want to say, encourage people to engage in early morning journal writing. Simply pick up your pen and write, don't stop to edit, keep going.

Several years ago I tried getting up earlier than usual, taking out my notebook, setting the timer for fifteen minutes and then begin to write. That time wasn't a good fit. My mind wandered. How, I wondered could I finish all my morning exercises or the thirty minutes on the treadmill-- if it was deep winter? So I changed the free writing time to late afternoon. At the end of every week I read over what I had written looking for some emotional truth, a nugget to mine, or a sentence to savor. Often I simply found redundancies.

Still believing that writing with a pen was organic and connected me to my innermost thoughts, I responded to prompts in journal after journal. I liked the feel of the paper and loved filling up notebook after notebook. When done with a book I read the entire book seeking commonalities.

I was actually seeking an epiphany-- a story to emerge like a goddess from a seashell.

The first typewriter I owned was a birthday present from my parents. It came in its own blue case. I loved the connection between my finger pads and the keys-- save for the one that always seemed to stick and required an extra push. Despite the numerous typing errors I wrote my first short play, actually a skit, on my Olympia keyboard. It felt so professional. Eventually I moved on to an electric typewriter, but always missed the tension between key and finger.

Then the computer arrived--which I took to immediately. Now I could become a writer and unleash the words with a furious abandon. That is as fast as my two finger approach allows.

Poetry, for me, still needs that organic touch-- handwritten, crossed out, rewritten. Everything else is written on my computer, or IPad, or ITouch.

So what works best for my creative juices-- deadlines, and dreams.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Whether to Write a Noir Mystery or a Cozy

While roaming the mystery stacks late this afternoon I wondered what type of mystery I'd want to write—if I was desirous of writing a mystery. And if I could do so.

The question that presented itself was whether I'd want to write a cozy mystery where the murder happens on page three and is almost a throw away line or one that was a thriller and had all manner of twists and turns.

Of course if I opted for the thriller I'd need to learn a great deal—all of which I am blessedly ignorant. If I opted for the cozy I'd need a protagonist who was ensconced in some fascinating occupation or hobby.

Deciding against the Scandinavian type thrillers and the political assassination thrillers, I began to seriously look at cozies. I don't knit and that's been done. I found coffee, tea, baked goods and chocolate mysteries. In fact I think that food mysteries run the gamut of tastes. I found a Funeral Food mystery and books with titles celebrating different types of cakes —Strawberry Shortcake, Pineapple Upsidedown cake. There are chefs who solve cases and cooking queens and food journalists. All seem to have time to unravel cases that fall into their lap.

Since I'm not entranced with cooking I'd probably be unable to pull off a series where I needed to worry about ingredients as well as solving a case. Then there are all those hobbists solving crimes: amateur musicians, antique collectors. bridge players, doll house enthusiasts, walkers, golfers, quilters—even stamp collectors and bird watchers solve mysteries.

Nurses, medical professionals ,both those who deal with humans and those whose practice is relegated to animals, find enough time to solve cases—as do muscians and lawyers. But the lawyers rarely appear in cozys.

Teachers appear as sleuths in cozys, but I haven't found anyone who is presently writing a series where the person solving the crime is a Special Education teacher.

Of course I could delve into an historical era—too much time. Research requires time, money, and lots of index cards.

My choices narrow down and I am left with an area of familiarity. I can write a series where the primary person solving the crime is a Special Ediucation teacher.

But when I look back at years of experience the only crime I came across was when a large bag of hard candy disappeared from my bottom desk drawer.



Friday, March 02, 2012

Whether to Eat Lunch In or Out?

I must admit to a penchant for eating out—in part because I am not an inventive cook. Not that I select exotic fare from menus and my list of lunch places is not far reaching. In fact I usually decide between three local spots.

If I've ensconced myself at the local coffee house, which is also a lunch spot, I'm drawn to not leaving and continuing writing or reading. So when the place, which is rather large, fills up with the lunch crowd I begin to harbor pangs of guilt. After all I am taking up a table and all I've ordered is a small decaf with a splash of caffeine. I've convinced myself that the splash invigorates the bland decaf.

"You're on a slippery slope," says Eli —one of the owners—"First it's a splash, then a quarter of a cup and quickly moves up toward an entire cup. Just ask me I've seen everything."

If I stay I'll order their chicken wrap with balsamic dressing or their humus wrap—both ensconced with veggies and carefully shredded cheese.

My other place is Subways— right around the corner. I don't read there or write, but I've become addicted to the Veggie delight because I believe their rhetoric of little fat, low sodium and a few calories.

Once a month I'll opt for the Thai restaurant several doors away from the coffee spot. Because the town has a reconverted mill that's home to many start up tech firms we've been blessed with a number of restaurants.

The Thai restaurant has a lunch menu that includes soup—their choice—and a selection of luncheon specials. Over the years I've moved from bland to two stars. Three star dishes still elude me, or I should say that they burn my palette and even on two star dishes I'm wary of those thin peppers that burn my lips and aren't placated by glasses of iced water.

It's always a decision—whether to eat out or eat at home. Sometimes it's easy because I can't get home for lunch—then the choice is eat out or bring my lunch in a cooler or brown paper bag. I always carry a container of water. Perhaps I think that I'm living n the desert and running out of water would have serious consequences.

This Lent I've decided to make it easier—once a week eat out and no chips with my meals. Of course this isn't a difficult decision at the Thai restaurant. So for the period of Lent my decision is on what day to eat out—my week goes from Thursday to Thursday. I don't have a problem adhering to the once a week, but there is a whether inherent in the discipline.

What day? Not too close to the weekend. Not too close to Thursday. So whether I choose one particular day or another poses a decision.

It's a practical matter. I don't want to make a precipitous decision.

Today I'll go home and create an omelet—there are some grape tomatoes, a green pepper and one solitary mushroom as well as cheese in the fridge. Spices in the cabinet—chives in the freezer. That should do.

I do make a quality omelet.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


Previous months I've ignored the theme for the month and proceeded as a lone wolf digressing into a myriad of topics. But for March—that bridge between winter and spring—I intend to stay on task.

What does this mean? First what does whether mean? There's an aspect of being undecided or on the fence or in need of taking a stand, making a decision. And what about the ubiquitous if followed by the inevitable then when you make that decision?

And uncertainty appears on the horizon. Is this the right answer or this?

Sometimes ambiguity forces its way to the surface when looking at the options. And then when another selects the opposite it may lead to second-guessing, doubt, or even to disputes.

What on the surface appears benign is fraught with pitfalls—alternative possibilities, uncertainty and conflict.

So whether or not I succeed for the entire month I'll proceed with deliberate caution mindful of the unforseen snares, the occasional ambuscade kindled by a choice.

A challenge.