Myself and my illustrator in a creative jam sesh for a children’s book I converted from a short story. Go write something today kids……
I’m a morning kind of guy and like to sit out on my deck with a hot cup of coffee so that I can watch the world wake up. Across the lane from me is a canal with an easement road on the other side of it. A variety of persons use the dirt road: runners, groups of kids going to school, and a few walkers. There is one who stands out among them.
She comes round three or four times a week with her dog. The road is gated and ends just where my back yard sits across from it and instead of turning around and making her way home like everyone else, she’ll sit there on the bank of the canal. This is one of the reasons she stands out; what kind of person stops and just watches the water?
I mean, this girl watches the water. Her pose does not change for moments at a time (she’s inevitably interrupted in her meditations by the dog as it shakes off the water from its coat right next to her after a dip in the canal). She seems purposeful in her thought. What is it she ponders, I wonder myself as warm coffee keeps out the cool morning chill, or does she? Maybe she only notices the sway of the algae in the current and thinks of nothing else. Perhaps just the action of the water dragging against a low hung tree branch is enough to encapsulate her thoughts.
Whatever the content of her imaginations, it must be important for her to sit there and commune with her surroundings as she does. She makes it a point. An appointment, in fact, with herself and her world with which she seems to interact on as intimate a level as anyone I’ve seen in my long life.
Take her dogs for example. I’ve seen her with two over the years. The one with her this morning she’s only had for a while, still a pup. The first one must have passed on. I watched one morning as it chased a squirrel and fell over on its side in convulsions. She ran to the animal, soothed it, calmed it, and after a while she picked it up to carry it to where ever home was. Their walks were less frequent after that, and then one week she was back on schedule, this time with a small black thing that is now a big black thing. She’s good with the dog. She’ll call it to her on occasion, rewarding it with some treat or other. She makes it sit and does so with just a slight hand gesture, impressive.
Besides the way she interacts with her dogs there are other clues to her connection with nature. She almost always touches the low hanging tree limbs of the aged oak tree that provides a canopy over the easement road. She can call a horse or two to the fence and pet them. There are times I see her with a feather tucked in her hat; once I watched her reach among the reeds to claim a nice size turkey feather. She promptly stuck it in her hair.
She always has a baseball hat on. She pulls her long hair through the opening in the back. They vary in color and insignia and I’ve queried on some quiet mornings if she chooses the hat specifically or randomly?
Specifically, I think. She dresses neatly and appropriate to the weather. She walks upright, shoulders square, eyes in front (this too sets her apart since most walk with a slumped shoulder or head down). She’s fit so she doesn’t slack in the exercise department. These are the actions of a person who is deliberate in her choices. Which particular hat to wear must weigh in her mind I would think.
There’s a bit of a rebel in her despite the meticulous presentation. I notice a few tattoos, on the ankles and forearms (I suppose I could make them out if I employed my binoculars, but I’m not one to be that nosy. Besides, I sort of like the mystery). They hint at a kind of contradiction, I think. Proper in just about every way, the ink belies the undercurrent of an unorthodox life, especially in this conservative town. The contrast makes her even more mysterious: does she know what the conflict is? Has she made peace with herself over it, or is it something she still navigates? I’ll never know, most likely, but the preponderance is worth my time somehow. Maybe I’ll find answers to my own contradictions.
She’s taught me a couple of things, and that’s saying something for this old man. She taught me to just watch. The power of observation and quiet is a tool I am happy to have acquired, thanks to her. She’s taught me to be freer. She apparently is unaware that she’s observed since all her actions are without restraint, without inhibition. She is open to her world more than any other person I have seen, and the example inspires me. She’s sure to have her faults, she’s human after all. But she seems to live on a more interactive level of life than most and I for one am fascinated by her ability to do so.
She’s come and gone for the day which means my time for musing should come to an end as well. Those chores aren’t gonna do themselves. Thanks for listening.
*author’s note: Aldous Huxley sez, ” To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift.” The Doors of Perception, 1954. The quote hounded me and this short story is the result of its persistence. I turned it into a writing exercise, a challenging one at that. It’s tempting to divulge too much, give away a small detail, or step out of character and yield to my own interpretation. I’m not so sure I succeeded in every way, its difficult to remain objective about oneself, but the introspection was worth. Keep writing kids……Frankie.
Harry Potter’s influence reaches far beyond the sphere of providing an entertaining story for children to read. When the first book arrived here in the US there was all kinds of uproar in the christian community about its defamation of Jesus and apparent blatant attempts to sway children towards satanism and magic – I received an email from a dear church friend of mine saying so.
At the time I was still in deep in the church, a worship leader and children’s church director, but bubbles of doubt had been making their way to the surface of my conscious thought for a couple of years , instigated by my observations about the world within christianity and the world outside of it. When the email hit my inbox I read it, followed up on the links and also researched what other christian parents were saying about the book. In the end, I realized the only way I could make a reasonable decision about Harry Potter was to read the book myself.
It was a watershed moment for me. First, there was no defamation of Jesus, no promotion of Satan. There are no religious connections in the book whatsoever which means the email circulating was a complete lie and the author of the note either read the book and lied about it anyway, or didn’t read the book and decided to promote a fear-inducing story based on ignorance.
Then, I began to look at other issues the church was talking about by reading the leading publications. Instead of taking their word for it, I did the research myself. In each instance I found that the church was absolutely promoting false information and with an obvious overtone of fear. Whether or not there was a god, I made my decision to leave the church. Even HE couldn’t condone the obvious lies, I thought.
A recent article published by Christianity Today takes a look at the tornado of fear stirred up by Harry Potter and other issues and confesses that on the whole, there really is much ado about nothing. To this day I am willing to research just about anything that pops up on my facebook feed in the hopes that someone, somewhere may just get it right. Alas, there’s always more hype and subterfuge than reality reveals, and the fear inducing rhetoric is blatant as always.
I shouldn’t be surprised. The premise for converting to christianity is fear of going to hell so using fear to keep the congregation clinging to something more hopeful is of course the preferred modus operandi. What saddens me, what concerns me, what “really grinds my gears” is the blind acceptance of it all. Even the author of the CT article stops short of actually admitting that their assertions were lies. Instead he provides a short analysis on the idea that maybe the church is becoming more accepting – thereby missing the point that all the issues he exemplifies have been circulated as a means to promote fear. Whether or not Harry Potter actually affected millions of young minds didn’t matter, what mattered was successfully creating a shroud of fear and anxiety so that we couldn’t see for ourselves the reality of the issue – this was a harmless book that reiterated the same hero theme as Jesus’ own story. Sigh. Even in the admission that there’s been much ado about nothing, we are still unable to admit that fear is used as an effective tool by the church to keep its people isolated from reality.
Here’s to those who are willing to look beyond the fear.
By that I mean all the noise of discussions occurring in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality.
In the balance, it seemed, a contention between our Constitution and the Christian bible. One creates a framework within which our society has agreed to operate, the other creates a framework for a set of spiritual beliefs.
In the end, only one document could triumph.
In the balance, it seemed, a contention between equal rights as mandated by our founding document, and a religious restriction mandated by a dubious text. In the recent past, during a time when the idea of equality for all mankind was becoming the basis for instituting governments, our founding document was carefully constructed by a group of men intent on shaping a nation where equal rights as humans was celebrated and paramount – creating a democracy where not just voting was established as a right, but affirming that the very trait of being human grants us equal footing in the law and access to opportunities. In the far far past, during a time when bleeding was thought the best thing in medicine and something called ‘the humors’ dictated a physician’s approach to sickness, a group of men gathered at the command of a clever ruler to collate ‘the bible’ into a cohesive religious document so as to unite his kingdom. One document exists in its pure form, un-edited, un-tainted and is intended to stand objectively – regardless of one’s personal belief. One document exists with omissions and editions, its content is wholly subjective to the point of dictating one’s personal belief.
In the end, only one document could triumph.
When the fallout noise settles down, I hope we can remember this at the end of the day: only one document could triumph in this instance, and it does so to guarantee the right to belief in the other – or not.
May we celebrate our independence and democracy this weekend with grateful hearts.
This week, two big, huge, major, incredibly far-reaching Supreme Court decisions provide perfect examples of the discussion I began the other day with regards to the dual meaning of Democracy:
This particular meaning of democracy establishes equal rights for us as human beings simply because we are all well, human, and regardless of economic circumstances or gender of partner, we all deserve access to healthcare and recognition in the institution of marriage. The Supreme Court’s rulings uphold the democratic ideals of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ and consequently allow us to appreciate our democracy to the fullest extent of its meaning. Way. To. Go.
Two inquisitive minds set out with similar questions which obliged each to begin from the same point, and on equal footing. It wasn’t a race or competition they anticipated, mind you, but a quest instead. A search for answers to curiosities springing from a well that would not be stopped.
Their shared questions: What this? Why that? How come? When? Why here? gave them a momentary sense of camaraderie. As they floated along in the same stream they traded suspicions and congratulated each other on specific observations. For a while, then, the two could amicably and happily content themselves in their common search.
By and by, they arrived at a fork in the stream and there was great discussion about which direction to take. One stream was slightly wider and its current more brisk as a consequence, the other retained the same width and flow as the original. One inquisitor felt that answers were probably best obtained in the wider stream, the other felt more comfortable with the status quot. Imminently, there was no reconciliation, the two parted ways and stayed the course they thought would best answer their questions. They never saw each other again.
For a time, the streams continued on without change, answers refused to be found, but the curious contented themselves in their individual decision and pondered what it might mean, if anything, that they chose differently.
After, say, a fortnight, one of our seekers discovered a profound answer, a vigorous stream itself feeding into the original waterway, fortifying it with the new information – its banks were widened, its flow increased, its current quickened. Steadily, almost consistently, creeks and other streams, in the form of answers, found their way to the questioner. Before long a wide river of knowledge stretched out on either side and ahead. There was life with this river. Green trees stood solid and sure on each side. Birds and bugs filled the air. Fish and algae dominated the water. Vibrant; enviable; this river would continually be fed with new streams, leading the seeker to countless, continuous, and beautiful discoveries.
I wish I could report that the other seeker shared a similar fate in success at finding aswers. It seems the stream of this questioner had no other resources to keep it flowing. Sure, seasonal creeks would donate their runoff, but the crucial steady supply of new water was absent. The queried mind worried somewhat about this lack of new energy and it was left to contemplate only the answers it had so far acquired. Those would be recycled continuously for want of fresh information and as a result the stream eventually dried up. This curious seeker then, wandered a desert-land bereft of life and the dawnings of new days.
It is an easily observed case from my perspective. I stand on the mountaintop of time and history. I can see precisely where the two parted ways. My eyes savor the beauty of the wide silver gleam that morphed into a behemoth river and they track stream upon stream of answers flowing into its arms. I scan the valley to find the other seeker. Ah, just there. Only recognizable by its origin, where it diverged from its companion. If I trace its route I can see the gradual shrinking and final ending in a small pool of a lake whose only source is the one stream. There is scant evidence of life and when the lake fills with sediment and dries, as all lakes with only a single feed are wont to do, that life will dissipate, allowing desert to arrive.
Observing these two is an exercise in the profound contrast of outcomes.
Science and Religion set out with similar questions which obliged each to begin from the same point, and on equal footing. Their shared questions: What this? Why that? How come? When? Why here? all attempted to define man’s place in the universe. From the mountaintop of time and history, we witness the destiny of each. This is a story about Questions, and Answers – an exercise in the profound contrast of outcomes.
Dark is the absence of Light
Evil the absence of Good
Cold is the absence of Heat
Laziness the absence of Will
Still is the absence of Motion
Selfishness the absence of Compassion
Empty is the absence of Matter
Ignorance the absence of Knowledge
Black is the absence of Color
Timidity the absence of Living
Death is the absence of Life
Nothingness the absence of Awareness
My husband made quite a solid point yesterday with regards to the Charleston shooting. His contention with the event is that the perpetrator’s name will be remembered when we talk about the tragedy, but the victims’ names will not be. I mention them here as a means to honor their lives.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Ethel Lee Lance
Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Simmons
Depayne Middleton Doctor
May they sleep in peace.
May their families find comfort in the thought that MANY mourn with them.
Talk and drive, walk and chew gum, or carry on two conversations at once – we are familiar with the idea that while we can participate in two things at once, we suffer from the inability to do both of them well since our brains aren’t wired to multi-task.
These examples deal with superficial activities that we participate in every day, however, I challenge us to look at the idea of multi-tasking at a deeper level, at the level of creativity.
Take this real-life example: as a writer, I am grateful to not be “working” at the moment and the difference in creative production compared to when I was working is tangible. BUT there are bills to pay, student loans primarily, so my leisurely days of writing are now interrupted with tweaking resumes and scouring craigslist. As I’ve focused on job hunting these past few weeks, I’ve definitely noticed my creative outlet is stifled. I can’t apply my emotional energy and investments into writing when I necessarily must funnel those elements into resumes and interviews. We can only do one thing at a time.
My second son recently graduated high school. He barely made the grades to do so, but I didn’t push him too much about it. He is a highly creative individual, and although he wasn’t reading class assigned prose, he was (still is) reading Thich Nhat Hahn and Eckhart Tolle. He didn’t participate in prom and loathed school assemblies, he sought instead a form of spirituality through the third eye and wrote rap lyrics about a higher calling in life. His energy and time were vested in creativity, school took a secondary seat and this mother was unwilling to bridle his ventures into the mysterious for the sake of a four-point-oh. We can only do one thing at a time.
Think about it in terms of living with an addict, of any kind. I lived with an alcoholic for several months and I’ll never forget that my energy and creative flow were robbed in order to deal with the addiction and its fallout. Writing came to a near stop and the ideas kept their distance, knowing they would be thrown away in the face of having to survive the consequences of walking on egg shells. We can only do one thing at a time.
If you’re frustrated in your writing. If you’re anxious over the slow pace of your manuscript. Give yourself a break and examine your life at the moment: is there something else taking up your emotional energy and drying up the creative outlet as a result? Don’t beat yourself up over it. Acknowledge that we aren’t able to multi-task at the emotional level where writing is grounded if our attention is called to other places. And then, be mindful. Stay open to the creative tap so that when those creative moments do come up (they can’t help themselves, can they? it is a curse we live with as writers) at least get them down in shorthand form on your iPhone note app so that you have the thing for later. Keep track of your progress, it will help you find the time. My personal ‘game’ is to keep a running total of the number of words I write each day. Some days my goal consists of a mere five hundred new words added to a working script, some days I can afford to increase the goal to two thousand. The idea is to keep the work cooking and maintain the creativity spout on at least a drip output level. Some is always better than none.
A writer’s life is not an easy road. Creativity takes time, investment and an unoccupied mind, yet a thousand other details compete for our attention. May we find a balance between the two and may we give ourselves a generous amount of grace in the process: We can only do one thing at a time.
Write on, kids.
A friend and fellow writer share these thoughtful words about summer reading … I also appreciated the Maugham quote, it is balm to my soul: “The moral I draw is that the writer should see his reward in the pleasure of his work and in release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success” Happy reading AND writing….Frankie
Originally posted on Erin Fanning :
Rocking in my hammock, under a hot Idaho sun, I traveled to windswept moors dotted with heath, swooned over brooding lords of the manor, and identified with governesses, plain yet intelligent, full of thoughtful observations. They not only won over my heart but also the love of the lord, as well as solving mysteries.
But by July 31, having come to the end of my self-directed summer-reading program, I uttered the words that all parents dread.
“I’m bored,” I said. “There’s nothing to do.”
I cringe now. Nothing to do? Impossible with endless libraries to explore and subjects to study. But I was 13, restricted by immaturity and narrow-mindedness, which, of course, I never would have admitted at the time…
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