Sometimes you just need a little break.
I've been away from the blog for a while, I know. Lost days are like candy pincered from a dish: first it's just the one, then there's that second, then another and another and soon enough nothing remains but an empty vessel and one humdinger of a sugar drop.
The week I took off turned into six weeks off. My head's no more full of material, and I've been hauling around a bit of a funk. Thar's the proof in that pudding.
I suspect you all know something about inertia: the old A body at rest will remain at rest until blah-de-blah. Earlier this month I did try to unloosen the necktie of it—the inertia, that is—only to discover that the website gods had reconfigured the toolbox I use to create my blog, a flummoxment akin to switching oven cooking temps from Fahrenheit to Centigrade. My autopilot thusly disabled, I did the only thing that made any possible sense—I bolted. I clicked off the blog and kept the CLOSED sign in the door.
But sometime in the past week I sucked down a big breath (Oxygenate is my new motto), pulled up my big girl underpants and clicked back on. And, well, here I am again. (It didn't hurt that my absence had drawn more than a few complaints. Thank you, Loyalists!)
I can't say I won't get caught in a drift again. What I can say is that it's good to be back.
| |Dear Monday Mornings Stalwarts,
A weekend away at the coast (the ever-fabulous Northwest Poets' Concord) and a desk full of undones has me wrapped in the sticky stuff this morning. Ergo, Thursday will be this week's designated Monday. The blog entry will be off the griddle and steaming on your plate just in time for brunch.
| |Those-in-the-Know know that I've been messing about lately with my collage papers. Cutting and pasting and gluing and cropping zing my brain cells in ways no other activity can. After focusing primarily on writing for several years, the addition of visual media to my bag of tricks has shaken, rattled & rolled my creativity. It's as if I can feel my brain rewiring through this process, both a thrilling and a welcome prospect.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to write a few poems to the mixed media work of Robert Tomlinson. My pieces, as well as those of several other poets, were collected in the book, Original Weather, which was published in 2011 by Uttered Chaos. Ekphrastic work was new to me at the time, but now I regularly turn to visual stimuli as the Zippo to flame my poetic pyre. My postcard adventure a few weeks back was one such example of where visual cues have taken me.For some time now I've had the idea to experiment with a parallel blog, one that would offer a weekly writing prompt for poets and others who enjoy the challenges of creating a poem (or ???) from a given cue. I don't intend, necessarily, to stick to purely visual prompts, but I'm imagining they'll be a substantial component of what I present.So what do you think? Is this a project you think might be useful to you? I welcome your thoughts. And stay tuned . . .
. . . STARTING NOW!
Is this an image to make your pen feel prickly all over?
Confession time: I am in love with color.
Passionately, irrevocably. Color blinds me. Makes me want to do the wrong thing.
Most recently, this: I was wandering in a furniture store, testing a few pieces, as usual non-committal. And then I turned a corner and all visions of sofas and sugar plums danced right out of my head. I had come face-to-face with a taller-than-I display of leather swatches, samples of cowhide dyed in colors straight out of a Crayola box.
O frabjous day!
I went straight for the purples: iris, orchid, lavender. The names were stamped on the reverse of the three-inch square swatches, six or seven of each color hanging by their corners from small, gold hooks. A wall of leather diamonds, and no treasure chest in a dental office, no arm-deep bin of pinto beans could give me such a rush. I wanted them. I wanted them all.
I want to be an outlaw. Really, I do. I want to say that my pockets were half-stuffed, that I only stopped due to the untimely arrival of a salesperson nearly catching me in the act. I want to say I slipped out the door stained with guilt but thrilled with the kill. That the smell of leather is still on my hands.
But I left the entire bouquet behind: bluebell and iris, sunflower and fern. My inner scold was with me that day, nag on my shoulder, the finger of accusation tapping on my chest. Fifty-five years old, but the impulses of a kindergartner are still alive and kicking. And that's a good thing, I suppose. I didn't keep my life-slate pristine by succumbing to my every impulse. But oh the disappointment of not being someone other than myself for just one kaleidoscopic moment.
As with the rest of life, there's always a way to compromise. I'm willing to give that a shot. So off to the hardware store I go—the rack of paint chips is calling me.
WATCH AN INSTALLMENT FROM ONE OF MY FAVORITE TELEVISION COMMERCIAL SERIES EV-ER:
When I was a kid, a misbehaving kid, my mother would threaten to put a postage stamp on my rear end and drop me in the mailbox.
Trust me, that would have been light punishment considering the grief I caused her. (Come to think of it, the fact of a stamp affixed to my hindquarters underlines the fact that she was serious about dispatching me--without the postage, this wiggly parcel would surely have been returned straightaway to the sender!)
Thus began my early relationship with the mails. I wondered what it would be like to be dropped into that dark box, be bounced around amongst the letters and postcards and parcels. I kind of sort of knew that the scenario was implausible, but on the other hand, was it? Really?
Fast forward all these years, and I still have a passion for the sending and receiving of things. Surprise things. Postcards are a particular joy, a small rectangle of delight that has the ability to transport the receiver to an entirely different place. A perfect melding of image and language, all in a compact, tidy bite.
Last week's postcard-a-day blog adventure got me thinking about postcards in an entirely different way. Or, more accurately, in a deeper way. Seen from the side, a postcard is just a line, a thin wall dividing front from back, image from word. The blank side itself is often divided—half for the sender, half for the sendee. Two relationships evolve with the creation of a card—the writer to the writing of it, the recipient to what's been written there. The card is the intermediary.
I'm an eavesdropper. I love to listen in to conversations, to build whole narratives from the snippets I can grab. I love walking down a street at night, glimpsing other lives framed by uncurtained windows. I love old letters, notes in margins, fragments of handwriting found in the street. And I find a particular thrill in reading a postcard, parsing its inherent duality. What is it the writer intended to say? What is it the receiver insists on finding there?
We say so much, but so much of what we mean is in the words that go unsaid. We tiptoe through language—the very currency of communication--dodging, obfuscating. How effective are we, really, at fogging over our truest thoughts?
My mother's plainspoken postage-stamp threat was clear.
To her I send this postcard--Wish You Were Here.
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April is National Poetry Month, a fact which has little or nothing to do with my Monday Blog. But in anticipation of all of the events this busy month promises, I've been feeling, well, somewhat poetic of late. In the tradition of this blog's tendency to go slant on its subjects, I'm throwing in a little creative bonus this week. For each of the next seven days I'll be offering a rectangle of art along with its inscription, similar to something you might find in your mailbox. I'm calling this small series Postcards I Have Been.
Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy your travels—
MONDAY: POSTCARD the FIRST
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Something has happened. It involved a derailment. Shorn fields, filigree, a vanishing point. I have been feeling outside myself. I would like to say I have seen your stars, but the sky is plainspoken and pained with daylight. When I try to look into it, I can only decipher the beginnings of bruise. But I wanted to tell you of the sunflowers, how improbable they are. And true. Were.
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TUESDAY: POSTCARD the SECOND
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WEDNESDAY: POSTCARD the THIRD
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THURSDAY: POSTCARD the FOURTH
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SATURDAY: POSTCARD the SIXTH
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SUNDAY: POSTCARD the SEVENTH
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I'm not a believer.
And now here a-hoppin' comes the Easter Bunny, intent on making me take another look at my system of non-belief.
Yesterday morning, Easter Sunday, I scuffed down the stairs in my curlers and fuzzy slippers to retrieve the newspaper from the porch. Oh, the paper was there to be sure. But it was plopped in its blue plastic sheath right next to this little crackle-nosed guy, who was waiting in his adorableness with his offering of chocolate carrots.
Dare I admit that squeals ensued?
But wait, there's more!
Chicks and ducklings and jellied robin eggs in the planter box! Wheverer—whomever—did they come from?
Here I was, plodding happily along in my cynicism, only to have a bunny arrive to take a few nibbles from the snarkier edges.
I may not believe in water into wine or stones rolled back to reveal empty tombs, but I was lifted on this Sunday morning. I'll take the everyday mysteries of the human spirit over one day of holiness designated on my desktop calendar.*
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| |* Easter fun fact: Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in Spring. Well, kinda sorta. | |
The week's just begun, and I'm already behind!
The blog will happen, it's just a question of when. Check with your local provider
for updated date and time.
Turn me into compost, Baby!
Not a huge revelation, but since admitting this to a friend last week, I've a had the opportunity to reflect on just how slothful I've really become.
Let's talk about composting, f'rinstance. I live in a region that is very conscious of—conscientious about—its stewardship of our natural resources. This isn't just noise at a governmental level; it's a cultural value that extends to the everyday of households. Homeowners are installing solar panels to capture heat; we swap out our incandescent light bulbs for the fluorescent variety; our waste is sorted before we put it out at the curb—a container for recyclable materials, one for yard debris, another for the landfill. The system works. My large barrel of recycled materials is emptied every two weeks, but my smaller-by-half landfill container is only picked up once a month. Even then, only rarely is it filled to capacity.
Five years ago I moved from a neighborhood house with a decent-sized yard to a lower-maintenance house with a yard so small I can't even call it a yard without choking on my own hyperbole. There's a strip of grass up front and a patch in back which is planted up with lackluster shrubs that I only have to tend to twice a year. It's a lazy girl's dream, allowing me to idle on the interior side of the windowglass with my cup of hot tea and not-much-to-do when the mowers and rakes and shovels and hoes begin their spring flights off the hardware-store shelves.
And so I now confess that my do-the-right-thing genes have been hunkering down indoors as well. For five this-house years, I've been tossing my vegetable scraps blithely in the trash can under the sink. Every slime-gray potato peel, each boomerang of watermelon rind, all the inedible rowboats of celery—the whole biodegradable shebang has been going right into the can that's emptied into the barrel that rides in the truck where it's dumped into a hole and compacted to a loaf that will last longer into the eons than that proverbial holiday fruitcake and all those other unkillable clichés.
Recycling kitchen waste is not an activity alien to me. I kept a compost bin at my last house. I'd made it myself with cedar boards measured and cut and configured in such a way so that the contents would breath. I filled it with kitchen waste and grass clippings and the autumn trees' dropped leaves. I didn't even begrudge the dogs their scrubbings when, after a wet mowing, they'd bound their way into the open bin, making chlorophylly green leprechauns of themselves. I watered the heap and fed it and turned it. I laced the black harvest back into the soil in the yard.
In my current life I've donated uncounted cat litter buckets to friends who've employed them for their own composting needs. When asked, I wrote a poem lauding the another neighborhood's composting efforts. And with each small gesture I've carved a notch in the expanding waistline of my own inertia.
Fiction writers talk about "consistent inconsistencies," those at-odds-with-themselves traits that legitimize a character's humanity on the page. I've tried to run this scam on myself, explaining that my failure to compost is one of those exceptions that proves the rule of my humanness. But a scam is a scam, and after a while, even I get tired of sniffing out the ones I'm selling to myself.
So last week I bought a compost bin. A recycled plastic one that took, if I puff the numbers, approximately 5 entire minutes to assemble. I installed it in the back patch, behind a threesome of pampas grass that, guaranteed come fall, I'll again be whining about having to cut back. And I'll admit I'm feeling a little proud of myself—for finally coming to do that which I know I should have been doing all along.
Oh, I'm not delusional. I'll be annoyed in short order, grumbling about how quickly my kitchen container seems to fill up, about the long walk down the stairs to empty it out. A clearer conscious does not shake off the lazy blues. But a life is about choices, I think, about trying to make the better ones—one slippery banana peel at a time.
(with thanks to my confessor, Q)
The author, with Kobi, self-composting
Nothing smells quite like a basketball. The rubber-leather-sweaty-grime of it. The wood-floor earthiness. Some old-gym, used-sock mustiness thrown in. Just looking at one makes it all come back to me.
What "it" is exactly, is up for grabs. My basketball career, if there ever was to have been one, lost all its air early on when it became clear that my DNA strands were studded with genes programmed for short & stocky, not lean & lithe. Then there was the matter of my easily distracted mind, which had me making mental artwork of the scoreboard's flashing lights instead of a launched ball's glorious parabolas.
As a point of fact, the one meaningful encounter I ever had with a basketball was in eighth grade phys ed, when a hoopster lobbed a loose one that headed straight for me while I was playing on an adjacent volleyball court. A bone in my hand was fractured when I brought it up to protect my gut. Ooompf.
Yes, okay—Dorksville—but who says you can't teach a never-to-be cager a few new tricks? Forty years later, I've developed an affection for the game. I know I'll never really comprehend the blocking rules, and my eyes aren't quick enough to see some plays through, but I know--I know—when a ball soars in grand arc from a player's hands the likelihood that it will find the net. And I can always tell you which team's got the possession arrow, or if that toe was on the three-point line. And hey, look at that woman a half-dozen rows up behind the bench. Is that a real duck she's holding in her lap?
I can't tell you how I know so intimately what a basketball smells like. My family had approximately zero interest in sports. My childhood home was somewhat isolated, at a remove from a conventional neighborhood that might have seen the occasional pick-up game. And that close encounter way back in 8th grade lasted only a half a second, even if its arthritic aftermath has nagged for a lifetime.
Is it too much of a stretch to believe that in a previous incarnation I was 6-foot-3, with legs as pent-up as pogo sticks and shoulders that understood the arc in advance of the throw? That if ever came the time when I held my face in my hands, it would take just one deep breath to bring all the glory right back into me?
CAN YOU DO THIS???