VOICE: My Word for 2019

Despite my angst surrounding choices (see last month’s posting), VOICE quickly popped into my head as my word for 2019. If the concept of choosing a word to inspire you each year is new, check out  “word for the year,”

Laaaaaah!

Morguefile by Hotblack

Why VOICE:

  1. I joined a women’s chorus in late December, so this word underlines how brave I am being to step out of my comfort zone and into a new kind of commitment to music. This is a big deal for me. So,

TA DA!

I even bought a DRESS for our first concert (coming right up)

2.  So yeah, I’m trying to be brave. To own who I am, to share myself. To allow my voice to be heard–even insist upon it. VOICE is a good reminder to myself to remember that goal. I write it at the front of my journals. I don’t want to forget.

3.  It also covers a lot of territory. VOICE  has many meanings that I can play around with, an important consideration when choosing a word that needs to last for a whole year’s exploration. My mind teems with considerations, with questions about voice.

In writing, it can refer to a character’s voice, the voice of narration (sometimes the same thing), and the authorial voice. Every book has an overall voice. Often that’s what will make you enjoy reading it–or not. So exploring voices is a giddy playground for my writing life!

Then there’s sound. The speaking voice, the singing voice. Quality of tone. There are some voices I just want to listen to–it doesn’t even matter what they say. Just let me bask in the vibrations. I don’t know where that will take me, if anywhere.

We voice opinions. Is this always wise? How do we know when to speak up, when to keep silent? The one quote I have memorized from Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Hm. But that’s not very brave, or proactive, to keep our ideas to ourselves.

And what about the concept of speaking just to hear our own voice (“I’m alive!”), or to ensure that others know we’re there?  Does “voice” equate with identity? And does it have to be verbal? In other words, is an introvert’s essence/presence/voice made known by a smile, a softening of the face, a touch on the shoulder? Or a clenched fist for that matter. Body language as voice.

And therefore, is whatever speaks about you part of your voice? What about how I keep my home? Am I voicing something by being a slob? Actions, inactions–more voice.

When you add up all these voices, what are we telling people about who we are and what matters to us?

I’m starting to have the urge to go into a dark closet and pull a blanket over my head. It’s that panic:  I know I am saying something just by living my life. Is it what I want to say? Is it what I want people to hear from me? And so, I’m back to my issues with choices.

I have a voice. What will I say?

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Choice: the panic of a natural ditherer

from Where’s My Sammich on Pinterest

I am one of the buzzards in the old Jungle Book movie who sit around shrugging. But with me, I take on the roles of all them.

“What we gonna to do?”

“I dunno. What YOU wanna do?”

“I dunno. What YOU wanna do?”

“I dunno. What–”

“–Don’t start that again!”

The only thing cool about this scenario is their British accents.  As a writer, I dither about what I should write about, whether I should write anything at all, and if so, when should I do it, how should I begin, how long do I spend on it, blah blah. The dithering usually only ends after I blast myself with nasty words intended to act as a swift boot to the backside. My backside (ego) is pretty bruised. But, oh, if only my problems were confined to writing!

Here’s the issues I have with choice:

photo by imelenchon at Morguefile.com

  1. There are too many options in this world. I have a very hard time shopping these days (probably since the 1950s). Why do grocery stores have to stock 10 kinds of balsamic vinegar? You should see me trying to purchase a new laptop. Even having limited it to Apple, there are too many options. Aaghhhh!

2. The word “choice” has the second meaning of the best, optimal selection: a choice cut of meat; “man, that’s really choice.” Maybe I’m dating myself, but I still have that expectation when I’m choosing something important (like how I spend my morning?) of the choice resulting in the supreme satisfaction that I chose well. I did not waste my time, my money, my enthusiasm, my creative spark, my life on this endeavor. I freak out, because what if I choose wrong???

3. The result is that I find it way easier to make little choices than big ones. I promise you I can buy balsamic vinegar with zero angst. I write my morning pages. I can commit to 15 minutes of meditation every day. But the bigger choices that require bigger chunks of time (months, years) –like which huge writing project to focus on, whether or not I should pull out that easel and really work on the portrait I promised my friend 2 years ago, cleaning out the files in my office (oh no, more choices!)–these overwhelm me. I put them off.

Moment by moment we all make choices of what to do in the now. The smaller the commitment, the easier the choice is for me to go with it. In this era of small attention spans and electronic devices that give us endorphin rushes for small tasks, I find I choose over and over again the short commitment.

I have 5 minutes. I’ll just check out Facebook. Or do a quick puzzle on my phone. That can easily turn into half an hour, 45 minutes locked into the screen in my hand. The choice to do that is not “choice” in that good sense, but it entertains me. It kills time.

Time to check the phone, Photo credit: byronv2 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Kills time. I’m a chronic time-murderer. I know I’m not alone. And I know that sounds melodramatic, but I need to get my attention, here. Because my phone doesn’t just kill time, it steals time from relationships with art, with my husband, with whoever and whatever I’m not paying attention to so I can distract myself.

No one’s throwing me in jail for this crime. But I want to do some penance, try to change my ways. At least a little. So, one goal I’ve got for 2019–and I’m publishing this here, mind you!–is to use my phone as a tool for communication and not as an instrument to distract me from experiencing the world more fully.

I’m CHOOSING to do this. Wish me luck!

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Exploring Truth-the scary realities of revision in memoir

Photo by Chelle at Morguefile.com

I just finished taking a class online about issues of truth in writing fiction and nonfiction. By nonfiction, this class meant memoir. The teacher talked about using truth (our lives) to color and form our fiction; we were also going to use craft strategies used in fiction to color our memoir.

Color my memory. Eek!

Which brings me to an existential crisis. It’s about me and my memory. My distrust of my memory. I’m now having a moral dilemma about writing about myself at all.

I was writing about scenes from a time in my life when I was ten years old, maybe eleven. I remember the situations happening. At least I’m pretty sure they did. And as I wrote and rewrote and added color to the scenes, sensory details, dialogue, the scenes came to life for me. Became more real to me as the writer as well as to the reader. They felt true. And then I would change it, color it differently, and a new truth emerged, nuanced with situation.

I’m not sure what truth is. Or if it even exists. And this isn’t even about politics or the news industry!

How much of what I remember really happened? How much have I created for myself to explain myself to myself? Memory is so scary. I’ve been to several lectures, heard talks and read articles about how people often see one thing and convince themselves that it’s something else entirely. Eyewitness reports are simply not reliable. People rewrite their memories. And here’s the thing: they aren’t even lying. They are creating truth.

One of my classmates kindly wrote this to me in response to my wondering if I can call my memoir writing “nonfiction”:

“I think it is nonfiction if it conveys a truth of events and their impact on your life.  I think to the extent you have changed details or characters, it is still nonfiction unless the reason you changed them was to change the emotional truth.”

It’s quite possible, maybe even probable, that Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford both believed that their truths were accurate. Certainly they both seemed emotionally believable in their versions of what happened. But they couldn’t both be right. There is such a thing as reality, isn’t there?

Isn’t there?

I am so eager to hear your thoughts on this.

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The Duality of Adoration and Despair

I am in grief, as I believe much of the human world is these days. I ache for the oppressed even as I try to understand the oppressors.

Many people I know seem to be grappling with this:

“How can I find joy in a world that contains so much suffering?” “How can I love life when cruelty thrives?”

“How can I love God when a devil lives on my shoulder?”

Photo by Visualsamit (Morguefile)

It seems too easy to feel outrage at the actions of others, be they physical or verbal, direct or indirect, and so my sadness and shame and confusion turns personal. It’s taken me a long time to understand that the concept of Original Sin is dealing with the fact that we as humans are so very capable of evil. It’s in our gene pool. By Evil, I mean we seem to thrive on beating down someone else, pushing their face in the dirt because we’re feeling brutal and angry, and it’s their fault. In these times in particular, many of us relish this anger, seek it out, wade in with fists clenched for battle! Conservatives and liberals alike. #Ownvoices. We are all human.

The news is scary, almost every second of it. And disheartening. Sometimes I feel like it is ripping my heart out of my body. And the worst for me is when I just don’t understand why people think the way they seem to think. I don’t want to listen to another diatribe filled with name-calling. I don’t want to be reminded how much people fall in love with rhetoric, fall in love with being part of an angry mob; I too feel that energy. I like marching with my causes!

Photo by GaborfromHungary (Morguefile)

Sometimes I think we humans are just in one big sports arena, championing our sides, pouring money into the MY TEAM concept of it all.

I know a lot of people are finding concrete projects, things to do, actions to take that make them feel like they are doing something to change the way the human world operates. We march, we speak out, we run for office, we collect books for homeless children, we feed the hungry, we sing to the sick. We show we care in whatever way we can.

I recently attended a talk by a minister at the Center for Spiritual Living near where I live who reminded us all about the power of Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.” In this poem, Oliver says, “Tell me about despair, yours, and  I will tell you mine.” But her next line is, “Meanwhile, the world goes on. ” The poem ends with a series of “meanwhiles” describing the rich delights our world gives us to bring peace and a deep sense of belonging:

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

at Silver Falls Park, OR

“The world goes on–appreciate it!” has become my latest mantra. It reminds me to notice the world in its glory, to let my anguish over politics and killings co-exist with my delight in the color of the leaves, the glories of a gorgeous fall day. To take what I am offered and exult. To adore the fact that I am human and alive at the same time that I know, in my heart, that our human behavior–my personal behavior!–is so terribly abusive to other life forms on this planet, even (especially, it sometimes seems) to our own.

 

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Still Connecting

I just turned 60, a big birthday, and one that has turned me introspective–even more than usual! Turns out, I’m quite proud of myself. Doing fine.

Usually, by this time in the course of a year, I have completely forgotten what word I started out with and have to do a panicked search through journals to remind myself–if I even think of it at all. But not this year.

Connecting: my word for 2018

Connect-the-dots Photo credit: whitney waller on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

I’m still connecting, still trying to say yes to opportunities that encourage me to go deeper. And broader. Truer.

I’ve been working on my relationship to Truth. That’s probably not unusual in this era of misdirection, false facts and “truthiness.” It’s hard to know who to believe, what to believe or, if you do believe, how to respond.

But I’m not talking about that.

I’m working on my own truth, my acceptance and understanding of who I am and what I believe about myself and my place in the universe. My connection to the universe as ME. In January I didn’t have many strategies to develop this skill, but I have more now.

Some Tools

Take a class.  I took an online class on self-healing that gave me some great tools and exercises to shift my thinking away from negativity and into feeling good about myself, or at least a lot kinder about myself–and about others also. Maybe that’s just the way it works. In fact, one of the exercises I practiced is from http://thework.com/en. It helped me enormously to do this with a partner.

Find a hero. A lot of heroes. I watched that wonderful new documentary about Mr.  Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, that immediately made me want to binge watch every episode of his show ever made. He is my hero. It’s important to have heroes to inspire me to grow and deepen, yes, but also to keep me feeling positive about our world. It’s a kick to figure out how a person I interact with in my daily life can be–is!–my hero in one way or another. I had to get my phone’s screen replaced recently, and the man doing the work was the most positive, friendly, “yes I can!” person I’ve met in a long time. My hero.

Meditate. I’m a total newbie at this. I did okay on my own (starting with 5 minutes), but it has helped to have an app on my phone to show me the way. I use Headspace. It’s a little embarrassing to call it “meditation for dummies,” so I’ll just say it’s user-friendly. Meditation practice early in the day opens a channel within me, a connection to a creative flow. Who knew? Well, obviously lots and lots of meditators.

Pray. I asked a writer friend, Connie Connelly, how she dealt with the depression and doubt that besets most writers. My question inspired her to blog about her Spiritual Survival as a Writer. (I am the “Mary” she refers to). I’m not sure I’ve ever before made a practice of asking for help from God with making decisions. This concept was not exactly encouraged (or even mentioned) in my Unitarian upbringing. But exploring spirituality on my own was encouraged, and my relationship to God (Life Force, Creator, Spirit,  Universe) has deepened enormously as I’ve aged. Still, asking for help for myself through prayer is quite new to me. I’m a bit stunned at how much it’s resonating. Recently I stressed about a selection to read at a salon I participated in: Was what I wrote appropriate? Was it stupid? Did I need to edit it even more? Blah blah blah. So…I asked God about it. The response: “It’s just not that important, Mathilda.” I felt such relief at getting that answer! It allowed me to laugh, for one thing. Relaxing into the release from pressure made the entire reading experience so much more joyful for me. I tend to burden myself with the importance of everything I do, the choices I make, even the words I choose. With a God that can remind me to laugh at myself and lighten up, I feel blessed indeed.

How do you connect to the inner truth that is you? What tools should I explore?

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Life As We Know It

Photo on Visualhunt

I’ve been traveling again, this time to Alaska. We were only there for a week, so actually saw very little of this immense state, but heavens! What we did see knocked me sideways. We were given the miracle of fantastic weather for this first visit. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the beauty of the landscape was so intense, so picture-perfect, that I think I had trouble accepting it as real.  What with the very long daylight hours (although the sun “set,” it never got completely dark), I ended up gasping a bit too much for my comfort. Weird to think a person can hyperventilate at beauty.

At the top of the Tram in Girdwood.

From the air, the mountains look like waves tossed in a stormy sea.

Incredible amount of glaciers you can see from above

One of my sisters told me that whenever she visited Alaska, she always felt like someone had taken a doctored travel poster and pasted it onto the horizon. That’s the sense I got exactly: this can’t possibly be real.

Even the locals admit it’s rare to see Denali so clearly.

The lesson from Alaska: how rare our planet is. There’s a planet walk in Anchorage. You start in downtown at the sun. Each step you take represents a light second, so that a 5 minute walk means it takes 5 minutes for light from the sun to travel that far. It’s a very effective way to show relative distance and size between planets and sun in our solar system. The planets are imbedded in signs at the proper distance to the sun (and each other). The first four planets are clustered within about 7 blocks of the sun. And then Jupiter–the next one out, is 45 minutes away! I had no idea of the relative distance between planets. Needless to say, we didn’t have time to visit Jupiter, let alone the 5 1/2 hours would need for us to reach Pluto.

Here’s the sun. If you don’t know what it is, it looks like a very bizarre sculpture in downtown Anchorage.

The Anchorage Lightspeed Planet Walk. Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I wish I had taken a picture of the sign where the marble-sized Earth was imbedded. I’m a sucker for signs anyway, but this one talked about the amazing miracle that Earth is, with its combination of solid core, gravitational magnetism (something like that), its oxygen and carbon and atmosphere and water. It was magic that this happened on this planet, which happens to be this far from the sun. Making it possible for “life as we know it” to occur here. They used those words on the sign.

It begs the question of “life as we don’t know it,” doesn’t it?

Visions of creatures I’ve seen in sci-fi movies scamper through my head, but most of those resemble life as we do know it, even if it’s just a blob from a putrid lagoon. Is it possible to imagine life as we don’t know it?

The planet walk underlined how very precious and unique our planet is.

We humans have not done well by it. I visited the Marine Life Center in Seward, where they worked hard to rescue otters, seals, fish, and birds from the Valdez oil spill (for one), and where they teach classes about our ocean and our human impact on it.

Created by students from litter collected from the ocean

One school project they have on display illustrates where a lot of our garbage ends up. Videos show how our plastics break down microscopically and show up in krill. Considering the food chain, that means plastics are present more and more in all animals. In us. We are poisoning the planet, yes, and also ourselves.

I have a cousin who looked at me oddly a while back when I said, “We humans are destroying the planet!”

“No, we aren’t,” he said. “The Earth will still be around. It’s not going anywhere for a long time. It won’t look like it does now, but the planet will still be here.”

That gave me pause. Good ol’ Earth. A hunk of rock and water with the magic of life as we know it miraculously developing over the eons. But our presence, our introduction of the non-natural into lifeforms, is changing what the magic of what life is on this planet. We have no idea what we’re creating. As species mutate to adapt to this new world of our making, life may look very different in the future. Even here on Earth.

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Still Writing

Dani Shapiro is my new best friend. She doesn’t know this, alas, but I love her. She’s the author of Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasure of a Creative Life. 

I first saw this book in another friend’s home, a writer who, like me, has struggled with her identity and energy around the need to continually fuel her endurance as creator. I picked it up and began: Beginnings. My friend Dani writes in short snippets of warm advice partnered with blunt realities about the need to suck it up as a writer. “It” meaning my frail little ego who panders to the inner critic’s rolling eyes. “It” meaning every single aspect of life that threatens to–or does–derail me. She shares her heart and her history with me. She is vulnerable on the page.

I hated to put it down. I went home and immediately ordered myself and two other writer friends copies of the book. And then…I didn’t pick it up again. Until the other day when, because one of those friends kept telling me “thank you thank you THANK you for that book,” I re-opened it. And remembered.

We all need mentors. We need friends. We need someone we trust to tell us we’ll be okay, that maybe we’re not as alone as we sometimes feel. To guide us on a path we know exists, but that we sometimes forget to follow. She reminds me that the purpose of writing is not to get published, so please stop judging myself or my writing on that. The question is, always, am I writing? Is the act of writing feeding my soul?

Dani makes me think and feel and love myself more tenderly as a writer and as a human being on this planet.

So, that’s my gift to you today: I’m giving you Dani.

Please tell me how you ground and stay stable (ish) in the world you’ve found for yourself.

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Circling in

We learn circling in preschool. “Hold hands. Form a circle.” Connect.

The practice is age-old

 

International

Children play in the newly established Sosmaqala Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in northern Afghanistan. The camp is comprised of recently returned Afghans following many years as refugees in neighbouring Iran.
30/Aug/2009. Sar-e-Pul, Afghanistan. UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein. www.un.org/av/photo/

 

and  Iconic

 

It’s not an exclusively human practice, but it’s part of what makes us human.

Pioneers circled up wagons for safety as they crossed the plains. King Arthur’s Round Table supposedly kept everyone on an equal footing in Camelot. We circle around a camp fire to sing and laugh and roast marshmallows.

No wonder I’m obsessed with circles.

Even Fairy Circles!

 

I don’t belong to a quilting or sewing circle, but my threshold choir sings in a circle at rehearsals and then we form small circles around a chair or a bedside when we offer our songs to someone in need.

A staircase spirals up in circles in a dizzying recreation of the ancient form of a nautilus: the ammonite

Planets are circles, though they look like stars to me, if I see them at all. The moon is a circle–and we see it as such, wait for it, ooh at it, at least once a month.

Symbolically and literally, when we circle in, we get closer and closer to the center. To the inevitable moment of contact. Maybe that is contact with other people; maybe it is contact with the truth.

I used to belong to a Full Moon Circle, where we women met on the full moon and passed around a speaking stick to share thoughts about one topic or another. Now I belong to a different circle, similar in many ways: we are all women; we do not respond to what others say beyond the leader’s “thank you for sharing” ; it feels sacred.

The difference is that in this circle we communicate via the phone–there are no visuals, no way to assess how our words are received. It feels daring to express myself into this void of silence, into this universe of just me. Both scary and bizarrely empowering. It’s a challenge to find the faith that my words matter, that they find resonance somewhere with someone. What I’m learning is that, truly, the only one whose resonating acknowledgment matters is me. The ultimate circling in.

It’s the same faith I need to post on this blog. Good practice for me, I agree.

Circles complete us. They are whole, entire, unbroken by definition. As I write these words and struggle to find ways to express my appreciation for them, my fascination deepens. Do you have circles in your life? Do you seek them out? What do they look like?

 

 

Photo credits in order of appearance:

:Beaton Institute Archives on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

United Nations Photo on VisualHunt.comCC BY-NC-ND

bunkosquad / photo on flickr

Schub@ on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Dusty J on Visual Hunt / CC BY

 


 

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Economics of Abuse: an issue of morality

If I benefit from abuse, am I complicit with it?

In early April I spent a week with my husband visiting the deep south for the first time. We went to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. During our week away, I got a better sense of southern history, southern mindset, southern pride, southern love of land. The early economics of our country came alive for me, so that I finally grasp some of the nuances of the early relationship between the states, between the wealthy and the poor, the free and the enslaved.

A diagram on how to pack a slave ship.

This visual, appalling as it is, does not affect me as much as this one (I can’t seem to access it except as a link), which I saw in one of the museums we went to, probably the (excellent) Slave Market Museum in Charleston.

Although the visuals hit my heart hard, the knowledge that our country’s past treatment of slaves as product to pack up and pack out, to “grow,” to distribute, to trade isn’t news to me. I doubt it’s news to anyone.

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I learned much of my early American history through the musical 1776. Though silly, romanticized and slanted, there is one song in there that powerfully addresses the North’s holier-than-thou attitude to our country’s history with buying and selling humans as property and economic assets. The “Triangle Trade” brought wealth to the North whose shipping industry built and financed slave ships. Slaves worked the cotton that fed New England mills as well as European markets. Slaves brought knowledge on how to grow rice, which was the first big crop grown in the wetlands of Savannah and Charleston. It was so successful it was called “Carolina Gold.”

The landscape of these coastal regions is littered with the remnants of the rice plantations, many of which have now been transformed into wildlife refuges.

Panorama of the old rice fields at Magnolia Gardens outside of Charleston. Now a Nature Reserve.

But even though none of this is news, even though I wasn’t surprised to learn some more of the details of this region’s relationship to slavery, I have been jarred right out of my white liberal complacency. If I had lived back then, what would I have done?

What do I do now? Because I know darn well I benefit from abuse.

Our markets treat animals as product that is “grown” as opposed to “raised.”  I buy the beef and chicken I can afford. I don’t ask too many questions about how the animals are treated; I don’t want to know because I’m an omnivore and I like my meat.

I drive a car that uses gasoline, benefit from factories that spew gunk into our air, buy plastics and products that are packaged in plastic (I could probably fill a dump with the amount of pens I go through alone) that leach into our environment.

Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives on VisualHunt / No known copyright restrictions
View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pa. Coal Co. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view, January 1911

I don’t ask how the workers who make the cheap shoes or t-shirts I order over the internet are treated either.

By marissaorton – Sweatshop project           Uploaded by Gary Dee

That’s not quite true. Sometimes I do ask. And then I vow I will only buy American made shoes or clothing, because (I tell myself) we have laws and watchdogs that protect our workers. Or clothing that is labeled “Fair Trade.” And only natural fibers! I vow I will only buy pasture-raised beef, free-range poultry.

But then, I forget. I’m in a rush, or the sale is too good to pass up, or the shoes are just too cute, or the fleece too cosy and practical, or I don’t have the kind of money to afford the lifestyle of the socially responsible. Sometimes I just get tired of “being good”–it costs more, it takes more time, no one else is doing it. Why should I bother? What difference will I make?

I HATE it when I get like that. But I do. Because…I’m human too. And as I struggled to even know what I want to say here, it’s this: I just want to do my best.

I need to be really careful about the temptations to feel “holier than thou.” I don’t know what my thoughts would have been, nor my actions, had I lived as a middle class white person in the South of Antebellum US. I don’t know what I would have done in Nazi Germany either. Or if I were a police officer and I felt scared and threatened and I had a gun.

So I’m trying not to judge. I’m trying to be more aware of the choices I make automatically–and then to see if there’s something I can do that’s better. Some way to reduce, not just my white guilt, but my human guilt.

I’m really curious how others balance/make peace with this huge issue of benefitting from the evils of our standard of living.

 

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Allowing Inspiration In

“Windows: portals or barriers? Windows and waiting go together. A window is a stage, waiting for what will happen next.” –Henkes

I was at my annual inspiration treat last weekend– the Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference  –where I heard Kevin Henkes say the above. He added, “Waiting to a kid is a big deal. They do it all the time; they hear the word ‘wait’ as often as they hear ‘yes’ and ‘no.'”

There’s no doubt that inspiration can come to me at my desk in my office, staring out the window for hours, but let’s face it, inspiration will knock me out more often if I put myself in its way. Change the view outside my window.

As usual, the day at this conference was filled with connections with old writer buddies and enriching keynotes by authors and author/illustrators who fill me with awe. It’s not simply the fact that these people have the courage and ability to write and paint and survive in the challenging world of professional creativity. Each of these speakers shared themselves in a way that made me yearn to be their friend. They were (and are): Pam Muñoz Ryan, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Sophie Blackall and Kevin Henkes.

Henkes, Blackall, Ryan and Sáenz at the Q&A (complete with tiaras)

My quotations are really paraphrases hastily scrawled in my notebook at the time, but they remain words that enrich, comfort, intrigue or inspire me.

“The book I start writing may end up a tiny paragraph in the novel that demands to be written.” –Ryan

“The only thing older than original sin is original innocence.” –Sáenz

“We only see the front of anything. Maybe there’s something completely different on the other side.” –Blackall

At lunch time,  I took a short walk around campus and photographed some of the sculptures in one of the squares. This one appealed because Sáenz also spoke of how we need to lay down our burdens. And I do–I want to!–but take a closer look at this statue (at another angle):

I can’t tell if the woman carrying this huge rock is smiling or crying. Maybe she’s doing both. I too have such mixed emotions about the burdens I carry.

Sáenz again:

“The world needs kindness. It’s a difficult trait to nurture in yourself. You will never be happy if you don’t learn to forgive others…

You have to learn to stand in the presence of someone who is hurt and know you are the cause. The courage to do that is called love.” 

Wow, huh? Who is this guy? Turns out he used to be a priest. If you get the chance to hear him speak, take it. But all these speakers resonated with me. Take Ryan:

“We write despair. We need to offer hope as well. Hope is not the answer or the saving. Hope is uncertainties with openings, the unknown largeness that surrounds despair.”

I’ll repeat that:

Hope is uncertainties with openings, the unknown largeness that surrounds despair.

I can’t say I know exactly what that means, but it makes me think, and beyond that, it makes me feel…expansive. And that’s definitely what hope does.

Back to the sculptures: what if our burdens become our resting places? Is this good? Is it bad? Or is it just true? Sáenz also said “Truth is something that says something important about the human condition.”

At any rate, I’m thinking. I’m thinking and thinking and thinking. And hoping. And finding inspiration for a character arc for my dragon. It was a good weekend.

“There is darkness in the world. But we are the light. Young people are the light. We are meant to be light for one another.” –Sáenz

Will you treat yourself to inspiration today? Where will you find it? Where will it take you? When the view outside the window shifts, my sense of reality–my truth–shifts with it.

 

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