Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Teaspoon and the Ocean

Metaphor #1: This week I poured my teaspoon of creativity into the ocean of the world of commerce and judgment.

Metaphor #2: It’s the first morning without training wheels, and my beautiful child is wobbling down the road headed for skyscrapers and calculators.

Can I … should I … go for three? No. Enough already. I sent my first work of fiction off to be judged by an impartial panel. It was time, but now I want to call it back, enfold it in my arms and protect it from the harsh glare of day. (damn metaphors anyway … they just won’t stay away … actually, that one fell into the cliche abyss.)

The story of Sarana’s Gift is a new one for me. Two years ago, while trying to write something rational, a different something else, unknown and completely irrational, took over. I tried to put it away but it kept tapping me on the shoulder so I decided to play.

It started with someone … a young girl … riding a silver-white horse through the forest and then running … running … running … trying to get into a house she found … a house with no doors. Why was she running? I had no idea.

Then she found herself in a long, dark tunnel with no way to get out. It was impossible. The next morning, the story demanded its due again and offered me a way out of the tunnel. So, on I wrote until she wound up in another pickle with no way out. It was another impossible situation.

Next morning, another solution and another impossible task. This went on for awhile until it wound up being about 20,000 words of adventures in a fantasy world. Then, she woke up from a dream, looked around and apologized to her mom for being a jerk. What?

I didn’t know what to do with this strange bit of story so I thought maybe it was a fairy tale that I was writing for my granddaughters. Since they were going to spend a few days with me, I polished it up a bit and caught the girls in a quiet moment and started reading it to them. The silver-white horse fascinated the younger one for a few moments before her eyes glazed over. Then, they were both off to other things.

“Well, that was a nice try that didn’t work,” I thought to myself as I packed it away. Life had changed and I was packing everything away, moving on to a new life in a new place.

About a year later I was definitely in a new life in a new place … just not the one I had planned. During the unpacking, I found the story. In the midst of a tower of boxes, I sat down and read it thinking I deserved a break and I could just read it once more before packing it away forever.

Somehow, the story clung to me, calling me to give it time and space to grow. I had time so I sat down and began once more to write, again following more than leading. I never knew where it was going … or why.

Eventually, a structure formed and I started reading bits and pieces in a writer’s group. A trusted colleague read it and seemed to understand what was trying to be said. During the major rewrite that followed, I started to finally understand what was developing.

So, now, here it is out in the world. I can call it my child but it feels more like life struggling up through the concrete, reaching for sunlight, on its own path. It sounds almost too woo-woo but I feel more like the channel than the creator. I just hope my pipes weren’t too rusty, that they were clean enough to let the story be what it wanted to be.

Free advanced reading copies are available until 1/29/2016. Go to www.saranasgift.com to request yours.

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Sunflowers" by Judy Garrison Spahn

Sharing a beautiful piece of work from one of my favorite artists today.

"Sunflowers" by Judy Garrison Spahn
Here's what Judy says about her art, "Quilting is satisfying, an escape of sorts, meditative, creative, social, ego boosting. I just do it.  I am a "touchy/feel-y person and fabric is very tactile. I also like making stuff look pretty, whether it's a jumble of scraps or a pile of rocks, or planting my yard in a pleasing and functional way. 

"I love that quilts are both art and function.....which may explain why I stay fairly traditional. I enjoy looking at more avante garde pieces, but my personality is all about "usefulness" and "beauty" combined.  Practical, logical, and producing a useful end result....these are my guiding traits."

"Sunflowers" by Judy Garrison Spahn, 48" x 61",  made in 2001.
Judy has been quilting since the early 1970's, making original design quilts.  Her work has remained rooted in tradition, with hand piecing and quilting becoming a huge part of her everyday life.  Scrap quilts are the norm, as she drafts designs, sews pieced units and uses the trial and error method for deciding what direction the piece will take. 

After making all of the sunflowers, deciding on how to connect them was the next step.  Judy wanted the circles to be set into a background that created the look of a complete quilt top with, perhaps, a checkerboard effect, rather than having the circles turned into traditional square blocks.  Alternating the bold red stripe, the white shirting stripe, and the "tone on tone" red print created the desired effect.   The black, red, and cream rectangles combine to create a bold pattern forming a border that contains the central design area of the quilt.

This quilt has been published in "500 Traditional Quilts," by Karey Bresenhan and currently is on loan for a traveling exhibit.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Tenacious Adventure

As the gentle rain falls, I wonder how many of the world’s great thoughts (as well as the crazy, subversive and slip-shod ones) were born on such days. This morning as I negotiated the territory between what I was supposed to do and what I wanted to do, I blamed the rain when "want" triumphed over "should."  In that space, the following poetic rendition of the recent past was born.

The Missing Piece

I chose to love a pie-shaped man with one piece missing.
His missing piece isn’t so big, I thought.
And the rest of him is sweet.
Together we can blend a new treat.

But my pie-shaped-man-with-one-piece-missing
Saw my own missing piece and thought it two.
Not sweet enough, I heard him say,
Just not enough, as he walked away.

The moral of this tale: Each of us has one piece missing,
Some even more. All of us, alone, alone-ly, incomplete.
To love is an every day choice to make,
Not a one-time, blue-ribbon pie to bake.

Shortly after that outpouring, I found solace in one of my favorite places … BrainPickings, a joyful exploration of all things creative. It started with a piece from Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and then progressed to French philosopher, Alain Badiou’s In Praise of Love. It was in Badiou’s piece that I found a profound insight.

He says:
Love… is a quest for truth… truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be.

We shouldn’t underestimate the power love possesses to slice diagonally through the most powerful oppositions and radical separations. The encounter between two differences is an event, is contingent and disconcerting… On the basis of this event, love can start and flourish. It is the first, absolutely essential point. This surprise unleashes a process that is basically an experience of getting to know the world. Love isn’t simply about two people meeting and their inward-looking relationship: it is a construction, a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of Two.

Love cannot be reduced to the first encounter, because it is a construction. The enigma in thinking about love is the duration of time necessary for it to flourish. In fact, it isn’t the ecstasy of those beginnings that is remarkable. The latter are clearly ecstatic, but love is above all a construction that lasts. We could say that love is a tenacious adventure. The adventurous side is necessary, but equally so is the need for tenacity. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world.
 I am, perhaps, wont to oversimplify, but, I read this as: it’s only when things get “bad,” that there is the opportunity for real “good." When we can face our differences and come to know and appreciate the person beneath the differences, we develop a new perspective and come into the fullness of Love.

Sounds simple, huh?

Stone Soup for Syrian Refugees

Life jackets abandoned by refugees arriving in Greece
Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP/Getty Images)
As I snuggle warm in my bed while a gentle rain falls outside, the words I read take me to a place torn between the storms of chaos and insanity. It is a place I only read about while real people, young and old, strong and weak, educated and not, experience the free fall of life with no safety net.

Hardship, exhaustion, illness and death surround their journey away from the crumbling reality of a government gone mad, as millions of people leave their homes with what little they can carry, risking everything to find safety. Set adrift in overcrowded captain-less rubber boats, equipped with rattletrap motors fighting a treacherous sea, wearing cheaply made life vests held together by spit, desperation drives them into the generosity, as well as the cruelty, of strangers.

All of this began after Syria experienced a devastating drought that dragged on for four years, killing 85% of the country’s livestock and forcing almost half the population to leave their homes. The government devolved into anarchy where warring factions have killed over 250,000 people while the official leadership is promoting "Summer in Syria," billing it as a destination resort.

A new friend writes of self-reliance but as I read this I have to think that it’s easy to talk of self-reliance when the world around us is stable and sane (well, the Donald’s hair not withstanding), but what would we do if we were faced with the type of catastrophe that hit Syria? What if all of our systems collapsed? What would happen if suddenly 150 million of us were homeless, unemployed, desperate. Would we just say, “Buck up, Bub … take responsibility for yourself?"

As much as we would all like to be self-reliant, we’re not, and we haven’t been since we started hunting in groups to avoid starving. It reminds me of the “stone soup” story where everyone in a village was starving until a stranger came to town and offered to make soup with his magic stone. As he boiled his stone in a big pot on the town square, one by one villagers came and offered the poor man something for his soup since they knew that one rock would never a soup make. One dropped a potato in the pot, another an onion. One old woman actually had two turnips. Soon there was real soup and the whole town ate hot soup ... together.

Syrian refugees need help. Let’s make stone soup. Here’s one organization that helps: International Rescue Committee. http://www.rescue.org/donate-overview

More about the Syrian crisis:
Syria, the Story of the Conflict: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868
Syrian Refugees, a Snapshot of the Crisis http://syrianrefugees.eu/