A Confusion of Love…

pinc

Today, I am distracted by the serious illness of my ex-husband.  So, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to post this blog.

There is so much in life that seems incongruous.

Webster’s definition of incongruous:

a) not harmonious : incompatible
b) not conforming : disagreeing…
c) inconsistent within itself

Incongruity seems to be woven into the nature of life on earth, certainly within the human scope of things.

When my own parents were in need of care towards the last years of their lives, that paradox of love and not love surfaced for me and my siblings.  For us, childhood had been a harsh landscape.  Out of such an incongruity of feelings, I wrote this poem in the season of winter.

The Old Folks

Smoke and rain mingle, today’s perfect form
List the ingredients for rugelach
Take advantage of the calm before the storm…
The old folks at home have no right to squawk.

They chose their lives, they made their lonely bed
Posting keep out signs and hoisting regrets
Cultivating fear, hibernate in dread,
Now, commanding love, hedging all lost bets.

Which of their children would come to their aid
Rescue them from old age isolation?
What are the odds that one of a paltry nine
Plucks hairs from mother’s vain chin, others shun?

Today’s imperfect form, the smoke is rain
Calculating the loss, is love the gain?

****

Writing Prompt:
Within your own life, consider an incongruity that you struggle over.  Place it in the context of a season.  Weave the incongruity and the season together to create a prose piece, a poem or a painting.

note: When I feel into something in this way (through creativity), uncomfortable as it might be, it is transformed for me in some form.

Go gently into this day.

 

 

 

An Unexpected Turn…

Life is full of the unexpected.  I was reminded of that last week.  Planning on a getaway from the smoke that has preempted this summer, I headed an hour and a half north.  I planned to be there for one week, Ashland, Oregon.  I planned on enjoying good films, good food, the fun and creative shops, the beautiful park, meeting a friend for dinner and people-watching.

My first morning there, I woke in excruciating pain.  This can’t be happening?  I won’t go into the details…longish story short, I ended up in emergency twice and spent one overnight in the hospital.  The whole odyssey was traumatic…and woven into this were miraculous encounters.  I had to make some choices under duress and away from friends and what was familiar.

This unexpected turn of events left me reeling afterwards.  I process things through body movement, massage, talking about the experience and through creativity.  This wild piece came through to help me to work with my experience.  The process continues as I integrate and heal.

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Writing Prompt:
What are your ways of dealing with trauma?  The unexpected?  Write down what supports you when you are rallying from an unexpected or traumatic experience.

Meeting the INNER CRITIC!

The Inner Critic is one of those shadow selves.  The voice(s) that show up to sabotage us in some way.  We want to get focused on a project or try a new creative venture.  That voice might say something like:

  • You don’t know enough
  • You don’t have higher education
  • Who do you think you are
  • You’re going to look foolish

The writer known as SARK, suggests sending the inner critic on an extended vacation (somewhere exotic perhaps?) or assigning it an obscure (yet busy-making) task.  Author, Byron Katie addresses this aspect of self through inquiry “Is that true?”

Recently, I took a long hike on Mt. Shasta contemplating the question of how to address the inner critic. Walking down the road, returning to Bunny Flat, I considered the premise that everything has an opposite.  Why not create a collage of oppositions around what the inner critic has to say.  And, what the inner advocate has to say.  Get out your colored pencils, paint, markers, whatever you have.  Scribble, doodle, use symbols, cut and paste pictures from magazines, etc. onto a piece of cardboard or heavy paper.  Don’t be too neat.  That addresses one of those critical voices right from the start.  Have at it and play.

Everything in you wants to be seen by you.  Giving the inner critic an opportunity to be seen and heard opens a doorway to bring in the balance with the inner advocate.  For you do have within you a fighter for yourself.

Writing Prompt:
Do you buckle under when those snarky voices chime in?  How do you respond to your own inner critic?  If you have an effective response, please do share it under comments.

 

Call Back the Bees

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

verse from Emily Dickinson’s poem, The Bee

It’s been in the news for several years now…that we are losing our honey bee colonies.  In some parts of the world, humans hand-pollinate the fruit-bearing trees due to the loss of bee populations.  One big reason for this loss is the use of pesticides.  The resultant disease is called Colony Collapse Disorder.Sunflowerwithbee..jpg

In late spring, I revel when I see bees pollinating my 100 year old cherry tree.  When I stand close, I hear the hum of bees doing their work.  I love the sound of this “machinery.”  I also love to see bees dallying in the bed of sunflowers or anywhere in my garden.  Everything feels right with the world on these special days.

Even if you think you are honey bee savvy, take two-and-a-half minutes to watch this short youtube about this amazing and necessary insect.  I learned something new.

Writing Prompt:
What can you do to “call back the honey bees?”  Write a poem perhaps?  Then share it.

 

The Versatility of Poetry

This is one reason I love poetry.  It can hold any subject.  Poetry is both amorphous and  it can claim a form.  It’s a perfect container for a variety of human expression.

the fog weaves through city streets
in and out of the avenues
twining round golden gate bridge towers
dampening moods and refreshing spirits
what season is it, I ask
summer you say, summer in San Francisco
coaxing one to build a fire on the hearth and cuddle
fog deceiving one into false seasons
Is it love I feel for you or
simply lust
long shrouded desire
and you the sun that penetrated my dark nights
stripping me of my clothes, my inhibitions,
tricking my hormones into believing I was unseasonal
everlasting
and so sexy

© by Christine O’Brien

In this short verse excerpted from a poem I wrote entitled Weather Report, notice how a story is told using place and mood.

Were you drawn into the story via the setting?

Each and every poem has a point of entry.  As does any story.  The writer and/or poet gets to decide what that entry point is.

Writer’s Prompt:
Experiment with using a place as the point of entry to your own poem as you write about an emotion you are feeling.

Follow the flow of your writing.

 

Mystery

Life is mystery, even with all of the belief systems we apply to explain it.  Life remains a mystery.  We learn to live with the unknown.  Though we might be seekers, with all of the seeking, the mystery remains, winking at us from the sidelines.  The unknowable.

Like, how did this plant end up in my garden?  Then, what prompted it to take over one third of the garden with it’s shoots and tendrils that wrap around anything along the way?  I posted a photo of it on Facebook to see if someone could identify it.  I got these responses:  some sort of vegetable, citron watermelon, crossbred squash, disguised watermelon, some sort of melon, Cinnamon Girl pie pumpkin, courgette (zucchini), Cucurbita pepo (round zucchini squash).

mystery.jpg

I like the surprise within the mystery.  At times, the clouds part and I get a bit of clarity.  But then, the veil drops, the sight is limited, the mists conceal truth.

Writing Prompt:
How do you live with mystery?

The Sea

Poets write about the sea.  An excerpt from a poem of Thanksgiving written by Ernesto Cardenal:

“Coloured flowers blooming in the bottom of the sea,
diatoms and diadems of the Antilles
Like a rose of diamonds, let all these
and the unended maritime fauna
praise the Lord, and the Tropic of Cancer
storms of the North Atlantic and the Humboldt current,…”

This morning I woke up thinking about the ocean.  I actually think about the ocean oceanbeachwhenever I use anything that is made of plastic.  Or when I dispose of plastic.  The use of plastic has become insidious in our world.  We know that it sits in landfills and doesn’t break down.  It pollutes our ocean waters, harming the sea life.  I look for alternatives to plastic.

 

One of this countries wise ancestors is biologist, conservationist and writer, Rachel Carson.

 

Her book, The Sea Around Us, was prophetic.  In the chapter, The Gray Beginnings, Rachel Carson sets the scene for the unfolding story of our earth.  I appreciate this introduction to her thesis.

“Beginnings are apt to be shadowy, and so it is with the beginnings of that great mother of life, the sea. Many people have debated how and when the earth got its ocean, and it is not surprising that their explanations do not always agree. For the plain and inescapable truth is that no one was there to see, and in the absence of eyewitness accounts there is bound to be a certain amount of disagreement. So if I tell here the story of how the young planet Earth acquired an ocean, it must be a story pieced together from many sources and containing whole chapters the details of which we can only imagine. The story is founded on the testimony of the earth’s most ancient rocks, which were young when the earth was young; on other evidence written on the face of the earth’s satellite, the moon; and on hints contained in the history of the sun and the whole universe of star-filled space. For although no man was there to witness this cosmic birth, the stars and moon and rocks were there, and, indeed, had much to do with the fact that there is an ocean.”

from The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Writing Prompt:
When you read this quote from Rachel Carson, what is stirred up in you about our earth’s beginnings and ” that great mother of life, the sea,” as Rachel aptly refers to the ocean?  How do you acknowledge your connection to the sea?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos Are Evocative

A flat tire over the weekend with no possibility of repair until Monday, I was on foot.  I recommend it…not the flat tire, but walking through your neighborhood.  When I spied this “doggie in the window,” I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and took a few photos.  This one tugged at my heart.  I could certainly make up a story around it.  Would I write it from the dog’s perspective?  The owner’s?  My own?  Hmmm.  It’s really all my own, no matter which perspective I choose.  Or, I could paint it…

doginthewindow.2018.jpg

There is nothing like a visual to evoke a memory, a feeling or some other emotional response.

Writing Prompt:
If you were going to use this image as inspiration for your writing today, how would you begin?  Does it inspire a poem, perhaps?  Write it!

Do You Like Zucchini Pie?

zuccpie

How do you know unless you try it?

My daughter’s family was visiting over the summer.  I served her favorite childhood dish, zucchini pie.  I am the master zucchini pie maker–there is no humility here!  My 9-year old grandson decided that he didn’t like zucchini pie.  My daughter quoted the age-old adage…”How do you know that you don’t like something unless you try it.”  It worked. My Grandson asked for a piece of zucchini pie.  I served him a small slice and watched as he pulled the zucchini out and gave it to his mom, eating the crust and the souffle-like filling.  Then he asked for another piece and this time he ate the zucchini too. The verdict was “I do like zucchini pie!” to his amazement.

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Are there qualities or techniques practiced by other authors that you admire? The way they use metaphor, how they employ image detail, their poetic inferences and subtleties, or their use of archaic words, etc.  Is there something that you think is beyond you as a writer or poet?  Is there something in writing and poetry (or painting) that you’ve been curious about but haven’t dared to try?  Have you wanted to explore any of the writing prompts that I’ve offered through this blog ?

Go at your own pace, test a technique or creative writing tool out, before immersing yourself.  You can also try the technique or form within the context of what you are presently writing.  Or, practice with how you can whittle, chisel or shave it to meet your need, desire and design.

WRITING PROMPT:
What is one creative writing tool that you’d like to learn?  Is it how to write great metaphors or similes or other descriptive elements?  Is there a poetic form that appeals to you? Take a time out to play with a creative writing tool or poetic form of your choice and see where you can go with it.  Make it a daily practice for awhile to really deepen your relationship with it.

WRITING TIP:
As I did with this story of my grandson and zucchini pie, you can insinuate things from your daily experience into your present day writing.  This technique engages your audience in a personal way.  You’ve become a real person to them.

 

Grieve Deeply, Laugh Loudly

pic2We’ve heard this, right?  In order to feel the joy, you have to feel the sorrow.  If you shut off one part of yourself, you are shutting off being fully alive.  How you relate to your emotional life is going to affect your writing and creativity.

Poetry has been the greatest facilitator of the big emotions for me.  Journal writing and painting are close seconds.  I’ve learned that as I’m able to be present with an emotion, I then pass through that territory.  I come out the other side intact and a bit more integrated.

To be an effective writer, finding a way to say “I feel sad” without explicitly stating “I feel sad,” comes with practice.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011.  My parents had died six months apart following several years of their decline and concurrent family disruption.

“I stopped at Burger Express.  It seemed like a burger was called for.  Single patty with cheese, no special sauce, no onions.  Yes to catsup.  Yes to small fries.  No book to read.  Waiting for my order.  Staring out at the falling snowflakes.  Staring out at nothing.  Squinting and staring at signs across the street.  Staring.  The wait person calls my number.  I take the red tray and head towards a little tucked-away table.  A man sitting at the counter asks “Are you going to share half of that with me?”  I recognize an acquaintance’s warm voice.  I stop to say hello and tell him that my Mom died last week.  I am telling everyone it seems.  Now, the cook, cashier and waitperson at Burger Express know too.  He is sorry.  His Dad died a year ago.  His Mom, 84, lives an hour south of here.  Everything is so tentative.  He gives me a big hug in his bear arms.  “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” He adds “Seriously.”  I thank him.  How I’d like to be held in strong arms for half a day.  I think that would really help.  It gets old, this wrapping my own arms around myself all the time.”

In this short excerpt, do you get a sense of my grief?  Did writing about this help me?  In some odd way, yes.  I wasn’t in denial of these feelings and I found refuge through writing these words.

WRITING PROMPT:
How do you write about the feeling of sadness?  Typically, this type of writing is only for you.  Do you allow yourself to fully express your sadness in writing, poetry or painting or any other creative outlet?