Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

what writers do ~

imageSometimes, when people ask what I do, and I say ‘I’m a writer’ (especially now that I don’t teach fulltime), they look puzzled. Well, actually they look completely flummoxed. How can that be a JOB?? And just what the heck do writers really DO, anyway??

So in case you were wondering, here’s what writers do:

They daydream. Alot. And often it has very little to do with what they then produce. Instead, it has to do with a kind of internal compass… What’s important? What’s worth writing about? What is too personal for the people you reveal?

They also stare at blank surfaces. Alot. Screens, paper, journal pages, windows, even the blank blue sky. Something there is about a blank surface that begs to be written…

Often they read. But, as the wonderful Julia Cameron reminds us in her book The Artist’s Way, reading can be an excuse not to write… :)

Sometimes (well, actually fairly often), they fret. They fret about deadlines if they have them, and worry they’d be more productive (if they don’t).

They’re also masterful liars. And builders — fabricators of audiences, down to the hats the speaking mannequins wear….image

Of course, this isn’t really news, if you’re a writer. But for readers, or those who think of words as only  kites of communication set sail upon some unknown solar wind…? Writers are odd, not-to-be-trusted folks.

They’re wise, these non-believers, to be cautious. Because writers wield weapons — pens, pencils, markers. Laptops, tablets, desktops. Blackboards and whiteboards and even NON-TEXT. Posters, and paintings, and cartoons. Films and photographs. Flowers arranged to Victorian codes… It’s all writing, in the write hands.

Most important, however, is that writers connect us. They weave threads of meaning like tensile steel between distant points. Threads that become cables. That become bridges. That bring one unknown landscape closer to another. Not only the walkable, climbeable, swimmable landscape of some far-off place with an unpronounceable name, but the dimly felt interior space of a stranger’s mind. An era of a Babylonian queen — lonely in her power — millenia past. Empathy for someone under the bloody thumbs of greed, power-mania, hate. Passion for justice.

That’s what writers do. Even when they fall short of their goals? That’s where we’re each heading.

 

 

 

the blues ~

feeling blue

artist Mats Eriksson

Sometimes I get incredibly blue. Blue as in indigo, deep and dark and find a hole to crawl into. Today has been one of those days…

It began — as far too many days do — with aches & pains. Middle age sooo sucks with the whole arthritis thing. Yuk. So I went outside, my medication of choice. Grabbed a pair of work gloves and snippers and decided to kill grapevine. Murder is sooo freeing.

Here’s the problem: when I hit these slumps (maybe I should, more accurately, call them abysses), I need affirmation. A LOT. So when I had reduced much of the creeping crap smothering the Japanese maple and the dwarf crape myrtle to debris, I needed someone (enter: long-suffering best`beloved) to clap.

Oops. Forgot to script best-beloved. Who promptly asked me why I’d filled the yard w/ debris… I spent the next half-hour sniffling on the deck.

I’m not normally that touchy. Or sensitive. Like I said, I’m just blue today. And probably part of yesterday, as well. And no, I have no idea why. But what I do know is that it will pass. Big sky mind, grasshopper: the clouds come and the clouds go. Only the sky remains.blue sky mind

That’s hard to remember. But when I’m sitting outside, watching a mockingbird decide which of the two water dishes to drink from, and three chickadees chase each other through the trees above the feeders, tears dry far more quickly, and my first-world life  regains its knowledge of blessings.

My advice for the day: get outside. Even in the heat. Remember what it was like to be 7 years old, and half the summer — with its endless sunny days, and brilliant sky, and happy boredom – still stretching ahead. I promise it will fix many things. Even turn the blues into that summer blue sky ~

Sunday runaways ~

sunday runaway dogWe found a dog today. She was romping in our driveway as my two sisters and I loaded the car to go to breakfast. Friendly as a politician, she came up and promptly rolled over for a belly rub (warning: do not attempt this on the campaign trail…). Of course I obliged.

Since it’s hot today (already 97 degrees!), and we live on a very busy street, we let her in the air-conditioned car with us. Had I normal, friendly dogs myself, I could have just taken her into the house. But noooo; my older Frenchie would have her hide. Or at least pieces of it…

So we called her owner. No response. We called again, and texted. Sure ’nuff, Owner replied to the text. After an exchange of where and what, we were able to off-load the very friendly dog at her home. No one answered our knock, so we did the Okie thing and just opened the unlocked door and let her in. Another text confirmed that was fine.

Breakfast seemed sooo much nicer! We’d possibly saved a life! We’d made a canine friend! (I have the short white-hair-covered slacks to prove it :) ) And that, I think, is beginner’s heart 101: do something nice that has no possibility of helping you. And you’ll reap untold good feelings. It’s really that simple. At least it was today. :)

race in America, and the dilemma of forgiveness ~

black-white-handsI’ve never cared for Paula Deen. Didn’t watch her on TV more than once or twice. Didn’t buy her cookbooks. Don’t even care for her kind of cooking, these days. I also think that people need to NOT use the n-word. And that the ‘lost days of the Confederacy’ are unlamented.

So I was flabbergasted to realise I feel sorry for her. WHY, in the name of tweet? (I’m reverting to my grandmother’s idioms here; sign of my discomfort?)

If you haven’t read about her fall from grace, Google it. Suffice to say that she used the N-word many years ago (and possibly more recently), and evinced the legacy of the Confederate South we all wish were interred with Lincoln.

But here’s the deal: does Deen deserve to be ruined for this? And would we have been as quick if she was a man (I’m remembering the sexism explicit in Martha Stewart’s conviction for ill-doing)? The Supreme Court just said we’re not racist anymore (to justify its own refusal to acknowledge the very real issues of race in this country). So what to do about Paula Deen?

Does having her cooking empire crumble around her serve any purpose? WalMart, Smithfield, et al.; Random House isn’t even going to release her book, even though it has projected great sales!

What’s the deal? Just what does this dog-pile-on-the-chef-rabbit gain us? Will it make Paula Deen less racist? Does it make Walmart — home of longterm allegations of sexism and labour inequitites — somehow a ‘better’ company? What if Deen really IS sorry? racism ruins lives

I HATE racism. And I hate even more — if possible — the N-word. It was never said in our home when I was a child, and my own son didn’t know what it meant until he was at least 9. He’d never heard it. I count that as a small victory, considering we live in the city w/ the 5th worst race riot  in Amerian history.

The corporate reactions to Deen’s ignorance seems … well, a bit smug. But in truth? I figure ALL white people are racist until they prove otherwise. I also assume that even the best -intentioned of peoples — regardless of  race, religion, ethnicity, et al — harbour forms of ignorance. Myself included.

Certainly Paula Deen used the N-word. She said so (and give her credit, folks: she was under oath). Certainly there’s no excuse for that. But what happened to forgiveness? What happened to grace? What happened to conversation about the whole thing?

A couple of years ago, a student in my class said that when she was in high school a white female student came in blackface to a school costume party. A black male student came in white face. Those are the salient facts. The white student was suspended, and lost her pending scholarship to a prestigious university. The black student was valourised in the student yearbook.

blackfaceWho among us thinks the way the school handled this situation was well-considered? What a lost opportunity to open a conversation among the students, the faculty. Think of the ways in which students might have learned — from each other, from speakers brought in — about race, and the history of blackface and race in this country. I had students who had no idea that blackface was insulting, nor why.

What if this country had used the Paula Deen incident to talk about race, and the history of the N-word? Might we at least have had a flying hope that Paula Deen might ‘get it’? Because I sincerely doubt that ruining the woman financially has accomplished anything positive at all. Unless you count the smug feeling of self-congratulation a few corporations may be feeling…

Regardless, my beginner’s heart is deeply saddened by the whole thing. What Paula Deen did — and said — was wrong. And yet… When is the annihilation of someone’s livelihood — hard-won as hers has been — ever okay? I can’t help but think we accomplished nothing at all. Except to ruin Paula Deen…

 

 

 

 

 

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