Haiku Friday: Fresh

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Fresh:

Ah, the spring’s fresh light
a season with no mistakes
not yet, anyway

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: Beating Despair

We often think “what can one person do?” There are so many huge, colossal, intractable problems in the world that we feel overwhelmed. I am just one person, we say, and shrug. We go back to our little lives, sure that nothing we are doing, saying, thinking or feeling has any consequences because we are too small to matter.

This is not so. Many of us pay lip service and talk a good game, preaching that we can make a difference. But secretly, in our hearts and in our gut, we are not sure we believe this.

One of the best ways to show that we do make a difference to the large events and trends of the world is to look backward at “big” history, and compare it to our own lives. I promise you that you will find that what you did, thought, felt, and saw did have an effect – on history. You were not only affected by the events and trends of your time, you affected them.

There is a corollary to this truth. Once you have seen, and felt in your gut, that you did have an impact – that what you did, thought, felt and saw in the past mattered, then what you are doing now, thinking now, saying now, feeling or seeing now – also has an impact.

And if we all really believed that, deep in our hearts, maybe, just maybe, we would make wiser decisions. Maybe if we really knew that we are responsible for our earth, we would do it less harm.

That is why studying history is important.

Compost: Hate that Smell

Ah, smell. When you feel bland and dull and tired, smell is the best sense for activating your dormant creativity. You don’t even have to write about smells you like – any smell will wake you up. Here’s something I wrote about one of my most hated smells: gasoline. It took me to surprising places.

The smell of gasoline is too sweet, a sick sweet that hurts my throat and lingers in my nose, as if it were made of tiny nails that scratch the tender mucosa of my nasal passages. Gasoline is hard not to smell when filling your gas tank, because I don’t care what they say, those pumps are not pressure closed; the smell escapes and I can almost hear gagging sounds from the poor birds who have to fly through the poisoned air, that smell making their feathers turn lime green at the roots.

I have a long ago memory of running out of gas and my then-boyfriend had to walk to the nearest gas station to bring back a can of gas to get the car started again. Afterwards he put the can, still partially filled, and the slosh slosh of the leftover gasoline at the bottom of the can made me feel seasick. My feet felt like they were bathed in gasoline, although they weren’t, and all I wanted to do was vomit out the window. I think the taste and smell of vomit would have been better than gasoline, but I didn’t vomit because I was young then and didn’t want to vomit in front of my boyfriend; I was afraid it would ruin my sexy image.

He smelled like gasoline too, his hands were saturated with it, and whatever he touched became tainted. I didn’t want him to touch me until he washed, but again I was young and didn’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. I was rather co-dependent then, a label I only learned to hang on myself later, but at the time I thought it was one of my jobs to always comfort his ego, even at the cost of gasoline-tainted skin.

Now I’m not even sure what his name was. Truthfully, I can’t even remember which boyfriend this was – I had many back then. I thought I was searching for the “right one” but actually I was searching for the real me, which at that time I hadn’t the courage or wisdom to recognize.

Haiku Friday: Invention

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Invention:

did griots complain
when writing was invented?
yes, probably so

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Writing Tip – Absurdity is a Teacher

One of my favorite quotes by Natalie Goldberg, in my opinion the best writing teacher the world has to offer, goes like this: “1 plus 1 equals a Mercedes Benz.”

Here’s a writing tip: Take Goldberg’s sentence and use it as the first line in a paragraph. Then write about what this sentence means to you. Yes, this sentence sounds absurd. That’s the point.

This exercise too is based on one of Goldberg’s suggestions. I have written many paragraphs starting with this line, and every one of them is different, every one of them has taught me something about myself, about my writing ability, about the strange beings that inhabit my mind.

Here’s another tip: buy – and read – and practice – Natalie Goldberg’s books about the writing process – Writing Down the Bones, and Wild Mind. Best money I ever spent.

Goody Beagle says: Beagle Yoga

My human does yoga. She sits on the floor and stretches and twists her body. She does one pose called “downward dog” but trust me, she looks nothing like a dog. She does another one called “the cat” and she does look a little like The Cat – but I don’t like The Cat, so this is nothing special.

Then she lies down on the floor and closes her eyes. Sometimes she breathes out in a hum that she calls the “bee breath” but she doesn’t sound like a bee to me. Then she gets real real quiet and just lies there. This is called “the corpse” but who’s she kidding? I know what death smells like, and she’s not dead.

Sometimes I sit on the floor by my human while she does this yoga stuff, but I don’t do it myself. I don’t need to. I’m always in a meditative state naturally.

Haiku Friday: Sidelines

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Sidelines:

come when you are called
on the sidelines of your life
nothing will happen

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Sharing History: NERF

One of my favorite subjects to dig into is Toys and Games. You can tell a lot about a generation from the toys they played with during their childhood. Recently at one of my classes, a middle-aged man shared his experience with the NERF Ball. Now you might not think that an essay on NERF balls would be illuminating, but it was.

In case you don’t know, NERF was invented in 1970 and exploded into children’s lives during that decade and is still popular today. I bet you don’t know what NERF stands for, do you? It stands for “Non-expanding recreational foam.” This foam was made into balls for indoor use, so your knick-knacks would be safe from your 10 year-old, and into various kinds of weapons, so that your aggressive son could shoot his brother without really hurting him. The NERF marketing slogans trumpeted that “you can’t hurt babies or old people.”

The most popular NERF toy was the NERF football, and it was this toy that my student wrote about. He had been a nerdy kid, very tall and very skinny, and also very uncoordinated. He turned out for no sports at school, and was always the last one picked for any game that involved physical ability – although he was a whiz at spelling and chess.

This would have been okay, except that he wanted to play games. He dreamed of playing football, baseball, basketball, even tennis. But every time he threw a ball, it went to places he had not intended, and some of those places broke. Through experience he learned to leave balls alone.

But then someone gave him a NERF football, and his life was transformed. For some reason he didn’t understand, he was good at throwing NERF footballs. They actually went where he wanted them to. He practiced and practiced throwing his day-glo orange or lime-green footballs, every day and in every room of the house. Soon he had a treasured collection of NERF footballs, and some of his friends even started calling him Nerf – with affection.

As he told his story, my student looked up and said, “You know, I didn’t realize until right now why I was so good at throwing NERF footballs. It wasn’t because NERF was magic or that I suddenly became athletic. It was simply because I was no longer afraid of messing up.”

What a great life lesson – and from NERF balls, of all things.

Compost – Writing is Brave

Writing is an act of bravery. That’s because no matter what we write about, it exposes our inner self to the outside world. And the outside world is not always kind and supportive. Sometimes the outside world is indifferent to our tender feelings, or even actively cruel.

Get used to it. One way to do this is to share – in an email or letter, or an article in your newsletter, or a blog post – some totally meaningless, trivial, dumb stuff you wrote in your journal – or as Julia Cameron’s The Artists’ Way calls them, morning pages.

To show that that I am brave, that is what I’ll do right now. (But please don’t be cruel!)

“I just got my new fountain pen. Now I have 2 of them, and I feel so rich because they cost $25 apiece, and I could have got a lot of roller balls for that amount. Oh my god I have to write more blog posts and my mind is totally blank. Last night in bed I had a good idea for a blog post, and now it’s gone, what the hell was it? Something quite profound, I know. For at least 20 years this has been happening to me, and for 20 years I keep saying I’ll keep paper and pen at my bedside, and for 20 years I haven’t done it (except a few times, but it’s never lasted long.)”

Aren’t I brave?

Haiku Friday: Lessons

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Lessons:

when your mother dies
she’ll teach her last life lesson:
to love and let go

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.