A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. My present from my eldest granddaughter was a card she made herself. She knows about my various artistic practices such as writing a daily haiku and doing a daily drawing. (See my blog post from May 29th, titled Practice)
So for my birthday card she wrote two haiku of her own and two daily draws. Both haiku and one of the draws are about me! (The other draw reflects her dislike of getting up in the morning.)
Here they are. I hope you will agree with me that my granddaughter is talented, interesting, and totally loveable.
I have been doing various daily practices for many years and they have been instrumental in my artistic and spiritual growth. For over 20 years I’ve been doing “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) which is doing 2 to 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand each day. For almost 20 years I’ve also been writing one haiku every day, which means I have a lot of haiku by now. And for about 5 years I’ve been doing what I call my “daily draw” which means I draw or paint or sculpt an image from the day before, sometimes illustrating the haiku I just wrote, or something I saw on my daily walk, or something I remember from a conversation, or whatever appears from my hands.
None of these writings or drawings has to be good, although sometimes they are excellent. But quality is not the issue, and despite the mounds of paper I now have filled with scribbles, poems, and drawings, neither is quantity. The issue is practice. In practice you are allowed to make mistakes, to be a novice, to admit your failings. Practice teaches you to love and appreciate yourself, in all your flawed and silly glory.
Practice makes me happy. Every day.
Recently a small literary press agreed to publish one of my new manuscripts. I was happy – until I read through their Facebook and blog posts, which were full of political opinions that were opposed to my own. Then I became uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be associated with these political opinions, and I did not want any profits made on my book (even if the profits were tiny) to go to promote and market books that espoused them. So I did not sign a contract after all. This was particularly disappointing because my book is a strange, genre-free, odd-ball story. It won’t be easy to find another publisher. So today my weird little book is still an orphan with no home.
Today is the first of May, or May Day, also known as Beltane. It marks the height of Spring and the flowering of all life. It is time to celebrate the leaping fires of passion in a festival of sensuality, sexuality, flowers, and delight. It is a time to make love, preferably outdoors.
There are many lovely old customs associated with time of year. Here are some ways to celebrate May Day/Beltane:
Make a May basket. Fill it with flowers or other outdoor beauties. Leave it on a doorstep of someone who can’t get outside, such as an invalid or elderly person. Bring the Spring to them.
Or you can erect a Maypole in your yard. It doesn’t have to be tall. You can use a yardstick, broomstick, or even a twig. At the top of the stick affix different colored ribbons. Get a group of friends, and have each choose a ribbon and make a wish upon it. (For example: I choose this red ribbon for more passion in my life.) Dance around the Maypole, entwining your ribbons together.
Finally, embrace the ones you love. Hugs and kisses all around!
Bonus: Here’s a Beltane haiku to go with the painting:
parade around the May Tree
winding ribbons tight
I’m in the middle of my project of ghostwriting essays (for free) about this time in American history and how people are responding and contributing and acting – and how they are making a positive difference. Every time I do another interview I am inspired by the courage, dedication, perseverance and empathy in the story I’m being told. I can recover my hope, because although hatred, bigotry and fear are loud right now, those negative stories are not the majority of American stories. Not even close. We all need to speak up and share our stories of love, equality, justice, strength, and courage. I hope my ghostwriting efforts will contribute a tiny bit to this effort.
If you’d like more information about this free offer, please see my blog post of April 3rd or here.
I believe we are living through a defining time in American history right now. We are all a part of this history. Someday your children, grandchildren, or descendants will want to know what role you played in this historic time. What do you want them to find?
Right now many of us are feeling discouraged, even despair – which leads to a feeling of helplessness – which in turn leads to giving up. And when we give up, everyone loses. I think the antidote to despair is always action. Do Something.
And the best thing to do is something that draws upon your talents, experience, or passion. I looked at my own attributes to see what I could do. I’ve been a ghostwriter for nearly twenty years, and I know how powerful sharing stories can be. So I decided to offer to ghostwrite – for free – some short personal essays for people who are contributing and acting and don’t have the time or desire to write their stories down. I hope history will thank us.
If you are interested in this offer, more information about how it works you can read about it here.
Taking a short hiatus from blogging. I’ll be back in April. In the meantime, you can follow me on Facebook. You can friend me on Facebook or like my Facebook Author Page. For instance, here’s what I shared on Facebook a few days ago:
I used to have doubts that I would ever be a full-time writer – after all, for years I was a single mom with a demanding job in a high tech industry. I wrote “on the side” when I had time. (Like I had any extra time.) So yeah, I’d be a full time writer “when pigs fly” – right?
Then one day I was at a street fair with my youngest daughter and spied this glass pig with wings at a booth. It called to me. (Evidently it was not only a flying pig but a singing pig as well). This flying/singing pig still inhabits the windowsill right above my desk – where I have written many books over the past 20 years, working as a full time writer. Pigs actually do fly. I have proof.
I’ve written about my 8th grade science teacher and my college history professor, both of whom taught me valuable lessons about our dangerous world. Today I will write about the election of 2016 and how another teacher handled her despair, disgust, and anger over the election’s outcome with her students. This teacher is my own daughter.
My daughter is a dedicated middle school teacher, and has been for nearly 15 years. This fact alone tells you what a hero she is to me. I’m absolutely sure I couldn’t do her job without losing my mind. Middle-schoolers can be quite challenging. But she loves her students and is committed to teaching them how to reach their best.
On the morning of November 9th we had a conversation when she was on her way to school. Both of us were dealing with that trifecta of despair, fury, and “what can I do?” My daughter’s concerns were not just about herself and her own daughter, though. She was also concerned about how to handle these emotions with her students. I wish I could say I gave her some great advice, but I was dealing with my own emotions and all I could do was listen and love her.
I needn’t have worried, though. Later that afternoon I read my daughter’s thoughts on her Facebook page. Here they are:
“In this … we must have hope. Today, I will continue to teach my daughter and my students about the ideals that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence stand for. Today, I will continue to teach them that they have the power to stand up for others and for themselves. Today, I will continue to stand against racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Today, I will allow myself to feel dismay and anger. Today, I will continue to be an optimist and not give up the fight for the future. Today, I will be a warrior. Today, I will repeat this statement until I believe it in my heart. Today, I will be a warrior.”
She will not be alone.
Next year I’ll be teaching a new class on writing and visual art, titled “Freeing the Creator Within,” with my good friend and amazing mixed-media artist Gwen Delmore. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be covering in this 4-week class. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll let you know when and where the class will be offered.
Through a variety of exercises and techniques, this class helps participants access, explore and share beliefs beneath beliefs. They learn to by-pass internal editors and critics and find the poetry and beauty within themselves.
Each of the four 2-hour classes consists of introductions to new techniques, many choices of in-class writing and art exercises, voluntary sharing, and non-critical feedback. Participants will take home a notebook filled with vignettes, poetry, sketches, paintings, and collages created in class. All materials provided.
Class One: The seven non-rules of writing exploration: controlling the editor and trusting yourself. Play with printed images as you explore who you are.
Class Two: Original details and sensory specifics: it’s a daffodil, not a flower. Explore how concrete images can illustrate emotions and desires.
Class Three: Exploring absurdity and the forbidden: why be polite, politically correct or logical. Tear down your art and build it back up again.
Class Four: Mining & Springboarding: where do you get your ideas? Discover where your inspiration comes from.
Let us know what you think. Would you be interested in a class like this?
In April 1968 I was almost 19 and in college at the University of Washington. Like most colleges at the time, it was a hotbed of political and anti-war activism. My major was History, and my favorite professor was a spellbinding lecturer whose specialty was Modern European History. He was a popular professor, and his classes were always full. He lectured a lot about Germany between the wars, pacing back and forth as he talked, getting worked up and angry about not only Hitler and the Nazis, but the businessmen and even average Germans who made deals with and allowed Hitler to take over Germany.
This professor was also well-versed on the troubles and concerns of the sixties in America, and one of the reasons he was so popular was that he was a liberal-leaning anti-war pro-civil rights expounder, although I think he had to be somewhat circumspect so he didn’t lose his job.
It was a few days after the assassination of Martin Luther King in early April 1968 that I saw my professor lose his cool in class. The class was as usual full, every seat taken. In front of us, the professor began his customary pacing from the left to the right and back again. I think the lecture was supposed to be something about Germany after World War I, but he only got a few words out before he began to rant. Not about Germany, but about the assassination of Martin Luther King.
I don’t remember all he said, but I do remember how red his face was and how loud his voice was. I remember how his fury filled that room, making him seem bigger than he actually was. The only words I do remember were his last, right before he stormed out the door. “Don’t give up!” he shouted. “Keep fighting!” shaking his fist in the air. “Don’t EVER let the BASTARDS WIN!”
He still ranks as my favorite professor, and I loved him although I never had a private conversation with him. I took any class he offered. He died a few years ago, at the age of 85. His life was well lived. He made a difference to thousands of lucky students. Including me. And I still remember to keep fighting and never let the bastards win. It is especially something I need to remember today.
Next week Tuesday Nov 22nd I’ll share a story from this year, also about a teacher, my own daughter.