Friday, September 29, 2006

Second Chances

Now that I'm revising my manuscript, it's like being given a second chance to blossom. So, I'm trying to make the most of the opportunity. I'm especially trying to look at things with poet laureate Ted Kooser's advice in mind. For instance, he gives very compelling reasons for people like you and me to limit unnecessary adjectives. Here's what he says...

"It is a rare instance in which you'd need to write 'white snow' because in almost everybody's mind snow is rarely need to write 'green leaves' because most of us immediately think of green leaves when the word 'leaves' appears. The same is true of 'blue sky' or 'red apple.' And so on. Try to give your reader credit for being able to supply at least some of the description. And as to adverbs, if you use the word 'creep' there's no point, is there, in writing 'creeping slowly'? Creeping is slow."

Gosh, that is good advice. Now, if I can just make the most of my second chance with it in mind, that'd be good enough for good as a cup of hot brown tea. Tee hee hee.

(Okay, you caught me...that final bit breaks all the rules of Kooser's good sense. But I trust you'll give me a second chance! :)

The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser

Photograph by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Measure Twice

Carpenters have this little saying, "Measure twice; cut once."

The guy who originally turned that phrase must have had a few odd-sized pieces of wood in his garage...from the times he went too fast, forgot to or refused to set out his tape measure that second time.

I know I am a measure-once person...I learned to think fast, to make snap decisions as a child, to try to save myself from certain danger and sorrow that drifted through my household like an eternal fog.

But Proverbs 19:2 urges me to grow past that now... "Desire without knowledge is not good, and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way..." Measure twice; cut once. It's more work. It's not how I learned to face my days. But it's a good idea if I want to build things in life that stand straight...or keep my "garage" a little more free of those odd-sized pieces of wood...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Feather Words

Sometimes it is so tempting to say things about somebody else... to speak "innocently" about this or that, when what I really have on my heart is a small grudge that wants nurturance.

I was reminded that such "small" talk is insidious, with this story from Judith Kunst's The Burning Word...

A man who had slandered a rabbi went to repent and repair the damage. "'What must I do to repair my sin?' he asked. The rabbi instructed him to get a pillow, rip it open and spread its feathers on the wind, and then return to him. The man quickly did as he was told. Upon his return, the rabbi said, 'There is one task remaining: go find and collect all the feathers, and bring them to me.' The man gasped, 'That's impossible!' And the rabbi replied, 'Yes. It is as impossible for you to re-gather those feathers as it is for you to repair the harm that your slander has worked on me...'" (pp. 116-117)

Oh, God, keep me from tossing feather words to the wind...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Snow in September

Some people need a few of these to get the effect my brain seems to get naturally.

This morning, it was snow in September and the sun rising in the West.

Admittedly, I was a bit groggy, and I was peering through an ivory lace curtain. But, sure as sugar, there was my neighbor's porch, with a substantial layer of snow. And, beyond that, in the West, was the muted fire of the morning sun.

Believe it or not, I actually raised the curtain to confirm my little vision. But the snow melted into green and the sky to an afterthought of peach. It was not nearly as impressive as snow in September. Which, is okay. I don't have snow tires yet anyway.

See, my brain does all this, without substance assistance. Too bad I can't market this imagination of mine.

"Martinis" painting, by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I just received a copy of Wishing on Dandelions, from my writer friend Mary E. DeMuth. That is the cool thing about being friends with a writer. Sometimes you get free books. Ah, free books... what could be more pleasant, except maybe retreating to a tropical island with a lot of mango drinks.

Now this has got me wishing... for more time to read, for sun and mango drinks, for the time when my own book will finally be finished and I can send free copies to my friends (and to a few people who just like free books and like to talk about books).

I understand that these are not earth-shaking, world-changing wishes, though I have a few of those, too. Anyhow, it makes me wonder...what you are wishing today?

Wishing on Dandelions

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A New Cry

And, behold, unto them was born a son... seven pounds, ten ounces. And they called his name Ezra Jade. And he was a bold crier who could wake both city and country. But they loved him anyway, and we who are parents understand why.

The name Ezra means "help," and I pray that this new one will be a help in this world... just as his namesake was a help to the ancient Hebrew world... in bringing worship back to the people by rebuilding the temple.

Congratulations, sister of mine. Congratulations brother-in-law. Now the whole world knows—or could, if it wanted to—about the new little helper in your home. And the world also knows that I have packed my bag and will not be back to the blogosphere until Monday the 25th.

Collage by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wild Open Spaces

Was reading my friend's blog Wide Open Spaces and noticed she's a little worried about her lawn responsibilities. She just bought a house.

According to Michael Pollan in Second Nature, she might have reason to worry. Some guy got fined thousands of dollars for not taking his lawn responsibilities seriously. He lived in a community that seemed to mix up lawncare with democratic ideals... something like "manicured lawn equals good patriot."

But today's picture is Gail Nadeau's lawn, and it just about makes me want to sing "America the Beautiful." See, beauty is bigger than the little boxes we try to put it in, and it is wilder than the fines we sometimes levy against it.

So, my blog friend, I hope you'll feel free to go wild sometimes, and I also hope your community will show a true democratic spirit when you do.

Photograph by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Washed Up

I find this little discovery fascinating...

Researchers got some students to think about their "past sins." (That's a quote from Benedict Carey in The New York Times.) Then the researchers offered these guilty students a chance to do volunteer work. Many said "yes," in what psychologist's would label "symbolic cleansing." But if the students had the chance to wash their hands, they were half as likely to agree to the volunteer work.

So it seems that Lady Macbeth and Pontius Pilate and King David were on to something... people feel guilt when they betray somebody, somehow... and they feel the need to get rid of that guilt with cleansing. This seems to have great spiritual significance.

Of course, now I'm going to be second-guessing myself every time I wash my hands...

Friday, September 15, 2006

On the Edge

Last night, we went to visit someone in our family who is very special to us. She lost her youngest sister, and now she is the only one left. They were five sisters, growing up.

This special person, she has always told us stories about a house full of love and mischief. (Of course there would be mischief with five sisters.)

What must it be like, to stand on the edge of being... to know that you are left to carry on... that you hold the memories of a sisterhood... that you must remember to tell the rest of the stories, before they slip away?

Photograph by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.
Telling Our Stories

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Paul's Anxiety in Texas

So, I'm reading the Holy Book, and my mind plays this little trick. Seems to be jackpot week for my mind, on this count.

There's this little heading in the text that says, "Paul's Anxiety in Troas." But I read, "Paul's Anxiety in Texas."

Gosh, Paul went to Texas? When did that happen? My brain stays a minute longer, has a little fun with this... maybe Paul was anxious about bumping into the President, or maybe there were too many Big Burger Stands. (Sorry, my Texas friends... I can't help what my brain does.)

When I stop chuckling, I consider that Paul stood boldly before kings, that he didn't mince words about food issues (or any other issue). Yet I'm secretly comforted that he had anxieties... even if it was in Troas, not in Texas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Story of Love

I could add words to this, but I hope someone else might venture to. For, my soul feels a little tired, like the breathlessly thin paper that is peeling away around the heart of this purply onion.

Rossi tells me there's another layer here, too. She wrote Luke 7 behind the painting, which is the story of the woman anointing Christ's feet. Love... never a prospect that is pristine.

"The Story of Love" painting, by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Jack-O-Lantern Blaze

Okay, so I'm driving down the highway, and I see this billboard. I wish I could put this in the split-second sense that I had of it. But words take time.

Anyway, I see the billboard—black, with bleeding orange wounds... a blurry ooze of eerie color. I see the words "Jack-O-Lantern Blaze." I see the name of the nuclear power plant owners, who must be sponsoring some Halloween event to develop good will in the community (because their facility is leaking radioactive water and people are a little up-in-arms). I think, "Oh my G— Chernobyl. This all happens in a split second. It is my uncontrollable first impression.

The billboard goes out of sight, as quickly as it came in. And, I think, remind me never to hire that PR firm.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Professional Prayer

In our study, we keep the ironing board. My spouse likes to use a spray bottle when ironing, instead of iron steam.

The bottle says, "Professional Sprayer" on it. Except I never noticed this before. So when I walked into the study the other day and saw the bottle turned just slightly, this is what I saw... "Professional Prayer."

Oh, that's precious, I thought. I laughed out loud.

Isn't that just our view of prayer sometimes? We get very professional at it... here a spray, there a spray... simple, quick... get the wrinkles out...distilled water... nothing like the blood-drenched sweat of struggle in Gethsemane.

I don't know. This is just a budding, amateur thought on the matter.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Urban Angel Goes to Tea

Looks like our Urban Angel has tucked in her wings to sit down for a proper tea. Seems she is at home in any setting (no surprise for an angel, I guess.) I am so curious to see where she turns up next.

Photograph by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission. Gail Nadeau
To see more photos by yesterday's artist, Andrew Denny. Granny Buttons

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Retreat into Laughter

Today, I feel like this cider bottle, hovering amidst these startled birds... displaced, misplaced, up-in-the-air.

I am not in the mood to write anything. But I'm in the mood to laugh. (Okay, I am always, always in the mood to laugh...)

Anyway, here's my suggestion, if you want to retreat into laughter with me...

Stuff Lust

Unretouched photograph, by Andrew Denny. Used with permission.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ignorance is Bliss?

We went to Stone Barns this past weekend. My kids went to see their favorite rabbits. They have named the rabbits Fluffy and Newspaper.

I wondered if Fluffy and Newspaper would rather be called something like Sophia and Charles. I wondered if the names my kids have picked out for them fit with their bunny aspirations. If the rabbits knew about the whole Fluffy and Newspaper thing, would they be insulted, or inspired?

Anyway, I wonder, too, if I should be like Fluffy and Newspaper... When my book finally comes out, should I bother to read the reviews? Should I bother to see what labels people attach, for good or for worse? I'm beginning to think that ignorance might be bliss.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Been There

I like Ted Kooser's advice to writers, about details. Details carry power. Unexpected, unpredictable details carry authenticating power. Here's what he says...

"Just keep in mind that it won't be the birthday cake covered with twinkling candles that will make readers feel you were really at the party, but the bone-handled serving fork with one tine missing and the place where the lace has pulled loose from the hem of the tablecloth."

I consider that this might be true in life too... if I pay attention to the details of the lives of my friends, my spouse, my children, they may truly sense that I've "been there," in a powerfully authentic way.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser

Monday, September 04, 2006

Balancing Act

Revising a book manuscript is a delicate process.

Two thoughts jostle in my head: Be Humble... Stand Up for The Work.

Are these in conflict?

I opened A Profound Weakness, to find Betty Spackman say this about her art... "I didn't need more power, I needed more humility." And this..."The time for licking wounds is over. We need to learn how to assess the value of our own work and not depend on the approval of others." (pp 10-11)

Perhaps the need for both humility and gumption faces every artist... perhaps this is the great creative balancing act.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Blessed Futility

Yesterday, I took some time out from work. We went to the park. I talked to a friend. My kids went off to play.

Almost the whole time, my girls made a castle, with some big rocks. It was a beautiful castle.

I hadn't realized where they were getting these rocks from, until it was too late. The rocks were from the base of a drainage pipe, where they really needed to be. Of course, this meant the castle would have to be dismantled.

In the middle of the night, I thought about this. I thought about the value of being creative, even when one's work may be dismantled. I thought about my writing... how hard it is to take things apart once they are put little castles, where I reign in satisfaction.

Some people have the solution for this problem. Sit on the bench. Leave the rocks in one place. Forget about making castles. It's futility to do otherwise. Even so, I say it's a blessed futility.