Monday, March 30, 2009

On Getting It

In the Mirror

Mr. Ross had allowed me to dream, but dreams are just fantasies unless they are rooted in a solid understanding of who you are. I like this statement from Bill Strickland. Knowing ourselves, what we have to offer to the dream and what we still need to get to make it happen, seems paramount.

There are so many ways I could go with this, but I'm taking it down an unexpected alley. Here we go. Ninety-degree turn.

I read this poem at Jim Schaap's the other day. He wasn't sure if he should share it, if it's legal to reprint someone else's poem on his blog. It might not be. But if I were the quoted poet, I wouldn't say a word. I'd just sit back and be glad that somebody out there wanted the dream I embody with words, that is, wanted what I have to say. (I would also sigh deeply that the possibly-illegal-reprint sold three books within 30 seconds, as one very impressed reader marched straight over to Amazon and plopped her credit card on the cyber-counter).

Anyway, here's the rub. Part of what we need in order to achieve our dreams is the ability to share our work openly. Publish our words, our artwork, our music, on our blogs. Give it away to friends on little pieces of perfume-scented paper, without scrawling 'copyright' on all four corners. Get out of the alley and into the light.

In essence, this is what Strickland did when he began walking the streets, inviting kids into his art space. It's what he did when he faced his first little fund-raising opportunity. He took his love for art and turned it outwards, shared what he already had in order to get what he still needed. And you know what? It worked. He got it.

Christy Tennant's Art is a Gift: Jake Armerding Gets It

Stone Crossings at Jim Martin's, GodHungry

Laura's Dream On
Marcus's Beauty Inspires Hope...
High Calling Blogs' Born Identity
Erica's Mission Work
In the Mirror art by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poetry of Comedy

Free Snack

I've been kinda serious lately, so I thought to post this comic my 11-year-old did this morning. Laughter is, to me, a kind of poetry. Which raises the question, what is poetry?

Hmmm... I like that. Let's make it our next writing prompt. You can use the question as your title or just put the word 'poetry' somewhere in your poem. As always, please try to give us real things to see, touch, smell, hear, taste. Take us there. Blog by Thursday evening, April 2nd, for possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs and give me your link here in the comment box. [footnote, since someone asked: no, your poem needn't attempt humor :) ]

Comic by Sara. Used with permission.

YOU TRIED IT (poetry prompt):
Laure's The 5 O'Clock Morning Hour (I don't think Laure meant this for the prompt, but I see the connection)
MyBigThree's Poetry Lens
Heavens Declare's Galaxies Dance...
Brian's The 3 Mysteries of Place, Part 2
nAncY's poein
Laura's Life as Poetry
Ann's Being Poetry
Sarah's In tenderness...

Stone Crossings at CPYU Bookself

LL's littlest daughter's Spring
Yvette's Beggar Woman
High Calling Blogs' RAP: Slow Down, Look Around
nAncY's Indiana
Mike's Mike's Odes
Marcus's Watching the Shadow Rise
B. K. MacKenzie's Wisdom at the Wailing Wall
Laure's It Happens
Cindy's coffee
Stuff in the Basement's Who Knows if This is Legal But Really It's Like a New Poem Form (inserting ourselves into someone else's words) (okay, that's not his title, it's mine)
Scot McKnight's Pastors as Poets
Brian's 3 Mysteries of Place, Part 1

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Thresholds and Sanctuaries: the Mysterious Power of Place

Golden Fire Fujimura

In working on my second book, which is anchored in place even more deeply than my first, I just read Robert Hamma's Landscapes of the Soul: A Spirituality of Place.

Says Hamma, Places where we come close to the raw power of life and death are holy places. When we stand on this ground we sense ourselves on a threshold, on the edge of the border that divides what we see from what we cannot see.

This statement converged, for me, with three seemingly disparate things: Bill Srickland's journey, my on-line life, and a description of the Nihonga style of painting I saw in Mako Fujimura's slim volume River Grace.

For Strickland, the raw power of life he felt through working clay and through his teacher's passion for art fused with the art room and the teacher's dining room. As he remarks, these places became sanctuaries where he developed a new basis for his self-identity.

In a similar way, I consider that this blog— where over time I am forging a more raw, pulsing relationship to writing, art, artists and my own inner landscape— has become a surprising ' holy place' in a non-traditional form (usually we think of place as having a certain three-dimensionality that some would say is absent here). Oddly, this reminds me of Nihonga painting, which accrues memory-traces of the painting process as layers are built up; in their semi-opaqueness these layers birth 'ambiguous spaces [that] create their own quality of light.' In other words, not all space is as concrete as we expect and its reality, its dimensionality, might be related to memory and luminous impact as much as it is to concrete material.

So that, perhaps the holiness of a place, a space— even a cyberspace— is as Hamma suggests somehow related to the experience of threshold, shift, possibility. We stand in a certain place, even an ambiguous space, and like Strickland we find a new identity emerging. Suddenly, the place is both threshold and sanctuary. Whether we make it so or the place itself makes it so is a bit of a mystery.

Golden Fire art by Makoto Fujimura. Used with permission.

Goodwordediting's Does Your Social Media Honk Like an Oboe?
High Calling Blogs' Chapter 2: Molding a Miracle
Laura's Growing Up
Erica's Beauty and Hope

Stone Crossings at CPYU Bookself

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Song of Myself

Walt Whitman 1940 Edition

I thought about all the places I find my soul. Surprisingly, it can change from day to day. Today, this is where I spied it. I don't think it heard me there on the stairs, holding my breath, listening to it its little song...

I found
my soul
in an attic
circa 1932,
toes naked
near a scruffy
riffling ivory
pages, Whitman
clothed in 40's
faded burlap,
once green
like the grass.
Soul voice,
was whisper
gently turning
over under rafters,
urge and urge
and urging a
sweet clear
song of myself.

Walt Whitman 1940's Edition of Leaves of Grass photo, by L.L. Barkat.

LL's Grace is a Painted Woman: Unfolding Imagination

Erica's Dawn
LL at High Calling Blogs FedEx Your Soul
Laure's 10 O'Clock Morning Hour
Yvette's Sin is Like That
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Monday, March 16, 2009

So, Are You *Just* a Writer?

Mozart's Signature

He smiled and said the same words a young woman had voiced to me an hour before at Jubilee...

So, are you just a writer?

Neither student meant it for ill. I think the question had another question beneath it, 'Can somebody make a living simply by being a writer?' (The answer is a complicated, 'Well, not really, unless you write full-time for an organization or corporation as part of their paid staff and even then you aren't likely to make much money.') But I smiled and said, 'Yes, I'm just a writer.'

To me, that statement presents a deep personal challenge. It has nothing to do with salary and everything to do with whether I allow myself to embrace a gift that sometimes seems frivolous. Writing, after all, seems much less impressive than organizing monastic living experiences or creating real opportunities for the poor. Yet it is one of the things I do best and feel pleasure through (well, when the writing is done and the interaction around it begins! :)

This is why, of all the things I could have taken from Make the Impossible Possible, I landed on Strickland's bold admission, I have dedicated my life to helping other people, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished along those lines, but you can't really understand me, or what my life has been about, unless you grasp the fact that I didn't do any of it out of 'selflessness', I did it to be 'myself.'

The self Strickland chose to be? An artist, bringing the joy of clay, the peace of the potter's wheel, to down-and-outers. This led to the development of a job-training center, which now offers opportunities in music production, orchid-growing (and selling), culinary arts and pharmaceuticals. But it began with Strickland's passion, his gift.

Sometimes it's hard to envision where our gifts might lead. Surely Strickland didn't foresee the Arts and Training Center that is now an inspiration and life-saver for so many people. He even had moments of great doubt and despair. But something inside him held onto what he loved most and did best. This challenges me, comforts and invites me to say, with head held high...

Yes, I'm just a writer. Yes.

[disclaimer: I'm also a mother, a teacher, an avid cook, an artist, a musician of sorts, a public speaker, a runner, and so on, but I don't seem to have a problem embracing those things... not sure why :) ]

High Calling Blogs Beauty Isn't Poor
Laura's Dream Big

Kids Are Big Business, at The High

Mozart's and Others' Signatures, at cafe in Vienna. Photo by J Barkat. Used with permission.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grace is a Painted Woman: Unfolding Imagination

Stained Glass

Why do we fold up our imaginations when we get older? This question (my paraphrase) sparked Jeffrey Overstreet to write a novel about characters who fold their imaginations and put them away. I'm guessing it was the safe thing to do in that fantasy world. I'm guessing too that Overstreet probably uncovers the hidden dangers of squelching an ability to see the fantastical. (Sorry, Jeffrey, I haven't read the book, but it sounds really cool.)

Today I happened upon a brave poem that must have sprung from an open imagination. Here's the beginning...

I found grace
painting her toe-nails
along a street filled with graves.

She wore a white-lace hat
and a dress to match,
its bottom corners stained with grass.

I love that. Grace as a painted woman in white lace. How unusual. Very imaginative. This got me thinking about our next writing project. Why not open our imaginations, with the following prompt as a start? (Offerings due by next Thursday evening, March 19, for possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs).

I found my soul...

What did it look like? Was it animal, vegetable, mineral? Where was it sitting, standing, dancing? What else was it doing, or what was being done to it? A quick example (quick, not sophisticated, just for illustration purposes : )

I found my soul
in the oven, five days
old, almost empty but
for a few crusty flakes
and stray apples spilling
over the side of a glass
pie plate, threatening stainless
steel racks and self-cleaning
walls with caramelized sugar.

Okay, that's it. Let me know what you unfold.

Stained Glass photo by Elizabeth O. Weller, at Mindwhisperings. Used with permission. You can visit Elizabeth's Etsy Store here.

Nikki's Awake, My Soul
Lynet's poem here in the comment box
Erica's Soul-Sucking Laundry
Cindy's A New Soul
Prairie Chick's I Found My Soul
Ivy Rain's The Journey
Laura's Soul Searching
Jim's I Found My Soul
Kimberly in the comment box
Brian's Reflections on Finding My Soul
nAncY's Find My Soul
Denise's I Find My Soul
Joelle's Finding Soul
Katrina's Where My Soul is Found
Robin's Set Free
Ann's Finding Lost Pieces
LL's Song of Myself
Emily's I Found My Soul in China
LL's daughter's En La Manana
Brian's I Found My Soul, Take 2
Michelle's Buried Treasure
MyBigThree's Up-Front Confession
Tina's I Found My Soul

High Calling Blogs RAP: Finding Poetry in Your Work, Your Wounds and Your Grass Stains
Marcus's The Myth of Grace
nAncY's Love > Death
Jim's Spring Training
Mom2Six's Son's Picture on the Wall
Cindy's Promised Paradise
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Monday, March 09, 2009

Kindle, Darling, Take Me in Your Arms

Make the Imporssible Possible

Books. The sound of a single page turning. Curly black letters on ivory paper. Residual fragrance of woody beginnings. How I love books. They woo me, wow me, leave me speechless or set me to chattering. When I read with others (as in this new opportunity at High Calling Blogs)*, books can create living bonds.

What would it take for me to trade flipping pages for poking and scrolling a screen? I'm not there yet, don't own a Kindle. But I recall Joe Wikert of Kindleville discussing the future of reading as a layered experience, where we might click to find the meaning of a word, or click through to a wiki to discover the composition of vermillion, or poke the screen to bring up the history of the cotton gin.

This weekend I watched a Kindle Video at Amazon and learned that I can do just that. I can also carry magazines, newspapers and pounds and pounds of books on the Kindle (a very small knapsack for such a big load!) I can highlight sentences, paragraphs, or clip whole pages and add notes (where were you, dear Kindle, in my college days?). The new Kindle 2 will (how romantic!) even read to me if I like. Of course, there's a built-in search function in case I simply must retrieve all occurrences of the word kazoo, learn its definition and click through to the wiki or the web to discover the subtleties of kazoos.

Now, if only Kindle would host my blog (it hosts some blogs that probably avoid the use of words like kazoo) and allow me to compose blog posts right on screen using Zemanta to capture the text I want from the book I want and seamlessly create live links... I MIGHT be tempted to say, Kindle, darling, take me in your arms.

*Life without Kindle can still offer layered reading experiences, where the layering comes through personal exchange. If you'd like to join us at High Calling Blogs, we're about to read Make the Impossible Possible. Looking through the lens of Bill Strickland's work in transforming the lives of disadvantaged citizens, the book suggests, every one of us has the potential for remarkable achievement. Every one of us can accomplish the impossible in our lives if given the right inspiration and motivation to do so. You don't have to travel far to change the life you're living.

Book Stack By My Bed photo, by L.L. Barkat.

In Praise of Books

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Searching for Blog Traffic (and finding it)


Okay, so this week's writing project was Searching for Grace and somehow I got my wires crossed and wrote about Searching for Blog Traffic (and finding it). Oops.

Blame it on a confluence of events, like Scott Calgaro introducing me to a new addiction which may just increase my blog traffic while helping me clean house (hey there, husband-in-Vienna, if you are reading this you'll be happy to know I cleaned the whole... [you gotta come home if you wanna to know]).

Speaking of addictions (of the happiest sort... like having chocolate and tea every day at 4:00, but this addiction increases blog traffic instead of endorphins), I also found Zemanta. Oh. Wow. Besides making blog posting simple and powerful (it brings up picture options, tag suggestions, related article options and live-link options all right on your blog compose screen) and giving you the power to reblog articles and posts at the push of a button, it also puts your posts in the blogosphere link-love mix. By which I mean, your posts end up in other people's related-articles options (I've already been getting some nice referral traffic this way).

Anyway, these blog-traffic-increasing addictions collided with a week of watching Laura's Stone Crossings Giveaway process and working on Chapter 8 of my next little baby (little being the operative word at the moment, but I'm making progress). Which all added up to the absence of my own personal Searching for Grace poem. I'm thinking ya'll will grant me a bit of grace, while I grant you links here and at High Calling Blogs.

Goodwordediting's Demonstrating Zemanta Reblog of Seedlings in Stone

Grace in the Petals photo by Sara. Used with permission.
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Monday, March 02, 2009

Book Giveaway, Blue Field and a Little Grace

Stone Crossings in Field

Many moons ago, I promised to gently exchange Links for Art. So today I'm delighted to share Rebekah's Blue Field (and add a permanent link in my sidebar). Rumor has it there is a story behind this field, or perhaps a little poetic love (tell us, Rebekah, oh do.) [UPDATE: Here is Rebekah's telling. Thank you so much for sharing, Rebekah.]

Similarly, I'm delighted to add a link to Laura Boggess, who is currently hosting a Stone Crossings Book Giveaway, 'til Wednesday evening (Is there a story behind those tiles? Not sure, but if there is, I invite a telling.)

And speaking of tellings, I wonder if you might have a poem or vignette lurking just below the surface, to offer for this week's Searching for Grace writing project...

Stories, pictures, gentle exchanges. How I delight in these little tastes of grace.

Stone Crossings in Field photo, by Rebekah Wagner

YOU TRIED IT (and this week's RAP):
Cricket's Searching for Grace
Bought As Is's Grace Found Me
Heather Owens (poem here in the comment box)
Teri (poem here in the comment box)
nAncY's A Random Act of Something That Could Be Mistaken for Poetry
Mom2Six's In Search of Grace
Laura's Searching for Grace
Eric's I Searched for Grace
Prairie Chick's Grace in Winter
Erica Hale's I went Looking for Grace
Teri's Grace, Where Are You...
Sarah's An Offering
LL's Communion
Laura's Shoots of Green
Laure's The 7 O'Clock Morning Hour
LL's daughters' Gold on the Forest Floor
Joelle's Snakeskin
High Calling Blogs' RAP: Color of Grace
Marcus's Myth of Grace
Elizabeth's I Found Grace
Ann's Open Your Hand to Take Now

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