Monday, April 27, 2009

Follow Your Bliss

Near the Fountain

Wild Rosemary

Pink Flower


Blue Flower

Fountain 1

Fountain 2

Fountain 3

Reflecting Pool 1

Reflecting Pool 2

While I was off to an artist's retreat in Texas at Laity Lodge, my friendly book club buddies at High Calling Blogs were finishing up Make the Impossible Possible. I was sorry to have to race through the end of the book to catch up. Even now, I'm panting.

Ironically, or maybe fittingly, the final chapters were about the experience I was actually having: following my bliss, embracing a sense of 'flow' in my life, stepping towards dreams. I used to be a graphic artist. I don't want that career again. But I knew I belonged at this artist's retreat. Why? I still can't tell you for sure. But a few things Strickland says are the beginning of an explanation...

...someone wise once said that luck favors the prepared mind....

...[we] need to trust the small, transcendent experiences of [our lives] explore [our] passions and draw from them the inspirational fire and fuel that make extraordinary achievements possible...

...flow... is any experience in which you become absorbed so completely into what you're doing that the world fades away and nothing else seems to matter...

... he took his dreams seriously and lived his life in a way that prepared him for the day when opportunity might favor him. When it did, [he] was ready...

...A dream is about building something— relationships, identity, quality of experience. Because dreams rise out of genuine human needs, they feed the spirit in a profoundly satisfying way. A genuine dream brings direction, conviction, substance, and satisfaction to your life the moment you commit yourself to it.

What Strickland doesn't say is how amorphous the beginning of a dream can be. We feel something, that sense of 'flow' and we feel we're at a cusp. The way he first felt when he touched clay in that classroom long ago. Hunched over intently, digging in, shaping, did he envision an arts center that would profoundly alter the lives of the poor? Did he envision a music hall that would bring music to their ears? A greenhouse growing orchids so frail they'd re-ignite the hardened souls who'd tend them? No. But he put his hands to the clay.

Like I said, I don't know what clay I put my hands to this past week. But the coolness of it, the smoothness, the way it is sticking to my fingers feels right. And for now it's enough to follow that bliss.

TOTAL ASIDE (well, maybe):
Speaking of not knowing where our dreams will take us, Stone Crossings is going to be translated into Korean. I'm a little dazed at the thought. But happy, of course.

High Calling Blogs Final Chapters: Tell Your Story
Laura's Tell His Story
LL's LL and Lauren (But Not Jim) at Laity Lodge

High Calling Blogs RAP: Surprised by Words (see post for our NEW POETRY PROMPT)
Ann’s Meeting Words
Erica’s Random Acts of Poetry: Petals
LL’s daughters’Ballads, Grasses and Bliss
Brian’s The Anatomy of a Gift
Laure’s In Itself, To Serve You
Yvette’s Freedom
Monica’s Gratitude, Carpool and Cubicle
Barbara’s The Dance of Pandora
Jim’s Détente
Marcus's Christ is Risen, But
nAncY's Adoration
Cindy's Spring Clean
Crystal's Uneven Exchange
Laura's Burden
Mike's Cool
The Unknown Contributor's Anyday
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Poet Speaks in Tweets

Bird Sign in Vienna

Over at High Calling Blogs, I wrote a post called New Media: honks, tweets and sassy talk. Among other things, it discusses the 'poetry of Twitter.'

I was going to skip doing my own poem this week, but then I wondered if I too might find a poem on Twitter. Here it is, a conglomeration of mini-thoughts from me, Brian, Christine, and Marcus...

I'm Following You Now

Thanks, L.L., not
sure how I feel about
chaos and emptiness,
just signed on
to this and
playing with words
is fun. It is, and I wonder

about the Guatemalan gang
member poets, is it
simply for pleasure
they speak and not
for procreation
of chaos and emptiness
or maybe it's what

they do when they
forget to feed the birds—
thank God! or we'd have
to resort to the top song
at funerals (My Way),
and could we say it
had looked into our souls

anywhere near as
deep as the gang members
playing with words, spitting like
mist. God help me, there will
be evidence itchy as a new
tatoo that I know you'll
appreciate. Evidence that

gang members, playing
with words, say what we all feel
every day and don't say.

Bird Sign in Vienna photo, by J Barkat. Used with permission.

Just Twitter Poetry:
Pristine Poetry, on Twitter

Poetry Friday:
Cindy's Mysterious Gentleman
Monica's This Wrath He Bore
Ann's All Things New
Steve's This is Just to Say
Erica's Bend
nAncY's Therapeia
Laure's Not Yet Conceived But Gleaming
Sarah's Twitter poem
Jim's Twitter Poetry
Deb's When Quiet Needs Song
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Is it Safe to Come Out and Sing?

hidden at window

Life as jazz. Sweet improvisation. Singing one’s song for the world. Such thoughts should inspire, but ironically this chapter in Make the Impossible Possible made me tire of Strickland’s hopeful refrain.

True, he warns that 'choices we make are incredibly risky. They could lead to surprising and sometimes disastrous consequences.' And he reminds, 'when a jazz artist launches on a solo, he takes a frightening leap of faith. Every note, every phrase, every bit of color and texture he or she brings to the music is a risk that could backfire and make the player look like a fool. He could play himself into a corner. Worse, he could play himself out and find he had nothing to say.' But he concludes we can still achieve the impossible if we 'risk ourselves, our time, our careers for what we believe…' (p105)

In a world with all things being equal, this should hold true. And because Strickland comes from a world where all things were not equal, he should be a convincing voice (which, at some level, he certainly is).

But what if the world isn’t ready for our song? I consider a conversation that began over at Scot McKnight’s blog. I asked one of the participants to tell me more and let me share her thoughts here. This is what Barb answered, and I wonder what systemic dynamics work against her song.

Says Barb, 'I don’t like women’s bible studies because women’s groups seem to like to read women’s books. Prime authors include: Beth Moore, Joanna Weaver, etc. No men I know have ever read any of these books—even if the topic could be seen as gender neutral.'

She continues, 'The authors of these women’s books presume that women need woman-friendly examples to understand theological truths—that if it can’t be translated into cooking, child-rearing, house cleaning, or getting along with your husband then women just won’t get it. Favorite topics of books for women, by women, usually relate to personal devotion. A woman’s emotional experience trumps her intellectual experience.'

Finally, Barb asks, 'Where are those gifted women who write like Scot Mcknight (just one example)? He can proclaim a profound theological or biblical truth in a visual and conversational way—I’m thinking about ‘blue parakeets’ and ‘water-slides.’ I’m not really interested in what someone writes in her personal journal. I’m interested in how she (using both sides of her gifted brain) connects what she finds in scripture with her faith and her world. And I would love it if she would write about it in a detached enough way so it’s not limited to her gender’s perspective. I know that women are gaining ground in many areas, but when I look at the big stack of books by my chair—none are written by women. Is this a problem? What can we do?'

The song Barb is singing… is there a place in the world where it can be heard? Or do Strickland’s promises fall flat to women who feel this way? (Men, I’m interested in your response to this too. And, to everyone, it probably goes without saying, but I'd like a cordial discussion, since I'm thinking we all have our sensitivities regarding the issues Barb raises.)

Hidden at the Window photo, by Sara. Used with permission.

High Calling Blogs All that Jazz
Erica's Jazz and Balance

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

For Easter: In Lieu of the New York Times


Where do poems come from?

Sometimes I have a clear vision for a poem and it's simply a matter of pursuing it. Other times I wake up with half a poem in my head and all I need to do is take time to finish it. Then there are those moments of greater discipline when I begin in trust, with an arbitrary image, and hope that a poem will agree to be forged. That's how this poem was created, using the prompt If words were... and an image I settled on without any particular vision for where it might take things: clovers.

Though the poem could be given to any number of people in my life, I eventually saw its potential as the words of God to me (and to you) this Easter... an invitation, yet again, to "taste and see that [he] is good."

'In Lieu of the
New York Times'

If words were
I’d pluck mine
and lay them
at your doorstep,
retreat to shade
of oak,
watch you become
a child again,
poke past purple
spikes, nip tender
white tips with
teeth, freely sip
raw sugar, lick
your lip.

Clover photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Goodwordediting's Surprised by a Styrofoam Jesus
Marcus Goodyear's unconventional Good Friday poem God Breathed, at Catapult
Jim's Yet Still
Ann's Necessary
High Calling Blogs' RAP: Eating Our Words on Good Friday
Scott's An Easter Poem

Byron Borger's Hard Lessons, review at Catapult
High Calling Blogs Bottleneck in the Communion Line
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Monday, April 06, 2009

Practical Power of a Well-Founded Dream

Elizabrth Weller Cards 2

Elizabeth Weller Cards

You've got a package, my husband calls up the stairs.

Leave it there. I'll look at it later, I call back. Saturday is writing day, and it takes a lot to extricate me from my writing-room, my precious solitude.

When I finally go downstairs to prepare lunch, I'm excited by the name on the return address. Elizabeth Weller, newfound blogging photographer friend, generous sharer of art and thought. I'd recently noticed that Elizabeth has an Etsy Store and had ordered some of her greeting cards. Ah! They arrived.

Upon opening the package, I'm struck by the care she's taken. Each set of cards is individually wrapped, with an extra gift of photographic love tucked beneath each yarn tie. Why, she even penned me a lovely note, saying, I thought I'd send along this photo, having read that your next book is on *place*...

This is sweetness, pure and simple. If Elizabeth's dream is to share her art with the world, she is well on her way to doing so and finding some champions for her cause. Who wouldn't want to promote a woman of such artistry and care?

Suddenly, I think of Bill Strickland's words in chapter four of Make the Impossible Possible. He says, Trust your passion, identify your dreams, and find the courage to share them with others, no matter how many times they call you a fool. If your vision has merit, no matter how impossible it may seem, someone will recognize it and help you make it come true. That's the practical power of a well-founded dream.

Strickland is not talking auto-success, or even saying that all dreams will come true. But he is saying that someone like Elizabeth might just find her place in the world if she has the courage and generosity to share a well-founded dream.

Greeting Card photos by L.L. Barkat. Greeting cards by Elizabeth O. Weller

High Calling's Hope Finds a Home
Laura's Visionary
Erica's Impossible Dreams
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Friday, April 03, 2009

What is Poetry?

The Doll

What is poetry,
she asked, fetching
it to me with full
hands. How could I
answer the woman?
I do not know what
it is any more than
she. I guess it must
be marks on tender
skin, bearers of sin,
cool cups of rain
and bottles of tears
collected on midnight
trains from the eyes
of old men, old women
and infants traveling
to God knows where,
it hangs and is lifted
from our hair
goes onward and
onward speaking
itself, tripping us
as we debark
metal stairs.

Photo by Sara. Used with permission. Poem based on Song of Myself, Section 6, by Walt Whitman.

Next week's poetry prompt: Let's try If words were... [choose an object: chocolate, soda cans, envelopes, a pillow, whatever!]. What would you do to or with the words? Or what would they do to you or someone else? Give us sights, sounds, fragrance, textures, tastes. Post your offering by Thursday evening, April 9, for possible feature and definite links at High Calling Blogs. Drop me a comment and your link URL here.

Yvette's It is Done
All the Links for the Writing Prompt (see "You Tried It")
Cindy's Awakening to Silence
nAncY's Logs and Stones
Laure's 6 O'Clock Evening Hour
High Calling Blogs' Erring on the Side of Oddness
Erica's Spring Snow
TUC's Liar

YOU TRIED IT (If words were prompt):
Cindy's Arbitrarily Speaking
Monica's Maui Words
Lynne's If Words Were Arrows
Jim's If Words Were
Warren's Words
Deb's If the Poem Fits
nAncY's chew on this, the one, if, flashes, again
Sarah's If words were
JoAnn's If Words Were...the Word Is
Brian's A love of language...
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