Saturday, June 26, 2010

Julia Found Words for Me


Where do writing ideas come from?

If we are open to the world, we find they are around every corner, inside every ice cream cone (or Popsicle, as the case may be). Writing ideas are often in the words that other people say. Like these from Julia Cameron...

Wherever I am, wherever I can, I write.... Am I balanced? Overreacting? Happy? Sad? My hand moving across the page teaches me my emotional weather. (p.173)

I loved those words. The minute I read them I knew they contained a poem. If I only I would write it. Part of me wanted to move forward and finish her chapter, but I ignored that dutiful self. There had been the slightest beginning of a discovery, the tip of something, and I decided I'd rather spend my time uncovering what Julia had found for me...

Weather Report

My hand across the page
tells me this is a hot
June day— unbearably
hot— and I am not anymore
the kind of woman who
will sit back and take it
without finding a lime green
Popsicle or a lone shaded stone
on which to eat frozen sweetness
down to its round-edged stick.

What words are waiting for you today, maybe next to the lawn mower? You'd better bring a notebook along to catch and keep them.

Sunset photo by Sara. Used with permission.

HighCallingBlogs Wanted: Friendly Reader
Glynn's Practice of Writing
Marilyn's Sweeping
Nancy's Savoring Life
Cassandra's Like Water on a Stone
Lyla's On Coffee and Caves

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding Your Writing Voice on Twitter

tree veiled

"Are you ready for that?"

Kathleen and I were reading Neruda beneath the redwoods. We talked about his exile. I was startled when Kathleen lowered her voice, looked steadily into my eyes and asked the question.

"Are you ready for that?"

It seemed unreal. Should I, as a writer and poet, ever expect actual exile? Was that was she meant?

continue reading at HighCallingBlogs...

Veil in the Tree photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Cassandra's Dailiness
Nancy's Stuck
Glynn's Voice, Get Over It
Charity's The Sound My Heart Makes: Finding My Voice

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Friday, June 18, 2010

An Accidental Post While Watering the Garden

The Eggplant and Me

I gave myself permission not to write again for a while. Then I went and watered the garden. The eggplants were particularly wilted. I thought about the eggplants. I considered writing. I decided to just think about the eggplants.

Then I came inside and had a glass of water and started reading Julia Cameron, and I decided maybe I will give myself permission to write a post on Monday— one that I start here and structure with a click-over to HighCallingBlogs. The noon spot. Or maybe the 4 o'clock. I am trying not to scare myself back to the eggplants.

Anyway, if I do the post, it will be called something like "Finding Your Voice on Twitter." Or maybe I will just water the garden again.

Framing the Eggplant, a "Mr. Bill" style photo for PhotoPlay.

Erica's Win a Photo, a CD, or Gift Card & Help Bring Them Home

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Sort of Summer Reading List

Self Portrait

Summer books. We've seen the lists.

But do books really have seasons? I'm not so sure.

In any case, I know my soul has seasons with books. Take The Artist's Way, for instance. A few years back, someone suggested I read it. I flipped through and was unimpressed— not with the writing, but with any sense that this was a book for me.

Fast-forward to this spring, when I was revising God in the Yard. One editor said, "Have you ever read The Artist's Way? I think it's got a structure you might want to consider."

I sheepishly admitted that I'd never read the book, never even WANTED to read the book. Then I ordered it from the library.

As it turned out, it was perfect timing. I'm doing an art pilgrimage, after all, and had reached a point of stasis. So I began The Artist's Way, and I truly believe it has led to new directions, beautiful experiences, and even a cleaner closet.

So it seems The Artist's Way is a Spring book, at least this year, at least for me.

What are my Summer books? Here they are, according to the current season of my soul...

My Top 10 Summer Book Picks

1. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I know I said this was a Spring book, but I am still reading it. Which makes it a Summer book as well.

In some ways this has been a hard book for me. It asks us to focus on ourselves, to understand and nurture ourselves. Are we worth it? What if we go overboard and get too selfish?

So far the book has only taken me to joyous places. I think it helps that I bring my musings to you, so this has essentially been a balanced, community experience. I also believe the book led me to make some wondrous turning-point decisions which I will someday share with you. Maybe next summer.

2. Barbies at Communion: and Other Poems. I'm always looking for good poetry. In fact, these days, I rarely buy anything but poetry (and prefer to get my other books from the library). But poetry is something I like to cart around, tab the pages in, and copy for friends. This delightful book even has a few summer poems. Here's one of my favorites...

It Is Never Enough

for Norm and Helena

I am thinking about waves coming into rocky shores,
crashing their way across crooked cliffs like a strange
continuous run of blue and white dominoes.

3. Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her. Since I was a participant in the celebration of Barbies at Communion, I went in search of a few good Barbie books.

I didn't have high hopes. But this book has been a real page turner for me, since it chronicles the rise of a business from zero to millions, including both amazing successes and stunning losses along the way. My own interest in growing an enterprise, along with my appreciation for good storytelling, is making this a timely read.

Plus, if you'll kindly notice by clicking through to Amazon and looking at the cover, Barbie has already shaved her legs for summer. :)

4. Why Translation Matters. I'm putting this on my list because Glynn recommended it. And I've been doing more reading of poetry-in-translation. And I agree. Translation matters. So the book is on hold at the library— you know, a little light reading to take the pool.

5. The Butterfly's Burden. I bought this recently, thanks to Maureen, best poetry advisor. Reading Darwish is like waking to a warm summer morning, when the dew is still on the grass. Wow. Here's a favorite excerpt...

from "Two Stranger Birds in Our Feathers"

... Tell me anything that changes the sky's
ashen color. Tell me some simple
talk, the talk a woman desires
to be told every now and then. Say
that two people, like you and me,
can carry all this resemblance between fog
and mirage, then safely return. My sky
is ashen, so what do you think of when the sky
is ashen?

6. Less Stress in 30 Days. Remember I said this list was seasonal, based on my current mental state? I figure I spent 30 days stressing my brain for the 31DBB Project, maybe I should spend 30 days coaxing it back to serenity. We'll see. This is just for fun— something I might blog about over on Green Inventions. Besides, this book is so relaxed for summer that it even went out of print.

7. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World. I actually found this book in my basement, while doing a little summer cleaning (okay, so I was late for spring cleaning, what can I say?).

Anyway, I've been following the same 30-Day Meal Plan ever since I made it up about 5 years ago. Finding this cookbook, I suddenly felt inspired to ditch the Meal Plan for a while and go through this book in search of new meals. The Nigerian baked beans were completely out of this world. As was the Tex Mex chili made with a lentil base. Summer yum, here we come! :)

8. The Summer Book. It is hard not to include a book with a title like this, on a Summer Reading List. However, I'm not including it for its title, but rather for the simple reason that I'm rereading it. Jansson's prose is simple, beautiful, and often surprising. Like reading poetry (as often as possible), reading this kind of writing helps me be a better writer.

9. The Poets' Book of Psalms: The Complete Psalter as Rendered by Twenty-Five Poets from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. I'm enjoying this one, especially since every so once in a while I like to read the bible in a totally fresh way. This qualifies, though it's only the Psalms. But Psalms make great summer reading, since many of them include pastoral scenes (as in, beautiful outdoor, not the-guy-who-stands-at-the-pulpit.)

10. The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You. I have no idea if I'm going to like this book or not. It's on hold for me at the library. If it's good, I'll read it in a week. If not, I might use it as an impromptu pillow at the beach.

So there you have it. My Top 10 Summer Book Picks. What are yours?

Sunglasses photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Happiness Beyond Writing

lambs ear

I was supposed to take a bath, then run, not walk, to make a list of things that make me happy.

That was Julia Cameron's advice.

I took the bath. It seemed like a perfect Sabbath thing to do.

Should I rush to the page like Julia advised? It seemed counter-Sabbath. I did not rush. In fact, I did not go to the page at all.

Why list the things that make me happy? Why not give the day to acts of joy instead? I thought about God's idea for the Sabbath. Rest. Rest and rejoice.

Downstairs, I made a cup of green tea. I poked through the fridge and found herb-butter my children had made the night before. I slathered it on crusty brown bread and cut a few slices of fresh mozzarella. Simple Sabbath morning.

I took my time. One of my girls sat quietly on the couch, writing. The other was off with Daddy to church. I did not go to church, but instead slept in after a late Saturday night. And woke to Julia's advice. And took my bath. And took my time.

The rest of the day I gave over to friends. A picnic. It rained before we were finished. We moved on to someone's home. I had more tea. This time mint, fresh picked, fresh brewed and iced. We played cards, talked, laughed.

Several times throughout the day I felt drawn to the computer, but I listened to a deeper sense that said, "Not today. Today I do not want to see news, or answer questions, or feel responsible." I played the piano, played guitar, started reading a new chapter book to my kids.

Sabbath. Rest.

Lamb's Ear photo, by L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs' At Least the Potential for Happiness
Cassandra's A Page At a Time
Glynn's Writing in Place, Writing to Place
Marilyn's What Were We Waiting For?
Nancy's Makin' a List
Melo's Day 31: Missed the Boat
Erin's How I Dodged the Writing Police

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Currant Lemon-Thyme Journey Begins

Lemon thyme and petunias

I said I would send a book. Tomorrow it will be on its way.

Why not name the book's journey? That seemed fitting.

So I considered... what is growing in my yard now? Currants, lemon-thyme, buttercups and sage. Ah, The Currant Lemon-Thyme Journey. A little fancy, but why not?


Lemon Thyme

I arrange herbs, leaves, flowers on top of wax paper, fold it over, tuck it in— after I sign a page to the first person on the journey. The book will move on, but the little bits of my yard can be kept, a memory of words and affection passing through.

Herb Gifts


Tucked In

I hope that each person along these travels will not only sign the book but also send a keepsake to the next reader. Something simple from her yard.


And so, the journey begins.

Garden and book photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Stealing Each Other's Words

clock horizontal

The game just got harder over at Tweetspeak Poetry. Now, goodness help us, we're writing sonnets by using each other's words.

Some of these lines are mine (that was necessary because of how we played the game), and some are sheared from others and rewoven. I've changed a few tenses and pronouns. It is still, in my opinion, crowd-sourced poetry. Have a look...

Another Communion

We spit out our past like sour wine,
but it clings to our tongues, thick coats
our minds as quivering lips at the edge of a wine
glass slip over crystal, timber soft notes

that float like lost stories, lost bonds, lost dregs,
because the first time we thought we'd misread,
so we mourn for lost loves and quietly beg,
"Who cooks for you," as though never fed.

We spend our hours discussing hope,
we are praying hard the off'ring will work,
oak pollen too, like ashen seeds of toxic rope,
orange cigarette butts, smashed cans by the curb

to drown out the shouts, the shouts from crazed czars
in our heads, wishing love was within us, not lost, not far.

Well! It is definitely more of a challenge to write a poem that makes sense using words that weren't originally intended to go together. But there you have it. :)

Thanks to the following fellow gamers for letting me steal and reshape their words: @JavaNicky, @KathleenOverby, @MattPriour, @mdgoodyear, @TchrEric, @Denadyer, and @Togetherforgood

Clock photo by L.L. Barkat.

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