Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
|My Daydream Window|
"You're working on a creative problem, and then all of a sudden that feeling of progress disappears ... What you should do then — when you hit the wall — is get away from your desk. Step away from the office. Take a long walk. Daydream. Find some way to relax. Get those alpha waves. Alpha waves are a signal in the brain that's closely correlated with states of relaxation. And what scientists have found is that when people are relaxed, they're much more likely to have those big 'A ha!' moments, those moments of insight where these seemingly impossible problems get solved. So when you hit the wall, the best thing you can do is probably take a very long, warm shower. The answer will only arrive once you stop looking for it."
Friday, March 16, 2012
For hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived, the Cayuga band of the Haudenosaunee (the "People of the Longhouse," also known as the Iroquois) built their timber longhouses in the area of upstate New York where I live. According to the 2000 census, more than 80,000 people in the United States are descendants of these First People.
The Haudenosaunee divide the year into lunar months, each with a name that describes an important seasonal event. Last week's full moon is known as the Maple Moon, the time when the sap starts to flow again in the maple trees after the long winter of dormancy, and maple syrup and maple sugar production begins.
That poetic name for the March full moon provided a starting point for a story that I wrote in Zee's Writing Circle, which I mentioned in my previous post. The "spark" for that particular Circle was a rainbow of Pantone color samples that Zee spread out on a table. I chose:
(Can you see those colors in the opening photo I took of the March sunset? It was probably not coincidental that I was drawn to those particular hues.)
Zee has just started posting stories written in Circle at her online literary journal, "Painted Parrot." I hope you'll visit every Friday when she posts a new story, or perhaps even subscribe to get a story in your inbox every week. You can read my Maple Moon story by clicking here.
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 9:31 AM
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I have been writing lately. Not a lot, and not especially directed.
I have been writing in short bursts, while waiting in doctor's offices and therapist's waiting rooms and restaurants. Writing in a red Moleskine journal with a pack of Stabilo markers. A rainbow of words: notes on the weather, on the spring flowers gently breaking the back of winter, the light at play under a scrim of clouds, a maple moon hanging sweet in the star-bright night. Snippets of overheard conversations. Measures of my own emotional climate, changeable as it is. Definitions, quotes, notes from books that are like these rivers feeding into me.
Most importantly, I have been writing in a Circle. I have been taking part in a writing group, Zee's Writing Circle. Writers, all women, gather in a circle of mismatched chairs and write on a particular prompt, or "Spark," for one hour. The "Spark" may be an object, a photograph, a quotation that helps a story emerge--memoir, poetry, fiction.
After that hour of intense writing, we eat a piece of chocolate (sweet reward!) and then we read aloud our stories. Listening to an annotated list of items purchased at the hardware store, we hear the story of a person's life and loves. We revisit a long-shuttered bookstore, imagine Tulip Queens and drunken firemen, hear the booming voices of shopkeepers and the sweet lisping voices of toddlers.
We write about ourselves and the people near and dear to us, both real and invented; visit places of memory or imagination, some paradises, others plagued by disaster or littered with disquieting portents of danger.
As I have been listening with deep attention to these amazing stories that emerge in one short hour during Circle, I am being nudged to accept something that a very wise person clarified for me:
Writing is a sacred practice, involving reverence and devotion.
Writing is entering a sacred space.
Writing is slipping into sacred time: past, present, and future in one.
And believe me when I say that I don't use the word "sacred" lightly, or easily. I use the word in the sense of something essential to life and the conscious living of it, the "unnameable, indescribable source of life and consciousness that pervades every particle of reality." (Nancy J. Napier, Sacred Practices for Conscious Living, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.)
When I embrace writing as sacred practice, I discover through words a joyful mix of spirit and grace and love and laughter. As I write, I notice. I notice and am inexplicably moved by the gentle swaying of a linen banner caught in a breath of air; my Loki-boy catching a falling gold leaf on the palm of his hand. I find joy singing through me when I find the right words to put to the melody of objects. When I write, really write, I dive deep. I slip into some hidden pool within myself and access forgotten memories, making new connections as I weave a story from them. As I put myself in the head and heart of a character, I call on my reserves of empathy and compassion.
It's not easy for me, this practice. I have to lift the barriers of inattention and distraction and exhaustion and depression and let myself practice this sacred act of writing--this sacrament of pen and paper or pixels and screen.
When I do so, I am alive, open to myself and the world and the everyday expression of the sacred.
(Whoa, my sacred time is up! Even Priestesses of the Word have to emerge every now and then from sacramental practice in the Temple of Type to shuttle a child to math tutoring, make a lemonade pick-me-up for another, and feed hungry children. :) )
Local chatter from ZenCrafter at 10:07 AM
Friday, March 2, 2012
"Why do Mexicans like bright colors?"
That's what a friend asked me in college.
I was simultaneously stunned at the stereotype coming from this intelligent, well-read person and stumped for how to respond.
I hate to admit it, but I spent a lot of years after that running away from color. Earth-toned sweaters, gray t-shirts, black turtlenecks became my wardrobe staples, worn over khakis or faded blue jeans.
As if I could hide my ethnicity under dun camouflage.
But you know what? Color has seeped back into my wardrobe and my life. Color is sneaky that way. Color can't be contained.
My closet still has its share of neutrals, but they share space with my happy tangerine sweater, a breezy safflower cable-knit pullover, my coral pink and turquoise t-shirts, a deep red Valentine of a blouse, my orange-and-red winter boots. My journals pulse with stories written in rainbow-hued markers and collages in a riot of colors.
Color is the expression of life: sunlight focused through a broken bottle to form a tiny rainbow on the wall, the upwelling of spirit and grace as a flower bursts into bloom, the pulsing of blood beneath a rosy cheek on a winter day.
Color makes me happy.
For more true confessions about color, head over to the paintedparrot, a new online literary journal curated by writer and editor (and my inspiring and true friend) Zee Zahava. The first post is a collection of "true" sentences about color written by 65 writers of various ages.