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Today’s resolution, from Simone: Expect treats, but watch the hand that feeds you

14 Nov

Ever the optimist, Simone shares these words from I Ching 25, Innocence (The Unexpected):

“Man has received from heaven a nature innately good, to guide him in all his movements. By devotion to this divine spirit within himself, he attains an unsullied innocence that leads him to do right with instinctive sureness and without any ulterior thought of reward and personal advantage. …

But, Simone warns, temper optimism with realism. A dog knows these things instinctively:

“However, not everything instinctive is nature in this highest sense of the world, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. Without this quality of rightness, an unreflecting, instinctive way of acting out brings only misfortune.”

Simone at the rose garden, Clinton School of Public Service. Simone notes that the metaphor here is too obvious to mention. (2011/RO)

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Today’s resolution: A consideration of ethics

7 Nov

A note for those involved in determining the resolution of our nation’s financial situation:

“Manners and moral codes may alter, but not the structures that underlie. Ethics are the invisible scaffolding upon which our actions are built and without which life would be insupportable. Ethical conduct follows an unwritten law that runs in every part of the world, forming a path for all action. Becoming sensitive to its dictates is like acquiring taste, poise, or insight. Its invisible lines run laser-straight from our soul to the object of our consideration.  … Ethics upholds the rights, privileges and identity of every living soul …” — Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit

This old feed store was set up as a bank during Frontier Days at Plainview, Arkansas (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Sustain my world

4 Nov

Just a short thought for today as I’m buried in work, playing catch-up after 10 days 0f vertigo. This sums up perfectly what sustains me — and what I am trying to sustain — at the moment:

“The three immovable and perfect rocks on which the judgments of the world are sustained: the poet, the written word, and nature.” — Irish triad from Senchus Mor

Colorado rocks on the deck rail, 2011 (Photo/RO)

Today’s resolution: Spinning a dizzying low

30 Oct

My world has been spinning for a solid week now as I fight vertigo resulting from labyrinthitis brought on by who knows what. A virus? Upper respiratory infection? Gremlins? BPA in my water bottle? A lack of hops?

I feel like I’m walking on the Titanic  and when I’m stationary, my head’s still a top on a string. So I haven’t been writing and I’m sorely missing it. I feel out of touch with reality, with imagination, with life, with the words that are the tools for my connections and how I keep things sorted. Every word puts something in the right spot, regulates flow of meaning like rings on pistons. Or something like that. As I said, spinning here.

My good news this week is that the venerable NPR radio show for Southern writers, Tales from the South, has accepted my story “Tony’s Gift.” I’ll read it on the Nov. 8 show at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock.

I sent the story in last month as a exercise in moving beyond my comfort zone. I figured if that went well, I would proceed on the next phase of pushing even farther outside the C-Zone. So now I’m out here, thrilled and terrified and hoping I don’t stutter.

Fortunately, I’ll be in the good company of fellow writer Tim Bennett, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for more than 20 years.

If you’re inclined, please come to the show and buoy me and Tim with positive vibes, all that good stuff. Tickets can be purchased here.

Now I feel the need to spin off in another direction… the inner ear provides a wild ride. But I know my friend Laura would add a song if she were writing about vertigo, so here you are — U2-Vertigo.

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Today’s resolution: A little mind dance

20 Oct

There have been times when my imagination has gotten me into trouble or thrown me into an anxious looping frenzy. Mostly, though, imagination has been my salvation. The world of my mind is a bright, brilliantly intense place of dance, color, light and song (yes, there, I can actually sing … and I dance, dance, dance in the music video of my life), and it’s full of imaginative people with the faces of flowers. As you may imagine, I have never needed hallucinogens.

Imagination means I never run out of ideas for articles and stories, and I never tire of interviewing interesting people. I marvel at my life sometimes, amazed that I’ve managed a career that allows me to run with my imagination.

So, today, I share with you another favorite passage from J. Ruth Gendler‘s The Book of Qualities:

“When Imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth. When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars.

“Some people accuse Imagination of being a liar. They don’t understand that she has her own ways of uncovering the truth. She studied journalism in junior high school. It gave her an excuse to interview interesting people. She was surprisingly good at writing articles. When in doubt, she just made things up. More recently, Imagination has been working as a fortuneteller in the circus. She has this way of telling your fortune so clearly that you believe her, and then your wishes start to come true.

“Imagination is studying photography now with an eye toward making films. She has no intention of working in one of those factories where they manufacture images that lull us to sleep. Her vision is more complex, and very simple. Even with the old stories, she wants us to see what has never been seen before.”

I very much want to meet Ms. Gendler.

Dancing statues near the Clinton Library, Little Rock, Ark. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Simplicity in time of decrease

18 Oct

Over the past 2 1/2 years, my life has become both simpler and more complex because of the economic downturn — complex because I must be ever more resourceful and creative to earn a living and simpler, too, for the same reason but also because a decrease in fortune requires me to strip my life down to essentials. It’s not always easy or desirable, but I try to make it work. Most days, it does. And it’s good.

This passage from I Ching, or Book of Changes, resonates on this first cold rain of fall as I pass through my time of decrease:

“Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for future undertakings. …

“One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; then the power of the content makes up for the simplicity of form.”

Cold rain at Lake No. 1, North Little Rock, (2011/RO)

 

 

Today’s resolution: Keep on the sunny side

12 Oct

“In Claude’s landscape all is lovely — all amiable — all is amenity and repose; — the calm sunshine of the heart.” — John Constable, A Course of Lectures to the Royal Institution

If this pig’s name isn’t Claude, it should be. A little snooze in the sunshine looks like a bright idea, doesn’t it? Reminds me, too, that it’s always helpful to look on the sunny side of life. Don’t believe me — listen to Mother Maybelle.

Sunny side up (2009/RO)

Today’s resolution: Love Whimsy

9 Oct

From The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. The first time I read this passage, I thought, “This is me!”:

I painted my bathroom a bright shiny purple and put a huge gecko on the wall. It's a little crazy, but I like it..

“Whimsy is not afraid to be outrageous but she is basically shy. She has all kinds of books, and she arranges them on the shelves by the color of the cover or how the titles sound next to each other. She was especially pleased to put a book on African dyeing called Into Indigo next to a dark blue book on Jewish mysticism. Her clothes are also kept by color in the closet.

“When Whimsy was a little girl, she would stay in the museum with the marble walls talking to the statues after everyone else left. She has trouble keeping her shoelaces tied but in every other way she is as practical as your next door neighbor. Because she is wild, people expect her to entertain them. She is not encouraging anyone else to live like her. Remembering how abruptly her brother was locked up for being a troublemaker, she fears people who treat her like a curiosity. Freedom is her lover.”

Today’s resolution: ‘After the mystery’

5 Oct

As a writer, I’m always interested in other writers — why they write, what they get from it, what they hope to convey. Sometimes I look to them for explanations of myself, of what I do. Today, I turned to Wallace Stegner and his essay “The Law of Nature and Dream of Man: Ruminations on the Art of Fiction” (Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs) and found this:

“The writers I admire, and still admire, are not carpenters but sculptors. Their art was and is a real probe of troubling human confusions. … They were after the mystery implicit in the stone.”

Yes, the “mystery implicit in the stone.” That’s what I hope to uncover while writing. I want to reach a deeper meaning of something, of anything, of everything. I want to dig into those “troubling human confusions” that confound me and create currents of anxiety that are somewhat soothed by the perception of having touched upon a pebble of understanding.

The writing process is a struggle for I can never be satisfied with knowing just the facts. I have to find the why — more than the why, in truth. I often compare myself to other writers and wonder what satisfies them and if I’ll ever be satisfied with what meaning I manage to uncover through thought and language — or thought through language. So many doubts.

I find some comfort and inspiration in Stegner’s words: “By now I am prepared to guess that any method that lets a writer lay bare a moment of mystery is legitimate. Skill is whatever works. Different skills will work for different writers, and upon different readers, but any skill must work toward something.”

I have work to do.

Today’s resolution: If there is no choice?

3 Oct

As we begin another work week, here’s something to think about from one of my favorite poets, W.B. Yeats.

The Choice

The intellect is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.
(1932)

Entering the woods of the river walk at Two Rivers Bridge (2011/RO)