Archive for ‘Inspiration’

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

February 4th, 2011

Coming back to Reality, SC,  after a month in London was like being Dorothy falling back into her black and white world after the journey through all the colors of Oz. I know “normal” life has to be filled with errands, laundry, dead plants, overdue bills, and just plain drabness sometimes, often. But I wish I could figure out how to see my little, familiar world with the eyes of a stranger. Kind of like falling in love with your predictable husband all over again. Maybe it starts with seeing myself in a new way. Wearing clothes that make me feel exotic and unfamiliar to my own being. Pursuing a project that is all mine, a personal passion, and carrying that around like a secret all day. Wearing perfume that makes me feel like an amoureuse even when no one but me is there to appreciate it. In January, the windows at the Le Bon Marche department store  in Paris were themed around different meetings in 2011: deliciousness, inspiration, greed, love, voluptuousness. The creativity of each one made me want to be, do, make something equally inspiring and witty and beautiful. Now that I’m home, when I walk in my neighborhood, I won’t pass a Middle Eastern grocery with piles of Turkish delight in the window and little cups of pomegranate seeds for sale on sidewalk,  or the news agent with a gazillion papers and magazines or the Waitrose grocery with its inventive packaging or the Tube signs beckoning me on a new adventure. I’ve fallen back into my black-and-white world, and now it’s up to me to film it in Technicolor. To see myself in lights instead of complaining that everything around me is so dull-colored. I promise to try to re-new myself in 2011.

Calling All Angels

September 20th, 2010

If you pulled your bike out of my spider-webbed shed and rode it a few blocks from my house, this is the view you’d find. Because we’re entering the days of splendor in the marsh grass and fiery fall skies in my part of the country.  Soon there will be goblin moons suspended above the ocean, and I heard yesterday there were dozens and dozens of spinner sharks driven shoreward from the passing hurricane, leaping out of the water like star-spangled acrobats. I daydream about living another life, a bigger life, in a different place, and then I remember William Blake never traveling anywhere and seeing angels everywhere. They must be here, too — it’s just my vision that’s faulty.

Signs of Love

September 15th, 2010

This graffito was chalked on the wall of a parking lot by my office — street art that will be washed away in the next rain. I’ve been having an email dialogue with an old friend about the nature of love.  He’s still looking for that one soul mate, while I believe I’ve had too many. His romanticism makes me feel jaded, while my distance makes him wonder what happened to the teenager he fell in love with. He believes in Forever, but For Awhile has always been my experience. I don’t think one of us is any happier than the other, but he might be more hopeful, and since men have a much easier time dating as they grow older, he probably has more grounds for optimism in that area. But little signs like this one give me a different kind of hope–that in a world where hate, meanness and bigotry seem to be on the rise, someone is out there drawing pink hearts in public.

Double Dog Dare You

August 25th, 2010

This week I took a step outside my comfort zone (which is always set at about 80 degrees) by submitting an essay to a writing competition run by a national magazine. Regardless of the fact that I started my own local magazine, I still break out in a sweat to think of sending my work out to a larger venue. After all, isn’t that why I started my own publication — to avoid rejection? I always accept anything I submit to myself!  And then a friend emailed me the link to the competition with the message “Today’s the deadline–do it.”  My first reaction was that there was no way I could write 1500 words off the top of my head in an afternoon. But I feel like I’m saying “no” way too much lately. And I needed a challenge, so why not try? Why not try and not tell anyone in case I couldn’t pull it off? Why not try it, submit it and not tell anyone in case I didn’t win? But in the end it was such a win for me just to prove to myself I could do it that I felt like I was walking on air after I emailed it off to the magazine running the competition. I didn’t go on a safari, I didn’t run for office, I didn’t learn how to parasail. I just hit “Send” and that was huge for me. What is “daring” for you?

Goodnight Moon

August 20th, 2010

I read today that the moon is shrinking and that Barnes & Noble is up for sale. I know there are more urgent problems in the world (like Sarah Palin’s shrinking IQ and expanding ego being in charge of our future), but I just cannot handle a diminished moon and no shelves of books to lose myself in on a Sunday afternoon. We’ve  already lost handwritten letters, and printing out emails for posterity doesn’t have the same feel without the eccentric handwriting, different textures of paper, colorful stamps. I have a cigar box with a bundle of pale blue airmail love letters written by two different men from two different countries in a long-ago summer, and they still exude a bit of moonlight and wantonness when I come across them and open the lid. So I don’t want to think of the moon forever waning or sexting replacing love letters or books becoming museum exhibits — even though I’m the most gadget-crazy person I know. I still need the mystery of love and mysteries published on paper and a moon so full and ripe it renders me speechless with awe.

Happy FridaDay!

July 6th, 2010

It’s the birth anniversary of Frida Kahlo…patron saint of this website, so I had my high school portrait photoshopped in her honor. She wasn’t classically beautiful — after all, how many fashion magazines celebrate the unibrow and faint mustache? — and yet she was riveting because of her talent and her deep personailty. To me, she’s every woman who might decide to be an ugly duckling, who creates despite or because of her suffering, who has the capacity for big love even if it’s not predictable or traditional. Recently I was flagellating myself in retrospect because all the men I’ve been involved with were just plain wrong for me. And yet, and yet …. sometimes there’s a soul  mate you can’t live with in the usual two-car garage, PTA way, but who you will never forget and never regret. Why try to discount it or write it off as “dysfunctional?” Why not accept that he or she birthed a part of you that otherwise would have died or lain dormant? That’s what Frida means to me — the potential realized, the wildness recognized, the life unapologized.

In my daughter’s absence, her border collie has transferred his total abject slavering loyalty to me. Not because I give off dog-person vibes, but because I’m The Keeper of the Throw Stick and Ball. I’m a benevolent dictator with one subject. In return for my throwing a ball to him about 655 times a day, he shadows me 24/7. He fetches, barks at strangers and even knows how to open and close doors (handles only, knobs are beyond him). If he had opposable thumbs I think I could teach him how to braid hair and run the vacuum cleaner…as long as a ball toss was the reward. The funny thing is that even though I’m the most distractable and impatient person possible, I find myself calming down as I repeat the throw over and over and over. I envy the single-minded joy that ripples through Scout’s body when he chases the ball as if it were the first time instead of the thousandth. His focus is total, his pursuit passionate, even when the ball gets lost in the underbrush or woods. It’s in his DNA, and he never loses sight of the goal. I want to have the same commitment to my work and pure pleasure in the doing of it instead of dreading it or debating whether it’s worth doing.

Little girls seem to have an insouciant style that comes from deep within some confident, unfettered place in their souls. Glitter shoes with a plaid kilt, rain boots with tutus, princess dresses with cowboy boots. Costumes come as naturally as brilliant wings on butterflies. But then we grow up, and we follow one trend after another, or we give up and try to keep it simple by wearing black every day, or we cover up our unconventional cravings in corporate suits. I’m too old to wear a flower headband, I think, or I want to wear 40s wedges and ankles socks but I’ll look ridiculous or Why can’t I pull off the Audrey Hepburn look? Why can’t I pull off my own look? Why do I shy away from clothes that might draw attention to me? Yeah, sometimes I wish I could throw a burka-equivalent over my pajamas and go to the grocery without giving a damn, but other times, I miss the glittericity.

?! ?! ?!

April 17th, 2010

The Interrobang is my favorite punctuation mark because it says WTF? and WOW! at the same time. Curiosity and astonishment are qualities I need to cultivate and nurture in order to stay interested in my work. Unfortunately, my old friends apathy and inattention are always lurking and waiting to move in when my guard is down. When that happens, I have to think up ways to get excited about life and art again…and again and again and again. Here are a few of my tricks:

1. Order lots of art supplies I don’t need or know how to use from Dick Blick.

2. Fall in love or lust. Either will do. Unfortunately that’s not as easy to order up as Sakura gel pens.

3. Give or throw away lots of things — it never fails to clear a mental space for me.

4. Work on something difficult for me like Photoshop or French; I can’t obsess about a dry spell when my brain is working like an ox.

5. Magazines — as many as I can buy and lots of different kinds to feed the idea bank, from Psychology Today to Selvedge to Esquire to Elle Decor to Vanity Fair to Fast Company (and I even miss Gourmet even though I’m an indifferent and impatient cook). I never know where I’ll come across an image or a phrase or an article that will set me off on a creative safari (or a creative wild goose chase). If I only read what I’m interested in, I start to repeat myself. It’s part of what Twyla Tharp calls “scratching for ideas.”

6. Reading poetry doesn’t make me feel competitive the way I do when I read prose I wish I’d written; instead, it’s like giving my exhausted inner writer a glass of champagne. Most recent purchase: Flying by Beverly Rollwagen. Most likely to kickstart my writing motor: Jane Kenyon or Mary Oliver.

7. Heart-rate raising, hair-raising  aerobic exercise, which I detest in all its forms, always makes me feel shiny and new, like I’ve just been saved at a Holy Ghost Revival. Not exercising feels so good, but I know it works and there’s no way around it.

8. Taking a book to read and a journal to write in to a coffee house in order to be around other people. Their conversation works like white noise for me and helps me get into a zone of concentration that I sometimes can’t manage when I’m home alone with too many distractions.

9. A glass of wine and The New York Times on a late Sunday afternoon, preferably on my porch in summer and on my couch in winter. Opening one of the last real newspapers in the country never fails to give me something to look forward to no matter how dull I’m feeling. It’s rare that I don’t find a piece somewhere in the paper that pulls me under and throws me back to the surface dazed and amazed.

10. A long shower or driving on a road trip. With either one, I go into what I think of as a humming state of mind. I’m cut off from the outside world, away from work or responsibiity, in a duty-free zone. I wish I could simulate those conditions at will.

How do you work the interrobang?

Tell Me

March 24th, 2010

I read an intriguing post on The Improvised Life blog about taking sabbaticals and what (aside from jobs and money!) keeps us from taking time off to dream and imagine and explore other paths. She posed the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  Is it doable if we want it enough? I’ve always longed for a sabbatical that someone else paid for, but that has really gotten me no closer to time off, so now I’m thinking about how I can pay for my own sabbatical. A friend of mine suggested that society should start thinking of the first year of retirement as a sabbatical, a deliberate and planned pause instead of a full stop. A pause for renewal before starting the next phase of your intellectual life versus thinking you’re being put out to pasture. But I wish we could all, no matter where we are in life,  have periodic sabbaticals that are kairos intervals, in the sense of holy time or a special time of opportunity. Creating an inviolate, sacrosanct time for ourselves in which to reflect, read, walk, write, regenerate is just as important as taking the kids to Disneyworld, heading south for spring break or having a frantic, antic Christmas. Tell me: What would you do if you had a year off, where would you go and what would you do if you weren’t afraid?