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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Broken

            One of the best-known gospel stories has to do with Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes with nothing but five loaves of bread and two fish, offered by some who were among the crowd.  At the conclusion of the event, we are informed that there were leftovers: twelve baskets full of broken pieces.  It was mention of the broken pieces that my attention refocused.  Broken pieces.  Isn’t that what all of us are in this broken world?
            My thoughts go to Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, and well, the whole Middle East.  They also go to our own country, in places like Ferguson, Missouri and other places of racial tension and anger and bloodshed.  I think of Greensboro and the poor and hungry residents here.  I think of the violence against women across the country, of families who are broken because of a multitude of reasons . . . we are indeed a broken world.
            Sometimes we take refuge in our Face Book messages, our Twitter accounts, our organizations and places of worship, waiting for the Great Superhero to swoop into our lives and rescue us all.  Sometimes we simply feel so overwhelmed that we withdraw into ourselves, our own needs, our own ideas.  Sometimes instead, we let our vulnerability to the power of others, their words and their wealth, provide escape routes from the realities we live in every day.  We forget our own power, as we cower under the weight of brokenness in our world.  We depend on what is beyond our own strength to make everything right.  The result simply becomes a life that is more broken.  The pieces taunt us and we escape into whatever is available to make us ignore the pain of being broken.
            I strain to recognize where the glue is that will mend our societies, our political structures, our battlefield injuries, our hatreds, our efforts to kill possibilities for change.  I hope that we can lay down the guns of death, both those real and those symbolic of death.  I hope we can discover how to put back together this jigsaw of pieces so that the complete picture will be one of community and progress.  I know it is present somewhere in the maze of disarray and splintered society, and our call is to locate the healing and become what we once dreamed of for our lives together.  Thus endeth my sermonizing for this day.
           

                        

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Heather Ross Miller's newest collection holds poems about her professor (or teacher, as she names him) Randall Jarrell, her birth family and her married family, and observations of what lies around her and in her mind's eye.  Celestial Navigator: Writing Poems with Randall Jarrell connects teacher and student in the work of bringing poems to life, the right word with the right line, the beauty of syllables and of laughter abounding through the lives of Randall and wife Mary.

Miller's classmates at what was then Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, drew upon inspirations that flowed from this poet, forming a unique sorority of young women captivated by a master of our language.  I regret not having met Jarrell, and will be posting another blog about that oversight in my life, but now I want to say bravo to Heather Ross Miller for giving this man back to us in ways we could never do: through her poetry.  

She describes herself in "A Woman Things Happen To" as:
". . . I'm an old woman
who tends the fire, waving aside smoke,
and dipping out the best morsels
so the children can eat."

She introduces her mentor in "Speaking In Tongues" by this stanza:
"Dandelions ripened and flew while I drew
on the sidewalks my hopscotch, world wars,
and fierce new tongues, German, Japanese.
Then when I'd grown and gone to college,
I found a man who spoke these, wrote these,
laughed them out loud, tongues he brought
together in one place, smelting sounds
in a Spartan kind of thing, a poem,
and he said I could too."

And so she could. And so she does still.  You need to read how she responds with her life-long words and poems.  I've given you just a quick taste of what she learned from that Celestial Navigator.






Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working with Words

Today is a sunny day, just right for spilling words into it.  When the chaos of the world overwhelms, as it does: Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Latin America, and leaders try to set things right again: Pope Francis, President Obama, the unnamed peacemakers throughout this world, I feel whelmed over.  
I am a political animal who enjoys writing poems and flash fiction, and a reader of murder mysteries and friends' poetry collections.  I read the newspaper, internet news,watch msnbc, and on the car radio I prefer music stations to news. 
Saying all this, today I need to sit beside Katie, the beagle-jackrussell, and let her bark her little heart away at all the noises in the neighborhood.
The churches are in trouble.  The country is in trouble.  The world is in trouble.  So today I plan to ignore all the troubles, until I come up with a solution.  Or resolution.  My next blog will probably have more to read about.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Labels Can Be Harmful

To begin my blogging again, I'll share this poem written a while ago because it seems to be relevant still, unfortunately:

        First I was, by birthright, a conservative like the
        rest of my family, active in politics of the Right
        during college and fearful of Communists. Then I
        moved leftward after marriage until I claimed with
        pride the label of liberal.  I loved the word and did
        all the things that would put me into the liberal
        camp like make friends with the black community
        during those dangerous civil rights times when to
        question prejudices was unacceptable by the social
        crowd I ran with, and to question the political
        decisions by a Republican President got me in
        trouble and I was no better off because my
        alternate label in those days was radical feminist.
                 Then the L word became a smear from the
                  other side and eventually lost its wings but
                  soon it was modified to white liberal and
                  that was not something to be desired so I
                  changed vocabularies and became a
                  progressive.  A naive progressive.  An
                  innocent progressive.  I was in the
                  progressive wing of the church and a
                  progressive activist in civic organizations
                  and so I progressed.
        Now that label is no good because the word is attached to 
        mystique which morphs into progressive myth which
        leaves some ambiguity but overall I find myself confused
        and unable to fit beneath any label so far except some that
        I will not use lest they too become out of date and
        misbegotten.           




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time To Return

After a very long hiatus from my blog, I have decided that it is time to start blogging again.  I will be adding posts very soon, and sharing thoughts, activities, and other stuff on here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ginger and Spot: Tips on Successful Writing



 This is my last blog for a while.  I wrote it some time in the later ‘70’s.  It seems an appropriate way to close down for a spell.  I may get back to blogging after a time out.
(the posted version seems to have some spacing problems between words that I can't change)
n                    


n            Hi there, Mrs. Moody.  Ready for your first creative consultation?

n           Oh my . . . well, I suppose so, Mr. Beardsley.  I . . . I don’t know if this little piece is what you want, but . . .

n           No problem, Mrs. Moody.  Throw it out to me, and we’ll see how it flows.  Give me your first line.

n           (clearing her throat): “Hey, Leroy.  Drop the shades and watch that cat zap up the tree.”

n             Mmnnh.  First of all, Mrs. Moody, a basic rule in writing is to know your reading audience, and       how you can communicate.  Now before we get into your line there, let’s see if you can give us a    catchy lead-in statement.  The principle character here seems to be a cat, right?

n            Well, one of the characters, you might say.

n          Mmnh.  Let’s see then.  What motivated the cat?

n         I hadn’t gotten to that yet.

n         But you must.  How about . . . how about a dog?

n         That’s what I’m trying to . . .

n         OK.  Now take a step backward into the plot, and try again.

n         How about, “Leroy!  Ain’t I told you to get that damn dog out of the house?”

n         Er, maybe you could move ahead one step.  Who is looking at the dog and cat?

n         Leroy and his friend Jefferson.

n         All right.  Give Jefferson something to say, like “See the dog.”  By the way, give him a name . . .  Spot.  Now try again.

n         Well, I hadn’t given this much thought.  “Hey, Leroy.  Old Spot’s chasing cats again.”

n          No no, Mrs. Moody.  Children can’t take in so much vocabulary when they are beginning to   read.  Simplify.  Simplify and clarify.  Now, please, Mrs. Moody.  Let’s give it the old professional try.  Remember?  Write and re-write.  Right?

n        Yes sir.  Simplify.  You’re perfectly right, of course.  Let’s see now . . .  “See" . . . oh I have it:  “See Spot”   . . . uh . . . “See Spot run.”

         Great!  Now your juices are flowing!  Keep on.  Repetition is effective.  Run it past the kids again   for emphasis.

n         “See Spot.  See Spot run.”  But Mr. Beardsley, don’t you think . . .

n         You’re doing fine.  Now introduce you protagonist.  Don’t you think you should identify these characters by name for the kids?  How about Ginger for the cat?  I once had a cat named Ginger. . . she got mangled by a Beagle and . . . but excuse me.  This is your story.  Keep your style consistent, remember.  Now, you’re on your own here for the next line, but keep it simple.

n         You mean like this?  “Hey Leroy.  What’s your cat’s name?”

n         No, no, no, Mrs. Moody.  Keep it simple.

n         Uh . . . “See Ginger” . . . uh . . . “See Ginger run.”

n         Now you’re on to something.  Action words . . . keeps things hopping.

n          But Mr. Beardsley.  I have trouble thinking in direct terms.  Do I have to get rid of the line I had to begin       with?

n         To be frank with you,  Mrs. Moody, that line has to go.  No kids can get through it.  Another rule:  clean out the excess.  Remove the garbage from your writing.  Nothing is too good that it can’t be left out of a story.  You’ve got to let go.  Now, try some free association.

n          Well, here’s how I might try it: “See Spot.  See Spot run.  See Ginger.  See Ginger run.” Now, um . . . um. .  . Oh, I think I’ve got the swing of it now.  “See Jane.  See Jane run.  See Dick.  See Dick run.  See            Mother.  See Mother run.  See Father.  See Father run.  See . . . 

n          Stop right there, Mrs. Moody.  Don’t over-write.  Know when you’ve come to the end of your     plot.  Leave them hanging.  Don’t resolve.

n          Yes.  Oh yes, Mr. Beardsley.  My, what a great help you’ve been this morning.  If it weren’t for you, no  telling where I might have gone with that story.

n         That’s what I’m here for.  See you next week, Mrs. Moody.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Counseling Session: Overflow of Sorrow

A flash fiction episode, not to be a continued story:



            It happened between Rocky Road and Orange Sherbert . . . my most memorable counseling opportunity. It happened this way.
             I set up office where she corners me beside frozen desserts.  Her litany of pain is familiar: the bad hip, high blood pressure, “sugar.”  Today there is a new one, the one that has been hiding behind facades of facile reasons.  “They fired me last week.”  Her eyes brim, tears overflowing onto frozen packages of pie-crusts, fruit, cakes, which soon are swimming in briny sorrow.
            Having learned to listen, saying nothing, I stand there while she enlarges the litany of injustices.  Pizzas and thawing raspberries, floating in her tears, rise to the edge of the bin.  Biscuits and pies spill over into aisles, as shopping carts edge through, their controllers oblivious, seeking the 20% off items for the week.
            An hour later she winds down, blows her nose into the napkin she had tucked in her pocket, sighs and maneuvers her cart in and out of floating groceries as stock boys mop and shovel packages back into the bins filled with near-frozen salt-laden pools of tears. 
            As she moves away, I think of all injustices – of centuries, millenia, of stifled, oppressed victims.  My thoughts take form and crowd the supermarket aisles.  Buyers and clerks cannot pass through.  We are all blocked, and a crushing force of old wrongs begins to pour from the shoppers.  We fall to our knees in grief and anger, our despair alive in songs of lament.  The wail creeps through openings in offices and check-out counters, pours through automatic doors into town.  Memorable moment.  Unprecedented.