Blogtalk link

Listen to Internet radio with It Matters Radio on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Carving Out Some Time

My new commitment to be a full-time writer after all these years of making it a vital part, but not the only part, of my life is gradually being realized. I can say No more easily to pleas for my presence at social justice events, for donations to good causes, for serving on committees that work for inclusion in all of life's opportunities. The result has been some publishing successes with poems, and now a contract for a book about children who survived WWII. Beyond that, it is the exhilaration I feel with this new life for me, where I can still promote good causes, but through words more than through actions.

Even so, the need to have tangible pieces of creative work other than poems and stories seeks fulfillment. For me it is through chip carving, a process of cutting out chips in a flat wood surface to create something visual through figures, letters, contrasts between light and dark. It is an ancient craft, and for some it is an art. For me, it is therapy -- a time to design something on a piece of basswood or beechnut and then carve out the shapes. Once the design is in place, the part that is fun begins: to carve and let my mind wander where it will as I move into a more contemplative state.

The greatest joy of such a time, however, is in the presentation of the completed carving to someone as a gift. Wedding presents, thank-you's, birthdays, anniversaries, special events, they all are possibilities for doing another carving. Those that don't end up very well stay at home to be enjoyed here.

The process is rather simple: first comes the wood -- a plate, a box, a plaque, even a bowl, or some unusually-shaped object will do. The varieties are endless. I have a set of coasters that didn't make it as a gift because I punctured a hole in one, a plate that had the same accident, pieces that stained poorly, and the like. But they are nevertheless accomplishments. After choosing the wooden shape, a design is necessary before cutting into the wood. I have many many books and carving magazine photos to stimulate ideas, so if I use my own ideas it is usually as an adaptation rather than something totally original. The technique of carving and finishing the wood make it my own work.

My carving has never been as clean cut as those by instructors who have taught me at the John Campbell Folk School, but sometimes I get it almost right. Geometric or organic patterns both have their attractions, and I usually combine these for contrast. The finishing touches are where I often do a less than accurate job -- too much stain in spots, missing some little cuts and not seeing those until the polyurethane spray has been applied, too dark or too light at times, but when it works well, the wood finish makes all the difference.

The major difference for me, however, is not so much in how a piece looks after it is finished, but how I feel about having created something that was not there before. As in words I write. Making something exist, something that is tangible that the eye can see and the mind and spirit can relate to in some way. I don't know how all this works, but when it comes together, somehow it's the way it was supposed to be.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bertha Holt:: 1916-2010

Bertha "B" Holt, the Needle in the fabric of North Carolina, died on Friday, June 18, at the age of 93. Nothing less than a severe stroke could have stopped her. She was able to puncture the pomposity of politics, the egos of politicians, the hypocrisy of the righteous. She became an attorney when women did not venture into that profession. She worked diligently for justice all her life, and was part of many organizations which shared her beliefs. Her needle-sharp insights pierced issues to their core, and she worked to stitch up the lives of the least among us.

A loyal church woman, she served her Episcopal church in Burlington, Church of the Holy Comforter, right up to her last days. She was also active in her diocese, demonstrating to us that it is possible to make changes in even the slowest of official bodies. Her support of the North Carolina Council of Churches is legendary, and she received the Council's "Faith Active in Public Life" Award in 1987, while she was serving as a Representative in the North Carolina Legislature. During recent years, she has been serving on the Governing Board of the Council, and participated in the Council's 75th Anniversary, held at Duke Divinity School May 18 of this year. I am awed by her energy, her determination, and her brilliant mind, all of which was evident right up to the very end of her life.

What a legacy she leaves for her children, the people of this state, the NC Council of Churches, her church, and the residents of Burlington. It will be a very long time before anyone such as she enters the arena, but when that happens, it will be because of the foundation that B provided through her endeavors and her accomplishments.

May God greet her with joy. May her energy continue in those of us who follow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

welcoming myself back on my own blog

It's time to return to this blogspot because of the upturn in my writing adventures. Having just signed a contract with All Things That Matter Press, I am now stepping feet first into a new world of publishing unlike anything I've done before. Previously I've self-published four books, and had lots of fun and challenges with that effort, but very little know-how on marketing. I give away a lot of books . . .

This time it's different: a real publisher and thus a book that might actually make it into the marketplace and be somewhat successful. Rachel's Children: Surviving the Second World War is my title, describing the experiences of those who were children during WWII. I was one of them, although never in the deep trenches of warfare. It affected me even so, and many years later made me realize that for someone who had been only peripherally involved yet having life-long effects from that time, I must understand that children whose life was surrounded by the battles, the hunger, the fears, the dangers of war carried those memories with them for their entire lives. Many have died since the war ended, but for those who are still here, my hope is that somehow by telling the stories, describing the lives, healing comes.

I was 8 years old. My father was an Army doctor, a pathologist, stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii (at the time the Territory of Hawaii) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I spent the first few days feeling fear in the pit of my stomach. Eventually what had at first seemed disorienting about a new pattern for our days became routine and I began to settle into a sense of normalcy around me even when I knew it was not normal. I describe some of this in the book.

My father remained in Honolulu until the Japanese surrender at war's end, but my brother and mother and I left the spring after the war's beginning. My other brother, a student at Princeton University, graduated early, as did my other brother later, and entered the service. My mother and I stayed in North Carolina near my father's relatives until his return and our move to Ft. Hamilton in New York City.

As we faced more wars in the years since, I grew convinced that we must find a way never to have war again, but the efforts for peace continue to be elusive. The pain and the loss of something essential in our psyche prevails until we face a world in chaos, without direction, and with an abundance of disasters both natural and by the acts of our own human species.

Thus it is that by writing this book, collecting stories, reflecting by way of my poems, I have been able to feel at least some glimmerings of personal healing and wholeness, but I continue to grieve for all the lost children, the lost hopes, the lost futures of those who never survived any of our wars.

May this book be a healing journey for its readers.