Midsummer Scrawl Crawl - 2013

Main entrance to the Friedensmahnmahl

It’s midsummer and this year I’ve chosen to write at the Friedensmahnmahl in our city park. I pass this way often but I haven’t stopped and breathed the air here in 15 years. The morning is lovely, the sun is shining and I am surrounded by art. Everywhere statues and sculpture created and placed with attention, with intention.

A Friedensmahnmahl - a reminder of peacefulness, peaceability, peace in thought, in word and in deed. Now I wish I’d brought my journal. I came instead with my phone to record my voice and my friend Murphy Dog thinking, correctly, that he would just wrap his leash four times around the mausmobile before I could juggle my journal and tell him not to.

Selbst ist der Hund. I love this dog.

My friend Murphy belongs to himself and has no owner, only roommates. When he is visiting us, he is happy to exchange his subtle lessons in anticipation, joy and inexpectation[1] for a nest in the comforter and a ride on the mausmobile.

Testing my limits. Can I get down there?

I found a way to get behind the big statue. I am in a place I thought I couldn’t go. There are steps, but those are just what you see at first glance. There is also a path cleared at the back. Hidden. You have to be interested, to come around looking for the back side, the hidden side of the statue in order to find the way down. When you are handicapped, many things refuse to be found requiring that you search first with interest before revealing themselves.

In secret places one finds secret things.

Now I too am hidden where it is green and quiet, in this place where it seems like even the eyes on the trees watch mahnend: benevolent though urging memory, warning, reminding, watching. It is rich and wild growth everywhere. No tended or planted garden this, but lush and unexpected and full of weeds and flowers and thorns. Like life. Murphy is restless sitting on the mausmobile when there is an unsniffed riot just meters away.

I hope I can get back out again. It rained last night. A black cloud from hell brought us a real gully-washer. On the way home from LPN (Last Pinkel of the Night) the wind gusted around us and I clutched Murphy tight in my arms to make sure we both made it to Oz if that is what the weather had in mind. The little path I came down this morning is narrow, muddy and steep, strewn with small stones in the middle. Why is it that getting out of a situation is usually harder than getting into it? Seems like some sort of mafia principle at work: the difficulty you have getting out somehow proportional to the risk you took getting in.

There she went again! Much too fast for a photo op, the little maus.

A little maus! I saw a little maus running across the stone steps with something in her mouth. Something white and soft. Bread maybe. Oooh she was light brown, blonde maybe and very sweet.

Marmorköpf - “versinnbildichliched the leiden gewaltherrschaft”

This marble head speaks of violence and the suffering of those who must live under its random rule. I too am silenced and humbled by the blind luck that has kept me safe from experience; blind luxury that asks me to believe I can empathize when, in truth I too am human, dumb and blind.

We had a KZ here - just a kilometer or so from where I sit - in a tunnel: the Engelbergtunnel - the Angel Hill Tunnel. Der Konzentrationslager Nazweiler. I remember when my friend told me about it shortly after I moved here. Listening, I felt my heart clutch a moment in disbelief and shook my head. Refusal. Was that the same reaction the good Germans, the tolerant, the open and kind people had when they heard evil rumors of machination and scheming back then? I can’t answer such questions from the past, but still I must be ask.

I stop for a moment and look around me noticing at least four entry points in this small sculpture garden. I wonder: How many points of entry are there in me for peace and peaceablity? How many points of exit?

Frieden ist ein äusserst labilier stets zu neu zu erringender zustand der eintracht der harmonie

And so it is that Peace is a wildly unstable condition which must be constantly steadied through harmony and unity.

Mehr information über den Friedensmahnmahl und der Bildhauer, Hans Daniel Sailer

[1] Mausisch: to expect the unexpected.

DS106 - When I Grow Up

The Daily Create for today: What do you want to be when/if you grow up? Be inventive, crazy… I didn’t even have to think very long about the question. Today’s experimental answer is maybe the same as tomorrow’s experiential answer. Maybe.

When I Grow Up

C R A Z Y 
When I grow 

I wAnt to be


I want 
  I know 
Poetry wants me

a poet to be?
oh yes, that's me.

The Poetry of New Speaker Cables

Category: This is My Life

How does poetry relate to new speaker cables? Yesterday our best Jürgen brought us new speaker cables. I don’t know how we ever got along without ‘em.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I hear you but when you are finished laughing - I’m serious. The sound in our rooms is now one clean stroke after the next, drawn with soft charcoal, edged in ink; it’s defined, it’s color-filled, yes, that’s it, it’s paletteful; it is white laundry hanging hot in the sun, it’s like after the morning fog dissipates; the music loses that old wishful quality taking on a wistful, hopeful one, no longer struggling to be noticed just hanging in my rooms like a ripe peach; it just is.

But I love this most of all: Attempting to communicate what I hear and how that hotfoots me to the perimeter, where music is, where music is like poetry, where we are all feeling about, blissfully, blindly, at the edges of language.

DS106 - the Maus-Mobile

Category: DS106

Here she is…

The Maus-Mobile

Mobility matters
u are my
shining silver steed!
Many mauses muster
oll oboard!
believe, bluff, blast-off, blow-by
identification impossible!
Largely laughing lumps of
enthusiastic Electro-Critters

Teachers of Compassion

Category: Thoughts From the Void

Often, I wonder if my friends realize how much they inspire me. I doubt they are aware that I watch them struggle with Being. Being in their their twenties. Being in their thirties, in their forties. I remember mostly the loneliness of it - all that wanting and not having (yet), all those worries of not ever having (maybe) and all that seriousness and attempted grown-upness. Act like you want to feel was my motto back then.

Thank heavens for my girlfriends who make it easy to look backwards at myself and see beyond my regret and the sorrow. I see, in their reflection, how hard I was struggling, how deeply I was failing; how deeply we all fail. I doubt my friends know that they are teaching me compassion. They probably think they are sharing their laughter and their worries with me without realizing that while they are at it they also show me a million tiny reasons to forgive myself. I doubt they realise that they are largely responsible for this giant chunk of the gratitude I carry around with me in my day-to-day. I wouldn’t know how to tell them either. Maybe it’s not something that can be explained. Maybe it must be lived.

I hope, with all my grateful heart that you beautiful women keep on keepin-on, and one day, maybe even before you too are newly old, you will have the very fine fortune to experience this for yourselves.

DS106 - Broken Inheritance

Category: DS106

My grandmother’s teapot.

My inheritance tells
the story of my grandmothers
cool and chic
and broken
in ways that I
was not

I broke
too – but differently

And we, none of us
broke bread or shared
tea preferring instead
to break
everything else

DS106 Creativity and Digital Story Telling

Category: ds106

Digital Storytelling, otherwise known as DS106 is the online home for digital storytelling classes at several universities. The official classes are taken by official students for official credits. This does not stop the gatekeepers from acting on the well-known fact that divirsity in a creative environment is always good by opening up the assignments for anyone to do. The hashtags in their motto: #ds106 is #4life are tweetable, tumblable, bloggable.

Online means online

The daily challenges, sometimes writing but also video, audio and photographic challenges are posted at 10:00 am EST at the ds106 website. You register, do the exercises, and post’em. Then you go a’commentin. Keep up via twitter. It all looks like wonderful fun and I’m trying it. After all, I have to keep myself busy until ModPo begins again.

More About DS106

Need Courage, Not Corset

Category: The Artist In Me

Need Courage, Not Corset (Nancy Carroll, January, 2012)

I am finally reading around in The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It has been on my list for a long time.

Last year about this time, when the weather was cold and skies gray, I took an online art course called The Hero’s Art Journey with the inimitable Dr. Mira Reisberg as my instructor. The Hero’s Art Journey intended to create a non-judgemental place where one could confront various steps in the Hero’s Journey as understood by Joseph Campbell through art projects. The assignment for this particular work was to consider The Monster Within.

First I should confess that I’m really pretty monsterless. I guess that’s because (so far) I have lived a lucky life. Mostly, the conditions that stand between me and my dreams are circumstances I have consciously chosen. I deeply want each one for itself even when these chosen circumstances turn out to offer no compromise towards the dreams they exclude.

No matter. I’m a great believer in Change.

Anyway, I had a vague and not particularly interesting idea for the project and went digging around in my clipart for inspiration. While mired in the depths of Pandora’s box, I asked my Muse, “Why do I have to do a project about monsters when I don’t have any monsters?”

Oh. Oh. Oh.

Little Miss Muse turned her head disdainfully away as if I were a victim of spontaneous combustion. Poof. I’m air, as the Germans say.

Eventually, and with a great show of sighing and eye-rolling, she plucked a clipart of a powerful lioness dressed as a righteous and well-to-do lady of the wild, wild west. “Here!” she said and thrust it under my nose with a whiff of inspiration.

“But I wanted to make a Lindwurm.” I whined.

“‘nother time.” she waved me to the side and reached into the mess, “Here’s a dragon. Cut off his head. And check your mailbox. Your Mom, who always knows just what you really need, sent you a present. Use those.”

Holy Crayon, Batman, anybody else have a bossy Muse?

Well, yes. So. I did as she demanded and that’s it, above. But the real reason I’m writing this is because I am interested in Art’s underbelly; that ongoing conversation the artist has with herself (or with Art) during the act of creation. Maybe you are too?

In this case I was pouting and pondering the value of externally imposed boundaries. An assignment, for instance is usually a boon that makes a work possible. But aren’t there also times when boundaries are a destructive influence standing between me and a work I want to do?

While working with the refined dragon/lion motif I spent a lot of time considering and defending the “monstrous” difficulties we face in attempting to live the artistic life, in summoning up our deep courage while hemmed in by seemingly arbitrary social rules, must-be’s, and should-do’s. During the work, this particular motif spoke a warning to me about any attempt to live a tightly-corseted life because this is not my nature. The work seemed to imply that to do so would be an act of violence against myself. That I dare not allow the rules to be arbitrary, that I must make and choose my own if I wish to live peacefully with myself.

From the execution - clipart to paper, watercolor pencils (thanks, Mom!) and felt-tip pens, acrylic wash, I learned that drawing something myself, no matter how unrecognizable the result, is a thousand times more rewarding than using clipart motives and switching out the heads. At the time, I felt no pride in this work and felt like legions of sixth-grade boys regularly fill their notebooks with more authentic monster-trucks and concept cars than what I ended up with for this assignment.

Except. Isn’t there always that little voice saying “Um, excuse me but what about…”?

Except, as it turned out the lived-experience of creating this tightly-corseted and boundary-laden work directly reflected my understanding of the social monster, of should-do and must-be. It also reminded me that I must engage this particular monster often if I am to escape inadvertently doing violence to my Self.

My bossy Muse, who likes to keep me humble, just now pointed out that, apparently, I am not without monsters after all. Does your Muse smirk too?

When I showed this to the class last year, one of my classmates, Jill Littlewood was moved to offer a link to this wonderful animation of Little Red Riding Hood. Thanks again, Jill!

Un-Related Notes

– A special “Howdy Doody” to my talented new subscriber from The Cooking Chapbook. I’m still working on the concept of Chocolate Rice Pudding. Those fishes involved…

– And finally cause I like y’all, how about some vintage James Taylor just for grins? I especially loved the virtual twinkle in his eye when he talked about and sang “I’m A Steamroller, Baby”. That’s groovin, James.

Lessons From My Forever Project - Part Two

Category: Thoughts From the Void

You know what I love the most about Christmas? It’s the anticipation. When I lived at home, we made a lot of our gifts. Not all of them because some years the best present just came from somewhere else. Like the Tennesee Walker we’d been a’hankerin for. None of us could have made that horse and he was the best present of the year.

That was 1977 and it was an especially good year. It was a year that my sisters and I got together and made our gift for Dad. We wrapped it in the biggest box we could find in the basement; wrapped it in the prettiest paper we could find in the gunmetal gray wrapping paper cabinet; with all manner of teenie-bopper enthusiasm we plastered it with bows to indicate the over-the-top special-ness of its contents, then we taped a big tag that said DADDY on it and placed it near the tree, it didn’t fit under the tree, about a week before Christmas.

The next week was glorious fun teasing Dad about that huge box, telling him over and over that there was something special in there that he’d never gotten from anyone before. Something that he really, really needed. We assured him that gift would be a total surprise because he surely never thought anyone would, or even could gift something so rare, something so willful.

“Bet you’re curious, aren’t you? Guess away, Dad. Go ahead, you’ll never guess. No, really, but you can try…”

Over the course of that week, he guessed all manner of things that a man his age might want and/or teenies our age might be able to afford but he was always icy shades of cold. Not even close.

Christmas morning came and our great Dad played along like he always did. I think he was enjoying our anticipation as much as we were enjoying his - and our own - all at once - and so he saved that giant, bow-covered, suspiciously light box for last.

Well, almost last, but we didn’t know that then.

Underneath the tree was airy and light, we were all knee-deep in dogs and coffee cups and ripped up wrapping paper and piles of paperback bodice-rippers and romance novels, socks, oranges, jigsaw puzzles and underwear, when he cleared himself a spot and sat down on the floor with his legs spread and that huge box between them. He asked us if there was anything he should know before he opened the box. We assured him there wasn’t. That he would know what to do with the present when he saw it.

He picked off one bow and then the next. We squiggled in our chairs.

He carefully laid the tag to the side. We squirmed to get a better look.

He took out his pocket knife to slit along the edges. “Are you sure there isn’t something I should know?”

We giggled and elbowed each other while he ripped off paper and opened the box to great fanfare.

And now I get to the moment in this story when I have to confess that I don’t remember what happened next and actually, the ending [1] is not in the least bit important to the point of this post. What is important is that delicious feeling of anticipation and how my Forever Project has taught me that it drives me today like it did all those years ago.

Lesson #2: Loose Lips Sink Ships

So, fast forward a hundred years or so and I am all planning and plotting on my first novel. I showed my detailed outline to a friend. He was a good friend and said it looked interesting and he’d love to read it when I was finished. I realized my mistake too late. I had destroyed the Christmas effect. Someone knew what I was up to. That little error in judgment pulled me up short and stopped work for a good nine months.

During that stoppage Christmas rolled around again. This time painted sweatshirts were all the rage. (Yes, I know.) I decided to paint one for each of the ladies in my family. And my Dad, but that’s another story.

Night after night I was up until the wee hours working on my designs, choosing colors, fixing, oops umm, mistakes. If I made a sweatshirt for you that year, you should know that I spent delightful hours considering what you might like, how I could make a design that both fit your personality and was accessible to my limited skill set. I also pondered the things I know about you, the history we have together, the funny things you say. I enjoyed anticipating your reaction to my gift. It was Christmas and Laudlers and you did not know what I was doing. I wanted to make it extra special, to finish on time. I wanted to surprise and please you…

I am an incubator. I need my secrets to keep me working.

[1] I have two absolutely opposite and mutually exclusive memories and don’t know which one is the truth. He either loved the box packed full of *sailboat fuel* we gave him or he was disappointed to find a yawning expanse of emptiness. I suspect he was less thrilled by our inventiveness than we anticipated he would be and probably because we had done too good of a job tickling his own feelings of anticipation, tapping on his dreams. I’d like to say that I learned that important lesson about “too much of a good thing” but I doubt I did, and anyway maybe he loved it - and us - as we bounced squealing off the walls at our own cleverness.

Lessons From My Forever Project - Part One

Category: Thoughts From the Void

I think most creative people have something that I call a Forever Project — a project that, despite its audacity and seeming impossibility, simply will not put itself to bed. A project that comes creeping back into your consciousness when you sit down for a break from “real work.” A project that is hard to imagine actually embarking on, but whose mental cost of abandonment is far too high to even consider. A project that you’d totally do if you had the time, and the money, and the talent, and the…
– John Biesnecker, The joys of having a Forever Project

I have a Forever Project. I am writing my second novel. I’ve been working on it off again, on again in one form or another, using this software or that one since the late 1990s. Before that, back in the ’80s I had my first novel going, but after fifteen years or so of dreaming about it, writing around on it, restructuring it, writing around some more, I saved it to a diskette and then I moved halfway across the world.

Thanks to my Forever Projects I have learned a couple of importantances about me and my creativity.

Lesson 1: Whoa, Nelly, Careful with Those Outlines

Having read all about how super easy it is to write a novel (really, your dog could do it) after you have a complete and detailed outline, I set-to like a good little author. I spent hours thinking and sketching with words over and through the hills and valleys of my characters lives. I plotted and found holes in my plot and then I found ways to fill those holes. I found themes in my notes and worked them out more deeply. Really, I spent a couple of years on this. It occupied my thoughts while washing dishes and during my ninety minute commute, entertaining me right into The Zone. How does the subconscious autopilot get us safely to our destinations?

After awhile it was time to begin writing in earnest. To flesh out exactly which seventy thousand words I would need to become a New York Times Bestselling author. But it turned out to be all blah, blah, blah and he said, she said.

Oh. My. God. I never thought writing a novel would be this boring.

I learned that if all the problems are solved and all the decisions made until there aren’t any questions left, well, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to write the story anymore. My curiosity, quenched by outlining, the mauses came, they saw and they said: Ho hum.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about why I want to write a novel. What is it that caught me by the dream machine when I was a kid? And I guess I have to admit that I’m not driven to write, but I am driven to solve creatively. Today, writing is my chosen way to explore that drive deeply but it’s not exclusive. Thanks to my Forever Project, I found my freedom to supplement or extend the dream of writing with any other medium when I feel called to it.

So here we are again, bumping up against the question: Will I ever finish my second novel, my current Forever Project? Maybe. The drive to solve creatively must be creatively solved every day.