Friday, July 20, 2018

Ain't No Time to Write

Came home from the writing workshop to a dark house.

The word is a transformer is blown. It's been about four hours, and no news. It's so strange to see the neighborhood completely dark.

No point in trying to stay awake. Time for bed. This one-fingered typing on my iPhone is for the birds.

A beautiful breeze blows through the open windows.

Praise be, for small mercies that bring great comfort.

And sometimes you just have to go with what is.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journry, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Postcards from the Unthinkable, Vol. 5

I wrote a book this afternoon.

Eight chapters and illustrations. It's been read by several people already. Of course, I have not yet read it myself. Rules of the class. It's been a surrealistic week. 

I haven't measured the volume of my writing. Or gotten its measure. I don't know if any of it is any good. Haven't read any of that work either. 

We've written several stories every day. There must be an anthology in my notebook, which is nearly full with story notes, stories, cartoons, and comics. It looks a little like a Linda Barry book, a wacky collection of writing, notes, cartoons and comics, questions, answers, and assorted miscellany.

After class today there was a bonus session on expository writing. Imagine for a moment, a cartoonist teaches how to approach academic and expository writing. I have the beginnings of a new project completed. It's a project that's had more false starts than I care to count. Apparently, I've been thinking too much. 

How did I accomplish this great feat, you might ask? With a word, a question, and a photograph. Someone completely unrelated to my project provided the question. A person I've never met provided the photo. The word is mine.

Remind me someday to tell you how it all came together.

There's another morning of class before this extraordinary workshop concludes. As I sit here thinking about life after Linda, I honestly can't imagine it. It's been absolutely life changing. I can understand why people come back year after year. I can understand why the workshop sells out before the catalog is mailed in the spring. I'm pretty sure it sells out within 72 hours of being posted and open for registration. It may sell out even faster than that.

On a completely unrelated topic, my daughter turned 30 today.

I'm still taking it in.

It's the first of her birthdays that I haven't actually spoken with her. The cell coverage here is spotty, and when I can get service there's only one bar. I've been in class and she's been at work. I hope to be able to speak with her before the clock strikes midnight, but I'm not holding my breath. 

I sent her a card and wrote her some long text messages with some beautiful memories I have of her birth and of birthdays over the years. That's the good thing about having a mom who writes. She writes. And litters your way with artifacts you can pick up. They begin to tell a story, and you discover you are holding a moment in your hand.

One you can hold forever.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Postcards from the Unthinkable, Vol. 4

Getting a bit of a late start this evening.

A glorious day dawned after the storms. The air is crisp and cool. The sky is crystalline blue. The lake is so clear it looks like a mirror. The flowers are standing tall again and their colors seem more vivid.

It's easier to breathe. The air is not so heavy

As I reflect on the day, and on the week so far, I find it harder and harder to say exactly what I'm learning. The strands are coming together and their edges are blurring. They bleed into one another and become a single organism rather than distinct strands. Even being clear around what I'm trying to say feels confusing.

It's a good place to be.

Everything is synthesizing and becoming a part of me instead of something apart from me.

It reminds me of a time when I was about to go on stage as part of a dramatic production. As we stood there, poised to go on, I had a moment of panic. I thought to myself, "What was I thinking signing on to do this?" It was just a moment. In the next, I realized that what I was about to do was in my body, part of the fabric of me, and that there was nothing to be nervous about.

I had a moment this morning when I wondered if I'd still be able to draw cartoons when I get home. Turns out l like doing it. Turns out, also, that we can reconnect with those things we did as children and gave up as adults when we started doing adult things. That we can reconnect with gifts we forgot we had or with things we love and thought we'd outgrown.

Earlier today, I pulled out an index card to write down an idea for a chapter in a book I'm working on and an image to go with the chapter. At the bottom of the card I drew a frame and added a comic with my character bringing the image to life.

It's becoming as natural as breathing.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an unusual Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Postcards from the Unthinkable, Vol. 3

Wild Thing, I think I love you.

On my mind right now is this cartoon that seems to be developing. I like her, and I think she's coming to life. It feels like a story that wants to be written. A poet goes to a writing workshop and creates a character who comes to life. A cartoon character.


And someone must have done it already.

My character reminds me a little of the Maurice Sendak characters. I always wondered why he had only boy characters and no girl characters. They had such great adventures. I wanted to have adventures like that. Maybe I'll give myself some.

I want to draw her on safari. And in the desert.

Why didn't I give her a tiara?

Instead, I gave her a crown, scepter, and orb. And ermine. I gave her ermine. But she looks angry. An angry queen - it's too domesticated for her.

She'd rather be on an adventure.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Cartoon: (c)2018 Katherine Cartwright

Monday, July 16, 2018

Postcards from the Unthinkable, Vol. 2

It's been a long day.

The sun is near setting and I am back in the cafe, inside this time, with my handy tiny keyboard and iPhone as mini computer and screen. This is turning out to be one of the best gifts my son has given me. I brought my laptop, but it's a lot to lug up and down the hills here in the steamy and sticky weather.

The air is so heavy with moisture it's hard to breathe.

With my tiny keyboard, I can write in the cafe and edit and post when I get back to my room. Things are kicking in the cafe and it's fun to be where the action is. Tonight people are playing games and chatting over ice cream cones. 

The ice cream here is famous. Locally made and wonderful, with flavors like coconut almond joy, my personal favorite, and chocolate cherry chunk. The chocolate looks good too, rich and dark and creamy. Someone at a nearby table is having grapefruit sorbet.

I can think about ice cream for days.

But we're here to explore the UNthinkable. 

It was the title of the workshop that captured me. Who wouldn't want to spend a week writing the unthinkable? Such a title sets my imagination into overdrive. It turns out that writing the unthinkable has more to do with freeing the mind to write than with anything else. In just two hours this morning we wrote three stories and drew four cartoons. 

Yes. That is what I said. I actually drew cartoons. 

And they're pretty good. 

If you told me last night that I would be drawing cartoons today, I'd have told you you're nuts. But I did, and I spent the afternoon learning how to draw comic strips. Mind you, we had no idea that's what we were doing. It's all part of the teacher's genius. What started with a paper folding exercise and a squiggle became a four panel comic strip. I drew four of them.

We might be in a magical realm where the impossible happens.

As we moved around the room, looking at the strips produced by the class, I marveled. I still can't believe what we did today, except that the evidence is right before my eyes.

What's fascinating about the writing is I had no idea I could do such deep work without thinking. If I had thought about writing those stories ahead of time, I might have been too intimidated around how to voice them to have attempted it. 

And this is just the first day.

During the week, we'll write in the morning and draw in the afternoon. There's a required nap time from 2-3 p.m. and we all look like a bunch of kindergartners lying on the floor on our mats. We can't re-read any of our work until the workshop is over on Friday afternoon. The stories have to cure. We'll go home with a new writing journal and having learned the skills to sustain it.

I don't know, but I think I've got a new fire around writing. 

Wait. No thinking allowed.

The Summer of Self Love is a daily writing practice created to hardness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Postcards from the Unthinkable

I have no idea what to expect.

With a topic like "Writing the Unthinkable," it could be just about anything I can imagine and probably quite a bit that I can't. 

Someone is playing "Stairway to Heaven" on ukulele and melodica. Two someones. They're sitting on the deck where I'm set up with my laptop looking out over the garden. A couple is trying to feed their tiny children dinner. They promise ice cream and suddenly there is renewed interest in the french fries and apples. Mom gives dad the stinkeye for being on his phone. He counters that he hasn't had a moment to himself since they arrived. His idea of being by himself is scrolling Facebook. My phone is off. 

I'm on retreat. 

It's good to be here. The morning began with morning pages and washing dishes, packing and a shower, doing the checklist and loading the car in the rain. Felt so good to be off and on my way. The rain came and went all along the way through New Jersey. It cleared the minute I hit the New York State Thruway.

And there were shadows of clouds on mountains.

Time to exhale deeply and relax.

I like to come to Omega Institute once a year if I can. It's a treasure of the east. If I was in California, I'd go to Esalen. You can find pretty much any kind of workshop or retreat you're looking for and there is also the option to come for a private, unstructured retreat. There's a lake and gardens, and paths through the woods. A library and wellness center, cafe and book store. A sanctuary on top of a hill for quiet reflection and meditation. There was a time here before cell phones and Internet when you could really get away from it all. 

These days you spend time trying to get away from people on their devices. I have to mind my thoughts when I see this. It's a violation of the rules to use cell phones away from the parking lots and phone booths, but few people respect them or others' desire for an experience out in nature apart from the digital world.

The WiFi does enable me to post my blog.

The cafe was once the center of community life here, with all kinds of conversations around the table, but these days most of the tables are occupied by one person on a laptop. It's interesting to see how things have changed over the 28 years I've been coming here. Of course, it's a reflection of the changes all around us in day to day life.

It's surprisingly hot and muggy, sticky and steamy. Every surface is sticky. 

I overhear someone say how well she's going to sleep tonight. I find myself longing for bed and a good night's sleep, lulled by the sounds of cicadas and forest noises. It gets my mind off how sticky my hands feel. 

The mosquitoes have come out and the children at the next table are scream-talking, so it's time to pack things up and get going.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mapping the Landscape of the Soul of Tears

I came across a quote from Iyanla Vanzant this morning.

Crying purifies and cleanses. I once read about a scientific experiment which demonstrated that there are 38 toxic chemicals in a tear of sadness, while only one toxin exists in a tear of joy. As you cry in sadness, fear, or confusion, you cleanse the body and spirit of toxins which cloud the mind and prevent it from accepting the truth.

I posted this on my FB page five years ago and it came up in my memories today as I wrap up my expedition into joy and the soul's landscape. I actually thought I was done with joy and that today would be a liminal space in this writing as I transition to a week away to write in the mountains and explore The Unthinkable. 

But it seems that joy is not done with me.

When I posted this quotation, it certainly was not for its reference to joy. But that is what captures me today. 

A single toxin appears in tears of joy. I wonder what it is and why it is there. 

What is it that we release when we are so deep in joy that tears spring from our eyes?

The body never does anything unnecessary, and the body never lies.

So what do we release when we are in joy?

Could it be that final bit of difficulty and negativity that might be lurking somewhere deep inside, around the edges of joy? Could it be that joy cannot exist in a state of negativity, but completely clears the space so that the moment of deep joy is pure?

Thinking about this triggers my deep imagination and a desire to reflect more about it. And, perhaps, to do some research to see what I can find.

Because I'm curious. 

So, of course, I popped over to Google, which makes some superficial rudimentary research quick and easy, and I found copious amounts of articles about this topic. Most of the people who are referring to these experiments are speaking about the cleansing quality of tears from difficult emotions. A quick look does not give me easy access to the original findings, just to those who've referenced the experiments in their articles. 

But I did find something else interesting.

A woman who photographed honey bees and showed them under an electron microscope for a book she was writing got curious about tears and began work she called The Topography of Tears. These photographs demonstrate the distinct molecules of different types of tears. Basal tears, which are constantly released to lubricate the cornea. Reflex tears, which spring up in response to irritants like onions, dust, and tear gas. Psychic tears, which are triggered by extreme emotions like sadness and joy. 

In an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, which talks about the microscopic structure of dried human tears, I saw some photographs that look like maps, maps through the landscape of the soul of tears. Stunning and captivating, they have titles like After the Sun Came the Tears, Laughing Tears, Ending and Beginning, Timeless Reunion in an Expanding Field, The Irrefutable, Tears for What Couldn't Be Fixed, and the two that capture me the most, Elation at a Liminal Moment Tears and Tears At the Convergence of Wonders.

Of her work, Rose-Lynn Fisher writes, "Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. It's as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean."

I never could find a photograph of tears of joy online. I may have to get the book to find that, but of the photographs I saw, it might be that the quality of joy is hinted at in other experiences, such as elation at liminal moments and convergences of wonder. 

And I can't tell right now if my curiosity has been satisfied or if it opens before me like a chasm, or like a trail through an beckoning landscape. 

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice created to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Quest, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

To read more about the work of Rose-Lynn Fisher, here is her website.

Photograph: Elation At a Liminal Moment Tears, Rose-Lynn Fisher