Saturday, September 28, 2013

For The Love Of Poetry

I know I've said this before, but I am absolutely, 100%, head-over-heels in love the lyrical nature of words. My writing began as a young child with poems and journals, and is still fueled today by these, most intimate forms of writing.

We're coming up on November and this year's National Novel Writer's Month, or "NaNoWriMo" - the time of year when I forget to cook, refuse to clean, and barely interact with other humans...I love this 'all in' kind of process and even now, I can feel a new story stirring.

Last year I wrote 90,000 words over a period of six weeks. Not sure what this year will bring but I know the words are out there, waiting to be extracted, pieced together, tied and linked and brought full-circle.

This poem, by American poet W.S. Merwin, inspires me and speaks to the heart of how I approach writing:

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they're hiding

they're awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won't come out
not for love
not for time
not for fire
even when the dark has worn away
they'll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be

that they won't unroll

in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything

maybe there aren't many
it could be that there's only one word
and it's all we need
it's here in this pencil

every pencil in the world is like this.

- W.S. Merwin

(...And with any luck, every computer keyboard in the world as well! Wish me luck!)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hot Yoga, Kayaking, and Other Miscellaneous Adventures

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

- Steve Jobs

Maybe it's the umpteenth move in as many years.

Maybe it's mid-life barreling down on me.

Or maybe it's just that I no longer care what anybody else thinks about me or my life choices...

Whatever the impetus, the fact is, I've decided to branch out and begin trying new things - like hot yoga, for example.

My daughter encouraged me to try yoga a couple of years ago. She said it would be good for my back because it strengthens your core. She showed me some basic stretches, then we took a few classes together, tried some at-home DVDs and You Tube videos, even developed our own personal practice of stretches and strengthening exercises. I was happy with my yoga practice, and moving here we joined a local gym that offered classes for an extra fee. I wasn't going to sign up because the gym also offered plenty of other types of classes included in the membership, but over Labor Day they offered a free yoga class. I showed up expecting a regular yoga class. What I got was Hot Yoga instead.

Let me tell you, Hot Yoga is a totally different animal.

I'll spare you the sweaty details but suffice it to say I've never felt "cleaner" in my life than after a 90 minute sauna sesh of getting my downward dog on...

I really didn't think I was going to like it. Turns out it's kind of addicting. My preconceived notions of what hot yoga looked and felt like had to be adjusted. My paradigm shifted. Not because it's trendy, but because of how it made me feel and what it did for my sense of well-being. When I started taking the classes I had no idea it was all the rage... Now I feel kinda hipster-ish just for doing it, but I love it so much I'm willing to take the eye rolling and judgy stares and just keep doing my eagles and triangles and pidgeon poses.

Let's face it, the Pacific Northwest is kinda hipster-ish anyway, so to live here you kind of have to embrace it and be somewhat "outdoorsy". There's just too much natural beauty not to be. There are countless rivers to navigate, fish, and ski on, mountains to climb, trails to hike... There just seems to be no end to the possibilities for the adventurous in spirit. I've always been adventurous on the inside, but life and raising four kids kind of put a lid on it for a while.

Well, I'm popping the top on that bad boy.

Last weekend I took an "Intro To Kayaking"class at the local marina.

Let me tell you, I had no idea kayaking was a full body sport. It hurts worse than yoga!

I mean, these were sea kayaks so I guess they're a lot different than the recreational version. These suckers were narrow and like 17 feet long with a curved hull like a canoe but streamlined.

Designed to cut through the open waters. Also designed to tip over like a weeble that actually does fall down. Except this weeble gets wet and then has to hoist its cookies back into said tippy vessel. It was interesting. The instructor kept referring to our heads as bowling balls and reminding us that the hips could move, but the bowling ball had to stay centered or the kayak goes over in an instant. Some of our class members demonstrated this tipping technique fairly quickly :) 

At the end of a seven hour class I had pain from the bottom of my legs to the top of my shoulders and everywhere in between. But strangely enough, I also got the idea that I might really like one of those 17 foot things strapped to the top of my new Subaru... It was a blast! 

Two brand new experiences, both ended up being a thumbs up... Now, maybe a tattoo? ;) 

Friday, September 13, 2013

West Coast Living

Greetings from the left coast (of the US)! Lately I've been realizing I feel more at home here, in this place, than I ever have anywhere else, and that's saying something, since I was born and raised in New York and I've lived all over the world.

Home is both where you lay your hat and where you lay your heart. My heart is somewhat pieced together because those that I love are scattered all around this world. Still, on the whole, the place I personally feel most settled, most at home, and most "me" is here. Right where I am. This is a good feeling to have. It's been a long journey.

When I was a teenager and we first got cable I watched HBO all summer long. It was just a couple of years after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, and I remember watching a movie made about the ordeal that was set, of course, in Washington and other states in the Pacific Northwest. I remember falling immediately in love with the scenery and something about it drew my heart. I knew I wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest some day. Something in my heart knew I belonged here.

I told a friend recently that coming back to the west coast reminds me of the passion for freedom and adventure that settled this area of the country. These states still have huge areas that remain unsettled and untamed. They are still "wild" and free.

There are other things I love about where I live - rodeo, big sky, lots of sunshine, and a natural focus on healthy living and healthy eating. I'm walking, biking, kayaking, and even exploring hot yoga (more on that in another post!)

Once all the boxes are unpacked it will be back to writing. Finishing the screenplay for Letters From The Ledge, and probably working on the next book in the Truly and Finn series. Stay tuned - I'll keep you all posted!

Friday, September 6, 2013

To Live Unashamed

I've never been one of those people who lamented getting older. In fact, with each year that passes I realize I could never go back to what I was or who I have been - and I don't want to either. It's been quite the journey so far, and with each passing year I become more and more of who I am. If I have a  regret, it is that it has taken me this long to know myself. To embrace who I am without apology.

I've been reading Ayn Rand. I'm not sure how I've never read her before this, but at the urging of a friend I decided to pick up her classic The Fountainhead. From page one of the introduction, I have been dumbstruck by this woman's ability to express with such depth those truths that cut straight to the core of who we are as human beings.

This is not to say that I agree with Rand's entire philosophy, but I can certainly eat the meat and spit out the bones, as it were...

There's an ancient proverb that says "When the student is ready, the teacher will come", and this has been true in my life. Countless experiences where just the right person, book or piece of music enters my life and my heart at just the right time to affect a change in me. The Fountainhead, it seems, is just such a book for just such a time.

I am challenged by Rand's use of metaphor, in awe of the lyrical depth of her prose. She didn't believe in giving up on man. I don't believe in giving up. Period.

My passion has always been freedom. That expression of self that, rather than throwing off all moral and ethical restraint, finds it's true self set free from cultural norms and societal expectations to discover an even deeper truth. Rand writes about some dialogue she assigned to the heroine in a play she wrote titled Ideal, and states that this character speaks her heart when she says:

"I want to see, real, living, and in the hours of my own days, that glory that I create as an illusion. I want it real. I want to know that there is someone, somewhere, who wants it too. Or else what is the use of seeing it, and working, and burning oneself for an impossible vision? A spirit too, needs fuel. It can run dry."

A spirit does need fuel. We can't always be givers. We have to receive sometimes too. Dry ground is thirsty. When our hearts become dry ground it takes an awful lot of water to make it soft again. We give best out of the overflow of our hearts. You have to let it pour in if you want to pour it out. So my encouragement to you today is this:

Go where the life is.

Make sure that you're doing at least one thing each day that pours into you. Something you love. Something you're passionate about. Something that gives you life rather than draining it away drop by drop. Don't burn yourself for an impossible vision.

Live now. Today. And don't ever give up on your dreams.

Live unashamed...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Journey IS the Destination...

Some journeys last a lifetime. Others just a moment. Sometimes a single moment can be epic, but if it passes by and we don't reach for it we'll never know.

I've been in the throws of a three thousand mile move recently, and some days it's hard to reach for anything except a box cutter and another cup of coffee. But there are great moments, even in the midst of chaos. There are great moments when you least expect it. Simple things. Little things.

Like a walk by the river, catching the very last light of the day...or listening to the rain at night.

Too many times we believe we must live only in the beautiful moments. We spend so much time trying to get through the terrible, past the mundane and into the beautiful that we miss the beauty in the brief moments of grace.

The reality is, there is just as much life in the terrible, just as much precious in the mundane, but our eyes aren't used to the darkness.They're only adjusted for the light. Whoever said the terrible cannot be beautiful has only ever loved themselves, for pain opens the heart in ways that cannot be accessed except for the breaking.

I re-watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy recently, and was struck all over again by the beauty of adversity and the passing of seasons. The honor in dying for something you hold dear, of sacrificing for the greater good.

After the battle is won and the ring of power is destroyed, Frodo attempts to go back to his life in the Shire but realizes he is different now. He knows he must leave, but instead of bitterness he looks back with a wisdom forged by the immensity of his experiences. He narrates:

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand...there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend...some hurts that go too deep... that have taken hold. Bilbo once told me that his part in this tale would end...that each of us must come and go in the telling."

In the next scene Frodo says goodbye, and although he is saddened by the loss of his friends, he knows a new adventure waits for him on the other side of the sea. "Not all tears are an evil" Gandalf reminds them...

We moved several thousand miles to start a new chapter. We left friends and family and people we hold dear. In the telling of our stories, those we love come and go in the telling, separated by distance but never far from our hearts.

Tears have been shed. Hearts have been heavy. But the rest of the story is yet to be written...