One of my favorite things about facilitating Poetry Alive! institutes is the chance to sit down and play with the writing assignments while the participants are writing. For thirty minutes there’s no talking to listen to and finally I have the freedom to put pen to paper and see what flows out. I’ve done the “Where I’m From” and “I Am” (for a character in a poem) exercises more times than I can count, and I’m always surprised at what comes out. Since I have a few hours of riding in the passenger seat down the freeway toward my dog and the elusive spot I call home, I thought I’d type up for you what came out this time. Let me know where you’re from now…
“Where I’m From”
I am from racing cars & horses
Building computers smarter & faster
While finding ways to make the garden grow
Always flowers, rarely food
Then the first flower turned tomato this year
Jazz men light up the night like firecrackers
Morning birdsong flute trills
I am from eleven generations of stubborn runaways
Fleeing the family to grow independent
Dust bowl survivors growing violets & collecting coins
Doctors, editors, engineers, vets, accountants, dreamers
Women working & creating alongside the men
Mending & melodies with crops & technology
I am from the Emerald City
Flying backwards over the rainbow
To the heartland
Tracing the arteries of the continent
To find a southern home
Reverse migration after the west was won
I am from constant movement
Fifteen years of travel
Never settling to form a family of my own
Letting go of everything
To fly where I’m needed next
“I Am” (as a little star in “Wynken, Blynken, & Nod” by Eugene Field)
I am a joyful shining star
I wonder why those kids are trying to catch my reflection
I hear the moon ask them what they wish
I see them toss nets at my light reflected in the water
I want to laugh at their foolishness
I am a joyful shining star
I pretend I’m a herring fish swimming too fast to be caught
I feel the nets splash past my light
I touch the foam on the waves
I worry the kids will lose their way
I cry to the moon to help them
I am a joyful shining star.
I understand the children are dreaming
I say I’m never afraid
I dream of diving under the waves
I try to brighten the night
I hope to light the children’s way home
I am a joyful shining star
I’m way overdue blogging due to the roller coaster ride of travel, emotions, moving and such the past few months. Here’s the photo montage from last month with a new recording just to give you a taste of what I haven’t found words to describe yet…
When the words won’t come to my fingers under the keyboard, I go back to putting pen to paper. Sometimes when all the world’s words are spinning by so fast, the pen in hand helps slow down and distill the essence.
Here are a few barely edited blurbs fresh from the page:
Tracing the lines
Tied to the $ signs
2 sides of a coin
Anything done to excess
will kill you
Riding the rapids
Through the deafening babble
Dog sits stoic at the bow
As a lone fly buzzes
Neither money nor fame
are core human values
so why are so many humans
caught up in the struggle?
Why spend time attacking those who dare approach
rather than building a bond of love so strong
as to weather every storm?
Driving the highway river
finding the center of flow
no longer in a hurry
with just a few hours to go
rolling into the Blue Ridge
as the sun sets at our backs
white red yellow lights
wink on to light the track
like a backwards river
flowing up the hill
dancing through the rain drops
whispering “peace be still”
His heart was bigger than this world.
Now he has the wings
to see it all
& sing his songs into the wind.
Already into May
the winter bites back again
reluctant to let summer
reach the northern village
Barefoot Beltane in Southern Spring
this northern ground chills through shoes
shifting green for gray
Springing back to Summer
through the city that never sleeps
It’s not only Leap day, but it’s been a month since I’ve posted to this blog and the last chance to post something before the new month begins. I’ve been brooding over it a bit and thought I’d share at least something before the clock strikes midnight.
Perhaps this whole month should have been called Febroodwary. It seems I’ve listened to many people brooding over loss, pain, and the need for change. Let me tell you guys, while I may have a sympathetic ear, bemoaning your woes and sharing your suicidal thoughts are not very attractive ways to flirt with me. That said, know that I love you all anyway. I just could really use a good man in my life that takes a moment to stop and ask about me. In short, while other’s may find February romantic, I found it emotionally draining.
I skirted the attempts of universities to channel me down the path of psychologist/psychiatrist rather than performance for a reason. I truly believe that the performing arts provide the catharsis that most of us need to transform pain into beauty to allow us to let go and move forward with our lives. I also know that I can reach many more lives through performances than I ever could listening to each individual’s story. Also, as draining as a performing can be, it’s not nearly as draining as one individual using me as their lifeline at a moment of crisis.
Someone did ask me what I did for fun anymore, and I realized I had no answer to that. I used to say dance, but now that I’ve given up music as a hobby and am working at it as a profession even dancing at a club to my favorite musicians has become more work than fun. Okay, this is the point where I realize that writing after driving 14 hours of the past 48 and doing 3 poetry shows, a teacher workshop, while still catching 3 bands in order to follow up on business and sit in with them has taken it’s toll. I am officially exhausted on all fronts.
So, as we March forward into the new year I invite you to join me in making a leap of faith. Together we can make a difference and live the life we dream up. I’m not necessarily talking about broad sweeping miracles, but belief in the power of each individual moment. Today I found a jack of hearts and a magic wand. I chose to let them remind me that with love and a few magic words anything can happen.
Speaking two-sided lies
Conspirators argue amongst themselves
Over gold & land & legions
Great orations of persuasion
To push the mass to fear or love
Revenge & retribution
The great empire cracks
Common men weap
While those in their charge
Trade blades & rain blood
Happy holidays, or holy daze as I’ve been calling them this year.
Once again we’ve completed another circle of the sun and reached the point where the days gather light again propelling us forward into a new year. I had the opportunity to fly back to the northwest this year and visit with family and friends between the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel rush. What this meant is that while everyone else was rushing around preparing for a “big day” I was rushing around visiting with old friends and family trying grab at least a few hours of conversation in the real world and as many hugs as possible. It also meant that I time warped to a place where sunrise and sunset fell closer together a few hours skewed from what my body was used to at that point. So, when I returned the days already seemed longer even though they were still getting shorter and my internal clock wanted to stay up later into the dark. Being born during the longest night of the year a few decades ago has often been my excuse for being a true night owl. It also may be why I’ve always been a star gazer looking for things that light up in the dark. I thought I’d share a few photos of things that lit up in the dark for me this season as we celebrate the return of light.
This time of year is also the point when I often find myself reflecting on the year that has passed and making wishes and plans for the year to come. Rather than ask Santa or Baby Jesus for toys, I found myself having real discussions with family about the tools needed to progress in the coming year.
During the dark this year rather than seeking out malls, I found joy gathering with all my different “families” to share food and stories around the table.
I also found warmth around the fire sharing tunes with some of my musical “families.” We even hooted with a real night owl in the woods gazing at the three wise guy stars in Orion’s belt pointing to where the sun would return on the horizon a full minute earlier in the morning.
As the year turns, I now seek to build my own fire in my heart to fuel a new year of adventure and travel guided by love. I wish you & your kin peace and prosperity as well as a big bundle of joy in 2012. May it be brighter for us all.
Looks like I completely missed blogging in October. Just to slip something in I’m writing from my phone while on the go. Sometimes life moves too fast to process & write about it all. Often at these times it is stranger than fiction.
In the past month I’ve juggled more jobs than ever to keep afloat and found more joyful surprises to cheer my soul. Ghosts of Halloweens past brought tears of sorrow and joy along with a glimpse of brighter tomorrows.
At the same time the Occupy Wall Street movement has swept the nation and continued to whisper ideas to change the world.
I’ve occupied a few hotels in towns recently touring with Poetry Alive! where I arrived a stranger and immediately found a community to share resources and make our stay more joyful. It’s amazing how when we all share what we have, we all have what we need. It’s easy to sit back, point the finger at someone else, and complain that life is unfair. However, when you honestly step forward and share your skills and talents there’s really very little to complain about. As we enter the giving season please consider this and avoid wasting time at the malls and super box stores full of “cheap stuff.” Consider what you have to offer your friends and family as gifts and when spending your hard earned dollars check out local handmade goods and services from local crafters, musicians, and merchants whose taxes pay for your local community services as well. Invest in your community and find ways for your local community to share it’s bounty with nearby communities in need. Occupy your community this holiday season and watch it flourish.
On that note, there’s some live jazz in front of me stealing my attention and calling me to participate in the real world once again. May you find such cozy company where ever you occupy.
September has nearly slipped by and I realize I have yet to post a blog this month. Since I’m working on an article for a deadline and completely distracted by facebook, twitter, and the Occupy Wall Street news feeds it seems the perfect time to slip one in before the month is gone.
I actually spent a lot of time talking to many new people this month and scrambled to spend conscious time with a few good friends when possible. I am thankful that I live in a household where three adults are able to share space respectfully and none of us seem to be going hungry in this economy. I am thankful to have a neighborhood that includes teachers, nurses, construction workers, mechanics, artists, musicians, and even a politician. There are no corporate moguls, bankers, or stock brokers that I’m aware of in the neighborhood. If there are, they don’t talk to the rest of us. A year ago, when I moved into this house we had a small porch fire that our neighbors kept from being destructive by responding faster than any fire department could with extinguishers. My roommate fixed our neighbor’s lawn mower when it broke. The neighborhood dog & kitten come hang on the porch when I’m playing music with my friends. We eat fresh organic produce grown in our own yards. The city councilman up the road has been organizing clean up crews through facebook showing the DOT that if they don’t do their job and keep our sidewalks and roads clean we’ll do the job for them. He is hands on and active in connecting with the community he represents.
However, once we send representatives to Raleigh and DC they start to become disconnected from the community they supposedly represent. It costs a lot of money to run for office these days and now the corporations with interests in patenting all the food Americans eat and selling them a lifetime of drugs to keep everyone “normal” have been granted unlimited spending to buy us some candidates and tell us to whom we should give our vote. The people paying for the ad campaigns care more about the dollars they can make selling people insurance that is mandatory by law (because they made sure everyone has to buy what they’re selling). But, for all we pay them, they never cover the cost when a real crisis occurs because they don’t care about people, they care about profit. I believe that if most people put the money they spend on insurance into a savings account they would have the money when it was needed and a strong community can help each other survive crisis.
Now these corporations are considered “people” by our government. They also control the media. They decide what “news” Americans will watch and for 13 days now have not even bothered to mention that there is a peaceful protest happening on Wall Street and spreading to other cities. Why? Because the people are protesting the corporations. Your television shows are brought to you by Monsanto, Pfizer, Geico, American Express and Capital One. Drug and insurance ads flash at you every five minutes between sound bites of “reality” shows where adults act like adolescents in front of the camera to win a cash prize. Our government bailed out Wall Street and the auto companies so they could spend more money selling you stuff that you don’t need. The average American does not need to buy a new car every year, but they will do their best to convince you that what you have is not good enough. Turn your TV off now and start paying attention to the world where you actually live and work. Stop buying the lies that Time Warner and Disney wish to sell you for profit and spend your hard earned money in your own community.
I recently saw an exhibit by Connie Frisbee Houde at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County during a Poetry Alive! visit they funded for the local schools. One of the most striking images was flipping through her book The Forgotten: Images of Afghanistan & New Orleans and seeing on the left a image of emptied stone cave homes with nothing but a few pieces of beautiful wood furniture and on the right washed out piles of debris at a storage unit after Katrina. Americans have become so weighted down with collecting stuff that we sometimes fail to see what is truly of value.
Please get to know your neighbors before the winter sets in and prepare together. My grandparents didn’t survive the dust bowl era in the mid-west because of any corporation or government help (They were true conservatives unlike today’s Republicans). They worked with their neighbors to survive and helped each other weather the weather. The only way to stop the oppressors is to teach them how not to oppress. If American citizens get off their couches and start making their communities beautiful and joyful places to live, the media can’t sell us an imaginary dream of something better. Vote with every dollar you spend for a better tomorrow instead of funding the status quo. We must be the change we seek.
One of the writing prompts Cheryl Bromley Jones introduced to the Poetry Alive! teacher institute is a little exercise called “Where I’m From.” I’ve written many of these and they keep changing as time moves on and I find myself “from” more places than before. This is what came out of the in-service we taught at C.W. Post Long Island University last week still in rough form:
I am from exploding mountains
& calm inter-coastal salt sea
From hidden driveways
& cedar trees
A garden box of love
Though the main geranium died
two others took root
& are better than one to have by my side
Autoslaloming home built race cars
Smokey bowling alleys & sunny amusement parks
Girl Scout camp, horse racing
dance, sing, dance, play
Rocky Mountain escapes
& choreographing lawn gymnastics
Collecting river rocks
to rattle in pockets like grandma’s Yahtzee dice
I’ve heard “if you love some one set them free”
& we’ve never meant to be for each other
the miles stretch further
from one generation to another
I am from raging garage band grunge
& flapper jazz
Give me that back beat boogie
cause it’s all rock & roll to me
I am from cool mountain air
& honeysuckle tickles my nose
while puppies & kitties tickle my toes
Ride my bike cause I don’t own a car
I hear good old mountain music
teaching my ear to understand rather than fear
Though bluegrass wasn’t ever my style
I’ve learned to appreciate it after a while
I’ve collected scars & bruises
& dirt under my nails
City girl in the country
Country girl in the city
I’ve been stargazing
ever since I was born
& seek out light
to help it shine bright.