Did I Icon the Week Away?


For the longest time,  a wooden egg I found at a remnants sale has sat on a shelf in my closet.

Surfaces and options...slow decisions.

blank slate

I’ve had a confusing variety of ideas about what should cover the egg—everything from decoupage flowers to simple gradations of overlaid colors to family portraits to black and white tangles of designs (I always think of them as doodles, but the right name would be zentangles) to bird and plant prints.

I finally settled on a favorite subject–iconography–with an emphasis on the icons of motherhood.

Here, now.

Same egg. Decisions made.

9 egg

If results are repetitious, it’s probably a decoding issue…

tree only painted

the motherhood of trees

I believe in the power of mixed metaphor. Mary and attendant archangels (who in truth branch from different mythological trunks) seem to me completely at home among the branches of Gaian trees, all of one source, all of one meaning, well, for me—which could be something about roots or strength or something about pretty colors and shapes. I’m fickle, unable to focus on a dogma, but I love symbols and embrace the idea of feeling by looking, by doing. I look at an icon, I paint an icon, I feel something lovely stir, something like memory, something like reading a mystic message, though less distinct than that implies: like seeing one possible, visualized deciphering of a message sent in a red and gold and blue code.

The technical rub began to, um, rub when I looked at the size my figures would have to be—the central figure is smaller than my thumb, a lot smaller. And other figures are even tinier than the centerpiece Mary because my Madonna is going nowhere without her entourage, swords and all (this is an icon, so no flippant shortcuts).

Here is the work in progress:

 

 

inside of the egg, underpainting

inside of the egg, underpainting

3 egg

The tiny face, little specs of light (not part of actual painting) courtesy of nonspecific wonderfulness

4 egg

Thumb sized? Nope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This brings up a new difficulty: my vision.

What it really means to say I have my father's eyes...

What it really means to have my father’s eyes…

For years, in order to paint close work, I’ve had to wear stronger reading glasses than I normally take. This time, I found I had to stack my glasses up on my nose, one pair on top of another, in order to get anything like control over strokes.

It is what it is.

It is what it is.

Hey, whatever it takes. I spent a couple of hours a day on this for a week and in some ways, therefore, this was a week hung in the wind while work piled up. But at the end of it, after painting a bit everyday, I was freer, less fragmented by stress, and had more energy, despite struggling with eye strain related headaches. I wrote all weekend and finished a drastic rewrite of a long story that had been troubling me for a year and a half. This is  the thing I keep saying—art makes the internal space for more art. I need to make that into some kind of Scout pledge and recite it every single day. Art Scouts, pledge up! “DOING ART MAKES MORE SPACE FOR DOING MORE ART.” Say it with me now…

Scroll on down if you want to see more images of the work in progress.

basic colors applied

basic colors applied

13 egg

14 egg

17 egg19 egg

archangels

 

Posted in art, artist, creative process, icons, imagery, motherhood, painter, painting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Things I Can Say about Spock, an Ex-Academic, and Power Now that They’ve All Bumped into Each Other in My Head


mr. spock 2Of course it is sad, I am sad, to know that Leonard Nimoy is gone. With unashamed sentiment, I have read some lovely eulogies, tributes that address fully what a fan should say about the man and his body of work.

This weekend, the passing of this beloved public figure intersected as an event with a public outburst of someone known to me and my group of MFA alum. Far flung from anything ever imagined or expected, this meeting of figures was a moment of observational dissonance, of petty, mean, self-serving wittering played like a bad radio behind memories of all the ways reason and reserve first appeared to me as choices for living and creating.

***

I have written elsewhere about the enigma of Helen, who was my mother. Since this rogue whirlwind was our mother, and since our father had his own luggage along for the trip, we, their children, tended to live our thoughts as boldly and out loud as they did, as if walking across the floor required the same audacious certainty as space travel.

In our reality, if someone annoyed you by popping their knuckles or smacking their gum, you hated them and you told them so. You wished their teeth would fall out. You wished their hands would get dog bites and leprosy. If someone spilled their tea, that dimwit got set arrow straight about how many ways they were a waste of food and water. In fact, that spilled drink was the last glass of tea this particular person should ever be allowed to have in a lifetime of thirst and regret, and if she slipped and fell in the puddle she’d made, thereby cracking her brainless skull open, that would the best, most just thing that could ever in a million months of Sundays happen.

I looked like a calm kid.

I looked like a calm kid.

Parents yelled at children and about everything all the time. Children yelled at each other and at the air, our pets, the walls, the kids down the street (who were always appallingly eager to be mean in turn). If a moment, a flicker, a feather’s weight grazed your awareness, you bit it, hard, so that whatever it was wouldn’t try that shit again. As long as you didn’t say any known swear word, especially God or gosh (a “well known substitute for taking God’s name in vain”), you could curse the marrow in somebody’s bones, beg them drown in their own whiny tears, and wish the sun into supernova. We did. Oh, we did.

Anger was a muscle and you flexed it. If not, you heard about it: what’s the matter with you? are you weak? are you stupid?

If you live with anger, you know it has mass, you know it has intentions of its own. And you know it cannot be satisfied while you stand. You also know it never thinks ahead, not even for a second.

***

The winter I was 10, I was forced out of this cycle of reaction. I developed pneumonia and had difficulty recuperating, and talking, sitting upright, caring about much of anything other than the next breath. After a lengthy hospital stay, I was stuck in bed for long weeks at home. Then my ear drums ruptured, and ruptured. And ruptured a third time, a fourth, prolonging convalescence. My parents must have thought I was dying because they took the unprecedented step of renting a television for my bedroom.

The rented TV sat at the foot of my bed blaring on day after day, until I grew so tired of morning cartoons (this was back in the days of Icky Twerp and his Slam Bang Theater—half a day of Looney Tunes and Three Stooges) and the blah-blah-blah talk shows that followed, one day when I was hearing a little too clearly to tolerate another minute of hyuckhyuckyucking, I finally dragged myself out from under the covers, all the way to the foot of the bed (so…they rented the television, but didn’t spring for the remote control…makes perfect My Family sense) and changed the channel. It was by sheer accident that I landed on a show I’d never seen before, unlike anything known to me.

I came upon this new world with high drama in progress. Dynamic dun-dun music played. A softly handsome man in a tight yellow shirt was about to start a war or shoot some sneering, mustachioed guys in metal pantsuits. He was being restrained by these two other guys, both in less tight blue shirts, one who kept saying, “Dammit!” (thrilling) and another who was instantly recognizable as a whole new deal. He was alien—I didn’t need to know anything at all about the show or his character to know that—and he was beautiful.

After a few weeks of watching every episode of the original Star Trek—there were two every weekday and three on Saturday—I became obsessed, developed an urge to reach out in some way, to talk directly to or at or through these characters who were turning my fever baked head around in the most wonderful ways. I had no idea at all that the show had been off the air for years. To me, it was all happening in real time. I asked for, and got, a brand new spiral notebook (more proof the adults in my world were sure I was on my way out). I began writing.

First, I wrote a gushing fan letter. My sister, who shared my room and felt justifiably grudgy about the rented television at the foot of my bed, laughed herself into an asthma attack over the idea that I was such a baby that I thought I could write to a television character. It was the stupidest thing a big girl of 10 had ever done in the history of doing things and only a total numbskull would forget that characters weren’t real.

Then, enlightened and reformed, I tried writing to the real Leonard Nimoy, but I wasn’t sure I knew Leonard Nimoy the way I knew Spock. I couldn’t seem to think of what to say to him. I started having uncomfortable notions about the difference between fiction and the gears and pulleys that form fiction—authors, actors, readers, viewers. Must love reduce to machinery? I would go on for decades trying to answer this question.

Finally, one day, while sitting alone, watching, loving—angst (because Spock and McCoy and Uhura weren’t real) and joy (because I loved them anyway) playing together in close proximity to my heart, I picked up the spiral and starting writing what I was really thinking. Impulse turned into a screen play of twelve long pages, complete with colons after characters’ names and stage direction in parentheses. Yes, Mrs. Cooper, I had been paying attention in Pod 3 Reading Group, when you introduced The Little Beansprout in Two Acts, though I know it looked like I was hiding under my orange poncho (fair enough because I was). I was also listening, storing, and apparently planning.

My script was for Spock, of course, that resolutely solitary soul, the one who thought before he spoke, whose appeal as a role model hid in his elegant reserve. He had such power—he was physically stronger than his human shipmates, even Kirk, intellectually more astute than any character I had ever seen or read or contemplated—in my experience, “smart” was generally an accusation even at school—but here he was, a smart man saving the day by knowing stuff. Still he was gentle in his power. He didn’t hurt anyone or allow others to hurt anyone until he had the whole story, had contemplated right and wrong against criteria larger than the events of a given situation. Spock, Nimoy—himself an intellectual, an artist—as Spock, was mindful of what he said and of how his words, his voice, his aspect shaped the way events around him might unfold.

***

Leaving one experiential venue for another less appealing, this past Saturday, an indie news site out of Seattle, The Stranger, posted a bloggy opine by a former advisor at the school from which I recently graduated. Nothing wrong with that. I like bloggy opines. I write them. I read them. Some are like medicine, like rain, like wellies for standing in rain. Others, meh.

Note: I’m not posting a link because I really have no desire to push traffic in that direction. If you’re heaps of curious, you can Google The Stranger and find the article on that site by its obvious title.

Now, this particular former advisor was not someone I worked with, but I know people who did, some successfully, others spectacularly not so. Everything doesn’t always work out swimmingly. I graduated, continued to feel love and gratitude toward my own former advisors and forgot all about this guy.

Enter the bloggy opine.

Lidia Yuknavitch has said some great and relatively difficult things about the need for writers to get to that point of writing as therapy and then move beyond it, about intellectualism in contemporary literature, and about the personal value of an academic path to writing. Neil Gaiman has been memed seven ways from five about not letting initial failures to achieve what you want with your writing stop you and about learning from finishing what you start, no matter what. The people who hit barriers and thresholds and potholes and grand effing canyons of yuck-that-reads-like-a-soup-can and keep crossing the blank page barrier are the ones who stand the greatest chance of getting their stories on the page the way they intended. Writers who have achieved unarguable success—commercial, critical, cultural—tend to say similar things about what happens when people stop writing and what might happen when people continue to push into writing, deeper, letter by letter.

The bloggy opine said none of that.  It said, summarizing, most people in MFA programs are deluding themselves, teaching them is a rare agony, certain books can be used as a litmus test of who is or is not smart—though looking smart is not necessary (I guess he threw that in because he didn’t want to look too snobby or something); once, a student made him cry with a memoir, but only once, which is significant because that is a clear sign that this student was a “Real Deal”, and finally, student writing has long bored him too much to even be civil about (I’m paraphrasing in that he said student writing bored him and he wasn’t civil about it). Then he made a truly bone headed joke about how he wishes that memoir students writing about abuse, but who have poor grammar skills, should have suffered more, myopia, myopia, ego, myopia.

Okay, that’s more than enough of that.

***

Power makes people act badly, we know that. But writing is so solitary, so fractal. Who has power, and what even constitutes power? The people who have it know exactly who they are and who they are not and what it looks like.

But there isn’t much of it. Between Amazon, the advent of the million dollar, poorly written, self-published book, the zillion and one literary journals and foundations that can afford to reach out with only good intentions, and the rise of published authors working in academia who are also on food stamps, power is a relative word in the literary world.

When there is only a little power and when someone feels that there isn’t enough to go around and that little drop of power that is or might be theirs is going to have to stretch further, last them longer, conventional wisdom suggests the need to insulate.

Snarky, narcissistic definitions of who can and cannot write, of what success means—and of what foolishness are desire, will, and hard work—become the gate keepers of inside versus outside. Reading that article was like a flashback: Talent is born, odds are that isn’t you, it is me, it’s not you, you’re not real, you don’t know enough, you don’t care enough, I am an authority because I’ve done things, seen things, you are fooling yourself. Who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are? I have heard that before. It’s an old, discordantly catchy song usually performed to strains of “I am more significant than other people.”

Sounds like fear. Reads like anger. Hurts people, excludes people, fails to look ahead at the fallout, and then says, “So what? You deserve to suffer. I hope you drown in your own boo hoo.”

***

When I was a kid, stuck in bed, watching Leonard Nimoy shape an icon out of eyebrow arches and pauses, I felt like I’d been let into something.

So I wrote a screenplay. I had my sister, who for once was obliging enough (maybe she, too, thought I was fading fast) and found me an envelope or maybe it was just paper glued together in the shape of an envelope, take the screenplay and mail it. I had no address, no concept of where it should go. I think I wrote “To: Star Trek” on the envelope or glued paper.

I remember my mother coming into the room and seeing it, saying, “That’s so stupid, who do you think you are all of a sudden?” And also, “Why are you getting all upset? You’re so stupid to think this is a real thing. You don’t even have an address. That show isn’t even on anymore. And nobody real wants some dumb thing you wrote. And that’s just the truth, honey. If you cry when you hear the truth then that’s just stupider.”

***

One thing I’ve learned about my mother is that she had very little. She had us to hurt. She had some pretty dresses at one point, but they were lost or she got a little too heavy for them later in life. She had lovely, small, feminine hands—hard as iron, but they looked very petite and precise.

She had looked like a movie star when she was a teenager.

She had once imagined herself the very definition of free—she had a cool job, great clothes, lots of men, a fast car. But then she had a baby. Then she got married. Then, all of us. Then age.

Right up to the last day she had the strength to form words, she did everything in her tiny little sphere of power to keep that power. None of us could ever be successfully young, pretty, free. She made sure we knew that, because if we were, she couldn’t be. It made her feel important and that feeling was all the power she had left.

***

There is no power in the new literary world. Maybe there wasn’t in the old one, either. The new model is cooperative, diffuse, diverse.  Sucky writers who don’t know a thing about the modal tense or how to plug in a comma can self-publish and make a million. Can. Most don’t. But that’s the new model. It’s commerce-based and it isn’t going to visit most of us.  And it doesn’t care about the critics or how cool you are. Mormon girls with weird fantasies can be queens in this new order.

Aside from anecdotal windfalls, success in writing is now defined by the privilege of title, invites to events, solicitations to sit on panels, ease of publishing on known web sites, in the “better” lit mags. Teaching writing, like all academic and intellectual models, as well as other modes of service, has lost all its capital—quite literally.

Now there is no reason to get an MFA. The programs are ridiculous, useless, full of wannabes and whiners.

Who was I sending that scribbled thing I call a screenplay to? How dumb.

Students who don’t perform well deserve ridicule because they are just too boring for real writers to endure.

Why are you crying? What a baby. See? You are an idiot. Who did you think you were? The Real Deal?

***

Some people I know were hurt by the words of this former advisor. Me, no, I’ve heard it before. While power in writing and publishing is so thin, so materially diminished, while it shifts and redistributes, expect more of this kind of thing. Fear is angry, it makes hurt, then it ridicules the injured.

Live long, writers, prosper in ways that scare the shit out of absolutely everyone who would have you give up and then deride you by saying, I never said you should give up, I was just telling the truth.

Here’s a truth: some virtues are reliable. Discretion, acceptance, patience, service, reason, respect, endurance. Look for the people who embody these, but remember that these will probably not be the loudest voices in any crowd. They’ll just be the ones that wake you up, that move you, that sustain you, and that join you as a member of a group rather than as a paragon.

And as for power, when have gates ever held? Ever? When has withholding ever created more of anything?

I hope to live and create in reason. It’s what I’ve always hoped. And I still believe there is plenty of reason and creation to sustain us all.

Posted in Advice, bad advice, creative process, creative writing, Encouragement, family, Helen, MFA, opinions, self-doubt, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Meto-things: What’s Up


Here is where things are at:

1

My own take on monsterishness... "Mwhahaha"

My own take on monsterishness…
Mwhahaha

My partner in all things of art and life, David L. White, has three poems up at The Knicknackery, “Low Tide”, “Crochet”, and “At Oven’s Door”, which I can’t even read because it breaks me. IntensityI love the seeming simplicity of “Low Tide”, how it jolts you at the end, and “Crochet” is a favorite of mine–it’s like a weird incantation. It does something when you read it, when you speak it, but it’s unclear exactly what.

Hackles? Prepare to raise them.

You’ll be hooked by the nerve on David’s monster poetry in this edition of monster-themed lit–the spooky factor is always fun. More goodness: to complement their issue-of-freaky, The Knicknackery folks have chosen some vintage art I find particularly good, ghoulish fun. And I’ve already staked out my in-this-edition-crush (besides David, who was a shoe-in for my wow vote), Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, who has some lovely, ghostly pieces.

2

Olivia wrote this for me when I was away at a residency. Who knew owls would be such good friends?

Olivia wrote this for me a couple years ago when I was away at a residency. Who knew owls would be such good friends?

No sooner did I write a sad song to our lifeless concrete suburban community, when what should take up residence in an overgrown palm tree directly across the street from us? Barn owls! They fly south at night and most likely hunt the freeway berms and industrial zones (rodents), but those are guesses. We do have an abundance of feral cats around. Gruesome to consider this, but the presence of owls are not more dire than other perils stray animals face. Bygones, owls. Of course, pigeons factor into their diet, I would wager. We’ve been searching for castings to get a better idea of what’s going on, but any such thing would most likely be swept up by the HOA crews before we could find it.

Falling asleep to their kleak-kleak sounds has been nothing but joy and twice I’ve been stealthy enough to get glimpses of them soaring out of their tree–well, it’s more of a shove off and then a ghostly swoop–silent, elegant, powerful. Took my breath away. Just as I thought our everyday environment had lost the last vestiges of natural surprise, these dangerous angels turn up, hunting, haunting.

On the worrisome side, they’ve made enough noise a few nights to wake us up around 3 a.m., not that they bother me–I find it thrilling–but I heard what I believe to be (cannot confirm actually were) gun shots. No doubt, someone was trying to take them down. I suppose some people have so acclimated to endless asphalt, they’ve paved right through their souls.

But we love our owls. And we hope they will stay awhile, and also that our hateful neighbors have bad aim and better meds.

3

I’m spending the next three months in deep writing mode. I have to finish a project and I’m at the point with it, I need to declare my commitment. Sometimes you have to stop balancing, stop trying to make life evenly managed, stop giving everything a fair share of yourself, making every daily task equally important in the moment.

Sometimes, it's just that easy.

Sometimes, it’s just that easy. Other times…no…

Sometimes my writer self can skip around, smelling roses and returning phone calls. Sometimes I have to surrender and become the bear in the cave. When I’m done, I’ll come out.

But I’ll keep meto-ing. A little light goes a long, welcome way in a cave.

Posted in art, creative process, creative writing, creativity, David L. White, elegy, Literary Journals, nature, owls, Poetry, Publications, Uncategorized, wild spaces | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prompt-a-thon, with Pictures


I have learned something valuable: Prompts are well liked.

I guess I get a little frustrated with prompt-driven writing because it was so much a part of the public school classroom. I, the student me, hated grade school (and everything after), and teaching, though it could be beautiful, was fraught. With what? Different post. Maybe also an encyclopedically long novel.

Also, I tend to panic when I am given a prompt because I am still neurotic enough to immediately assume I’m going to blow it and write something stupid and the prompt-er is going to look at me-the-prompt-ee and say something like, “That’s not what I meant at all!” You know, “of all the Charlie Browns in the world…”

Baggage. Sheesh.

But I am willing to say that I’m on my own, mostly, in this grudging relationship. And the writing of writing prompts, or finding good ones elsewhere, is a parliament of hoots. So here you are, two multi-potentialed prompts–and I’m thinking of making this a regular thing.

flowered strip 2671

Prompt 1: Let’s get ekphrastic.

Saying ekphrastic reminds me, sound-wise, of ecstatic and that leads me to consider all the ways art can lead to an ecstatic state…but then saying “ekphrastic” can also feel intimidating (I’m jumpy, y’all) as I typically associate this word with observance of the masters, works of art universally recognized as worthy of observation and response. Here’s some detour in that bit of heavy: between emotional freeze factors (“What could I possibly say about Van Gogh that Van Gogh doesn’t already say?”) and right-to-use image issues, we’re going to go more casual here with our images.

Use this totally unintimidating and litigiously risk free image to feed your thoughts. You can use the title or not. Make the image your environment, your creation, your discovery, your recurring dream. Or anything else you’d like to do with it, for it, near it. Talk in front of it, about it, to it, or behind its back, quite puckishly.

I Didn't Know There was a Curtain

I Didn’t Know There was a Curtain

If you would prefer to use a photographic image, try this one:

The Only Chicken

Because Chickens

I Won, I Won! (by Liv)

I Won, I Won! (Liv’s)

Prompt 2: Talk about talkingheads.

Here we are, a couple days before the Oscars. No one watches the Oscars anymore, except for my sister and me. We eat that funky shit right up. We’re going to have a sleep over and watch every lavishly weird second of it. So with that in mind, write your acceptance speech. For what? Whatever far flung thing you’d like. Or tell the story of an acceptance speech. If words have souls of their own, then they surely must live, learn, die. What beautifully flawed Bildungsroman can you envision for the life of an awards speech?

 

Always recommended: keep the initial draft around 500 words. That way you plow through rough drafts and find the ones you want to expand, the ones you want to refine, and the ones you want to make into paper airplanes. If you should happen to come up with a killer final draft under 750 words, well, you know what to do: rawboned that thing.

Posted in art, creative process, creative writing, creativity, fiction, flash fiction, imagery, inspiration, process, Prompts, rawboned, stories, symbolism, vision, writers, writing, Writing prompts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meto-News 2/10/15: tNY Anthology Arrives and Other Intriguing Thoughts


As previously promised, here are my tNY Book IV contributor’s kickbacks. Visuals reign supreme in this weird little book, which is as it should be. Check it out:

tNY loot (Book IV Anthology, Postcards, bonus goodies

tNY loot (Book IV Anthology, Postcards, bonus goodies

My story appears on page 24  and is paired here not with the artwork of Lori Nelson as on the website, but with another piece I love enough to put on a wall,  “A Nightmare”, by David De Las Heras (instant eyeball crush).

The Hummingbird Murder and the art of David De Las Heras

The Hummingbird Murder and the art of David De Las Heras

And the postcards are super cool. A couple are so pretty I’m going to have to weigh the fun of sending them out against how nice they would look in a frame on my wall.

Interesting news tidbit–recently, theNewerYork has had to change their designation (for legal reasons) to tNY.com, home of The Shrug (lit mag) and several other cool enterprises, including theEEEL, which is an ongoing, constantly updating catalog of stories, words, and artwork.

The way I initially became aware of this site was by browsing, reading deep down into their archives. Good stuff in there.  I was in Texas with my sister when I heard I’d have a story up on (what is now) theEEEL. She and I had several Bloody Mary toasts to that, making for a lovely summer-high. Recently, another cohort of mine from Goddard, James Gapinski, placed a little bit of wonderful (Cheat Codes) on theEEEL. I hope he has toasted to it, a lot. I recommend that.

I often go on about how much I love online lit mags. Working for rawboned is a source of fun and pride and, well, work (which is such a good and life-saving thing). My heart is greedy for this stuff. I wish there were more—more reading, more work, more to love.

I want to think about this desire for more. Let’s say I’ve got things on my mind for spring 2015.

tny color eye effect

Keeping it close

 

Posted in art, celebration, creative writing, David De Las Heras, fiction, flash fiction, Literary Journals, Lori Nelson, online journals, Publications, rawboned, short stories, submitting, theNewerYork, Uncategorized, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Places: An Elegy


I’m pleased to share news from my partner in life, David L. White, as we enjoy his latest publication.  His poem, “A Sonnet Just South of Kyrene and Chandler”, is freshly printed in the fall, 2014 edition of Southwestern American Literature.

A beautiful cover

A beautiful cover

The piece is an absolutely brilliant and concise observation of the increasingly concrete suburban landscape. At its core, it is an elegy.

The central premise of this jewel of a poem, in sync with the subject of the ethereal photo and short essay by my friend, Robyn Lynn, (currently appearing in Ascent) embodies the sad truth we see every day. Even in our dry as dust Southwestern suburb, there used to be wild-ish spaces.

When we first moved here ten years ago, there were a few horse properties left and an actual horse ranch virtually across the street. We’d been living in a city, in an apartment for so long, we decided, as a novelty, to sleeping bag it in the backyard one early summer night. The stars, while not exactly Yosemite dazzling, appeared many times more brilliant than they had from our central urban apartment. About 2 a.m., we were awakened from our starstruck doze by coyote call. Chilled to the bone by sound and night air, we shivered our way inside. David’s poem revisits this moment.

During that first year, I was frequently accompanied on a weekend bike ride around the neighborhood by a peacock who always seemed to be slowly chasing me. He would always end our outing with a show of his plumage or a chest-deep bleat.

(This is not the same peacock, but in case you’ve never had the pleasure…)

This was all around 2003/2004. In 2015, the places once occupied by horses and sunchokes, thick as hedgerows, have transformed into a two acre office complex, a sprawled, puzzle box of 50 or 60 separate business fronts strung together like a steel and granite flotilla in a huge blacktop bay. There are, at any given time, about three businesses actually operating out of the entire center.

The coyotes are long gone, pushed south or west toward the foothills. If we were to try sleeping in our backyard now, the constant hum of the freeway would have to do for a raspy and siren-punctuated lullaby.

Noise and light pollution have utterly altered the moment by moment sensory experience of living here.

At my in-laws', skunks are a flat out thrill

At my in-laws’, skunks are a flat out thrill

I can’t imagine what happened to the peacocks, but the property they lived on is another bunkerlike empty building, another stylish tribute to how much concrete it takes to block the last view of the western foothills. And while I realize that peacocks never did actually belong in this landscape, seeing them was nonetheless heartening, enlivening. That doesn’t seem so odd, the idea that animals open a place to wilder energies, and that I would feel I’d been farther, seen more, done more on a day with horses and peacocks, coyotes and starlight.

And it’s not just the surrounding landscape, but the way the people who live here are expected to conform to standards of identity neutral development. Houses must be the same color. Toys and bicycles cannot be visible from the street. Chalk drawings (think of the horror of giant daisies and hopscotch squares) should be washed off sidewalks and driveways within 24 hours to avoid HOA citations. Yards must be clear of large shrubs. Tall trees have to be closely pruned or removed. Leaves cannot be allowed in yards or streets. Restrictions are so tight, folks in this area—and many others—have begun to simply turn their backyards into patios. The entire yard. While I’m all for native landscaping, I’m not sure what to make of the “nobody can complain if it’s all concrete” theory of neighborhood design.

My visual metaphor for all of this.

My visual metaphor for all of this.

Not coincidentally, we now have trouble with smog, with mosquitoes, with speeding traffic on small residential streets, with frequent and middle of the night wrecks. Our corner, after it became the last full stop before the on ramp, sprouted so many memorial crosses at one point last summer, the city swooped in (a move proving bureaucrats know a thing or two about ambiance) and took down all the tributes  at once. The sight of so many funereal markers was alarming, but moving the flowers and crosses, the plastic wrapped teddy bears and balloons will not make anyone any safer. And we heard every single tragedy from the proverbial front row:

“What’s that deafening sound?”

“Oh, it’s just Life Flight again.”

If I had a place I could go. If there were still any sign of openness, of any kind of life other than hives of contractors erecting permanently unoccupied buildings. If there were a wild slot into which I could slip and hear—nothing. We had all of that. But it’s gone. And no one who is in charge of planning how cities grow and people evolve as communities seemed to think it was a big enough deal to save anything at all.

I know some places do a better job of guarding those beloved few and (should be) sacred wild spaces within the urban- and suburban-scape. There are cities and annexes that seem to be at least somewhat aware that people need a place to escape that trapped feeling of being lost in a sea of concrete.

Places have needs, too. If my neighborhood could, it would probably write a poem that would read a lot like the one David wrote. And then it would move.

Posted in Ascent, awareness, creativity, David L. White, ecology, elegy, fragility, inspiration, nature, photography, poem, Publications, Robyn Lynn, SAL, Southwestern American Literature, urban development, wandering, wild spaces, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

rawboned Gets a Nod, Brevity-style


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This just in: over the weekend, the good people at Brevity gave Trisha Winn’s rawboned a mention. As an editor, I’m feeling the love. Viewership and submissions were rolling fast by Sunday night. Keep it going. Submit your best bear-pokings. I promise to read every word.

Take a look at Brevity‘s space (what follows is straight from Brevity, reprinted from rawboned):

From the bear-poking folks at rawboned:

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the role of art, written or otherwise brought into being. To us, and to a great many others (I suspect), it is this: to poke the bear. We writers and artists do what we do because we have questions. Creating our art may not bring us the answers, but it can more fully, and in sometimes astonishing ways, articulate the questions. “Good” writing/art pushes readers and viewers to find their own questions.

Issue #6, to be published in April, will be dedicated to poking the bear. Whether you question your culture, your government, literary criticism, or why you always make eggs on Sunday morning, question something. Or send us something that makes us question something. And do it in 750 words or less. Surprise us. Stun us. Please.

Posted in Brevity, flash fiction, online journals, Publications, rawboned, submitting, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment