For the Birds

“Owls have a peculiar knowing way, a strict sense of personal space, a connoisseur’s restful delight in their food, a certain repose, a remarkable capacity for necessary aggression.”

Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

When M read this to me recently, I thought, “What a great character sketch!”  The style and flow of this sentence (and believe me, the book is full of them) makes me involuntarily smile as I pick each phrase apart and apply it to a person.  I make plans for pouring this sentence (like a syrup) into my morning writing, infusing that delicious penchant for a chapter’s worth of information in such an adorable little package … and then realize I have gotten lost in its magic and am going to be late for work.

This is why reading, on a voracious level, is so important.  I have accepted (to some degree) that I will not be able to read everything I want before I die.  Even if I lived to be 110 years old, I would not be able to accomplish this feat.  But think about this.  Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds was published by Sasquatch Books in 2001 and won the 2002 Washington State Book Award, yet I would have missed it if M wasn’t a bird crazed darling who decided to read it.  Further, author Lyanda Lynn Haupt has apparently been a prodigious writer since then, receiving another award for a book called Crow Planet, and putting out a more recent delicacy – The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild last year.  I mean, with writing like this, I now feel obligated to add every one of her books to my reading list.

As a very analytical person, I have taken a step back from my fascination to write this piece and to ask you, “Am I overboard here?”  Sure – it’s just a sentence.  Maybe I could just read the one book and pat myself on the back as a writer, telling myself “Due diligence,” and all that.  “We must read as much as we write.”  This has never seemed like a chore.  It seemed like selection of reading material was like a builder planning and acquiring supplies … prioritizing those areas where the absolute best must be purchased, and compromising where less expensive materials will do to make sure the finished product is better than the last one.  “Trash in trash out,” must equate to “Artistry in artistry out,” I surmise.  It’s a sentence.  I ask you once more, “Am I overboard?”

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Choosing Sides

Unless you order the “Gut Buster Special” which comes with a premeditated calorie delivery system, there are usually choices for additional sides in any dining out experience. In most cases, even the “Gut Buster” has allowable customization: “Would you like tots or fries with that?” What I’d like to explore briefly is how the server promotes these sides when taking your order.

NCI_Visuals_Food_HamburgerDoes your server explain the ideology behind each choice, flinging punditry and and leaning more in favor of baked tots over fries? Perhaps your wait staff is passionate about the health benefits of the baked tots over the more artery clogging fries. Liberty fries, of course … but still. Do you study the menu before the notepad carrying fount of opinion arrives to query you, pondering the nutrient content and trans fat risks? That way you are an educated side picker. Of course, it’s always important to educate yourself before you vote. But wait – how much should you trust that menu?

No worries. Your apron clad expert will arrive any minute to bring you up to speed on his or her version of the truth. Just keep in mind, your server may have lost a loved one to a heart attack, or diabetes. El Garçon may have a hidden agenda for coercing you to leave those fries alone. Don’t be mad. He’s just trying to spare you from an early death or unfavorable afterlife. Heaven forbid he owns baked tot futures.

You could research this choice a little, don’t you think? Give your conscience a little more certainty to rest its weary head upon. Careful – the restaurant next door is pushing the fries … after all, tots are “so five years ago.” Then there’s that nice looking dog walker you stop on the sidewalk (in your effort to get a random, unbiased opinion) who looks at you like you’ve just invaded the planet. “Are you nuts? Think about sticking to salad, Pudgeball.” How rude?!

Let’s speak to the manager/owner, shall we? Eh hem. “Excuse me Ma’am, but I’d like more information about the pros and cons of each of these sides so I can make an informed decision. Can you help?”

This woman is of average height and build, looks healthy enough and, we’re thinking, must be of decent intelligence. She owns and runs her own restaurant for crying out loud. Let’s check out her response.

“If it weren’t for the government telling me how to run my establishment, I wouldn’t even serve fries. You don’t have to ask for me to tell you that eating fries is a sin and those that do are going to burn forever. Especially those that dip their fries in the ketchup. There’s only one right choice here and if you don’t see it my way, I’m going to have to ask you to take your “Gut Buster” and leave.”

Game over. If you still wish to play the “Choose Sides” game, please deposit another pocket of quarters into the slot labelled, “I am a person.” Otherwise, please place your nickel in the slot marked “Corporate Individual.”

Pondering Tiny

Screen from "The Incredible Shrinking Wom...

Screen from “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” (Photo credit: Scurzuzu)

Anyone remember that movie with Lily Tomlin, “The Incredible Shrinking Woman?”  I remember watching that movie as a kid and wishing I could actually recreate the chemical reactions for myself that had led to her shrinkage into tinydom.  What is it about tiny that appeals to us so much?
Did I really want to be little, or just live in an alternate reality or dimension.  Most likely the latter since, I can’t imagine the idea of large hands accosting me and bigger people controlling me sounding all that appealing.  Of course, as an adult, I think about all those times when I’ve felt like I didn’t fit in this world.  I imagine that would be a huge majority of my feelings as a tiny person.  I think about “The Borrowers” whose appeal was not lost on me either.  

I loved all the creative uses for everyday mundane things: a matchbox being retooled as a bed, a thimble as a bucket.  Innovation appeals to me still today.  So perhaps given enough “mundane” elements, I would enjoy this existence.  Living under floorboards, my only work to scrounge and gather food.  A tiny little escape from the pressures and fears of this world and existence.  

The Return of the Borrowers

The Return of the Borrowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I think of books.  Writing.  I’d have to read HUGE print and worry about getting caught (unless I had a Big Person Protector).  I would have to write longhand with a piece of mechanical pencil lead and scraps of paper.  My hands would get so filthy and tired.  No little Macs in Little Person World.  

Meh.  I’ll stick around in this reality.  It’s not so bad, really.  Too bad the little people scenarios have been done to death.  Storytelling in such environments might be fun.  What do you think?  Is the miniature world idea universally appealing?  Why is it that we find it so fascinating?  What’s the psychology behind that?

The Antithesis of Extreme

Truth lies

Extremism – good and bad?  Good for sports.  Bad for government or religion.  That’s my couple of pennies.  Yet, speaking strictly as a writer with no dog in this fight – I think there’s much to be written amid the adrenaline in politics and special interests of all sorts.  The challenge is to write it without blowing a gasket myself.  Perhaps I prematurely spoke of an unbiased lack of K9 in said brawl.  But back to work.  Is the opposite of extremism … “anti-extremism,” or just a fictional, plain even-keeled and poker-faced leader?  Maybe a character that is never extreme in any way would do nicely, someone always cool like the Fonzie from the long ago show “Happy Days.”

One extreme opposite might be me editorializing:

“I’m on the soapbox here readers!  I’m preaching a new RELIGION or philosophy, if you will.  It’s called Anti-Extremism.  I’m so sick and damn tired of idiots dragging good causes into the crapper with their exaggerated sense of knowledge or angst.  I follow some of their blogs because I feel I should stay in tune with the stink they are spewing on a regular basis.  I don’t want to get swept up in it.  What am I talking about?”

C’mon dear reader.  If I told you that – I’d get hate messages and even more propaganda and I’d just have to pony up more anti-extremism to give ’em the smack down.  A never ending cycle would be formed.  Kind of like what’s out there right now.  Conservatives say this – Liberals say that.

Well it appears I have a prayer request – stop using extremist language in your anti-extremist preaching?

“Oh dear.  Absolutely right.  Got a bit off the beaten path it seems.  Well folks, all donations are final and non-refundable and it appears that will be all.  Doors are now closed for business so please watch your step on your way out.”

But seriously, I should write a character that never jumps … never loses it and rants, always keeps an even keel on all issues.  A person that all the “fact-checker” websites would always report as being somewhere between the truth and half-truth.  There aren’t any out there right now in the public arena, I’m afraid.  I think my other fictional country of characters would vote this person as PM or President or something.

The Politics of Esteem

Havre Train Station - Amtrak

On a 20 hour train ride from Spokane to Minot I overheard a conversation that resulted in my sadness and poor outlook on the human race – myself a member.  Somewhere around Havre, MT two women got on board with a wealth of other new passengers.  Those of us who had treasured our two-seat comfort were disappointed, but it was to be expected sooner or later.

These two women were fascinating to watch because, although they shared a common language (accent) and geography, they were the epitome of night and day.  Julie was thin, fit, and of average stature.  Janice was shorter and rotund, and her shirt revealed her backside whenever she bent over to get anything out of her bag.  Julie was stylish in her stone washed jeans, layered fashion t-shirts, and textured Justin boots.  Apparently Janice and her husband used to live across from Julie and her husband years ago.  And today they had met at the Havre train depot, both of them headed back to Minnesota.

In listening to their conversation, I learned that Julie is a cancer survivor.  Janice sent her a card after she learned about her former neighbor’s plight months ago.  She asked if Julie got it.  She did.  She had just decided not to respond.  Who knows?  Maybe surviving a near death experience like cancer makes you simplify and you worry less about social expectations like returning a correspondence.

During their initial exchange, Janice made several attempts to reconnect.  She even settled for getting their husbands (who apparently used to be good friends) back in touch.  Julie’s husband was up in Canada on his Harley enjoying a ride so that he wouldn’t miss Julie as much while she was gone.  I got the feeling that Janice’s husband still works.

Growing up, my parents were never really the social butterflies you see on those sitcoms where neighbors talk to neighbors over the fence and have the occasional barbecues.  And even today, when I move to a new place, its very difficult for me to be neighborly.  But Julie and Janice, from the clues in their conversation, had been the kind of neighbors that take baked goods to each other and collect each other’s mail when they’re out of town.  I was having trouble liking Julie as this went on.

Julie said words that were to be expected when Janice spoke.  She replied at the appropriate times and even came and leaned on the empty seat in front of us near the end of the conversation to face her “friend” and engage fully.  But Julie spoke a different kind of language with her body language, the words she chose, and her tone.  In Julie-language she quite obviously said, “I’m so far past you … so much better than you … this won’t go anywhere after we get off the train.”  Her replies near the end said, “I’ve been there, done that,” or “Oh, I can do you one better.”

Julie has beaten cancer and she is happy to talk about it to anyone that wants to hear.  She likes the way they look at her after she tells them.  As soon as a fellow passenger (a rather artsy looking Seattleite with long, well kempt hair and Birkenstocks) heard a name he recognized, he joined in the conversation.  Visually comparing the two, Julie quickly dropped Janice like a hot potato.  Janice may not have noticed, but I did and for some deep seeded reason I felt pissed.

Doug and Julie realized they had several relatives in common and began talking about what a small world it was and how uncanny it was to discover each other.  Julie got the attention she’d been seeking, in the package she preferred.  I know the label is used more commonly on men, but I have to say that Julie was a tool.  I watched as Janice slowly settled herself in for a long train ride next to a total stranger (me) who didn’t like to talk much.  Was I projecting some underlying sadness of my own in this social defeat of Janice’s?  Perhaps.

But with each conversation, each one so unlike me to instigate or perpetuate, I was speaking to Janice in Julie-language.  “We’re real, dammit.  We matter.  We GET that everything in life doesn’t work out perfect and fit in neat little designer Justin’s or Birkenstocks.  Our joys are just as important as anyone else’s.  Our pains are just as relevant.  We may not have been to the chemical warfront and returned to tell our stories over scars and glasses of fine wine.  But cancer comes in many forms.  Self-serving social cancer can hurt people too.  We will pray for Julie’s condition.”

Lazy Writer?

Can a lazy person be a writer? I’m thinking – sure. A journalist on the other hand … probably not. I have been working on a special interest/historical piece on Hemingway for ages now. In early May I referenced one of my literary heroes – Ernest Hemingway, in an opinion piece. Ever since I’ve pondered just how close my opinion of him is to the real thing. So I decided to research and write about my search and find mission. Continue reading

Versatile Blogger Award

versatileblogger11As is the norm when browsing blogs, I became interested in Knitting Rays of Hope through another blogger and just thought it was a great way to put kindness into the world – knitting hats for those affected by cancer and their loved ones, thereby also raising awareness.  So – I’m honored to be nominated by such a noble blog and will follow the prescribed method for posting that this nomination/award requires.   Being relatively new to blogging, I have some reservations about things I don’t understand.  At the same time, I want to avoid bad etiquette and express appreciation for legitimate praise and/or recognition of any sort.

It feels a little awkward because it reminds me of those chain emails I used to get before blocking the accounts of those contacts that sent them to me.  Jus’ sayin’.  So I want to put it out there that, while I am happy to put some links out there for the 15 blogs I want to recognize as my current favorites, I have absolutely no expectation that they, in turn, follow this custom.  While I read quite a few blogs, something like 100 blogs from time to time, I think 15 is a bit excessive when it comes right down to it.  Still, here goes:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

I recognize the following 15 blogs for the award:

1) The Culture Monk – witty, thoughtful, relevant, and real… and he actually loves coffee more than I do (never thought it was possible)

2) Well Strike Me Down With a Ham Sandwich – Genius youth meets Monty Python with more than a dash of humor – University or not, I expect big things!

3) Writings of a Mrs – just your everyday peek into another persons life and mind – done very nicely

4) Tongue Sandwich – Totally inappropriate mess of intriguing subjects ranging from curious to disgusting – well researched (or are they?) and well written

5) Deconstructing Myths – many articles I agree with but rarely like, I should pay more attention to liking them – “Social Justice is built one idea at a time…”

6) MindSync – inspiring personal journey exposed

7) things + flesh – musician with soul whose music I’ve never heard but who writes tunes in my head and heart

8) Long Arm Films – Bloke talks like a pirate, inadvertently educates me on the world outside of the US, and makes cool lookin’ films with another bloke!

9) My Other Voices – multiple personality writing – I wish I’d thought of this but now I’d be nothing more than a cheap knock-off, no you wouldn’t, yes I would

10) Shelf Love – because I have a book addiction and because they do a great job of posting new and cool book reviews/summaries!

11) Kristen Lamb’s Blog – a writer’s dreamworld that blog of hers!

12) Written Words Never Die – a haiku lover and I’m always amazed at people who can state the obvious or the deep in such few words, and so beautifully

13) The Official How to Blog – nothing like a blog you think will be useful but pleasantly discover is a humorous, entertaining, and jolly waste of time

14) Socially Oxward – … me too – right there with ya’

15) acannawupaz’s Blog – new to blogging, this gal has some great stories to tell … if she’d just get busy telling them more often!

7 things about us:

  • I work with youth
  • I hate cancer
  • If I could I would do nothing but write for a living and give a ton of money to the youth program I work for now
  • I want to write anonymously for now, until I get better and get free in my mind
  • I live in Idaho
  • I believe music goes with everything
  • I believe people should read books or they will die stupid

Following

You can really tell a lot about a blogger by the blogs they follow.  I’m still relatively new to blogging, but I read an interesting article the other day and learned a whole new way of looking at blogging.  Now, granted, I started posting because I wanted to be a writer.  (I only say that in past tense because I got sick of saying it and decided, for efficiency and the sake of my attitude, I just AM one.) Continue reading

cancer

You know how, on those National Geographic nature specials, the speedy stalking animal takes down one of the herd? And the narrator explains how the prey is one of the slower, sicker, or younger members of the group?  They claim that the hunter or pack pursues the prey in a way that eventually separates out one or more for their dinner.  But it doesn’t always line up, this explanation.  Sometimes the victim seems perfectly fine, not noticeably sluggish or weak – just unlucky.  That’s how I feel about cancer.

I recently heard somewhere that more and more women who have lived healthy, tobacco free lives, are getting lung cancer. Continue reading

Ode to My Instrument

I’ve heard that artists tend to fall in love with one or more of the following (in no particular order, really):

  • themselves
  • other artists
  • their instrument(s)
  • applause.

I express this to say – well, I think I’m in love … with my Mac.

When I write poetry, my tools of the trade are the old fashioned pencil and paper.  But when I write the stuff I love the most, the stuff that pours from my head (in need of various re-writes), I need an instrument that can handle that kind of workload.  I sometimes forget the intricate circuitry beneath my “Dim Mak” fingertips when I’m typing a barrage of words on my MacBook Pro. When other people are in the room, they often stare at me with looks of concern and irritation.  I have to remind myself that Mac is my partner, not some rudimentary basket to pour my dirty laundry into, or some punching bag at which to wail my anger.  But he always understands and just keeps being there for me.

English: An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing.

I feel I need to pause here and write an ode to my mac.  I love him so much.  Yes – “him.”  Everyone knows macs are cute little gay men.  Duh.

Ode to Mac

so functional
so sleek
so sexy
so geek
    my mac!

I love how he keeps my myriad of thought organized and easy for me to find when I need something specific.  I love how he listens without comment, only occasionally making spelling corrections (he knows I’m an open minded speller).  He doesn’t criticize or applaud.  He just assists.  I like that about him.

I’m sure PC could do that too.  But Mac never makes me wait or tells me something else is more important than my writing.  Mac never interrupts me with other concerns (he knows I’m scatter brained, and that would ruin my productivity).  I had to let my PC go because of the afore mentioned personality traits.  My friends all tell me there are ways to train PCs, but what good is a partner that you have to work hard to change I ask you?

If you are a writer – or artist of another flavor – please take a moment to comment on your instruments, partners, assistants, and tools that you find “lovable.”  I’d love to know why you fell in love with ___________.