Category Archives: creativity

Places to Ponder

I am a ponderer — of thoughts and words and events and comments and situations. I can’t help myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer. Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert. Perhaps it’s because I’m curious about the whats and whys and wherefores of people and life in general and moments in particular. I think about things. I consider them. They roam freely through the recesses of my mind. My musings often find a place in my notebook. My thoughts often become conversation over breakfast with a close friend.

Pondering can be like following rabbit trails. One thought leads to another and another until you’ve wandered miles beyond where you started.

Pondering can be like day dreaming and wishful thinking — wondering about the fantastical things that can’t happen in our real world.

Pondering can be like walking in someone else’s shoes, treading on their path, in an effort to understand their way of being.

Beyond all of this pondering is about opening our mind and giving it creative space to discover what we did not know or see before.

Over the years I’ve found great value in pondering, though it sometimes disturbs my sleep, and often creeps into my moments when I’m busy doing something that requires little awareness. Sometimes pondering is a conscious act. More often than not it comes unbidden, prompting my attention.

If pondering is not your custom, perhaps you might give it a try. Pick a quiet place to begin — a place that allows you to notice things, to focus on something small, to hear the breeze, or see an ant crawling on a twig. A paper and pencil is helpful — to jot down your thoughts or sketch what you see.

On a recent trip I took photos of pondering places to share with you. Just seeing the photos is sufficient to quiet my mind. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

Pick a spot and spend a little while.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

 

Where are your knitting needles?

I’ve heard of people with memory disorders putting their things in strange places, and then not being able to find them. As my friends and I age, we often talk about such things, and pray that they pass by our lives.

However, this afternoon I lost my newly purchased knitting needles. They appeared to have taken off, to places unknown, all by themselves.

The mystery began after an afternoon of errand running. I had frozen items on my car’s front seat from my unplanned visit to Aldi’s — hence, nothing was bagged. And I had a bag of items from Target, a bag from Lowe’s, and a small flat paper bag from the yarn store containing two sets of double-pointed needles.

Once home, I unloaded all the items from the car onto my kitchen counter. The frozen items went immediately into the freezer. Then I started hunting for the bag of knitting needles. I moved everything on the counter. Not there. I went to the garage to search my car. Nothing there. I returned to the kitchen and looked under all the items on the bar. Still not there. Back to the car. I searched under the seats, on the floorboard, and the narrow space between the seats and the center console. Not there. Back to the kitchen. They’re still not on the counter.

“I know the bag was in my car,” I said to myself. “I remember seeing it on the console. How could it have disappeared in the twenty feet between the car and the kitchen counter?” I was mystified. Frustration was building.

Back to the garage. This time I walked all around the car, remembering that I had unloaded some items from the passenger’s side. Still nothing.

Finally I checked the freezer, although I couldn’t imagine how they would have gotten there. Nothing there on first glance. Only when I moved the recently purchased box of frozen salmon patties, did I see the thin brown bag stuck to the bottom of it.

See, they did get there by themselves. Blame it on the box of salmon patties. Blame it on my inattention as I put things in the freezer. Blame it on the conspiration of the universe, plotting against my sanity and possible onset of dimentia.

Chilled knitting needles might be nice when knitting a winter sweater on a warm summer day. Perhaps I’ll do it on purpose next time.

My knitting needles are in my freezer.

Where are yours?

Until next Tuesday . . .

Letters for Leyton

DSC00464Since January I’ve been compiling my parents’ courtship letters, written from 1936 – 1939. Though there are over 300 letters, I approached it as a simple, but large, typing job. My goal was to complete the project by the end of the year. Plenty of time.

Not far into the typing I discovered a need to document the people and things they wrote about. I kept thinking about my youngest great nephew who will eventually read these letters. Not only has he not met the letter writers, he won’t know the other relatives mentioned, the radio shows, the authors, the colleges, the movies and songs of their day, the automobiles, and so many other things. Research on the 137 noted items became a major task after the letter typing was completed.

As I typed I wanted to keep my parents’ original spellings, so I inserted [sic] after their errors so the reader wouldn’t think I made a lot of typos. Those [sic]s were totally annoying as I read the finished manuscript. So I took them out — more than 1000 of them. Using search-find-delete can create unforeseen problems requiring another edit of the manuscript, so I deleted them individually. The issue of my parents’ writing errors is now noted with a few sentences in the introduction.

After all of that, I realized a family tree would be helpful. Though I’ve heard about the relatives all of my life, I continue to have difficulty connecting everyone correctly. So I dug through the family archives in my garage, found most documents, and sent emails to get the other information I needed. Another not-so-small task.

The completed document is 470 pages and nearly 200,000 words. Before tweaking the final formatting I consulted with Office Depot (my printer) to make sure everything was exactly right for their process — only to discover that we have to print two-sided instead of one-sided (my original plan). There are now places where a blank page must be inserted to guarantee that section dividers print on the front, not the back side.

Since the last year of the letters contains all of the details of their wedding plans, I planned to scan two wedding photos onto the final page of the document. Number One Son taught me how to scan and insert photos into the document. No problem. Piece of cake.

From the very beginning I’ve had one dilemma: though the typed letters are accessible and readable, the original handwriting and envelopes with all the stamps are not available to the reader. Now that I know how to scan, a brilliant idea flashed into my brain. Since every letter begins on a new page, portions of some pages are blank. Why not scan parts of the original letters into these blank spaces? Little did I know how many such spaces existed in this project. What I originally thought would be a tiny bit of scanning has become huge — but I believe it enhances the project, so I am forging ahead.

When we start a project — any project — we have a vision. We can see it finished. But in our unknowing, we’re unaware of what will crop up along that way, what complications will arise, what additional steps may be required, or what will simply take more time than we imagined.

And at every step we have to ask: Do I need to do this additional thing? Will it make my project better? Am I willing to do the extra work? Can I expand my vision beyond my original idea? When is enough, enough?

So, Leyton, the expansion of my project is all for you. I want you to know about the world of your great grandparents when they were in love and courting and planning their wedding. The children they talked about having turned out to be your grandfather and me and your great uncle (our younger brother). You know us. And because you know us and you can read this compilation of letters, perhaps you can understand the profound influence our ancestors had on our lives.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

 

Edges

On some days, on some very ordinary days, I lose my edge. I lose that part of myself that feels vital and alive and excited about the work I’m doing or the art I’m creating or the music I’m making or the conversations I’m having.  Some days there is none of that. Some days I’m wandering with no plan in mind, no direction to go, no work I want to do, and nothing I want to create.

It’s not that I’ve forgotten what I’m about. I still know. But I can’t get there on some days. I can’t engage with the projects or the people that energize me.

Perhaps you know such days.

Sometimes we need fallow time to rest and regroup and regather our energy and restore our vision.

Sometimes we need to step away from our “blinders on, full steam ahead” mode of working. Perhaps we need to check the scenery and our direction. We may need to assess our journey from our starting point to where we are now.

But sometimes we just drift, because drifting is easier . . .

  • easier than showing up and being present in our work
  • easier than putting out butt in the chair to practice our craft
  • easier than doing the difficult, too-hard things

When we’re in drift mode, we allow others to distract us and pull us off course. And we create our own avoidances for the very work that brings us life. Our list of excuses can be creative and long, rivaling the length of our grocery list.

The difference between fallow time and drift time is critical.  The first is restorative. The second is avoidance as we live in a robotic state, just going through the motions. Fallow time gives us perspective; drift time keeps us in a steady state far from the edge.

I like the words of Kurt Vonnegut:

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

He’s right. Edge living is not life as usual — safe, secure, predictable.  The view from the edge heightens our senses and sharpens our vision. Possibilities begin to play out in front of us. We see our work from a different angle. We ask: what if . . . and what’s next . . . could I . . .  A tinge of excitement stirs when we courageously look beyond the edge. And at that very moment our fears and anxieties and discomforts show up to sap us of what we might do or who we might become. Their mission is to keep us away from the edge.

Living on the edge means we won’t settle for life as usual. From our perch on the rocky bluff we snag a new vision, see other paths, consider a different venture, search the valley and the far horizon for opportunities.

Edge living is not for the faint of heart, the timid, or the fearful.

Edge living is for those who want their inner spark to burst into flame.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

Today’s Birth

In his book, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, Matthew Fox writes:

To choose life means to choose to give birth every day.

I read his words years ago and wrote them in my journal, lest I forget. The pondering begins anew whenever I re-read his words.

I focus on two words: choose and birth.

We know a lot about birth, especially those of us who have borne children.  But beyond that, perhaps we’ve witnessed the birth of a baby, the crocuses forcing their shoots through the frozen winter ground, the struggle to let our music or our words or our creativity come forth after decades of silence, the launching of nearly grown children, the creation of a different life after the death of a spouse, or the venture to new places and new experiences. All of these come with their own pains and fears and discomforts and uncertainties and anxieties. That’s the way it is with all births and beginnings. The process involves struggle and intentionality about growing into a new way of being.

Then there’s Fox’s word “choose.” Perhaps this is the most difficult and challenging of his words. To choose means I have to do something.  It means I can no longer be a victim of my circumstances. It means I can no longer blame others for the life I don’t have. It means I have to get off my physical or mental duff and do something different. To do otherwise is continue life as I have known it  — and miss the birthing, the becoming new. To “not choose” — because of fear or anxiety or discomfort — is also a choice. It’s a choice to avoid change and pain and not knowing.

The questions of this day are:

♦ What birth is waiting within you?

♦ What is preventing the birth from beginning?

♦ How long have you resisted the birth?

♦ What choice can you make toward beginning the birth?

As Matthew Fox says, to choose life is to choose to give birth every day. It’s up to you.

It’s up to you to make a different choice.

It’s up to you to make a change.

It’s up to you to begin anew — every day.

Show up. Do the work. Claim your life.

Until next Tuesday . . .