It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer. People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve. Then there is a matter of assumptions… Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another. You will be treated accordingly. Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:
I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou. Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label. It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.
I would rather be a verb than a noun
I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance
And kick up my heels
Rather than just be a person, place or thing
Let me describe an action, state or occurrence
And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence
Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label
Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?
One of the most famous sketches in the hit show “Portlandia” is the “Put a Bird on It” sketch” where Frank and Carrie, the actors mock the epidemic use of birds on crafty, artsy items that abound on Etsy, other internet commerce sites and of course, Portland hipster stores. (I live an hour from Portland). Not too soon after, T-shirts, cups, and posters started appearing with the meme, “Put a bird on it.”
Beyond being a birder at an early age and loving the uniqueness of birds. I have several feeders about my house and so love watching the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and juncos as they feed. They are my neighbors. They fascinate me as they have with humanity for centuries.
Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.
James Cash Penney
Last year during the local Terroir Creative Writing Festival I found that there were four of us in our rural proximity that shared a love of writing and poetry. We are all novices on a path to discovery. Why not get together now and again?
Last October we did just that. The first meeting took place on a Sunday afternoon at Patricia’s lovely greenhouse. We sat at a table nibbling a delicious homemade coffee cake and sipping tea while a tangle of tomatoes and other vegetables seemingly were our audience. Then we rotated to Linda’s, my farmhouse and next month it is Deb’s turn.
A sort of agenda has emerged. The person hosting leads off with something they’ve read that they would like to share and then some of their personal writing. I am working on a memoir piece. The last two meetings I have read parts of it. We discuss and offer feedback on pieces if requested and then take turns. We all adore Mary Oliver. At her recent passing, there has been much to share.
At our last meeting, we suggested all purchasing Oliver’s book “A Poetry Handbook” as a resource that we all have in common. For writing challenge we have suggested finding a poem we like, using it as a “pattern” and then writing a new poem with our own words to share. With all of our so-called assignments we put in the qualifier “or not.” There is no pressure here, just pleasure.
Since I have a penchant for naming things, the name “The Nuthatch Society” came into my mind for our group. The four of us live on rural property and we are quite familiar with these quirky little birds that frequent the foliage and feeders about our homes. They are busy creatures, quite chatty, cute, but fierce and have the ability to walk upside down on trees. The name seemed to fit with us.
There is value in online community but it cannot compare with four souls coming together to share a common interest over tea. I’m so looking forward to the next meeting of the Nuthatch Society and sharing my writing and all the fascinating things I’ve read this month as well as what my fellow Nuthatches have been up to in their busy lives. Community is a powerful thing- no matter how small.
I recently became acquainted with this word through my online “Year of Painting class.” Alena Hennesy, the instructor uses this word frequently as she illustrates her process of intuitive painting on her videos. Wabi-sabi in short means “perfectly imperfect” Let go, let the process unfold.
I tend towards the perfectionism. As I watched the warm-up video and then looked at other’s work being posted I was paralyzed with fear. This process was way out of my comfort zone- but part of the reason for taking this class was to loosen up.
I started my first piece resisting the urge to recycle my first attempt mid-way and start over. Eventually, I worked through my fear, completed and accepted it. The piece is too bright and busy for my tastes, but others found it pleasing. It can only get easier after taking the first step. I started a small, scary journey and finished, perfectly imperfect.
Yesterday I was doing my home exercise routine when my zippy Irish music was interrupted on Spotify by one of their ads (I’m too cheap to buy a $ 120-year ad-free subscription). It was an extra-long commercial about Spotify Premium and the many reasons I should upgrade. The last one was something like this “Never be without the music you love! Stream anywhere, even when you are offline!” This got me to thinking why we always need content streaming in our ears? Have we lost the value of quiet?
Workout routine done (don’t be too impressed, I don’t work that hard) I changed my clothes and headed out the door with my 13-year-old Golden Retriever for a ramble. We drove to the Benedictine Abbey less than 10 minutes away for a walk in the woods. They have a series of trails that they allow the public access to.
Car parked we headed off. It was a relief to be out of the house and in the fresh air, sweet with the scent of coming rain. We headed uphill on a muddy trail, thick with woods, mosses, ferns, and lichens. The calls of hidden birds surrounded us as Dougie and I made our way up by a gurgling stream with miniature waterfalls. By gosh I was streaming a real stream! An unlimited sensory experience brought to you by NATURE!
Imagine what I would have missed if I had earbuds in. I think about the students in high schools I sub in. They are constantly with their earbuds, listening to music, watching videos, checking social media. What about the sounds of birds and the ruminations of their own thoughts? I’m sad for them.
It was a lovely walk. I spent a lot of time observing and looking for ideas to include in my paintings in my new online painting class. You might see some things from my photographs in my coming artwork….
I wrote this poem last year while I was subbing at a local high school
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
New Year’s Eve I brought some poetry to a gathering to share. The hostess, a dear friend said “this group won’t go for that” but I read them anyway after the game we played. One poem was one I wrote myself, a funny one about aging. The other two were by Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and appropriate for the New Year. I hope they were enjoyed.
Poetry makes one sit and pause as the words are distilled down to the essence of experience. It slows us down and makes us notice and savor the nuances of language. I think it’s sad that pausing is going out of fashion these days. I think that if everyone paused and read some poetry daily, this world would be a saner place.
Until a few months back I was writing poetry if- even one line- before I got out of bed in the morning. Before I went to bed I read some poetry. My days began and ended with a sense of groundedness.
I miss my morning poetry write and my bedtime poetry ritual that I began a couple of years ago. Habits sneak away sometimes but I want this one back. The little pink leather journal embossed with an oak tree is now filled up. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing- but journals are easily purchased. That task is now on the list for next week.
If you are new to poetry, no worries. My poetry habit started a couple years back when I, a non-English major, noticed I was more likely to write in my journal in poetic form. Then I started seeking out poetry that I enjoyed. (It’s a wonderful antidote to the news) If you have trouble pausing, noticing, or pondering, pick up a poetry book by Mary Oliver. She will get you out wandering in nature in the comfort of your own home. Devotions her latest anthology is wonderful. Here is a video clip of her reading…