“I never know when I sit down, just what I am going to write. I make no plan; it just comes, and I don’t know where it comes from.” ~ D. H. Lawrence

“Double Image,” August Strindberg (1892, oil on canvas) 

 

“The paper I write on or you write on, every word we write, every cross and twirl of the pen, and the curious way we write what we think, yet very faintly . . . In them realities for you and me—in them poems for you and me . . . In them themes, hints, provokers.”  ~ Walt Whitman
"Wonderland" (1894, oil on canvas)

Rarely do I know what I am going to write when I sit down at this keyboard. I may have an idea generated from a dream or something that I have read in the news, but most of the time it’s more a matter of touching the keys and letting the words come out. No great creative genius is involved. Rather, it is more a matter of need: I need to write, to release, to ponder, to construe, to evoke. I need to do this as naturally as I need to breathe. 

That is my reality, and truthfully, it has always been this way. I have been writing about things since I was very young, before I even knew how to string letters together to form words. I would put pencil to whatever scraps of paper I could find in the house, and I would write. Of course what I wrote made no sense to anyone but me, but I knew what I was saying. And I had such a need to share my thoughts that I would take these scraps of paper and slip them under the doors of my parents’ neighbors in the large apartment house in which we resided in London. 

Some of the people knew that these notes were from me, but others were confused by the nonsensical missives that appeared under their doors with no regular schedule. The doorman in our building knew what I was doing, so he ever so kindly explained to the confused tenants that it was the little girl in apartment 13 who had been writing to them. 

Then when I went to school and learned how to form words, I wrote more. I wrote poems, letters, stories. But my dream at that time was not to become a writer. I wanted to be a hairdresser . . . 

“O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was also beautiful. One knew nothing. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise . . . And still one knew nothing, perhaps, was still waiting and listening.” ~ Hermann Hesse, “Narcissus and Goldmund”
"Baby's First Cradle" (1901, oil on canvas)

In many ways, this blog is like those indecipherable scraps of paper: I know what I’m trying to say, but not everyone who reads my words can discern my meaning. That’s okay, though. The beauty of blogs is that readers can just close the window if they do not find the post interesting, or appealing, or if the subject matter is not something that coincides with their personal beliefs. 

I’m not trying to please anyone but myself. In the beginning of this blogging stuff, I was more self-censoring, not wanting to offend anyone who happened to be reading. I wrote in more general terms, putting less of myself into my posts. Over the months, though, that changed, as I had thought that it might. My persona began to creep into my posts more and more. My life, my family, all of it, became fodder. So much so that now my posts are a virtual doorway into my life. 

Is this a good thing? Perhaps not. Will I change it? Probably not. Do I regret this progression? A bit. 

“The swarm of words,
and little stories
are just to loosen you
from where you are stuck.” ~ Shitou Xiqian
"The Wave VII" (1901, oil on canvas)

When I first heard about blogs—personal online journals that are available to anyone and everyone—I must admit to being personally appalled. What kind of person puts his or her life online for the world to see? It just didn’t seem right to me, someone who had always hidden my journals from other people, seeing them as both highly personal and private. 

Then a few years later I decided to create a MySpace page. I played a bit with the internal blog aspect of the page, which made me realize that the whole social networking thing was really just a collective blog—people visiting each other’s sites, sharing opinions, leaving notes, posting pictures. Then I was given the assignment to create a web page for one of my publishing classes. The site could be about anything; there were no parameters. 

I decided to create a site on which people could create a community poem. I called it The Poem Makers. In concept, it was a pretty creative idea (or so I thought): I would write the first line of the poem, and then anyone who visited could add a line and/or comment on the poem in progress. As part of the site, I wanted to include a blog page on which participants could post ongoing commentary about the project, poetry, whatever. My search for a blog page led me to WordPress. 

Essentially the project was disastrous, mostly because I didn’t know enough HTML to create an interactive site, that and the fact that I knew relatively little about promoting a site.  I eventually abandoned the website, but I took that experience and decided to keep going with the blog. My first post was in February 2008, which means that I’ve been doing this for over two years. 

“Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin.” ~ K. O. Eckland, Footprints on Clouds
"Coastal Landscape" (1901, oil on canvas)

In that time I have gone from basic posts about nothing at all to posts that include images and music and cover a range of topics. I like how I have progressed. I know so much more now than I did when I began; in particular, I realize that bloggers tend to congregate in communities and that if you want other people to read and comment on your blog, then you need to read and comment on other people’s blogs—regularly. 

I have also noticed a change in my writing style: Whereas when I was writing for publication, I was much more sparse with my words, never using five words when three will do, always choosing the simpler word over the multisyllabic one. Now that I’m writing without an editor, I tend to be more verbose. I do edit myself, but anyone who writes knows the limitations of such a thing. I do go on and on, and it’s an indulgence that gives me pleasure. I also take more liberties with punctuation than before. Always a stickler for grammar, I am merciless with a red pen when it comes to editing or grading someone else’s work. Too bad I cannot admit to being as rigorous with my own. 

Oh well . . . 

“The process of writing has something infinite about it.  Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.” ~ Elias Canetti
"Aleja" (1903, oil on canvas)

I remember how excited I was when the number of hits that I had received went past 200. It was a time for great rejoicing. I am now well past 300,000 hits, but I still love to see who is visiting, what they are reading, how they got here. I don’t know that I’ll ever tire of paying attention to my statistics as they serve as my validation, for now. 

I suppose all of this boils down to a few simple facts: I have come to love the freedom of blogging. I sometimes resent feeling as if I have to post until I realize that no one is making me do so. I no longer feel as if blogs are an obscene violation of privacy spurred on by the blogger’s own need for exposure. I take pleasure in reading blogs that are written well, or are visually appealing, or are in line with my own sensitivities. 

For now, this whole thing is an open-ended experiment. Who knows where it will take me, but I’m going to enjoy the ride while I can. 

More later. Peace. 

All images are by Swedish novelist and playwright August Strindberg, who turned to painting during times of crisis in which he felt unable to write. 

Music from Bare Naked Ladies, “Call and Answer”
 
  

Oh the things you can find on Blogsurfer.us: “He LIED” . . . What?

Questions

 I’m sorry . . . You said what?

 

Two things are wrong with this picture: Well first, The Washington Times. But secondly, and more importantly, the article is actually about House Democrats who believe that allowing illegal immigrants access to healthcare—if they pay for it—would, “help reduce overall costs for those who buy into health exchange plans.” The article also points out that President Obama’s bill does not include coverage for illegal immigrants. To read the complete article, click on the link above.

 “Nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited.” ~ George Santayana

While perusing a few blogs on Blogsurfer.us today, I came across a site that was, shall we say, a wee bit biased. I will not name the site because, well, that’s just how I roll, but I will give you a taste of the sensationalistic headlines: “Confirmed: HE LIED,” which then gives a link to an article in The Washington Times.

 

You know, I will freely admit that both sides skew the facts. I will also admit that neither side gets it right all of the time. But what is so fascinating in this particular post is that the article cited does not even resemble the headline. That’s a basic research, source citation no-no. I used to slam college students for playing so lose with their sources.

If you are going to cite a source, even in a blog (or perhaps, especially in a blog that purports itself to be a political blog), you have a responsibility to make sure that the source that you are citing and to which you are referring does, indeed, do or say what you claim. In this particular case, the article is about House Democrats, not the POTUS.

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

All that being said, I do love to blog surf on Blogsurfer.us (formerly known as Condron.us). It’s a great place to find new reading material. You have the opportunity to add your own blog to the blogroll, and you can pick the category that best suits your subject matter. Additionally, the site has a forum in which any member who signs up can participate. You can open new threads or respond to existing threads.

Although it is a free service, subscriptions can be purchased; however, that being said, few people who have subscriptions give up their slots. So if you want to garner more exposure, you need to be diligent about posting your blog. Ryan Condron, site owner, does search for those blogs that mention blogsurfer.us in their content, tags, or titles, so if you see blogsurfer.us in your stats, you’ve been found.

About half of the blogs that I visit regularly I found through blogging communities. The other half I found by reading comments on blogs that I already like. A word of advice: If you like to receive comments on your own blog, then be a thoughtful commenter on other blogs.

Just wanted to dash this one off quickly. More later. Peace.

“I’ve a grand memory for forgetting” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

if-i-only-had-a-brain

If I Only Had A Brain . . .

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath” ~ Natalie Goldberg

fiber-reconstructions-in-the-brain
Very Cool Image of Fiber Reconstructions in the Brain

For the past month, my brain seems to have been losing grey cells more quickly than I am able to regenerate them. The disturbing truth is that I cannot remember anything. I had been attributing this inability to form linear thoughts solely to stress because this family seems to be mired in a stress swamp.

However, I will allow that the probability of my synapses misfiring may be directly related to the medications in my regimen. For example, I was on Topomax for my migraines. A psychopharmacologist that I consult pointed out that the nickname for Topomax is “Dopomax” because the medication has a direct effect on an individual’s cognitive abilities. I just really wish that someone had told me about this before my dosages kept increasing until I was on an extremely high dose.

Actually, I thought that my brain was atrophying as a result of my no longer being in the workforce full time. As in, the more stimulation the brain receives, the better it works, and my brain stimulation is all self-imposed these days. Of course, this is still a possibility. My interactions these days are with my family and my dogs, instead of students, professors, and marketing reps. Slight difference . . . but I have to admit that I like my dogs better than most of those people.

“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

alfie-looking-confused
Alfie Looking Confused???

All of this could explain why I can’t seem to remember things from one moment to the next. I do write things down as reminders and make lists for the store, but then I cannot remember where I put the lists. Stop laughing . . . I’m not joking here.

In some ways, I remind myself of my canine friends. You know how a dog will come running into a room, tail wagging, and then suddenly stop and look around as if to say, “why did I come in here”? Well, that’s me. I find myself retracing my steps more and more in efforts to remember why I am in the garage, or why I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen.

Corey, as patient as always, suffers the most from my memory lapses. I’ll call him to come into the room and then forget why I called him. He stands there patiently while I retrace my thought process in my brain. Sometimes I remember. Sometimes I don’t, or I don’t remember until a half an hour later, and by then, the context is gone. What’s really annoying to me is when Corey will ask me for a word, and I cannot remember it. Being a wordsmith and former English instructor,  this need to hunt in my memory for words is frankly, demeaning, not to mention that it makes me appear to be clueless. I fear the day that Corey will turn to Brett for references as he is tired of waiting for me to get my synapses firing in order to answer his questions about words and writing.

I’m afraid that I may be rubbing off on him, though. The other day when he was going to the store, he came into the room and said, “We were talking about something that I forgot to get at the sore. Do you remember what it is?” Of course I didn’t remember. I asked him to call me once he go to the store in the hopes that I would remember by then. He called, and neither one of us had recalled what we had forgotten.

Isn’t that just terrible?

“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess . . .”  ~ William F. Allman

neurons-in-the-hippocampus-by-tamily-a-weissman
Neurons in the Hippocampus (detail) by Tamily A. Weissman

So I did my usual bit of research on the brain just so that I could appear to know something about that which I am deprecating: my brain. One of the things that I discovered earlier is that scans of the brain make beautiful pictures. If the viewer does not have the least inkling of what she is seeing, the images resemble everything from tree branches to colored sperm to an intricate root system.

What I learned on my most recent exploration is that people who know these things or postulate about these things are now beginning to rethink the whole mediotemporal lobe as the memory center. Apparently, two of the key parts of this lobe, the hippocampus and the perirhinal cortex function alone and in different ways.

The hippocampus, which is shaped like a seahorse is more focused on consolidation of new memories; it is responsible for converting short-term memory into long-term memory. The hippocampus also helps humans to recall spatial relations, emotions, and navigation. Navigation? As in what tells me how to get to Baltimore, Maryland? Actually, I think it means more that if my hippocampus were functioning at full speed, I would have remembered that there are three steps leading into the garage instead of thinking that there were only two, which led to the fall and subsequent sprained ankle. (http://biology.about.com/library/organs/brain/blhippocam.htm).

perirhinal-cortex-in-brain
Perihinal Cortex in Brain

The perirhinal cortex plays a role in encoding object recognition memory. Studies have been done in which subjects are shown a series of images. They are later shown the same series of images and asked to identify those which they remember (“familiarity-based recognition”). Through imaging, scientists have been able to determine that the perirhinal cortex resets itself between sessions, which I find to be pretty cool. Sort of like hitting control/alt/delete when you need to reset your virtual brain. This resetting indicates that this part of the brain is working actively rather than passively. ( http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(08)00634-X)

Amazing what you can find with a Google search.

“Brain: an apparatus with which we think that we think.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

jws_winnie_the_pooh_classic_with_butterflyWhich leads me down another path . . . what if my brain is just getting old? I mean, what if my brain has begun to sprout brain grey hairs in the same way that my temples have? Fixing the hair problem is easy enough: a visit to my stylist and a loss of money. But do they have Miss Clairol for brains, and if so, how do I go about getting some?

I know that I’m probably over-thinking this (audible groan), but I mean, come on. Don’t you get just a wee bit concerned when you feel like Winnie the Pooh—all stuffed with fluff and a mind that is fixated on only one thing? Of course, there aren’t many things more adorable than Pooh, but it’s a bit embarrassing for a grown woman in her after-30’s to have the thinking power of A.A. Milne’s most beloved creation.

“The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to our mind when we want them to.” ~ Friederich Nietzsche

Which brings me to the actual reason for this post: I joined Condron.us just after it appeared in my blog stats. Condron is a new blogging community that is fast becoming as popular as that other blogging community whose name I shall not put in my blogs any more.

fruitfly-on-appleWhen I joined Condron, I had great plans to be a contributor to its forums and to visit the site with every new post that I published so that I could seek out other interesting blogs on which to bestow my words of wisdom and praise.

But then I forgot. Completely forgot to comment, forgot to visit. Mind wiped clean. I would remember to list the site in my tags, but that was as far as it went, and if I am to be truthful, I remembered to list Condron in my tags because it’s a most-used tag.

Now, my stats have been lower of late, and I’ve been pondering the reasons why. But in pondering, I would be distracted by something else on my stats page, like a new link or something like that, and then I would forget to ponder the problem any longer.

I know, I’m making it sound as if I have the attention span of a fruitfly. Trust me, the fruitfly is more focused. At least it knows what its purpose is in life and why it has landed on an aging apple.

“It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

So my whole point is this: I need brain stimulation. I need to do more exploring of other people’s blogs and let my mind be filled with new voices (not the ones in my head—admit it: That’s what you were thinking), new ideas from different places.

condron_usDon’t misunderstand: I love my little community of blogs that I visit daily. It feels as if we’re having coffee together all over the world. I find that immensely gratifying. But I want to find more people to collect, which means that I need to start visiting Condron.us regularly.

If you’ve never visited a blogging community before, and you are interested in seeing who is out in the blogosphere and what they are writing, then I would highly recommend that you visit one soon. It’s a great way to get people interested in your own site and to share information and comments with other people who might be writing about the same things that you are posting.

So don’t be like me, or like I was. Visit Condron.us soon at http://condron.us. It’s worth remembering.

More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things #35

zhivago-11
Scene From Movie Dr. Zhivago with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif

Communities, Online Convenience, and Old Movies

I’m late in posting this today because I have spent so much time reading other people’s blogs . . .

1. The blogging community of which I have become a part. I really enjoy dropping in everyday on about 7 or 8 blogs that I read every day. They are all different but similar. I think that one is in Australia, two are in the U.K., one is in Alaska, and the rest are in various other states. One person is a school teacher, one is a college professor, two people write poetry, one is a published author, one is in a type of social services position, and I am quite close with her. It’s just amazing the kinds of exchanges that I have with these people, and how supportive they can be.

2. My Kenneth Cole black wallet. The one that was stolen before Christmas with the Christmas money in it is being replaced soon as a late birthday present from Corey. I found an exact match on line for less than I paid for it the first time. I know that I should probably move on and find something else, but I really loved that wallet; it had lots of compartments, and it held up really well. After all, if you buy real Kenneth Cole leather, it really does last a long time because it’s made very well.

3. Being able to to things on line that I used to have to stand in line for, such as renewing my driver’s license. How cool is that? Five minutes on the DMV website versus waiting who knows how long at a DMV in person . . . I’ll take the website any day.

dr08
Scene From Movie Dr. Zhivago

4. Music boxes. I have always loved music boxes or music balls since I was a little girl. My big jewelry box that my mother got me years ago plays Lara’s theme from Dr. Zhivago. I saw that movie with my mother when I was a young girl, and I absolutely loved it. I read the book by Boris Pasternak much later; the book was different from the movie, and I think that it was one of the few times that I preferred the movie to the book, probably because of the cinematography and Omar Sharif, my first movie crush. So I suppose this entry is a two for: music boxes and a favorite old movie.

sue-lyons-as-lolita
Sue Lyons in Heart-Shaped Glasses as Lolita

5. Nabokov’s book Lolita. I read this in college as an undergrad and then again in grad school. When I read it, I kept thinking about Sue Lyon in red, heart-shaped glasses. I like the book better than the movie. Imagine being named Lolita and having people ask you if you were named for the character. I would tell people that Lolita is a family name, which it is. My father’s sister was named Esterlita. Lita is a common suffix to Spanish/Filipino names for females: Carmelita, Lolita, Analita. I did not know until years later that Lolita has been perverted into a term for a certain type of pornography. I could have lived my entire life without knowing that.

Well, that’s all for now. More later. Peace.