“I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.” ~ Edward Gorey

cc by-nc-nd Bruno Monginoux www.photo-paysage.com & www.landscape-photo.net
Paris in the Fog
by Bruno Monginoux (cc)

                   

“I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.” ~ Bill Bryson, from Lost Continent: Travels In Small-Town America

Saturday, late afternoon. Overcast and 50 degrees.

Well, guess what. No, really. Go on. Guess who has come to visit me again . . . My old friend Insomnia. Got to sleep somewhere around 5:30 this morning only to be awakened a few minutes later by Tillie the Lab who deemed it time to go out. When I was finally able to roll out of bed, my head felt as it if was contained in a vise. Still sitting here squinting, so I’m not sure how far I’ll actually get today.

Hot shower and lots of steam loosened the tightness a bit, but not enough for full relief.

Early Morning Fog, Audubon Park by Paul Couroux CC
Early Morning Fog, Audubon Park
by Paul Couroux (cc)

So I’ve been pondering some odd things lately, like life, in general and my life here, specifically. Quality of life, as in how would I describe the quality of my life. And more specifically, temperament of life, as in how would I define the essence of my life.

For one thing, Corey asked me how I can stand it not to have left the house in weeks, and I really had to think about that. On the one hand, it bothers me a great deal, much more than it did say two years ago. I miss getting in the Rodeo and driving. I miss seeing Olivia on a regular basis, but do I miss those things enough to cross the threshold to venture into the open air, the wide world beyond my doors?

I’m not sure. I know that’s a cop-out answer, but for now, it will have to do.

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” ~ Donald Miller, from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Two days ago I had big plans to take Tillie for a walk, only to find it raining when I looked outside. I’m not made of the kind of stuff to begin a regimen in the rain, at least not a walking regimen. So that’s on hold, and unfortunately, I may have already lost the momentum. Sad, really.

But these things lead me to my real question: Am I a boring person? I know that I certainly wasn’t boring when I was younger. And I also know that growing older does not necessitate a move into boring land. So what gives?

Chicago Fog at Night by Emily Barney FCC
Chicago Fog at Night
by Emily Barney (FCC)

Have I lost that ineffable spark, that je ne sais quoi that made me the kind of person around whom people gathered. I’m not talking about popularity, the kind that makes everyone want to be your friend, as I was never that person. But I remember those days during which I always had a circle of friends, and we were doing—talking, arguing, laughing, pontificating, whatever. And we seemed to end up in my car or in my office or at my table.

I’m not sure if I am describing this accurately, so let me back up here. I was never ever mainstream, never ever the girl who attracted all the boys because I was pretty and sweet, never ever the Homecoming Queen. Instead, I was interesting, which is such a nothing vapid word, really. Mysterious, maybe? One of my former teachers wrote something about me being the woman of mystery. I liked that. It fit.

So where has that woman gone?

“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure.” ~ Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

Has that woman become so sedentary, so sedate, so tedious? Am I now just humdrum?

It pains me even to consider this, but I think that I must. And if the answer is yes, what do I do? Do I do anything? Do I simply keep this to myself and hope that no one else notices? Surely other people have noticed, say, my family, my spouse? Am I the last to know?

Manhattan Bridge in Fog by merlune FCC
Manhattan Bridge in Fog
by merlune (FCC)

Is this just a phase?

Or, and she pauses here for dramatic effect, is it life that’s boring and not me? Are we both boring? Am I bored with life? Is life bored with me?

I have to tell you that until a couple of days ago, I really didn’t think of myself as boring, nor did I believe that I lead a boring life, but now, I have to admit that perhaps both are true: I am boring, and my life is boring. Of course, I must also admit that this is how a racing mind works, tricking itself into believing things that may or may not be true.

Let’s back up, once again. I know that there are many things that I want to do; many, many things that I want to see; many, many, many places that I want to experience. The bucket list, remember? I also know that on any given day, I have many, many things to say, to share, to impart. So perhaps I now find myself in one of those valleys, one of those expected but unwelcome forays into—shudder—normalcy, and because it is normalcy, I am thoroughly at sea . . .

“There are a lot of things I wish I would have done, instead of just sitting around and complaining about having a boring life.” ~ Kurt Cobain

I know that my children must find me boring. After all, what do I do, really? Do I go out and greet the day with a smile and open arms? Hardly. Do I saunter about, full of self-assurance and charisma? Once upon a time maybe. Do I sit around in black yoga pants and white cotton sweaters and pour my life out onto a screen for anyone to see?

Yep. That would be me. Is this boring? Admittedly, some days it really is, but more days than not, it isn’t.

Flight in Fog by Christmatos FCC
Flight in Fog
by Christmatos (FCC)

I think we get bored with life when we are hating life, and there were many times in the past when I hated life, hated my life, but this isn’t one of those time. I do not hate life. I do wish that some things were different, that, for instance, I were sitting in my office pretending to work but instead writing this blog, that I had on real clothes, that I had people in the offices next to me, some of whom I liked and others of whom I detested. You know, real life.

If I could change just one thing, just one, it would be that I still had a career. But wait. If I were smart (and we know that there are many times in which I am not), should I not embrace the freedom of not having a career and all that is entailed by the supposed free time? Of course I should. But one thing they don’t tell you is that freedom is so much more interesting when you have money.

“We must never, ever be boring.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters

By money, I don’t mean rich. I just mean enough money to go places, see things. Enough money to sit in a coffee shop and read a book.

So I suppose what this lull boils down to is the essence of my life at present: Our income has been cut quite a bit, we are in the post-holiday monetary slump, Corey is between hitches, our utilities are in jeopardy. Oh, and add one other thing: I’ve been stretching out my anti-depressant to make it last until payday. That little detail there.

Bodiam Castle in the Fog by Dean Thorpe FCC
Bodiam Castle (UK) in the Fog
by Dean Thorpe (FCC)
*replaced to include watermark on original

But all of that aside, one thing I have never ever wanted to be is boring. I have never wanted to bore those around me, but I think that I am, and this concerns me. How do I fix this? I’m going to have to ponder this whole thing a bit more, preferably once the headache is gone, and I’m not squinting, and my serotonin levels are back to what they need to be.

Perhaps I should just trash this entire post, but because I like to keep just about everything, I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to put it out there so that I can share my boringness with the world.

I think that I need some dragons to slay. Heh.

More later. Peace.

Music by Ane Brun, “The Light From One”

                   

Walking North

No matter how I turn
the magnificent light follows.
Background to my sadness.

No matter how I lift my heart
my shadow creeps in wait behind.
Background to my joy.

No matter how fast I run
a stillness without thought is where I end.

No matter how long I sit
there is a river of motion I must rejoin.

And when I can’t hold my head up
it always falls in the lap of one
who has just opened.

When I finally free myself of burden
there is always someone’s heavy head
landing in my arms.

The reasons of the heart
are leaves in wind.
Stand up tall and everything
will nest in you.

We all lose and we all gain.
Dark crowds the light.
Light fills the pain.

It is a conversation with no end
a dance with no steps
a song with no words
a reason too big for any mind.

No matter how I turn
the magnificence follows.

~ Mark Nepo

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“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.” ~ Henry Miller

Small Section of Completed Mural Depicting Flora and Fauna of Prescott and Alternative Transportation: One of two eco-themed murals

  **UPDATE**

“My generation’s apathy. I’m disgusted with it. I’m disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other -isms the counterculture has been whining about for years.” ~ Kurt Cobain 

On Friday, Arizona Fox affiliate KYCA fired Steve Blair from his job as a radio talk show host for the station. Blair’s firing comes as a result of his vile comments regarding the mural that I discussed in the post below.

Additionally, in a letter to the editor,  former Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson called for Blair to resign from the City Council:

Steve, if you truly love Prescott you need to resign. 

I spend 5-6 hours yesterday on Twitter trying to do “damage control” that resulted from the remarks of Councilman Steve Blair on the Miller Valley School “Going Green” mural. Yesterday was a firestorm of bad publicity for Prescott and it was worldwide.

Several major newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, USA Today, Washington Post, etc. picked up the story of the mural. The story was also picked up by the Associated Press which means up to 1,000 papers could reprint the story.

Many of the most influential Internet blogs also picked up the story, including The Huffington Post, The Daily Kos, etc. The Twitterverse has been super active and I have replied to a couple hundred Tweets to try to protect Prescott’s image.

Steve, you have sullied the image of Prescott worldwide. Yes, I understand you love Prescott, but the firestorm of controversy that you have created has reverberated all the way to Melbourne, Australia where you and your comments on the mural are a hot topic. I cannot reprint many of the Twitter Tweets because of the language used in them – your comments have hit a nerve across America and the world and it was not a good nerve.

As the former Mayor of Prescott Arizona I have done my best yesterday and today to respond to hundred of Tweets and blog posts and tell the world that most of Prescott residents do not share your views. That has helped somewhat. However, this firestorm of bad publicity for Prescott will not subside until you do the right thing.

If you truly love Prescott, you need to resign from the Prescott City Council.

“There is a strange kind of tragic enigma associated with the problem of racism. No one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist; still racism persists, real and tenacious.” ~ Albert Memmi

Just to clarify, here’s an example of some Blair “I’m-not-a-racist-because-I-have-black-friends” rhetoric:

On his May 21 show Blair said, “I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families—who I have been very good friends with for years—to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, ‘Why?'”

Personally, I can tell you that I have always loved it when people open their sentences with the “I am not a racist but” clause. Just makes me warm and tingly all over.

Oh, and by the way, I found out after further research that the mural design was put on public display and circulated to local residents, and the Prescott City Council, including Councilman Blair, voted to approve the final design, so all of his protesting about not knowing what the mural was supposed to depict is just plain bull. Said Blair, “It looked like a guy, in my opinion, a black guy, brown guy holding a stick, and flowers and stuff. What was it supposed to mean?”

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” ~ Franklin Thomas

I have been unable to get on the mural site as it has been overwhelmed with traffic, but I wanted to display the entire mural, which covers two sides of the building.  I did, however, find a sketch of the mural showing all four children, two of whom are blond; one is black, and one is Latino. The full mural depicts four children, and the largest picture, the one that Blair and others protested, is of an actual Latino child who attends Miller Valley School. The children depicted were chosen from photographs of the children attending the school, which is described as the “most racially diverse” school in Prescott. The mural’s theme is “Go Green,” which celebrates the fact that Miller Valley is a “green” school.

 

In the midst of all of the mud-slinging and opining on this issue, I think that one key point is being white-washed, as it were (okay, really bad pun): There were real school children working on painting the mural. There are real school children depicted in the mural. These kids were subjected to a bunch of gits yelling racial slurs from their cars as they drove past: “Get the n***** off the wall.” Lovely. Group of young, impressionable students doing work for their community and school being yelled at by a bunch of loudmouthed bullies. That’s right bullies, what else would you call adults who yell at defenseless children on scaffolding?

But to close on a good note—the principal of the school and the school superintendent of Prescott Unified School District have said that they “made a mistake” in deciding to kowtow to the protestors by requesting that the artist lighten the skin of the boy on the mural. “We asked them to lighten the mural. We made a mistake,” Principal Jeff Lane said. Added Superintendent Kevin Kapp: “The school district made a mistake and shame on us if we can’t say shame on us and we’re sorry.”

More later. Peace.

Music by Deadman, “When the Music’s Not Forgotten” (Yes, I know, this is a repeat, but it’s appropriate)

                                                                                                                              

When the Music’s Not Forgotten

Please come close, for I long for you to hear
Hear the sound
That will rid you of your fears
In a land, where no water can be found
In a place, where there is no fertile ground
Longing for, yearning not to be forgotten
In an age, when the music is forgotten
In an age, when the music is forgotten

In the truth (in the truth)
Speaks of great and mighty things
Teaching us (teaching us)
What the peace of heaven brings
We must give (we must give)
We must give to all the others to those in need (those in need)
Who we fear to call our brothers

Reaching out (reaching out)
So that we are not forgotten
In a time (in a time)
When the music is forgotten
In a time (in a time)
When the music is forgotten

If we stand on a hill and do not touch
How can we do good?
If we wash our hands with all our friends
Where change can really come
If we hide our fears and don’t draw near
Have we really lived?
Or are we all just standing here
Hoping there is grace?

In a dream (in a dream)
That I had not long ago
Visions of (visions of)
In a city made of gold
And a sound (and a sound)
That I never heard before
Such a sound (such a sound)
Saturating to the core
Such a sound (such a sound)
One that cannot be forgotten

[x4]
In a time (in a time)
When the music’s not forgotten

“There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

georgia-okeeffe-petunia-1925

Petunia by Georgia O’Keeffe (1925)

 

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” ~ Ivan Turgenev

“If I just work when the spirit moves me, the spirit will ignore me.” ~ Carolyn Forché 

georgia-okeeffe-white-rose-w-lakspur-no-2
"White Rose With Larkspur No. 2" by Georgia O'Keeffe

I went back to a post that I had begun in April and tried to finish it to post today. Big mistake. I’m one of those writers who needs to maintain my volition once I’m on a roll, or I completely lose my impetus as well as my interest.

I never really thought too much about the effect this has had on me as a writer over the years until now, but in considering my writing habits, my method, if you will, I have had an epiphany. Too often in the past when I lost momentum, I would shut down. Stop writing. And then wait until the mood hit me again. I did not realize that I couldn’t continue with what I was writing because I really didn’t like it, nor did I have the courage to admit that I didn’t like something that I was writing.

Confusing?

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.” ~ Alan Alda

georgia-okeeffe-from-the-lake-i
"From the Lake" by Georgia O'Keeffe

In the past when I was writing a poem and I got stuck on a line, I would worry the words, move them around, try to make things fit. Granted, this is precisely what the writing process is about: reworking, retooling, finessing.

But there would be times when I would get stuck, leave the poem, and not come back at all, telling myself that I was a failure and had no business attempting to write anything in the first place. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, years later and some wisdom in my soul, I realize that probably in those instances when I just stopped and couldn’t go on, I was probably working with the wrong words, the wrong subject, the wrong structure. Now, I would come at the problem in a totally different way:

Now, I look at the words and try to discern my point in writing this particular piece in the first place. If there really isn’t a point, then I was probably just exercising my brain, ambling through the woods, if you will.

Nothing wrong with a little ambling, or a lot of ambling actually. It helps to make the synapses fire, and random thought more often than not arrives at the place you intended to be in the first place. Even if you cannot use what you have written as a result of your meandering, you have still exercised your creative muscles, something that is as necessary to a writer as swimming laps is to a swimmer, or getting the earth beneath his fingernails is to a gardener. All of these things lead to something eventually, but the practice is necessary; the tilling of the soil must be done before the planting.

“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” ~ Virginia Woolf

georgia-okeeffe-black-hollyhock-blue-larkspur-1930
"Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur" by Georgia O'Keeffe (1930)

These days, I use a lot of different things for inspiration than I did when I was still relatively new at the game. I used to believe, as many novice poets do, that the poem had to come from my gut. It had to have its genesis deep within my soul, and its creation was a reflection of my state of mind and being. No wonder I used to hit roadblocks all of the time. All of that soul-diving takes its toll.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not disparaging soul-diving. We all need to do it once in a while. Looking within is definitely a necessary part of the creative process. But limiting yourself to inner reflection can be as creative as moving around your belly button lint with a Q-tip: It isn’t painful, might feel a little bit good, but doesn’t give you much in the end.

“There is a boundary to men’s passions when they act from feelings; but none when they are under the influence of imagination.” ~ Edmund Burke

georgia-okeeffe-calla-lily-turned-away-1923
"Calla Lily Turned Away" by Georgia O'Keeffe (1923)

To be fair to myself, which I am usually not, a lot of my need to write at one point  stemmed from my grief. I have said before that I shopped my way through my grief for Caitlin, but that is not entirely true. I wrote pages and pages of words about my pain, her pain, pain, life, death, cruelty. Everything that you would imagine someone immersed in grief might delve into.

Now, years later, I am no longer ruled by my grief. Unfortunately, it is still a part of me, and I fear that it always will be—grief for my daughter commingled by my grief for my father, mixed with grief over the changes in my life over which I have had no control. But I am more than my grief.

I sit outside in the sunshine and look at the sky, listen to the sounds, and contemplate life with an ease that always used to elude me. I sit down at these keys every day (almost), and just let the words flow. Yes, I push them about a bit, but they come with more ease than I ever enjoyed before. I write about so many things, which is why I entitled my blog “musings,” as that is exactly what these post are: musings about music, art, words, politics, love, and in particular, life.

“I have lived on a razors edge. So what if you fall off, I’d rather be doing something I really wanted to do. I’d walk it again.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia OKeeffe White Sweet Peas 1926
"White Sweet Peas" by Georgia O'Keeffe (1926)

I remember a time before I began to take medication for my depression when I would sit and wait for the words to come, beseech my inner muse to create. I felt that if I did not create, then there was no point.

So many creative people throughout history suffered from some kind of mental illness and/or drug addiction. Van Gogh’s depression led him to create incredible, brilliant skies and flowers, but his self-portrait shows a man without mirth. I often wonder how much beauty in art and writing the world would be without if Prozac had been available 300 or 400 years ago. Not to be glib. Just a comment on how many of the artistic names with which society is familiar were/are victims of this disease.

But I’ll let you in on something that might sound absurd: Most creative people will fight prescription mood-altering drugs tooth and nail. I did. When the firs quack I went to gave me a prescription for Prozac and began to talk about his relationship with his wife, my first response to him was that I wanted to feel the pain. It made me who I was.

Fortunately, medications for depression and other mental illnesses continue to evolve, and the zombie-like affect that Prozac had on my psyche is not a necessary fact of life.

“Anyone who does anything great in art and culture is out of control. It is done by people who are possessed.” ~ Nancy Grossman

Georgia OKeeffe Jack in the Pulpit No IV
"Jack in the Pulpit No. IV" by Georgia O'Keeffe

Writer and poet Anne Sexton suffered from deep post-partum depression and horrible mood swings most of her life. She was institutionalized several times; her children were taken care of by others. She endured years of hell on earth, yet she produced some of the most profound, beautiful poems of the whole confessional movement, a genre of poetry in which she was an instrumental contributor.

Ernest Hemingway’s mood swings are the subject of countless analyses of the writer’s work. F. Scott Fitzgerald was known to be clinically depressed, as was his firs wife Zelda, who was eventually institutionalized. Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock—all artists who suffered from clinical depression. Musicians who suffered from mental illness include Mozart, Beethoven, even Curt Kobain.

Writer and publisher Virginia Woolf ultimately committed suicide when she could no longer stand existence. Poet and writer Sylvia Plath became famous for her book The Bell Jar, which is considered semi-autobiographical: The protagonist, Esther, suffers from depression and is committed. William Styron, well known author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, suffered from such a debilitating bout with depression in 1985 that he wrote a memoir entitled Darkness Visible,  a moving retelling of the author’s personal battle with mental illness. Even famous cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts,” suffered from depression.

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Georgia OKeeffe Black Place No 3
"Black Place No. 3" by Georgia O'Keeffe

Many creative people have phases in which they are driven to create—write, paint, sculpt, whatever medium—to the point that they will work until they are physically and emotionally exhausted. In some cases, yes, this is the manic phase of bipolar disorder. But not necessarily. I would contend that these phases are also part of that wiring that sets creative people apart from mainstream society, the inherent need to make something, to produce something, to the exclusion of everything else.

It’s surprisingly hard for me to elaborate on this as it’s something that you don’t really realize that you are in the midst of until you are in its midst. And it is not something that is easily explainable to those who are more left-brained (logical and ordered). That is not to say that creativity does not exist in every field. As I said in an earlier post, the geniuses who look at numbers and see beauty are as creative as those who create color-saturated canvases or tear-inducing symphonies.

On reflection, I’m glad that I did not finish the post to which I referred in the beginning. My explanation as to why I didn’t has morphed into something in which I am much more content to post, even though some would still consider it belly-button gazing. I’ll leave you with this passage by Sidney M. Jourard:

“The act of writing bears something in common with the act of love. The writer, at this most productive moment, just flows. He gives of that which is uniquely himself, he makes himself naked. Recording his nakedness in the written word. Herein lies some of the terror which frequently freezes a writer.”

More later. Peace.