The Things I Carry

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Angels in a Small Crowd (detail) by Cat Fink

There is a book by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, about soldiers in Vietnam during the war.

I only know this book through another book, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg.  On page 127 of my hardcover copy, there is an excerpt from Tim’s book.  And then Natalie’s words, talking about this and the truth of a life, and saving yourself through writing.  I’ve marked this passage with pencil,  and folded over the top corner of the page.  What Tim wrote sticks with me.

So now I am wondering, what do I carry?

This is a huge question.  My answer could go any direction.  I decide to frame the question.  As writer and artist, what do I carry?

There is the obvious reply.  Paper, pens, pencils.  But I want to go underneath this question.  What do I carry that no one sees, until and unless I choose to show them?

I am thinking of things that are invisible, intangible.  I cannot say weightless because these things carry great weight.

The biggest thing I carry.  Awareness.  Looking outward into what surrounds me, my moment-to-moment environment touched through my senses.  Looking inward.  Feelings.  Thoughts.  Memories.  Recording what has been received.  Then being aware yet again, in a different way, as I marry outer and inner awareness, and create word and image.

Curiosity.  Curiosity is forever with me, perched on one shoulder or the other.  Permanently five years old and interested in everything.  Her favourite questions.  ‘What is that?’  ‘Why?’  ‘What can I do with it?’  Curiosity lets me experience as the child I am inside.  Lets me come to my life with heart and mind open, allowing, and fascinated.  Lets me experience differently.

Imagination.  Inward play sparked by outward seeing and by Curiosity.  Sparked by the questions Curiosity asks, especially ‘what can I do with it’.  This question is a playground for my imagination.

Creativity.  My ever-present need to make stuff and share it.  Imagination is the playground.  Creativity is the laboratory, petting zoo, and test kitchen.  Experiments happen here.  The ‘what can I do with it’ becomes ‘what if I try this, then this, or this’, continued ad infinitum.  Think pi with its never ending, never repeating play of numbers beyond the decimal point.  That is my creativity in action.

I carry something Natalie Goldberg says is her great talent.  Strong determination.  Twenty years ago, the Director at the Victoria College of Art looked at my student admission portfolio, then at me, and said, ‘Stubborn.’  I said to him, ‘Determined.’  He said, ‘You start in September.’

Finally, I carry love.  For myself, for others, for my world, for what I create.  Love is at the base of everything I am and everything I do.  Without love, passion, none of this would exist.

Tim O’Brien’s characters carried things that kept them alive, more than just physically.  Things that gave a small degree of joy, kept heart, spirit, and mind alive in a place of overwhelming chaos and sudden oblivion.

What do I carry?

I carry things that ensure the writer and artist in me survive.  The things I carry keep away chaos and oblivion.  They ensure joy lives in the whole of me.

Paper.  Pens.  Pencils.  Awareness.  Curiosity.  Imagination.  Creativity.  Strong determination.  Love.  And that is enough.

_________________________

In this post:

Tim O’Brien, book The Things They Carried, Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Natalie Goldberg, book Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, Bantam Books, 2000.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Today Is A Writing Day

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I dreamed the wind and danced its edges. (Chantel)

This gives me joy—today is a writing day.

Five words.  A declaration and an intention.  A pen with dark pink ink and a stack of loose leaf paper.  An open heart and a hungry mind.  This is all it takes to give me joy.

I can write anywhere.  My joy is portable.  How cool is that?  It is easily called and easily, instantly created.

I could make this difficult, make my writing feel like work.  Be all serious and ‘this has to be good, this has to be perfect, this has to be outstanding, a twenty out of ten on the Writing Scale.’  Putting my focus on the product, the outcome, how my writing will be received.

Ick.  No.  That is the job of my internal critic, who is sleeping right now.  There is no need to call her.  She is grouchy when woken up.  Truth, she is grouchy all the time.  No.  I don’t need her here, being bossy.

I am putting my focus on creating.  Being in action.  This is play.  Writing my blog post is play.  Jumping into words like they are the biggest ball room at the playground, and I get to wiggle into the middle of all these words and find the ones I love best today.  Try this one or this one.  String together these ones.  Nope, not this one.  Choose the one over here instead.

Joy.  This is joy.  Imagining.  Being curious.  Experimenting and finally choosing which words I want.

This is how I played as a child.  No expectation.  Just diving into the ball room of my imagination and letting myself go wherever I wanted, for as long as I wanted.

Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist.

He is right.

I am a child today.  I am playing with words and pen and paper and my imagination.  I am in joy.

Today is a writing day.  There is nothing better.

________________________

Mentioned in this post:

Pablo Picasso, artist, 1881 – 1973,  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/pablo_picasso.html

 

Falling Down, Getting Up, Part 2

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Totoro and Tigger–Go Play!

So, what happened after my tantrum last Thursday?

The tantrum continued. Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Then, Monday afternoon, for no apparent reason, it faded away.

I can feel echoes of it today. A ghost in the background. My desire to write and create is stronger. I sit down at my studio table and begin. The ghost vanishes. Gone.

As I write these words, I have not figured out what pushed me into this cranky, unwilling mood last week, or why it hung on through Monday. My mind longs to have this figured out so it can prevent it from happening again. My mind has judged this full-on-tantrum mode as something bad. Especially since I felt really uncomfortable when I was in the middle of it.

My mind is doing its job, trying to understand so it can protect me from what hurts.

Except, I need to feel everything, even when it feels bad. My heart knows that feelings are information. They might be painful, but they are not bad. The feelings tell me something if I pay attention, open my heart, and listen.

I need to do this right now. Ask about last week, listen with my heart. What do I hear?

I am trying to push the river.

That might sound odd, but I know exactly what it means.

I’ve been stepping outside of my natural flow. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and not playing enough.

Ah. I get it.

I played on Saturday. I read. Did crossword puzzles. Coloured with all fifty of my Crayola felt pens. Watched a 1940’s pirate movie with my husband.

I played on Sunday too. In between three laundry loads and making dinner, I watched the movie Mary Poppins. How many times have I seen this movie? A dozen, at least. It makes me laugh. I love the songs. I love the idea that I can jump into a drawing and wander around the landscape, meet whoever lives there. I love the idea that if I laugh hard enough, I’ll float up to the ceiling, turn somersaults in the air if I wish.

Play. Imagination. Laughter.

Magic, all.

I pushed myself, pushed the river so hard, that I left play and imagination and laughter behind. Left my magic behind.

Bad idea.

Which resulted in the five day tantrum. Resistant. Unwilling. Grouchy.

I played on Saturday and Sunday, despite the tantrum.  Good idea.  Which resulted in the tantrum fading away on Monday.

Thank you, my heart, for feeling and talking with me. Thank you, tantrum, for yelling at me to stop and notice what is happening. Thank you, my mind, for trying to understand and protect me from what felt painful.

I have my magic back. It never really left me. It just felt like it, because I had forgotten to play.

_______________________

In this post:

Mary Poppins, movie, Walt Disney Productions, 1964, based on the book of the same name by P. L. Travers   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Poppins_(film)

Dreamer

I Dreamed the Wind and Danced Its Edges (Chantel)
I Dreamed the Wind and Danced Its Edges (Chantel)

I read today that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are breaking up their relationship.

I feel sad.

And then I laugh because Miss Piggy and Kermit are Muppets, not human beings. They are imagination and dreams, fabric and foam. My head tells me this, laughing at my silliness.

I laugh again, because my heart knows full well that the divine Miss P and her equally heart-elegant Kermy are very real. They are dreams made true.

My heart is wiser than my head. My heart doesn’t care what the world says about dreams and dreamers and imagination and pretend. That they are not practical, don’t exist, all airy-fairy silliness, false.

Dreams and dreamers and imagination and pretend are real. They are the spark, a bit of light peeking through that opens into something new. They are love, passion, and joy playing at what is possible. When I daydream about what I love and gives me joy, then ask what is possible, I am always answered.

I see my dream open up, adding to itself here and there, growing in detail. Possibilities. Spark attracting more sparks until the dream becomes idea. A true possibility that I can act on, step by step, create real in this world.

Start here, try this, Source whispers to me.  And I do.

This is where Kermit and Miss Piggy come from. Sparks. Jim Henson and all who worked with him and all who continue to be Muppet dreamers believers creators. The sparks that keep popping into dreams, into pretend and play. That are seen and felt, loved and laughed over, imagined bigger. Step by step created real.

This is why I know the Muppets are real, and why I am sad for Miss P and Kermy and their break-up. Why I hope with all my heart they get back together again. They are friends and family. All the Muppets are. I love them. They are a gift, given by dreams and dreamers and imagination and pretend.

_______________________

Mentioned in this post:

Jim Henson, 1936 – 1990, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Henson  Thank you for your spark!

The Muppets, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Muppets