Saturday, March 29, 2008

This time it's personal!

On my bookshelf there sits a battered copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way that came to me sometime back in the distant past (otherwise known as 1992). Over the years I have tried multiple times to work my way along its "path to higher creativity", hoping to emerge a bona fide artist at the end of the journey. And every time I have crashed and burned somewhere around chapter five.

I've started the program enough times to be pretty familiar with morning pages and the artist's dates. Despite the pop, new agey tone to the book (inner artist, my bad mannered, bad ass inner child wants to beat you up and steal your lunch money!) the book contains some useful tools. I understand that in the twelve million sequels that make up the Artist franchise, Cameron has expanded the exercises to include walks, which is smart, because a walk is almost always a good way to think, let your mind wander, and even play.

If there's one thing that is useful in any creative endeavor, it is a willingness to play and explore. If there's another thing, it is discipline. Discipline is my downfall. That is why having an assignment is useful, and that is why I have decided to give the Way another try. I need to find a way to get back in the habit of writing daily.

This all comes to mind because a friend and I recently decided to have a once a month mini writing group of two. While it sounds like a simple thing, it is actually has my emotional pendulum schizophrenically swinging back and forth between excitement and nervousness. In theory, I think it is a great idea. It will be good for me, because it will force me to WORK. This is a friend I've known forever. I know it's safe. I know she is gracious. Her crazy and mine are like twin freak shows, so what better partner in crime could there be?

And, yet, it's scary to say "I am serious about this," because that suddenly makes more pressure that the output actually have value. In practice, it scares the crap out of me to share work that is not written off the cuff with little revision. There is always this fear in the back of my mind that goes something like: "What if I work really hard on this, and it SUCKS?"

So, I am easing my way in. Our first meeting is in a month. I'm still not sure what my project will be, but maybe with Julia Cameron cheering me along and babying me through my foray into creativity, I will come up with an idea. Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that sometimes the things that are best for us do involve a bit of discomfort. People always look at discomfort as a bad thing, but the truth is that we all need positive pressure. Without it, I know that I always seem peter out somewhere around chapter five...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold Front

January 08 038
Originally uploaded by Martina
Hoard gas, stock your larders and break out your skis! Portland is having a spring snow storm! In the early morning hours, an arctic cold front sidled into PDX, blanketing some areas of the East side (that's right, it's not all about you West Hills!) with as much as .25” of slushy snow as temperatures plummeted as low as the upper 30’s. Judging by the local news geek spin on the morning weather, you’d have thought we were on the verge of another ice age. I love my city, but when it comes to weather, we really area bunch of drama queens.

On the other hand, there was something really lovely about the contrast between the snowflakes wafting down and the magnolia blossoms that are bursting forth from the tree outside my window. Nature is beautiful - even at her most treacherous. It also made for the perfect opportunity to test out my new Canon S1 IS. When my old digital camera died at my birthday party last weekend, I was momentarily disappointed. Thankfully, enough friends had cameras along that the room was already aglow with more flashing bolts of light than the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere, so I still ended up with lots of party photos (thank you, friends!).

Now that I have my new camera with its beautiful, big rotatable screen, 12x optical zoom and sharp images, I realize that my old Nikon may have sacrificed itself for the good of the collective having sensed that I was jonesing for something with a higher powered lense. Thankfully, I got it before the big storm hit. Otherwise I might have been camera-less until the afternoon thaw and that’s no way to survive the long, hard return of winter. This city has been through enough already…

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Daffodil Innards
Originally uploaded by Martina
How crazy is it that it is already Easter weekend? Apparently the next time Easter will again be this early will not be until 2228 - 220 years from now! It all has to do with what astronomers refer to as "celestial, equinoxy stuff" and the lunar calendar. It's a good thing that I finally found my maribou bunny ears this morning. I am ready, so bring on the eggs and make them chocolate!

Between birthday parties, spring, egg bearing bunnies and getting to go hear Barack Obama speak yesterday, there is so much to tell, but I am exhausted. So, I will just say:


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shocked, but not awed

Originally uploaded by Martina
Tonight marks the fifth anniversary of the Bush administration's loathsome war. It is a war that was waged under not just false but manipulative pretenses, feeding on the fears of a post-9/11 America. A war that, despite its high cost in human life, leaves us no safer than we were before it started. It has created a whole new generation of veterans who will suffer its after effects for a lifetime, a new generation of Iraqis who will remember us as the nation of people who killed their children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. It is enough to leave a person abyssmally depressed with the state of the world in which we live.

For all the good it did, I was one of those people who protested the invasion of Iraq before it began. I have been to many protests since then. After five long years, I am tired of feeling like my country has been hijacked. Sometimes I feel like a victim of national identity theft with the Bush administration using my credit cards to rack up all kinds of purchases I neither need nor want. Apparently I am not alone. As of this month, reports the 65% of all adults (and a whopping 91% of Democrats!) disapprove of the way George Bush has handled the war.

Lately I've been wondering what difference the expressions of disapproval have really made. It certainly doesn't seem to have affected the war. Would it be any worse if we hadn't said anything? I don't see how this administration could have made more of an effort to ignore us. It doesn't even seem to have made a big impression with some of the Democrats who are supposed to represent me and others like me. When it really counted, a lot of them caved, more worried about electability than simply doing the right thing. And now we are left robbed of trillions of dollars that could have been diverted to schools, healthcare and services to better the lives of people. Frustrating.

This year, for the first time since the war started, I did not attend the annual peace rally that took place last weekend to mark the its anniversary. Frankly, I had fallen into feeling pretty hopeless. But, then, today I received a about an event taking place in Pioneer Square.

This event was not so much anti-war as it was pro-peace. It was not about drums or chanting, just dialogue and a little candlelight. A hundred or so people gathered in the square, dividing into two circles and sharing experiences, poetry, and thoughts about what it means to be a responsible citizen of the global community.

In its own quiet way. It was inspiring. At a time when my own energy had begun to flag, it was good to be around people who cared so deeply and were sharing the small ways they to try to contribute to making things better. The best part was that it was organized not by some old hippie veteran of Vietnam protests (not that there's anything wrong with them), but by a young man.

It pleases me when young people are principled and passionate enough become involved in lifting their communities. Funny that I, a normally hopeful individual on the verge of pre-geezerhood needed a nudge from a young guy with such faith in our capacity to bring about a change.

And, so, at the end of a grey day that began with me just feeling angry and sad about what this administration has done, I am still angry. BUT, thanks to a bunch of neighbors I don't even know, but who took the time to gather together for an hour to think about the small ways in which we all can make a difference, I am also feeling just a little more hopeful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Better late than never...

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The mannequins are coming! The mannequins are coming!

Before I forget it completely, I had this wonderfully bizarre dream last night wherein a band of living mannequins (one of whom looked strikingly like Annie Lennox wearing a bad, curly blonde wig!) were living on my back porch with my now dead cat, Sheba, who was an angel. Although they had fabulous wardrobes, they weren't allowed in the house. Annie, especially, had the habit of opening the sliding glass door and sometimes had to be put off with a stern warning. At night they danced with French men wearing striped shirts and berets, gliding around a non-existant alley to the strains of accordian music and Edith Piaf . But during the day they plied me with tropical flavored Smarties (the only candy clinically proven to raise IQ!) and offered cogent hair and fashion advice despite not actually being able to speak.

Oh, brain, if I haven't told you lately, I love you!

P.s. I really need to find a suitable picture with which to illustrate this post!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Just between you and me, my last week of 38-dom is off to a really great start considering last week's tepid feelings about birthdays. The truth is that since my father died, the week before my birthday is always a little rough. The dumb thing is that the melancholy always catches me a little by surprise. It starts off with this nagging, uncomfortable feeling, that envelopes me like an itchy sweater. Then suddenly it dawns on me that the real reason I am feeling crappy is not my job or bills or whatever it is that I'm fixating on, but rather that it's my dad's birthday and I miss him. It's funny how the mind works. Suddenly I'll notice that it's one of those anniversaries and my mood becomes so much clearer. It happens every year. You'd think I'd learn.

The good thing is that there has been a lot going on to distract me - even being sick and working crazy overtime for the first half of the week helped. Then, just as I was feeling better, came Thursday - otherwise known as Ladysmith Black Mambazo Day. As a fan of world music (or whatever you want to call it - there is some criticism associated with the term), I was really excited to see them at the Aladdin. The tightness of their vocals has always appealed to me - all those voices singing as one! - and I love that the impetus for Joseph Shabalala to form an isicathamiya group came to him in a series of dreams.

It was a fun night. Not only does the whole group come across as warm and jovial (which is, by the way, pretty amazing considering some of the tragedy Shabalala's personal life has seen in recent years), but they sang my favorite songs (Homeless, Shosholoza). All in all a promising tone with which to start a great weekend and maybe even a new year.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spiritual Freedom Fighter!

Somehow Rob Brezsny's horoscopes always cheer me up. Take, for example, this snippet from my horoscope for the week of March 6th:

When I say, "Be yourself," I mean the self that says thank you to the wild irises and the windy rain and the people who grow your food. I mean the self who's joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of love and beauty that are packed inside every moment. I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who's scrambling and finagling and conspiring to shower all of your fellow messiahs with your best blessings.

It's nice to know that I have the capacity to shower someone with something other than germs. I am sick again with what feels an awful lot like bronchitis - this is less than thrilling. More thrilling is the optimistically creative energy that Brezsny imparts to everything he writes - even horoscopes. I like - no LOVE - the idea that we are all creative beings who have something beautiful to share. You might think that it's just the cough syrup talking, but I'm telling you, it's true! Even when he's being a little hokey (and who isn't from time to time?), I really enjoy him and find myself feeling a little more inspired to create something whenever I read him. I think I've mentioned before that I've been wanting to use his book, Pronoia, as a source of writing prompts.

It is probably just the feeling under the weather, but I really haven't felt inspired to do much of anything lately. Everything I start (I should clarify: in terms of writing) ends up seeming either stupid, boring or pointless. I'm sure this will change once I can actually breathe again, but I'm telling you that this is not an auspicious start to my March march into middle-age. Just give me a couple days, and then I'm sure I'll be back to sowing the seeds of love and beauty instead of those of colds and influenza.