There’s something about staring at green, green grass; hearing fluttering cottonwood leaves; sitting under a magnificent blue summer sky, complete with its ever-changing free cloud show; watching insects flit, hover and buzz … that settles my soul.
It’s been warm but cool in the shade. I toted around a canvas folding chair and books, trying to slow down and breathe.
Nature met me more than halfway in that respirational endeavor. It offered the calm, steady embrace of minutely growing things.
It displayed its intricate ecosystems. Miraculously year after year, trees grow from seeds … flowers from buds … and a certainty in me grows — of something great and good. Something bigger than me. Reassuring.
It’s like a loving mother’s arms, the embrace of the earth.
One day I happened to mention in a text to our neighbors that I wasn’t feeling well.
I was down for the count with a head cold.
The next thing I knew she was on our porch with homemade chicken soup accompanied by fresh cut pieces of baguette and a bowl of strawberries. All delivered by her wonderful self, in a handy canvas German market tote (she’s from Germany).
The kindness received was just as much of sustenance as the nourishing food.
We all know that when our body’s sick, our mind can also be pitiful.
A kind word or action (or both!) can shore up someone’s spirit like nothing else.
Kindness holds that kind of power. The sort that can turn around a person’s day – whether there are sniffles and a headache in it or not.
Recently, we watched their house while they were out of town, picked up the newpapers … when they got back the most deliciously sweet, gorgeous deep-red rose showed up on our porch in a clear glass bud vase.
What kind of magical sprite of niceness is this?
I’m continuing to read Sophie Scholl & The White Rose and yes, as I mentioned I might, I do have another blog post about it.
About halfway through reading I’ve discovered something.
The friendship between these people was part of their resistance.
The bonds between them, the respect and affection as it grew, effected them greatly for good.
They met, they argued, they shared lives. They discussed ideas, what was happening in their country, the countries around them, with Nazism.
This resulted in revolutionary behavior.
In a way friendship itself is revolutionary. It’s violently against hate. It’s FOR the bonds between people.
A friend loves you right along with your foibles, because of your strengths, but also — simply as your person, as who you are, as a unique human being.
You share with each other … stories, jokes, time together and … simply enjoy one another.
But the richness between you, is what?
It’s love – it’s affection, camaraderie, respect, fun.
Friends make us more of a person, more of a developed person. We call each other out on stuff, we help each other figure out life, we share experiences.
Just having someone else experience who YOU ARE. Is a gift. And I’m realizing, also a powerful strengthening agent.
Photos by Daniel Rogers | Greece
“We’ve marginalized art [in our society].” George Saunders said during his visit to Colorado Springs. Yes, we have.
After Saunders talked about the vagaries of the writing life, including editing down a sentence until it eventually disappears; and shared some about his own journey creating with words and finding himself as a writer, he talked about the “assigned” topic (by the Converge Lecture Series) of “moral beauty.”
This concept is meant to (and rather successfully does, after it sinks in and one is able absorb it) encapsulate the responsibility we have as people to create. To make our world better. To build, instead of destroy.
We’ve overlooked the power of art, and misunderstood the value of it. This has resulted in dire consequences. Because of discarding the unifying, clarifying and constructive functions of art, we’ve achieved a level of rage and antagonism among one another that is unprecedented.
We malign and see as unimportant and without value, artistic pursuits. This is evidenced by the question we are repeatedly asked when people hear of our son’s college major: “What do you do with an English Literature degree?”
Have you heard of books? Have you heard of something called critical thinking? Without these tools for a civil society, we spiral into a vortex of materialism, chaos and yes, rage. But with these pages — pages full of thoughts, observations, poetry, stories – these pages, created with intense and prolonged effort; created with a mysterious yielding to the “luminous other;” that Saunders talked about; created with a humility and a respect for readers that prohibits condescension – WITH THESE tools and weapons in our armory, we can battle apathy, hatred and the black hole of selfishness.
We need to get to a place where we realize the value of artistic professions, not seeing them as “just” hobbies (though artistic hobbies are valuable too) or relegating them to the margins. When we see and value them as work, as important work — equally as important as, say, plumber, teacher, construction worker — then we can generate more beauty with words, with paint, with clay, with cameras and even in micro conversations with each other.
This beauty will heal us.
With its distinctive, natural shapes and matte glaze Van Briggle pottery is known worldwide. I’d been curious about it’s history since moving to Colorado Springs and was delighted for the chance to tour the former location of its headquarters. It turned out the story of the couple behind the ceramics was even more interesting than their artistic place of business.
It was fascinating to hear about how Artus Van Briggle first noticed a special, defunct “dead glaze” on Ming vases in the Louvre during their shared art training in Paris. He then experimented to create glazes himself with the help of a scientist, using different techniques and Colorado clays once they lived here. Anne and Artus Van Briggle met, married and began their entrepreneurship when one-third of Colorado Springs’ residents at that time were being treated for tuberculosis. Artus was one of these people. When sadly he died, Anne took over operations of the company and ran it for several years and added artistic designs of her own to the vases and other pieces.
Many folks were involved over the years at the company. During a video interview one former employee said that when he first started working there in a different capacity he saw the people working on the actual pottery and thought, “it looked like magic to me … and I [eventually I] started throwin’ on the wheel.”
In 2012 the factory ceased producing pottery and is now fully the Colorado College Facilities department work space and offices. The building was preserved in all of its Dutch farmhouse-style glory — with especially fancy details like fake shutters and gargoyles, which were added at the time as marketing to catch the eyes of then-passing train passengers.
It was a pleasure to find out about this couple and others involved in the creation and production of these pieces over the years – always signed with an intertwined (back-to-back) “A” symbol for “Anne & Artus.”
The way the building was converted was also of interest because the giant kilns had to be removed and the chimneys propped up with steel beams, in order to preserve its external appearance while making the interior space usable for carpentry projects and large equipment.
A memorial wall and historical status were added at different points and a Lorelei statue this year (2017) in the adjoining gardens where the Horticultural Art Society sold a glorious selection of spring bulbs at a fundraising sale.
The Woman’s Educational Society coordinates the annual tour and the proceeds fund scholarships for Colorado College students.
It can be a startlingly negative thing, to be in a roomful of strangers picking apart what is wrong (even if positive elements are mentioned too) with a piece of writing.
I have no doubt that each person in both of my critique groups at the Big Sur in the Rockies writing workshop could make a success of this writing business.
A lot of work, patience, and doses of perspective would all be necessary. But each one, in their own completely unique way could bring some wonderful books into the world.
It’s so much easier for me to say that about others than myself.
But it’s true of me, too.
So, a little about what I learned, some exciting new industry terms (: and a bit about how to give good writing feedback —
NEW VOCABULARY includes:
Dialogue tags (she said, he said), and
“Chunk ability,” in terms of picture books: discreet scenes that are tightly focused incidents, that connected, build – thank you to Jennifer Mattson for telling us about that last one (and I can’t remember who she said she heard it from :).
I was already exposed to some of these terms but didn’t really know what they meant, or apply them to me or my writing, before this weekend.
I learned a lot. Linda Arms White kindly warned us all about driving carefully on the way home, because our heads would be so packed full of new information we might find it hard to concentrate on the road. This was a true statement and the laughter was welcome at the end of an intense weekend.
So about what I learned re: critiquing successfully.
Giving feedback that is constructive is a great thing.
Remembering the fact that we’re all in this together – to help each other get better, and to bring more good books into the world, helps encourage generosity of sharing and helps people concentrate on another person’s writing, versus falling into the main flow of society which is battling for prominence.
Emphasizing positivity and specificity, which requires really looking and listening, can only help raise the level of group discussion.
My favorite moments during the critique sessions were when a roomful of writers began striking off each other, causing sparks of inspiration for someone about their book — true creative brainstorms. Those were fun moments.
I came across this excellent article, which talks about constructive critiquing — including offering solutions but not re-writing for the writer, genuine praise and being specific.
Prior to this trip, Disney I found overwhelming. Being sucked into what I saw as the artificial, overblown world of a theme park was more nightmare-inducing than fun for me. I felt like I couldn’t escape – and it was all noise, all the time. But now I get it. Having spent the past week on the grounds of Disney World, I feel like I understand the attraction. It’s the chance to be a part of the “show.” It’s the feeling of being engulfed in a fantasy world. One that is clean, filled with bright colors and laughter. Plus, the allure is there of “meeting” one’s favorite characters. As a writer and voracious reader (and watcher of TV & movies), I can relate to that. I still don’t get into it as much as some (I’ll ride one or two amusement park rides and then be done, looking around for the art museum), but I understand the attraction better now.
Here was our first impression of the lobby of the hotel:
I still needed to get “off-base” (the Disney area is HUGE – plus there are TWENTY theme parks in the Orlando area) during the week of my husband’s professional conference, and one such excursion was to the botanic garden. The beautiful plants and impressive collection of roses (and lots of quiet) absolutely Fed My Soul.
Plus, the eternal mysteriousness of Spanish Moss:
Another outing was to the Orlando Museum of Art where I enjoyed two outdoor installations especially:
And then I went to work at two different libraries one day. Here’s a clip of one’s unusual suburban location; and a giant, interesting Disney-themed sight on the way to the other: