Saturday, August 11, 2007

In Which I Anticipate a Quiet Weekend Ahead Last night Rob and I went out on a date. Today he has a gig that starts at 10am and won't end until tomorrow around 4am . . . I am hoping he has the sense to not stick around after the gig to clean up, just locks things down and leaves the clean up for the next day. But this leaves me with a lovely quiet day ahead of me. Not so lovely has been the stifling heat which, even with the a/c on, makes the temperature in our house rise to 90F. By afternoon I am lethargic to the point of collapse. So I hope to get some cleaning done in the morning, while it is still bearably cool. Then, when afternoon arrives and temperatures become unbearable, I will settle down to a little television. All this talk lately about Excalibur (on one of the message boards to which I have long belonged) has me in the mood to watch that so I probably will begin there and who knows where I will turn next. A little cross stitching, listening to an audio book (A Year to Live), and reading some other books (including my decision to read Write Now! so I can get that book removed from my collection) promises to make today a quiet one. Tomorrow will probably be quiet as well because Rob will want/need to sleep in and that will leave me to find quiet things to do around the house so as not to disturb him. Perhaps I'll organize my thoughts re. that writing project I have in mind. Perhaps not. But today I am having a bad vertigo day so it is enough that I am up and typing a blog entry when really my body is screaming for me to lie down and stop. Weekly Quote
Don't strain. Don't force anything or make grand, exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive. There is no place or need for violent striving. Just let your effort be relaxed and steady. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
I think this such a lovely thought . . . to accept things as they are, without resistance. Obviously easier said than done but I admit that meditation has helped me greatly in moving towards a more steady and relaxed experience of living. When I sit in meditation, it is my goal to stop those random thoughts from distracting me as I focus only on my breath. Assuming for a moment that I ever manage this perfect stillness of thought, inevitably something beyond me distracts me. Romanov shifts from one position to another. A bird starts fighting with another bird. Or even the slight squeek of the fan overhead, a sound I had been effetively ignoring, becomes louder in my hearing. There is so much beyond my control . . . even my own thoughts which I think are in my control. Each time I rise from my meditation with a feeling of more or less success . . . but never frustration. Whether I perceive the experience as a less successful one, I still walk away from my meditation with a very real sense of peace. Or, as the quote says, feeling "relaxed and steady." And the best part is that I know, from the myriad of thoughts and external distractions which interrupted my perfect meditative experience, that this sense of peace, this feeling of relaxation and steadiness, is no more permanent than the distraction of a fan squeeking overhead. It all depends on how well focused I am in each and every moment.

Friday, August 10, 2007

In Which I Am VERY Excited but too sick to show it I'm excited about this conference and will probably talk more about it as I go along. I have read the poetry of one of the people (Judith Hall) who will be there and give much credit to John Fox, one of the keynote speakers, for getting me into the habit of writing poetry. Two people whose work inspires me? How could I possibly miss it? And I would sound and act more enthusiastic had I not gone to bed last night with a headache and woken up with one as well. I took something for the headache and then waited a couple of hours before taking something for the headcold I still have. Grrr . . . summer colds suck! So I am now going to settle down with my cross stitching and see if I can't be productive in spite of how I am feeling. I will write more about Judith Hall and John Fox in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, I need to rest up because Rob and I have a date tonight to go out to an open mic poetry reading--the first one I've gone to since I stopped doing them in 2001 and the first poetry event I've attended since before the vertigo when I went to see Patricia Smith and Regie Gibson. And because this is not a very exciting post in spite of my excitement, a recipe for all you Harry Potter fans out there! Direct from The Three Broomsticks, a recipe for Butterbeer you can make at home: Ingredients: 12 fluid ounces of root beer OR cream soda (for American readers, 1 can) 1 tablespoon of honey 2 teaspoons of butter Directions: Step 1: Place root beer (or cream soda) into a microwave safe glass and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds. Step 2: Remove root beer (or cream soda) and sit aside while you place butter into microwave long enough to melt it. Step 3: Now, add your warm root beer (or cream soda), melted butter and honey to the blender and blend for 5-10 seconds. (We recommend 5 as going past this may remove all the fizziness from your root beer (or cream soda) and it just won't taste the same!) Step 4: Enjoy! Or you can try this version: Butterbeer! It warms you up AND tastes great. Now in take-away form from The Three Broomsticks. (Many thanks to Melissa for this recipe!) Ingredients: 1 cup (8 oz) club soda or cream soda ½ cup (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping) ½ tablespoon butter Directions: Step 1: Measure butterscotch and butter into a 2 cup (16 oz) glass. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated. Step 2: Stir and cool for 30 seconds, then slowly mix in club soda. Mixture will fizz quite a bit. Step 3: Serve in two coffee mugs or small glasses; a perfectly warm Hogwarts treat for two! Or is three times a charm? Butterbeer Recipe From Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, Your Guide to Home Cooking. FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now! The Irish grandmother of a dear friend of mine used to melt butter in a pot, then pour in beer to warm it. I'm told this simple version of butter beer dates back centuries. Author J. K. Rowling does not provide a recipe for butterbeer in her wildly popular Harry Potter book series, so this version is pure speculation. Harry Potter's butterbeer contains a mild intoxicant, but this dessert version is suitable for children and tasty enough to please adults as well. INGREDIENTS: 1 pint real vanilla ice cream (use a brand that includes vanilla seed specks for best flavor or make your own) 1/4 cup real butter, at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon butterscotch extract 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 quart apple cider PREPARATION: On medium speed, beat together vanilla ice cream, butter, butterscotch extract, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well-combined. Pour into a container and re-freeze. When ready to serve, gently heat apple cider in a saucepan until steaming hot. Place 1 scoop of ice cream in a thick soda glass or large mug. Top with steaming apple cider. Yield: 4 to 6 servings Still not sure you like what you see? How about this one? Nathan Hurst's recipe for butterbeer 1 cup of milk 2 tblsp of honey a dash of cinnamon a dash of mace two drops of vanilla Put vanilla, honey, mace and cinnamon in a glass Microwave until the honey is a liquid Add milk. Microwave until nearly boiling (2 minutes in a 600W one). Or finally . . . this one: 1 C. club soda .5 C. caramel topping .5 TBSP butter mix caramel and butter in microwave safe container and heat for one minute. Stir and allow to cool for 30 seconds then slowly add club soda(will fizz) serves 2

Thursday, August 09, 2007

In Which I Face My Excuses Seeking For Reason

I have an idea for a writing project which I would like to do but I have been thinking about it since May . . . and done little to nothing with it.

I fall once again into the trap of not having accountability, without which I do nothing. If I do not have a deadline or someone reminding me that they are waiting for the next part of my writing I don’t write unless I feel motivated. It is hard to feel motivated.

I wrote a short story the other week. I sent a copy to my mother because I wanted her to read it, to make sure that she was comfortable with it. The inspiration for the story itself was from my mother’s past. She liked it, even in its rough draft form. I then sent it to Elaine and Rob. Elaine because she knew about the idea and always loved it, encouraging me to write it. Rob because he wants me to write write write. Two weeks later and neither of them read it. Elaine is busy with school and work . . . and reading the seventh Harry Potter book. Rob has just been busy. He printed it off and it continues to lie in exactly the same place in the kitchen.

And this is just another excuse. So what if my encouragers and supporters don’t want to read my writing? Should that keep me from writing? No.

With that said, I know what I will do tomorrow and it does not include writing. Instead, while it is still cool, I’ll exercise, do my yoga, meditate, etc. When it gets too hot to move (even with the air conditioning it is stifling by mid-afternoon and even Romanov does not want to sit outside to sniff the air), I will do some cross-stitching and listen to Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live. Perhaps what I need more than motivation and accountability is inspiration.

 Aries Horoscope for week of August 9, 2007 "The face is the most erotic part of the body," says fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Try out that perspective for a while, Aries. Your assignment in the coming week is to enjoy getting excited by faces that captivate your imagination. This isn't just about pure physical beauty, of course. You should also be alert to the titillating wisdom and arousing compassion that are revealed in their features . . . as well as the ripples of inscrutable emotions and the flows of secret knowings.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In Which I Finish Another Book I recently filled a database with 200 of my books. Of those 200, 98 had not been read. It is an appalling fact that I have entirely too many books. I am eager to change this statistic so that it is less skewed. In fact, I think it would be lovely to be reduced to two bookshelves. One on which I keep books I have read and love, to which I will return again in times of want or need. And another on which I have books I have not read. I do not want to hold onto books which have not been read for years and years nor do I want to keep books I don't wish to read again. in the future. With that said, I read We Worship: A Guide to Catholic Mass by Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. as part of my Catholic readings. Finally, I can say that I have read a book that I enjoyed because I found it both informational and inspiring. So far all of the books I have read for this exploration have left me feeling bored and not the least bit spiritually moved. This book, however, brought to light many of the rituals which surround the mass giving these rituals a significance, a resonance, that they lacked for me. There are many Biblical references, which is to be expected. More exciting for me were the references to the catechism and websites listed with primary sources. It is all well and good to say that Pope John Paul II said something but Lukefahr takes the time to show where the reader can see for themselves what this and other Catholic leaders have said. I really appreciated these references because it reassured me that what was being said in the text was reasonable and balanced. There are some personal stories and even amusing anecdotes but these are mostly confined to the introduction of each chapter or to sidebar boxes called "Mass Confusion." I had found Scott Hahn's use of glib and amusing sub-titles for his chapters a bit distracting. Lukefahr's were less intrusive for me and didn't even realize the pattern until I was more than 2/3 through the book. In other words, they were not as obvious as in Hahn's book. (As an aside, Lukefahr mentions Hahn's conversion from anti-Catholic to Catholic at one point. Not very relevant but it was nice to see yet another familiar name in the book.) I intend on keeping this book around for a while. I will want to reread chapter three (Attending a Mass: Step by Step) if Rob and I ever do manage to go to Mass as we have discussed. It is unfortunate that there is no televised mass here in GA. Frankly, I can't remember living someplace that did not have a Sunday Mass, along with some of the other seemingly ubiquitous televangelists (Schuller and Kennedy come to mind). I am just hugely relieved to have finally come across a text that excited me, made me want to learn more and even experience more.

Monday, August 06, 2007

In Which I Finish a Book on Writing Poetry
Today I finished reading Sheila Bender's Writing Perosnal Poetry. I've had this book for a while and decided to read it because someone was going to read along with me. As it turns out, they didn't have a copy and without a copy they couldn't actually read along which left me to read it through on my own.
Full of examples ranging from rough drafts to polished poems, from writers published and beginners just exploring poetry for the first time, this book is a wonderful introduction to writing poetry. There is just enough meat in the text to keep it from being complete fluff. I confess, I didn't do the exercises, mostly because I already do most of them when writing poetry. It wasn't until chapter six that this book took off for me and then it just settled back down again. In other words, chapter six was the most useful chapter for me. But I would definitely recommend this book to other people who are interested in writing poetry. You won't be overwhelmed with technical terminology. Do you need to know what an assonance is to write a poem? No. Do you have to be able to tell the difference between the various types of sonnet and write each type correctly, iambic pentameter, end rhymes, and all? No. But you can and will learn how to write effective free verse poems in your own voice from your own experiences and that is more than many people can say or do!
Although the book concludes with resources which include how to get published, I cannot say that a writer new to poetry who had only worked through this book is likely to be published. You may not need to know what assonance is to write poetry but if you know how to use it, if you know how to write in iambic pentameter and when it is best to break the rules, then you can and will be published. This book does not cover the rules. Bender does include, however, some great reading recommendations so anyone who is serious about taking their poetry further, perhaps seeing their work in print, can certainly use her recommendations as a way to build a solid collection of books on writing poetry.
So for the writer new to poetry or the one who wants to write poetry on a more personal level, I strongly recommend this book. It is a good start and a good resource.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In Which I Finish a New Age Book
When I went to the yoga retreat with my mother, I spoke with a yogi there who told me about the golden ratio and mentioned something about sacred geometry. I was intrigued and when I saw Math for Mystics by Renna Shesso, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look into it. I also went into the reading with some degree of caution. I loathe the pseudo-science of New Age-ism because I do not know enough science to argue against what I am reading but I know enough to recognize that what is usually presented as fact in many New Age texts is far closer to myth than truth. Nevertheless, I had hoped to get some fun information out of this book. When I purchased the book, I was mostly curious about the mythic symbolism of numbers, the cultural significance of certain digits, etc. I was not disappointed. For instance, I was not aware that the number 666 is associated with the goddess Aphrodite. I also liked the suggestion for how to use Magic Squares in meditation. The third piece of curiosity for me was the idea of a personal cubit and how one’s personal cubit would be the length of that person’s wand. For some reason, although I have read about it before, her explanation of the correlation between Tarot and the Tree of Life also made sense. Or something just clicked, after having read about this connection before. I was disappointed by the emphasis on goddess history, which normally appeals to me. But Shesso emphasizes it to the point of dismissing the patriarchal hierarchy. There were some tacit allusions to Asian mythology but it is clear that her familiarity and comfort remain in the Western traditions. This was somewhat disappointing. Still, there were some pop culture allusions, including such surprises and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, as well as the more expected references (e.g. the Bible, I Ching, et al). Will I read the book again? Unlikely. But it will stay on my shelf, for now. I have a feeling I will use it as a reference in the future. If not, in a few years, I will winnow it from my life.