Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekly Quotes Part 41 (with a bonus Satia Story)

Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment.  Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: “You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack.  Why do you like it so much?”  The young photographer said, “Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.” (6)

Often (probably too often) this is how I feel about my own writing. I have to “climb a mountain to get it” and I lack the necessary objectivity to tell whether it is good or not. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know how to tell a story but I do not know how to fix it.  How does one learn to tell a story?  By telling them, I suppose.  But after thirty years of writing, I suppose it’s time to wonder if I’m not just shoving a crappy landscape into my portfolio hoping that this time the old man will like it.

And there were the fireworks, far away.  It was the Fourth of July. I had forgotten.  . . .  It was the Fourth of July, and I had forgotten all of wide space and all of historical time.  I opened the blinds a crack like eyelids, and it all came exploding in on me at once—oh yes, the world. (31)

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  (32)

There is no shortage of good days.  It is good lives that are hard to come by. (32)

Thoreau said that his firewood warmed him twice—because he labored to cut his own. Mine froze me twice, for the same reason.  (42)

This amuses me, along with other sardonic observations Dillard makes throughout this book.  Unlike Holy the Firm, I feel I could like the author who wrote this book and would want to sit at her feet an learn. Especially, perhaps, because she can look at the previously published book and recognize all of the weaknesses in it which I found so off-putting (and practically unforgivable).

Why people want to be writers I will never know, unless it is that their lives lack a material footing.  (46)

You know, that’s about as good a reason as I’ve ever heard for wanting to be a writer, truth be told.  I can’t think of a better one.

He must be sufficiently excited to rouse himself to the task at hand, and not so excited he cannot sit down to it.  He must have fait sufficient to impel and renew the work, yet not so much faith he fancies he is writing well when he is not.  (46)

There is such a fine line between the two, enthusiasm for the work but not so terribly excited that one can’t recognize an ugly baby after it’s been birthed.  My problem is that I look at what I’ve done and am typically horrified by what I see. 

Which sort of brings me to a funny Satia story from my past.   I was about 3-years-old and my mother had answered many of my endless questions, including the specifics about procreation and sex.  The experts say that when a child first asks where babies come from you should answer with a more vague than specific answer so, usually, the parent says, “The baby grows inside a woman’s body until it is ready to come out.”  And this is enough for the child, who blissfully walks away with that answer.  Later, the same child comes back and asks for a little more clarification.  Where does the baby grow?  How does the baby get inside the mommy? 

My poor mother.  She answered me with the expected vagueness and apparently I didn’t let it go.  I was relentless (dare I say “insatiable”?) in my need to know more and by the time I was three I knew all about a man’s penis and sperm and the egg that grows inside a woman’s womb until ready to come through the vaginal cavity and out into the world.

Anyway, one day we were on the bus and my mother towards the front of the bus when this couple came on.  My mother describes them as huge, grotesquely overweight.  The woman was carrying a quite large, chubby baby in her arms and I blurted out, loud enough for the entire bus to hear, “Do you mean to tell me that that baby came out of that woman’s vagina?”

The people, including the bus driver, laughed and the couple looked oblivious as they smiled.  My horrified mother assumed then and says now that she can only hope that they didn’t speak English because she can’t imagine they would have been so bemused otherwise.
The Moral of This Story  Parents and parents-to-be, you have been duly warned.  Answering your children’s questions, even if you try to keep your responses vague, can lead to trouble if your child is peculiarly precocious.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being peculiar or precocious.  However, these things often do come with a price and public embarrassment is a rather small one.
But all of this I share by way of returning to my original response to the quote because there are times when that same dismay is felt by me as I read something I’ve written.  "You mean to tell me that that writing came out of me?" 

There are times when I would rather give birth to another baby than try to figure out whether what I wrote is worth revising or not.  After all, I know I can give birth to beautiful babies.  I’ve done thrice before, without an epidural.  

Never dress to impress others:  dress to express your authentic sense of style.  (October 10)

When we feel at ease with ourselves, we feel at ease in the world.  (October 10)

This is true of so many other things. When we are content with ourselves, we are content in the world. When we are happy with ourselves, we are happy in the world.  When we are miserable with ourselves, we feel miserable in the world.  Of course, many spiritual paths talk about this, about how we "create" the world because the world reflects back what we ourselves hold within.  I don't think that most of the ways these teachings are being explained in some more contemporary spiritual teachings holds water, but it is hard to argue with the truth that what we feel about ourselves has a deep effect on how we view the world.

[S]tart letting everyone else be good enough just as they are.  (October 7)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

My son's wife, Erin, was feeling anxious about something but we didn't know what.  Only that she was anxious.  So I said to Rob, talking about my son:

I’m sure Joe can talk her down. He’s good at that—talking people down.  Or maybe it’s putting people down he’s good at.   I always get those confused.  

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday
is hosted by BermudaOnion's Weblog

Today's words are brought to you by Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

Image from this site.
A white collar bibbed the yoke of it like a guimpe. (40)

guimpe noun
1. a blouse worn under a jumper or pinafore
2. a wide cloth used by some nuns to cover the neck and shoulders
Definition from this site.

To be honest, Dillard is referring to the wimple that nuns wear and, contextually, I assumed that is what guimpe means.  So this is another example of where I am sharing a word, more because I learned a new meaning to a word I pretty much knew without looking it up.

Image from this site.
I bear holiness splintered into a vessel, very God of very God, the sempiternal silence personal and brooding, bright on the back of my ribs. (64)

sempiternal adjective
of never-ending duration
Definition from this site.

This is one of those words that I can't help thinking has a tint of pretension.  Once again, I assumed its meaning. So why did I look it up?  Because I thought, "You know, maybe it doesn't mean eternal.  I mean, if that's what it means why not just say eternal?  I should look it up."  So I did and I was disappointed because while I think it's wonderful to use the precise word I frankly don't think using a more obscure word in lieu of a more common one is necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it may eve be preferable.

(5'-D(CpCpTpCpGpCpTpCpTpC)-3, 5'-D(GpApGpApGpCpGpApGpG)-3');
Image from this site.
Be victim to abruptness and seizures, events intercalcated, swellings of the heart. (75)

intercalcate verb
1. to insert (as a day) in a calendar
2. to insert between or among existing elements or layers
Definition from this site.

Now this is one of those words that I can imagine finding a use for but would I remember to use it?  Maybe now, that I've taken time to record it my subconscious will cling to it and pull it up.  After all, now that I've intercalcated the word into my synapses, it's bound to come out somehow.  Oh wait!  I just did use it, didn't I?  Yay me!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Where I've Been, Where I'll Be

Marietta Campus

This week is bringing a significant change to my schedule.  No I do not have a job but I will be taking some training classes to get some certification which will hopefully improve my chances of getting a job.

So I will be spending much of my free time studying. 

The classes are from 6-10pm which is another significant change because I am accustomed to getting up at 4:30am and going to bed around 8pm or 9pm at the latest.  (Typically the later time is because a show is on I want to see *cough*Dexter*cough* and I can’t wait for it even one day.)

So my body will be making some serious adjustments as it accustoms itself to a new schedule.

Anyway, part of the reason I’ve been more quiet than usual is because I’ve been trying to get things ready for this shift in my life and I’ve been more distracted than usual as a result. 

I won’t promise to do better in the coming weeks because I really don’t know what’s coming nor how I’ll handle it.  For all we know, I may slip into the new rhythm with such ease that nobody will really notice a difference.  On the other hand, I may be trying to juggle so many things that I become even more distracted than I already am.

Is that even possible?  Goodness, I don’t want to think it is. 

I’ll be reading blogs, naturally, but I’ll probably not have as much time to offer comments as before.  If you start missing my comments in your blog, leave a comment somewhere in one of my blogs and I’ll likely reciprocate.  Not meaning to play favorites, necessarily, but I’m more inclined, when I’m feeling crunched for time and pulled in too many directions, to make time for those who make time for me. 

Except for job training and such, I haven’t been in school since 1999.  For some strange reason, I am not anxious or worried.  More curious, than anything else, to see what comes of this.  But really, what does one wear to a continuing education type class?  I don’t want the cool kids to think I’m out of touch.