A Garden of Delights

Archive for the ‘Introductions’ Category

Things change and yet don’t change around here with surprising consistency.  I wrote my last post here over a year ago; I cannot promise that the upcoming gap will be any less extreme.  I’m still trying to figure out what this space is for….  or if, it is what I think it should be, what my usual blog-haunt Many Worlds From Many Minds is or will be.

When I think about it and am honest with myself, I have a bit of an aversion to being “myself” so directly…  online or off.  A lot of people have nicknames, use pen names, or aliases online.  I do, and yet I don’t.  I thought of trying to establish a serious online persona so that my private life could be truly private.  But in the end, it seemed unnatural to be reaching out to the world electronically by saying “hey, look at me, read what I wrote” while hiding behind the screen and a stock image.

Unnatural for me…  I am not judging the choices others have made in regards to their online lives.  It’s a pretty crazy world out here, and we all deal the way we need to deal.


 

So…  What brought me over here?  I guess the same could be said for me posting over at Many Worlds…  I only started that up recently as well.  Then again, I started that up because that’s where I post all my ROW80 check-ins; I had a “reason” for blogging again there.  So, why am I here…

Actually, I just came to share an article I read on The Rumpus.net…  an article I just can’t get out of my head.  I was there, in this author’s place during the college years.  I suspect more young women are than they would like to admit.

After a while...  we all watch the world from this vantage point

After a while… we all watch the world from this vantage point

Was I in that place?  Oh, not the same place…  of my “bad choices” one I ran from during the ‘afterglow’; with another, the college paraded me during proceedings as a tool to get him banned when I didn’t could barely understand what had actually happened from what I’d been told had happened; another wasn’t too shy to make sure I knew how much I ‘owed’ him for the fact his roommate was my boyfriend and he had to deal with me ‘teasing and frustrating’ him by our cuddling, and if my boyfriend wasn’t going to take what was being offered (never mind that it hadn’t been offered), then he would…  and if I didn’t he’d make sure the RA knew I’d been drinking in his room.

Oh…  and I only did a bit of the bulimia and anorexia thing.  My way of coping turned away from the “I need to be prettier to be accepted, and I’ll be prettier if I can lose weight‘ to the “fuck you all, I’m going to be so damned fat and ugly I won’t have to deal with any of you“.

Only…  it didn’t work that way.  It never does.

Things change.  We change, heal, grow…  new experiences, new faces,…  I keep rediscovering myself, even those “stitches” as Roe McDermott notes in her piece sometimes seem to be all I’m made of.   Now, instead of trying to define myself by someone else’s interest in me, I try to just be me.

Whoever that is….

 

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Sometimes people mean so much to us that all “things” seem inadequate.  We say we should give of ourselves, but that comes off as so trite.  And it’s hard to define anyway.  I can’t speak for most people, but I try to make myself available and try to do things for those I love without being reminded or asked anyway.  I love them and try to be attentive to them.

Bubbles!  MUST pop Bubbles (credit Ray Paulsen Photography)

Bubbles! MUST pop Bubbles (credit Ray Paulsen Photography)

So what to give a life partner who makes smiles just happen by being in the same room?  Who frustrates me by leaving the butter out and staring at me blankly when I ask if we need anything from the store before I head out then asks me why I forgot mustard when I get home…  Who perfected the infamous Muppet Dance and does pseudo-ballet twirls in our kitchen as I’m moving boiling water around….

I wrote a poem.

Flavor

I don’t like

      Coffee

Flavored kisses,

bittersweet, tangy

      Let me

take one of my

      Birthday truffles

Make sweet, hot, wet

      Drops on your lips.

Warm, melting,

      caress

my lips

      taste of yours.

My fingers reach to your hair

I hold you there

      Dripping sweetness

      lick it up

      take another bite.

I don’t like coffee

but your flavored kisses

            are too brief.

I wrote this before my husband’s birthday, but sharing it is a very different step.  I hope you’ll all indulge me for the moment as I wish Dan Happy Birthday (a few days off).

At the Henge (photo credit Eden Mabee)

A little family story…

World Suicide Day: Preventing Tragic Loss (reblog, but original post removed from the now defunct site: CommuniCATE)

I grew up in a household where suicide was always felt (my great-grandfather had killed himself… it may sound like that should have been distant, but our family was a very extended one with me living with parents, grandparents and my great-grandmother in the same house). In that house, there was a room no one was supposed to go in, the room he shot himself in. The blood hadn’t even been cleaned after his body was removed and buried. They just closed the door and on rare occasions, someone would shove a box of “stuff” to stack in the room through the door… when the door could be reached. Usually stuff was piled in front of it.

The outside door to that room (it was the original kitchen to the house, and yes, after he died, they just made a second kitchen) overgrew with ivies, the small awning was allowed to just fall off the house, pulling some of the clapboard with it. The window broke and the barn cats would go and nest in there.

I used to want to know why that room was closed up so much. No one talked about it. If I tried to peek a look, either I risked poison ivy itches (not so bad for me, since as a kid I never caught the rash, but horrid for my uncle and grand-father since they could catch it from being around me) or being hollered at…. And the brief peeks I did catch never made much sense. What was so special about a dirty old kitchen filled with boxes and the corpses of mice and birds?

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I’d pieced all the hints together. By then I’d been hospitalized for suicide attempts myself, my uncle had been living on antidepressants, my grand-father had been slowly recovering from alcoholism, …

Suicide does change things.

And for those wondering…   a picture of the house in question.  Of the door, even:

11899357336_3b6c2f6449_m

The Old Farm

A little upkeep is needed here, with a few announcements.

  • First there are some wonderful upcoming features coming up including a review of Diane Ackerman‘s eloquent One Hundred Names For Love (May 14th) and a delightful guest piece in Your Inspirations by Barbara Chepaitis (May21th)
  • I’m in the process of merging both this blog and Many Worlds, but the process is becoming far more emotionally stacked than I would like it to be.  Please stop in occasionally for updates.

For the moment, please allow me to share a piece with you I’d written for the  StoryDam Writing Challenge prompt this week

Spring time is about new beginnings and with new beginnings you have choices. We often are so excited to see the first days of spring turning into warmer days of outdoor fun, new projects, gardening, home improvement, new outlooks and decisions that have to be made if you want to start something new. Is there a doorway you always wanted to go through but allowed something to hold you back? What great adventure might have been waiting on the other side of that opening?

Dam Burst Prompt:

Write fiction or non-fiction, tell us what lies on the other side of the door. Will you take door number two or door number one? What magical wonders are just waiting for you to step through?

Despite writing this piece on the 30th of April, I’ve been unable to do anything with it until today….  It’s fairly raw.  Still I hope you enjoy it.  Sometimes life simply “is”.

——————————————–

Two doors… Where do they lead?  Choices, choices…

Watchman

A watchman stands at the door to the left.  With promises of the stable life, the known life,  everyone else seems eager to enter that door.  Get your papers in order.  The watchman–or watchwoman, depending on how you get here–deals with this every day.  Just pass the information over and let him do his job.

He, or she will compare your papers to a checklist they keep.  (Be careful–these guards all seem to have slightly different checklists!)  It doesn’t matter what the little variation might be….  Child out of wedlock, too many job changes, a tattoo in a noticeable location… There are countless numbers of little things the guards check for.

After perhaps five strikes you have your papers handed back to you, and guard turns you from the line. There a few ways to get through the door even so.  Perhaps you have a bonus supply of money or good looks or chutzpah… even talent can be used as currency to bribe the guard.  If you have a surplus in some area, you still might get through.  You can be one of the ones who has it all.

If you are smart, you may go over your papers on you own . Once you are in line, you’ve made you choice and unless the guard urges you out of line, you have to go through that door.  You really have to mess up once you are on the other side to get sent back out to try again.

Ipsden: inside the church porch Entering the 1...

At least that’s what every one around you in line says, whispering in low, horrified voices, the sheer weight of ostracism held in each letter, each atom the air that is exhaled from their lips. They look askance at the ones that stand in line at the other door… Its blackened, muddied, peeling surface, dented and warped just enough that occasionally a whiff of “something” that doesn’t set well on your stomach escapes it. They have made it quite clear that you don’t want to enter that door.

That’s where those people go. You don’t want to be one of those people, do you? (They motion to their guard and say with pride “Why do you think we have to guard our door? Everyone wants to come in here. We have to be selective, you know.”)

And it does look so much nicer. There are flowers growing on a arbor over it. There is a light. Everything about their door is bright, clean. You once were near enough to catch the whiff of fresh clipped lawns and gentle perfumes as someone was let in.

Roses along a trellis, Interbay P-Patch (commu...

But as you stand in the crowd, knowing that you should decide, already starting to step forward toward the door with the guard, you see someone push the other door open. This person hadn’t even considered the flowered, guarded door. He stepped out of the crowd boldly, he even seemed to smile when he got to the door and found it was stuck closed from having been warped so much. He pushed against it with all his weight, making his body into a battering ram in his determination to get through that door. And behind him, you could hear others calling to him saying “No! Please don’t do this!”

Suddenly, the door opens for him, just as the guarded door is opening for someone else, and you see inside for just the briefest moment. You see the guarded door and the rows of neat little boxes, of neat, carefully manicured grasses and faces, the sameness of it all.

Your eyes take it in in a second before you look back to the unguarded dooor as it creaks closed against the boy who has ducked into its depths. You see a multitude of colors and glaring brightness amidst devastating darkness, You hear music. You smell flowers and refuse and you hear laughter and tears.

You know that it’s all the same then. And why should you ask someone else yo judge you fit to simply “live”

We know the end result of both doors. The long term end that is. The doors all end in death.  We cannot avoid it. Even if we were to try standing still and never move, we have chosen our exit from the world. And what a sad, desperate exit that is too. So what exit do we chose to use?

PHOTO CREDITS:

  • Watchman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Ipsden: inside the church porch Entering the 1761088 and closing the outer door behind you, it soon becomes clear that the porch does not have much in the way of illumination. Not having looked beforehand, I had to reopen the outer door so as to find the handle of the inner door. Here, we look back at the closed outer door, facing south on a bright sunny day as sunlight seeps in through gaps in the woodwork and under the door. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Roses along a trellis, Interbay P-Patch (community garden), Interbay neighborhood, Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Front Page Graphic for Wikijunior Ancient Civi...

I had the pleasure of making Laird’s acquaintance almost two years ago now through our local Atheist and Agnostics Group.  At that time, I just knew he was an amazingly friendly guy, that his wife was amazingly patient with my son (who wanted to regale her with story upon story from books he loved), and that the conversation (which was very hard to follow in the crowd) often touched on ancient civilizations and science, both topics that enthrall me.

I asked Laird if he would write a piece on the sort of things that inspire him.  As you can imagine by his diverse interests, he savors the world, but I’ll let him explain how in his own words.  Without further ado, please welcome Laird Scranton to Your Inspirations:

For me, inspiration – the spark that breathes life into an idea – is something that comes much more easily when I surround myself with interesting people, situations, activities, and ideas.   As with most things, the more immersed I am in an active exchange of interesting ideas, the easier it seems to be for me to come up with an interesting one of my own.

I often feel that inspiration can be triggered by little things, like some incidental thought that may cross my mind during the day, a simple phrase that I casually overhear, or the unexpected answer someone gives to a question I have asked. 

Situations that offer changes in perspective also seem to help promote the processes of inspiration, and so I like brain teasers, optical illusions, mysteries, puns, and a funny new joke.  I really appreciate being around children, in part because they are often not as practiced at seeing the world in the same old predefined ways.

Sometimes I even think to do things to change my own perspective. For example, try saying the same word over and over again so many times that you effectively disconnect the sound from the meaning.

 At times I find inspiration in simple everyday mistakes. I have a friend who once briefly failed to recognize the word “fruit” because his mind somehow interpreted the letters as “fru –it”.   My wife Risa recalls a time when her brother couldn’t remember whether the word “of” should be spelled OV or UV.

When I was in middle school, I became aware that I often found humor in things that almost no one else around me thought were funny.  That still happens – just ask my wife.

I make an effort to pay close attention to my dreams, since I’ve often seen important thoughts play out in them. My dreams are sometimes set in unusual locales that can reappear again and again, and which I have learned to navigate with complete familiarity.  I recently discovered one of these locales to be a neighborhood I actually lived in when I was only two years old, even though I had no conscious recollection of it.

Finally, as the word implies, I know that inspiration really should be as easy and natural as breathing in and out. The trick may be to simply pay close attention while you’re busy breathing. 

Laird Scranton

Laird Scranton CPAK 2008 image

A software designer by trade, Laird Scranton enjoys exploring the intersection of history, mythology, and science.  His curiosity has inspired to write four books to date on topics that range from the analysis of the oral and symbolic teachings of the Dogan people in Mali to a reassessment of the Young Venus theory proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky .  He has published articles through various universities, including Colgate and Temple.  He has a degree in English from Vassar College.  He lives in Albany, NY.

For further information on Laird’s writing, please check these links:

With many apologies to our guest, Janet Parfitt, for being a week late with posting this piece, I wish to offer her a warm welcome to the Garden of Delights as she shares one of her writing inspirations with us.  I especially enjoy reading things that Janet posts, because (barring becoming a rock star), we share so many common interests.  It always fascinates me to see the differences that occur even among common threads.

So, without further ado, please welcome, Janet Parfitt:

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

         You only have to look in your local bookshop or go to Amazon to see that there are thousands, if not millions, of books about creative writing.  An amazing amount of people have written on the subject with a lot of conflicting advice.  There are those who tell you basically to just sit down and start writing and then there are those who say you should plan out every scene, character, setting and plot twist before you start.

You might wonder who all these people are and what makes them qualified to give you advice on writing.  But there is one guy who I don’t think anyone in their right mind would question because he is the best-selling writer in the entire universe and his name is Steven King.

King’s book entitled “On Writing” is the best book ever written about the process of creative writing.  I mean, what he doesn’t know can’t be worth knowing, right?  And, as you would expect, it’s very well written; part biography and part writing manual, it’s all good.  My favourite bit is the first sentence of the second foreword which goes “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.[1]”  You got to love the man for writing that!

He goes on to say that “If you want to be a writer, then you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.[2]”  This is not a book padded out with lists or the same writing tips given out over and over, just phrased slightly differently.  And it doesn’t have that school-marm slightly superior tone that says ‘I know better than you do.’  What he does is tell it to you straight; here’s another excerpt to show you what I mean.  “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends.  In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.[3]

Thank you Steven!


[1] Steven King – On Writing.  P. xiii.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

[2] Steven King – On Writing.  P. 164.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

[3] Steven King – On Writing.  P. 326.  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

On Writing

Now in her late 40’s, Janet Parfitt has filled her creative reservoirs with the labors of many crafts.  Diverse jobs such as filing clerk in a tax office, chamber maid in a hotel, vending machine maintenance in the (now closed) Kodak factory in Harrow and Wealdstone (UK) and sous chef in a restaurant supplemented her reading to inspire stories, poems, songs and dreams of becoming a rock star.  Led Zeppelin, animal welfare, words of beauty, the mysteries of the occult stir her passions almost as much as her family and lovely husband.  Raised in North London, she has a degree in history.  She runs a writing related magazine Writing With Fire, a blog Mrs. Bongle, and can be found on Twitter at @MrsBongle.  She is a practising witch.  

Bosna - modlitba

Last week, if you checked in here you found a lovely piece by my guest blogger, Elaine Stock.  As I noted “Your Inspirations” will run twice a month (1st and 3rd Mondays) and will feature thoughts and inspirations from guests around the web and beyond. I hope you will join me on March 19th for a visit from Mrs. Bongle, whose post about tea and writing inspire me to use language more effectively and gracefully.

Today’s feature revolves around a different style of inspiration.  Books!  Or in this case, book reviews….  As part of my trying to offer a semi-consistent schedule here at the Garden of Delights and to track the progress of my Bookmarks Challenge, I will be alternating book reviews with Your Inspirations (2nd and 4th Mondays).

And for the first installment:
Love Thy Neighbor A personal account of Peter Maass’s experiences as a war correspondent in the Balkans during early 1990s

It’s a catchy title Love They Neighbor: A Story of War, and Maass uses it well, more as admonishment than anything else.  Any story that highlights the tragedy of war and the politics that perpetuate such suffering can quickly fade into what Maass himself refers to as “warporn”, and occasionally a section of the novel pushes that barrier between informative and expressively pornographic.   More so at the beginning of the book where Maass is himself reliving the intensity of the things he saw in Bosnia and the causes of his determination to become a journalist there.  But most often, we are drawn into the human experience that made this conflict.  We see the victims as people with dreams and aspirations as real as our own.

And through Maass’s careful commentary, we see the aggressors in the same compassionate light.

At times Love Thy Neighbor almost pains the readers as much as it informs.  The grief seems so inevitable when read in the beginning of the book, but Maass toys with his readers delicately, introducing historical instances of violence in the Balkans, stories of the extreme cruelty that has erupted in the region over the past 400 years.  Yet,  in the same pages, he speaks of the many years of peace and of the multicultural paradise that had once been Yugoslavia, an in particular the city of Sarajevo.

As a reader I could not question his words from experience here.  My one chance to go travel behind the Iron Curtain before it fell was foolishly squandered in chasing boys and avoiding schoolwork.  As rebellion was slowly fomenting in the East, it was being enacted with even less focus or sense on my own life.  But unlike the chaos that was about to rip apart the lives of hundreds of thousands, mine could be contained through introspection and patience.

Not so for the people of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.  Not in 1992…

English: An exhumed mass grave in Potocari, Bo...I confess I do not like (or agree) with all the political observations that Maass makes in his book.  Granted, we both have very skewed perceptions of the conflict and the external circumstances.  And even more important for the reader, I am neither a historian nor a political scientist (positions  that would allow me to make an educated opinion on why people can be convinced to kill a friend, a neighbor, even a complete stranger just by the manipulation of others).

But my distance has some virtue as well.  I also was not as directly affected by the pain and suffering of good people and friends.  Unlike Maass, I cannot make accusations of insensitivity based on political hopes being squandered because the President didn’t stop Serbia from invading and destroying the “safe zones” of Bosnia.  Maass  blamed Clinton, but he didn’t blame Bush Sr. equally for not seeing the stirrings of excessive nationalism being allowed free rein.  He blamed the Labour Party in England, the French, the appeasers as he calls them…

He’s right…  at least as someone who experienced so much of the diplomatic “we’re a peaceful people” stabs from various figures in Serbia and even Croatia can be.   Maass daily saw the homes of doctors and architects, of farmers and school teachers being destroyed;  he witnessed interment camps where Bosnian Muslims were turned from human beings into skeletons…

Maass, for a few years, lived where Bosnian Muslims were made aware they were Muslims and not Bosnians. …  Where the seeds of the present day Sharia law in the Balkans, and the increased strife in the world between Muslims and Christians and Jews may not have been sown, but were certainly fertilized on the blood of the innocent and peacefully integrated.  Maass saw that pain, and he knew too many of those people as people.  He could not afford to be unbiased.

And sadly, I can.

It’s interesting to note that just after I finished the book, I watched a few Castle episodes this weekend and had similar thoughts to Maass’s closing chapter on how quickly Yugoslavia fell from peace into hell on earth.  Even if you don’t like the show, the (two-part) episodes “Pandora” and “Linchpin” are worth watching…  For those of you who say “It would never happen here”.  Watch it.

And, while it is not a work of “Great Literature” and it is clear that the author has forfeited his journalistic neutrality with joyous delight, Love Thy Neighbor was a wonderful book.  There is enough eloquence and despair and love, to stir the coldest hearts.  But read it with both open eyes and an open heart.


First Friday Photo

Something to inspire

obligatory “What I Allow”

Short Stuff

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