"An MFA is not required to be a good writer, nor is it necessary for publication, but it opens so many doors; not only in a networking sort of way, but in one’s own mind. It absolutely changed my writing—and my life—for the better." Rhonda Browning WhiteRead More
"It seems sort of crazy to say that my proudest accomplishment is being stubborn. But without stubbornness (or its kinder cousin, perseverance) I can’t imagine that anything I value having achieved would have come about." Leslie PietrzykRead More
A dear friend once described writing, the attempt to create something that might be considered art, as a life affirming act. I know that, for many of us, the campaign/election/inauguration and the recent threats to cut funding to the NEA and other cultural programs have blocked our creativity, have made it seem impossible at times to produce a single line. And without that spark, without that feeling that you are channeling something elemental through your words or your art, without that absolute magic that happens when something you’ve created feels just right, it becomes more and more difficult to get through the day. It makes it difficult to feel wholly alive.
I, myself, have been having trouble gathering enough focus to write, to really write, to get in the zone. But while I was thinking on this today, I thought about reading a friend’s work-in-progress, and it came to me that I am so lucky to have so many creative friends, to have so many writer friends who are willing to share their works-in-progress with me. I thought how wonderful it is that I can say, “I read _______________ before it was even published.” How cool is that? And I realized that reading other writers’ works-in-progress helps me feel centered again. It makes me feel that it is possible to create again. So I thought I’d share something I’ve been working on with you.
About two weeks ago, I wrote the line “I get your rain a day later.” That’s it. That is as far as I got with that thought for two weeks. I found that line again on Tuesday, and I sat down to try to work with it. I wrote about rain, how it hits different surfaces on my deck — the folded umbrella, the covered grill, the strings of globe lights — and then I wrote about smelling the rain coming. And it turns out that that was the thing I needed. I wondered what that meant. How do we smell rain? Well, it turns out that light rain releases aerosols containing dust and oils such as plant oils, and any wind pushes the aerosols ahead of the rain. So when you smell rain coming, you’re really smelling the dust and oils that collected on surfaces far from where you are. And I thought what a romantic notion it is that rain falling on a someone who is somewhere else announces itself to another someone far away.
That research brought me this gift of a word: “petrichor.” Petrichor is the name for the smell of rain falling on dry surfaces. Its etymology is equally wonderful: petra + ichor. Stone and the fluid that is the blood of the gods. I mean, come on! I get your rain a day later…AND the smell of it is the blood of the gods? Yes. Yes. Yes. Right now, all I have are notes, but I have a concept that I’m excited about.
And so I’m back to life.
What are you working on?
Today was my first weekday free after the end of the spring semester. So when my daughter's teacher texted me at 6:17am to ask if I could come in today to work on the class mural, I said yes! And fell back asleep for ten minutes, and woke up, and got the kids ready, and made lunches...you know how it goes. And then I was in the classroom facing a very large, very blank canvas drop cloth.
At my kids' Montessori school, Kidsfest is a huge deal. Every class chooses a country to study. They study it on and off all year leading up to one glorious, international afternoon of projects, food, activities, costumes, and dancing. This year, my daughter's class studied Sweden. They had the idea to create a mural depicting a Viking ship in front of which parents and students could take pictures during Kidsfest. My daughter popped up and said, "My mom's an artist!" Which leads me to this morning.
After a quick internet search for a suitable image, I took off my shoes and went to work. After about a half hour, I had the ship done and was working on the Vikings and all of their horned hats. One of the kids came over to look.
"Wow!" he said. "That's really good! How'd you do that so fast?"
I said thanks and that I was just sketching it out. They would do the painting later on. And I remembered the first painting I remember working on as an adult. I wanted it to be perfect. I spent hours on lines and shading. I trashed the whole thing, disgusted. At some point after that, an artist friend told me to stop trying to make my art look like something. To stop trying to make it look "real."
Kids (and adults!) learn a lot through observation. I hope that my daughter's classmates saw me being quick and messy, there on the floor of their classroom with my shoes off sitting in the middle of a giant canvas drop cloth, having a great time. And I will try to remember this more often in my own art and in my poetry: stop trying to make it perfect and just start.
So here I go. A new site, a new blog. I hope you'll come along with me!