The Why of It

I write because I really like to do that, and for numerous other reasons. In grade school, when learning how to shape and form letters into words, it was simply the appointed curriculum I had to do in order to prove myself. Each letter was a picture, an image that when properly replicated, would allow me to say whatever I wanted, or needed to say. And that was of utter importance to me. So, I worked hard at it.

When very young, I was involved in an accident and sustained a serious head injury. Hospitalization and immediate, urgent surgery allowed me to walk away without any real harm. Yet, my whole life and self-definition had been permanently altered. I was told, quite often, that my words were not reliable, that I exaggerated, or even lied. So, the shape and form of those individual letters were far more important to me, than they might have been to my fellow classmates. And the need to excel was even more so. I had something to prove.

That little girl is still alive inside of me. It took another thirty years, before I began to understand even some of what had happened. Yes, I had been changed by my experience, but that only meant that I saw things differently than others. Not that what I saw was somehow incorrect, just different.

I entered college late, mid-thirties, and was told, early on, that I had a gift with words, and how to use them. That same little girl stepped forward and with a great deal of eagerness, set out to prove that statement. And she did. However, she never completely lost those shadowy feelings of wrongness. But, with the help of some very good teachers, she somehow managed to find a balance between those two realities. Which meant that every time she put her fingers forward, she also brought with her those doubts about her own legitimacy and the rightness of doing this thing called writing.

It took many more years, of winning awards, and of being approached by perfect strangers, telling her that her words gave meaning to their own feelings, even healed much of their own self-doubt, before I could sit to write without having to fight off those niggling doubts about my own inadequacy. One morning, I arose and knew that I would be writing, even knew what I’d be writing about, and went eagerly to that endeavor. That doesn’t mean that I skipped the part about rereading and closely examining every word I had chosen. That was just good, sound practice, built over years of ongoing experience. A part of the work that is as important as the first decision to write at all.

The desire to write comes in all kinds of different guises. Here, I am telling you my most basic ones. The deep desire to be heard, to be listened to, and to be understood. There are so many more I could list. But, this is the primary one. Yes, the Call came late, but so much better than not at all. What is even more important, is what I learned by answering that Call.

What I learned is that, the Call came from that same little girl. And the only person she was calling to was me. She needed to be heard, listened to, and understood by only one individual. That would be me. She had been carrying this gift for years, just waiting for the chance to give it to me. Now we sit together to write. She brings her eagerness to unfold those letters and make them stand up and speak. And I bring the Wisdom that she, alone, can patiently unravel.

Do you know why you write?

Elizabeth Crawford 5/23/2017

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The Affair

The Kiss
Manipulated Photograph
by
Elizabeth Crawford

Haven’t been here for a while. I’ve been busy writing poems. April is National Poetry Month and challenges all who write, to create a poem a day (known as the PAD Challenge). It isn’t an easy task, but I attempt it each year because poetry is where I began my affair with words. I call it that because, for me, it has all the tell-tale aspects and effects of just such a relationship.

For instance, there’s this guy. He’s been around most, if not all your life, and suddenly one day, you really see him. He does something, says something, maybe looks across a room, and you know that you know, he’s seen something deep inside of you, and you are gone, perhaps knowing that you might follow him anywhere. Aware, for the first time, that you will do whatever it takes to stay close to him, always. You want to keep it a secret, someone else knowing will somehow spoil it. But, someone does realize and rather than deny it, which would definitely tarnish it in some fashion, you admit to your feelings. And so it begins, this affair.

That’s what happened to me, and I was not young. Not a callow, teen-aged star-gazing, neophyte, by any means. Late thirties, close to twenty years of marriage already behind me, a mother of four, responsibilities up the wazoo, and suddenly there was this world of words (named Poetry) staring at me across a room, letting me know that I alone, had something it needed, and I was gone, lost inside a world of promising, glorious sunrises and soft, blue-indigo, twilight shadows.

I bought a note-book, and for the next few days, tried to write out my stammering, incoherent feelings. Language was suddenly brand new, filled with strange new meanings, and tools I was suddenly aware, that I had never truly used and didn’t understand. Only knew one thing: I could learn, and would. As luck would have it, one of those first attempted stammerings, won first place in a Poetry Contest. My cover was blown, everyone knew, I was out in the open. Me and Poetry were going steady. This affair was now official.

But, Poetry has an older brother named Prose. Just as stunningly attractive, solidly built, with the body of a true Warrior, honed through time and experience to a sharp razor’s edge. Is it possible to love two, so similar in some ways, yet forever distinctly different? Each trained and disciplined by very different rules? My answer? Yes. Especially if you come to them late, and filled with an insatiable hunger for all things wordy.

So, here I am, back on this other page, engaged in this ongoing affair with these two very different brothers. Polite society raises it brows, turns an askance eye to my seemingly uncontrolled gluttony. Do I care? Yes, and No.

“There are rules,” they whisper, behind hands raised in shock and denial.

“It is forbidden.” But, when I ask , “Why?”, what I get is muttered confusion, hints and dire predictions.

“Everyone knows, if you try to do both, one or both will suffer. Ultimately, you will lose.”

“Lose what?” I have to ask.

“Your audience, of course. They want excellence, won’t take less. And if you are trying to do both, that excellence will be lost.”

“Excellence?” And that’s when I begin to laugh, out loud, and uncontrollably. “Listen up,” I say with a wide grin, “I am a North Wisconsin Hillbilly. We don’t know excellence, never have, never will. Rebellion is what we know. It is what we do, what we live. I started so late, that I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I will never learn, or know it all. And that is better than good. Life is about finding that thing that enriches you and the world in which you live. I am doing just that and hope to continue doing it until my last and final breath. Can only dream that some other hillbilly will come along, after I’m gone, and continue doing the same. I, and these two brothers, are having wonderful and glorious fun, exploring and learning together. Can you say the same?”

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Unwritten

I am currently teaching online. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but didn’t know how to accomplish said feat. I started this blog with the idea of getting people to find the value in keeping a journal. A regular writing regimen that allows the individual to find the value within their own experience.

Well over thirty years ago, I read something that made a world of sense to me.

Story is good medicine (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD).

I understood that statement to mean so many things. Medicine is meant to heal, and story, read, or told, can heal and does change lives. But, that is especially true when the story is our own. We are the only person that it is essential that we come to know fully. How else to be our own best friend? We think we know, but do we really? I found that regular (daily) writing, was a gift only I could give to me. It was an ongoing conversation filled with surprising curves that affected my ongoing experience. Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper, gave them a new and sometimes unexpected meaning. It altered how I saw myself, my purpose and role in my own life, as well as that of others. It gave me permission to change those things I didn’t like and often even suggested ways of doing just that.

And best of all, it gave me the opportunity to do something I’d never have considered possible: teaching others how to make friends with themselves and to really listen to their own story, in their own words. And to do so, at the University from which I had graduated almost ten years before. A late in life career change, I would not have expected, and one of the most rewarding experiences I had so far encountered.

This blog was started as an extension of that experience, when I was retired on disability. It was what I knew and I simply wanted to go on sharing it. But, like most things it blossomed into much more (three more blogs, to be honest). It became my introduction into a global community of writers (mostly poets), but far from my own meager expectations.

Which brings me to this current writing. The online class I am teaching is all about finding the main character within ones own story. That unique individual who actually made the journey of her own life, sometimes completely unaware of what her choices and decisions meant, and where they would eventually lead her. And, as is my usual practice, doing the assignments right along with my students. Thus, reaping the reward of my own years of journal writing. The memories, and even the chronology, are easily assessable. I’ve written about those details and they are lodged in my mind, but are also still taking on new tangents because of all that I’ve learned while living my life.

We are currently living in a strange new world. A world that is bound and determined to once again, redefine the role of the feminine, and not always in a kinder and gentler manner. We are being asked to abolish, at the very least, fifty years of history. Fifty years of constant battle that allowed women to find a new role, other than the one carved out by a male-dominated society.

March is Women’s History Month. Her-story is very different from his. As a matter of fact, there are famous Historian’s who never even mention her as a viable source of any value in the living of his experience, other than as the keeper of his household, which allowed him to go about his real business of making sure the world understood his top value, and all too often, at her expense. Is that the real world we want to live in and pass on to our children, and our daughters?

I have been profoundly effected by reading my students’ stories, as well as writing my own. We are engaged in creating yet another piece of Her-story. Claiming our own space and time, as well as experience. There could be no better time for such activity. We are the source and the other half of that story. We are the nurturers of that society, but so much more. We can also be its healers. By telling our stories, we encourage others to do the same. To become the best that we, and they, can be, and finally make our society genuinely whole for the first time in recorded history.

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Unity Through Love

Please watch before reading further

 

I have always been into music. It has been such a deep aspect of my life that I find it hard to define why, or even how, it became of such importance to me. When I was very young, I would, and could, sing almost any song I had heard more than two or three times. And I loved doing it. That was how I learned to ice skate. Had a pair of hand-me-down skates and the skating rink was across the street, down a path through a city park, to the warming house. My older brother and sister had taken me with them, but as soon as they had their foot gear on, they were on the ice and gone.

My brother came back to check on me and had a few of his friends along with him. He said he’d pull me around a time or two, just to get me started. His friends joined hands and with me at the center, we set off on a very slow glide around the rink. Somewhere, along the way, one of his friends asked me to sing a song (it was a well-known fact that I did know most of the popular songs of the day). So, I started singing and got pulled gently round and round the rink. When I stopped singing, one of Paul’s friends handed me a nickel and thanked me for the music. And for the next couple of months, when I’d show up at the rink, one or more of them would offer me a nickel and they’d pull me around the rink as I sang whatever song they requested.

With weak ankles, I was never really good on ice skates, but I loved the music that gave me such a warm and wonderful memory, in my mind it was sort of like being in a movie. I eventually learned how to turn myself around, without falling down and to stop when I needed to do so. But, it was the music that really pushed me along and into several competitions. Some at school, others at Talent Shows, put on by the city’s Recreational Department at the city parks. Music was a staple of my existence. And still is.

There are days when I simply go on You Tube and spend time roaming through different pieces, listening, singing softly along, and just letting the music create a path to some unknown place of satiation and satisfaction. And if it lasts for a couple of hours, I find that time well spent. It comforts me as nothing else can.

Today, I was on Facebook, and someone had posted a quiz of fifteen songs from the Catholic Hymnal. Each question was a line from a hymn or popular religious song, and you had to choose the right word to fill in the missing blank/s. I attended a Catholic Parochial School from second to eighth grade. So, I tried it. And got every one of the fifteen answers correctly. It’s been a long time (years) since I attended church, so was rather surprised that I did so well, even the ones in Latin. Afterwards, I realized that it had been a while since I’d visited You Tube, and decided it was time for that. But, in the nano-second between the thought and the click of the mouse, I also realized exactly what I wanted to listen to. I went directly to the video above. It is perhaps, my favorite, because it speaks to, and shows the reality of different individuals coming together and, through the art and act of loving music, finding incredible unity.

Before the quiz, I had read several articles about the alarming course in our present reality. The deliberate choice of cabinet members who are opposed to the positive affects of the offices they are to hold, a working plan to deconstruct our democracy. The unfounded attempts to block and redefine the peaceful water protectors in Dakota as unlawful and dangerous criminals, and a public official who is in support of sterilizing poor women, to name a few. I believe I took the quiz to distract myself, if nothing else. Whatever the reason, it led me back to this song, these words, that help me to realize that love is still the answer. No matter the level of hatred and ugliness we may be forced to watch and come to understand, love is the only weapon that might stop that approaching darkness, or heal our world. Love for one, love for all. But, especially, those who hate.

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Boundaries

marilyn2e

The image above is a kaleidoscope made from a photograph. The photo was one shared on Facebook by Marilyn B. I was fascinated by the colors.

marilyn2

This is the original photograph. I have spent a part of each day, for the past week, cleaning up files, both here in my office, and on my computer. Making a path for myself through those foothills I mentioned in my last two posts. I reward myself for this ‘cleaning’ with a movie on Netflix. However, the last three movies I’ve chosen to watch have been about time travel into other dimensions, Sci Fi films. Not my usual fare, but interesting, none the less. Each one sort of centered around crossing boundaries and the consequences of doing so. And many of the consequences were negative, even destructive. I began to wonder why I was making the choices that found me watching them at all. Was I trying to widen my own boundaries, or to set new ones in place?

Boundaries are sometimes rather strange things. We set personal boundaries hoping to keep ourselves safe and comfortable. These are the lines we choose not to cross because we decide it isn’t safe to do so, for the reason that it might harm others, or ourselves. But, often those lines get altered as we live our lives and find that others might work better. We create a personal space that we guard and defend from others who might not be aware of such restrictions. And when those boundaries are crossed we feel threatened and the feeling is one of fear.

We are now living in a world where boundaries are being crossed everyday, or so it seems. Some of them are personal, others are political, while others are geographical. And yes, we feel threatened and fear what each new day will bring. Some, who can not tolerate that feeling of ongoing fear are lashing out, hurting others they think might be responsible, or assuming they are simply taking the next logical steps to ensure a return to safety. My question would be, is it even possible to find that sense of safety now that it has been breached? And my answer to that question? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I have no desire to hurt or harm anyone. Yet, my world has been altered in so many ways, and so swiftly, that I have to stop and collect myself, think before I act in response to only my feelings. The number one means, for me, to do that is to get involved in images, drawing and playing with colors and photos. That activity always settles me down, allows me to breathe more slowly, thus allows me to think. The funny part of that, is when I put a photo into the kaleidoscope app, I am breaching the boundaries set within the photo, altering it, creating new boundaries and creating a new and unknown landscape for different aspects of that image. But no one is harmed by what I am doing. And the beauty of the created image is sort of like magic. Which means I will continue to do it as long as I am able.

I have long believed that creativity, in any form, is a healing agent built into the human psyche. We all carry that healing agent within us. It can and does, take a thousand different forms, if we allow it. And we most desperately need to allow that now, in our current situation. We need to learn new ways to deal with our altered reality. We need to give our world its best chance to grow, and to heal. And how we proceed must be both creative and with positive thought processes. If we take a few minutes, each day, to slow down our reactive emotional states, we have the ability to allow ourselves to breathe and to think. More importantly, we give ourselves the means to find a positive way to create new and better boundaries, rather than just accepting those set by unknown others, who don’t have our best interests in mind.

What do you do to get away from all the fear and distress in the present moment?

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Finding The Foothills

the-desk

My last post here, was about finding a way, a path, through the mountains we encounter in life. This post is about finding the foothills that usually proceed the actual mountains. They are often difficult, but passable. They might slow us down considerably, but they can also help as to learn new ways to pass through that landscape. In that other post, I mentioned that I had begun finding myself doing things differently, even praying in a new way. And it is the result of that new prayer process that has gotten me to these very present foothills.

The photo above, is of the used desk I found and then purchased on Craigslist, before moving into my new two-bedroom apartment. I had a one-bedroom before, so I had my puter set up in that room and it was a bit claustrophobic. I’ve always wanted a home office and this was an opportunity to see that reality come true. The desk, which had to be moved in several pieces, is quite large and definitely holds the predominant space in its current position. It took my brother-in-law, my nephew, and his friend, a couple of hours, to move all the pieces and then set it up here. And they repeatedly told me that I best be sure this was the exact space I wanted it in, because once set up, it wouldn’t be moved again, until I moved to a new address.

Once I had the puter set up and the printer in place, I began to really like the office I had started to create. And that’s when I began to create those foothills I mentioned above. I have been writing for almost forty years. That’s a lot of words, and a hell of a lot of paper. And I have a tendency to make piles around me, rather than getting up and properly filing what I’ve worked on. That’s because I have spinal stenosis and a lot of up and down movement causes pain filled nights of tossing and turning.

It was my intent, that when I moved here, I would finally finish the Poetic Memoir I had started before the move. I have three filing cabinets, two are regular office sized, and one is a shorter version. I used to make hard copies of everything I wrote, but stopped doing that several years ago, when I realized I might actually drown in paper, or be in grave and serious danger should a fire start. I took to using outside storage apparatus to keep track of all of it. Now, most of my stuff is here on the internet, and I simply don’t worry about that aspect anymore.

But, finding the material for the memoir, meant digging into those filing cabinets, and I did. And began piling up paper, on my desk and every other flat surface in this room. More to the point, I also do a lot of digital and physical art work. And that is never really finished until I can hold a printed out copy. More piles. And now my dream home office has become the foothills of my current landscape.

The new prayer process I am engaged in, is called Intercessory Prayer. One chooses to intercede for a specific individual. But, it is done in a very specific manner, which I won’t go into here, except for the pertinent part to this post. A very important aspect of this prayer process is to daily find a point of connection between oneself and the individual one is praying for. That results in removing judgement from the prayer itself. It’s far easier to forgive another if one has to first seek forgiveness for not so great, or not easily recognized, and finally acknowledged actions.

The person I am praying for often leaves messes behind, expecting others to clean them up, or straighten out any misunderstandings. I looked around me and saw only the foothills I have created for myself. Instant recognition, and the need to undo what I, myself have created. I have cleared off half of my desk surface and will continue to do more of the same after I finish here.

I have always believed that we are far more similar than different. By directing ourselves to those differences, we create foothills (sometimes mountains) in our own paths. Differences can create huge walls, mountains that separate us from not only others, but from ourselves as well. The point here is not the prayer process, but the lesson to be learned from that aspect of the process. If we take the time to relate to others, recognize that we are all human beings under whatever skin we are covered in, we create a healing energy our world desperately needs right now. Love, in the form of acceptance, can and does conquer foothills and mountains, smoothing the path to that better world we all long for .

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Finding A New Way

moody3

This is a pen and ink sketch, I did many, many years ago. It isn’t a particularly good piece of work, but I’ve kept it because it reminds me of many things. Mainly about how difficult it can be to find a way through everyday circumstances. Sometimes those circumstances try us to the very limit of our abilities and, in order to continue, we must find new ways of getting through.

I recently watched a TV series titled Hell On Wheels. It’s about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, 1865 – 1869, here in America. For some, it was meant to be a symbol of the reunification of the country after the horrible conflict of the Civil War. It drew its workforce from former army members (both North and South), the Freed black men, Irish and Oriental laborers seeking to build a new home here in the States. And one of the most difficult aspects of that endeavor was finding a way through the mountainous passages of the landscape. A rather daunting process.

There were many who simply didn’t care about the project, and many who were definitely against such a thing, and for all kinds of reasons, as well as many who simply joined in for the express purpose of making money. It became a competition between different railroad companies to see who could complete the task. But, eventually it was completed and connected travel from the Eastern to Western seashores. It was a truly incredible achievement, especially at a very tumultuous time in our History, as a nation.

I mention it here, because the series portrays how all these different individuals, from distinctly different backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems, had to find a way to work together, despite those differences. And how each unique difference was important to the whole of that completion. Especially when one realizes that the endeavor was also battling the Native Americans who adamantly didn’t want this steel ‘monster’ cutting through their hunting and living environments.

This is not a pretty, rose-colored or romantic interpretation of that time in our History. It is far more gritty and realistic in its portrayal of these clashing forces, forced to work together. Forced, by individual needs, to find ways to accomplish the task of actually learning how to work together. And yet, somehow they did.

I see an echo of that reality now in our current situation. We’ve been more than content to live our everyday lives in our own established comfort zones, going about our business, but remaining, each in our own small bubbles of familiarity. But, those bubbles are being burst with each new day since the inauguration. I also see us drawing closer together in a new form of unification on both personal and political levels. We are finding a new way.

Personally, I find myself doing things I’d never have considered before. Making phone calls, exploring my past for ways that might help, or that need to be changed to accommodate all the changes taking place. Raising my voice in protest against things that are just simply wrong, and have nothing to do with my personal situation or belief system. And encouraging others to do the same.  Taking responsibility for widening my views and then acting on those conclusions. I am finding a new way through the mountains that lie in my path. And am sincerely grateful that when I stop, and look up from trying to find the way through all of it, I can see and hear others doing the same and, who are willing to encourage and  strengthen my spirit and heart to continue. I am learning to be grateful and to pray in a new fashion. To think in new and more creative manners than ever before. There is always more strength in united numbers.

Whew! I got a great deal out of that old, homely little sketch. Can you?

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