My Plan B

Often, when I find myself struggling, I move myself into another space. A world of color and movement. It is my escape hatch, called Plan B. We all need one.  One of my poet friends put up a photograph on Facebook, and as soon as I saw it, I asked if I could play with it. This is the photo, taken by Richard Walker, or his wife, Kelly.

Richard knows what I mean when I ask that question. I put the photo into the kaleidoscope app and just play with different settings and effects. Some of the designs need a bit of background, for a finishing touch. I do that digitally as well, using my very versatile paint program. Here are a few of the designs rendered from Richard’s photo.

I stopped when I had fifteen of them. This photo just didn’t want to quit, and I’m fairly certain I could have continued for several more hours. I think that one photo would make a small handsome coffee table book.

Other times, I just go into my paint program and create a pattern of different colors that I find pleasing.

Then take it to the kaleidoscope app and play with it.

I’ve been doing the kali’s for several years. I often post the results on Facebook for others to enjoy and they always receive delighted responses. I’ve used the app on other things, like pen and ink drawings I’ve created. This is one of them, using a simple repeat line drawing (doodle) done in colored ink.

And one of many results:

Although a simple side-line hobby, three of my digital paintings now grace the covers of a set of historical fiction novels, by an Illinois author, and have been purchased to be used on the brochures of a woman in Australia for advertising her work in meditative therapy techniques.

I have several small sketchbooks with innumerable doodles I did while caring for my ailing Mother. I used the app to turn them into coloring pages, which I then colored with India Ink, and have hundreds of these designs, waiting for coloring.

Although a different design, the template above is similar to this one which was colored with fine art pens.

I recently put together a book of my created kaleidoscopes, and am patiently (not) waiting for that to arrive in the mail. It was quite expensive, but I figured that all that time and effort deserved its own recognition. And I’m sure, that when it comes, I will spend some amount of time, letting it soothe me from whatever I am struggling with in the moment.

Life is a struggle, much of the time. There are times when writing words gets difficult to do. Having a Plan B, can go a long way toward resolving that issue.

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At the Mouth of the River

At my request, my sister took me to the small park that sits at the curve of the Fox river, where it accepts the flow from the Bay. I have to visit it every year to see the Pelicans that migrate there, and use Pelican Island for their home base through the summer months. That little white dot, in the midst of all of that blue, is one of the many we saw.

A much closer look at his buoyant ride on the waves. Most of the large birds were in the air, flying in familiar formation.

But, we were also visited by this small juvenile red-winged blackbird, unusually out of place, and exploring the mown grass just a short distance from the picnic table where we sat.

It only had the beginnings of a few strokes of red on its wing and I couldn’t seem to capture those small spots. I tried, but this was the best shot of the lot I took.

Meanwhile, also unusual, a lone sea gull worked its way in a huge circle around the table where we sat quietly chatting.

Slowly working its way closer, until it actually approached my feet and I could have bent down and touched it, if I chose to do so.

Birds, in general, are seen as spiritual messengers, because they spend much of their time in the air, moving between the earth and the heavens. And their feathers are a symbol of truth, that which is so light it drifts on the slightest breeze, yet is strong enough to carry an entire life, wherever it chooses to travel.

I had asked my sister to take me there, because I wanted to speak to her about something that I was struggling over. I had already written about it, but it was still troubling me because it was a piece of my past that had suddenly come full circle and was now intruding on my present moments. I was hoping that by talking it out, with Mary, I could discern my own truth amidst all of the emotions and memories, and then find a path through what was now a current situation, and a choice of action I was quite uncertain about.

Although, raised in the same household, and attending the same schools, from kindergarten, through high school, we do not necessarily share the exact same spiritual belief systems. We were both married within a nine-month time period. She has two children, I have four. She will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary next year, while I went to College, got a divorce, and have been single for nearly thirty years. She was one of two or three people I wanted to discuss this with, because I knew she would see it differently than I do.

And was very surprised when she agreed with where my thoughts, and writing had taken me. She said that she would have interpreted the signs in the same manner I had, but then cautioned me to be very, very careful because of my age and disabilities. Something that I was very aware of and had already taken into account. She seemed more than satisfied that I agreed with her about that. We left the park, picked up lunch, and returned here to my apartment. After eating and chatting a bit more, she left and I sat down to write a letter.

Four pages later, I realized that I was still busy explaining why I was writing the damn thing. So, I quit, and took a nap. Later, continued watching an old tv series. It’s about two brothers, who although they grew up together, because of their very individual abilities, had led very different lives, but are now working together. And the episodes I watched were about how each of them was struggling with what they individually want to do with the rest of their lives. Sound a bit familiar?

So, today I decided to get out the photos and share them here, only to realize that they have made me realize another message altogether. I am seeking the truth, my truth, in all of this. And the birds were part of that reality. Pelicans are a symbol of buoyancy, they speak to the ability to dive deep, to find nurture, then swiftly pop back up to the surface with whatever they have grasped.

I have written poems about the red-winged blackbird, and see them as a symbol of the creative fire that burns no matter how much darkness might surround it. They continue to sing, and to rise in flight. Will even respond to a human voice that mimics them amateurishly.

Gulls come in all different sizes and differ in coloring. They are scavengers and will eat whatever they find or is tossed at them.

Which seems to relate to what I have been doing and will continue to do as I dig deep for more of my truth, come back up to the surface, and with the aid of words and images, continue to search and scavenge for whatever will lead me to the choices I still must make. And that simply tells me there is more for me to find, to discover, and to know.

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Some Background

Some Background

In my last post, I introduced you to my inner child, Beth. Now, I’d like to back up and explain how that scenario became possible. While being a stay-at-home mother, I did a great deal of reading, much of it fiction. But, would stray into other areas on occasion. I read a great deal of psychology, spirituality, and other things that simply interested me. One of those things was about dream work. I had always had very vivid dreams and could, more often than not, recall them in detail. I was also interested in Native American spirituality and that led to an interest in mythology and symbolism.

All of that led to an idea that it would be great if I could somehow learn how to dream while consciously awake. Remember, I was alone at the time, and there was no one around to point out the sheer illogical reality of that thought. The up-shoot of that reading, and dreamy sort of thinking, eventually led to the creation of my Personal Mythology. The beginnings of which can be found here on this site by typing in the title words A Tiger Named Pain.

Once I began to be comfortable with spontaneous imagery, the thought of using it to meet my inner child made all kinds of sense. The imagery was a direct link to my subconscious mind, all of my memories, thoughts and feelings. My inner child had to exist within that space, all I had to do was be willing to try it. And that was the hard part. That willingness was not easily obtained because I was extremely fearful of the outcome. Yes, I understood that this was going on inside my head, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t effect my emotions.

I knew I had abandoned that child, left her there alone in the back forty swampland, of my own mind, to fend for herself. She had to hate me, intensely. How do you seek, or even begin to expect forgiveness, under those circumstances? I mulled around with those types of questions for weeks. Finally realizing it was just plain fear that was holding me back. I had come to know that fear is never a good reason for delaying the inevitable.

All I had to do was breathe deeply and close my eyes. And she was there, had been waiting, all of that time, for me to come to my senses. She even shushed me when I sought forgiveness. She had been sure that I would find my way, at some point. That trust, which she offered so freely, was a priceless gift, one among many.

Our second encounter was, to say the least, mind blowing. She came to me and told me there was something she wanted to show me. Held out her hand and asked me to follow her. I did. She took me into those woods she had originally stepped out from. Led me to a beautiful meadow, she called her Secret Garden. There she asked me to sit, and just watch. She stepped into the center of that clearing and began to dance, to music she, herself, had created. I was mesmerized. Only slowly coming to realize that she was the very center of imagination, and thus: creativity.

It was she who had led me to those books I’d been reading. She, who had created the Mythology from my own story. She who had taught me how to deal with, and become friends with the wild creatures that inhabited it, and had taught me so much about my own life and living. She, who had nurtured my curiosity, while feeding my thirst for knowledge and personal awareness. She, who with the greatest of patience, had guarded and defended me from the bogeymen of fears that would have stopped all of it.

There is so much to be learned by seeking out our inner child. She is a precious gift that continues to give of herself. And I am grateful.

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How We Get Here

Staring Into The Future
Digital Painting
by
Elizabeth Crawford

How We Get Here

The last time I posted, I wrote about my inner child. We all have one because we all have both a past and a memory. Research tells us that by the age of five, we have constructed a world view: a sense of how the world works, and particularly our role, or place, within that world. Stop and think about that for a moment. At age five, that world view must be rudimentary at best, yet it becomes the filter through which we order much of the rest of our existence.

By age five, I had come very close to death, had been told (overheard my parents say) that I had about a 50 -50 chance of living through the surgery, and at best would probably end up with some amount of retardation (brain injury) with the result of something similar to Cerebral Palsy. And for at least, the next ten years, had to sit, yearly, and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon. See those kids paraded out in their wheel chairs, many of them unable to speak clearly, let alone feed or take care of their personal functions without aid. Add to that, a visit to the doctor’s office meant being told that I was ‘his little Miracle Girl‘.

As an adult, I can look back and see that all those people were simply being grateful, but as a child I saw it very differently. I was me, but not just me. I had the ghost of another, far more unfortunate child permanently attached to my very existence. But, especially to my mental capabilities. Cerebral Palsy is an ongoing permanent glitch (hick-up) in mental functions. And miracles are very iffy things. Are they real, or just a fluke? I attended a Catholic Parochial school. I knew the drill. Miracles were examined for centuries by impeccable scholars before being pronounced as such. I, on the other hand, was just another little girl trying my damnedest to disappear into the woodwork, while not being allowed to do so. I was afraid and terribly angry. It was all so unfair.

It took another thirty years. Years of reading, exploring, studying quietly and on my own, until I began to unravel much of that childish world view. It was hard work because I wasn’t trying to convince the world, I needed to convince myself. And I was definitely a skeptic, with an overloaded knapsack of guilt and doubt.

I had read about the idea of the inner child. I had dismissed it out of hand. Not for me. Until the day I realized that I had dismissed it because it scared me out of my wits. It frightened me for very good reasons. I knew I had abandoned that child in me. Run from her and all her questions and accusations. She needed me, as any child needs a good parent. But, I didn’t trust me to be that for her. How could I?

I had also learned (through all of that study and reading), the value to be found in spontaneous imagery. I knew what I had to do. I made a space of time where I wouldn’t be interrupted. Got quiet, calming myself with slow deep breaths (while simultaneously breaking a sweat), then closed my eyes and asked my inner child to come forward.

She was there in an instant, stepping out of a wooded area. Dirty face, fisted-hands on her hips, torn dirty jeans (two sizes too big), large dirty t-shirt, her hair oily and greasy but covering her head in natural curls. She stared straight back at me from her defensive posture. And then I saw a strange contraption tied to her shoulders. Two huge blocks of wood, one to each side of her head, meant to protect it from any harm. The words “chip on the shoulder”, whispered their way through my mind. And I started crying, because she couldn’t turn her head to either side, without colliding with those wooden blocks.

I tearfully begged for her forgiveness, while she listened silently and totally still. Then I asked her if I could please help her remove those ugly blocks. To which she grinned for a split second, then went still again and nodded her head. I did so, and we both sat down rather hesitantly. I leaned cautiously toward her and said, “I know this is important, I must first ask your name. Will you tell me what it is?”

A wisp of smile crossed her lips, and she said softly, “My name is Beth.”

We both just sat there grinning at each other. I had chosen, about a year previously, to take back my baptismal name, Elizabeth. It means God is my oath, in Hebrew. And the word Beth, in Hebrew means God’s Abode, God’s House.

Elizabeth Crawford 6/1/2017

Note: The image is a digital painting done some years ago. I was just playing with colors and different effects in the paint program, when I realized that a face was taking shape, so emphasized what I was seeing in the color. It has always been a favorite.

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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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