"Literature - creative literature - unconcerned with sex, is inconceivable." Gertrude Stein
This morning while I was sipping my first cup of coffee, I read an excerpt about Maya Angelou from the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. Apparently, Angelou couldn't write in "pretty surroundings", so she rented a hotel room and worked there. She described it as "a tiny mean room with just a bed." She kept a dictionary, a bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in that room, and she worked there every day from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. "In this manner, Angelou has managed to write not only her acclaimed series of autobiographies but numerous poems, plays, lectures, articles, and television scripts. Sometimes the intensity of the work brings on strange physical reactions -- her back goes out, her knees swell, and her eyelids once swelled completely shut." Mason Currey I planned to write a serious post about the powerful role that writing plays in my life - the act itself, but also the process and rituals that go along with it. How the part about Angelou's eyes swelling shut reminded me about the night in high school when I wrote a poem about screaming, and I woke up the next day unable to speak. I was going to talk about how writing is kind of like using a Ouija board, because you never know what kind of spirits you're going to conjure when you pick up a pen, or sit in front of the keyboard. But I decided to scrap that line of thinking to pursue something a little lighter, in honor of reaching 25,000 page views on my blog, and in deference to my perpetually "glass-half-full", hilarious wife, who read my most recent poem and responded: "Jesus Christ! You are so fucking deep. Don't you have anything happy-go-lucky? You would make a terrible children's book writer, so you can cross that one off your list right now."
As all of you seasoned bloggers know, your little corner of cyperspace is equipped with a stats tool, which allows you to see which of your posts people are reading, where in the physical world those readers reside, and the kind of search terms they are using to find your writing. A quick look at my stats shows me that while there are a few sad sacks who occasionally read my poetry, an embarrassingly large percentage of my page views are connected to a ridiculous post I wrote back in August of 2013 called Think Outside the Box: Vajazzle, In the past 24 hours 72 people have read that stupid essay. Most of them live in Russia or the Ukraine, and many of them were lead to my sparkly box of wonder by using the following search terms:
Stacie over at Stacies Snapshots and Tidbits turned me on to the keyword search area of my stats, and I'm not sure whether to thank her, or go stab myself in the eye with a pen.
In celebration of 25,000 pageviews (many of which were dedicated to the noble vagina), I offer you a contest, complete with tasteless prizes.
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The contest: In the comment section, please tell me what makes you read someone's blog. Is it the content? The writing style? The promise of sparkly genitals? I'll have Mo choose two winners by next Friday 6/13. Check back then to see if Friday the 13th is your lucky day!
1. Ronald McMushroom. He's a gloriously phallic plush toy, made by Hallmark in the 1980's. I rescued him from a garage sale. If you don't have a dog to chew him up, you can sell him on Ebay.
2. George Bush and Family Paper Dolls: Have you ever wanted to play dress up with a president? Here's your chance! In this very collectible paper doll collection, Mr. and Mrs. B are depicted in their skivvies. The former Commander-in-chief is not "commando", and there's no sign of Barbara's Bush, but they do appear in their underwear.
You can spend hours cutting out their paper wardrobes and changing their outfits, which is tons of fun, regardless of your political leanings!
This would be a great activity if you have some time to fill (i.e. a lengthy quarantine, or a short prison term). Full color. Excellent vintage condition. Collectible. Copyright 1990.
**CONTEST WINNERS** - JEN BRUNETT FROM FINDINGOURSPIRIT.COM AND THOM FROM THE TKNKERR.WORDPRESS.COM
There is no warning rattle at the door,
no screech of tires
or smell of rubber burning.
When the knowing comes,
there is no avalanche of truth.
The changes are subtle.
My bones are little more than a cage
housing a heart
that resembles a construction paper Valentine.
my skin is less like a shield, and more like
a fortune-teller's globe,
able to divine the future.
But warnings are rarely helpful.
Nobody wants to say the words,
"this won't last forever."
We don't talk about bodies that way.
Like they're finite.
And even if I Google
"What does an avalanche sound like?"
The knowledge that it makes a noise like a freight train,
or whispers like a thousand trees
swaying in the wind,
won't save me from being buried
by the weight of all that snow.
This is a prompted response to Yeah Write's Speakeasy Challenge. Click on the badge below to see the prompts, and read all of the other entries.
“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned." - Annie Dillard
Two weeks ago, I participated in my first Women in Blackevent. I have seen those women standing at the threshold of my small town, silent and motionless, every Friday for the past 25 years, and I have always been intrigued by them.
Image credit: www.wib-oly.org
My younger self was drawn to the *idea* of them, but my middle-aged self is drawn to their unflinching willingness to bear witness.
When my friend, Haley told me that she started standing with the WIB, I responded in typical Karen - "I have good intentions, limited information, and I haven't really thought it through" - fashion.
Haley: "I've been standing with the Women in Black."
Me: "That's so awesome! I've always wanted to do it, but I've been too chicken."
Haley: "Do you want to meet me there this Friday?"
Friday morning dawned, sunny and glorious. As I sat at my desk, sipping coffee and gazing dreamily out the window while a family of squirrels frolicked in the yard below, I noted that it seemed like a perfect day for a outdoor vigil. Then I made a grocery list, and assembled my inky garments.
When Mo got home from work, we headed to Olympia to meet Haley. Fifteen minutes into our journey, the sun retreated behind a bank of ominous-looking clouds, and shortly thereafter, our vehicle was enveloped in a mini-monsoon.
After making a quick detour to Big Lots to purchase two black umbrellas, Mo reluctantly parked the car, looked at me dubiously, and said, "I would do anything for you, you know?" Then we bolted out into the rain, and took our places on Percival Landing next to the four other women in black.
A less somber group of peace activists gathers every Friday on the corner directly across from the WIB, and despite the rain, their group included a tuba and a couple of bongo players. Mo looked longingly over at them, then turned her head toward me, and mouthed, "I.wish.I.was.over.there."
I don't like drawing attention to myself, so I spent the first ten minutes of the vigil using my new umbrella as an invisibility shield, but eventually, I settled into the silence, and began to notice the things around me. One of the Women in Black was wearing a placard that said, "I Stand For Peace." Every few minutes, the wind caught the corner of the laminated board, and her sign would flutter slightly - forcing me to take notice, and consider what I "stand for."
Traffic pulsed through the intersection. A cute girl zipped past on a bike, and blew us a kiss; someone tossed a Starbuck's cup out of their car, and it rolled toward the curb; an old guy with a ZZ Top beard flashed the peace sign; someone screamed, "FUCK YOU!!" Rain seeped into my shoes and pelted my frozen fingers. A ray of sun flickered through the thick, grey clouds, and a double rainbow took shape in the sky - reminding me that every moment contains the balance of darkness and light.
"Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind. Their leaves are telling secrets." - Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration.
A few weeks ago, I attended something called a "renegade show," which like all forms of free entertainment, contained a compelling mix of pure talent and painful displays of unabashed self-promotion. People performed magic tricks and graceful acts of aerial acrobatics. A man recited a poem that included the refrain, "Her wings went limp when he pierced her." Someone tamed an imaginary lion.
The event took place in a barn, and many of the onlookers were hippies clad in musty, rumpled garments - their thick, "white-people dreads" splayed across their backs like botched taxidermy. There were very few chairs, so most of the audience sat cross-legged on the floor. I had the misfortune of positioning myself next to a man whose feet smelled as if he had just walked several miles with his boots full of cheese. In this gathering of eccentrics, I stood out, simply because of my mediocrity - a middle-aged woman in black, sporting blue eye-liner and a bob.
I've always been uncomfortable in groups - there, but not fully revealed, I am the human version of an echo, or an underwater scream. My special talent is my ability to *notice* and not be noticed, which is a fine skill to have if you're an assassin. . . or a writer. Words are my closest allies and my most prized possessions. Thoughts and phrases reveal themselves to me over time, word by word, in tattered notebooks, or on scraps of paper that flutter from my purse unbidden when I'm rooting around in search of loose change, or a tampon.
My words are meant for paper, not ears.
I live in close proximity to a liberal arts college, in a town populated with artsy, creative people, so my world is rife with opportunities to attend "renegade shows," book talks, and poetry readings. Occasionally, I am even invited to read something that I've written (aloud - to a room full of other living, breathing humans), and I am immediately overcome with a paralyzing fear. I want so badly to do it, but I always decline, because I can't shake the humiliating vision of myself standing before my peers, clutching a sweat-dampened piece of notebook paper, mute and frozen.
Just yesterday, I was hanging out in my favorite local coffee shop, doing what I do - writing quietly in a corner, and observing a bunch of guys with names like Cedar, Aspen and Forrest, as they talked excitedly about the upcoming Procession of the Species Parade. I imagined they were the millennial generation's version of the Wonder Twins, and willed them to stand in a circle and join hands, hoping they might unwittingly conjure a cabin. My reverie was broken when a little girl in over-sized rubber boots plopped down on the bench next to me, and started talking.
Her name was Gaia, and she proceeded to tell me about all of the things she was harboring in her shiny pink backpack. Then she scooted closer, glanced over at my notebook, and asked me what I was doing.
Me: "I'm writing a story."
Gaia: "What's it called?"
Me: "When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Writer."
Gaia (putting her chubby little hand in mine): "Will you read it to me?"