Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Saturday, January 2, 2016

what she says...

I write in Vermont, and live with enhanced and sometimes, distorted perceptions. I’ve earned a degree and been published, but mostly I just care about connecting with other human beings through various forms of expression. Breathing is essential, and curiosity is my second-nature. And you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for answers.

I spent many years and lots of money on education, now I’m a writer who moonlights as a lower-middle class employee. Sometimes, I do other things like laundry, watercolor painting, photography and walking outdoors. People mostly fascinate me, but I don’t always like them.

I am a writer who occasionally impersonates someone who writes mediocre poetry. I believe in God, most of the time. I would like to think I’m a better person than I am an artist, because I would prefer it that way.

I don’t have this writing thing quite figured out, yet. And I’m really terrible about writing about myself in the third-person.

I dream in two-parts, and usually in the second part I’m stuck in a place I can’t get out of.

What would you like to believe about me?

Its way past noon and I’m still wearing my bathrobe, trying to sound like a progressive and productive artist……


So, these were my attempts at writing a bio today. Every so often, I entertain the thought of updating the profile I send out with my literary submissions, thinking it is a good idea. Though, realistically, half the time good ideas occur to me, I end up with a half a page of nonsense.

I’ve always found it awkward writing my own bio. Sometimes, there are days where I just don’t have it in me and I’ll send submissions along “bio-less” with only my contact information included, as though it was one of the guidelines I overlooked. Maybe I am shooting myself in the foot writing this, but asking anyone to describe themselves in the third-person is terribly uncomfortable for people who don’t have giant egos.

Trying to make yourself sound unique or avant-garde or intelligent (or should I say, intelligible?), in a way that doesn’t seem like you’ve worked too hard at it or that you care what people think, is plainly, absurd behavior. It’s like some weird kind of self-preservation for those anticipating criticism. And how much effort do you think novice writers put into those quippy or irreverent lines, hoping to catch someone’s eye? Example, Joe Schmo was a fellow of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he also likes cheese.

How about the writer’s profile that’s much more intriguing than their writing is? Which doesn’t surprise me all that much, because it affirms my belief that we are a society that encourages and rewards people for selling themselves to get ahead. Talent or skill? Who needs any of that if you can talk the talk...or, shall I say, write a damn, good profile. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

saying 'goodbye' to 2015

In just a few short days, it will be 2016 and this makes me a little sad.

For 32 years, I was one to look forward. There were parties and intimate moments to ring in the New Year, there were reasons to say ‘goodbye” and times where it was nice to hold someone’s hand. And it was never really about the passing of time on a calendar, but it was about having an optimistic outlook, starting another year on a fresh foot, and setting goals that would bring out the best, possible version of yourself. It was as though by honoring the New Year’s tradition a “free pass” was granted for all the shortcomings, mistakes, and things given up on too easily. “Look forward and try to not make the same mistakes again,” was the message. All in good faith and tidings, I’m sure.

Charleston, SC 2014
However, over the last couple years I have noticed something very different about my attitude in regards to celebrations. As time has gone on, life has becomes richer and fuller to me, and it no longer feels that I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes (a series of starts and stops, turning around and going the other way), but that the narrative is in fact, seamless and interconnected and filled with purpose. My experiences are not separate incidences from my mistakes, my beliefs are not separate from my fears, and what I can offer others is not separate from any other part of me. This lesson has had such a profound impact on me, I can’t remember any other time in my life where I’ve felt so immersed in the present. 

Too many years I wanted something else for myself and in turn felt a lot of pressure in not being quite good enough. Even the years that by all accounts were successful, to me it always felt as though I could’ve done better. Not that we shouldn’t always be striving to be better people all around, what I think people do forget sometimes is to take the time to slow down and appreciate what we do have.

When I look around me, I see a home filled with love. I see a place brought to life by people who wanted to create something special. Where I am now, is a place I couldn’t have dreamed or imagined, even just a year ago. And every day, I say to myself, how could this possibly get better? If anything, I worry that someday I might lose this, and should that happen I don’t want to ever think that it was never enough—that there was a time I couldn’t wait for these years to pass… No, I will savor this year, like I hope to each and every following year. I will resume cherishing these days, until my cup runneth over.

our first garden, 2015
Reid State Park, ME christmas day stroll
photo credit: Dave Cleaveland

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

reflections.




collage.

Recently, while working with a student, I rediscovered the cathartic pleasure of collage. As a kid, I used to love cutting up old magazines and arranging people, places, and things into a narrative of my own making. Unfortunately, somewhere in adolescence I grew out of this medium, because it seemed childish and a waste of time. But sitting in on a student's art workshop just last week, brought back so many fond memories--of many quiet hours being in my own head, breathing life into some of my dreams and the complexities of the imagination. It was inspiring enough to want to make time for forgotten pastimes. So, I dug out some vintage postcards I've collected over the years and finally found a use for them. 



Sunday, December 13, 2015

If you Google the question, “What is the meaning of life?” The first query entry that comes up is an Albert Camus quote: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” 

Thanks, Google! I get it. 

Initially, I googled this question for a laugh in spite of my growing cynicism about what is happening in the world these days. Maybe, I was just looking for a dose of fortune cookie wisdom to elevate my spirits, which have been steadily deflating over the last month or so. Trying to stay focused on the positive, is all well and good, but at what point do you begin to question all ideology and life principles?

Having a “spiritual crisis” some call it, but I would say it’s more like relearning the map you were given as a child. In times like these, I can only wish to return to that unadulterated place, where my heart and gut were my best guides.

You see, a healthy child comes into the world trusting with a pure heart and curiosity, learns through experience and exposure, how to navigate and cope with life. Neurologically they develop a built-in system to respond with their natural instincts. The child, if fortunate enough not to experience any trauma during their early development years, possesses an untainted sense of themselves in the world and hopefully the confidence that they have nothing to worry about—that they are safe and all their needs will be met.

As that child grows older, they learn what we as adults refer to as, “reality”, which is really a matter of perspective, as no one’s reality is the same. Some people can relate to one another for having similar experiences, but what they choose to take away and believe in is unique to the individual. Reality is the meaning one assigns to experiences as a maturing individual and the rationalizations they use to justify the decisions they make.

Life is riddled with dilemmas and challenges. But where there are quandaries, there are also lessons. And if you aren’t asking questions every time you reach an impasse, then have you really been learning anything at all?

I’m not one to assume I have it figured out. Though, in recent weeks, my beliefs have certainly been tested, and I’ve felt a whole series of mixed emotions. What I thought might be true, has since been replaced with a giant question mark. And I wonder, where do I look for answers, now? With medical professionals? (But what if I don’t trust they have my best interest in mind?) With God? (But what if I’m unsure if I believe?) With family and friends? (But what if this is a burden I do not wish upon anyone?)

There will also, always be things beyond my understanding and a simple explanation. No matter how much I educate myself, record my findings, share my feelings, and throw myself into life, there will still be unanswered questions I must learn to live with. 

I want to have the faith and fortitude that these converging life experiences will eventually come into a clearer focus and reveal their purpose, in due time. Because when I really dig into it,  it’s just too damn, scary and sad to think there is nothing more to life than biology. 


Sunday, November 22, 2015

being thankful

A couple weeks ago, I experienced a series of health scares that had me spending more time than I would’ve liked at the hospital and in doctors’ offices. Not only were these experiences alone, very troubling, I for years have had a phobia of seeking medical attention. Quite frankly, I have a difficult time trusting medical professionals (for a laundry list of reasons).

Anyway, the long and short of this little anecdote is that after a bunch of neurological tests, I was simply told that they don’t know why my body has been acting the way it has and they would like to continue to monitor my brain’s behavior in the future. Basically, they told me, “Who the hell knows what’s going on in there.”   

On lighter occasions, I probably would’ve agreed with them, but in this particular situation I wanted answers. I also wanted solutions. Instead, I left the hospital after an emergency MRI disheartened, annoyed, and feeling a little sorry for myself. That was until I came home and saw the news.

See, at the time, when I was stuck in that claustrophobic, little tube listening to Chopin blasting intermittently between the awful, knocking sounds of the machine (it sounds like you are in a coffin and someone is forcefully hammering each nail in), there were people dying in Paris (and yes, other parts of the world). Of course, I wasn’t aware of this in the moment, but when I got home and heard the news, I immediately felt this terrible sadness come over me and my focus shifted—it was no longer about me, my pain was redirected, not just toward the victims of these heinous acts, but for humanity as a whole, my heart was breaking.

In the past, I’ve been hesitant to jump on any propaganda regarding what is happening in the world, since just thinking about the situations of others, is enough to make my head spin. It’s overwhelming to think about all the tragedy and pain others are suffering (even in our back yards) and to feel utter hopelessness. And that by having association to the “Western World”, as a middle-class, Caucasian, I am ashamed to be grouped in as an entitled American who turns “causes” into hashtags and Facebook feeds, while sitting safely and comfortably in my home, saying how terrible it is that there are people who have it worse off than we do, and that something really needs to change.

 I’ve had these questions: How do you become the change you want to see? What do you really have control over? (If personal choices, to an extent.) How can you promote peace in your community? How can you make loving your “brothers” and “sisters” from all backgrounds and walks of life, a contagious mentality? How do you foster healthy and communal relationships with your friends and family, your neighbors and acquaintances? How do you learn to trust, instead of live in fear? How do you learn to help, instead of fight? How do you learn to share and inspire, instead of take and consume?

The holiday called Thanksgiving has its own troubling history. Early-European settlers came to America and slaughtered an estimated 80-90% of the indigenous population who lived here. But when the seasons turned brutal and the settlers were having trouble getting by, it was an indigenous population who lent hands as teachers and guides, supposedly sharing survival secrets and a table with the settlers. And what did those colonizers share with the natives? Guns and disease.

When I learned the sanitized version of this story in grade school, I wanted to believe that “pilgrims” broke bread with “Indians” in the name of peace. Later, when I learned about my own native heritage, and the reality of the massacres and genocide that occurred (and still occur all over the world, today) in the name of religion, I felt this despondency toward humankind. And sadly, my view of the world became increasingly more cynical as I got older and learned more about the ways of the world.

So, why all this long-winded rant? I know, a lot of build-up to the bottom line.

I’ve decided this year, I’m going to make another small change in what I choose to believe and what I choose to practice.  Usually, I see Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on what I am thankful for, which is typically a self-serving meditation. However, this year I would like to instead thank the people in my life who have taught me something about being a better person. I would like to acknowledge those people, because they have influenced me in some shape or form, by doing something that mattered. And because I want to believe if we as a culture, a society, a world, spent more time acknowledging others and telling them they matter, and less time acquiring what we  think we “deserve”, more of the “for the better good” attitude would be inspired all around.


So, here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Take the time this week to acknowledge others. Whether it is by sending out a bunch of ‘thank you’ cards and emails, or by simply telling someone ‘thank you’. Tell them specifically why you want to thank them, or just say, “Thank you, for being you.” Show these people they matter to you. And if you are really feeling good, tell a perfect stranger they matter. 

Let’s see what happens!
by jef aerosol, www.signforpeace.org

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It’s a scary time. Mass killings, violence all over the world, hate crimes, the abuse of power, greed, discrimination. How could any human being ever feel safe in this day in age? 

And the real kicker is that we created this—this is chaos and catastrophe of our own design. Years and generations of competing for resources, “progress” and territorial rights. Warring for control disguised as “civil liberties” and “freedom”.

Join the cause, they say. Jump on board, and support the democratic vision. But turn a blind eye and ignore the fact that you are part of a system that continues to fail its people.

I fear for the future of humanity. I fear that we have no place that is sacred anymore—churches, schools, places of leisure, like parks and theaters; they are as susceptible to violence, as any.

We don’t get to choose where we are born, but there was a time when I actually subscribed to believing we had a choice when it comes to other areas of how we live our lives.  Unfortunately, I have lost that belief. 

Because no matter how conscientious a person tries be, no matter how honest and sincere they are in their actions and how they treat others, there is no absolute protection for them. Every day they walk out the door, there is a risk involved, outside their control. They can pray and put faith in a God. But whose mercy are they really at? Being so vulnerable, anywhere they choose to be in the world.


Friday, November 6, 2015

whorl.






















Sitting in the dark, listening to the trees and the deer feed,
there’s a moon out there somewhere…………..
in a place we cannot see—
past the traffic and the rain + optical lights,
the drunken lessons of the day and
the sex that makes us feel diecious
and sometimes foreign,
like pistachios and persimmons.

There’s always been smoke to soothe the
        crudely-imagined soul—
the ever-misguided,-misplaced, -misinterpreted.
Somewhere out there,
there’s a lot we just don’t know.
So, our eyes keep seeking and
        our hearts still yearn,
in that forgiving copse we call solidarity.

But what of the purest form? I want to ask,
“Is it bird prints on beaches, writing out their wills for the world
in cuneiform?”
We must listen closer, my friend,
to what we’re missing—

it whirls on like a whorl.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

how deep does it go?

“What if I opened my soul to sing to my absolute self…” – Allen Ginsburg, 1966

The problem with being a writer who balks at writing about one’s self—okay, let me rephrase that:  Why do I struggle so profoundly with writing about anything identifiable? Here I am, always agonizing over writing something true, and yet I know that I am just not that interesting.

Of course, I try to avoid obvious conventionalism, and I typically don’t subscribe to any norms or trends that could possibly threaten my individualism. Most of the time I’d say I am elusive, even to myself, and have a tendency to fall into bouts of mania and depression—with extreme highs and lows. And yet, I would never suggest that a little bit a crazy makes me interesting in any way, or at least interesting enough to write about. Many lives I have already lived, though I know I crave more and that there is more, and there will always be.

But where else does a story come from other than from within? So much of creativity is the internalized experience, translated to a person’s sense of the world in which they live. “Why don’t you just make things up?” some suggest, when I get into a funk, looking at the bigger picture. How deep would that really let me go? I wonder. And then, Would I have to live with being a fabrication, another illusion, and a coward for not getting at the heart of it all?

I don’t want to be a person who just fills up space with more nonsense, or another one spinning yarn with the superficial and the trite. And I don’t need to be read or seen as interesting, or necessarily worthy, as long as I am writing as if I really exist, and that I know I exist—feeling my way through this world like everyone else.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

that "sparkling nerve-library" that wants to speak

I find that there are reoccurring themes that pop up in my writing. This is not always intentional. Sometimes, I don’t even notice right-off when a theme has reappeared for yet another attempt at making a statement. Other times, when I do pick up on these references, I tend to become guarded, as if I have revealed something deeply personal about my perspective.  When this happens I catch myself retreating a bit in my writing, either because I don’t feel ready or able to address what lies at the root of these longstanding thoughts and feelings.

I’m still trying to come up with ways to best explore these ideas and concepts, whether it is by creating a scene in fiction, handling the abstract in poetry, or examining the ego and the id with personal essay. At least when I was writing journalism, it forced me to concentrate on the subject at hand, allowing little room for unrelated themes to sneak their way in. I recognize now, that type of work just enabled my avoidance of writing about what truly burns inside.

So, what’s the best way to tackle these patterns of thought? I wish I had an answer. I’d like to think that the most natural form will appear over time, as I explore various kinds of written expression. And it is likely I won’t even know how to write out and express those untapped corners of my mind, until I’ve hit that systemic nerve, and then there will be no turning back—that is, there is no cut and dry way or formula, but when things align in the creative process and come into focus, it is best to push on, to keep striving to create something close to that universal truth we seek out and live for.

“...there was nothing one could do when love came. It was fast, and it was strong, and if it were not good, then surely God would not have allowed it such power.” 

 "You lodge details of the world in your sparkling nerve-library that spirals through your brain and coils down your arms and legs, collects in your belly and your sex. You write, even if you can't always "write.""



― Luis Alberto Urrea