Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's a Blog Story: Baby, Just Say "YES!"

*[Note: the title of this post is an adaptation of the last line of the refrain of Taylor Swift's song "Love Story".]

On June 9, 2009, I started a new blog called Freedom Diaries. But I didn't tell anyone. In fact, I thought I had selected the blogging options that would keep it out of search engines and the like while I tested the idea and got a feel for it.

I began with a grand proclamation. (Is that an unfortunate hold-0ver from my clergy days--that I tend to make grand pronouncements from time to time? Probably. It was one of my default ways to end an otherwise weak sermon, I must confess--the grand rhetorical, homiletical closing flourish.)

Anyway, back to the story. My first post grandly proclaimed:

Earlier today I decided that sustaining two blogs was one blog too many. Now, at the risk of becoming the poster child for some sort of multiple blogging disorder, I'm starting another one a mere four hours later.

But this one's different. This one, in fact, has already been written. Just not published.

This blog already exists as entries in my various journals--most in spiral-bound notebooks, handwritten in Parker's washable blue fountain pen ink (most of the time); some in bits and pieces in my computer's memory. All that needs to happen is for me to choose and copy journal entries from one format into blog format, and presto! The Freedom Diaries will become a reality.

In the next post I tried to work out my approach, and then I promptly stopped. Totally bogged down in the muck of those old journals. No, that's not quite right. Totally bogged down in justthinking about wading through the muck of those old journals. I really and truly just stopped the blog.

In late July an email from someone I'd never met landed in my in-box. Someone who had somehow read my abandoned Freedom Diaries blog, the very blog that I thought was invisible to internet searchers and surfers. (It turns out I only thought I had chosen those options but never actually activated them!) The email let me know that at least one person out there in cyberspace wanted to hear more about this story. She had even left a comment on my first post: "Please keep writing...reveal more." Music to this blogger's ears and heart.

But for whatever reason I got scared, and went back into hiding. Like the proverbial groundhog, I had actually cast a shadow, had dared to stick my neck out into the light of day and had enough substance to be seen by someone, and back underground I went.

Fast forward several weeks to early September. On September 6, perhaps in the spirit of a new school year starting, I wrote: "I don't exactly know what's going on here, but I find myself wanting to resurrect this blog."

I even wrote two posts on the same day, and then another, then two more, and it seemed as if I was rolling. But I had deliberately once again kept the blog under wraps (or so I thought). I was enjoying just writing in blog form for my eyes only (or so I thought).

But it turns out that some things aren't what I think they are when it comes to Blogger's blogging platform (if that's the right term). It didn't occur to me that certain things that apply to one of my blogs would also apply to another one. And so while I thought I was writing and even "publishing" blogs for my eyes only, some of my followers of Trusting Delight were getting emailed versions of Freedom Diaries delivered to their in-boxes. Which I didn't know until after I had published several totally unguarded, supposedly "private" posts.

Again, I beat a hasty retreat and returned several of the posts to "draft" status, thereby removing them from the eyes of random internet surfers and friends alike. And I felt pretty stupid, really. I even wrote a post about being a "techno-ignoramus with techno-egg on my face." Though I also vowed not to beat myself up over it.

Slowly it dawned on me. There are at least two ways to look at this strange trail of events. One is to see this as a story of my hesitation and timidity and desire to hide, and, yes, my obvious incompetence with certain aspects of blogdom.

The other is to imagine that this is a story that wants to be told, a story whose time has come. Or, to take a more active ownership in all of this, to imagine that for all of my conscious desire to hide the story, to test it out and then retreat, twice, there's another part of me that must really want this story to be told and that really wants me to be the teller of it because I alone can be the teller of it and the creator of it.

Maybe it's kinda like old Jeremiah, who tried to refrain from speaking for and about God, and discovered that when he did so, "there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." Maybe. Some kind of cyber-Jeremiah. (Hmmm....interesting idea, a blog written as if the blog of Jeremiah, or Jesus, or Mary... I'm sure someone's done that already. You think?)

Except in this case it's not a matter of speaking for God (I tried that for 22 years); it's about speaking for myself. To step out of the shadows and into light, out of hiding, to become visible, finally, as I tell the unfolding story of my journey from living by the rules and "being good" to living (more or less) free and being happy, from Episcopal priest to free-lance human being.

I am quite sure that this is not going to be a chronological account of my story. It will swing back and forth from present to past and back again. I don't plan to try to make this a smooth and seamless narrative, but to let it emerge as it will, blogpost by blogpost. As I've said before, I'll just have to give it a go and see what happens. And I always reserve the right to adapt and change as I go along.

To check out the Freedom Diaries click on the hyperlinked name (right back there, earlier in this sentence). For the next little while, I will probably keep linking from this blog to that to be sure you find me!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Totally Endearing Inspiring Music Video for All Kinds of Artists

Some days how can you not love the internet? (Not every day, mind you, at least I can't!) Yesterday I discovered a comment from back in July on the blog I had but on hold a month before and never think to check.

But that comment included a recommendation of someone else's art blog, which I looked up, and from that blog I found the most delightful and (to me) endearing and inspiring music/art video of a song called "Art" by Tanya Davis. The artwork is by Andrea Dorfman.

If you enjoy even a fraction as much as I do, it's worth your 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Many of the comments I've read on it speak of it as being "cute," but I consider that too wimpy or too superficial an adjective for this video. It is, I suppose, visually cute because its style is playful, colorful, and almost childlike. But it packs a surprising punch.

In case you find yourself wanting to know Tanya Davis' lyrics, here they are:

I wondered what would be the worth of my words in the world
if i write them and then recite them are they worth being heard
just because i like them does that mean i should mic them
and see what might unfurl

i think of the significance of my opinions here
is it significant to be giving them does anybody care
just because i'm into this does that mean i should like like it
and really do i dare

art, art, i want you
art you make it pretty hard not to
and my heart is trying hard here to follow you
but i can't always tell if i ought to
so i pondered the point of my art in this life
if i make it will someone take it and think it's genuine
will they be glad that i did 'cause they got something good out of it
will they leave me and be any more inspired

i question the outcome of the outpouring of myself
if i tell everyone my stories will this keep me healthy and well
will it give me purpose, to this world some sort of service
is it worth it, how can i tell

art, art, i want you . . .

And the "Art Manifesto" in the midst of the video reads:

Great ideas come from great bike rides
Pass it on
Art will take you places
Plant seeds
A broken heart can make great art
Don't care too much

I might just have to watch and listen to it once a day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Bit of Green Sanity from Thomas Friedman

I'm often a few days behind on what's going on. And would likely remain that way most of the time if it weren't for that handy "most popular emailed stories" list on the New York Times email that I get daily. Lo and behold, today's most popular is about "Portland Restaurants," and for once it means Portland, Maine not Portland, Oregon! It's great to read about Portland's food scene, and even to read about "my" farmer, Chris Cavendish of Fishbowl Farm, in the Times!

But I actually didn't read that story until I went back to check on Thomas L. Friedman's latest op-ed piece called "Have a Nice Day". And I wouldn't have looked at the list at all today if I hadn't been reading about the death (and life) of Mary Travers. Hearing about her death last night via a text message from Bekah caused a sad tug on the household. Not only did David and I grow up with the music and songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary (and David once fitted Mary's large feet into shoes when he worked at L. L. Bean long ago!), but Bekah and Anna also heard their share of their children's album.

I guess this is how it often goes, with both reading and writing and blogging and maybe with life! You start out one place and end up in another. Which brings me back to Friedman's "Have a Nice Day"--about visiting a thriving California factory that makes machines that make solar panels. A positive, hopeful, financially viable, good-for-the-planet enterprise with one sad note: of the 14 solar panel factories that this company has built around the world, not one of them is in the United States. Not one. Most are in Germany, and China is coming right along behind Germany.

Read Friedman's piece if you want to know the reasons why it hasn't yet made sense for someone to build one of those solar panel factories right here. If you don't want to read it yourself, I'll say simply that it has to do largely with government policies and regulations, or rather, the lack of the kinds of policies that have been put in place in Germany, and now China, supporting such factories, which (need I point out?) would created all kinds of real "green jobs".

As Friedman says: "So right now, our federal and state subsidies for installing solar systems are largely paying for the cost of importing solar panels made in China, by Chinese workers, using hi-tech manufacturing equipment invented in America."

Hmmm. Kinda makes me feel hopeful and like I want to break something all at the same time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Julie/Julia Syndrome

First off, my apologies to those of you who receive my blog posts by email the minute I hit "publish"! For some reason I have developed a bad habit of hitting the return button rather than the tab button when I have done nothing more than enter a title for a new post. And off it goes! Suddenly I'm greeted by an exclamatory window telling me my latest post has been published--contentless! I promise I'll try to reform my wayward right pinkie.

Second, I guess this is kind of a confession (neither the first nor the last, I imagine): you know how there was a long gap a couple of weeks back when I didn't post anything? (It's OK if you didn't really notice.)

There was stuff going on in my life for sure, but really, I think there was what I'm calling the "Julie/Julia Syndrome" going on. Which means that in the afterwash of having seen and enjoyed the movie version of Julie and Julia I developed a case of excuses why I shouldn't blog.

They included things like, "Well, clearly I haven't got the right kind of blog to become a big hit and turn into a book and a popular movie starring Meryl Streep, so . . . why bother?" and "I keep reading and being told that no one reads blogs anymore, so . . . why bother?" and "Blogs are SO passe internet phenom, so . . . " You get the rather repetitive idea.

And the truth is those are just more ways of hiding and futzing around and . . . well, not blogging. Which I enjoy. So why not do it, for Pete's sake?

I do think there's something else brewing in me, which I'll explore in the next post or next after that. Really. I promise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Exuberant: abandonedly joyous!

Today I'll be making one of my frequent visits to my ninety-year-old mother, who lives about an hour away. As I drive along I often find myself thinking of things to write, stories to tell, and sometimes I just find interesting words arising in my thoughts. (And I do talk to myself out loud as I drive, just so you know.)

A month or so ago on one of my drives the word "exuberant" came to mind, and of course I began to wonder about its origins, roots, and so on. So when I got home, I looked it up and learned some cool stuff that only makes it all the more rich a word.

First of all, the root word at its core is uber, which means "fertile" in Latin. So exuberance comes from fertility, one's own and that of the universe, I imagine. Tap into your creative powers of all sorts and you're likely to feel exuberant and to live more exuberantly.

As to definitions, here are a few (and I think they're all wonderfully rich and inspiring):

1. Full of unrestrained high spirits; abandonedly joyous. (The spell check doesn't like that word, abandonedly, but I do!)

2. Lavish; effusive; overflowing

3. Growing or producing abundantly; luxuriant

What's not to love about exuberant?! It just may be my current favorite word. I intend to let it call to me on a regular basis: "Over here! Over here! Come this way!"

Image: "Clouds over Mackworth Island", 2008, 8" x 12"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Moonlight and Water

The just past full moon was lovely and cream-colored last night, and if I hadn't known it was officially full the day before, I would have thought it fully full last night.

Driving home with Anna last night, and with David and Anna the night before, I was treated to views of the moonlight in Casco Bay, from the bridge by Martin's Point, and elsewhere. These nights have been wonderfully clear for enjoying moonlight.

All of which has reminded me of a favorite poem by Seamus Heaney, which I've gone and looked up, because although I remember the first few lines, I can't quite remember the part where the full moon and water come in. I love this poem's loose conformity to sonnet form, the not quite rhyming "slant rhymes" and delightful linguistic rhythms. I have sometimes declared this to be my idea of a "perfect sonnet." As with most poetry, it's best savored if you read it aloud.

Here it is:

A Drink of Water

She came every morning to draw water
Like an old bat staggering up the field:
The pump's whooping cough, the bucket's clatter
And slow diminuendo as it filled,
Announced her. I recall
Her grey apron, the pocked white enamel
Of the brimming bucket, and the treble
Creak of her voice like the pump's handle.
Nights when a full moon lifted past her gable
It fell back through her window and would lie
Into the water set out on the table.
Where I have dipped to drink again, to be
Faithful to the admonishment on her cup,
Remember the Giver, fading off the lip.

from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996, by Seamus Heaney

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Absentee Blogger

Wow, I guess I've been otherwise occupied for a while. What's been going on?

1. Getting Bekah back to college in Washington, DC for her second year, lots of driving down and back in three days. I can say that this drop off was SO MUCH EASIER than last year's! For which I am very grateful.

This time she has solid friends, one of whom she greeted on the sidewalk with hugs and squeals of delight at reconnecting face to face. This time, she knows the ropes, the city, the school (more or less)--it's not as if EVERYTHING is new.

This time, as Bekah herself put it, "I know I'm not going to die here."

2. Putting some of my attention to visiting assisted living facilities for my 90-year-old mother. Have seen two in the past two days. Good, decent places, but it's still sobering.

Even at the best of places, there are so many losses that go into giving up one's home, greater independence, easy access to one's own corner of the outdoors, a lot of possessions that just plain won't fit into a one bedroom apartment.

And, the price tag is sobering too! The woman who showed me around a facility yesterday said she imagines our parents' generation is the last one that is going to be able to afford such high quality facilities. In lots of cases, you kind of end up hoping that your loved one dies before their money runs down to the point where they have to be in a lesser facility.

I must say that pondering such things stirs some yearning for a culture and time in which elders were/are simply embraced within a family home, and that's just the way it works. No one left out. Though I suppose that, too, has its significant downsides.

3. Don't forget other things like: progress healing my broken foot! (I'm now allowed to walk gently and slowly without the air cast. I suspect that my new running/walking shoes are part of the problem, as they activate other discomfort in my foot.)

And Anna getting ready for school. And wanting to restart momentum of my artwork. And...

That's more than enough.