Kaleidoscope Minds

Snow-envy is easy when you’re not the one shoveling a path through five-foot drifts or having to thaw door locks on a car.

Even so, when the photos arrive, sent along by friends determined to gloat or complain about their shimmering worlds, I’m surprised by how quickly I become transfixed. Glinting in the sunlight, piled high along fenceposts and streets, whorled into intricate, complex patterns against window and shed, the still-pristine drifts of freshly-fallen snow dazzle my eyes and my imagination. Always, they make me envious.

My envy is partly nostalgia, the remembered pleasure of snow angels and sledding. But snow also stirs to life a favorite fantasy – the possibility that life might be willing to grant us, if only occasionally, a perfectly clean slate. By reducing the physical world to the twin realities of sunlight and shadow, snow creates an illusion of  purity and simplicity, tempting us to imagine a human world equally free of complication and regrets. Watching snow cover the remains of desiccated autumn with a blanket of perfection, it’s easy to imagine life’s disappointment, pain, conflict and loss blanketed with similar layers of beauty and peace.

Thoughts of disavowing a cluttered or complicated past in order to experience such a pristine future are deeply appealing.  Even children understand the relief and satisfaction that come with being offered a fresh start. Adults can be no less eager to turn, and begin again.

When writers seek a fresh start, their longing for an empty slate, for the opportunity to wipe away stunted paragraphs, unfinished sentences and untidy piles of words becomes almost visceral. A desk piled high with false starts, orphaned phrases and errant thoughts can lead to suffocating frustration. Some call it writer’s block. Writer’s boredom might be equally apt. A certain ennui sets in, a stifling lassitude, a distaste for one’s own thought so severe it tempts travel down the path toward that particularly noxious dead end called “I don’t have anything original to say.”

Granted, originality can be tricky business. Foregoing concern for originality in an attempt to “write what appeals to the masses”  sometimes leads directly into the heart of literary tract housing, those subdivisions of publishing where rows of bland, predictable and stolid manuscripts reach off to the horizon.  On the other hand, writers determined to be original in every detail and at all cost often produce the literary equivalent of a purple house with green shutters and gargoyles on the roof.  It’s memorable, but not necessarily attractive.  Striking a balance, speaking with a voice both memorable and appealing, is one of the most difficult things in the world.

Anyone who’s attempted to please a thesis advisor knows how difficult originality can be.   When the pressure is not merely to publish, but to publish something which never before has been, difficulties abound.  The search for a “completely original”  thesis – an academic blank slate, if you will – leads to a continual narrowing of focus.  As the old joke has it, candidates who say more and more about less and less eventually say everything about nothing at all.  Even in academia, that isn’t creative originality, but quirky irrelevance.

Dealing with these intertwined issues of creativity and originality becomes even more difficult when we allow ourselves to reject the constraints of history. Just as every bad decision, every false start and each thoughtless choice in life has lessons to teach, so also every wrong word, every half-baked sentence and every inadequate description that shows up in our writing is more than a mistake. We may face blank pages, but we ourselves are not blank slates. Errors and omissions function as vibrant parts of the creative process, and whatever use we make of them – even if we choose to set them aside – helps to ground us in the history of our own work.

Equally critical is the fact that we are embedded in a history which far exceeds our own. Always, there is the temptation to reject or ignore that history rather than allowing its richness to enliven and sustain our work.

Believing our words to be purely our own, unsullied by the contaminating presence of those who came before, is at best an innocent conceit and at worst a heartbreaking delusion. Rejecting our indebtedness to past artists and writers, attempting to wipe the slate clean of every influence or unwind every tendril of literary relationship  in the pursuit of a spurious originality is simple foolishness.

Truly creative work always is grounded in the words of other artists and writers, the interpretation of critics, the assorted imaginings of dreamers and the tattered and fragmented realities of our own lives.  The words, the history and our tiny bits of life are the givens.  Their shape, their pattern and finally their resonance and truth require nothing more than rearrangement by a skillful hand and an attentive heart.

For rearrangers of reality, the kaleidoscope becomes the perfect tool. Holding it up to the light, turning it this way and that, watching its random scatterings of color and light is as captivating and compelling as the sight of falling, drifting snow. 

Rosabeth Kanter, a specialist in strategy, innovation and leadership for Harvard Business School, understands the power of kaleidoscopic images.  “Creativity,” she says,  “is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility.”  In the same way, writers are called to hold reality up to the lights of intellect, imagination, and creative passion, turning it this way and that until words fall into place and their newly-formed patterns sparkle with beauty and meaning.

Reading over my own writing from past years, recalling  the birth of phrases and the awkward toddling of words like a doting parent, I see the paragraphs and pages not as static and sequential, frozen in time and forever fixed, but vibrant and alive, broken up and fragmented by circumstance, tossed up and falling out, a confetti of meaning both perfectly familiar and terrifyingly unique.

As February ends and the snowmelts begin, it’s time to gather up these scattered words and make a fresh start into the muddy, rutted spring. This season, it’s time to forego the blank slate and seek a more kaleidoscopic vision. It’s time to give life a turn.

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Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 9:11 am  Comments (109)  
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  1. I too look back on the snow of my youth with some nostalgia.
    However at this point in my life I am always happy I live in the warmer southern climate where I no longer have to deal with it. I’m fine with looking as other’s photos of huge snow events. :-)

    • Phil,

      There’s a reason so many of our “snowbirds” have two legs and four wheels (or more). My own folks always were eager to get away from the Iowa winters once my dad retired, and despite my love of snow, I much prefer visiting it than living in it.

      On the other hand, if you traded your snowy egrets for snow, you always could spend time with the ptarmigan!

      Linda

      • Wow Linda, those birds are amazing!
        I have a fat all white cat that looks *just like* one of those birds! Seriously, wish I could post a pic of her. :-)

        • But I suspect your kitty’s not named “Snowflake”!

          • Ha ha, it is not. Her name is Ripley. But I have often threatened to change her name to something cutesy like Snowball or Snowflake if she acts up. :-)

  2. This is another masterpiece, evoking so many thoughts and feelings that I am powerless to express. I just want to stand back and take it all in again, word by word, phrase by phrase, image by image, very much like standing in an art gallery, lost in the beauty and skill of someone’s creative process. In a word: wow.

    • Hippie Cahier,

      You’re so generous with your praise, I feel a need to demur. “Masterpiece”? Probably not. But pondered over, worked and re-worked? You bet.

      In fact, I smiled to read your “word by word, phrase by phrase” comment, because that’s exactly how this was was built. Editing for grammar and spelling is one thing. Editing for clarity of thought is quite another, and I’m a better speller than thinking. There are times when I never know if I’ve made sense or not. Nothing to do but hit the magic button and find out!

      Linda

  3. Dear Linda:

    I understand your position about the soft and snow blanketing reality, and about mixing words to give meaning to our complex reality, like figures and shapes of a kaleidoscope. Life is indeed like a kaleidoscope, always dynamic and changing, as the shapes and figures dance inside the kaleidoscope, The writer then tries to interpret the new shapes and write about it. History is written this way and social amnesia is averted.

    We are now in an exciting period of rapid change propelled by computers, tablets, smartphones, TV sets, and of course, social media. This is the kaleidoscope of our times. Journalists, photographers, novelists, poets, bloggers, and writers in general, provide us the images of our times.

    We are in the middle of a scandal in the Catholic Church, the uncertainty of the financial sequestration process in Congress, the dwindling of the war in Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and financial hardships in most of Europe, These are some of the pictures of the kaleidoscope of the 21st century. A few seconds later, the kaleidoscope will show us new pictures, and the writers/photographers will once again will produce the words or images to show the dynamics of reality.

    Thank you Linda, for putting on my thinking cap. You have the ability to open our thoughts which would otherwise remain dormant.

    Warm Regards,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      “Social amnesia” is such an interesting phrase, and so relevant. It reminds me of another familiar phrase, George Santayana’s reminder that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

      (Here’s a bit of fun. That line of Santayana has been misquoted in so many ways, a new quotation sprang up: “Those who misquote George Santayana are condemned to paraphrase him.”)

      You’ve raised a new question for me, regarding the kaleidoscopes. When I was a kid, ours came filled with bits of glass or plastic, and the patterns and colors were determined by what the kaleidoscope contained. However, I’ve since learned there also are kaleidoscopes which create patterns from the external world. Point the kaleidoscope toward a bird’s nest, or a flower, or clouds, and that’s the image that’s fragmented and changed.

      Which kaleidoscope we’re using makes a difference. I grew up with the first, but I think I prefer the second!

      Linda

  4. Linda, I truly admire you for your ability to pen a thought-provoking, beautifully-crafted essay, every time you post! Your imagery is breath-taking; your analogy is right on target; and your conclusion is wonderfully rational. Thank you for taking something like the pristine loveliness of a first snowfall and comparing it to the blank page, then suggesting we convert our thinking to a kaleidoscope kind of reality. I’ve heard it said that what we write is true at the time it’s written; isn’t that a hopeful thought?!

    • Debbie,

      I think a good bit of writing is exploration. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know”, and many, many authors seem to have had the same experience.

      The knowledge they speak of isn’t just that two plus two equals four, or that Austin’s the capitol of Texas. It’s a different, deeper knowledge that includes the whole range of human motivation and experience. Flannery “knew” a good man was hard to find. Faulker “knew” Yoknapawtapha County like the back of his hand. I “know” a woman named Lavender Lily McDill, but there’s a lot about her I don’t know. The only way I’ll find out is to write her story.

      Sometimes what’s written isn’t true – like that little unpleasantness over at ND you mentioned. But that doesn’t negate your point. If we’re honest in our writing, however imperfect our skills or our understanding, the truth will take care of itself.

      Linda

  5. Very well written, you have captured my thoughts on snow too

    • oawritingspoemspaintings,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Snow is a wonderful thing, although I’m sure there are some people tonight who feel as though they’ve had entirely too much of a wonderful thing!

      Linda

      • Indeed! The cold and lack of light can get a person down too but nothing equals that first layer,the whiteness, that pure and protective white shield and all those beautiful words you found to describe it :)

        • There’s the cold and the dark, but there’s also that sloppy melting, and the dirty snowbanks that still are hanging around weeks later. You’re right – better to remember snow when it first falls!

  6. Snow and cold is great. So poetic and full of meaning – until you have to get out in it – that’s when reality sets in?

    Wonderful post. Love these lines:
    “We may face blank pages, but we ourselves are not blank slates.”
    “For rearrangers of reality, the kaleidoscope becomes the perfect tool.”
    ” “Creativity,” she says, “is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility.”

    Perfect comparison. Thoughtful insights as usual.
    (I will not dredge up thesis memories…ugh – lovely comments about those here.)

    Working hard to pretend this heavy fog is like snow and offering a new beginning…but not working very well! Even the purple martins aren’t poking out of their apt. today…)

    • phil,

      What was that you were saying about fog? I think that fog’s in Tampa by now – and your purple martins, too, if they weren’t smart enough to stay indoors in this wind.

      Certainly, snow can be as difficult as it is beautiful, but that’s true of a lot of things in life.I know people who refuse to come to Texas in August or September, not just because of the hurricane threat, but because of the beastly heat. Some think our summers are wonderful, but for others, they’re just one more nasty reality of life that requires coping.

      Until I read your comment, I’d forgotten I used to follow a blogger who was in the process of completing a dissertation. I enjoyed her musings, but lost the link and remember only that her blog title had something to do with her black cat. My searching didn’t surface her blog, but I did find this query:

      “Can someone out there, i need this very soon like 2 dayz, give me a thesis statement for Poes story the Black Cat, itz very important…thankz”

      Now there’s someone who’s facing a seriously blank page!

      Linda

  7. We are about to have one of those beautiful snow events–6-12 inches of snow expected from Tuesday through Friday. I relish it. Staying home, because it is impossible to drive anywhere. I think I will start my spring cleaning early. I have writer’s block–I think it is because all my thoughts go into my blog? I shall go out on the porch tonight and howl at the full moon and perhaps, make a snow angel on Saturday when the ultra white world beckons me to come out of my cave.

    • Judy,

      I hope you got to see that moon tonight. It’s clear here, and it’s gorgeous. A little howling would be appropriate.

      The most wonderful thing about blizzards, or even a nice heavy snow, always was being “forced” to stay home. That meant fires, books, sledding, skating, and hot chocolate – not necesarily in that order. Now, it’s generally an ice storm or tropical storm that allows the luxury of guilt-free at-home-ness. Hurricanes won’t do, especially the big ones. They require much work and an early departure. But those smaller storms are ex-midwestern-Texans’ way of re-living our snow days. I hope yours are perfect!

      Linda

  8. Linda–

    “Creativity,” she says, “is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility.”

    As you might expect, your thoughts on the creative process resonate with me. Great post, as always.

    • Gary,

      That quotation would have fit right in to your radio interview the other day. It’s just so interesting that both a writer and a painter would find the words of a Harvard business prof so compelling. It’s another bit of proof (as if we need it!) that creativity is creativity, and that cross-discipline discussion can be enlivening.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words.

      Linda

  9. Beautiful words. I have writer’s envy each time I read a masterfully written post that is filled with insight and creativity. How you come up with the ideas of that which you write about truly baffles me. I have tried to figure our how long it takes to write each and every post that is always so entertaining. I believe that you have a special gift and yours is definitely writing..

    ~ Yvonne ~

    • Yvonne,

      When I began this blog, nearly five years ago, my biggest fear was that I’d run out of things to write about. I started with about a dozen ideas in my draft file, and figured if I ran out I always could post photos. Today, I’ve posted 264 times – almost exactly once a week over five years – and have 184 “drafts” in my files. Some of those need to be cleared out because they’re dead ends, or no longer interest me, or I can’t even remember why they’re there, but I guess I can keep going for a while. ;)

      Part of the answer to the question – “Where do all the ideas come from?” – was answered by Flannery O’Connor when she said, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” And I’ve learned something from my photographer friends. Just as they try to keep a camera handy, I always have a little “idea notebook” with me. You never know when you’re going to run into something interersting.

      Linda

  10. Linda, As one who has been struggling with writer’s block I found your post very interesting. I hope it’s okay that I’ve linked it to Chat Noir Writers’ Circle. I think the other writers in my group will benefit from your words.

    • Merry ME,

      I’m quite honored that you’d link to the post – thank you. I do hope others find it of use – or at least interesting or amusing.

      I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t enjoy reading about the writing process now and then. It’s good to know that other people have some of the same struggles, and it’s also good to be reminded that all of the tips, tricks and techniques often can be boiled down to two words: “just write!”

      Linda

  11. I’m not sure I could write a beautiful essay like this (unless maybe my life depended on it) but you certainly do an amazing job every time!

    • Wendy,

      I’ve used the word “fiddlesticks” exactly once on this blog, but it’s time to drag it out again. It’s the only possible response to your questioning whether you can write a good essay. Remember, I’ve read that piece you wrote about Rickey and the marvelous gar fish!

      Here’s my opinion – the only thing stopping you right now is lack of time. It’s easy to use “lack of time” as an excuse, but sometimes it’s a fact. Real life has to take precedence occasionally, and you’ve got it coming at you from a dozen directions. Your day will come!

      Linda

  12. One thing I remember from childhood was that I didn’t want anyone to ruin the pristine expanses of newly fallen snow by making footprints in them.

    • Oh, my. You wouldn’t have liked me one little bit. I loved being the first person to make my way through new snow.

      You did remind me of a delightful video that’s been making the rounds for years. It usually pops up in tandem with a really significant storm, and I suspect it will make you smile, too – no matter how you feel about dogs and pristine snow.

      Linda

  13. “Literary tract housing”. I’m going to think on that and enjoy it all day long.

    AND especially for my situation, “It’s time to give life a turn.” Meaningful in so many ways.

    • Martha,

      You’ve already given life a turn or two – now we’re all just waiting to see what new pattern the pieces form. The biggest difference between a kaleidoscope and life, of course, is that with the kaleidoscope it’s a lot easier to give another turn if you don’t like the pattern. But even with life, it’s possible.

      One thing’s certain. Tract housing isn’t for you – not in writing, not in life. Neither are gargoyles, from what I can tell. I suspect wherever you land, you’ll find something classic and classy. ;)

      Linda

  14. Having neglected writing during the demanding years of balancing a full teaching load and raising a family, I am astonished that I can remember so many pieces and have them fall in place as a post for the family book. WordPress has been a great vehicle for leaving behind stories and memories for the children, nieces, nephews and cousins.

    In going through family writings, letters and even after interviewing family members, I hope I can leave behind who we were at that moment in time that I have tried to capture. I am humbled when I see the many ways we are a product of those who came before us. Also, I find it revealing, that in other ways we are not alike at all, but still I respect we came from the same roots. I trust our history, redefining it for our generation, hoping it offers continuity. Continuity is not sameness but must be hammered, too, to pass on the messages, values and insights I would choose to survive me.

    Oh my posts are definitely not grandiose, nor terribly original, but still if I were to google a sentence or two, it would be attributed to my name.

    Again, I admire (envy) your work for its maturity, wisdom and carefully crafted thought that speaks to many. I’m afraid my posts will mostly be meaningful — I hope — to family members, and if other readers can identify or connect, that is part of the joy of writing. Thank you for another wonderful essay and the conversation it brings.

    • Georgette,

      Here’s a measure of your success: I had no idea until today that your blog posts are meant to fit together into a book for your family. When I read your postings, they’re interesting just as they stand – even for someone without connections to your aunts, uncles, grandparents and so on.

      Family dynamics aren’t so very different, after all. When you talk about seeing your father, grandfather and uncles in the gesture of your Oscar winner, you’re pointing to a phenomenon familiar to us all. Reading that, I saw my dad and his brothers, each of them standing in the backyard or on the patio with precisely the same stance that my grandfather would adopt.

      Some people call that kind of similarity spooky. I think it’s comforting, and quite a reminder that the values and insights we cherish can be passed on, as surely as blue eyes or strong bones. They’re passed on differently, of course, and some effort is involved, but it’s clear that we can have influence on the lives of those who’ll follow us, long after we’re gone.

      With luck, we’ll even be able to have some influence with the folks who surround us now!

      Linda

  15. Linda, much here is gorgeous, but I especially like “Truly creative work always is grounded in the words of other artists and writers”. This presumes first that we read and internalize these words, but then struggle with them to the end that our own words do not parrot them.. I like the way you invoke “awkward toddling” as a step (!) along the way to finding the right word in this struggle. Many thanks..

    • Allen,

      I’ve followed Steve Schwartzman’s blog Spanish-English Word Connections for some time now. I speak almost no Spanish and never have paid much attention to etymology, but the blog’s fascinating, and certainly has sensitized me to the differences among words.

      Your comment raises an interesting pair: “internalize” and “incorporate”. I’ve always used them interchangeably, but now I sense a distinction. It seems to me that “incorporation” would be a fine word to use for the process of “[struggling with words] to the end that our own words do not parrot them”. I wonder if we don’t need to both internalize (would memorization be an example?) and incorporate.

      One of my current favorites, Jaron Lanier, wrote a book called “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto”. He’s often described as a tech expert who hates tech, and he’s certainly a bit of a provocateur.

      In any event, he once said, “If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you’ll be in what you say.” Otherwise, he claims, we remain only reflectors of information. Very interesting, especially in the context of Facebook and Twitter.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion. Happy toddling!

      Linda

      • Thanks, I’ll check out that blog and think more about the relationship between “internalize” and “incorporate.” I think this
        is a helpful distinction and I agree that both are needed. Given our dependence on technology, internalizing might be harder than one first imagines – if it involves memory (and I suspect you are right). Allen

  16. Having to live with snow for nigh on 6 months I can say with all honesty that I cannot wait for it to be gone — that I will consider my clean slate! Great post. Thank you.

    • klrs09,

      “Six months?!” I thought. So I came over to see where you are, and laughed. I think I “know” more people from your part of the world than in my apartment complex. All that snow leads to extra blogging, I guess.

      I know what it’s like to wait for the heat of summer to break, so I understand your impatience, despite the different circumstances. It’s almost March – and your daylight savings time ends when ours does (March 10). Can the crocus or daffodils or whatever be far behind?

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the gracious comment.

      Linda

  17. Beautiful! Artists also have blank slates; how well I remember long ago when I was frightened to soil a sheet of ten-dollar Arches watercolor paper. Now I see a blank sheet of paper, panel, facade of a house — and I smile and am like a race horse chomping at the bit!

    This made me smile: “…a purple house with green shutters and gargoyles on the roof.” Sometimes we have to grow through those stages and emerge into more aesthetic maturity!

    • Lisa,

      When I come across extraordinarily skilled and beautiful street art, I have to wonder – is it a desire to deface, a purely artistic statement, or a compulsion to create despite economic limitations? I’m no fan of the graffiti in my neighborhood. It’s mostly gang signs and a kind of pre-adolescent “Hey! Look at me!” But here and there, some folks are creating beautiful art and raising questions: can they not afford more traditional materials? Do they feel getting into a gallery is hopeless? Can they just not help themselves? Are they, too, just “chomping at the bit”?

      Of course, there are artists like Banksy who make use of public space for their own purposes. Still, economics can play a role, and it’s a fact that some artists have “higher overhead” than others.

      Couldn’t we have fun with some class or other? Give them a photo of the purple house with green shutters (there must be one, or its equivalent) and then juxtapose it with your house. Discuss the nature of art – appetizers and drinks, optional!

      Linda

      • hey amiga
        I love this, and I’m typing with white-paint on my fingers and hands! In need of background music, I came to the computerr and glad to find your reply!

        I have often pondered random street artists. Finding proper art materials is difficult; in Costa Rica, I finally resorted to using a concrete board used for construction. I enjoy working with it, though it is extremely heavy. I rarely find 300# watercolor paper, and any paper that I do find that is half worthy is very expensive. Many times I put the pad of paper back on the shelf when I see the price. Here in Ecuador I use mdf plywood panels. The hardware store cuts the sheet to my specs, so i can go straight home, roll three coats of paint and then focus on art. So that’s probably one problem – finding materials.

        Finding a place to paint is not that easy either, so the side of a building or a fence would be quite tempting if one had art incubating inside the psyche and ready to burst – yet without a good place to work. A low-budget family would probably not have any available space to dedicate for art – in fact the aspiring artist might be reprimanded for wasting time and money/materials on art.

        There’s always the problem of not having a mentor or coach or someone to encourage the artist. I suspect that problem runs through all classes, after all, the artists are the misfits. A singer at least can sing pretty songs that others love, but the artist has a smaller circle of people who appreciate the talent. If the artist is still in school and the grades are poor, then others might think the artist should focus on academics and not art. Graffiti gives that artist an instant audience – one can dabble at home and never consider showing it unless it’s worthy – yet when it’s there for the entire world, one might strive to do one’s best.

        This has been a nice exercise, and I have never really pondered, ‘why?’ graffiti artists use public or private property for canvas. Through the post-painting projects here in Jama, I have witnessed the pure joy of many aspiring artists when they paint and receive positive feedback from their peers and the community.

        Yes, it would be great to share fun images of purple houses and green or hot pink shutters and watch the creativity flow!
        The same could apply to old boats…. :)

        • I just read this for the third time, and something’s occurred to me. You’ve already got the structure. This could be turned into a very interesting article for a magazine. You’ve got a lot on your plate as it is, but if you decide to rework it and submit, I think you could sell it. Since it’s tucked over here as a comment no one will find it for a while. If you decide to give it a whirl and decide you want the comment taken down, just let me know. ;)

          • my internet has been so horrid, i am now dog paddling through comments late at night. i think i’m the only person using the service, so the connection is fast and WP equally fast. how in the world did i miss this reply from you?!!!!

            you are such a great person! talented and well read, you are also tireless in your support for others.

            i will embrace your feedback and ponder how to move forward with those ideas.

            we’re receiving hours and hours and hours of straight-down rain (we rarely have strong winds) but tonight we are also receiving thunder, which is quite unusual. i fear that the low areas throughout the province are about to be purged with floodwaters.

            late at night is the only time i have faster internet, though it’s time for me to crash.

            i laughed at your ‘eureka’ moment with ‘esta casa es loca’ and will reply the next time the internet goes beyond turtle speed!

            btw – ecuador needs it’s own wunderground channel!

            z

  18. Eloquent and, yes, original! I absolutely love the way you put your words together.

    • Julie,

      Thanks! Just think of me as a human equivalent of Gutsy9. I’ve got some imperfections, but I’m getting along. ;)

      Linda

  19. “Rejecting our indebtedness to past artists and writers… is simple foolishness.” And, at least for writing, it’s a literal impossibility, because as infants we began to learn a vocabulary and a grammar that thousands or millions of people had created before us. We necessarily speak and write words that other people have invented. If we’re lucky we’ll impart a new word or usage or phrase to the language, but that doesn’t happen to most of us.

    • Steve,

      Such an obvious point, and yet one I’d not thought of. Language itself is part of our cultural inheritance – a necessary tool for “War and Peace”, but also for getting a second helping of mashed potatoes at the table or pleasing Grandma with a birthday note.

      I wish I’d been thinking of such things when I was in Liberia. I lived in the land of Kpelle-speakers, whose language wasn’t written until the 1930s. The syllabary was invented by Chief Gbili of Sanoyea, a town not so far from where I lived, and which I visited. You can see his notation here. By the time I arrived, the Latin alphabet was being used, but new words were being invented regularly, due in part (perhaps primarily) to the arrival of western medicine, technology and such.

      Speaking of technology, you can hear the language spoken here . It’s a little more stilted than I remember it, but I assume that’s a result of a script being read.

      Linda

      • Now that’s a language I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard spoken till now. I think I caught the word Noah. A lot of languages around the world originally got written down by missionaries who wanted to convert native peoples to Christianity.

  20. Writing is like coral. Though each writer is building on and adding to the work of those who preceded them, each adds something new that wasn’t there before.

    I have a friend who has four glass jars, each jar containing random words cut out of magazines. In the first jar, all the words are nouns; In the second, all are adjectives; in the third, all are adverbs, and the last, all are verbs. When he gets stuck, he draws one word from each jar and makes a (usually nonsensical) sentence of them. He calls it “seeding the oyster.”

    • WOL,

      The coral analogy’s great. Of course, it raises the possibility of running aground on the Great Literary Reef – that’s a fun thought for the morning!

      I’ve never heard of your friend’s word jars. He may have something unique, there. I’d think it would be a fun teaching aid for kids learning part of speech, too. In any event, the idea of “seeding the oyster” probably is familiar to all of us, however we do it. That’s why my “draft files” are so full. Many of them aren’t drafts in any formal sense. They’re merely titles, phrases, photographs, interesting quotations – little snippets that I glance through every couple of weeks. Now and then, I’ll add to one, and as the layers get added, they turn into working drafts. It’s really such fun!

      I wondered if someone seeded your clouds for you! That’s a passle of snow you have up there. For a while, it would have been hard for anyone to see Lubbock in their rear-view mirror!

      Linda

      • Your “drafts” file is what used to be called a “commonplace book”, although now we have computers, perhaps it would be better called a commonplace file. I’ve got several scrapbooks of pictures of people and places and things that inspire ideas. The snow is all gone. Most of it was gone by yesterday noon. It was pretty while it was here, all the prettier because I didn’t have to get out in it.

        • Oh, and after I read your post, the earworm of the day was “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (“the girl with kaleidoscope eyes . . .”) which was the tune that was playing when bits of this Lucy were recognized for what they were — whence her name –that bit always makes me smile.

        • I do recall hearing that phrase, but never really knew what it meant. Now that I’ve read the link, it occurs to me that our bookmarks files would qualify, too. They might even be better analogs, as my draft files are mostly my stuff, while the bookmarks really are a kind of “scrap book”.

          Now I have to wonder about the phrase “a commonplace woman” (or man, for all that, or life). I always assumed it meant “common”, as in ordinary. Now I wonder if there’s not a richer meaning attached.

  21. Challenge.
    I know you know what the word means
    once I have read again and been though the comments
    Who knows?
    Inspiring!
    As expected/usual
    Hat is off

    • Ken,

      When you get right down to it, there are a lot of similarities between bloggers and those sea lions of yours. We’re all out here barking ourselves silly – good to be picked out of the crowd now and then. Toss me a comment, and I’ll be just as content as that one you caught napping in the sunshine. ;)

      Steve started me thinking about Liberia, and when I did a youtube browse I saw some videos I’ve missed in the past. I thought you’d get a kick out of this one of the Lofa road . The fellow who uploaded it has a series showing a trip from Monrovia to Gbarnga and north. What memories!

      Linda

      • Memories: we tore the rear bumper off “my” Toyota pickup, the “Not For Hire”. We had connected a “Tirfor” winch to a stuck dump truck on our way to Wharn or Totota or somewhere in NPFL’s “Greater Liberia”. Somehow the dump truck was freed from the mud and rubber tree logs they would punch in to the road but the bumper fell off the Toyota shortly after.

        One night the drivers backed one of the Daf 6 ton All wheel drive into a river to wash it and came to find me to get the Tirfor and “my” 4×4 pickup could not pull the big truck out so we took another Daf, loaded a few tons of sugar in it and connected the two big trucks. I got in the stuck truck and some other haywire put the hammer down on the towing Daf. Have you ever seen a 6 ton truck jump in the air? I have. The tow truck would back up for some slack in the line and literally leap in the air when the slack was taken out. Meantime, I’m trying to time my stomps on the hammer to coordinate with the tow truck hitting the end of the line. Another “Happy Ending” since we somehow found the sweet spot and the wet Daf jumped over whatever had it stuck.

        I was happy I was viewing a video of Lofa Road but I’d go back!

        • Great story. You know, the technique you used isn’t so different from the way they moved that huge Compton oak here in League City.

          When you were there, had they extended the blacktop beyond Tubman’s farm? I always thought that was the best political metaphor in the world. The good road may have gone a mile or two beyond the gate, but no farther.

          Your “Not For Hire” reminds me of those wonderful slogans on the taxis and money buses. I liked the money buses best: “God Says”. “No Way Cool” “Monkey Work, Baboon draw”. “Go Come Easy”.

          Gosh. I’d go back in a minute, too. In fact, I did go back for six weeks in ’85. It was post-coup, so it was different for sure. But it was a great trip.

          • If my memory serves the paved road went from Kakata to the border of Cote d’Ivoire in 1992. I never crossed the frontier toward Monrovia.
            There were not many taxis around while I was there. The only fuel available was what we “carried” in from Cote d’Ivoire. The UN boneheads had declared an embargo ’cause they were busy supporting ECOWAS and Monrovia. That’s the way I saw it.
            Most locals revered “C.I.C.”: Charles in Charge.
            That worked for me too till I got back here and Taylor went on trial for war crime.
            I’m just guessing that none of his judges ever had to try to run a country in chaos.

  22. aptly put, linda. i haven’t been able to write anything for months. my mind isn’t at the right place although the werds are whirling all about in my head. as for the snow, i recall it from a child, but not with good enough memories to miss it ;)

    • sheri,

      If the words are whirling, maybe you’ve got a word-blizzard and you need some snow fence instead of a kaleidoscope.

      As I recall, those snow fences along the highways did a pretty good job of making baby drifts. In turn, those little drifts caught more snow and kept on growing into beautiful, interesting patterns.

      It’s a thought. ;)

      Linda

  23. The snows have gone, for good I hope, but maybe not quite. We don’t get clear-cut seasons like everybody else, we often have mild winters in summer and snow until May. None of it is good, honest, stuff, just mean bits and pieces which are neither here nor there, just a nuisance.

    Is there anything new to be said or written under the sun? I doubt it. If it was worth saying the first time it has been repeated throughout mankind’s history; it’s just that each generation appears to be rediscovering the wheel all over again. Having an original thought is well-nigh impossible. If we did we would surely be famous for it.

    What we bloggers write in blogland has often been caused by the outpourings of one of our number and we endlessly do the rounds of repetition and elaboration.

    We persist because we like words and insist on stringing them together, mainly to please ourselves, but also with an eye on those barking hordes hoping for attention.

    • friko,

      Your musings on the seasons reminded me of some of the most famous words Mark Twain never said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I was a little disappointed when I learned he didn’t say that, but having lived in the Bay Area and experienced some of their July cold, I still laugh when I hear the saying.

      I don’t know – I seem to be finding original thought all over the place. It’s possible that it seems original to me only because I’ve not heard it, but what does that matter? If someone’s words can enlighten, amuse, teach or entertain, I don’t care whether they’re the first to say them. I care that they’ve said them in such a way I can respond to them and incorporate them into my life.

      Sometimes I wonder if the problems we’re having in society today aren’t a result of a generation or two NOT rediscovering the wheel!
      Human culture and values have to be passed on actively – at least, I don’t think we’re genetically coded to honor our parents, be kind to strangers, and so on.

      As for blogging, I suppose there are as many motivations as there are bloggers. I’m happy to have a place to explore things that pique my curiosity. I like trying to communicate, and the conversations that ensue. If I only were trying to please myself, I suppose I’d keep a journal. But I want to please you, too – and the rest of my readers – so I keep pecking away at the keys!

      Linda

  24. Ah, very well said…. I’m definitely trying my best to get into that wonderful muddy muck of life. :) It’s about time….

    • FeyGirl,

      I’ve got a pair of wonderful Wellies – sprinkled all over with butterflies and flowers. They’re just right for mucking about. Get you a pair and have at it – just watch for those newly-wakened alligators!

      Linda

      • Hee…. LOVE it! I have black & white wellies too, I’ve been wearing like mad. They make me smile. :) But for the hikes, they certainly wouldn’t do, nope!!

  25. These are words to live by, surely: “The words, the history and our tiny bits of life are the givens. Their shape, their pattern and finally their resonance and truth require nothing more than rearrangement by a skillful hand and an attentive heart.” I look forward to reading the blossoms that arise out of your kaleidoscopic spring.

    • Susan,

      Sometimes, the greatest challenge is to live up to our own insights. I’m convinced of the truth of those two sentences. There’s enough there to guide a lifetime of writing. Unfortunately (or realistically, perhaps) there’s no question that spring brings thistles and dandelions as well as lilacs and forsythia.

      Now, I happen to like dandelions and thistles. The trick’s to make a bouquet of them attractive to others. On we go!

      Linda

  26. Beautifully crafted thoughtful essay. I also look forward to seeing the words that are going to tumble out of your kaleidoscope.

    I would never say I feel “Snow-envy” when I see a photo like the one at the top of your post. I’m happy seeing the scenes from this distance. I spent 20 winters shoveling my car out of snow drifts, and I can still remember what fear tasted like when I drove in white-out conditions at night with my kids in the back of the car, and the “What the heck…?” when my keys froze in the door.

    • Rosie,

      Oh, those white-outs. I remember them – often there was nothing but the edge of the road to use as a guide, and sometimes not event that. Fog is the Texas version of those blizzards. There’s one highway I used to drive regularly, often at night, and the fog can descend just as quickly and unpredictably.

      I still remember a conversation I had with my dad when we were discussing such things. I said, “I’ve figured it out. If I get caught in heavy snow, I’ll just find a car or truck and follow their taillights.” Quite reasonably, my dad asked, “What if they don’t know where they’re going?”

      It took me thirty more years to figure out that was pretty good advice for life itself.

      Linda

      • Your dad was very wise

        I’ve driven in white out conditions when I could NOT see the road ahead or any lines on the road and been astonished and terrified at the number of cars that overtook my slow moving car!

  27. Hi Linda

    I was trying to compose a comment last night, picking up on all the threads in this lovely post…then my eyes started to FEEL like kaleidoscopes, going in completely different directions! I went to bed.

    They say it takes 10,000 hours to do something well. How daunting this sounds to a would be writer!…but I suppose the trick is just to start and try not to worry too much if it’s really original or perfect. I know some of my first efforts have been cringe worthy but you’ve just got to go through it ;)

    The snow analogy is brilliant, and if you look up really close to a snow flake they are multi faceted too. These tiny tiny things are so full of detail and they’re ALL different. A bit like us really…

    I really like…’ In the same way, writers are called to hold reality up to the lights of intellect, imagination, and creative passion, turning it this way and that until words fall into place and their newly-formed patterns sparkle with beauty and meaning.’. That says it all really!

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

    Sarah

    • Sarah,

      Actually, ten thousand hours isn’t so very many – or at least, not as many as I’d imagined. From the time I started writing, six months before I came to WordPress, it’s been 284 weeks. If I assume 20 hours per week reading, researching and re-writing, that would be 5,680 hours. As my posts became more complex and I spent more time in research, that would have increased. So, if I assume 142 weeks at 20 hours and 142 weeks at 30 hours, that would be 7,100 hours!

      At first glance, 30 hours a week spent at this seems impossible, but it’s really not. For example, eliminate a couple hours a day of television watching and there’s 14 hours right there. Get up an hour earlier every day, and there’s 7 more, for a total of 21. After that, it’s not hard to get to 30. Now, I need to make some other changes, to ensure that my time is really devoted to writing and (more-or-less!) relevant research.

      One of the most fascinating things I’ve learned recently is that baby snowflakes aren’t so very different, one from another. The differentiation takes place as they “grow”, depending on their environment. That’s not so different from us, either.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

      Linda

      • My WP notifications seem to be up the creek at the moment so didn’t see this til last night. Delightful! So they start as dust…very interesting.

        And here you find me getting up an hour earlier slurping tea and writing … I felt motivated by your breezy approach to the 10,000 hours. Anyway, I think your writing sounds like you’ve been at it for at least 30,000… ;)

        • Oh, you’re not alone. There’s a long thread over on the forums about the lack of notifications. It’s at the top of the list of problems just now, and they’re aware of it. You can add your answers to the trouble-shooting questions if you like. I always head to the forums when something seems glitchy – usually, there are a multitude of folks with the same problem.

          I have been “writing” for far longer than on this blog, but much of it was academic or professional writing, with different purposes than to entertain or engage readers for conversation. Whatever. I spent years learning how to take myself out of my writing. Now, I’m learning how to put myself back in!

          • Thanks for this. I just looked and realised I HAVE NO IDEA which browser I’m using. But I’m sure I can find out…

  28. I hadn’t thought of creativity being like looking through a kaleidoscope. Some people have a knack for rearranging the pieces (makes me think of Sugata Mitra’s TED talk on his experiments in education). My mom and I used to press flower flowers and glue them on cards. My aunt got into it for a while, too. Though we drew from the same collection of dried petals and leaves, you could easily identify my work from my mom’s which where entirely different from my aunt’s — each of us seeing different parts of the kaleidoscope.

    • nikkipolani,

      What a marvelous story about your flower pressing. I was thinking about analogs. There’s cookie decorating, for example. It always was interesting to see how one person’s Christmas cookies differed from the others, even though the shapes, the sugars and the icings were the same.

      And look at these cards reader jeanie made at a workshop – the same materials available to everyone, and yet such individuality in her work.

      Long ago, I had a friend with twin daughters. Both kept scrapbooks. She said it was amazing to look through the books. They may have been twins, but the worlds portrayed in those scrapbooks never would have indicated it. Hooray, for life’s infinite variety!

      Linda

  29. Someday, my camera may capture—just right—the image of a shimmering spiderweb at dawn. And then I may write a story of the moment a woman realizes she isn’t happily married while listening to Bonnie Raitt sing John Prine’s words, “How the hell can a person go to work in the morning and come home in the evening and have nothing to say?”

    We humans are as much of a part of nature as spiders. What we create is part of the natural world. And from that world we create our art.

    Someday someone might do an acrylic of that woman settling into her own apartment and hanging a framed picture of that sparkling spiderweb.

    • Claudia,

      As I never tire of saying, life creates art creates life. Not imitation, but generation – from one generation to the next.

      It’s not impossible for me to imagine that what we call the twists and turns of life actually are a result of life giving its own kaleidoscope a twist and a turn. Maybe we’re life’s bits of beauty, constantly being arranged into new and compelling patterns…

      Linda

  30. This is quite wonderful — and I can tell it is a declaration of fresh start and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

    You are right about so many things here — clean snow being a fresh slate — always lovely. It doesn’t take long before the slushies or dirt start to show, but for a brief moment it is quite entrancing. As is the blank page. Sometimes.

    And the thing about pleasing others. You know, I have been banging out my writing at work for so long (yes, banging out was deliberately chosen) that I wonder if I really can write my own stuff. Always taking facts of the story, someone else’s needs, putting it into the framework or format that fits. What can Jeanie do with Jeanie? Where do I begin? That page is pretty blank and I suspect there will be more than a few doodles on it before anything even begins to gel. It will be exciting when/if it does. Oh, August, please come.

    • jeanie,

      When I read your comment over at Becca’s, I found myself thinking that you’d really enjoy this – or at least resonate to it.

      You’re exactly right that I have some decisions to be made. There are new paths I’d like to explore, and others I need to abandon. That’s the harder part. But lack of focus is a problem, and I need to deal with it. Doing it gracefully and in as low-profile a way as possible is the issue.

      Six months can be an eternity, but it will go quickly. And you’re lucky – while you’re waiting, you have the pleasures of spring and summer to enjoy. In a way, spring may be just the model to follow when it comes to your own blank slate. After all, Spring doesn’t replace Winter in one great swoop of greenness and growth. She doodles her way into existence – one daffodil, one tulip, one robin, one heron at a time.

      You know, I still have a couple of those big journals from a couple of years ago – maybe even three years, now. They’re still just as empty as can be. I’ve never been able to give them away – maybe it’s time to pull one out!

      Happy doodling!

      Linda

      • Oh, journaling does sound like it might just be the thing! And you are sure right about springs doodles — but I’d really love it if mother nature would start picking up the pen sooner rather than later! And focus — yes, it is a huge challenge. Huge to focus on one thing while others are being done. But you will. Because YOU can do anything. This I know.

        • No, I can’t do just anything. Learning to live with some of my limitations hasn’t always been easy – but in the end, it certainly does make life much easier and pleasant!

  31. We love snowy winters as well… The best!!!

    • Little Grizzly,

      I can imagine that your kids would have a wonderful time in the snow. Thanks so much for commenting. I enjoyed browsing your blog – it’s certainly a world I know nothing about, but I look forward to reading more.

      Linda

  32. So much of this resonates with me, as I plod forward on my thesis, increasingly worried that what seemed interesting new ground when I came up with it, will be a dull and well-plowed plot by the time I finish. Even if the topic doesn’t become stale, I will struggle with arranging the words on the pages. For that part of it, I’d love to borrow a bit of your gift. :)

    As for snow, it’s been on my mind all morning. The forecast is for a major storm next week that could dump as much as a foot on us. That will saturate the ground for a long time, delaying my spring planting and jeopardizing my spring crops. And I worry if I’ll have enough hay for the animals. These things never cross the minds of 90+% of us anymore–those for whom the weather is just something to see out of a window.

    • Bill,

      I suspect it will seem more dull and ordinary to you than to anyone else when you finish. Besides, you’re the one who’s been doing all that plowing, and as we all know, too much time on the south end of a mule going north can lead to… consequences, including a particular kind of tunnel vision. ;)

      As for word arrangement – I’ve been reading you long enough to know that won’t be a problem. Or, at least the result won’t be a problem for the ones who end up reading it. You and I both know it can take a bit of desk-sitting to get things properly arranged.

      It’s so strange. I know ranchers who are worried about having enough hay, too, but they’re worried because of lack of rain and drought. Even though I grew up among farmers, I never had a visceral understanding of weather until I started varnishing and moved into hurricane country. Now, I swing between worry about it in terms of cash flow, and worrying about it in terms of having to flee.

      I’ll say this – being truly weather dependent turns every “nice day” into a celebration of grace. Those “nice” days come as undeserved gifts, and every one of them calls for rejoicing.

      Linda

      • Our hay shortage relates back to the drought too. Because we had virtually no pasture growth in the summer and fall, we had to start feeding hay long before we normally would. I thought I had prepared for a worst case scenario. I was wrong. Lesson learned.

        • I remember you talking about that, now. I hope you have “neighbors” that are able to help out if things get really tough. Here in Texas, during the worst of it, there were truckloads of hay brought in from other states – some of it donated for only the cost of transport. Of course, the cost of transport was somewhat less then. Multiple, cascading problems never are a good thing.

  33. Definitely another great thought provoking piece! Most compelling…the twin horns of excitement and fear of the blank page, canvas or fresh start. Will you just mess it up again or create a masterpiece..whether a story, a painting or a life? I understand totally what the Zeebra said about not wanting to sully the expensive water color paper but eventually chomping at the bit to do something. I have sheets of velvet paper and fiber paper which I hoard I guess and test on cheaper stuff first. Some of this is still in boxes and I suppose if there is a shelf life, it may be expended already. So sometimes you can’t wonder or wait, you have to use it or lose it. This applies not only to unused materials but also unexercised talents. So better to just do it and let the work speak for itself.

    On the issue of originality, this is something that cannot be manufactured. I guess you can train yourself to be open to seeing new patterns, but I am not sure one can be other than they are. Original or not we fit the mould of our thinking.I don’t think originality can be a goal; a desire maybe, but not a goal. Goals like that only stunt the actual writing. If the goal is telling the story then originality will be a side effect funtion of how the writer’s mind works. Or maybe a side effect of streaming thought without those internal censors to get in the way of powerful expression.

    Two books I’ve read fairly recently that make me wonder about the neural connections and patterns of thought of the the authors because they are so magically original…Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station.

    Thanks too for the memories of unbroken fields of white snow and throwing oneself down to make snow angels!!

    • Judy,

      There’s so much here, I believe I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up!

      Your mention of “Life of Pi” brought a new thought to mind. “Imaginative” doesn’t have to mean “imaginary”. Some of the most imaginative writers I know don’t create a fantasy world, a la Tolkien or even Martel. They’re capable of breaking real life into fragments and then rearranging those. I’ve been thinking a good bit about Kerouac’s comment: “Anybody can make Paris holy, but I can make Topeka holy.” Think about what Proust did with that madeleine! It’s an amazing thing to witness, and a terrifying thing to attempt.

      And I think you’re right about the perils of seeking originality. It’s much like seeking happiness. I’ve known a number of damnably unhappy people who spent their days in a relentless pursuit of happiness. It can’t be done. Happiness comes as an accompaniment to or by-product of other things. So does true originality.

      You and Lisa talking about that “good paper” reminds me of Mom with her “good china” and “good silver”. I always asked, “Why can’t we use them?” According to her, we were saving them for special occasions. I always figured the third Thursday of any given month was pretty special – and dragged the danged stuff out, once I was in charge again of setting the table!

      Enough of the waiting for perfect occasions, sez me! I may not have the land,the money or the time for a garden like Arles, but I can have one perfect geranium!

      Linda

  34. I had snow envy as a child. Mostly with an eye to a day off from school to play in it because it happened so rarely. I don’t envy it much now. I hate freezing weather. Frozen pipe worries. Ice on the road worries.

    I like what you’ve said about not writing ‘what appeals to the masses.’ It’s the reason why I no longer read romances, gothics, a lot of historical fiction. If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.

    I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me, “Have you read the latest Sidney Sheldon?” or Janet Evanovich or whichever writer in that vein is popular at the moment. No offense to either author or their readers but I just can’t get into them anymore.

    LOL on the driving in white out or fog. Mama had a weekly girls night out to play cards. One night, it was foggy when the card party broke up. Mama said she could barely see the road so started following the tail lights of the car in front of her. They eventually turned and stopped. Mama said it was a bit embarrassing to find that she’d followed someone home and into their driveway!

    • Gué,

      My aunt can’t figure out why I don’t want to drive up to KC in March. I keep trying to explain things like lack of snow tires and sudden ice storms in Oklahoma. Once that makes sense, she suggests flying. I think about everything involved with that – plus the inability to snoop around on the way – and gently decline. April may be the cruelest month, but it’s much better driving.

      One reason I stopped going to the writers’ group here is that they insisted on bringing in speakers who were going to help us write what publishing houses wanted to print. Whether their view of things was correct, I can’t say, but we heard an awful lot about diet books, self-improvement tomes, bodice-rippers and sci-fi/fantasy before I checked out. All of that’s fine. I don’t have anything against people who enjoy “Better Abs in 30 Days”, but it wasn’t what I wanted to write. I’m not sure I’ve figured out yet “what I want to do”, but at least I’m happy clicking the keyboard.

      Your poor mama! Did she know the person? Did she know where she was? How did she find her way home? My own mom got lost in a driving rainstorm once – it was easier driving, except she lost all sense of direction. I may have told you this – she ended up at a guard shack in an industrial area that also happened to be the red light district. I’d put my aunt and uncle’s phone number in her wallet, so she had that. Bless the guard who called them and calmed her down until my uncle and a cousin arrived to get her back home. ;)

      Linda

      • No, Mama followed a complete stranger home. They were probably wondering “Who in the world is visiting us at this time of the night?” Those weekly card games were generally over around 10:00 but, if the playing was good, they might not break up until almost 11:00.

        As it turned out, she wasn’t all that far from the house and, after finding out exactly where she was, she was able to find her way home.

        NO! You haven’t told me your mom got lost and wound up in a red light district! Good thing you’d stuck that phone number in her wallet.

        • How funny! And how sad that today, those people probably would be thinking, “Who in the world is that, and are they going to rob us?”

          My own Mama didn’t just get lost, she was lost in a blinding rain storm, which clearly made everything worse. She was so frightened by it all that even years later, when she’d moved to Texas and went through her first tropical storm (Allison) she panicked all over again. She never fully recovered from that, although it did ease over time. But if the wind was from just the right direction and the downspout began rattling, you could see her tense up.

          It really was good that she landed where she did. It was funny enough that it allowed her to tell the story over and over, without having to admit how frightening it was at the time.

          Linda

  35. Well, since Life of Pi was mentioned, allow me to say: I’m excited that Ang Lee won Best Director Oscar. His handling of the film is exceptional, out of this world. Yes, your kaleidoscope metaphor is most apt, even for this film. If you haven’t seen it, by all means go, for this cinematic rendition of your Kaleidoscope Minds. But of course, the adaptation won’t work if not a brilliant Kaleidoscope Mind first created it. I love this metaphor!

    • Arti,

      It wasn’t so very long ago I mentioned to another blogger that her posting of John Ashbery’s poem, “Just Walking Around” had provided a kind of key, an entrée into the body of Ashbery’s work that I hadn’t before found.

      In the same way, the notion of a kaleidoscope as a way of viewing reality seems to make sense of the structure of “Life of Pi” in a way nothing else has. It makes the thought of seeing the film appealing, too – which surely will please you!

      In some ways, it makes films like “Stroszek” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” more accessible as well. I’m thinking again of a trip into the swamp – I’ll be sure and take my kaleidoscope with me. I’m no Yann Martel, for sure. But even a five-year-old can have fun with a kaleidoscope!

      Linda

  36. Linda,
    “literary tract housing”
    It’s such a descriptive and accurate phrase.

    You know how much I enjoy snow, and I enjoyed the way you wrote about it here. We usually get about two or three snows a year. Occasionally we get nothing. We never get enough for me to tire of it, but I must admit that I’m not the one who does the shoveling around here.

    I also enjoyed Omar’s comment.

    • Bella Rum,

      Omar’s comment dovetails nicely with your post about the company store. Social amnesia, indeed.

      I was thinking about the house my folks built in the late ’50s. It was out on the edge of town, in one of those new-fangled areas called a “suburb”. I suppose today it would be considered a “custom home”, but in those days there weren’t spec houses thrown up by builders hoping to make a quick buck – at least, not in our towns. The houses were built to last, and reflected the preferences of real people.

      Today? I’m not certain, but it may be that our prefab conformity is worse than any of the “little boxes on the hillside” that popped up in the 1950s. And yes, there is “prefab conformity” in today’s publishing – not to mention Facebook and Twitter!

      I still remember the day my dad said to my mom, “OK, kiddo. The choice is yours. Do we pay to have someone shovel this stuff, or are you going to do it.” Wise dad to offer a choice, wise mom to make the right choice!

      Linda

  37. Perhaps one of the few blessing to being mortal is that, not being perfect, we have lots of chances to start over and create new things. So much opportunity, so little time.

    • montucky,

      That’s right. A great part of the fun is that we don’t have to start over and simply repeat what has been. We can move on to embrace new possibilities, new ways of being. One of the most delightful women I’ve ever known died in the same house in which she was born, but she lived a multitude of lives there, developing, changing, and starting anew, over and over again.

      Linda

  38. Linda,

    I remember being a victim of the ‘writer’s block’ ever since I can remember. Nothing is ever right enough, and my mind is too restive to calm down, and make it right enough. My kaleidoscope struggles under the weight of too many possibilities, too much of everything. It is time to spring clean, I think.

    That said, I wonder how our writing can be so influenced by what we have read. Especially if what you write is likened to an author you have never read before. Where does that similarity come from? Or is there a parallel universe?!

    I am happy to have broken my blogging-fast with this post.

    Thank you.

    Priya

    • Priya,

      I don’t suffer particularly from writers’ block myself, and I think that’s partly a result of having dealt with two issues before I came to writing: perfectionism and fear of criticism. I haven’t dealt with them perfectly (!), of course, but neither can freeze me in my tracks as once they did.

      The answers always are the same. Could I write this or that more eloquently, more clearly? Could I make it more interesting? Of course. And maybe next time I will.

      Is someone going to disagree with my point of view, quit reading my blog, occasionally tell me I’m stupid, foolish or ignorant? Yep. It happens. The only way it CAN’T happen is for writing to be so bland that everyone gets bored. Then, they just drift away anyway, so nothing’s gained.

      One thing that’s helped me focus is a little saying I came up with all by myself, a take-off on Soren Kierkegaard’s “purity of heart is to will one thing”. I live by this writing rule: “purity of prose is to write one thing”. I’ve learned over the years to make each post about one thing, and one thing only. If I run across an extra treasure or two, I put it back in the drawer until another time.

      It’s an amazing business, this writing life. ;)

      Linda

      • You have taught me much. I hope I remember the lesson.

  39. I had a teacher once — and it was so long ago, I can’t remember if it was high school or college — who told us that what we wrote could only have been written by us. Even given the same subject, we’d all give it our own unique perspective and individual voice. I’ve never forgotten the advice (even if I’ve forgotten the adviser). Among other things, it created in me a sense of obligation and respect. Not that I was creating something unprecedented, but that if I didn’t do my little patch, there’d be a whole in the quilt.

    “As February ends and the snowmelts begin…” If only, Linda. If only.

    • “a whole in the quilt”? Yeesh.

    • Charles,

      I’m laughing, yes – but I’m laughing because I would have re-written your reference to the quilt differently. I wasn’t going to “correct” a “mis-spelling”. I thought the line should have been “if I didn’t do my little patch, there’d be NO whole in the quilt”!

      Which proves your teacher’s point – given the same subject, and even the same words, we bring our unique perspective and individual voice/interpretation. You saw a spelling error, I saw an incompletely expressed thought, but the point remains. We’re all needed, all necessary.

      Of all the things I hate about so-called “political correctness”, it’s the denigration of language and the denial of the value of differences among people. I could veer into a rant here – I’ll spare you that. But I love your affirmation of unique perspective and individual voice – what my mother taught me by means of this little song.

      Linda

  40. kaleidoscope is horribly retro what is definitely needed now are dragonfly eyes. I will leave you to google and wiki. Thanks for being though.

    • Of course “kaleidoscope” is retro, blu. But I’m a little retro myself, so it fits just fine. i’ve seen those dragonfly eyes. They remind me a bit of Mrs. Brown (10th grade biology) who had this uncanny ability to see in a hundred directions at once. I think the dragonflies are more attractive, though. ;)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Linda


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