#WhyIWrite

Today is #NationalDayonWriting, and it has been a whirlwind, hectic day, with paper everywhere, pens scratching, and keys clicking, which means it has been a very good writing day. I celebrated with my students, doing writing activities in all my classes, including a “Tweet” board in the alcove outside my classroom for students to post #WhyIWrite messages.

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Though many were hesitant at first about the assignments, they tried, and succeeded! The sophomores are well on their way to creating detailed descriptive paragraphs about the view from their windows. The juniors are crafting beautiful poetry about a treasured object or love (or as it seems, love gone wrong). And the seniors are are producing academic prose–a mini-research paper on Pygmalion by the Brit Lit group and an analytical essay on symbolism in “The Japanese Quince” by the AP group.

In Brit Lit, we read some critical excerpts yesterday and took notes, so today, the students were asked to bring in one article from a specific database on their chosen topics. Then I walked them through the process of taking notes from an academic article. As they continued on their own articles, I walked around the room offering help and encouragement where I could. Then one student asked me, “When are we going to write this paper?” I said, “We’re doing it now, aren’t we?” Yes, writing is a process. Yes, it’s worth it. Yes, I think they’re getting it. 🤞

The only thing I was not able to do with my students was write with them today, but I could at least talk to them about what I am writing. When one student apologized for her poem being long (maybe a dozen lines), I told her not to worry; I had written a poem this week that went on for two typed pages.

And then I had a prep period which I used to put some finishing touches on said poem and submit it. 🤞

On the way home, I tweeted about #WhyIWrite: “Fueled by coffee and imagination, I can go anywhere, be anyone, anytime, including myself, now.” But that tweet only covers a part of it. Writing rejuvenates me, frustrates me, engrosses me, and exhilarates me. I write to live. I write to communicate. I write to teach, and I write to learn. I write to understand and to be understood. I write because in the beginning was the Word. Writing is in my soul.  

Wishing you a happy National Day on Writing, and many more happy writing days to come!

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PAD 18: Life in the Face of Death

Today’s prompt is another two-fer (three-fer): life, death, or both.  Let’s live well despite the inevitability of death.

Life in the Face of Death

 

No matter how often we sweep

No matter how well

Dust and dirt always find their way

Back over the threshold.

 

Yet, we continue to sweep

And open the window

Which lets the light in, so

The dust motes dance.

PAD 4: Two-fer Tuesday, A Beginning and/or Ending Poem

Today being Tuesday, we are offered two prompts, but as I’ve noted in the past, these are really three: either, or, both. Today’s choices are a beginning poem, an ending poem, or a beginning and ending poem. I started thinking about an interesting metaphor or simile for beginning the day, and I came up with unwrapping a deck of cards. From there, I had fun describing a day from dawn to dusk in card terms and adages. Enjoy!

The Game of Life

 

Dawn breaks.

You blink your eyes,

Removing the film from the night before,

Like the crinkly unwrapping of cellophane

Off a new deck of cards–

Crisp and clean and orderly,

Ready to play the game.

Let the day begin,

Feed the kitty,

Shuffle the deck and see

What cards fate has dealt you today.

And off you go,

Playing your hand

Again and again

Scoring points, bidding high,

Some winners, some losers

As noon approaches, then afternoon,

Til night falls

And you flip the deck in the air,

Discarding the jokers of the day,

Still searching for your king,

But now you don’t care,

Let the cards fall where they may,

You’ve done your best,

Retire the deck.

Start fresh tomorrow.

A Rose Refurbished 

A couple of Fridays ago, I had some time on my hands,  so I went to the newly refurbished Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. Always a beautiful space, it is now brighter and cleaner as well. It is certainly conducive to creativity and work.  And let’s admit it,  the two go hand in hand.  But surrounded by beauty and knowledge,  it is easier to engage in the search for truth.  (Support your local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions, my friends.  Tell your Congressmen to support the arts,  the NEH and the NEA.)

As I looked around the majestic room, I saw people from all walks of life immersed in all sorts of reading/writing activities: in print, online, by hand, by machine, researching,  creating, in English,  in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc. And others came in to appreciate the art and architecture, and others just to sit for a minute. It is a beautiful space that offers so much to so many.  I feel lucky to have experienced it today. And in a true New York moment,  I ran into people I know who had just stopped in to see the room!

One of the things I love about libraries is the access to the creativity of generations. Thousands, millions really, have left a little part of themselves for us to read and know. They inform, challenge, and inspire. But the Rose Reading Room of the NYPL does even more–through the beautiful architecture of the building, the space itself inspires. It is a place I love, yet definitely do not get to enough.

Musing on a topic? Stuck on a scene? Look up to the newly renovated ceiling and drift among the clouds or trace with your eyes the ornate designs. Soon, new ideas and connections will spring to mind, and your creativity will flow freely. Grab a seat and begin. I’ll see you there!

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Crochet and Mishaps 2

Last week I started a post about my crocheting mishap and published it accidentally, which is really apropos actually. If you read my last post, you know that I made some big mistakes in crocheting a baby blanket. And, I posted about it on the Instagram (and Facebook) page for our Etsy store (AlyCatCreations1) too. Here’s the thing: This series of posts garnered 90% more likes than our other posts.

Now, I am not one to quibble about likes. I’m happy to have traffic to our site. Please, come browse. Like it. Buy something! We’d love to have you. The thing that struck me though, is that while we do get likes and comments about our finished products, the posts that garnered the most attention were the ones about my mistakes. I began to wonder about that. There are so many “feel good” memes and the like on Facebook and Instagram about building each other up and saying nice things. Which are great. Which are the right sentiment. Which we should do. But then, the likes poor in when I fail.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that at first. Well, actually I guess I should say that I was feeling many emotions at once. I did laugh. It struck me as funny that posting about a product that would never be on our site brought more traffic to the site than the pieces available for purchase. I was happy the posts were getting likes. I also found it funny that Facebook kept wanting me to boost the post. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t also a twinge of something else-some hurt or embarrassment.

This led to some pondering of the phenomenon of social media. We post all these lovely catch phrases about being good to others, you never know what they are going through. feel-good-meme

And we should. We should think of other people’s feelings. That has been lost on social media. Too frequently, perhaps in an effort to be brief (140 characters only please) or because we’re posting on the go from our phones and not really crafting prose, posts can be too blunt or even hurtful, so we do need to be attentive to tone and diction, now more than ever. But then, when I admitted I failed at a crochet project, the abundance of likes seemed out of proportion to the post. This is where things get a bit tricky. I posted the photos and the story, so I wanted it out there. I wanted to draw traffic to our site, which it did. I feel good about all of this. I am not really hurt or embarrassed. There was just a twinge, no real regret. My main reaction to the failure of the project is frustration. I did begin to wonder, however, what this says about people in general. Do we really like to see others fail?

What I’ve come up with is yes and no. On the one hand, some like to see others fail because it makes them feel better about themselves, but I think that is the minority, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, that is not what was going on with my crooked blanket posts. I think, rather, that the likes on the failure posts were commiseration. Too often we try to make our lives seem perfect on social media. I’m sure you have all seen the memes and videos of Facebook versus real life. (This one is pretty powerful about how destructive this fake life can be.) Perhaps when a post comes up in which someone admits to making a mistake, and does so without whining, we empathize. “Oh I hate when that happens.” “I understand the frustration.” There is no emoticon for that, so we “like.”

So, let’s continue to like each other’s posts, and let’s comment too. I have to admit that I did receive some encouraging and empathetic comments on the blanket debacle posts. I really liked those; they let me know that others understood my frustration. Sometimes that understanding is what we need most to pick hooks up and begin to stitch life back together. So, let’s like; let’s continue to build each other up and support each other when we were down.

As for that blanket, I rewound all the yarn.

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And I’ve started again. This time, I’m crocheting my tried and true pattern and so far, it’s lovely. I’ll let you know when it’s done. Wish me luck!

“Home” by Warsan Shire

An important poem for our time.

You’ve probably already seen this on your Facebook feed, a poem about displacement and the refugee experience, but I  post it here for you nonetheless, a reminder that these refugees are people: mothers, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives. And that home is something we have taken for granted but no longer can. Read it here: “Home” and then add your voice to that of creation, not destruction.

Daily Prompt: Crossing

via Daily Prompt: Crossing

The weary day descends into evening,

Yet its scattered detritus remains,

Waiting to be swept away as the home

Is prepared for tomorrow’s onslaught.

You are crossing the room again and again

To replace and retire the materials of the day;

Little by little it regains its edges

Allowing a more peaceful transition

Into that morrow which waits in anticipation

Of the passage you and it will traverse together.

Photographic Inspiration

Everywhere you look, there is something to inspire you. Let the creative juices flow and appreciate the beauty of the world around us. And when that beauty is hard to see, create it! Here are just a few images from the past six months that make me smile. I hope they do the same for you.

In Memoriam

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These are some of my paintings and drawings, none of which would have been possible without two men: my father and my art teacher, Charlie. Seven years ago this November, the heavens were made richer by the passing of my father; less than two weeks ago, Charlie joined the heavenly studio and enriched them yet again.

Back in 2007, my father asked me to join him at art class over the summer. I said yes, not because I had any particular artistic leaning or thought I had any talent but because I wanted to spend time with him in a pursuit he loved. Even if I was simply driving him and schlepping the materials, I was happy to be there, but that wasn’t good enough for Charlie. As long as I was at the studio, I would draw; I would paint. He would teach me.

Charlie did so much more than teach me how to draw. First, he taught me how to see, how to look at a picture or a still life and see a shape rather than an object. “How big is it? Where is it?” These are the questions he would ask whenever we started a drawing. They are the questions I ask myself now still. Once the preliminary shapes are in, Charlie’s chorus of “lights and darks” sounds in my mind, and his lesson on perspective with the disappearing railroad tracks lined with trees is vividly with me as well as the circles of shading from dark to light that decorate every beginning student’s sketch pad. “If we put that head in a closet and turned off all the lights, it would look black,” he would say of the bust we were drawing. His lessons remind me that how we see something depends on where we stand and how much light is shining on the subject.

But some things were not relative to Charlie, and these are the more important lessons I learned from him. His strong faith guided him. He not only knew his Bible and the lives of the saints, but also developed life long relationships with priests and sisters who are doing good work in the world today. His faith was a living faith, and one of the ways he lived it was in building a community.

Popular culture has built a reputation for artists as cut-throat opportunists vying for  the best showing, but that is not what one finds at Charlie’s studio. There is a warmth there and encouragement, from Charlie for sure, but from the other artists as well because he created an atmosphere of celebrating art, our own and each others. We look for the good and highlight it.

Now, Charlie has died, and part of me relived my father’s passing when that happened because Charlie knew and loved my dad. But, just as I know that my father lives on in me, Charlie is not gone either. His beautiful art is still here; his wonderful, caring family is still here, and his studio, the supportive community he built, is still here. He often said, “Remember, the real reason for painting is to leave our mark—to celebrate our existence.” Charlie, you left your mark on me and so many others through your painting and your life. For that, I thank you. Requiscat in pace.