Writing Challenges – July

I have noticed a pattern in writing posts for my blog….. I get little to no writing done in the month of July.  With the exception of the year I started writing my blog, I am very lackadaisical in my writing during the month of July.  In fact, when I am not at my day job, I rarely turn on my computer at home.

As I am known to do, I began to ponder about what happens during the month of July that hinders my creative writing.  I have many theories about this.  I keep coming back to the thought that there is a lot going on during July: National celebrations, family celebrations, vacations, good weather, gardening, hiking, camping and much more.  The time truly gets away from me during this month.

As a goal oriented individual this causes me angst.  I like to reach my goals.  And because I set a goal for myself to have a new post on my blog once a week the month of July causes me stress.  I am also not reading or commenting on other blogs posted by my blog friends.  (I literally did not turn on my personal computer when I was at home for the entire month.)  I have a lot of catching up to do.

My solution for the future is to not pressure myself to write during the month of July.  Instead I will continue to follow the blogs of my friends and commenting on their writing.  If I get something written and posted, that is wonderful, but I will not put so much pressure on myself.

So please bear with me as I catch up reading posts, making and answering comments. And I hope to have several new posts in the up coming weeks.  Thanks for your patience and continued support.

And the Fat Lady Sang

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is a colloquialism that is often used as a proverb.  It means that one should not assume that they know the outcome of events as they are still happening.  The phrase is most commonly used in association with organized competitions, particularly sports.  This proverb is cautionary.  It warns against assumptions that the current state of an event is irreversible and that the end of the event has been determined.  Watching World Cup Soccer these past weeks, I can state with much exuberance that this tends to be true.  It’s not over till it’s over.

“The phrase is generally understood to be referencing the stereotypically overweight sopranos of the opera.  The imagery of Richard Wagner‘s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and its last part, Götterdämmerung, is typically the one used in depictions accompanying reference to the phrase.  The “fat lady” is the valkyrie Brünnhilde, who is traditionally presented as a very buxom lady with horned helmetspear and round shield (although Amalie Materna played Brünnhilde during Wagner’s lifetime (1876) with a winged helmet).  Her farewell scene lasts almost twenty minutes and leads directly to the finale of the whole Ring Cycle.  As Götterdämmerung is about the end of the world (or at least the world of the Norse gods), in a very significant way ‘it is [all] over when the fat lady sings.'” -Wikipedia

interesting-fact-about-opera

There is a time, place and season for everything.  After winter comes spring.  There is even a time for things to end.  Graduation marks the end of high school or university.  Just as there is a time for things to end there is a time and a purpose for letting things go.  There is a purpose for the aria at the end of the Wagner’s opera, it provides the diva an opportunity to sing.

Recently, a friend had posted on her blog a message about strength.  She encourages the reader to be strong and how showing strength in challenges makes us stronger.  She is absolutely correct.  But I also think that at other times, in order to be strong, we must let go.  You can hold onto something so tightly that you lose yourself.  It is important to remember the immortal words of Sting, “If you love somebody, If you love someone, set them free.”  What we need to realize when you set someone or something free, it frees you as well.

The challenge is to recognize the ending.  We don’t always get a clear picture that this is the end.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a diva sing for you each time that something has ended as a signal that it is time to move on?

This is where the strength to let go comes in.  It is at this ending that you need to be able to say good-bye.  The ending and/or the reason for it is not important.  We all have them and they happen in a myriad of ways.  I just hope that I have the strength to recognize them and in turn am able let go so I may move forward.

So here I am at an ending.  The fat lady has sung a magnificent aria and is taking a bow.  I would not have missed the experience I gained or the memories I have built.  But it is time to go.  And just as importantly, it is time to let go.  I am clapping, putting on my coat and leaving the theater…… out into sunlight and new adventures.

Seeders, a Novel

The novel Seeders by A. J. Colucci was recommend in an article called “Nature’s Revenge: Ten Tales of Eco-Horror for Earth Day” by author Keith Rice (April 17, 2018) on the site called Unbound Worlds.  The book Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood were also recommended in this article.   I consider both of those books to be excellent and was interested to see what other books on the list were like.

The description of the novel from the book jacket is as follows:

“George Brookes is a brilliant but reclusive plant biologist living on a remote Canadian island.  After his mysterious death, the heirs to his estate arrive on the island, including his daughter, Isabelle, her teenage children, and Jules Beecher, a friend and pioneer in plant neurobiology.  They will be isolated on the frigid island for two weeks until the next supply boat arrives.

There are books that you read through quickly because you enjoy the story.  Other books you read quickly because you have to know what happens or you won’t be able to sleep at night.  This is the second type of book.  Eco-Horror is a good description for this novel.  The terror starts in the Prologue and keeps building all the way through the novel to the Epilogue.  This book may even inspire agoraphobia and/or botanophobia.

The premise of this book is based on serious science.  It has been scientifically proven that plants can communicate with each other.  For example, the poplar tree when attacked by hungry caterpillars will produce a chemical repulsive to the insect and release another chemical through it’s leaves to cue other surrounding trees to do the same.

“The lovely smell of fresh-cut grass is actually your lawn screaming.” Jules Beecher, paragraph 3, page 27

What if plants could talk to us?  What would they say?  Would they be angry with humans for mowing their lawns and clearing cutting forests?  If they could organize themselves, would they?  What would they do?  This novel explores those questions.

This is a very interesting novel.  But it is not for the squeamish.  There are graphic violent sequences.  Like I said earlier in this review, this novel may induce agoraphobia and you may never look at the green world the same way again.

Third Anniversary of Cats Out of the Box

Yes, it is that time again.  My blog “Cats Out of the Box” turns three today.  Time to thank everyone who has helped make it another memorable and successful year.

Angus for blog

Angus, my Cat Out of the Box

  • A extra special thank you to my friend Kate in Japan.  She provides me with origami paper, green tea treats, and a valuable perspective of Japanese culture which helps expand many of the topics I write about.  Thank you!
  • To Joe, if not for your gentle push, this blog would not exist.  Again a gentle thank you in return.
  • My friend the poet, D. Eric Hanson for letting me use his poetry in my blog (see the attached link Poetry to My Eyes and Ears).  His poetry touches my heart and enhances my life.
  • To my family, you know who you are, I love you all more than you could ever know.  Thank you for your assistance, positive feedback and support as I continue to explore my art and creativity.  You inspire me to be the best artist and creative person I can be.
  • To my friends, thank you for conversations that end up being the sparks that inspire blog posts.  Thank you for going hiking with me in all kinds of weather.  And thank you for being there for me.  I appreciate you.  Yes you.  All of you.
  • My Readers/blog friends, who follow my blog, I am grateful for your support and that of the blog community.  I am continually inspired by all of you.  No matter where you are in the world or what your blog is about….. your creativity, bravery in sharing feelings and ideas, and support make me proud to be a part of the blogging community.
  • Thank you to those that like my posts.  I appreciate you taking time to support my creative work.  You motivate me to keep writing.
  • Thank you to those that post comments and provide feedback.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts about my work.  And I am so proud when something I write inspires others.  Your words mean the world to me.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Depth – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

Today is the third and final day of the 3 Day Quote Challenge.  I would like to thank Living What You Love for nominating me.  I do enjoy the challenge of finding the quotes, writing what my perspective of them is and then sharing them with others.  So again thank you Living What You Love for providing me this opportunity once again.  If you get a chance please check out the Living What You Love blog.  It inspires personal growth and exploration.

Instead of nominating 3 people to do the challenge every day, I invite everyone to try the  3 Day Quote Challenge or create a quote challenge of their own.  Meditating on a quote is a great way to get creative juices flowing.  This is my chance to invite everyone to try it.

Pick a quote.  Write down why you chose it and what it says to you.  Share this with others if you feel comfortable doing so.  If not, that’s okay too.  If it is comfortable to do this three days in a row, do it.  If it is comfortable to do this project as a quote a week for three weeks in a row, do that.  Maybe choosing a quote once a month speaks to you, then do that.  Just go out there and find a saying that speaks to your heart and soul.  Let me know what quote you found, how the process worked for you, your thoughts and comments.  Most important, did you enjoyed it.

“Stories lie deep in our souls.  Stories lie so deep at the bottom of our hearts that they can bring people together on the deepest level.  When I write a novel, I go into such depths.” Haruki Murakami

I love this quote by Haruki Murakami.  I have read a couple of his books and I do think that he does go to that deep place in his heart and soul to write his books.  I also think that this deep place in our hearts and souls is the place that great creative work comes from.

As an artist, when I am working on a project, I can tell when I am in the deep place of my heart and soul.  The work seems to have a life of its own.  It speaks in such a way that it feels authentic.  I am proud of this work.  I feel that if this work is from my heart, that it will speak to others and that this type of work allows for soul to soul conversations.

That is the other part of the quote.  Bringing people together on at this level, having a soul to soul conversation through the creative work.  It is not enough to just create.  We have to share our creative vision with others.

Do the work!  Dig deep!  Create things that you can be proud of!  Create work that starts soul to soul conversations!

Description of Creative People – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 1

It seems that you, my faithful friends and readers, like what I do with quotes in my posts.  I say this because I have been nominated to do another 3 Day Quote Challenge.  Thanks goes out to Living What You Love for nominating me.  Living What You Love is a delightful blog encouraging personal growth and exploration for the young lady who writes it and those who read it.

Instead of nominating 3 people to do the challenge every day, I have decided to make a general challenge or invitation to everyone who follows, reads or just happens upon my blog and is reading it for the very first time.  Meditating on a quote is a great way to get creative juices flowing.  This is my chance to invite everyone to try it.

Pick a quote.  Write down why you chose it and what it says to you.  Share this with others if you feel comfortable doing so.  If not, that’s okay too.  If it is comfortable to do this three days in a row, do it.  If it is comfortable to do this project, three weeks in a row, do that.  Maybe choosing a quote once a month speaks to you, then do that.  Just go out there and find a saying that speaks to your heart and soul.  Let me know what quote you found, how the process worked for you, your thoughts and comments.  Most important, did you enjoyed it.

Now for my quote for the 1st day of the 3 day quote challenge!

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” ~Henri Matisse

I agree 100% with Henri Matisse on this one.  Here is why:

  • Curious – When you tell a creative person something, they want to know why.  How does it work?  Who said that?  What are you doing?  A creative person is curious and they love to learn new stuff ALL the time.
  • Flexible – A creative person is willing to try different materials, methods, ideas, tools, etc. until they get the results that they are looking for.  They approach a problem from many angles while looking for a solution.
  • Persistent –  A creative person sees the problem and tries many different ways to solve it.  All of the tries may include canvas, brushes and paint (it just depends on what the creative person’s area of creativity is); but I guarantee that each attempt will be unique and will provide a solution slightly different from the last one.  A creative person will not stop until they have found a solution that satisfies them.
  • Independent – As my niece Sonja was known to say, “Me do it.”  It isn’t that a creative person doesn’t need other people.  They just like to do their creative work on their own, in their own way, without distractions.
  • Spirit of Adventure – Creative individuals are interested in new ideas, different places and trying new things.  They are explorers, inventors, artists, musicians, travelers, innovators, etc.
  • Love of play – This may be the most important trait of all.  Creative people still have childlike wonder for the world.  They think of their creative work as play.  This wonder and enjoyment of play helps them to live in the moment, see solutions to problems, and challenge the world around them.

I want to end this blog with another challenge.  If you have not seen the work of Henri Matisse, I highly recommend checking it out.  He was a painter, collage artist and also made artist books.  My favorite thing about his work is the use of color.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go explore and be creative!

 

Ship of Fools

It is almost a guarantee that if I read a book, cannot put it down, and have ideas swirling through my brain upon finishing it….. I will be writing about it in my blog.  Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo is one of those books.

Originally published in 2001, I cannot believe that I hadn’t heard about this book before.  Thanks goes out to Matt Staggs for writing an article called “So You Want to Read Generation Ship Fiction: Here’s Where to Start” and recommending this book in the article for the Unbound Worlds web site.  I have found many of the articles on this site to be interesting, informative and worth checking out.

The book jacket describes Ship of Fools as follows:

“Home to generations of humans, the starship Argonos has wandered aimlessly throughout the galaxy for hundreds of years, desperately searching for other signs of life.  Now, a steady, unidentifiable transmission lures them toward a nearby planet, where the grisly remains of a former colony await the crew.  Haunted by what they have seen, the crew has no choice but to follow when another signal beckons the Argonos into deep space – and into the dark heart of an alien mystery….”

Ship.of.Fools

The narrator is named Bartolomeo and is the adviser to Nikos, the captain of the Argonos.  Theirs is a complicated relationship as evidenced in the opening paragraphs of the novel.  Also in these first paragraphs is an almost palpable sense of foreboding.  I have included them below.

“We had not made landfall in more than fourteen years.  One disastrous choice of a star after another.  The captain viewed this string of failures as absurdly bad luck; the bishop, as divine intervention.  Either way, I saw it as prelude to the captain’s downfall, which almost certainly Meant my own downfall as well.

When we detected a transmission from the world that would later be called Antioch, I sensed opportunity.  But opportunity for whom?  The captain, or his enemies? It was impossible to say.  The captain’s position was tenuous at best, and everything was uncertain aboard the Argonos.”  Chapter 1, Page 3

There are many themes running through this captivating novel.  I am going to touch on just a few of them.

One theme is the class conflict between the top siders and the down siders.  Down siders do all the scut work on the ship and are not allowed to leave it.  Top siders are the ruling elite.  All captains come from this group.  There is also the crew who run the ship.  They follow the captains orders but have a set of rules all their own.  Add to this a religious group lead by the Bishop.  One of the things that I found most interesting about the social stratification of the ship was that the captain managed the ship and made a majority of decisions, but it was the Bishop who determined which star system they traveled to.

Another theme is about making decisions and the consequences of those decisions.  At one point Bartolomeo is lamenting that the captain should not take advice from him because some of his decisions had been unsuccessful.

“‘Everything you said is true,’ Nikkos added, ‘but it’s not that simple.  Your choices, your decisions, were not necessarily the wrong choices.  Sometimes, they were the right choices, the moral choices.  They just didn’t work out.'” – Chapter 50, page 333

This really resonated with me.  It reminded me of some advice I was given after dealing with a particularly unpleasant situation.  I was told that “You do the best that you can with the tools and information that you have at that time.”

Another theme of this book was what is evil?  Can we even comprehend pure evil?  I am not going to go into this theme too deeply because I would give away too much.  But it is good to keep this theme in mind when reading the book.

Some of the other themes of the novel include faith, purpose, and interpretation of objects and situations that are alien (this is a sub-category of the decision theme).

I highly recommend the novel Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo.  That said, this novel isn’t for everyone.  There are some suspense building sequences and descriptions of grisly remains that may be disturbing for some readers.  Well written with an intriguing story, this novel is worth reading.

Lo and Behold

The documentary film “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” directed by Werner Herzog is a must see for anyone curious about the internet.  Released in 2016, this film is a meditative examination of the history, present and future of the internet.  The documentary features interviews with experts whose insights and technological breakthroughs helped shaped the internet at its inception and interviews with people whose lives have been affected by the internet, as well as hackers, inventors and creators who are influencing the internet of today and tomorrow.

Lo.Behold

The film is broken into 10 sections that examine a different aspect of the internet:

  • Early Days
  • The Glory of the Net
  • The Dark Side
  • Life Without the Net
  • The End of the Net
  • Earthly Invaders
  • Internet on Mars
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • The Internet of Me
  • The Future

If you get this documentary on disc, I highly recommend watching the interview of Werner Herzog in the bonus materials section.  Hearing the director describe his research, methods and why he wanted to do the film was very interesting.  He states at one point that he had never used a telephone until he was seventeen years old.  That the kids of today can’t even relate to that idea.  It makes sense if you think about how many people have smart phones today and how young children are when they start to learn how to use them.

This film is a very creative and human look at the internet.  One of the things I enjoy about Werner Herzog’s films are the questions he asks during interviews.  You can hear his curiosity.  These are the types of questions I would want to ask and have answered.

The thing that I took away from the film is that this invention, the internet, has changed the way in which we live and interact with each other.  At one point, Werner Herzog is asking scientists what the future of the internet will look like.  And of course, they all have different visions depending on their areas of expertise.  One scientist asked the question of will we need other people or will we just need the internet in the future.  I thought that was an excellent question.  One question that I keep pondering is does this technology bring us closer together or separate us further?

Lo and behold, we know not what the future of this technology will bring.

Poetry to My Eyes and Ears

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”  -Robert Frost

In the United States, April is National poetry month!  And of course, I didn’t realize this until the month was almost over.  I enjoy reading poetry.  It is like having a heart to heart conversation with someone you don’t know.  But in time after reading a poets work, you begin to think of them as an old friend who knows exactly what to say when you need to hear it.

Poetry is beautiful to read.  It is also beautiful to hear it read aloud.  Especially by the poet who has written it.  If one cannot listen to the poet read their poetry, I highly recommend reading it aloud to yourself.  The words take on shapes and feelings that you cannot see when reading silently.

As someone who loves poetry in many forms and writes the occasional haiku poem herself, I felt the necessity of sharing some poets and poetry with you.

The following are poets that I follow on WordPress.  Some of these poets write poetry and prose while  others write haiku poetry.  And one writes poems, prose and micro burst poetry.  They are all very different in styles and content; but, I greatly enjoy their work.

One of my students, who has become a good friend, D. Eric Hanson is a published poet.  He does not have a blog so I am featuring a few of his poems on mine.  If you are interested in reading more of his poetry his books, Acedia and Psychology 101, are available on Amazon.

Poems from Acedia

Refuting Einstein
Time;
When I was with you,
It had no meaning.

Reduced to Writing Poems on a Napkin in a Bar II
I have two fateful women that
Within my brain reside.
And for my thoughts they do compete,
So striving side by side.
Now one has had enough of me
And so my life has left.
The other finds me bearable
And I am not bereft
Of her company just yet,
And still I find I fear
That with the passing of each day
That portent time draws near.
So now I sit of liquor full
And mind in such a fog
To write down all my vague concerns
Upon a napkin log.

Poems from Psychology 101

Imperfect Deception
A voice says you don’t matter much,
It says that I’m okay.
I simply need leave you alone
To just keep things this way.

And yet another one I hear
That calls a different tune.
It says that I must speak with you
And can’t do so too soon.

My mind says travel one way
My heart bids take the other.
I’d hate to choose the wrong route and
Nascent hope to smother.

I must select the course and yet,
Which ever voice to heed,
I fear that dread finality
And folly of the deed.

Blocked
The words they flow an avalanche,
Shards and Splinters; poetic fragments.
But nothing now will seem to take
Not find a form or suitable shape.
The letters come in odd met groups
But do not wish to be made words.
When once the poems seemed to flow
They now no longer wish to do so.
I miss the spring of musings
And catharsis of the verse.
I cannot seem to find the source
That shaped the boundless words.

Effort – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

I have been invited to participate in a 3 Day Quote Challenge by my friend who writes the blog The Moonlight Reverie.  She inspires me by writing sincere, heart-felt poetry and prose.  Her words are beautiful and I highly recommend her blog. Today is the final or third day of the quote challenge.  I have really enjoyed this challenge and hope that you are enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it.  I would like to thank my friend one more time for including me in this challenge.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

IMG_0187

Photo from the Garden of the Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana

“It is you who must make the effort.  Masters only point the way.”           -Buddha

This quote is about two things:

  1.   One cannot sit idly by and expect growth.  In order to move forward, one must take on their own learning.  Learning requires effort.
  2.   Leadership

I want to address the leadership portion of the  quote first.  A friend and I have had on numerable occasions the conversation about what makes a good manager.  Manager, Leader, teacher etc.  A good one will give you the tools, make a realistic assessment of your abilities and then leave you to do the work.

Creative leadership is very similar.  A good teacher and/or creativity coach provides the tools, shows the techniques, and then steps back to assist where needed.

A true Master, Leader, Teacher, Manager, or Coach helps you shine.

So once you have the tools, learned the techniques, know your skills, it is time for your part.  Take the effort to learn and grow.  Expand your knowledge, learn even more skills, experiment.  Any effort you use to become better, is energy well spent.  Even if the experiment wasn’t successful.

I invite the following bloggers to participate in this challenge,.  I hope that they will enjoy the creative challenge of finding 3 quotes for 3 days.  I also hope that they will bring new perspectives on the words of others in the spirit of creativity!