Tuesday, September 16, 2014

When do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?

“For need can blossom into all the compensation it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”
― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

In the madness of my life in the past few days, in between travel, work commitments and ill health, I read Housekeeping-- gut-wrenching in parts, at others, spectacular. Moving and truthful, at all times.

The above excerpt is just one of the gems strewn throughout. It is a poetic book to be meandered through, savored. It's tiny but dense-- each paragraph takes some reading, and reading again, for meaning and beauty to sink in.

In 2003, the Guardian Unlimited named Housekeeping one of the 100 greatest novels of all time,[1] describing the book thus: "Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women." Time magazine also included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[2]

 If you haven't read it yet, check it out.

What books have you been reading lately? Has a book moved you, made you want to read it again, and again?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Do You Know that "Life is Good" No Matter What? Saying it with Sunflowers

Life is Good. That's what Tina Downey taught me.

I don't know when she stopped being just a blog friend, and became a friend. Sister in Spirit, SIS.

You can read more about her public persona here.

But she told me of her private struggles, and knowing of those, of just how many challenges she had overcome in life-- I marveled at her smile, her laugh-out-loud-bring-it-on spirit towards everything life threw at her.

We sent each other snapshots of our everyday surroundings and errands, between Singapore and Colorado, and when I sent her this one last year (of the swimming pool I swim laps at), she immediately said, I have to come to Singapore before I die and swim there, and I said don't be stupid, of course you'll come.

Yesterday when I took snapshots of the pool with my sunflower, I thought I heard her infectious laughter, her teasing, half-joking-bossy voice.

I swam a few laps this morning, and with each stroke of my arms, I told myself, life is good. Today, this moment, Now, life is good.

Tina hasn't left us. She's somewhere around, watching, smiling, sending out snarky reminders, laughing and crying in the same sentence.

And though each time I look at her emails or messages or read another of her blog posts, I feel the tears coming-- I see that Tina would have laughed at me, and said, I'm around, Damyanti, what are you crying about? Don't you see there's a lesson in this?

Tina always found a lesson in everything, no matter how sad, or senseless it seemed. And the lesson always was a version of: Life is Good-- see it with the eyes of faith, acceptance, and gratefulness.

If you knew Tina, please take part in this Sunflowers Blogfest for her.

 If you didn't know her, take part anyway-- celebrate Today, This Day, Now, in memory of a fabulous woman who found it in herself to Smile, no matter what.

(Tina's family has set up the Downey Education Fund for Tina's sons, if you'd like to donate, the way some of us have done, here's the link. If you want the code for a badge on your own blog, drop me a line at atozstories at gmail dot com)

SIS, you'll live on in my heart-- for as long as I'm given on this earth.
For the coming week, this blog's header would remain a field of sunflowers. For Tina, who loved Sunflowers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tina moves on, but can we let go of her twice?

 Tina Downey left us yesterday. 

As I mourn what is a great loss to me personally and to the blogging community in general, I think of this quote:

"I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time."
I don't want Tina's name to be said the last time any time soon.

I didn't get to meet her, but we called each other as often as we could, given our time zone differences. We messaged often, and emailed about work and personal stuff.

But these dry words don't capture what she meant to me, nor does my immediate reaction on Daily (w)rite

She lit up my life in dark times, and she sent me laughter even though that was the hardest thing for her sometimes, physically and mentally, when she was in the hospital, in intensive care. She fought her illness hard, laughed at it. She loved her own family and considered a whole host of bloggers her family, too.

She loved blogging-- we saw that during the AZ Challenges we cohosted-- and she loved her blog.

So as time goes on, I wish for her name to be taken, over and over again, by bloggers whose lives she's touched.

I hope the A to Z Challenge lives on and honors her spirit-- of giving and support, of kindness and compassion, and staying in good humor-- no matter how difficult the times.

I hope Tina Downey is never forgotten. I for one, and I'm sure other bloggers too, would make sure she isn't.
Did you know Tina Downey? What's your fondest memory of her?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Does Your Writing or Reading Affect You?

I'm currently writing scenes in which my protagonists suffer and struggle.

I've found that this is interfering with my peace of mind-- that I'm unable to separate their suffering from my day-to-day life, to compartmentalize between fact and fiction.

Before this, while reading a book, I would lose hunger, thirst, all notion of time-- lost in the vicarious experience of the protagonists.  I would feel scared for them, sorry for them, or both-- especially at the times nearing the climax. My parents would have to push me to bathe or eat or take part in any life activity.

This absorption has reduced with the years, with growing responsibilities.

But on some days, like this one, fact and fiction merge, and I don't know which is which.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever got lost in the story you're reading or writing?

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Simurgh for our times?

Shelly Bryant with The Lined Palm
I'm not a poet, but I love the bite of a poem, the tooth-someness of it, how a bite-sized portion turns out to be a feast.

Been reading the slim volume of poetry The Lined Palm by Shelly Bryant, a gift from her. 

 And as I read her lines again and yet again before I begin my own writing day (I find my writing flows smoother if I read a few snatches of poetry before), I'm taken down small, curving, wooded paths of imagination, and wonder.

It is such a joy to have a cup of tea in hand, watch a sunlit balcony and let the mind wander. I like daydreaming, as I think you may have gathered from my last post!

Maybe that's what speculative poetry is all about?


Simurgh by Rachael Mayo.
through the third destruction
one survivor emerges
on coppery wings she flies
in her beak a broken serpent
on her back the world's weight
in her eye the wisdom of the ages
from her breast seedlings
onto the charred earth bestowed

~ Shelly Bryant.

It made me think of this benevolent mythical Persian bird Shelly describes here, and long for it, this bird that is female, a mammal with teeth, always a mother, large enough to carry an elephant or whale. I watch all the craziness and destruction and hatred in our world and wish our prayers and energies together would form a Simurgh-- and she would make everything all right.

I found this wonderful depiction of the Simurgh by Rachael Mayo-- and I think from the poem and the image, I already have this giant, wise ancient bird now inhabiting my subconscious.

Buy Shelly Bryant's The Lined Palm here.
Buy Rachael Mayo's work here.

Do you read poetry? What sort of poetry do you like? Do you ever look for connections between poetry and art? Heard of the Simurgh before?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When did you last sit by yourself and daydream?

Do you have ten minutes?

If yes, then try this: switch off your phone, TV, put away books, music, games, in short any sort of distraction at all. Just be alone with your thoughts-- don't meditate or write or play with any object around you.

How do you find the experience? This is what I read in an article today:

"Most people are just not comfortable in their own heads, according to a new psychological investigation led by the University of Virginia.
The investigation found that most would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts, said the researchers, whose findings will be published July 4 in the journal Science.
In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.
The period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Many of the first studies involved college student participants, most of whom reported that this “thinking period” wasn’t very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate. So Wilson conducted another study with participants from a broad selection of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to 77, and found essentially the same results."

I was relatively ok during this experiment I did by myself.  But I didn't enjoy it, say, as much as writing, or reading. In case you're interested, more on the research here.

Do you ever sit and daydream? Would you like to conduct this experiment for yourself? Do you think the modern lifestyle has taken us away from our own selves?