Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Dark in the Dark

“Sing then the core of dark and absolute oblivion where the soul at last is lost in utter peace.” - D. H. Lawrence


I love writing evocative details, becoming the conductor who orchestrates words into prose which haunt the senses. So let’s try a writing exercise and take on the dark. With your permission, I’ll take you into the murky recesses of darkness, where there is substance, a mystery that threatens to overwhelm. Don’t let me haunt you…

The silence is infinite. The wind pulses against the windows in a blind attempt for purchase, scrabbling for a foothold among cracks and crevices. A peek through the wood blinds reveals tree limbs bent in throes against the howl and moan of the wind’s torment. A luxury compared to what awaits in the dark. My hand drops and lets the blinds fall back into place and the room becomes a haven for shadows steeped in slate gray, an evolving dark.

Sleep isn’t a welcome reprieve on any given night since the quiet stole in and took up permanent residence. I twine nervous fingers through my hair and begin the illustrative name game – smooth, black, long, straight…

My eyes narrow in frustration, pinching my forehead in anger. “I’m an adult,” comes out in harsh protest. “I’m not afraid of the dark – I’m not!” No, surely this obscured deadened sense of sight and hearing can’t hurt me. What if I closed my eyes and cowered beneath the blankets, like a child afraid of the boogey man in the closet, frightened – sleep deprived until morning releases me. My mind reneges and the shadows grow thick, consuming. Close your eyes, I dare myself. Close them tight and welcome tomorrow. What of the night? Should these hours escape so easily? Hours which mark a life in increments?

The fight still lingers against heavy eye-lids and two orbs straining to part the dark like the Red Sea. Fingers drape around the cat, like tendrils of a vine. There. Thump, thump, lub-zsa-dup slow and steady – a heartbeat. Let go. The night swarms in like hoards of black gnats. Don’t drown me out; give me something solid to sing the night to sleep in this never ending dark. I slip down into a sensory deprived chamber, my reality, my nightly ritual as the cloak of black residual sleep overcomes me.

Lub, dub, lub, dub…my ears pulse like the wind against a window pane; bereft of the cracks in my soul, hallowed by the sound lub, dub, lub, dub, of a heart beat. In this coffin of sleep, comes the sound of life.

Each of us has our own version of the dark and those things that go bump in the night. This is mine. We write about the things closest to us, our fears, and emotions which become a living breathing pheromone eked out on the page in front of us. For me the dark is a very real embodiment hovering ever closer as dusk falls. What breathes down your neck in the dark? Feel free to email (located on my profile page) your version or take a stab at this writing exercise on your own blog. I’d love to see your rendering of what the dark heralds.

Picture from here

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not About the Money

“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.” – Don Juan de Marco


Valentine’s Day is simply a reminder of what we should celebrate 365 days of the year. Rumor claims February 14th as the lover’s holiday. A wonderful concept, but I tend to believe the day should be set aside to remember all those you love, those who need love, even strangers who could use a bit of kindness. If you can succeed in remembering more than one other person on Valentine’s Day, perhaps you’ll create a tradition to share the same glorious feeling daily and turn it into a 365 day long tribute.

Need some ideas that won’t cost a fortune?

1) Grab a stack of post-it notes and leave one here and there, with words like, “Smile, you’re loved!”, or “The world is a better place with you here.” I’m sure you can think of a few others.

2) Smile at a complete stranger, for no other reason than your alive.

3) Try slow dancing without the music, just the concept of moving slowly to each others rhythm and heartbeat? You’ll be surprised.

4) Cook a meal with someone, not for someone – with. Share the kitchen; turn on some music and salsa the food onto the plate. (Seeing as you need to eat anyway – enjoy the experience).

5) Read to each other. Nothing can compare to the soothing lilt of someone reading to you. Place your hand on their chest; the words vibrate through your very being.

6) Watch a movie without the sound and ad-lib the voices. Who said laughter isn’t good for the soul?

7) Remember those Valentine’s we passed out as kids? Try passing them out to perfect strangers, allow yourself to be a kid again and share a smile with someone. They have super-hero’s for the guys.

And I’m done - sorry. I’m not going to do all the work for you. Seven is the magic number, seven days in a week…

365 Days of the year and it doesn’t have to be about money, you only sacrifice a heart (and maybe time) – yours. I should warn you though, acts of love and kindness become habit forming.

Meanwhile enjoy a song from the movie ‘Rent’ – Seasons of Love.

Five hundred twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand
moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year

In daylight, in sunsets, in midnights,
in cups of coffee, In inches, in miles
in laughter in strife,

In Five hundred twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life

How about Love
how about love
how about love
measure in love
seasons of love
seasons of love

Five hundred twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand
journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
how do you measure the life of a woman
or a man

In truth that she learned
or in times that he cried
In the bridges he burned
or the way that she died

Its time now to sing out
though the story never ends
lets celebrate remember a year
in the life of friends


Picture from here

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Way it Reads...

“Every reader, if he has a strong mind, reads himself into the book, and amalgamates his thoughts with those of the author.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Momentarily blinded by a kaleidoscope of sunset cascading off my laptop screen, I wince and hold up a hand to block the sunlight streaming through the window - a disco strobe effect of shadow dances across my fingers in russet hues eclipsed by the glimmer of new falling snow. I can’t help but stare out the window entranced like a kitten by the cascading light show, moving my fingers this way and that to capture a different shadow play. Backlit by the brilliant white outside the window, I watch the gray orbs spotting the ceiling grow large with the setting of the sun's last milked beam.

I laugh to myself, thinking about how hysterical everyone was over the recent snowstorms; almost gloating they didn’t know how lucky they were.

The vibrating phone beside me catches my attention and I flip my phone open to see who called. Time stands still as I read and reread the text my daughter left. She was in an accident the day before, slamming into a guard rail, and skidding a 100 feet. Her car stopped just before the rail ended and dropped down an incline. The tire twisting sideways is the only thing that stopped her car from swerving into oncoming traffic. The accident ended with the passenger side crushed inward along the length of the car.

I couldn’t read beyond those words, part of me didn’t want to know anymore. I pushed/needed to force myself to finish. The sky grew somber gray outside as I lost my stomach for the beauty I witnessed mere minutes earlier and I read the last few lines of the text. Thankfully, she walked away without a scratch. Bullheaded like her mother, she rented a car the next day and returned to work, without pausing to take in what happened. I learned about the accident after the fact, it was out of my hands. Part of me wanted to bewail her driving and worry every little detail into absurdity. What did I do? I took a deep breathe…exhaled and remembered nature’s disco ball.

Not what you wanted to read? Would the hysterical mother be more preferable? Depends on how you read what I wrote. You can walk away and think I handled things well, or think me heartless not to bemoan the ice, and snow, and what this incident almost cost me. This could have turned out completely different and yes, I wouldn’t appreciate life the same way. The question is what does the reader need to take away? What part of what a writer writes makes it easier to swallow - makes it a more believable reality? So often the reality is never really what we expect, or sometimes want. Of course this is a true story. Still you might argue fiction plays out with a different outcome. Or does it?

Whatever you read, do you find yourself disappointed with the author’s response, or do you try on some level to understand the deeper meaning of what lies beneath the words? How many times have you put a book down because you couldn’t extend believability, and accept another possible human response other than the one you wanted? Would you rather, your fiction didn’t mirror life so closely?

Every writer has a choice to give a human face and reaction to their characters. If they do so and do it well – before finishing the book, you discover some element of yourself somewhere within those pages. I don’t believe writers expect their readers to completely grasp everything they write. All any writer can ask is you accept, not all reactions will mirror the way you perceive life. Stretch your mind enough to give life to the fiction. After all, reality is stranger than fiction on any given day.

If I’ve done my job as a writer, my words will elicit some kind of emotional response out of you.

Picture from here