Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Louisville, Part I

This past weekend, my sister and I went to Louisville KY to see one of my mother's childhood friends, Lucy, and her daughter, Melissa.  I had no idea that Louisville was such a wonderful place to visit:  Churchill Downs, Cave Hill Cemetery, sheikhs' palaces and horse country, some of the best food I've eaten in a long time (something about more restaurants per capita than...).  Louisville is an architectural heaven; almost every street has interesting buildings and houses.  Even the shotgun houses were worth cruising by.

We met Larry, Melissa's husband.  Larry was a wonderful host too and took us on a couple of driving tours of the city.  He works with the governor of Kentucky, and I can say that they are lucky to have such a friendly and gracious guy working for them.  Among other things, Larry is a Vietnam vet. I was interested to hear about his experience there and to talk about books we've read like Matterhorn and The Things They Carried and how truthfully they depict the war.

 At Churchill Downs, we saw the amazing hat exhibit, watched one of the family's horses come from behind to win the Derby in 2009 on the screen that had replays of past races.  We sat in a surround sound theater and I cried when the horses pounded around our heads for the two minute race.  I asked Melissa if the races are that intense in person and she said, "More than that."  Wow!

We stayed at the historic Brown Hotel.  Somehow we got put on the club floor and in the mornings there was breakfast and coffee and in the afternoons wonderful appetizers two doors down from our room.  Not that we wasted any time hanging around in the Club Room; we had places to go and good food to eat!

The real purpose of our visit, though, didn't have anything to do with the city of Louisville.  It had to do with our mother and this friend of hers.  And that is the post for next week.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here's a photo of the very beautiful friend and her very beautiful daughter, the best finest people in the best finest most famous, wonderful place in the world! :)  It was a terrific trip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whose Bravery?

I'm struck every day by how we judge others by our personal standards.  Oh.  You've noticed too?

This past weekend, my husband and I were staying at a place where they furnish bikes.  There were two of them and both of them felt uncomfortable for me.  The seats were too high and I didn't feel like I could stop with any stability.  My husband called me a wimp for not agreeing to get on one even though I didn't want to.  The discussion moved forward in that way of discussions and soon I was being accused of not ever wanting to take chances or push my physical limits.

In the old days this type of 'discussion' would have deteriorated rapidly.  But on that day I took a minute to think about what he was saying.  He was saying that he liked to take chances and push himself physically and that if I didn't there was something wrong with me.

"Okay. I get what you're saying," I said.  "So, I tell you what.  I'm going to give you a piece of paper and in five minutes I want you to write the beginning of a story.  Then I want you to read it to a group of people, some of whom you barely know."  He looked at me like I was crazy.  "Then," I went on, "I want you to spend hours expanding it and revising it and after you feel like you have something worthwhile, I want you to send it to a dozen literary magazines and wait for them to reject it. And if you don't do this, I"ll tell you I think you're a wimp.  Or stupid."

Hmmm.  Something started to sink in maybe?

"In the past seven years, I've been brave in ways I never thought possible," I told him beginning to get emotional.  "They aren't your ways of being brave, but they were acts of courage nonetheless.  For you to hold me to your standards of bravery is patently unfair."

He got it. And I appreciate it. 

What I took away from the discussion is that he would like for me to do more things with him that are physically challenging.  He has certainly put himself in situations at my urging where he wasn't all that comfortable.  So I'm going to work on it.

Is there a place where you're holding people to your standards without respect for their strengths?  Where are some places where you might stretch yourself, be courageous where you haven't been?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dreams Are the Food the Soul Must Have to Survive

I'm trying to lighten my load a little every day in a lot of different ways.  I'm making lists of things that I need to do and marking them "DONE!"  I'm cleaning out my home work space (again - an on-going job), and making some organizational changes to my office space.

I'm working on changing my way of thinking about things too.  When I need something, I ask myself if I already have it, or is there something that I might use instead of what I have in mind.

I'm cleaning out my books, too, a little every few days.  It's hard to part with them; I know I'll read them some day, right?

Today I came across a book of pithy sayings that I accumulated in a journal in college. One of the pieces has held me like no other and today I want to share it with you.  I've tried over the years to find the original source of the piece but can't. I do know that it was written by Brad Nilles and came from a book called Dreams From the Road. I hope you enjoy it.

Dreams are the food the soul must have to survive.  We all have our dreams; some of them shared, some of them secret, and some of them unbelievable.  Part of growing up is getting ready to share the responsibility of the world.  And to accomplish this, we must have hope based on a clear idea of what the world and life have to offer.  Probably the most difficult lesson the road teaches us is that life is often less, sometimes more, but almost always different from what you thought it was before you took a first-hand look.  You see beauty and sadness and insanity that were in front of you all along, but you never got around to noticing them. And in those new realizations, new pains, and new joys, you see yourself--differently, but in a way that you must accept, because you find that you are the center of it all.  You and everything you see in the world blend together into a dream that is yourself.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Heart Song

Something's afoot in my life that is bringing me great joy!

It involves the Universe and the way it works in mysterious ways.  It has to do with this box of found photographs. I think of the person who is going to be a part of this project for a minute or so, and have one of the photographs choose that person to write the story that the picture tells.

It involves giving wrapped gifts and sending mail, the delicious anticipation that I feel as I drop the photograph in the mail and think about the recipient opening it, seeing the photograph, beginning to sense the story.

It involves the challenge of writing short fiction--three hundred words or less--making every word count.  One page.  One powerful page.

It involves black and white photography, the way we interact with the photographer's eye, read expressions, and become compassionate, empathetic observers.

It involves the beautiful 1880 Gallery at the Long View Center where the photographs and stories will come together to become exponentially effective in bringing new life to forgotten people.

It involves this room, writers sitting together with the most amazing Randall Kenan, and choosing photographs, working up stories, sharing our writing while our adrenaline hums, eating good food prepared by my friend, Mark Hardy.

The thought of this project makes me want to cry.  It makes me want to dance around the room.  I want to do it over and over, bringing life to forgotten people, writing with other writers, letting the cosmos rule my choices.

Hurray for things that make our hearts sing!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

To CMC: A Life Lived

I went to a funeral yesterday of yet another person whose life has been cut short.

It was on property that she had lived on all her life and everything she did to it expanded and beautified it.  It was a place where young people had their lives changed forever, where teenagers found love, where family returned again and again.  I heard stories from those family members about the adventures they had there when they were young; they had glowing faces as they remembered.

This land embraced her even as we were celebrating her life.  Twice a flock of geese flew by behind the podium.  A hawk circled for several minutes, its cry a cross between protest and mourning.  A dog wandered down the center aisle; her horses and those of others grazed beside the road we took to get there.  What had been a gray day turned sunny.  The most beautiful flower arrangements I've ever seen graced signs and altars and tables.

The minister had ministered her through her illness, the musician had been her friend since childhood.  Her sister and twin brother told stories and read letters and poems.  One of her dear friends took several deep breaths and smiled nervously as she paid her homage; a state politician spoke of her personal and professional greatness.

But the most astounding thing that I heard yesterday was this: "She accomplished everything she wanted to in this lifetime."  At fifty-eight years old, five months from being diagnosed with cancer, living on a piece of paradise doing what she loved, she died, and yet she felt she had accomplished everything she wanted in this lifetime.

My god.  To be able to say that at the end of my life, whenever it may be, is enough.  Let it be.