Pursuing literary via gardens and grandchildren

March 23. I need to stop saying to myself, need to stop thinking that the gardening season is charging ahead without me, that I’m behind. Wondering if I’m that way with all of life: thinking I’m playing catch-up, worrying I’m lacking or deficient when, actually, things are fine. I have so many seedlings growing (oh so painfully slowly, but yes, growing) in the greenhouse (is it the temperature fluctuation? (too much heat midday, then down to mid-40s at night), or maybe things get dry, then I water them, then dry, then water and here I am with very…..very…very…slowwwwwww growwwwwwing seedlings.

Or, maybe everything is ok. Or at least ok enough,

And so today, between the pain in my back and right back thigh and knees, I raked leaves from the front yard beds, set stepping stones, pulled winter weeds, generally cleaned up the place, the front yard south-side creek bed, preparing the plots for plants and compost and seeds. And two of my four grandchildren were here today, making me smile, giving me joy. And distracting me from gardening. Garden work interspersed with grandchildren work, core, crucial, joyful walks and playing and listening. And all the while both gardening and grandchildren keeping me from writing, from reading, from studying.

Not sure how I’d do anything differently. Not sure I want to do anything differently.

Pretty sure this is how the literary life, at least for me, at least for now, goes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unrake My Yard (With Apologies to Joe Cocker)

Recently my wife and I put up a greenhouse in our backyard. It’s pretty cool, or should I say, at least on sunny days now in February, warm. It’s eight feet by twelve and set on an angle relative to the yard, but aligned on a west to east axis. The slightly cockeyed placement adds a touch of insouciant irregularity to our standard, symmetrical, rectangular yard.

Finishing the floor last week, tromping around outside the greenhouse lugging heavy bags of stone, especially after 4 inches of snow fell, then melted on our heavy clay backyard, we quickly turned the area around the greenhouse into a field of mud. Our boots sank into the ooze, every step soupy and sloshy.

We spread some old cardboard and a few boards as bridges over the worst, but it wasn’t enough. What more could I use to fill in the wintry swamp? Leaves! We had raked and saved all our leaves in the fall, most chopped up for compost, but still one bin still whole. So I fetched a few bushels and spread them over the increasingly muddy swamp around the greenhouse. While doing it, I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m unraking my yard!” Unrake my yard? Unrake my yard! It reminded me of the Joe Cocker song, “Unchain my Heart.” So I wrote my own version.

Unrake My Yard

Unrake my yard, baby spread those lea-eaves,
Mud ’round my shoes, oozes like through a sieve,
Unrake my yard, baby spread all those lea-eaves,
Unrake my yard, cause I need somewhere to walk.
Every time I rake up my leaves,
The north wind done come, and blows them all around
Unrake my yard, please put ’em back
Unrake my yard, baby spread all those leaves.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Oh, and one more thing: Study

Besides daily writing, the content of which I outlined yesterday, I’m also, at the moment, a student. I’m in my church’s (the Orthodox Church in America) Diaconal Vocation Program. It’s essentially a self-paced, remote/online course of studies, at a sort of Master’s level, designed to prepare me to be ordained a deacon in the Orthodox Church. In Orthodoxy, a deacon is an order of the clergy, which is why it requires advance studies. I’m three-fourths through the second semester, Church History. I completed the first semester, Scripture, and in a few weeks I’ll be ready to begin the third semester, Doctrine. Then, sometime this summer I’ll begin unit four, Liturgy.

I have to admit, I’ve always enjoyed studying theology. Maybe I’ll be writing about that sometime over the coming weeks and months.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Noting a New Nativity

I probably shouldn’t have used the word nativity just now. I meant it as in, a new birth of a writing life. And I’m a pathetic sucker for alliteration, even if it’s forced, silly, or excessive. Noting a New Beginning seemed a little trite, anyway.

I think what I’m going to do, at least for now, is include four types of activities into my writing day, which habit starts now. Which is why I’m writing it here. It’s a (ok, yeah, mild, but still real) accountability mechanism.

  • Journal
  • Original/New Writing
  • Compiling and Editing Old Writing
  • Blog

Journal will be pen and ink, a hopefully sort of Morning Pages Plus. Could be anything from mind-clearing blather to pump priming prose, to notes about whatever I want to note. Commonplace bookish (help me out, Rabbie!)

Original/new writing will be what it says it is. I have some ideas, some thoughts: gonna start setting them down.

Compiling and editing old writing will set me fishing, or perhaps hunting, or maybe panning for gold-ish stuff (likely more mud than nuggets) in this blog, in notebooks of yore and wherever else my past work is hiding out. I’ll transfer them to Scrivener documents which could eventually become books, or could simply remain dumping grounds. It’ll be easier for me to be able to choose to publish. Or for my heirs to locate my writing after I’m naught but a happy memory.

And the blog, this blog, we’ve kept alive, though little used, since 2010-13 when I last wrote. So here’s where I’ll document progress and regress regularly. Eventually daily. At least a few times a week. It’ll be mostly meta messages, words about the words I’m writing elsewhere. I’ll share snippets of real writing here, we’ll see how it goes, but for now, process it’ll be. Partly to keep real writing in the workshop until it’s ready for an audience. Partly to find a way to use this blog: if I waited for a finished product, posts would be precious and few. This way, I can write how it’s going, make a few running edits, and then Bam!, hit the button and publish.

Which is what I’m going to do now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

March Forth, Mr. Editor!

I have founded a holiday called March Forth. No, I didn’t misspell the word fourth. I mean for it to be a play on words, a pun. Long ago when our now adult children were little, I started celebrating March 4 because it is the only date in the year that makes a sentence: March Forth! I saw it (and still treat it) as a day for decisive action, taking on a new challenge, stepping out boldly to accomplish a task, to act on someone’s behalf, to do good. Back then I played Sousa and we marched around the house. Because the holiday is based on a pun, most people I explain it to roll their eyes. I’ve wondered if I could ever promote this in such a way that it would become more widely known, a national holiday to note a fun literary oddity in the date and also, to take a bold action. I’ve written more about March Forth before here, here, here and here.

This year, about six weeks before March 4, I marched fourth in a bold and surprising way. I applied to be the Editor of our local newspaper, the Greenbelt News Review. Imagine my surprise when I was hired. It is a 16 to 20 hour a week job which means I will have time to write in this blog and also to compile, edit, and publish my own writing. Of all the years I’ve celebrated my made-up holiday, the way I marched forth this year has been the boldest yet.

Here are suggestions I offered in an earlier essay about March Forth about literary ways you might celebrate the day:

You can make this into a literary event as well.  Invite people over for a nice meal.  Sing a song.  Read a poem.  Go around the table and share with your fellow Marchers what you’re going to do, big or small, that will be your way to march forth.  Wouldn’t it be a grand joke worth a hearty belly-laugh if this caught on?  Imagine a holiday based on a goofy pun that leads people to act, to serve, to boldly do what they’ve maybe always wanted to do but just needed the right moment.  Or the right word play!

I hope your March Forth celebration this year is a good one, full of opportunities to not only enjoy the day’s pun, but also to decisively act in ways you may not ever have considered, like going to work for the local paper. Look for ways today to take the challenge of helping and loving others and to whole-heartedly celebrate life.

Posted in Living Literarily, Retirement, The Life Literary, Word Play | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dropping by the Book Festival

Today I took a peek at the 6th Annual College Park (Maryland) Book Festival held from 11-2 at the Community Center. I wandered up and down the rows of displays and marveled at all the people who live around here who are published authors. Many of the books were self-published by the writer and others were published commercially. Some of the authors are earning a living from writing but many others, for whom writing is something they love to do yet haven’t achieved the recognition to be able to earn enough from writing to support themselves, aren’t. I walked by the authors, each sitting at her or his own table, and felt a little guilty for not stopping to talk to each one and buy one of their books. Maybe I imagined their pleading, hopeful looks, but I don’t think so.

I got a glimpse of part of what it will take when I begin to publish my own work. It’s one thing (and enough of a thing at that) to put yourself on display writing essays or paragraphs or snippets in a publicly available blog. It’s quite another, I imagine, to pour yourself into a book, to spend hours upon hours putting it together, to get it published and then, in this word-inundated world of ours, to try to get people to buy and read it.

I chatted with one author who is earning a living from her writing. She asked me if I was a writer. After the briefest pause I answered, simply, yes. She smiled and said that I had given the right (or maybe write) answer. That moment of self-affirmation, of publicly confessing that I am a writer, helped me own what I want to become and who I already am. Maybe one of these days it will be me behind one of those tables at the book festival.

Posted in Book, Reading, Writing | Leave a comment

Obituaries: Life Affirming, Bite-Sized Bios

I appreciate obituaries.  Reading an essay by Gustav Leonhardt in an Economist magazine a few years ago reminded me that an account of a person’s life, written at the time of his or her death, can be very life-affirming.  I like reading and collecting epitaphs for the same reason though they require a little imagination and creativity recreating a life from only a few spare snippets.

I had never heard of Leonhardt and thought it a shame my first exposure to his life was just after his death.  He was an artist whose medium was the harpsichord.  The article said his “life-work was to persuade the world how beautiful the harpsichord was, and how the harpsichord repertoire should be played.”  I admire the passion and vigor he brought to his craft.  Reading the account I could picture him as a student, sitting in the Vienna library “tirelessly hand-copying” piles of original scores.  He was supposed to have been studying conducting at the time, but spent his time collecting ancient music instead.  When I avoid work, I seldom replace it with something even more rigorous.  Continue reading

Posted in The Life Literary, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

The Story of The Life Literary’s and the Daily Sentence’s Conception and Birth

August 28, 2009

Today I rushed to the Kennedy Center to get stuck there during a rain.  Black clouds sailed into view.  Lightning flashed.  The storm approached rapidly, but I made it ahead of the rain.  Naughty fellow, rushing away from my office instead of back towards it, risking spending more than a lunch hour away from work.

I stood under the towering eve on the Kennedy’s Potomac side, rain pouring just beyond me, my mind full of thoughts and ideas, and decided it was time to start writing regularly.  Finally!  I thought, why not approach writing like I tell my wife and children to approach a big job: subdivide it.  Don’t aim for a novel, a short story or an essay. Only commit to write one good sentence per day.  If I write two or two hundred, o.k.  My commitment, however, is one.  The Julie and Julia project blog and movie inspires me.  It tells the story of a stymied writer not writing, depressed, unfulfilled.  She makes a public (blogged) commitment to cook through The Art of French Cooking in one year.  For me, I will write one decent sentence a day.

Continue reading

Posted in Daily Sentence, Living Literarily, The Life Literary, Writing | Leave a comment

The Idea River

Ideas strike.  Ideas infiltrate.  Ideas emerge.

They also flow.

Sometimes an idea flows into my brain, entering my awareness like a sweetly meandering river.  I admire the idea for a bit and think, “Wow, that’s great.  I’ll never forget it.”  At which point, naturally, it flows right out again, forgotten.  That’s too bad when it happens but it’s also okay.  I have come to learn the river will continue to flow.

Living literarily keeps the idea river flowing.  Balancing reading and writing, memorizing poems, playing with words, and hosting occasional literary events opens my eyes to the torrent I have come to love: words, rhythms, meanings, rhymes, ideas, images.  Acknowledging the river and giving up trying to stop or control it helps keep it moving.  Allowing its flow unstops the dam and un-sticks the floating flotsam and jetsam blocking the creative current.

Continue reading

Posted in Living Literarily, The Life Literary, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Thick Day

My my is it soupy
out here on the street.
Walked only a block
and already I’m beat

Posted in Original Poems, Word Play | Leave a comment