Looking back over the past few years — the suffocating wildfires and the Covid-19 pandemic — I marvel at the difference that has taken place in terms of my involvement in and passion for seeking out my feelings and creating poetry that might express what I am thinking and feeling. For attempting to see the world from my own viewpoint, rather than relying on the opinions of others.
I think that I am changing. Finding a different focus? Feeling less threatened, perhaps, by the thought of running out of time to do what I have thought was important. But life isn’t like that. It ends when it ends, and what I have done is what I have accomplished. What I have not accomplished, no longer relevant. The world goes on without me, and my “space” fades and disappears as people whose lives I have shared adapt and continue…and the same for each of us in turn. I am not at the center of my world.
The ripples that are now in the stream fade away as the water flows on and mingles with other ripples and currents. Made by Nature or Other or competing forces. The present and the future make their own realities as they travel their own paths. And those paths may end. And it will not be because of anything I have said or done…or because of who or what I am, whoever that might have been or as perceived through others’ senses and minds.
The future will create itself. And I will be…whoever or whatever one becomes as the materials that now constitute myself become other and reform into many other shapes and forms, living things or inert. Detached and reused in their turn. Erosion, regrowth, or nothing at all. Or from stardust to stardust once again.
The end of a long week. Last weekend and Monday, the first of March, I enjoyed my busy schedule. As I mentioned early last weekend, February is National Haiku Writing Month (nahaiwrimo), and I attended both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon haiku poetry readings via Zoom. Between the two sessions, I read seven haiku that I wrote during February 2021. I saw again several poets I know from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA, lifetime member). I think that I would like to meet online with them and others more often than I have in the past. While I do not feel equal to extensive involvement in organizations, anymore, the social interaction is something I believe I’m still up to.
On Monday evening, I enjoyed a celebration of Saint David’s Day held by Jo Walton and friends online that featured two sessions of musical performances and poetry readings by various participants. St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales. (My Owen ancestors left Wales to settle in upper New York, I think, in the mid-1600s.)
Since then, I have been relaxing. Catching up on sleep and solitude. Reading a lot and napping with the Scampers. The dogs enjoy curling up on the footrest of my recliner, but if I turn over too often, they get down from the chair and move under the footrest, and so I have to be careful, getting up.
The weather, here, has taken a turn toward the warm. The snow is rapidly melting, and the air quality has disimproved, again. Supposedly, it will clear up over the weekend. I should have grabbed one of my cotton face masks on my way back to my chair, Right now, Thaddeus has settled on my legs, again, and so I may just take another nap.
I look forward to the coming weekend for more than improved air quality. Tomorrow afternoon, there is a social hour on Zoom, again, with Liz Danforth and patrons from across the globe. And I look forward to meeting for worship, which I did not attend, last weekend, in favor of the NaHaiWriMo poetry readings. I do hope there such gatherings at the end of next February, also. Enjoyed it.
This past week, I have reread books by Steven Gould that I have not looked at for a long time. That is, I had no electronic editions: Exo and Impulse. Also, I am rereading the last two books in L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Imager Portfolio series. Al bought a set of headphones for me for my computer, and so I went online to listen again to more recent works of Tokio Myers on his YouTube channel. Lovely stuff, but I find I must turn off the pulsing lights added to some of the pieces. Aside from classics, my husband’s musical tastes and mine don’t match up. With the headset, I can turn up the volume.
I have made more space on this website and hope to do more of my blogging here, again, rather than on the WordPress blog.
I’m happy that you’ve stopped in. I look forward to looking in on many of the other Weekend Coffee Share posts, this weekend.
It’s been a while since I’ve deliberately set aside “vacation” time over the end-of-year holiday season. With the quiet of the pandemic and the increasing activity online, I think I need to cut back my hours interacting with people. While I was working freelance, especially during the busiest of those thirty years, I set aside the Christmas and New Year’s Day weeks as a quiet space in the midst of all the activity. We cut down holiday visits from two households to one, when my parents no longer wished to entertain, and since, the expanding families in my husband’s line have resulted in his siblings refocusing, also.
Until the pandemic came along and the virtual face-to-face interactions popped up via Meet and Zoom, Discord, and other venues, I felt…safe from disruptions. Now, I need to mark off blocks of solitude, again. Gathering/settling time for us—our family unit of adults and dogs. And space for quiet reengagement with and within my self.
As the years go by, I find myself thinking more frequently about staking out more formal times for solitude. Initiating rather than reacting. Turning inward. Perhaps I am more easily distracted, these days, and troubled more by externals that interrupt my thoughts. And then I review the proclivities of my past and recognize that there always has been a struggle for more isolation…for fewer interruptions and broader perspectives. I like the quiet that allows thoughts and images to flow together. The currents and their directions, the coming together and the divergence. Spontaneity, the mind at peace.
I find myself in my later years reviewing my experiences throughout my younger days. Embarrassing, much of it, as I look back. I prevailed “in spite of it”, rather than “because of it”, doesn’t sit well with me. Too much information was withheld. And I was not taught things that I needed to know. Not everything can be learned from books; not even encyclopaedia. Sometimes, “Go, look it up!” leads to disastrous outcomes. Children do not think with the complexities of mature minds.
If not enough people are keeping track…well, it’s a wonder that some of us survived to adulthood.
Elemental blessings for Monday: Surprise, Time, and Triumph.
… and wondering how so much time could have gone by. I worked freelance for twice the number of years I was employed by corporations after college graduation. How did I come to be in my seventies? I don’t feel any different.
I take that back. I feel like I am a different me. Can’t remember, really, who I was before I became who I am now. The old refrain…my life is a short, red carpet that rolls up behind me as I continue on.
Perhaps this is a settling. A readjustment to whatever constitutes normal, following the deaths of so many of the people who comprised the framework of my life. And they’ll keep dropping off until such time as I beat someone else to it.
My father, in his later years, spoke often of having lived long enough, meaning, I suppose, that it no longer held attraction for him and he longed to continue on to what comes next. Bored, I think, having lost his context and having no driving incentive to be entertained and having passed the need, interest, curiosity, or necessity for acquiring new knowledge. I share his forebodings but have provided no hostages to fortune. I have reduced the level of external stimulation in my immediate environment. I think that has helped.
Ah, well! There is the matter of NaNoWriMo 2018. I and most of the usual suspects will be attempting to write a new poem for each day of November. Barb will be sending out some helpful (but not mandatory) writing prompts each morning during the month. Those of us who feel inclined will send each day’s poem to everyone on the email group.
I have decided to not clutter this blog with daily poems and pictures, this time around. I’ve done so previously and found it disruptive. What I have done is to wipe out my prior posts &c at theartofdisorder.blogspot.com (after downloading earlier posts) and made a trial run with picture-poem pairings for the last three days of October.
I also have gotten rid of themomentsbetween at blogger.com and am fooling around with ideas for Quiet Spaces with “lizbennefeld” as the URL. I am expecting that the improvements at WordPress may well make it unusable, and so I have discontinued the domain The Art of Disorder, reverting to a free/personal blog there. That should come about by the end of this year. I may also increase my hosting package here and drop the Quilted Poetry domain also, using this space instead for any overflow. Dreamwidth has not so far been a good substitute for LJ, but I am drawn back to it again and again, and I will continue my paid account.
I believe that another cup of hot milk is in order, this time without the added coffee concentrate. I really do have to sleep, tonight.
o my dear!
the flowers refuse to fade
their fragrance cloys
a quiet room with filtered air
a comfy chair and puppies
I find it interesting, how different the topics are for my online journal from the paper journal that I have returned to since the first of 2018. Things that I would only post, if at all, on my Patchwork Prose site, which still suffers little to no traffic in any given month. (I have not brought myself to write there much.)
I suspect that I am more secretive than I’d thought. Or, more accurately, how much a “private person” I’ve turned out to be, simply because I do not talk much about externals. Because I don’t live in the externals.
Often, a “thing” or “experience” seems not objectively real until I write it down somewhere. Or relive it to myself in words so that it will stick. I have found it interesting that I can go back through memory and reimage, should other events overtake me, and so file a happening in words in my mind or on paper afterwards. Not always, but sometimes. Enough.
When I look back through the written journals before I shred them (I have journaled since my high school years), I find that a lot of what I have puzzled over/pondered, surprises me. Looks unfamiliar. The same is true of my online journals. Excepting, perhaps, the poems that I write.
I enjoyed the prompts. They were not earthshaking, but they served their purpose. The subjects were predictable, but the techniques/methods for addressing the prompts were varied. I was able to bypass the techniques I needed to and choose from alternatives that fit me better. One thing that I tried to do was to avoid responding to every (or every other) assignment with a poem. I think I got away with only 10% being poetry, and the only original-to-the-project poem the Acrostic for Day 13. Since I usually write 3- to 7- or 10-line poems, 16 lines stretched beyond my customary word count.
What I missed with this course, and what made Writing 201: Poetry so rewarding, was the active push to community and interaction that came with the private WordPress form for that particular class, starting and ending at the same time, so that there was a coordination of activities. The #everydayinspiration tag in the WP Reader helped, as did finding bloggers with whom I am familiar who were also beginning at approximately the same time. As my schedule eased, I reached out to a few more, some of whom will end up on my Reading list for this particular blog. (I have a number of blogs, each with a different general focus and tone.)
I also had fun with the Mine Your Own Material assignment, where I chose as my unifying subject “Food”. I located a couple of favorite recipes (a breakfast omelet and a gluten-free cake-in-a-cup). Also, I pulled out an old science fiction short story that I wrote in 2005 for a 48-hour short-story-writing competition; a light romance and a consideration of variations of plants that should be first grown on community/agricultural space habitat. For having been written in two days, I thought it didn’t turn out too badly, considering that I hardly ever write short stories, and have only had one published (in the previous century … in a limited edition anthology … not in the United States).
An “Aha” Moment
In between my first and second jobs out of college (computer programmer and computer operations), I lived with a fellow for about seven months, when he graduated from college at the end of summer school and joined the U.S. Army (his number in the draft lottery was 038). During that time, I was going through my notebooks and boxes of papers, time after time, looking for my senior philosophy paper, of which I was particularly proud. I could not find it. What killed the relationship was my discovery that he had taken my paper, presumably retyped it, and then handed it in as his senior physics paper. Evidently he did well, or he would have been panicking about having to (re)write the paper at the last minute or face not graduating on time.
I was a help to him in his adjustment to having to go out and live in the world, as I provided a structure for him that served him well until his death (late winter or early spring of 2014). But as I was writing the blog post about making my own decisions, it dawned on me that I had never forgiven him, even though my actions toward him were loving actions. I refused ever to see him again, finally, some time after his discharge, and suggested that he not phone me anymore, and he made his way successfully in the world, generally. The “aha” moment was when I recognized that recalling him in the process of writing about that particular time period in my life evoked a sudden, powerful rage.
I think that I want to think about that for a while. I think that I over reacted and that he was right to believe that I would not be understanding about his appropriation of my work.
As I continue blogging
As I continue blogging, I plan to continue being open to what I may learn about myself and others. And how I feel at a particular moment about a situation, a person, or a group of people, does not have to govern how I will act or react. It has not in the past. I think that’s probably a good thing.
Years from now
Having lost to death seven close relatives within the past eleven months has affected how I feel about planning on/for continuity in our lives. My writing and photographs are on the Intenet, an ephemeral medium. They will not continue to exist past the funds that pay monthly or yearly for my blog space and domains. As I have always written for myself and for the now, I will bear that in mind as I continue. I write because I am a writer, and I trust that those who also might/should look at my photos, art, or writing, will find it. If not, there always will someone else to write, to see the world as effectively as I do, albeit from their own perspective. We are as much or more a collective being, we humans, than individual. Nothing needful is lost.
Why do I write? At its most basic, I write to find out what I think, or, what I am thinking about. I write prose to discover, to remember, and to understand. I write poetry/prose poetry to discover how I feel about what I think.
I have journaled since my high-school years. Previous to that, I took in information whole. I don’t recall making any value judgments. Nor do I remember thinking about the emotions I experienced when I was a child. They were exterior to me. Which isn’t to say that I did not experience emotions. They simply did not transfer or communicate the experience to my thinking self.
Secondly, I write because I am not in dialogue with anyone, anymore, except with my husband. Having a joint life, we communicate freely about common and individual interests, thoughts, and feelings. He is so much a part of me/the world in which I daily live, that there seems to be no I/Thou, but instead, us. Dialogue with—dare I say “outsiders”?—serves the same purpose of discovery. I discover thoughts, lines of thought, and deep truths within myself. That I then write, to clarify for myself my thoughts, reactions, feelings, and related values.
Related to writing, I recall Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”, which I do not write in the proper manner, because I get allergic reactions to my hand’s rubbing against paper, and in more recent decades, cramping in my fingers that cuts short the physical experience of writing.* The discomforts derail my trains of thought. Second, I don’t seem to have “unloading” to do. Burdens carried that must be spewed forth onto the page in order to be dealt with and forgotten.
I loved to write letters, but ran out of people to send them to. People who might read them and respond. I suspect that my thoughts are majorly boring, aside from my short poetry. I sometimes wrote letters with no intention of mailing them. It’s almost like corresponding with someone else, because I went back over the letters and reread them. Like favorite books written by favorite authors.
I have discovered—we have, we siblings—that our parents maintained correspondence throughout the war, no matter where they each were stationed, and again when our father was called up during the Korean Conflict. That encourages me, finding out that writing volumes (and also, taking photographs, which we have in plenty from before our parents met and throughout their lives), that my sense of self-awareness and the need to take notice/note of my surroundings and interior life is a family trait. As has been voluminous reading. Reading through letters written between them, I realize how much, how deeply they were involved in each other, through good times and bad, until the very end. And now beyond.
Writing. It’s like talking to myself out loud while taking a long walk through the pastures and thickets and along the river. Everything seems more clearly defined. Manageable, or not, but more real.
* * *
*Our mother, who used to do typing exhibitions at her state fair when she was in school, raised a brood of touch typists, I suspect. She considered typing (keyboarding) to be a survival skill, and her skills transferred over to her computer keyboard.
This year…these past six months have been among the most difficult of my life, taking into account life changes. Both of my parents died, ages 94 and 100. The family home is being sold, although to one of my brothers, who is leasing the house from the estate until the paperwork is done for making the purchase. I’ve come around to good health with a major health issue, only to find a couple more that were stress triggered. And so, I am on a more restricted diet. I need to lose weight in addition to avoiding foods with gluten.
And my favorite place on the Internet, SFF Net, is closing down; I was a member there beginning in the autumn of 1997 (I got a newsgroup the following year). I met and got to know so many wonderful people there over the years, and they helped keep up my interest in writing as I struggled through decades of freelance writing and editing gigs. It is so wonderful to be retired, with more free time to write. Even with the additional aspects of living that I must now attend to, each day.
And, yes, I did need a different blog for writing these sorts of things. A place for me. Another of those quiet spaces in which to write, looking up to see in my mind’s eye the pasture in the distance, the creek and slough and the cottonwood and plum trees and lilacs beyond them. I can/would hear the red-winged blackbirds calling as they hung onto the cattails at the edge of the water, accompanied in the background by a high-pitched chorus of frogs.
Quiet spaces for the mind to see, even though decades (and burgeoning allergies) separate me from the places and activities of my grade school, high school, and college years and beyond. I am back on the exercise machine again, building stamina so that I can take long walks, again, come summer, when the school buses do not pollute the neighborhood air. I am not an indoor person by nature, and I strive to become more active. So far, it’s just the elliptical machine, a cheap one from a chain store, but I also have hand weights to add and some dance warm-up exercise DVDs to return to as I’m able.
It’s good, just being able to relax and write, again. Something besides poems in response to sporadic prompts.