It’s another morning, a gray Seattle morning. And it’s raining this morning. On days like today I really love the green-ness of Seattle, but it can also be hard to get going on projects that involve creativity. It’s hard not to feel dull, like a blob, when it’s gray-gray-gray outside. Reaching in vain for inspiration. Feeling like nothing is interesting, nothing is promising, nothing is worth writing on. Hmmm!
Last week we had a lunar eclipse and the skies in Seattle cleared just a couple of hours beforehand. It was cold! and I bundled up to go out and stand in my driveway to watch the eclipse. I had never seen a lunar eclipse before! The feeling of seeing a thing happen on such an immense scale, the moon passing into the shadow of the earth, me standing on this one tiny place on the planet and watching it – I can’t really describe it. Goosebumps! Eventually the moon became a bumpy orange dot on the background of the sky, almost like an Asian lantern. And it stayed that way for quite a long time before going back to “normal.” As I mentioned, I can’t really describe the feeling of observing this event, except that it reminded me how immense nature is, and that it’s always worth taking a moment to view what’s going on outside. Right?!
If you’d like to see more on the lunar eclipse, including a video of the event, click here.
Other things that inspired me this week:
Visiting a friend-poet in Arizona. I had a chance to meet in person with my blogging friend and colleague and accomplished poet, Luanne Castle, when I traveled to Arizona last weekend to visit family in Phoenix. I was born in Tucson, and we moved here to Seattle when I was very young, yet I’ve always felt connected and at home in the desert. (All those summer trips visiting the grandparents!). Luanne has a new chapbook out last year, Kin Types, and we had a chance to talk about the poems I enjoyed best in her book, I got her autograph! – And we also brought three “favorite poems” to discuss with each other. Since Luanne has a Ph.D. in Literature and she also has a graduate degree in History along other graduate studies, it was a great chance for me to “pick her brain” about poetic constructs and concepts. You can learn more about Luanne’s work by clicking here. Thanks, Luanne!
Touring Taliesin West. If you’re interested in architecture, design, or in the desert and desert plants and environment, you might want to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s site, Taliesin West. They give tours of the historic buildings, as well as of the surrounding desert habitat – in winter – that provide a lot of information on design principles, what it’s like to live in a small closed community focused on the arts and design, and on the historic development of this iconic site. In the afternoon we had a chance to go on a student-led tour – it’s still the site of an architecture school – that included the student-built shelters out in the desert area. Very minimalist, and the designs ranged across a huge variety of visual and spatial forms and structures. I didn’t want to take photos of student shelters – they sleep in these shelters in the desert, so it felt too personal – but if you’d like to get an idea of the student shelter projects, here’s a link to a portfolio of one student’s final project to re-construct an existing shelter.
Images, story titles, lines of poetry. I might have mentioned before that, when I’m really stuck, or even when I’m starting my day of writing, I will often look for an image that intrigues me – what does this picture tell me, what questions does it ask, how can I use it to write something new? Or, I pull up a book of short stories, look down the list of story titles, find one that jumps out at me, and write the story for that title. Recent story title: “The Poetry Cloud.” If nothing else, I take a look at today’s “Poem of the Day” and look for a line that intrigues me; then I’ll set a timer for fifteen minutes and write.
While in Phoenix I had a chance to view an art exhibition in the Olney Gallery in Trinity Cathedral. One of the paintings. a stack of suitcases on an old-fashioned luggage trolley by artist Julie Frye (at right), inspired this brief flash fiction below.
The suitcases pile up on the old luggage cart. It is like a piece of performance art, Renata thinks. Blue, orange, gray, green. Brown. They sit atop the platform, each balancing the other, each a piece of a pyramid working with gravity. Straps, buckles, corners, hinges. Renata has been waiting on the platform between two brown hills, putting her in mind ever so much of that Hemingway story.
Hills like White Elephants is the name of the story Renata is thinking of, the story she is living inside of on this hot tired railway station with the blistered luggage settled on the old iron hand trolley. She wants to remember the image for her new story she’ll write next week, but the heat, the oppressive heat makes her feel like she cannot root around in her bag for the iPhone she knows is in there, that even if she made the effort she would miss the bright colors, the contrasting wrinkles and sad-sack straps that make this image stick to the part of her brain that writes stories. She has tried this before. Short of dragging along a bulky old-fashioned SLR to faraway remotes like this one, she has to compromise. Make do. It is not a thing Renata is good at. Only the best will serve. First Ballerina, principal in her big-city dance company, now aged out by injury and the inevitable loss of flexibility, she is trying career number two: writer. She has come to this dust-bedeviled part of the country to get away – no second-stage choreographer career for her, no telling other dancers what to do when she is consumed by envy with every step they make and which she cannot. And certainly no teaching.
The train is not due for some time yet, she has checked her watch. She takes out a notepad and her lucky pen. Not to waste the moment, the present of puckered leather baggage resting atop iron-wheel trolley in the oppressive heat of the place, she begins. The blue suitcase belonged to Ophelia. A trip, a long voyage, was what she needed. The brown was Laertes’s, or the actor playing the part, her lover since Hamlet had dismissed her. All the world’s a stage, Renata thought, she and Ophelia together. All the world.
Take care and good writing,