Category Archives: ordinary things

The Art of Noticing: Have We Lost it?

I read good words the other day about how our lives have become so tech obsessed in this article  and can’t stop thinking about it. The story in the little book, Sidewalk Flowers, is told in pictures. We have to intentionally notice the graphics to see what the story is about. This is a line I remember:
“How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her magnificent defense of living with presence. But in our age of productivity, we spend our days running away from boredom”
There was a story on the news last night about a young girl killed by a  train. She had earbuds in her ears and did not hear the train. Video taken after the accident showed person after person crossing train tracks. Most were either wearing earbuds or talking on their cell phones. And how many times have you been in a public place and heard someone say ‘hello’, and you thought they were speaking to you when they were answering their phone with a hands-free device? Many people attach these devices to their ears, or the speaker hangs from earbuds and people walk around a store talking as if someone is walking beside them. I know, I could rant forever on this subject. Fact is, we as a culture have become a big blob of “attention deficit disorder” folks.
What would happen if we stopped what we were doing when we received a call and focused only on the conversation?
In my last blog post I wrote about picking up embroidery again. Yes, I know, I’m obsessed. One thing I enjoy is the intense focus on creating the tiny stitches of embellishment on each little animal or doll I make. A chain stitch becomes a conversation with my daughter I need to have, each stitch a word. A daisy stitch brings memories of my grandmother, and our nights spent together listening to the radio and sewing pillowcases. With every stitch a memory I had long forgotten floats across the screen of my mind’s eye.
Sunday afternoon we had a class in the studio making nesting Matryoshka dolls. photo copy 11The finishing touch is the embroidery on their little bodies. As I stitched that afternoon with the other women I had a clear picture of what creativity in community can do. We talked about our lives, our children, our dreams with every stitch. Embroidery is one activity that gives me the pause I need to stop and notice.
What gives your psyche pause to “notice”?

The Gravy. Gotta Have the Gravy.

“Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids–all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.”Garrison Keillor

I received another rejection of one of my short stories. It sat out there for the longest time as “under consideration” at Narrative Magazine, and I was hoping it would be at least a finalist; but no, got the rejection this morning in an email. The positive sign is that this story did outlast the last one, which was rejected much sooner. So, now to look the story over again, perhaps change the name and refine it a little and send out again. And again. And again.

In this quadrant of my life I have more resolve and tenacity than I had when I was younger. These days I take the “no’s” as part of life, and not as a definition of who I am. That may sound rather fatalistic to some who had higher self-esteem than I had when I was a child, but when I was just a small child I did allow quick judgments to sink and and applied the defining words of others to who I thought I was. When I was in my teens and 20s it was easy for me to just give up on something when I received the first “no”. Now I look for ways to get a “yes”. And, if the “yes” does not come, that is okay too. I move on.
As part of moving on, I have been asked to write an essay on how dreams influence my writing for an online publication. This will come easily for me. This is like the gravy that Keillor talks about. Gravy, like a dream, soaks into our unconscious and appears in surprising ways.
Dreams have influenced writers throughout history and continue to influence writers, including Stephen King and Anne Rice and William Styron. Having completed about 35 short stories, I would guess that more than half of those were influenced by an event or a character that appeared in my dreams.
Where have interesting characters appeared in your own dreams, and have you written about them?