“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Mary Oliver, poet, present day
Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry is another of my favorite poets.
I thought of her quote last week while I was doing morning prayers – this time on my deck. (Seems like I get a lot of inspiration during my morning prayers!) Here is a picture of the morning as nature and man were just waking up. Noises were building around me so I decided to ‘pay attention’ and jot down all the sounds I caught in 15 minutes. I was amazed at the number and variety, and pleased because they found their way into a poem. My critique group that night said they could hear all those sounds.
One job of a writer or poet is making the reader feel the story. One rule of thumb is to have at least two different sensory details on every page. Does the character hear something? Is there a scent the reader will immediately identify with?
But if you read Mary Oliver’s poems, I don’t think her quote was meant just for writers and poets. Here is one of her poems from her collection, Why I Wake Early
What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in Northern Ohio Was Built Where There Had Been a Pond I Used to Visit Every Summer Afternoon
Loving the earth, seeing what has been done to it,
I grow sharp, I grow cold.
Where will the trilliums go, and the coltsfoot?
Where will the pond lilies go to continue living
their simple, penniless lives, lifting
their faces of gold?
Impossible to believe we need so much
as the world wants us to buy.
I have more clothes, lamps, dishes, paper clips
that I could possibly use before I die.
Oh, I would like to live in an empty house,
with vines for walls, and a carpet of grass.
No planks, no plastic, no fiberglass.
And I suppose sometime I will.
Old and cold I will lie apart
from all this buying and selling, with only
the beautiful earth in my heart.
Next month after all this conference business, I’m issuing a challenge to myself. I’ll post it here and you’re welcome to join me.
“Historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Each year, for the past 30 years, hubby has attended a golf outing. Same place. Same group of guys. Same weekend. Same golf courses.
Friday night is the fish fry at the same restaurant. Saturday is their tournament, followed by a cook-out. One year even a boating/tubing, busted lip with stitches incident didn’t alter their routine for that Saturday night grilling. They just waited until the master griller returned from the hospital!
There have been a few changes over the years. No more days of 36 holes. Chicken has been included with the beef for the Saturday night cook-out. But those changes didn’t come easily.
It may be that nothing is permanent but change, but there’s a lot to be said about that ‘historic continuity’, that sense of tradition that binds us to one another. That’s why 20 men travel from all for a weekend of golf and 50 classmates traveled from all over for a weekend of reconnecting.
But I still can’t believe they made the guy with the busted lip and stitches do the grilling 😉
How easy is it for you to make change? Where do you fall on the continuum of change and tradition? And what are some of the things you hold on to, not out of duty but out of necessity?
“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain, American writer and humorist, 19th century
I’ve been blessed through the years to have people encourage me in my writing – not everyone – but many. But I’ve never been surrounded by a community of writers like the one I spent a week with at Wildacres Writing Workshop.
There were 100 or so of us from all across the US. At least three attendees came from California and one literally drove all over the US to get there. Johnny had spent 2 weeks at the Iowa Writers and drove to NC – stopping at universities throughout the Midwest checking out MFA programs. He said he crossed back and forth over the Wabash River seven times.
I had two teachers in my group. One just finished classes at the end of June – thanks to snow days – and was scheduled to go back this week. Last week was her only week of summer vacation – and she spent it at Wildacres. Johnny and Ashley’s dedication was typical of everyone’s there.
We spent half our day in our assigned group and class, the other half of the day we had the opportunity to audit any of the other classes. Or we could use that time to write, read or explore. And in this kind of setting, it was easy to do any of those.
Our dorms had wide porches filled with rocking chairs, looking out over the mountains. And there were quiet places tucked here and there where one could sneak off to be alone. There was a garden gazebo, an outdoor fire place on a small deck. This is the path to the amphitheater. And below is the amphitheater with fire pit. I spent a few mornings there watching the fog lift off the mountains.
But no matter where I was, I was surrounded by inspiration – both from nature and other writers. Conversations on the porch and at meals were animated and usually had something to do with writing – what we were working on, places to submit, the processes . . . Like married couples, we often finished each others’ sentences; the creative energy on the mountain top almost palpable.
I was assigned to one of the literary fiction groups. There were 11 of us, one of the larger classes, and our instructor was Carrie Brown. The 11 of us came from all walks of life, ranged in age from mid-twenties to seventies and the subject matter of our books was just as diverse.
Each day we critiqued 15 pages of two manuscripts and Carrie interwove instruction through the comments. The encouragement for one another and the energy in the room caused us to go over our class time by half an hour most days. One day we met for an additional hour between class and supper – after spending that extra half hour at the end of class! On Friday, our last day, we were allowed to reread any part of our original 15 pages that we might have reworked during the week. Nancy was one a a few who did and she was so encouraged, she broke down in tears . . . which got all the rest of us crying.
There were two nights of student readings and the work that came out those nights was amazing. We heard excerpts from novels, poetry, flash fiction and snippets from memoirs. And members of the faculty were often the first to tell us how much they enjoyed the work.
But it wasn’t all writing. Thursday night was Hollywood Night and some of the attendees showed they were creative in other ways! Micheal Jackson, Orsen Wells and a cast of others showed up as well. I was the paparazzi because I’d rather be creating the story than living the buzz. 😉
So how about you? In whatever endeavor that feeds your soul, do you make sure you surround yourself with great people?
“The question is not whether you are a success or a failure, but whether you are a learner or a non-learner.” ~ Benjamin Barber, present-day, American political theorist
I have a booklet with a daily quote and this one showed up on the day I got a ‘pass’ from an agent. You writers know what this means; non-writers can probably guess. She isn’t taking me on as an author. The quote seemed rather apropos so after my initial disappointment, I had to chuckle. I do want to say, the agent was very nice and encouraging.
But the quote did get me to thinking, as all good quotes should . . . otherwise why do we remember them?
What am I learning about myself as a writer?
The agent offered three suggestions for my story – I followed two of them.
1. I learned to defend my writing and my story. This came in handy with my recently published short story when I rejected some of the editing suggestions.
This is the second pass I’ve received on my novel. Veteran writers are saying, “Only the second?” Beginners or non-writers might be thinking, “Rejected twice? What’s wrong with your manuscript?” Could be nothing. Could be I just haven’t found the right agent.
2. I’m learning about the business side of writing and that means honing the pitch, fine-tuning the query letter and keeping track of who’s who in the publishing world. It’s definitely not the most fun aspect of the craft, but it’s interesting and challenging.
Publishing is changing all the time.
3. I’m learning more about the technology now associated with writing. A Writer’s Window is my first baby step.
Rejection is part of the business so I’ll resubmit, hoping I’ve learned my lessons well.
What ‘failures’ have you turned into learning experiences?
“I become part of all I read.” John Kieran
As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a long line of readers. I can’t imagine not having a stack of books next to my chair and bed. I taught my children that if they knew how to read, they could learn to do anything.
Several recent incidents have made me realize how I take that view for granted.
A few months ago as the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District sliced and diced their budget, one program that got significantly cut was Bright Beginnings, an early childhood program. One mother interviewed said the program helped her be a better parent, encouraged her to read to her son.
Bill Anderson, executive director of Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education, titled a recent Charlotte Observer column, Do we no longer see education as cornerstone of democracy?
He approached his answer from a budgetary perspective and the importance of public education. Being a long-time homeschooler I take a broader view of education, but I think his question is still an interesting one.
Charlotte Observer columnist, Kay McSpadden, writes from her perspective as a high school English teacher. She had a column around the same time as Anderson. She writes of her frustration? disappointment? saddness? for one student in particular who is quitting school because he doesn’t see the value of knowing how to read and write.
Last week I spent time with Kathy Wilds, Executive Director of the Lancaster Area Literacy Cooperative and Danelle Faulkenberry, LALC Technology/Client Services Coordinator, and was surprised to learn 60% of the adults in Lancaster County read at or below the 7th grade level.
I know many people are reading, but can Kieran’s quote apply to our communities as well? Our community becomes part of all we read. And if a significant portion of the population can’t read or read to understand traffic signs, menus, newspapers, job applications . . . what becomes of that community?
I worked with a man years ago who could not read. Carl was the sweetest, most generous man you’d ever want to meet, so I understand his inability to read didn’t keep him from being a good person. But it did make him feel uncomfortable and that held him back as well.
I’m not sure how all this ties in, but I think as long as there is a population of non-readers, we’re all losing out.
Bill Anderson ~ Do we no longer see education as cornerstone of democracy?
Kay McSpadden ~ Graduation: A Sobering Celebration
“Midlife is not a crisis; it’s a rebirth. It’s not a time to accept your death; it’s time to accept your life – and finally, truly live it, as you and only you alone know deep in your heart it was meant to be lived.” Marianne Williamson
When I first read this quote, posted by a high school classmate who’d returned to college, I thought – YES! What an encouraging way to look at this stage of life.
Then I remembered, midlife is just another stage of life. While the quote challenges us to live our life ‘. . . as it was meant to be lived.’ I’d like to think, so far I have.
Being a mom was something I always wanted. Always. I was blessed that happened and with homeschooling, 4-H, religious education, youth ministry . . . my plate was wonderfully then, too. My motherhood truly and deeply was living what was in my heart. But my children are grown – my ‘baby’ is 21. The responsibilities of motherhood aren’t quite the same now. . . if I’ve done my job right 😉
The part of the quote I like the best is the first part, “Midlife is not a crisis; it’s a time of rebirth. . . ” I’ve finally accepted all the goofs I’ve made – I’m human and a mom, I’ve made my share! – and I’m embracing the rebirth and full plate of my midlife.
What about you? How is or was your midlife a rebirth?
“Tell me a fact and I will learn. Tell me a truth and I will believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Indian proverb
My Uncle Roy landed on Normandy’s shore on D-Day and, while he’s not comfortable telling his story, I’m in awe of him. When he told me he was there that day, D-Day was no longer just a piece of history. If he hasn’t already, I hope he’ll take an Honor Flight to Washington DC so he can see the WWII Memorial.
My favorite war memorial in Washington is dedicated to the veterans of the Korean Conflict. My dad served then in the tank battalion. He’ll share a story or two when prompted and fortunately for him, and us, they tend to be humorous ones. If you knew my dad that wouldn’t surprise you. He didn’t talk about his time overseas much when my sisters and I were young. We just never had rice because he had to eat so much of it over there. I finally got an idea of what those years were like when I leafed through his photo album. It was through those pictures I got him to tell a little bit. A tiny news clipping means even more to me than the album. Dad played slo-pitch in a city league. In the newspaper’s account of a game, it’s mentioned that that game was Dad’s last, as he’d be leaving in the next few days for Ft. Knox.
Several years ago, my hometown built a beautiful memorial to its veterans. Pavers were sold that could be engraved with names, of course we bought one for Dad. It touched him that what he saw as simply a duty meant so much to us. I hope our children will some day visit the memorial, seek out his paver and share their stories of him.
Guys from my class have served in the military. One of our sons was in the Air Force. A couple of my Youth Ministry ‘sons’ and a nephew have made the military their career.
I’m always grateful for the sacrifices our country’s service men and women – and their families – make for us. During this holiday weekend I hope they share a few extra stories. And I hope some of us are privileged enough to hear and allow them to live in our hearts – forever.
“Write from where you live.” Silas House, author, A Parchment of Leaves, Clay’s Quilt, The Coal Tattoo
My home is in South Carolina and I love it here, but I will always live in The Heartland, specifically Ohio.
Last week I visited where I live. Galion is a small town in the north central part of the state.
Ohio had been under a deluge for weeks, making the grass emerald green and as soft as velvet. Fields, too wet to plant, rolled in shades of brown. Bright red was the color of choice for tulips; deep purple for lilacs and violets. The lilacs don’t smell the same as the air fresheners that claim to be ‘lilac fresh.’ The air smelled like rain, dirt and flowers. I loved it.
Saturday morning I helped weed the lilies at Brownella Cottage, home of our local historical society. See, I still call it ‘our.’ The cottage was the home of an Episcopal bishop, his spirit is purported to still be there. I worked alongside my sister, a former classmate . . . and a former boyfriend.
Saturday night was prom and a tradition in town is the Grand March, this started over 40 years ago. People stand or sit in lawn chairs as prom-goers arrive in an organized caravan. Each couple is announced as they exit their car – or tractor, Harley, horse-drawn carriage or vintage fire truck – and walk the red carpet under the awning to the entrance of the high school. Yes, the prom is still held in the gym of the local high school. Watchers ooh and aah over the dresses and tuxes and cameras are at the ready. It’s like attending an award show, and it’s a way the community comes together to support its teens.
On Sunday I attended Mass at the church where I received all my sacraments-and where Dad still attends. Another tradition, this one going back more than 50 years, was announced – The Knights of Columbus Mother’s Day March. The Knights, in full regalia, lead the men of the parish down the three blocks from town to the church, in honor of their moms. Each wears a boutonniere- white for a deceased mom, red for a living.
Throughout the week I caught up with family and friends. I ate ice cream at two of the three ice cream shops. My first job was at one and it’s still owned by the same family. I visited the deli connected to one of our three drive-thru carry-outs – you’ve never heard of a drive-thru carry out? It’s just what it sounds like. You drive in one end, buy your milk, snacks, bread, beer, etc. and exit through the other end. I didn’t buy beer at the deli, but I did get some frozen bratwurst to bring home. We like our brats in Ohio and in my hometown, they have to be Carle’s.
Driving from my home in South Carolina to my heart in Ohio takes eight hours. But feeling and thinking like a Buckeye takes no time at all.
Heather and I came up with several words to describe Midwesterners- earthy, bawdy, down-to-earth, genuine, strong, hearty, faithful, community. . . But I think everyone describes where they live as home.
Where do you live? And what says home to you?
“Of all writers (a poet) has the best chance for immortality. Others write from the head, but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always understand him.” Washington Irving, The Mutability of Literature, 1820
As the third week of National Poetry Month comes to an end, I thought this was a perfect quote.
I read over the list of names appearing On the Bookshelf, and it’s a mix of both contemporary and classic poets. The works of the 18th and 19th century poets still touch us and inspire us. Reading the list is like listening to musicians talk about which musicians influence their music, which guitarists or pianists they study. For those of us who write, our poetry reflects the lessons we learn from reading and studying the great poets.
For three years I was the Contest Chair for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. One of the competitions the association sponsors is the High School Junior and Senior Writing Competition. I was always amazed at the quality of poems and prose these students submitted. But I was equally surprised by works they chose to emulate. One student wrote in the style of Pablo Neruda. Last year one class did essays on other written works, several of them chose poems by early poets. The students peeled back the layers of the poems and examined them with contemporary lenses. The results were astonishing and showed not only the depth of the students’ thinking, but also the timelessness of the poetry.
National Poetry Month is almost over. Which poets, old friends or new, have you spent time with? Which poet has opened and touched your heart?
“Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess what is seen during a moment.” Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg is one of my favorite poets and I love this quote. It’s a touchstone for when I’m writing – is my poem tight and concentrated on a specific moment? Poems offer a glimpse of a story, not the full view like short fiction or novels. The reader doesn’t get back story; doesn’t always know what happens next. The only consideration is inviting the readers to see a little scene and engaging them in the emotion of the moment.
The poets in my critique group illustrate Sandburg’s point with their poems every month; the group met earlier this week. Julie’s poem was about being in a store parking lot and her son getting away from her. She captured every parent’s fear in knowing what can happen in that moment. Roxanne described watching a woman perform a quick act of kindness. Rosemary’s poem caught the moment of realization when what you hope for someone isn’t the reality for that person.
In other months members of the group have let us see a battered soldier return home, the act of an ancient death ritual, a loaded wagon ready for field work.
In discussing our poems we often expound on them, but I can’t think of a time when that extra information made it into the poem – it would take away from the impact of that glimpse. We want to open and close that door, leaving the reader with a lingering image.
“Can Poetry Matter?” Dana Gioia, poet, critic, and former Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts
The quote is not only a question, it’s the title of Gioia’s collection of essays and, according to his website, “was a finalist for the National Book Critics award and is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture.”
Since I dabble in poetry, I do see evidence of a revival. I’m aware of the multitude of open mics in my area. I cheer for the high school students participating in Poetry Out Loud. I scope out the poetry section of bookstores to see how extensive it is and who populates it. But I sometimes wonder if it’s like the proverbial redheaded child, it’s only after you have one that you notice all the other redheads. Do I notice poetry only because I write?
I wonder if the general public of non-poets takes note or interest in a revival of poetry. Has poetry returned to being a part of our culture’s reading. Yes, I said ‘returned.’
What are nursery rhymes and lullabies but our earliest exposure to poetry? Even though we probably thought they were silly stories and songs, they introduced us to the rhythms and cadence of our spoken language. How many of us played in the yard to Skip to my Lou or Mary Had a Little Lamb?
One of my favorite contemporary poets is Ron Rash. I heard him speak a few years ago and he believes everyone has an innate desire and ability to write poetry. He mentioned obituaries and the number of memorial poems written for loved ones. He noted how after 9/11 people wrote poems expressing the anger, disbelief, fear, hope and gratitude that had to be released.
But poetry doesn’t have to be heady, academic or wrought with emotion. Some of my favorite works are in celebration of everyday things. Ted Kooser’s poem New Cap is an observation of an elderly gentleman and his new cap. Wendell Berry is another poet who elevates the casual observation to the sacred.
North Carolina poet Mary Kratt has a chapbook titled Small Potatoes. The poems are about the small and seemingly insignificant things in our lives. Another local poet Lucinda Grey’s chapbook is about her character Martin Flores. Each poem lets the reader see a slice of Martin’s life – from singing in the shower to meeting famous people to his plan on catching bin Laden with a Corona.
I heard Dana Gioia speak and have Can Poetry Matter? I’ve just started it and plan to finish before National Poetry Month ends. I’ll let you know what he says. Until then, what do you think? Can poetry matter?
“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it’s constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists, as the mother can love the unborn child. In creative art the essence of a book exists before the book or before even the details or main features of the book; the author enjoys it and lives in it with a kind of prophetic rapture.” Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
From my own experience with fiction and poetry I’ve found this to be true. Before I put anything on paper, I’ve already fallen in love with the story, a character, or an image. If I don’t care, I have little impetus to write or curiosity to see where the story, character or image leads me. I imagine the same holds true for other creative types – musicians, painters, choreographers…
Here in my part of the Carolinas we celebrate all kinds of artistic endeavors once Spring arrives. Part of the joy of taking in festivals is talking with artists. I like to hear how a particular piece came to be, or listen to an author or poet read his work, making his characters come in his voice.
For those of you in my area, here are a handful of events beginning this week and going into April and May. As I hear of more I’ll post them. If you know of anything, pass along the information and I’ll get it on here.
And if you don’t live in my neighborhood? I challenge you to seek out the festivals in yours and do more than just walk through. Visit with an artist, poet, author or dancer and watch their face light up when you ask about their love. If you don’t have anything in your area, maybe you can be the seed to get something going!
March 28-31 Rowan Cabarrus County Community College LitFest FREE
March 31 Writing Our Lives:Poems Honoring Women’s History Month, Little Chapel on the Winthrop University campus, 5:00 – 6:00; Readers: Susan Ludvigson, Jo Koster, Jane Smith, Mary E. Martin FREE
Now- April 28 “Quilts Tell Stories” 100 handmade quilts from 1850s to contemporary; Historic White Home, Rock Hill FREE
April 2 Anson County Writers Conference – one day writers conference FREE
April 7-16 ComeSeeMe Festival, Rock Hill – drama, music, art, food, sports most are FREE but some are not
April 12-17 Sensoria – A Festival of the Arts! FREE
April 21 book launch for poets Ray McManus, Red Dirt Jesus and Ed Madden Prodigal; Columbia Museum of Art, reception at 6:30, readings begin at 7:00 FREE
May 14-15 SCBookFest a weekend of author readings, panel discussions, and books! Columbia Convention Hall FREE
“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” Lord Byron
The mother of my sister’s friend has a Sunday ritual. Each Sunday she opens her stationery box, removes real stationery and spends a few hours writing letters. She finds a quiet place and everyone knows not to bother her. This is her time of solitude, with whomever she is writing. Even while on vacation, this time is sacred.
Can you imagine being the recipient of one of those letters? To know your friend has portioned time in her week just for you? To recognize her handwriting on an envelope and know right away it’s from her?
I’m thinking she doesn’t write profound things in those letters, just the everyday comings and goings of her family.
I have the last letter my grandma received from her mother. She told her of the new curtain material she’d bought, how she liked one piece over the other. It’s written in pencil, in childish cursive. On the envelope my grandma wrote, ‘Mom’s last letter.’ Inside is a telegraph, dated a day or two from the date on the letter, saying grandma is needed back home. I love that grandma saved both and they survived another two generations.
I still write letters, on real stationery, but not with anything close to a weekly frequency. And for that I’m sad. When I do take the time to write, Lord Byron’s quote describes exactly how I feel, like I’m in good company and the person is right there with me.
I know some people document their every move on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but that’s not quite the same, is it? And I wonder what family stories we’re losing.
“Whenever something is being created, it is also being undone.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
This is one of my absolute favorite quotes. He doesn’t mean this as a negative thing. It’s more a matter of transforming and quite often we’re so intent on watching or experiencing the new, we don’t always register our letting go. When a log burns, heat and light are created, while the log itself is changed. If you’re like me, you watch the dance of flames, the tanning of marshmallows, the play of shadows. It’s only after the fire is out we even begin to think of the charred patterns on the logs or the feel of powdery ashes.
Like many of us, my son Zachary has kept the same group of friends since high school. We still laugh about the time he and one of them bought up ALL the post-Easter grass they could find – at pennies apiece, how could they pass it up? – and filled another’s car with it. Yes, the grass, not the bags. Then each found ‘The One.’ And something new was created.
The bonds of friendship remained strong, but now included ‘The Ones.’ Some of their activities changed, not in a bad way, just a different way. Within a two year span, all but one was married and each was in the others’ wedding. It was fun watching the rotation of Best Man, as all regraded each other as their Best Men. In the last 48 hours, the first child has been born within the group. A new creation in many senses.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. For many that signifies the beginning of Lent, a six-week season of transformation. With finding ‘The One’ or waiting for a child, we usually have a good idea of what kind of changes are coming. I’ve found with Lent, God usually surprises me.
To Daniel and Airen, congratulations! And to the rest of us, may we enjoy whatever is being created anew within us and embrace the surprises that come with it.
“Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr., American writer, present day
Today my big thoughts are on the blog posts for this week and the novel I’m writing. In May I”ll have to submit part of it for that July workshop. The first draft is finished and now I’m layering the second. So I have conversations running through my head and word changes I might need to make and ideas I want to flesh out.
But Spring has arrived in South Carolina and it’s impossible not to relish the small pleasures. I’m on the deck and the choir of birds is noisy and entertaining. Even the roar of motorcycles doesn’t detract but becomes another herald of the season. The wind is blowing and I imagine the trees stretching and spreading their branches to let it clear out the old leaves and make way for the new. The trees don’t look quite so haggard, their tops fluffy with leaf buds. I spent several hours yesterday weeding the winter dead out of the flower beds and it was exciting seeing the green underneath as the brown was pulled away.
My thoughts may be on blogs and characters, but my eyes and ears – and sore hands – are not.
What simple pleasures are you enjoying?
We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our ‘truth’ about our human adventure as honestly and as openly as we know how?
Saul Rubin, American rabbi, present day
And isn’t this one of the basics for loving anyone?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say: ‘I used everything you gave me.'” Erma Bombeck, American columnist, 20th century
“I was 16 years old when the Nazis marched into Vienna,” the pianist told us, his voice low but strong. “I was supposed to play this piece that night. I was arrested. My sister was arrested. My mother was arrested. We were later let go, but of course the recital never happened. The next day I walked to the school and saw German soldiers with their guns sleeping in the classrooms.
“I went home and sat at my piano and played my piece. That’s when I knew. No matter what happened, no one can ever take away the music in here.” He tapped his heart. “I think of that every time I play this.” He finished his concert with Chopin’s Ballade in G minor, Op 23.
Walter Hautzig visited Winthrop University this winter and hubby and I had the privilege of hearing and watching him perform. I include watching because the physicality and stamina of this man, who told us he’d be 90 in a couple of months, was as mesmerizing as the music. At times his arms would raise and spread with the breadth of the music. At others, his hands and fingers worked the notes so quickly it was hard to believe his were the only hands playing. He rhythmically leaned into the piano and back, as if inhaling and exhaling the music.
The concert lasted an hour and a half, with only a ten minute intermission. His first piece afterward was ‘Six Waltzes.’ The selection lasted a solid twenty-five minutes. I don’t think the pianist broke a sweat as we held our breaths. After Chopin’s Ballade he returned for two encores.
I shook his hand at the reception. His skin was baby-soft, the fingers slightly gnarled but strong.
As hubby and I walked to the parking lot I couldn’t help but think, “Yes! That‘s what it’s like to use every bit of talent one is given.”
I can’t wait to do the same.
“A word after a word after a word is power.” Margaret Atwood
I love words. I love the way they roll in my mouth and slip through my lips. I enjoy the double and hidden meanings of words. I like the play of intersecting them in crossword puzzles. I admire the way great thinkers and writers string them together and leave us quotes and books that tease us into thinking deeper ourselves.
I collect quotes. My grandma started me on this. Yes, the same grandma mentioned in On the Bookshelf who lived across from the library and enjoyed reading. I think she loved words, too. She kept a spiral-bound notebook filled with quotes she clipped from newspapers and magazines. She passed her notebook onto me. I’ve added to it until few pages are left. Her snippets are yellowed, the cellophane tape has browned or flaked off. Mine are still newsprint creamy. Between the two collections are quotes from both the famous and the obscure. Some quotes are profound or inspirational, others are just funny or odd. In Cottage Quotes I’ll share a little of everything.
I call this Cottage Quotes because much of my introspection happens at my cottage. Other than the deer, my neighbor’s black labs, and the assorted birds and reptiles, it’s a quiet place. I spend time there writing, reading and what I call ‘Woods Maintenance.’ That includes clearing kudzu and chopping down trees. My woods maintenance requires little thought – well, wielding my ax does require paying attention. But my head is clearer at the cottage than at home where the dishwasher begs to be unloaded, the laundry whispers to be washed and the dust bunnies sing ‘catch us if you can.’
Cottage Quotes may make you think. Or maybe chuckle. I’ll offer my two cents worth, or in blog speak, my 300 words or so, and look forward to reading your comments. Or maybe you’ll just keep your thoughts in the quiet of your own woods.