Archive for April, 2015|Monthly archive page

Character?

Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

This Writing 101 post assignment is supposed to help build my skills at describing people and their traits and their affect on me by describing someone new in my life. But I don’t really meet a lot of new people. I can’t think of anyone I know whom I met for the first time in the last twelve months. So I’m going to write about someone I met about 30 months ago: my beloved Lulu.

No one else in my life has had the impact she has. No one else has left such a lasting impression, transformation really, on my life. So what is it about her? What is her Character?

My first impulse is to fill up paragraphs with lists of her many amazing qualities, traits, attributes and accomplishments. My first impulse when speaking of her is always to make the page glow with her bright light and goodness. That would be easy to do, because she has many wonderful qualities that set her apart from any crowd.

But a long list of praises wouldn’t accurately capture her character, wouldn’t keep your interest and would quickly grow cloying and trite.

Rather than make that mistake, let me tell you what I see as her greatest character feature. This is a risk, because by choosing only one, many more amazing things about her are left unsaid and you might get a false sense of who she is and why I value her so highly. But I’m going to risk it.

My amazing Lulu is, to my eyes and heart, the loveliest human alive. But it is not the engaging smile, the addictive laughter, the soft golden hair, the bright, intelligent eyes, or the quick, quirky wit that captivates me most about her. Lots of people are smart and funny and pretty. But I have found in her a rare quality that defines her character above any other: an all-encompassing compassion that radiates acceptance and caring and safety for all.

That sort of agapé love is rare, despite the millions of religious zealots around the world who profess to have that sort of unconditional love for everyone. Even more rare in my experience is the fact that her compassion is for all life, not just human life. While it is true that lots of people are animal lovers, how many truly view the animals in their care as persons in their own right and treat them with the dignity of personhood? My Lulu does.

It is this acceptance, this capacity for reverence of all life that I find most extraordinary about my beloved. She Seems to have infinite room in her heart to love and care for everyone she meets, regardless if they are two-legged or four, furred, feathered, scaled or otherwise. She sees intrinsic value in the life energy of any being and treats it with the reverence and respect owed to such a miraculous being.

It’s that wonder and openness of her heart that loves first and questions last that makes her character, for me, such a rare and beautiful thing.

Brevity

Day Five: Be Brief

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.
— — — — —

I dunno if I buy into the mystique and draw of the 100-word story. Are they superbly brief, or just incomplete? You be the judge of my attempt below.

— — — — —

Stunned, only incoherent apologies tumbled from my lips as my shaking hand held out the letter to her. “Sorry! Didn’t mean…your privacy. Sorry. So sorry.”

I expected her to snatch it back and slam the door, outraged.

Instead, we sat together in shared grief for long moments, saying nothing aloud, but speaking volumes in empathetic glances.

Finally, she gave a small smile, patted my hand, and said “It’s okay, you know. It wasn’t lost. I released it to the wind. I wanted one other soul to know. There is strength in sharing.”

Writing about loss

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

It’s uncanny, sometimes, how parts of our lives unexpectedly coincide. For instance, I heard only about an hour before receiving this Writing 101 prompt that my uncle passed away a few days ago. Maybe this is the universe giving me a chance to talk about him and his passing without the pressure of the family’s reactions and expectations.

I’m not sure what I feel about it at the moment. The post prompt advised that we need not write a sad or depressive piece; rather just to write about what is no longer there. So that’s what I’ll do.

He was my last uncle, at least that I know of. He was my mother’s older brother. I’m not sure if any of my dad’s brothers still live, as I’ve never known that side of my family. But my Uncle B was a part of my youth and I will miss him.

The greatest memory I have of Uncle B was a road trip I took with him and my grandmother (his mother) the summer I was twelve years old. They had come to my house for a visit and were taking me with them back to my gran’s home for a visit with her and my aunt (her daughter) and cousins.

He was an over the road trucker and did all the driving, even though my gran was an accomplished road tripper. It was a two day trip, across long stretches of empty prairie, so there was a considerable amount of boredom. To pass the time, stay awake and to keep me entertained, he liked to play games. These were word games, speaking games that he could do while driving, with no playing board or pieces.

One of his favorites was a definition game. He’d describe something in terms of its effect on the world, or its relationship to other things. The goal was, of course, to identify the thing, but also to identify as many alternative words or synonyms to describe it as possible. He was really inventive in his description, delighted in stumping me and then helping me understand the words I didn’t know. He was particularly good with collective terms for animals, like a congregation of alligators, a shrewdness of apes, or a sleuth of bears. I remember being so chuffed at guessing some of them (a glaring of cats, a skulk of foxes), because he would crow at my cleverness and make me feel ten feet tall.

Then, when we got home to my gran’s, we went to the zoo in a nearby city to look at all the animals we had discussed on the road. My cousins and I would try to decide if there were enough of any one type to qualify for the collective term. I think we decided that for most things a minimum of three was required, but that maybe you only needed two for a memory of elephants.

But Uncle B was at the center of the fun. He made that trip a memory I still cherish 34 years later.

Though he was only a part of my life as a larger than life visitor every few years as I grew up, I remember him as a warm, smart, hearty fellow with a sharp, dry wit. He was big and tall and loud, yet he was fun and easy to be with, even though nearly half a century separated us in age.

Rest in power Uncle B.

Important songs

Writing 101 day 3 begins a commitment to write for at least 15 minutes every day. Today I’m supposed to free-write about the three most important songs in my life and what they mean to me.

Free writing is more difficult than you’d expect, if done without cheating. I’m supposed to just keep writing and not stall to re-read, edit, or think about what’s supposed to come next or correct anything. That goes against the thirty years of habit I’ve developed, from high school to today. But I’ll try.

I don’t know if I know which three songs are most important to me and why. Music, as I’ve written before, is critical to my happiness. But judging which song is most important for any given reason is something I’ve never really thought about.

Off the top of my head, I’d say one song that has had a significant presence in my life is the hymn “Amazing Grace “. Not only was it my mother’s favorite and often heard floating from her lips whenever she was busy or concentrating, it was the basis for many choir exercises, youth group sings, and church services in my youth. It was sung at weddings and funerals and holiday gatherings. I’ve heard its core structure in many other songs. Its message is uplifting and comforting. But its ubiquity has given it a secondary meaning, made it an integral part of the fabric my life’s story.

Another song that has already begun to root itself into my life’s story is a pop song from an Australian band, A Simple Plan, called “Jet Lag”. My Lulu introduced this song to me ale hen we first started dating, because it reminds her of us. The song is about a couple separated by long distance and many time zones and their struggle to get back to one another. The refrain’s complaint that “you say good morning when it’s midnight” and “time zones making me crazy” are so spot-on to Lulu’s and my difficulty being separated by 9,000 miles and 15 hours, makes this song particularly appropriate for us.

And, finally I’ll choose John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” as the third. I loved the song as a kid when I heard it on the radio, because it is a simple melody in a range my voice could cover comfortably. And it was a change from the country music I had to listen to with my parents. But then, last year I sang it to my Lulu during a Skype date, while sitting on my front porch enjoying a spring evening. The simple pleasure of having a quiet moment together and singing a love song to my girl fixed that song in my heart as a favorite and, I’d guess, one of the most important in my life.

Where would you go?

Today’s Writing 101 prompt: Day Two: A Room with a View

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

— — — — —

Predictably, where I’d go first if I had the ability to instantly transport myself anywhere, is to Australia, to the home of my beloved. Long distance relationships suck in this aspect: not getting to share the same space with the one you love, except in short, too infrequent intervals that cost a lot of energy to achieve. But that cost pales in comparison to the burden on the soul from not loving where your heart takes you.

So I’d beam, Star Trek-style, to pick up my girl. Then, because travel is cost-less in this fantasy, we’d escape reality together. Our hideaway would be a glorious cabin in an alpine wood, secluded from the world, accessible only by air (or teleportation 😃). We would have a stunning view of the evergreen covered slopes of a mountain valley. Our cabin’s great room would have floor to ceiling windows at one end, affording us the opportunity to rest in comfort and warmth while watching snow fall on the sentinel pines.

When we tired of the chill beauty of the mountain hideaway, we’d use our transporter to visit a secluded beach with fine sand and crystal blue waters and convenient palm trees for shade. The rhythm of the tides and the sun-warmed sands will lull us to sleep under the stars.

Next we’ll whisk away to see sights we’ve only seen in books or movies. We’ll explore the pyramids of Giza and gape at their enormity. We’ll stare in awe at the artistry and skill of the ancient masters in the museums around the world. We’ll experience the flavors of Italy, Japan, Russia and Argentina. We’ll view natural wonders and man-made diversions. And we’ll find places, wherever we go, to be still and quiet together, present in that space only for one another.

You see, for me, the lure of anyplace is only it’s capacity to allow me to be with her. If we could be together in the same place, it need not be anywhere glamorous or opulent. It need only be a place of safety and afford privacy. I don’t need exotic locations or luxurious amenities. I just need to be with her.

Trying something

So, I’m not very consistent at blogging. Seems like I blog in explosive, sporadic, unpredictable bursts. Usually about things that are weighing on my mind. I’d like to improve that. Even if I never get to a daily publishing pace, I’d like to at least settle into a regular writing and publishing schedule.

Thus I’m going to try something. Word Press is offering a Writing 101 course to do just that: instill a regular writing habit. It also offers an opportunity to give and receive feedback and to participate in a writing community.

It starts today. Today’s prompt is to free-write for 20 minutes and today’s twist is to publish the stream of consciousness.

The course is for fun and to improve writing. But nothing is required, it’s not prescriptive. Obviously, the benefits I receive will depend entirely on what I put into it. I’m fearful that my writing will be even more boring when pushed into what is, right now, an artificial rhythm.

As you can tell, I’m using the Writing 101 adventure as my free write topic. Very meta.

And I’m pretty sure it’s also very boring.

But my problem is that I don’t find creative writing a natural activity. Though I do have a mild creative impulse, I usually have to have a goal, an end result in mind, in order to create anything I can view as worth while. Whether creating jewelry, sculpture, glass or writing, a clear concept is a requirement for my brain to do good work. I’m not artist enough to create out of nothing.

I don’t know why that is. All I know is that, without a topic or end in mind, a blank sheet of paper or blank screen fills my head with static and I can’t hear my own thoughts. Weird. It’s as if having a goal or concept removes a load of pressure. You’d think it’d be the opposite, that the concept or target would create the pressure of achieving the desired result. Kind of like performance anxiety.

Anyway, I’m embarking on this month-long blogging journey and hope to have a better writing habit afterward. And if I improve writing skills and get a little better at creativity in the process, that’s even better. I prob’ly won’t publish everything, but I’m going to try to stick with the daily schedule.

I hope you’ll enjoy a greater variety of posts and can be a little patient with my attempt to write better and more regularly.

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