The Writers Almanac

I get this delivered into my inbox everyday and I am grateful. The last few days’ poems have been a delight, and speak to me of that late summer feeling when every sunny day is a gift and a tiny triumph over the looming dark days of winter.

It’s an old style almanac: a nice mix of information and whimsy but read by Garrison Keillor  who surely must have one of the most listenable-to voices on the planet.

And in case you don’t click on links here’s today’s poem.

Take Love for Granted
by Jack Ridl
Assume it’s in the kitchen,
under the couch, high
in the pine tree out back,
behind the paint cans
in the garage. Don’t try
proving your love
is bigger than the Grand
Canyon, the Milky Way,
the urban sprawl of L.A.
Take it for granted. Take it
out with the garbage. Bring
it in with the takeout. Take
it for a walk with the dog.
Wake it every day, say,
“Good morning.” Then
make the coffee. Warm
the cups. Don’t expect much
of the day. Be glad when
you make it back to bed.
Be glad he threw out that
box of old hats. Be glad
she leaves her shoes
in the hall. Snow will
come. Spring will show up.
Summer will be humid.
The leaves will fall
in the fall. That’s more
than you need. We can
love anybody, even
everybody. But you
can love the silence,
sighing and saying to
yourself, “That’ s her.”
“That’s him.” Then to
each other, “I know!
Let’s go out for breakfast!”

“Take Love for Granted” by Jack Ridl, from Practicing to walk Like a Heron. © Wayne State University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I wish you kept a blog: take two

I agree. I have some friends and family who live quietly interesting lives and I am interested. I am going to post about my perceived need for originality in blogging and why when I try that I shoot myself in the foot.

When I think about a blogpost, which I do quite often, it’s often when I am out walking or running. I see a crop of toadstools or a broken gate or some such and it gets me thinking and my thoughts just spread out like an ink blot on paper which is just lovely and relaxing and playful. I don’t have a notebook to hand, like a proper writer would and so I have to try to remember them. Hard for the sporadically functioning middle aged mind, but one tries. Still, many promising blog posts are lost by the time I’ve changed my socks and I get caught up with washing and meals and the stuff of life and much of that spontaneous creativity is lost.

Who was it, Walt Whitman or Thoreau who went into the woods in order to live deliberately? “Thoreau”, reples Wikipedia and I am reminded that his sojourn there in supposed isolation was facilitated by his mother and sister who did his laundry and brought him food. Where would he have been without them?  Much thinner even than the gaunt figure we see in the link.

Nonetheless he took steps to simplify his life and find out what vein in the daily tasks of living was most rich in interest, and walking was fruitful to reflection and processing and, lucky him, he didn’t have to think about clean pants or tuck.

Back to me.

I think about what I write. What I might write. I have no idea why people read what I write but they do and sometimes they comment, which I enjoy. It makes it more of a conversation, less of a monologue.

I’d like it to be original but I realise with all the blogs, books and information in the world it’s hardly going to be. And if I overthink these posts they die in the water. Some of the the most popular blogs are about ordinary things, that many of us do. Being a parent. Drinking coffee. Knitting.

So if I put to rest my grandiose notions of being original, what’s left? Random reflections on my very ordinary life? Yes I suppose, there’s nothing terribly intellectual or profound. But I hope my voice comes through in these posts. I hope they sound like me, which is gentle and curious and often amused by the world. And more and more full of wonder. I wonder at the everydayness of things and enjoy them so much more than when I was young. And it’s that voice, my individuality which is unique and ‘speaks’.

Writing is either alive or dead. It speaks to you or it doesn’t. We read and hear so much which lies flat on the page. My daughter recently told me of a book she had been given which she threw away because of the fatuousness of the first page. It described a life she neither recognised nor had any interest in. More than that didn’t feel authentic. Maybe what sets apart all those blogs about parenting and sobriety is their genuineness and honesty.

I write a few emails, fewer letters. Even phone calls are less numerous than they used to be. Texting is so quick and Facebook offers fun but illusory friendship. I follow a few people on Instagram and get a snapshot of their world, in this country or abroad. I so enjoy it. The light and the shade. The pictures of dogs, food and family, shopping and sunsets. No pressure, but I wish you kept a blog.

I wish you kept a blog

I agree. I have some friends and family who live quietly interesting lives and I am interested. I am going to post about my perceived need for originality in blogging and why when I try that I shoot myself in the foot.

Deep Water

I’ve become an avid reader of a number of blogs over the past couple of years. A couple of years before that, I had never read anybody’s blog. I suppose it’s not that many years before that, the concept did not exist. Somehow, they’ve crept and in some cases stormed into our lives and devices and become one of the ways we share and receive our news. I have some definite favourites for varying reasons and I’d be keen to hear about yours!

I’ve tried in the past just following everybody who followed me. That was hugely unsatisfying and saw me doing lots of culling of my ‘Blogshelf’ app not very long after I went through and added a whole lot of blogs in. I started to wonder if some bloggers go follow other bloggers in an attempt to boost their own readership. I’m thinking so, but have no solid…

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Click on the link – yes you. It’s not a nasty scam.

So much to like about this. It ticks a lot of my boxes in that I often attempt to record or make a map of things that make me happy. Writing about them helps me remember but, in the spirit of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, taking a photo is better. You don’t have to go public with them all.

This is an attempt at creativity without judgement. No one is watching.  It’s for you. You don’t have to hand it in. You won’t get a mark. In fact give yourself a mark for showing up and having a go!

Given the dire state of the world and the utter misery we are force-fed by the media, to practise noticing what makes you glad will go some way to redress the balance. It’s like food. We don’t just want to eat junk. Let’s face it there’s a lot out there which is junky. Let’s  treat ourselves to some nourishment. Maybe five fruity shots of happiness a day is a big ask, but one shouldn’t be so hard to find.

I remember a hymn from when I was at school. It had an unpredictable tune, but it makes me smile now.

Here are the words: I have reservations about the title, but let’s bear with it.

A Little Song Of Life

Lizette Woodworth Reese

Glad that I live am I;
That the sky is blue;
Glad for the country lanes,
And the fall of dew.

After the sun the rain;
After the rain the sun;
This is the way of life,
Till the work be done.

All that we need to do,
Be we low or high,
Is to see that we grow
Nearer the sky.
Glad. An old-fashioned Anne of Green Gables word but it needs bringing back.

And here is a poem and a website which – in the poet’s words – just about kills me with delight.

Delight? Something else altogether. We could get good at this.

Happy New Year

Some bloggers I follow do a retrospective at the end of the year and I was tempted to do likewise, but as I started it all felt rather self congratulatory and a tad smug. “Look at me. Look what I’ve read/seen/done.” So be thankful you’ve been spared that tedious seasonal round robin. But let’s just say that last year was better, happier and more interesting than some previous ones. And I think it was because I gave myself full permission to do the things I enjoy. So I read more, swam more, and walked a lot! I took up painting with mixed results. I experimented with more interesting cooking. More mixed results.

What I have realised is that, when trying something new, I need to talk to myself in the same way as I would encourage new writers in a workshop.

“Just write. Don’t get caught up in the detail.

Write a lot. Keep your hand moving across the page.

Don’t judge what you’re writing (especially as you’re writing it). Don’t think too hard.

Don’t apologise for your work. Don’t downtalk it.

Don’t be so concerned with the result.”

Enjoy the process.

I say: ” Understand that much of what you write may feel crass and hackneyed but you are your harshest critic. Other people are usually kinder to you than you are yourself. If they’re not, then you’re either got something sorted in your life and head and are way further on than me in this joy-filled living thing. ( Oh did I not mention that was my aim? A joy-filled life. I have had enough of the purpose-driven one. )

Or maybe you need to get yourself some new friends. Those crappy- critical ones are not doing you any favours.”

I am my own worst critic. I begin many blog posts and abandon them for being crass or overly serious. But I plan to change, to play more.

So much of what I have cooked/painted/written etc etc may not be tiptop quality, but who’s watching? Who cares? I am having a go, and doing it for me and if it makes you smile, or gives you courage or just takes your mind off other more serious concerns of a moment or two. Hooray. I’ve enjoyed writing it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Thank you for reading. Happy New Year. Love to you all. But especially those who follow and ‘like’ my posts.