Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gratitude = beatitude = take what you need and leave the rest

I like Thanksgiving because there's no gift giving, just thanks giving. Hopefully. In this climate of holiday frenzy when emotions run wild as this wild turkey feather (above) and expectations and wishes for perfect family ties and directives for happily-ever-after can gobble up any sense of reality, it's good to take a moment to remember all that's still working. As I tell my yoga students, "Celebrate what you can do and be philosophical about what you can't do yet—remembering to keep hope alive with the word 'yet'." Take some time before you put that first mouthful inside you and take some deep breaths to say thanks. Gone are the days when I had 20+ folks around my table. Right now I can only fit two in my tiny kitchen so I'm heading up North to celebrate with friends. Every time I hosted Turkey Day, I encouraged us to go around the room to say what each of us was thankful for before hiding all that personal stuff with gravy. So if you're reading this, take a moment to make a gratitude list: I know it sounds corny....but wasn't corn at the first thanksgiving? Challenge yourself. Make a list of 50 things you're grateful for and don't overlook the simple things like matching socks or the fact that your car can still get you where you want to go or that you have a bed you could make this morning. Or for all those glorious Indian summer days we've been blessed with this November. Whatever you do, enjoy, and say the words to yourself that a very wise woman told me when I was feeling low, "I am enough. There is enough. I have enough!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo and the birth of the one-month novel

Juiceboxartists writing studio played host to 25 NaNoWriMos yesterday afternoon
Every November, thousands of people all over the world write fifty-thousand word novels in thirty days. The challenge is sponsored by a non profit organization that encourages, and shepherds all these aspiring novelists through their journeys. From the launch pad of each writer's computer, the game starts one minute after midnight on November 1 and ends at midnight on November 30. In between, local liaisons schedule "write-ins" to encourage NaNoWriMos to meet in groups to set word count goals for a three-hour session. I hosted such a write-in Sunday at my Somerville Studio—Juiceboxartists—where I teach weekly workshops in creative writing. Yesterday's write-in attracted 25 novelists, each with their laptops humming.

These participants worked intensely on their novels for three hours.
Several times a week, Chris Batty, the founder of National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) sends encouraging e-mails to help us navigate through the ebb and flow of confidence, creativity, desire and available time to forge ahead and make the word count. Last November I wrote an historical novel about Pauline Cushman, a double agent during the Civil War. I had always wanted to bring my research about and fascination for this character into a written form, but previous attempts had been fruitless. Having the framework of a 30-day challenge forced me to immerse myself in the subject and to plow ahead, keeping quantity ahead of quality. After all, this was to be at best a rough draft and that's a good step towards a revision.

This NaNoWriMo participant reached her goal at Sunday's write-in

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More scenes from Indian Summer, Fresh Pond style . . .

Here are some shots from this weekend's walk around Fresh Pond Reservation in Cambridge. I lived in Cambridge for 13 years and never once walked the entire perimeter of the preserve. You can live with a treasure right under your nose and not smell it until it's out of reach. Luckily the trip from Boston to Cambridge is a short one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Indian Summer

This image combines the wooden sculpture of an American Indian Princess who stands in front of a cigar salon in Boston with some of the fall leaves along Boylston St. today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The aesthetics of decay . . .

The fall colors have peaked. Brown crackling leaves line the gutters and the streets mixed with gold. What were lush and wildly out of control gardens with tendrils and dripping flowers so large they might have been cast in a sci-fi movie where ordinary objects become super-sized, have been stripped with their soil turned over. The picture above shows the remnants of some oversized leaves I saw along Memorial Drive this morning as I made my way on foot back to Boston. Yes, the tow truck and more car problems got me over to that side of the river early this morning, but the walk back in bright sunshine distracted me from the parts of my life that weren't working, transporting me instead into an extended reprieve into nature and the miracle of my breath going in and out. In Italian, inhale is ispirare—so close to the word inspiration.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The New Beat on Boylston Street . . .

I ran this picture of construction on my street earlier in the summer. It's the corner of Boylston and Massachusetts Avenue. Didn't realize it was part of a dramatic improvement for our block. The city and the landlord for the buildings on the block worked together to transform what was once a rather seedy section with new life.

A few months later, just a couple of weeks ago Mr. Brown, the landlord and an official from Berklee College of Music performed a ribbon cutting ceremony to inaugurate the opening of all the new patios and sidewalks. This is now the new location of the Berklee Book Store.

Today I bought the first ice cream cone in Subway/HaagenDaz sandwhich shop which is to open officially this Friday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ellen Schmidt—muse to the musical in you

As if raising seven kids were not enough, Ellen Schmidt helps local musicians grow while she keeps her own songwriting alive and well. Frequent host of multiple open mikes around Boston and Metro West, Ellen has a way of welcoming you into her world, first by the songs she writes that draw you in with a complex web of emotions and then with her invitation to share the stages she frequents in Natick, Boston, Framingham. She appeared (above) last night at the Emerson Umbrella in Concord, Mass., an art center that nurtures artists of every persuasion.

Jack McCarthy , formerly from Massachusetts, but now from Washington State, was in town as the featured poet last night at the Emerson Umbrella. He began performing his poetry at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge in 1993. Ever since then he's increased his output from a couple of poems a year to a poem a week. The man's prolific! And a compelling performer who draws you in with subtle rhymes and even more subtle truths about life, love, and broken down cars and broken down lives that get a chance for a glimmer of glory—not the fame and fortune kind, but the miracles of daily life filled with appreciation for the wheel that keeps turning.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adult kids play Halloween games around the back bay . . .

Boylston Street near the Berklee College of Music isn't your usual trick or treat location and the only costumes I saw last night on my walk around town were the ones that college kids who don't want to give up this fun holiday wear.

I'm not very savvy about children's TV programming put I have heard of Teletubbies and the ones I heard about don't drink beer, but these ones do. The ladies above were French speaking and are most likely having fun with their first American Halloween parties. The moon looked full last night as it flitted in and out of the clouds.

The air was humid and balmy and it inspired me to head up to the top of the Prudential Tower—once again playing tourist in my own home town. You've got to pay $10 (Sr.) to walk around the Skywalk Observatory but the views were worth it. I think the foliage peaked this weekend. You can see little dabs of it on this photo I took from the 50th floor.