Tuesday, November 26, 2013

like a sky that looks right back and says it's never seen rain.

one last thing, to tide you over for a while. more good words, not written by me, but since this is a blog about words and more than that, rambling, this seems perfect.

also I just like it.


Having a Coke with You
by Frank O’Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz,
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier
     St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything
     as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front
     of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in
     the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s
     in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together
     the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care
     of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that
     used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when
     the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider
     as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you
     about it

p.s. the title of this blog post is worth mentioning as well, because it is an example of such good words and metaphors, by The Weepies. 

I always find myself here.

Well, it's going on well past midnight and I am finding myself here again. Maybe by that I mean, I am up at my desk late again (well, tonight it's a makeshift desk because I am away on the business of thanksgiving holidays.) or if by that I mean, I figure out things about myself by writing and my best stuff usually pops in around midnight.

so kind of you to join me, epiphanies and inspiration and just the right words!

I was wondering where you were.

And even though I am usually sitting here all bleary eyed, I think there is something to the night owl side of inspiration. I am hunched over my desk with all these veins of thought coursing around me - I'm reading things, my headphones are in, and I am suddenly struck with the words that are meant to be right here.

I always liked that scene in Little Women where Jo is always in her stocking cap in the attic, eating oranges and scribbling away in her notebooks. I am similarly composed.

And after all this, this collection of late nights and notebooks filled, I am left with something new entirely. two things have melded together and made something good. Something for you to read when you check your RSS feed in the morning and something for me to look back on as proof to myself that somewhere along the way, I became a writer, in a process that is perpetually happening, changing me, teaching me, moving me.

I am always learning something about being a writer. I am always listening to people (sometimes listening in.) I am revising, I am collecting. I am becoming. and I am writing.

this is your-girl-in-the-city
                       on the red-eye (the literal kind.)
                                    signing off.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

steal like an artist.


well, you may have noticed that the small girl in the big city is feeling very very small. so small in fact, you haven't been able to see me.

that is because I have been burrowed in a snowbank of papers. a paperbank, if you will, of work. freelance things and tea-making things and feature story things and one very big healthcare directory thing.

of course, this is all metaphorical, but I really have been away from my desk (in a manner of speaking) being a writer with a haphazard mash of papers, ink pens, sticky notes and english muffin crumbs trailing behind me. It's been good! it's been great!

but I am so happy to be back to my desk (figurative or literal, either way I can actually see it now) and this blog.

first things first: hop over to www.styleandpepperblog.com because today is a day of publication of the next installment in the Impact Series! I always feel more inspired reading Jessie's blog because I find myself being able to look at things I have in a fresh way. I'll be shortening a midi skirt to a pencil skirt later on this month with crossed fingers it can become a more permanent staple with the possibilities of fresh starts in the new year, all thanks to her sage and stylish advice! I am her resident feature girl! (my perfect job, and one of my favorites, I think.)

and now, a few thoughts on inspiration:

Last autumn I took a history of photography class with a professor named Matt Weedman. My Huntsville art friends know him well as he is a favorite in that part of campus, and his class quickly became one of my favorite classes I ever took at SHSU. I remember he wore a fedora and made us talk about ourselves on the first day of class (I think I talked about pie. apparently food is a great inspiration for me.) and he told us to call him Matt.

As an honors student, I was required to earn honors credit through a certain number of course hours, and since I didn't take math or science classes with honors (okay, I avoided them like the plague. Once, on the first day of the semester, there was a room number error on my schedule which found me in a upper level zoology class. with an impressive combination of panic and speed, I was out of there from the middle of the auditorium with the words "welcome to zoology" still hanging in the air. If I had been a cartoon, I think there may have been a 'poof' where I had been sitting.) I was wracking my brain for what creative projects I could do through course contracting. Essentially, course contracting means I come up with a self assigned project that I can earn honors credit for.

Matt and I started talking one morning after class about historical photography and Huntsville and we decided I should do some digging and see what connections I could come up with between that and photography as an art. I was feeling pretty lost on my project until he said a few weeks later, "listen, there is this special lecture series this afternoon that you NEED to go to. I think it will change your perspective on your project."

I went. Mostly because even though it was at dinner time, I LOVE lecture series. I got to meet ABC News Correspondent Ann Compton (and ask her "what are you reading right now?" at the press conference, which is my favorite question to ask people I admire.) and listen to Irish Times war reporter Mary Fitzgerald. I sat in on a speech given by Nobel Prize Laureate Lech Walesa (which I only heard part of because he only speaks Polish and have you ever tried to translate the ideas of an Eastern European scholar into English?) and I have heard all the awesome White House stories of Peter Roussel, former Press Secretary for President Ford, President Reagan and President Bush. (he has some great ones about Helen Thomas. He was also my professor for a semester.) I met the CEO of Bluebell Ice Cream (amazing! He's a total ham.) and chatted with Frank from TLC's Trading Spaces over dinner. (also a total hoot.) I also got to talk with the Chair of the Mass Communications department, Dr. Jean Bodon, who is also an internationally renowned French filmmaker and currently working on a Holocaust documentary about Laszlo Csatary (the most wanted Nazi war criminal alive today) from his own personal perspective and heritage. These experiences were all because of really amazing lecture series.

So, I went to the art auditorium and about ten minutes in I was scrambling for a piece of paper, because everything she was saying was giving me crazy good ideas and I almost couldn't keep up with them. The lecture series, given by Melinda Barlow of the University of Colorado in Boulder, was about collecting. She talked about the origination of ideas and inspiration and how we "collect" ideas just like we collect antiques, and how the antiques and trinkets we accumulate, even though they probably have no direct connection to our actual histories, are really just tangible representations of ideas, images, memories and inspiration of others that somehow speak to us.

This lecture began to form the basis of my semester long project, which involved digging through both the university library archives and the archives of my own family. More than that, it gave me an idea translated to words I could read on paper. I have come back to her ideas so many times as I started building my own collection of inspiration. For me, inspiration isn't always something fleeting. many times there are certain things that I hear or see or watch, and people I talk to, and I save that and come back to it. I write it down, I stick it in my notebook. It becomes part of my own creative persona as a writer and an artist.

Once, I wrote a letter to Southern Living - Texas Living editor and senior writer Gary Ford and he wrote me a letter back (which was from his typewriter!) He wrote me something about inspiration that I have never forgotten, and this is it: "never be afraid if you find yourself copying the style of someone you admire. your own voice will eventually form in the midst of your inspiration."

I think part of the reason I love lectures so much is because I am not just listening to other people's stories. I am crafting and chasing my own story. It is not finished yet, of course, but I find that writing brings more pieces of it into focus. Who am I? I am a writer. I was never quite sure how to describe that to people without it sounding overly dramatic or trite, until I latched on to the idea of collecting ideas. I'm not an author, but I'm also not just someone who just likes books and words. I am, however, a collector. I find that is a more accurate description than anything I have come up with so far. and it's because we all are collectors, and that's where our own stories come from - crafted from our experiences and our carefully curated collections of life, interweaved with thoughts that resonate with us.

and that is totally okay. in the words of Picasso, "good artists borrow. great artists steal."

goodnight and good luck,

                this is your girl-in-the-city,

                                           signing off.

Monday, October 28, 2013

exciting news!

I have exciting things coming up in the writing world! I am a long time reader and admirer of Style and Pepper - and the darling lady behind it, Jessie! - and I am so happy to announce that we have been working together on a new project for the blog, a series called "Impact."

I will be writing regularly for the blog about companies, designers and artists who are up to great things in the fashion business - whether it is philanthropic. fair trade or full of hope. It's a creative endeavor I am so glad to be a part of and these stories are totally up my alley! You can see the first in the series here! Stay tuned for more writing from me over there!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

life from another perspective.

just a favorite. I'll be back with some of my own thoughts later on, but for now, here are some words that aren't my own but feel so familiar they kind of feel like they are:

"In August we carried the old horsehair mattress,
to the back porch
and slept with our children in a row.
The wind came up the mountain into the orchard
telling me something;
saying something urgent.
I was happy.
The green apples fell on the sloping roof
and rattled down.
The wind was shaking me all night long;
shaking me in my sleep
like a definition of love,
saying, this is the moment,
here, now."

{Ruth Stone, 1915-2011.}

Saturday, October 5, 2013

chirp, chirp, clink, clink.

when I start a painting, there is just a big white void staring back at me. velvety paper, thick canvas stretched tight. it needs something big first.  the first step usually for me is covering the entire blank, white canvas with color and adding in the details later.

in a new city, a new life, a new chapter,

there are these same elements. the same colors to start out with.

there are the streets I always take, winding through the neighborhoods and past the museum with it's sweeping oaks, across the busy main road and back into the neighborhoods with ivy vines on the sides of houses.

there are the pathways I like to walk when going to the mailbox...down the street, right at the corner, past the apartment complex with the dog in the window.

there are the familiar sounds of a usual day's end at the tea shop. dinner for the people taking over the shift, eaten while leaning against the counter discussing various meat-cutting techniques and the recipe for asian noodles.

sautee the vegetables in the flavor first, are the instructions amidst the gentle clink of plates in the sink.

there are the carillion bells at the church I have been visiting. every sunday morning, clanging. it makes it feel like sunday.

the sunlight filtering through the trees in a particular way starts to feel familiar. the hum of the window AC and the creak of the hardwood floors feel like home.

I wake up and one morning, I  don't feel like a visitor anymore.

Friday, September 20, 2013

thoughts from a rainy city today.

i'm writing today from a coffee shop! i feel very writer-ish here. It's this VERY tiny shop in the Heights, with exposed brick and a little side garden with string bulb lights. I like the sandwiches made at their main shop, another place called Black Hole. So I come here to work on things.

It's pouring down rain here. I saw on the news that there was a hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm. well, there it is.

today was the first day I could wear boots... I think that deserves a mention because FINALLY! I can walk to the mailbox a few blocks down (we don't have an outgoing mailbox at the apartment complex, but there is a sidewalk drop box in the neighborhood) without dying from the humidity! you know, the slightly comical and yet character building thing about my new house in Houston is that we have window AC units......man. nothin builds character like sweating it out in a 9 x 9 room.

I've been training at a new job, at Te House of Tea, the CUTEST little tea shop in Midtown that I loved even before moving here. It's a really great job - partially because it's part time but enough to make up the difference in freelance writing. I really love it so far - making the tea means I get to smell them all (the next best thing to tasting them because it's a good way to distinguish flavors.) All tea is categorized into two kinds: Camelia Seninsis Seninsis and Camelia Assamicus. Seninsis is grown in Asia - china and japan primarily. and Assamicus is from India. the kind it is has to do with how it is harvested and the oxidation of it. but you can usually tell if tea is black or green or herbal or darjeeling, etc. from the way it smells. others, like Puerh, have a very distinct smell because they are made a certain way ( I think plain puerh tastes like the way boxwoods smell. it's a distinct flavor.)  and learn which different kinds are which and which ones have what steeping times and boiling points. plus, my favorite thing I learned so far is how to make rooibos perfectly, which is my current favorite. Rooibos is a red tea from the red bush found primarily in South Africa. It reminds me of good friendships - some global! - and it has a nice subtle sweet flavor. it's especially good for brewing if you can set the pitcher in a sunny window!

It's funny though, because after a few shifts at the shop, I have already become ten times more proficient at making tea than I was before ...

there are times it gets pretty hectic there, but for the most part, it is quite quiet. Jimmy Stewart playing on the stereo, the bubble of the hot water machines and the clink of tea cups and soup spoons. It's nestled amidst a really cute neighborhood on Fairview Street. I like the trees around bending over the street.

and.....no one has made any comments about my skirts. (ha ha ha.) (:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

known one.

it's tuesday.

it's 8:40.
I'm early for work, for once, and I find myself with thoughts and thoughts and thoughts, and for once, time.
last night I was reading a book that long wedged itself into my heart, ages ago, when I didn't know half as much as I do now, and yet, it still carries the same weight for me as it did then. these strange ashes, an account of Elisabeth Elliot's first years as a missionary, deep in the jungles of Ecuador. a single woman, with a love secretly stowed in her heart, awaiting a word from Jesus himself. it's very much a story about patience, about holding on and not letting go, even when your fingers feel like they are being literally pulled away by exhaustion and disappointment and fear.
and I think, maybe, that is why it has so much influence over me. I feel that. I feel that down to my toes. It is gut-wrenching, but the kind that is utterly painful until you start rushing down the other side, totally thrilled having promptly left all misery behind all of a sudden. (I feel the same way about ziplines?)
the past month has taught me much about that. and Jesus himself has made me worthy of this calling by the strength and goodness of His hand.
I am His servant, here I am. But those three words




they take on a different personality when I understand them not so much as, I am waiting in this place for you to take me somewhere, I am ready

but as, here I am, here is all of me, every part I like you to see, and every part I would like to just hide away in the closet, thank you very much. here I am. use my life as an example.
you know, I meant for this blog to be a place of thoughts, but I also, at least in my head, implied to myself a certain honesty that I have been lacking. and not because of readership, either.
It's scary to be known. To be really, truly known by others. When someone points out your quirks and your insecurities that keep popping up in conversation when you begin sentences with "I feel the same way but for me...." - that is scary.
In the Bible, the Hebrew for "to know" is "yada."
Adam knew Eve. He knew her so well, so intimately. She was made for him, a part of him. He yada her.
To talk of insecurity, of habits and quirks and mistakes and failures - it is difficult. But those are the things that have made me the woman I am. They do not define me, but the journey of arranging and letting go and rearranging and gathering up of those things - THAT. that is what cultivates velvet steel in me. that is what I mean when I say, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." that is what I mean when I say, "in loving-kindness, Adonai, Abba, has made me, knit me in my mother's womb, known me before time began as well as He knows every star in the sky." that is why I say, "let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee." those are the defining threads of life that weave in and out of my regular life.
because of those things. and why I would rather hide those things, when I think about it that way? 
 be brave. let yourself be known. 

then, revel in how God uses that for astonishing good. 

"She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."