Hope Floats

Hope Floats

Not necessarily the greatest movie of all time, but I’ve learned from it. The following is excerpted from a letter to my cousin. There’s so much more I want to say, but this is what I’ve written:

“I often think I must be crazy to attempt writing books for young people. So much work! Takes so much time. So many other writers. I’m so old and out of touch. But I keep trying anyway.

“My friend and I have been going to the library to write about four times a week for the past couple of weeks. She will be gone Friday through next week, so I’ll try my writing at home and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to the library on my own. There’s not much to distract me at the library (except the noise; our public library is incredibly noisy, but I wear headphones and listen to music), so I work better there. No, actually, I work better at home if I can get myself sitting down for any length of time. But that’s hard to do. So I work more at the library.

“I often think of a scene in one of my favorite movies (I have many, many favorites; so while I don’t love every aspect of this movie, there is much good and touching about it): Hope Floats, starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr. In one part of the movie he shows her the house he designed and is building and she says something like, “Why are you painting houses when you can do amazing work like this?” His response is something I like a lot. He says (not a direct quote), “I know what you’re talking about: the American Dream, where you take something you love and twist it until you don’t recognize it anymore just to get money.” That’s how I feel about my art and my writing in a way. I don’t want to sell my art, and don’t care if my books get published, yet I wish other people liked them and I’d like to do some good for others with them, if I could. But I don’t want to take my life and twist it till I’m fatigued and miserable, ignore my house till I don’t recognize it, neglect my husband and puppies . . . Everything about life is hard in some ways and easy in others. I’m not sure there is a balance anymore. Maybe there is. Maybe. But maybe not if you feel the need to stay involved, even if it’s only in small ways.”

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  We went for a pre-birthday hike this afternoon.

Big Springs Trailhead

Big Springs Trailhead

It was Polly’s first trip to the mountains.

Maggie, Kerry, and Polly

Maggie, Kerry, and Polly

Headed up, up, uphill.

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note the piece of heart-shaped sky

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a dark tree in front of light trees

It’ll feel like I’m posting pictures of the same things over and over, but each part of the trail looked amazing and glorious and new.

"sweeter sings the brooklet by"

“sweeter sings the brooklet by”

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ditto

approaching the clearing

approaching the clearing

"brighter beams the azure sky" (at the clearing)

“brighter beams the azure sky” (at the clearing)

Family shot. You try posing two dogs and making them wait while Daddy runs at them.

Maggie, Kerry, Polly, and Sue

Maggie, Kerry, Polly, and Sue

It was hard to keep the dogs from stepping on these. Unless I’m taking a photo of them they like to be where the camera is pointing.

some mushrooms

some mushrooms

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rocks with circly lichens

You focus on one thing to take its picture, but then you turn around for a glorious other view or two.

pretty scenery

pretty scenery

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closer-up pretty scenery

There was no shortage of striking trees to photograph.

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aspen trees

Time to head home. Sometimes the light was in our favor, sometimes not.

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lengthening shadows

Having a Cezanne moment.  Indulge me while I post a series of the same vista.

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shifting light 1

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shifting light 2

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shifting light 3

The shadow of the western mountain on the eastern mountain.

lengthening shadows

lengthening shadows

Tired and hungry, but nearly there. Polly cried or slept on the way home.

less than a mile to go before Polly and Maggie can sleep (the rest of us still had stuff to do)

less than a mile to go before Polly and Maggie can sleep (the rest of us still had stuff to do)

wisdom for healthy hearts and minds

wisdom for healthy hearts and minds

“Found Poetry” is an activity a lot of artists (and maybe writers too) engage in.  For this sample (the left-hand side of the photo at right) the found poem consists of words and phrases cut from a magazine and assembled into a poem.

With no subject in mind, I flipped through a Yoga Journal magazine and started cutting out phrases I’d like to use in a poem.  I arranged and rearranged the fragments, hunted for punctuation and additional words (like “and”), then glued the whole thing together and added the date at the bottom.

There are other ways of constructing found poems and I’ve used a few of them.  It’s one of my favorite writing/art activities.  I spend A LOT of time creating the poem, sometimes a lot more time than I spend on the art.

In the case of this two-page art journal spread I set up certain parameters, or limitations.  Everything on these pages (except the painted background and the pink flowers) was cut from the same issue of Yoga Journal.  I didn’t alter any words–like adding “-ing” to the end of a word–however, I cut the word “it” from a longer word and the two periods are actually the dots of lower case I-s.

Something I’ve learned from this activity is that I expand my horizons as a writer by limiting them.  This is an important lesson and one I forget every morning.  How do I set up my day when I have the world to consider?

In the Church we often talk about how God’s laws are a blessing–they give us freedom and aren’t restrictions.  When I see the same thing taught on a less esoteric level it catches my attention.  The principle is the same:  rules give freedom.  (Funny–no, sad–how the “uninitiated” are quick to embrace the temporal lesson and reject the spiritual one.)

Drawing Lab by Carla Sonheim

Drawing Lab by Carla Sonheim

I’m including the cover of a book that teaches this lesson so well.  In Drawing Lab (not “Drawing Labs” which is what I can’t do very well, but it still applies to me) author Carla Sonheim says,

“One way I’ve found to get over this block [the blank page] is to have an arsenal of starter exercises (or ‘assignments’) on hand to help me get going [see, we kick against rules and being told what to do, but we crave it all the same]:  Rules, restrictions, or challenges to work within.  And react against [yes, we like that option too].  And create in spite of.  Limitations keep me from taking me or my art too seriously.  They also relieve the pressure of what to draw and just get me moving.

“Consider these words by creative people through our history:

“‘The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit.’ –Igor Stravinsky  [That’s practically scripture.]

“‘Limit gives form to the limitless.’ –Pythagoras

“‘The fewer limitations the artist imposes on his work, the less chance he has for artistic success.’ –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“‘The problem about art is not finding more freedom, it’s about finding obstacles.’ –Richard Rogers

“‘Without firm limits there is no play.’ –Rem Koolhaas

“It’s a paradox:  when you have complete freedom, you often ‘freeze up’ and do nothing.”  (Drawing Lab, Carla Sonheim, p 10-11).

Like Carla, I’ve found that if I give myself rules to create by I can get something done.

A variation of the found poem activity (and my usual method) is to tear one page from a book (hopefully one that’s full front and back, not a chapter opening or close) (also, it’s permissible to make a copy if, like me, you sometimes shudder at the thought of disemboweling a book) and construct your poem using only that page.  It’s tough because you have to plan carefully so you don’t cut something from one side and ruin some words from the other side you had also hoped to use.

What I learn from this activity is that I can change my voice and ideas by using someone else’s.  This is hard to explain.  Sometimes, when I re-read one of these found poems I wonder if I’m the one who wrote it.  It doesn’t sound like me.  Also, in the process of construction I struggle with the words I have available for use.  How can I say what I’m thinking if the word “icy” isn’t there?  So I look for synonyms, but if I can’t find one, then a synonymous expression.  Often I’ll find myself coming up with a whole new thought.  From that new line the poem usually takes a different direction.

I enjoy the challenge of creating a poem that has a different feel from the original page.  I made a romantic poem from a math book (story problems) page.  I made a fairy tale-like poem from a religious book page.  Ah, the possibilities!

A person like me requires limits.  Even within boundaries, I explore.  I create outside the box I’m in.

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The Princess Polly

Trying to teach Polly not to bite.

Quite a project.

After so many years of being a dog ownee, it has finally occurred to me why the little cherubs bite you when you give them your food–because, of course, that is one of the first things they train you to do.

They can’t see it, so they snap at it and snarf it before it can evaporate.

 

 

rural mailbox with curved top

rural mailbox with curved top

Imagine you have a rural mailbox strapped to your face and every time you look down you see its curved roof.  If you really want to see what’s directly below your jaw you have to tilt your head.

Hence that cute presentation you so often see from dogs when a crumb of food falls, heeded or not, to the floor.  They tilt their head in a beguiling attitude that makes you hope they find the crumb:  Special Delivery!