Sunday, September 30, 2018

Apple Pie is Food

Last night we peeled the apples. Today we made the crust...
Tonight we baked the an apple pie for dinner and had it with cheddar cheese and a glass of white wine.

Sarah Waters

Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.
-Sarah Waters


‏Verified account @kashanacauley

Today a red traffic light stopped me and to defeat it I yelled “I WENT TO YALE.”

Furious Dancing

“Hard times require furious dancing. Each of us is proof.”
― Alice Walker, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems

To Share

“...have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple


“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.”
― Alice Walker

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way...I can't apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to... We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful...We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Please us Back

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Alice Walker

“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for.”
― Alice Walker


The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.
- William Faulkner


A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

-Jorge Luis Borges

Colum McCann

Try, if possible, to finish in the concrete, with an action, a movement, to carry the reader forward. Never forget that a story begins long before you start it and ends long after you end it. Allow your reader to walk out from your last line and into her own imagination. Find some last-line grace. This is the true gift of writing. It is not yours any more. It belongs in the elsewhere. It is the place you have created. Your last line is the first line for everybody else.
- Colum McCann

Virginia Woolf

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.
-Virginia Woolf

Save The Children!

“Obviously we have concerns about kids falling through the cracks, not getting sufficient attention if they need attention, not getting the emotional or mental health care that they need,” said Leah Chavla, a lawyer with the Women’s Refugee Commission, an advocacy group.

“This cannot be the right solution,” Ms. Chavla said. “We need to focus on making sure that kids can get placed with sponsors and get out of custody.”


I was visiting my former 6th grade teacher, Mr Perucci. I had a sculpted model of a brain with me. He thought I was giving it to him. He said "Make a drawing of this and give that to me."

What You Remember

“What you remember saves you.”
― W. S. Merwin


“Poetry is a way of looking at the world for the first time.”
― W.S. Merwin


“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.”
― W.S. Merwin

The Story

“The story of each stone leads back to a mountain.”
― W.S. Merwin

The Sound

“How beautiful you must be
to have been able to lead me
this far with only
the sound of your going away”
― W.S. Merwin, The Moon Before Morning


“from what we cannot hold the stars are made”
― W.S. Merwin

One Word

“Poetry is like making a joke. If you get one word wrong at the end of a joke, you've lost the whole thing.”
― W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin

“I needed my mistakes
in their order
to get me here”
― W.S. Merwin, The Moon Before Morning

Inside this Pencil

“Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding

they’re awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won’t come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they’ll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be
that they won’t unroll
in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything

maybe there aren’t
it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil

every pencil in the world
is like this”
― W. S. Merwin


“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
― Truman Capote

Never love a Wild Thing

“Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell,' Holly advised him. 'That was Doc's mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That's how you'll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky."
"She's drunk," Joe Bell informed me.
"Moderately," Holly confessed....Holly lifted her martini. "Let's wish the Doc luck, too," she said, touching her glass against mine. "Good luck: and believe me, dearest Doc -- it's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

No Matter Where You Run

“You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it's not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It's wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's


“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's


“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's


“You know the days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's


“You can't blame a writer for what the characters say.”
― Truman Capote

The Music

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make.”
― Truman Capote, Truman Capote: Conversations

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Amy Hempel

Just because you have stopped sinking doesn't mean you're not still underwater.
- Amy Hempel

Gordon Lish

Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive. -Gordon Lish

The More you Use

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
-Maya Angelou

Fine Fuel

I think that to write well and convincingly, one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, fault-finding, imagination, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice—they all make fine fuel.
-Edna Ferber

By Witholding

“You do not keep the audience's interest by giving it information, but by withholding information ....”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting


“Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns. Story plays to this universal desire by doing the opposite, posing questions and opening situations.”
― Robert McKee

A Vehicle

“Story isn’t a flight from reality but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

Stories are...

“Stories are the currency of human relationships.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting


“A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling. When a society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo-stories, it degenerates. We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy corners of the human psyche and society.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

Where we are Going

“We rarely know where we are going; writing is a discovery.”
― Robert McKee

Robert McKee on Story

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
― Robert McKee

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”
― Robert McKee

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“A fine work of art - music, dance, painting, story - has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“In a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliche, it's the key to victory over fear and it's cousin, depression.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

“When we want mood experiences, we go to concerts or museums. When we want meaningful emotional experience, we go to the storyteller.”
― Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

An Oven is a Story Magnet

"An oven is a story magnet. People rarely pass by the park oven when something is baking without stopping to talk."

"An oven attracts festivals and community events. This only makes sense. People want to share food on special occasions... A nursery school wants to do its annual fundraiser... a street festival will culminate in a pizza-potluck, a city parks tour wants to have lunch at the oven."

We don't have to put on the festivals ourselves. People call up and say:

...six folk-dancing groups get together once a year and there are too many people for a small hall -- could they come and dance outdoors and bring a potluck to augment our bread and pizza? ....A theater company has devised an open-air park performance about the mythology surrounding baking in ancient times, could they get us to bake some bread for opening night? .....A community Hallowe'en parade needs a destination for the parade to end at -- could they end at the park around a giant bonfire, with fresh bread for the participants? .....The local city councillor's office wants to host an all-neighbourhood lawn sale, could they put it near the oven and have some pizza available?

Shaping the Dough

The dough rose again in the fridge overnight. I punched it down and shaped pieces of the dough into baseball-sized blobs. I placed two 'baseballs' in each greased loaf pan. Now I have six loaf pans of dough rising in the cold oven.

I have weensy bits of dough clinging to my hands. If I ever visited a palm reader or fortune-teller she would know I'm a bread baker.


I dreamed I shared a studio with two artists and this somehow included sharing my garden. They showed up with their extended family and began planting carrots and celery and turnips that they had purchased at Whole Foods. They were digging holes and putting the mature vegetables in the ground. Then they posed for group photos while my husband and I watched. After they left my husband and I walked through the garden. We noticed dead fish strewn about as fertilizer. One of the fish got up and came towards me. It's alive! I shouted. This fish is alive! It turned out to be a fish that was actually a bulldog. It was missing the lower half of its back legs. "That's from frostbite," I said.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Live Dough

Today I finally mixed up some sourdough. I had been living off of previously baked loaves stashed in my freezer. I temporarily got out of the habit and began avoiding baking. Today I mixed up a blend of whole wheat flour, bread flour, oat groats, coarse cornmeal, kosher salt, sourdough starter, and Fleishmann's yeast for good measure, and water.
Making bread is not only a metaphor for life it's a huge comfort because it's a parallel life. My bread preparation requires a few moments to mix up the dough and then I set it aside in another room for the day. Before bed I will punch down the dough and refrigerate it overnight. In the morning I will shape the loaves and place them in pans to rise again before baking them in a 450 degree oven.
I forgot how exciting it is to have a live dough incubating. Baking bread is a drama with many acts.

The Water of Life

“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. ...this a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”
-Stephen King

Joyce Carol Oates

When writing goes painfully, when it’s hideously difficult, and one feels real despair (ah, the despair, silly as it is, is real!)–then naturally one ought to continue with the work; it would be cowardly to retreat. But when writing goes smoothly–why then one certainly should keep on working, since it would be stupid to stop. Consequently one is always writing or should be writing.
-Joyce Carol Oates

I Better do This

What happens is six months go by after I finish a book and I start to go out of my mind. I have no hobbies, I don’t garden, I hate travel. The impetus is not inspiration, just a feeling that I better do this. There’s something addictive about leading another life at the same time you’re living your own. If you think about it, it’s a very strange way to make a living.
- Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler

“Bravest thing about people is how they go on loving mortal beings after finding out there's such a thing as dying.”
― Anne Tyler, The Tin Can Tree

Robert McKee

Life is absurd. But there is one meaningful thing, one inarguable thing, and that is that there is suffering. Fine writing helps alleviate that suffering – and anything that puts meaning and beauty into the world in the form of story, helps people to live with more peace and purpose and balance, is deeply worthwhile.

-Robert McKee

Magic Door

“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.”
― Eugene O'Neill

Lives by Mending

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”
― Eugene O'Neill

Eugene O'Neill

“Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.

Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.”
― Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Advice: Keep the Channel Open

One of the most solid pieces of writing advice I know is in fact intended for dancers – you can find it in the choreographer Martha Graham’s biography. But it relaxes me in front of my laptop the same way I imagine it might induce a young dancer to breathe deeply and wiggle their fingers and toes.
- Zadie Smith

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
-Martha Graham

Suit of Armor

Keep on writing, no matter what! That's the most important thing. As long as you have a job on hand that absorbs all your mental energy, you haven't much worry to spare over other things. It serves as a suit of armor.

- Eugene O' Neill


You’ve got to work on something dangerous. You have to work on something that makes you uncertain. Something that makes you doubt yourself. You shouldn’t feel safe. You should feel, “I don’t know if I can write this.” That’s what I mean by dangerous, and I think that’s a good thing to do. Sacrifice something safe.

- Stephen Sonheim

Kurt Vonnegut

Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.
-Kurt Vonnegut

Kathryn Schulz

Eighty percent of the battle of writing involves keeping yourself in that cave: waiting out the loneliness and opacity and emptiness and frustration and bad sentences and dead ends and despair until the damn thing resolves into words. That kind of patience, a steady turning away from everything but the mind and the topic at hand, can only be accomplished by cultivating the habit of attention and a tolerance for solitude.
-Kathryn Schulz

Placido Domingo

The high note is not the only thing.
-Placido Domingo

Me and My Robot

I made porridge from oat groats this morning. It was cooking in my robot electric pressure cooker while I sat at my desk. The oats came out great and were delicious with raisins and milk and cinnamon.

Timothy Egan

Story follows character, as the Greeks knew,


I was outside on the phone at an art gallery. The owner showed up and wanted in on my conversation. I ignored her. She put me into her chicken shack where I was attacked by hens, to get me off the phone.
A tall man was standing in the next yard. He had just rolled in a gigantic bottle of rosé wine that was the same size as he was. He unscrewed the cap. The mouth of the bottle was as wide as a mason jar. He began sipping.
I was in a crowded room with someone tapping me on the shoulder. I woke up from my dog pawing at me.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Free Advice

From the Old Coots.

The Sky

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each Day

Each day, and the living of it, has to be a conscious creation in which discipline and order are relieved with some play and pure foolishness.
- May Sarton

In the Chaos

“In the chaos of this world, where we carom and collide in the everyday turbulence, there's something about the specific gravity of the helpless individual, the lost and the fractured, that draws kindness from us, like venom from a wound.”
― David Stuart MacLean

Inceredibly Random

“... it made me realize how crazy random it was not just that I was me (the billion sperm to one egg; the insane odds against all of my ancestors ever meeting each other), but also how, with the millions of electrical pulses in the brain that were needed to fire every microsecond, it was incredibly random that I continued to be me.”
― David Stuart MacLean, The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia

The Answer to the Riddle

“You’ve done a good job of saying everything but how you feel,” she said. “Sadness isn’t something you get to get out of by being smart. You don’t get to outwit this. You will have to deal with the pain at some point.”
― David Stuart MacLean, The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia

David Stuart MacLean

“The thing that gets in the way of people writing is what they want to write about. Because they'll start writing, and they'll get angry at the thing that they're writing because it wasn't what was in their head. One of the things you have to do in writing is get over the thing that brought you to the chair. The thing that brought you to the chair is great and really wonderful, but at some point you have to give over to the practice of what you've written versus what you want to write. What you want to write is going to destroy you. What you have written is the thing you've got.”
― David Stuart MacLean

The Tilted Man

I saw the tilted man again. He was tilted backwards as if he was holding a large piece of glass. He lifted his knees slowly as he walked. He must be in pain. I couldn't help watching, mesmerized. As he methodically walked across the Walgreen's parking lot the whole world became the grounds of his asylum.

A Hero

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
- Joseph Campbell

Dedicate Ourselves

One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.
- Joseph Campbell


Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.
- Joseph Campbell


The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.
- Joseph Campbell

Sacred Space

Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.
- Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.
- Joseph Campbell


Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
-Joseph Campbell

A Child

A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.
-James Baldwin

James Baldwin

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
-James Baldwin

Season of Apples

This is my desperate season--I call it "receive mode" because everything is coming in (anxiety overwhelm) versus flying out---which I call "transmit mode". I swim and write to save my life. My schedule holds me up. I get spoiled by 'transmit mode' and then I have to adjust to 'receive mode'. Each mood 'house' is 10 weeks long. It's how I'm made! I'm cyclothymic.

In this 'house' I'm rolling boulders up hill! But then I have to ask myself what's good about it? I stay focused and admittedly that is good for many things.

Amen to workouts they help me immeasurably and the side effects are elevated mood and feeling calm and the SUPER BONUS is excellent muscles.

Yesterday I found a new memoir yesterday at the library, The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh. So far it's fabulous. I love well written memoirs.

Hanan Al-Shaykh

“Surely you know that pleasure soon evaporates, into thin air?
Then all we are left with are stories.”
― Hanan Al-Shaykh

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Writer's Almanac is Back

The Writer's Almanac is back--as an email newsletter, as a podcast, as a Facebook page, etc.


“Excuse me, I said. I thought you were a trout stream.
I'm not, she said.”
― Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

I Cannot Understand

“I cannot understand why my arm is not a lilac tree.”
― Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers


“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
― Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

“I have tried in my way to be free.”
― Leonard Cohen

Dance Me

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love”
― Leonard Cohen

Going Nowhere

“Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

“Not many years ago, it was access to information and movement that seemed our greatest luxury; nowadays it’s often freedom from information, the chance to sit still, that feels like the ultimate prize.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. —Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

“Writers, of course, are obliged by our professions to spend much of our time going nowhere. Our creations come not when we’re out in the world, gathering impressions, but when we’re sitting still, turning those impressions into sentences. Our job, you could say, is to turn, through stillness, a life of movement into art. Sitting still is our workplace, sometimes our battlefield.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Sitting Still

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

“Sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it;”
― Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Pico Iyer

“Writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.”
― Pico Iyer

Gustave Flaubert

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”
― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it”
― Gustave Flaubert

“Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”
― Gustave Flaubert

This Morning

Sirens howling red though the city

Jenn Blair

I don't dare
wipe my lips on a skyscraper.

End with an Image

“End with an image and don't explain.”
― Stanley Kunitz, The Collected Poems

“I dropped my hoe and ran into the house and started to write this poem, 'End of Summer.’ It began as a celebration of wild geese. Eventually the geese flew out of the poem, but I like to think they left behind the sound of their beating wings.”
― Stanley Kunitz

“You must be careful not to deprive the poem of its wild origin.”
― Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitz

“The universe is a continuous web. Touch it at any point and the whole web quivers.”
― Stanley Kunitz


by Barbara Crooker

It was November, when my middle daughter
descended to the underworld. She fell
off her horse straight into coma's arms.
He dragged her down, wrapped her in a sleep
so deep I thought I would never see her again.
Each day, the light grew dimmer, as Earth
moved away from sun. I was not writing this story;
no one knew the ending, not the neurosurgeons,
not their fancy machines. Her skin grew pale,
the freckles stood out like stars, and every
twenty-four hours she was further away.
I called and called her name, offered to trade places,
ate six pomegranate seeds, their bleeding garnets
tart on the tongue. Her classmates took
their SATs, wrote their entrance essays. She
slipped down into the darkness, another level
deeper. I was ready to deliver her to college,
watch her disappear into a red brick dorm, green
trees waving their arms in welcome. Not this,
season without ending, where switches changed
the darkness to light, and breath was forced
through tubes and machines, their steady hum
the only music of the dim room. The shadows
under her eyes turned blue-violet, and pneumonia
filled her lungs.

And then, one morning, slight as the shift
from winter to spring, her eyelids fluttered,
and up she swam, a slippery rebirth,
and the light that came into the room
was from a different world.

Barbara Crooker

In the Middle
by Barbara Crooker, from Word Press, 1998.

of a life that's as complicated as everyone else's,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather's
has stopped at 9:20; we haven't had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don't ring. One day you look out the window,
green summer, the next, and the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon. Our children almost grown,
our parents gone, it happened so fast. Each day, we must learn
again how to love, between morning's quick coffee
and evening's slow return. Steam from a pot of soup rises,
mixing with the yeasty smell of baking bread. Our bodies
twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between;
his tail is a metronome, 3/4 time. We'll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

The Transformation

“Ideas at first considered outrageous or ridiculous or extreme gradually become what people think they've always believed. How the transformation happened is rarely remembered, in part because it's compromising: it recalls the mainstream when the mainstream was, say, rabidly homophobic or racist in a way it no longer is; and it recalls that power comes from the shadows and the margins, that our hope is in the dark around the edges, not the limelight of center stage. Our hope and often our power.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark


I was bicycling on the frozen river when I arrived at a spot that was flooded with huge gaps in the ice. I found two men in a work space below ground and I asked them to be my witness in case I don't make it.

Despair vs Hope

“Despair demands less of us, it’s more predictable, and in a sad way safer. Authentic hope requires clarity—seeing the troubles in this world—and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Rebecca Solnit: Hope in the Dark

“The term 'politics of prefiguration' has long been used to describe the idea that if you embody what you aspire to, you have already succeeded. That is to say, if your activism is already democratic, peaceful, creative, then in one small corner of the world these things have triumphed. Activism, in this model, is not only a toolbox to change things but a home in which to take up residence and live according to your beliefs, even if it's a temporary and local place...”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

What We Dream Of

“What we dream of is already present in the world.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Start Living That Way Now

“Paul Goodman famously wrote, “Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society that you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now!”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

From the Edges

“You may be told that the legal decisions lead the changes, that judges and lawmakers lead the culture in those theaters called courtrooms, but they only ratify change. They are almost never where change begins, only where it ends up, for most changes travel from the edges to the center.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Hope in the Dark

“The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark


“Inside the word "emergency" is "emerge"; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark


“Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it. Sometimes I think victories must be temporary or incomplete; what kind of humanity would survive paradise? The industrialized world has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupté, cul-de-sacs, cable television and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair and a decay of the soul suggesting that Paradise is already a gulag. Countless desperate teenagers will tell you so. For paradise does not require of us courage, selflessness, creativity, passion: paradise in all accounts is passive, is sedative, and if you read carefully, soulless.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Opposite of Fear

“Hope just means another world might be possible, not promise, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

“To hope is to gamble. It's to bet on your futures, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark


“Joy doesn't betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Rebecca Solnit on Hope

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

The Hell Circus

For two years the political news has been one big hell circus.


Physical activity can help you manage stress by: 1. It releases feel-good brain chemicals that may make you feel more energetic. 2. It reduces harmful immune system chemicals. 3. It increases body temperature, which may have calming effects and help you sleep better. 4. It provides a distraction to help take your mind off your worries.
-Mayo Clinic

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Sometimes wherever I look I see disaster. This morning I spotted the orange electrical cord dangling from a neighbors window connected to their downstairs neighbor's apartment, in the rain. Their other window wide open, no screen, in spite of having small children. On my walk I saw a man rummaging through a pile of clothes in the park with three big loose dogs. As I turned the corner I saw a vehicle with it's parking lights left on.

May Sarton

“It always comes back to the same necessity: go deep enough and there is a bedrock of truth, however hard.”
― May Sarton


“Solitude itself is a way of waiting for the inaudible and the invisible to make itself felt. And that is why solitude is never static and never hopeless. On the other hand, every friend who comes to stay enriches the solitude forever; presence, if it has been real presence, does not ever leave.”
― May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep: A Journal

Like a Tree

“I would like to believe when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seeds every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life. It is the tree’s way of being. Strongly rooted perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind.”
― May Sarton, Recovering: A Journal

Fierce Tension

“The fierce tension in me, when it is properly channeled, creates the good tension for work. But when it becomes unbalanced I am destructive. How to isolate that good tension is my problem these days. Or, put in another way, how to turn the heat down fast enough so the soup won’t boil over!”
― May Sarton

May Sarton

“To go with, not against the elements, an inexhaustible vitality summoned back each day to do the same tasks, to feed the animals, clean out barns and pens, keep that complex world alive.”
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

A Question

“I have never written a book that was not born out of a question I needed to answer for myself.”
― May Sarton

Mystic and Nonmystic

“The creative person, the person who moves from an irrational source of power, has to face the fact that this power antagonizes. Under all the superficial praise of the "creative" is the desire to kill. It is the old war between the mystic and the nonmystic, a war to the death.”
― May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing


“So sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands.”
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Lover of the Work

“It is good for a professional to be reminded that his professionalism is only a husk, that the real person must remain an amateur, a lover of the work.”
― May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

May Sarton

“Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn’t start at the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking (though there are TV dinners!), knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.”
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


“We fear disturbance, change, fear to bring to light and to talk about what is painful. Suffering often feels like failure, but it is actually the door into growth.”
― May Sarton

Think Like a Hero

“One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.”
― May Sarton


“Routine is not a prison, but the way to freedom from time.”
― May Sarton

Let it Rest

“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
― May Sarton

Imitate the Trees

“Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long, not even pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”
― May Sarton

Make Peace

“The moral dilemma is to make peace with the unacceptable.”
― May Sarton

Be Alive

“For any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just to what you're feeling, but also to your pets, to flowers, to what you're reading.”
― May Sarton

Monday, September 24, 2018


“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Great Stories

“...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy

“The American way of life is not sustainable. It doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America. ”
― Arundhati Roy

Orhan Pamuk

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.”
― Orhan Pamuk, The New Life