Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

This is timely, as we were talking about this last night after dinner–that I let myself be interrupted and find it difficult to get back into the Flow. So it’s yet another sign that I need to get back to work…

Vox Populi

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses…

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A Researcher’s Guide to the #Resistance

#resist #furiousvexation

Dr. Micah Allen

Note; the bottom of this post will be continuously updated with resources and action links. Please add any useful resources in the comments, to be added to the list.

This topic needs no introduction; if you are not already aware of the crisis and political turmoil I’m not sure this document could reach you anyway. This is for the woke scientist, scholar, and other academics ready to fight fear with resistance. I’m not exactly sure how to best arrange this document but it must be written. My goal is less to review the state of affairs, of which I’m sure you are aware, but rather to provide concrete tips and guidelines so that you can break free from ‘oh-dearism’ and leap into action.

With that in mind, lets break this down into a few sections:

  1. No action is too small.

On the progressive left, particularly among intellectuals, we have a…

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John Muir Had a Hickory Hill Farm

John Muir Had a Hickory Hill Farm

Hewn out of  wildness
of endless trees, paradise
for birds and wild children


Sierra Club Article

(This post is a placeholder — this week has been crazy busy and I am coming down with something–but yesterday I gave a public lecture that included some readings from John Muir and I feel connected to his spirit today. We have a huge shagbark hickory tree on our land, and it is the centerpiece –the reason we bought the property 12+ years ago–our house will be built to orient my library window with the tree in the center. We had discussed calling the place Hickory Hill Farm, and now I feel like that’s what it should be. I am so very lucky, I know.)

Hickory Honey and Tony

Lines Composed in the Dark

Lines Composed in the Dark

Moths batter at fluorescence
I try to sleep in Ohio but it’s Chicago
that keeps me awake:

Fire department sirens on Western Avenue
shouted conversations in Polish
the hollow boom of too much bass

The sodium orange burn of never-quite-night
when the sun slides behind the ComEd building–
There are ways of looking at an absence

through the rolling Ohio fields of timothy
against the falling veil of Brandywine creek
drifting past smokestacks and silent huletts on the Cuyahoga

like a series of relics wrapped

and buried beneath the Chinese chestnut tree in the yard


[OV MFA thesis 1999
Revision 4 April 2016]

[Confused sense of place and dis-location in this one–I was living in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago–near Nelson Algren’s haunts– but homesick for Ohio. I am also obsessed with (disused) industrial locations–the Jaite Paper Mill at the bottom of Highland Road that closed when I was a kid; my grandfather worked on the docks; my father worked for J&L Steel (later LTV) (later bankrupt but naturally the executives got paid). I think there’s a lot in here. I just need time to excavate. #mapyear ]

Haiku: Wisconsin Spring

Wisconsin Spring

Daffodils huddle
A few confused frogs burrow
Back into cold mud


April 2 2016 SNOW

2 April 2016, Sheboygan County, WI

We had a good spring snowstorm yesterday morning/afternoon that dumped 3-4″ of wet, cars-in-the-ditch snow. Today it’s in the upper 40s and the sun came out for a little bit, so it’s almost all melted already. The clouds are moving fast and the forecast is calling for cold and more snow in the coming week.

April is, after all, the cruelest month.

A Body Map of My Life, Part 2

A Body Map of My Life, Part 1


[Part II]
[YOU ARE HERE]

LOCATION: Right forearm along ulna (March 1971-present)
CAUSE: Genetic
DIAGNOSIS: Port wine stains, approximately 5” x 2.5” at widest point
TREATMENT: Extra sunscreen with zinc; assuring nurses and doctors that yes, I am safe in my home and no, it’s not a bruise and no, it hasn’t changed size or shape recently
FOLLOWUP: Glad it’s not on my face where it would be exposed to daily sun damage

LOCATION: Left hand, index finger, first knuckle (2002)
CAUSE: Stubborn insistence on closing stuck old window
DIAGNOSIS: Cut that luckily did not sever any tendons
TREATMENT: Seven stitches and an upside-down V shaped scar that still itches 14 years later
FOLLOWUP: Still stubborn but more cautious around glass and things that are stuck

LOCATION: Perineum (2004) (2008)
CAUSE: Beautiful, perfectly formed big-head babies (both over the 100th percentile) due to genetics (both parents have larger-than-average skulls)
DIAGNOSIS: Tear (2004)/incision (2008)
TREATMENT: Stitches that itch like a mad bitch on fire; ice packs changed hourly for a week; 8 weeks of no sex
FOLLOWUP: Willful, creative, intelligent children with thick mops of curly brown hair and big brown eyes with long lashes;  shortness of breath when I come across a tiny sock in the back of a drawer

LOCATION: Right hand, back, 3” below pinkie, 2” from wrist (July 2014)
CAUSE: Spider bite
DIAGNOSIS: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which I keep calling Marcus Aurelius because I can’t remember the word “methicillin”
TREATMENT: Multiple visits to doctor and two separate trips to the ER; over a month of sulfa drugs (which is what they use to treat MRSA even if you’re not allergic to penicillin); second trip to ER concludes with 6” of linen tape packed into a wound so deep I can see my tendon move when I open and close my hand—the tape must be pulled and cut daily for two weeks as the wound heals underneath it; I have never been so grossed out by (or afraid for) my body; I fear losing my hand, or dying of sepsis while my husband is out of town
FOLLOWUP: I did not lose my writing hand. Still not afraid of spiders.

LOCATION: Everywhere all once
CAUSE: Everything and nothing
DIAGNOSIS: Some fraying around the edges; mostly intact and still functioning
TREATMENT: Acceptance of failure and frailty; wine; friends; books; writing
FOLLOWUP: Ongoing

IMG_0976

They’re not babies anymore. Don Pedro Island State Park, March 2015

 

A Body Map of My Life, Part 1

A BODY MAP OF MY LIFE
-after Bridget Booher
[Part I]

[YOU WERE HERE]
1.
LOCATION: Brain (1) (1983)
CAUSE: Fall from back of galloping Welsh pony while wearing regulation helmet
DIAGNOSIS: Concussion; #1 of at least 5
TREATMENT: Sit on forest-green Springsteel couch and stare at ceiling; no TV; pony is fine
FOLLOWUP: None; wear helmet (most of the time)

2.
LOCATION: Right thigh, 6” above knee (1985)
CAUSE: Hayknife driven deep while opening a 50lb sack of oats
DIAGNOSIS: Hole in favorite acid-washed jeans; shallowish wound that bleeds well on favorite acid-washed jeans
TREATMENT: Bactine and Band-Aid; stupid-looking iron-on patch for jeans because my mom won’t buy me another pair
FOLLOWUP: Jeans have to be turned into cutoffs when patch fails; yes, they are still called cutoffs in 1985.

3.
LOCATION: Shoulders (1985+)
CAUSE: Genetic defect
DIAGNOSIS: Back acne. Huge angry painful red pustules that I cannot resist breaking, resulting in angry red scars
TREATMENT: Tetracycline, which does not work because I forget to take it an hour before or two hours after I eat, and also increases sun sensitivity and I ride my horse an hour a day in an outdoor arena and I cannot bring myself to wear long sleeves in the heat
FOLLOWUP: Hate my dad for passing on his acne prone genes. Wear a t-shirt when in public pool to hide scars; most have faded 30 years later and most people stare at my boobs anyway

4.
LOCATION: Right knee (1990)
CAUSE: Tripped over friend Dave (or Daryl?)’s metal bedframe on first day of classes sophomore year of college
DIAGNOSIS: Staph infection (#1). Gross.
TREATMENT: Visit to campus clinic for antibiotic (penicillin allergy); panicked call from clinic nurse to not take the Keflex because it’s counter-indicated for penicillin allergy–there is a chance I could die of anaphylaxis; two weeks of sulfa drugs and no pool for lifeguard class and no drinking and itching like mad as it heals
FOLLOWUP: 4” scar persists 25 years later

5.
LOCATION: Heart (Paris) (1992)
CAUSE: Boy loves “someone else”
DIAGNOSIS: Broken. Duh.
TREATMENT: After considering stepping in front of a black Mercedes Benz cab speeding along the Boulevard St. Germain, instead consume large amounts of cheap French wine in company of one good guy friend who doesn’t judge or say things like “there are other fish in the sea” (like I will ever want to go fishing again anyway)
FOLLOWUP: Boy marries “someone else” (blonde, blue-eyed, calm) and lives a quiet life in Xenia, Ohio; sporadic trials of one-night stands do nothing and one long-term relationship collapses under the weight of the boy’s ghost though it’s also true that boyfriend wanted a cheerleader type instead of former philosophy major and current Master’s candidate working part-time in a Waldenbooks but that is another story


It’s that time of year again: National Poetry Writing Month–a poem a day for the 30 days of National Poetry Month .

Some days I use the prompts, some days I share stuff I am (re)working on, and some days I sit down and bang something out. I tried it last year while teaching my creative writing course, and I enjoyed it. Having a goal gave me the ability to grant time for myself, for my own work. Like many professors, I am often loathe to take because it means that a host of other stuff from my “real” job gets pushed off. But for 30 days, I can do this for myself.

Today’s post is from a work I started after reading Fran Wilde’s blog post “A Map Year” .

Like Fran, I have always loved maps. One of my favorite memories of Paris is of a tiny shop I stumbled over in an alley in the Latin Quarter –marine maps, city maps, old maps, new maps. Maps on the wall, maps in drawers. I couldn’t afford any of them, but the smell of all that paper still lingers in my memory. Paris occupies a lot of space in my memory map.

I purchased You Are Here: Persyou are hereonal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, by Katharine Harmon, which contains Bridget Booher’s poem. More work will come out of this, and I look forward to exploring. Interior spelunking.

Thanks for reading.