Writing Feed

The Taste of Silence



Wherever it was
I was supposed to be this morning-- whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field-- I was hurrying
through my own soul, opening its dark doors-- I was leaning out;
I was listening.
- Mary Oliver, Mockingbirds

I love the quiet hush of early mornings; it's not completely silenced, but it seems as if all the sounds are muted, soft, and just barely there. There and then gone, teasing, enticing me to listen carefully. 

Stillness and silence seem intertwined, nearly inseparable. My soul needs both, and treasures the mornings that begin slowly and invite introspection. I miss it all when for whatever reason I tell myself that there's not enough time, that things need to be done.

Yesterday was one of those mornings, a bit rushed, a bit hectic, with things that "had to be done" before I took off to watch over a sick little one.

One of those "the world will end if you don't do this" things was taking out the recycling and trash. Bags in hand, I stopped short, staring a pretty amazing, awfully large black bird ambling through our back yard. His feathers glistened all sorts of purples and blues, the sunshine pulling them out of the black. 

I stopped briefly, bags still in hand, to watch and enjoy him. Not a crow...I've seen some big crows, and he outdid them. A raven? 

And, then I broke the silence, calling out a "Good Morning," and away he flew. Immediately, without hesitation, he flapped those large wings and took off, never looking back. The magic was gone in a heartbeat.

This morning, as I read and began to write my morning pages, he popped back into my mind. 

"Time changes, the world goes on changing, but the experience of silence remains the same...the taste of silence remains the same." (Osha Deck)

The taste of silence...I love these words, and as I wrote my pages this morning, thinking about yesterday's bird, another memory peeked through...Sister Delores, my oldest son's second grade teacher.

Sister Delores loved life and loved teaching, making learning come alive. She was on the uppermost floor of the oldest part of the school, the floor that at one time had housed the students who lived at school. Huge windows looked over a tiny town, and through one window, you saw the twisted, gnarled branches of a old tree. 

Beneath the window, she place a table with a log book, several bird books, and a few pairs of binoculars. Students could visit the station at various times, and they worked to identify the birds, logging them in with date, time, and other observations. By the end of the year, my son could identify any local species on sight, telling you whether the bird was male or female. No formal teaching, just putting the pieces into place for her kids to learn.

Her classroom was full of magic, complete with secret clubs you had to earn your way into, one of them having to do with writing. She set her expectations high, and the students worked happily to meet them.

I remember laughing aloud one day...on the door frame outside her classroom, a long strip of adding machine tape traveled the length of the frame. Sectioned off by day, various dead bees and flies were taped to the tape, with each day's tally at the bottom. Wide open windows...no AC!...led to many classroom visitors, and Sister worked with what she had.

And from there, my mother came to mind, an image so clear of her hanging out the laundry on an old clothesline, pegged with old wooden dowel clothespins. Each time she hung out the clothes, or came to unpin them to bring them in, a cardinal would alight in a nearby cherry tree. The cardinal whistled; mom whistled back, and on the conversation went the entire time she was outside. 

He only talked to Mom; when the rest of us were on clothes duty, he'd sometimes land softly on a branch, observing closely, but never made a sound. It was mom or nothing!

All of this poured through my mind as I wrote this morning...a stream of writing, loosely bound by feathered visitors. 

The sound...and the taste...of silence let the words flow.

Never Ready, Never Done

Bowl on table

This morning, I listened to a "Love Letter" from Meghan Genge, cohost along with Jamie Ridler, of Love Letters, a series of 32 messages on creativity and more. I have to confess that I've gotten really picky about these free events, since way too many of them end up promoting what they have to sell more than anything else. Jamie is a different story...she generously shares so much good stuff.

Meghan's video chat drew me in immediately; her message one that I've heard many a time in one form or another. But, it never hurts to hear it again, to be reminded of what I know, but I too often forget. 

"You're never ready; you're never done."

I can be the master of excuses at putting creativity off. My mind has so many tabs open: photography, writing, slow stitch, mixed media. I can't begin to tell you how much I've created - in my mind that is. I wake during the night composing a blog entry, working out a photo, and more. Trouble is I'm way too good at finding reasons that I'm not ready. I need my dslr, not my phone. I need my "To Do List" to disappear, because what's on there is way too important and really should be done first, done before I sit down to create. I get in my own way. 

Never done. I do this one well. I love to learn, to research, to explore. As I finish up something, another idea pops into my too many tabs opened mind. It might be a "better" way to do what I've done. It might be something brand new. I'm not idea challenged, but when I sit down to write, the little gremlin, aka inner critic, whispers, "Really? Why bother?" and then gives me a laundry list of why I shouldn't bother, and oh, yeah, remember all that stuff you need to do? Like laundry?

Meghan's advice: Just begin. Just take one step. Then, take another. Yeah, I know this, but again, it's just good to hear it, to be reminded.

I've been working through a mindful photography course with Julie Fischer MeCarter, whose work never fails to inspire. One assignment this week asked us to take a meaningful object and photography it outside of its normal surroundings. I chose my mother's blue bowl, aka the "Cookie Bowl."

Bowl on path

Julie asked us to go with whatever popped into our heads, that it would be the right choice. 

And I thought, that cookie bowl is too big to be lugging around. Besides, it's too cold to go outside.

Sigh. That damn inner critic.

So, yesterday, I woke up to a gorgeous sunrise and the most beautiful light outside my window. Out I went in a fuzzy blue art making stained bathrobe, my phone, a pair of slippers, and at the very last minute grabbed the bowl. 

Exiting through our back room door, I stopped dead. 

Well, crap, it's morning rush hour and I live immediately off of one of Virginia's busiest roads. Not only are there thousands of commuters driving by, but the middle school busses passed by as well.

And, I was the crazy lady in her bathrobe making photos of a bowl. Well, if nothing else, I'd provide a bit of conversation for a lot of folks. 

Bowl in leaves

It's not pretty outside right now, not unless you happen to love brown. I happen not to, finding it a pretty depressing color. Looking around I spotted a grungy looking moose (dog toy), also brown. A few tennis balls, the toy car the twits drive, but not one thing I could see to do with the bowl.

I wanted my dslr (never ready!) but knew if I went back inside, I probably wouldn't come out. I knew I'd get some great shots if I laid flat on the ground...uhm, no. Not going to happen. Virginia's commuters and middle schoolers already had enough to talk about. Besides, that ground is cold!

Leaves. I had lots and lots of leaves. I also had a meandering stone path that would make for great leading lines. 

I went for both, and quickly at that. When I'm shivering, it's hard to get things focused the way I like.

In the end, despite the not readys, I ended up with some cool shots. I can only imagine what my mom would be thinking. You filled the cookie bowl with dead leaves? Girl, you need to see the doctor. 

I love this bowl; it holds memories more than leaves. 

I love my shots; I know what I'd like to try next (never done!), and it will involve lying on the ground and my big girl camera. 

I love how I learned to look at the bowl differently; placing it out of context does that.

I love the stories my photos tell.

I like that I did some thinking "outside the box." 

Most of all, I like that I didn't just write this in my head.


65 Mornings

Dad's coffee cup

"So, what's next?" Lesley asked. "Now, that you've explored abstract art, where will you take it? Will you be working on another project? What's next?"

Grateful that I fell into the middle of this circle of awesomely talented women, I knew I had a bit of time to think. My first, internal response was that I just didn't know. 

But, Lesley had taught me better. Having worked through her CCGP (Closing the Creativity Gap Program) and finishing up the current Red Thread Retreat, I had one great support system in place. Knowing I had a bit of time, I closed my eyes and throught back to a list of prioritized projects in place.

When my time came, I had my answer, "I want to write. I want to take photos, and I want to put words to them. And, I think I want to put it all into book form and self publish it."

And, then I thought, "Oh, crap. I've gone public, and now I've got to make good on this."

Most of the artists present knew my photos, knew the words I often put with them, smiled and nodded their heads. Yes. Yes. Yes. Go for it. 

So, maybe I can do this. Just maybe I can.

A bit of the prioritized list of projects had to be dealt with first; there was a time crunch, and I'd learned to focus on what really mattered first. I had Christmas gifts to get done, and then, I could move forward.

Last Wednesday, I completed my 65th trip around the sun. Most of the other "significant" birthdays seemed to come and go without much fanfare or even thought on my part. Honestly, I sometimes had to do some math to figure out just how old I was.

But, 65 seems to be a milestone of some sorts. I have my Medicare card to prove it, and the good Lord knows, I had the attention of insurance companies wanting to sell me supplemental insurance.

65, for what ever reason, seems to be a good time to really embrace the fact that I have time to create, time to explore, time to do a bit of what I want to do, stuff that feeds my soul.

I'd neglected my blog; it pretty much faded into non existence. I didn't need to wonder why; Lesley's aforementioned CCGP class etched into my brain the roadblocks in place. Most importantly, I knew I'd put the darn roadblocks there myself, and even more importantly, I could remove them.

I know I have stories to tell, but I always managed to convince myself they weren't important. No one would want to read them. An idea would appear in my brain; I'd shove it aside. Soon, I'd be reading a piece of someone else's writing, on the topic I'd tossed aside, and readers loved it. As, Elizabeth Gilbert of Big Magic wrote, an idea came to me, I ignored it, and it went elsewhere to find someone else. 

When it comes down to it, it shouldn't matter if no one wants to read it; I want to write it anyway.

Knowing my tendencies to think something to death, and then not follow through (another one of my self imposed road blocks), I knew I had to put my idea out there, make it public. So, I mentioned it on my Instagram account, and now, I'm putting it out here on my blog, not an easy step, because you see, out came the stalling tactics.

I told myself that my blog is sadly outdated, no one reads it (Well, why should they if I don't write so something?), I should update it first. Maybe, I should just ditch this blog, begin a new one. 

Yep, stalling tactics. I need to write. I need to start now. The rest can wait, can be done as the writing begins.

Then, some more tactics. Should I begin a new and second Instagram account? What should I call it? A Year of Mornings? Nope, that would set me up to fail; that seemed to say I had to  post every morning, and I knew that as soon as I missed one or two, the whole thing would die a slow death. Well, to be honest, a pretty quick one, most likely.

So, again, I pushed that road block out of my way, and for now, it's "65 Mornings," because after a year of it, I should have 65 photos with accompanying words. That's only about 1 for every 6 days. Manageable, and I liked the idea of having the 65 in there.

For now, I'm just staying with the one account, and making sure that hashtag the appropriate photos with #65mornings. 

Come along with me for the ride, okay? You can find me on Instagram as @paulateach, and I'll be blogging many of the photos as well. 

You know what, I'm proud of me! 


Of Coffee Pots and Journaling


I'm sitting here in my art studio, sipping the last cup of coffee from this morning's pot, savoring it, and just thinking about creativity's ebb and flows.

It's a battered old thing, this pot. Near as I can figure, with a bit of help from Google and Etsy, it's going on 60 some years old. Nearly as old as I am, and both of us dinged up a bit, but still going strong.

Some years ago, as we packed up Dad's home, I rescued this poor baby from the pots and pans' cupboard, beneath the built in stove. I hadn't seen it used in years; Mom, then Dad had moved onto its more modern relatives, but being the Depression babies that they were, had hung onto it, "just in case."

I carried it home to Virginia, not really thinking I'd being making coffee from up, and for a long time, it just sat in my kitchen, making me smile with the memories of the past.

Just for grins and giggles, as he says, Phil decided to experiment with it one day, and it's been pressed into service ever since. If we're not in a hurry, it's put to work. There's something about watching the brown liquid begin to perk and bubble with a sound all its own. A rich aroma works its way through the kitchen and up the stairs, telling me as one of the grands puts it, that it's sunny time.

Maybe it's my imagination, but the coffee is richer and deeper somehow, and if I'm not careful the first sip or two can scald my tongue.

I've been in some sort of creative funk lately. It's not that I don't have ideas; I do, and there are lots of them. But my energy went missing, and other than perusing the net, and getting lost in its rabbit holes, I've simply been reading the kinds of books that don't make you think, or playing Suduku and Solitare.

Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough, and I pushed myself to pick up the paintbrush, acknowledge the crankies, and just get started, not putting any great importance on the outcome.


I've never been a believer of making my journals just pretty images, of somehow sending out the message that everything is just hunky dory. And, I figured that maybe if I acknowledged it...not bemoaning or wailing about it...just simple acknowledgement, that I could move past this bit.

I can't really describe just how good and right it felt to play with the paint colors, images from magazines, and to just cut and glue. Therapy, indeed.

I had to laugh when I found the image of the girl; she's just so perfect. If I had gone looking for her, she never would have appeared. I just started putting down marks, paint, etc. letting the page become what it needed to be. I altered the cut out images, making them more my own. I didn't fret about wonky letters. I just kept going, and the more I did, the better I felt.

To, make a bad pun, more than the coffee is perking. Ideas are stirring, stories asking to be written, a photography class to be planned.

Sometimes, I just need to begin. The rest usually follows.

It's Raining, It's Pouring


It's raining; it's pouring, the old man is snoring....

And, yes, the rain still falls from the sky. It drops gently, drizzles, pours, tumbles from the sky.

A few hours of sunshine get tucked in here and there, just enough to tease of better days to come.

And, my poor pots, wait for their next coat of paint. It's been nearly two weeks since I began breathing some new life into them. I think they'll still be waiting another few days.

The pots began as a way to bring in color to our tiny garden, splashes of color that just aren't found in extremely shady yards.
Color, it seems, needs sunshine, and truth be told, so do I.

I seem to go into some sort of lethargic trance on these gray gloomy days; not overly sad, not even a little sad, just utterly lazy.

I tend to nestle under my covers, cup of coffee or tea on my bedside table, and devour light hearted mysteries; you know the kind - the ones set in coffee shops, bakeries, etc. Predictable, comfortable mysteries that don't require me to think much.

In between chapters of who done its, I mentally write, lists of words that tease and delight me. Childhood memories. Crazy and/or imaginative things the twits - aka, grandsons - have done. Thoughts about farmers' markets and lunches with friends. The craziness of subbing.

All of these, written in my mind; but, I've struggled to discipline myself to sit at this keyboard.

I believe, I know that anything takes practice, whether it's my writing, my photography, or my art. Creativity requires me to show up and do the work; it's as simple as that.

I know this, but I still struggle to establish the habit, to find my rhythm.

So, I've made myself a promise, and that's to write something each day. I suspect most of it will be mundane, but out of all of it just might come a few gems. And, even if the gems remain buried for the time being, I'll be strengthening some rusting skills. I'm aiming to do it each and every day, hoping for 500 words or more.

These 500 words might come in one fell swoop (and now my mind is wondering how that expression originated...Google, here I come!) or they might come in bits and pieces. I started to type that I just need them to come, but I realize it's more that I need to write them. They won't magically appear on this screen or on paper by themselves.

The funny thing is, that once I get myself to this keyboard, I love it. I love the process; I love playing with words. I'm a bit of a nerd that way. I love a good dictionary, a good thesaurus. I love to mind map my thoughts and see where they take me.

We all have so many untold stories, and I think I worry, as do a lot of people, that I need an "exciting" topic. It's just another excuse, I'm realizing, because as I wander through blogs on any given day, it's the small and ordinary lives of online friends that delight me.

Not the " I have a perfect life" stories, but the stories of people tending sheep, figuring out how to keep a wedding theirs. They're stories of gardening triumphs, crazy border collies, and people adjust to new financial realities, but managing to keep the joy in their lives, no matter what. They're stories of dairy farmers, cats that appear on pot holders, and more.

I love them all.

It's time to write - here, I go!

P.S. To all my Creative Bedlam Farm group friends, please nag me if I begin to slack off, okay? I'm thinking I need some accountability here.