Monday, November 27, 2017

I made a book. You can buy it if you like.

It's been pretty quiet here on the blog. Partly because life has been crazy and busy and full, and partly because I have been working on several longer-term projects. I put the first one out into the world today. Shift is an extension of the teleidoscope series I did during the Advent season last year. The project was powerful for me, and I wanted to make it into something a person could hold in their hands, or place in someone else's hands, if they felt so inclined. And so, this. I liked the idea of print-on-demand for this particular project, because only as many of these as are wanted will go out into the world, and I do not have to get anyone else's permission to send them out. I would love it if you wanted to buy one.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rock & Sling Guest Post: Summer Reading

I am honored to have a piece up on the Rock & Sling blog this past week. It was the wrap-up of their Summer Reading series and a chance to revisit how life and books intertwined at some key summer moments, past and present.

And now that I'm thinking of summer, here's a small bit from a trip to my hometown in June:

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Of Burgers and Barrooms Anthology, Main Street Rag

I am so pleased to have my poem, "This is exactly" included in Main Street Rag's upcoming anthology, Of Burgers and Barrooms. I had the opportunity to peek through the proof, and it looks like a fascinating and varied collection. The projected release date for this collection of stories and poems is November 14, 2017, but you can preorder the book in advance for a discounted price of $10 here

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Monday, August 7, 2017

What I Did This Summer

So I've been playing with paper for a long time. And long ago when I went off to college I thought I would have time to study both art and music seriously. When it became clear that I had to focus on one or the other, I told myself I would take art classes again someday, maybe after I got my big orchestra job. And life went differently than that. That's okay, though, because hovering on the side of my writing all this time has been this desire to extend words and thought more and more into a physical realm. This summer I took several classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and my head and heart are bursting. (It's a magical place, and I can't wait to go back again.) The pictures above are things I made in class--now I'm trying to find time for skill-building, and practice, and ways to bring some of the ideas in my head to life. I have so much to learn, and I'm so excited.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Update: May/June

I am honored to have had two pieces published recently: an article in the American Suzuki Journal, and a poem in Rock & Sling (Issue 12.1.) 

It was a special treat to see my article in the ASJ featured on the mailing label that came with the journal--I am rather proud of that. The article, "Walk the Hills, Crawl if Necessary" was something I worked on for months this past year. The basic point was that as parents we run into times when we have to loosen our grip on our expectations, that sometimes what looks like stagnation is still a moving-forward, just maybe hidden, or very slow. It ended up being very, very close to home, and depending on the day (week/month) it was sometimes nearly impossible to write about.

The poem in Rock & Sling was also difficult to write. "The Beatitudes" by Vladimir Martynov, Rescored for Kronos Quartet was a piece I nearly gave up on. It began as an assignment at a poetry workshop I attended in 2015, the last assignment at the end of an incredibly full, intense week. I hated what I had written so much I decided not to turn it in. In the end I could not leave it alone, either, but it took many months to shift into its current form.

Today's theme? Never give up. Time is kind of a magical thing, and I keep forgetting to factor it in. 

I have been working on several projects while away from this blog. Day-to-day what I see around me is Mess, but over the course of time I can see that I am making progress. In time I hope to share about those here. In the meantime you can find me a little more frequently on Instagram.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Make it New: See it New

It is an honor to be a guest contributor on the Rock & Sling blog today. And it was good to re-read my own words. I know I am not the only one who carries the weight of current events, personal struggles (those of my loved ones as well as my own,) and what amounts to a daily battle with chaos around on her shoulders. It is only natural that we get tired. Playing with a teleidoscope last December felt like escapism at first, a place for my soul to rest during a busy time. But it became something more, reminding me that transformation is a powerful powerful thing. You can read about it here.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Rock & Sling 11.2 link, plus a picture

The current issue of Rock & Sling is now for sale on their website. It is an honor to have my poem, "Elision," included in it. "Elision" is a spring poem, about a chamber music concert I played in a few years ago. There were birds nesting up in the ceiling above the stage, and those of us waiting backstage could hear them singing their hearts out while our colleagues played onstage. The sound was magical and is something I carry with me still, but what also lingers is the momentary dissolving of walls. It is not often that I have felt like such an active participant in the ushering-in of spring. If you are interested, you may buy a copy here.

I had the briefest moment earlier this week, waiting in the car for Youngest to come out from a lesson (You don't have to come in anymore, Mom, it's okay) when the walls dissolved again, rain and trees and windshield melting into something new and beautiful. I even had enough space in my phone to get a picture. Happy spring to you, friends. May you turn and catch the walls dissolving every once in a while.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From My Reading, 3/22/17

From Animal Farm, by George Orwell:

Meanwhile life was hard. The winter was as cold as the last one had been, and food was even shorter. Once again all rations were reduced, except those of the pigs and the dogs. A too rigid equality in rations, Squealer explained, would have been contrary to the principles of Animalism. In any case he had no difficulty in proving to the other animals that they were not in reality short of food, whatever the appearances might be. For the time being, certainly, it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Squealer always spoke of it as a "readjustment," never as a "reduction"), but in comparison with the days of Jones, the improvement was enormous. Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in Jones's day, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas. The animals believed every word of it. Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out of their memories. They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out.

*     *     *

I grew up watching the 1954 animated version of this at school. I've lost track of how many times I saw it, but the messages and images are pretty deeply-ingrained: the cruelty of Mr. Jones, the animal uprising, the Seven Commandments of Animalism. Napoleon's takeover. Good and faithful Boxer working himself nearly to death before being carted off to be made into glue. I always understood the movie as a warning about what had happened in the Soviet Union, but underneath that there was always what I now see as the core message: a warning about what we humans are tempted to do with power. What history has shown we do. That is what haunts me now about this book--that and how the truth flickers and shifts in the hands of some. How easily the others lose track, and go along with what is happening. This isn't just the story of a faraway place, locked into one point in time, it is something that happens over and over in our world. How simple it might be to just lose track, go along.

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Monday, March 6, 2017


Does it matter, 
the way sunlight pokes through the blinds 
and lands on a vinyl seat at a Chinese buffet 
where you have come to redeem the day? 
 Every ounce of effort spent towards good counts. 
Every bit of good you catch coming back counts, too. 
Those fairy tales you loved as a child (still love, it just feels a little different now,) 
that endless Story of good vs. evil? 
You are in the middle of that story, 
finding endless variations on it day by day. 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From My Reading, 2/22/17

I started, but never finished, reading George Orwell's 1984 in high school. Eventually I will get back to it, but I am glad now that I read this first. 

From Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley:

"But why is it prohibited?" asked the Savage. In the excitement of meeting a man who had read Shakespeare he had momentarily forgotten everything else. 

The Controller shrugged his shoulders. "Because it's old; that's the chief reason. We haven't any use for old things here."

"Even when they're beautiful?"

"Particularly when they're beautiful. Beauty's attractive, and we don't want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones."

A little later in the conversation, the Controller explains why none of the new things written can be like "Othello":

"Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel--and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!" He laughed. "Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello! My good boy!"

The Savage was silent for a little. "All the same," he insisted obstinately, "Othello's good, Othello's better than those feelies."

"Of course it is," the Controller agreed. "But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead."

"But they don't mean anything." 

"They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience."

"But they're...they're told by an idiot."

"The Controller laughed. "You're not being very polite to your friend, Mr. Watson. One of our most distinguished Emotional Engineers..."

"But he's right," said Helmholtz gloomily. "Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say..."

"Precisely. But that requires the most enormous ingenuity. You're making flivvers out of the absolute minimum of steel--works of art out of practically nothing but pure sensation."

The Savage shook his head. "It all seems to me quite horrible."

"Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."

*     *     *

More and more I find myself wondering what we are buying, and buying into. How normal it seems in this corner of the world to expect and demand comfort and ease. How natural it seems to be to allow oneself to behave and be treated as first and foremost a consumer. How often I hear people confusing education with job-training. Does it raise a fight in you, the way it does me?

*     *     *

My other offering today, something old and beautiful. Spent, I suppose. But look:

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors"

My friend Carrol shared this prayer from the The Book of Common Prayer on social media last week. I have decided to share it in turn in the form of a postcard to my representatives, along with a personal message to each on the back. Something felt important about doing this by hand, and the repetition of the words and the patterns around them. Lingering on all of it. These are words that need hearing, and attending to.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Elision," Rock & Sling 11.2

My poem, "Elision," is included in the current (11.2) issue of Rock & Sling. I received my contributors' copies recently, and they are beautiful. What an honor to have my work included. This issue does not seem to be available yet through their online store, but I can share the link with anyone who is interested when it does become available.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

From My Reading, 2/11/17

from Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, by Viktor E. Frankl:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

*     *     *

I have been taking my reading extra-seriously these days. There was a time when I was younger that I let myself believe I did not have room to read "for pleasure." It took crisis to realize that reading was not, in fact, a luxury, but food for my heart and mind. I made the decision that there was room in my life for books more than twenty years ago, and sure there are lean times, but I no longer have qualms about calling reading essential. Through the years you might have been able to find me reading while nursing babies, while knitting, while stirring pots of things-that-need-constant-stirring on the stove. Sometimes my head drops into the book on my pillow at night before I've read even a page, and sometimes these days I have trouble keeping the book propped open well enough to read on the treadmill. It does not matter, though; I am finding nourishment, even if it is in tiny bits. Plus, I get to meet the most amazing people through their books. Last week I got to know Viktor Frankl, and while I was familiar with some of his ideas, I needed to hear them more deeply.  Things like the passage above. And like this:

I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, "homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

I was also stunned by passages like this one:

For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

There is poetry in there, don't you think? And maybe enough strength for the day?

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Friday, January 20, 2017


When the news gets to be too much, send paper stars out into the world.

Not that you won’t get back to the news, the opinion columns, the how-to-survive-what’s-next articles. Not that you haven’t been talking about it, educating and comforting your children, ranting to those closest to you. You have vowed not to turn away, to do everything you can to support the people and programs and systems that are at risk.

But you know you have to find a way to live beyond the fear and sadness. The horror at each day’s developments. What do you do with it all? You told your kids the day after the election that you would keep living the way you knew you should live, and fight harder than ever for what you believe is right. But what do you do with this Waiting now, for the days to reveal just how many people have been betrayed, and how much damage will be done?

Start folding stars, for one thing.

At first they were Christmas ornaments for your family. For your children to take with them into adulthood: tokens of your love, a bridge from old home and old life to new. For the one close to you who left all extras behind as she fled a life of abuse in order to build something new and better.

It did not take long for this project to turn into something else, though.

It’s not just the working of your hands, or the bright squares of paper, or the repetitiveness of the task. It is the power to put good out into the world that compels you. To make something beautiful in the face of ugliness, and out of humble things, and with your own hands.

These are your greatest acts of defiance: beauty, kindness, love. They are not the only things, but they are the beginning, and quite likely the end. A promise to yourself and the people around you that you will not stop doing what you know is right.

And you keep folding. Take note, as you memorize the folds. So many fussy little preparatory creases: seven, followed by a cut and an unfolding, and you are holding a pentagon in your hand. Fifteen more folds and un-folds, a little pinching and arranging, and suddenly the paper pinwheels into shape. Five more creases, a tuck—and there. You are holding a star. And that moment where everything shifts into place becomes something you want to repeat, over and over.

There are no shortcuts. You forget once, and do all the preparatory folds with the pattern face side up. You try to force the pinwheel into shape anyway, thinking that maybe the backwards folds weakened the paper enough to make it do what you wished. But no. You have to go back and fold everything the right way. The paper had been weakened, yes, but in preparation for something else.

And this is what sinks deep into every cell of your body: how the folds weaken the paper, how the sheet softens in your hands. How without this weakness there would be no getting to the new shape.

Note how the new thing—this bright and delicate star—is stronger than the original.

Repeat, again and again, folding yourself into the process. Bend yourself over and over, in preparation for what is next. Hone your skills for beauty. Flood the world with stars. 

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