Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mixed Up Senses

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Senses

 

Sometimes I wish I could take in the world in a completely different way, challenging all I assume. If I could experience life through mixed up senses for even just one day, what would I find a rainbow tastes like, or hear if I listened to a cloud? 

Would an aria smell like flowery perfume, or the wind show me colours riding its wings? Could I touch the melting words uttered by a dying patient or catch a robin’s song?

Experiencing the world in a wildly different way is not far from any of our reach. All it takes is the sense of wonder and a willingness to try.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Dance

She strikes her ballerina pose, tutu flared, welcoming her dance partner.

He comes to her, drawn by the sweetness of her nectar.

She giggles at the serenade of his wing beats, sighs at his speedy steps.

In this moment so brief they follow the ancient melody, knowing what it is to have been made for each other.

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Stop and Smell the World

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Senses

 

A fellow writer challenged me recently to engage more of my senses in what I write. She commented that I draw a lot on the seen world, but not much on the other senses.

I read over some of what I’ve written, especially the pieces she is familiar with, and realized that she is absolutely right.

So I spent the day today trying to use my sense of smell more. I inhaled subtle odours more deeply and endured the discomfort of noxious ones more readily, convincing myself that I was suffering for the sake of my art.

I thought about how nothing brings back memories as easily as smells do. Like those moments when a heavily perfumed elderly lady walks by and all you can think of is Aunt Ethel grabbing your eight year old cheeks. Or how the aroma of shortbread cookies in the oven takes you back to that Christmas you were finally old enough to help with the baking for the family get-together.

Today was perhaps the first time I ever regretted that I don’t cook. I miss out on regularly experiencing the waft of cilantro simmering in curry, and the sweetness of caramelizing onions. There’s nothing quite like the smell of home cooking- take-out and Ichiban don’t quite have the same effect.

As I focused on experiencing life more fully from a sense I usually don’t pay much attention to, I gained a stronger appreciation for the richness constantly around me and hope this will infuse my writing with an increasingly pleasant aroma.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Nose

I must have watched some low-budget horror film sometime in my formative years and blocked it from my conscious memory. My subconscious won’t let it go.

The nightmare recurs every few days, each time with a new scene, but always with that same hideous thing in it. Sometimes it’s in a park, or a school, other times a tropical island or vast pasture. I’ll be settling in nicely to the fictional escape, when all of a sudden, a giant nose will appear and crush the school, or decimate the island as if it were a gargantuan Godzilla foot.  

This is the point at which I jolt upright in a cold sweat, yanking the covers over my head.  

One of these nights I’m going to be brave and bring a Zombie with me into the scene and watch it devour The Nose so I can be rid of it once and for all.

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Being Average Part 2

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Motives

 

Kids these days grow up learning that they are special, extraordinary- that there is no limit to what they can do or who they can become.

According to the book The Narcissism Epidemic, society is suffering the consequences. Gen Ys and beyond are notorious for being out for themselves, lacking commitment, and being narcissistic. They are so important and special in their own eyes that they feel the need to tell the whole world the intimate details of every moment of their lives on Facebook and Twitter.

The truth is that most of us are really only just average- that’s what average means, applying to the majority. If everyone is extraordinary then extraordinary is simply the new average.

What I want to know is what’s wrong with being average anyway? You got two hands and two legs, that’s all you need. Now use ’em!

The key isn’t in being extraordinary, it’s in doing extraordinary things even though you are just some average person.

Kids shouldn’t be taught how unique they are, rather that they are no more or less special than anyone else. They, like everyone else on the planet, have limitations and flaws. The beauty is that they don’t have to be special- they merely need to dive in and immerse themselves fully in the ride of their lives. And somehow in the process they’ll forget to even bother about whether or not they’re special.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Second Chance

Mr. Greenwood choked on a chicken bone last spring. Ambulance had to be called and everything. He could have died. But he didn’t. Another chance at life. Make the most of it, Mr. Greenwood. But he just kept status quo.

Around the same time Sarafina cut her leg wide open, bled out of her femoral artery. The medics got to her in time. She walks with a limp now, but it doesn’t bother her. She decided not to waste her second chance so sold her condo, car and time share in Mexico, cashed in her RRSPs and moved to a town in Costa Rica. A small resort there gives her room and board in exchange for cooking and cleanings. She loves it. Mornings and evenings are very busy, but mid-day and late nights she sits at the beach or spends time with the Indigenous women in the village a short distance away.

Every year Mr. and Mrs. Greenwood go to that small resort in Costa Rica to spend a week of vacation time. They have never met Sarafina as they don’t bother talking with the help. This year, however, there will be plenty of interaction.

The Greenwoods arrive on a particularly hot Sunday afternoon. Eduardo has picked them up and taken them to the resort. Sarafina is just coming back from the village…

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Being Average

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Motives

 

I am starting to realize that I am just plain average. That feeling of being special, of being able to change the world is giving way to a clear-eyed view of my limitations and lack of power in the universe. I think it’s called growing up- a transformation which is occurring later and later in life these days.

Reaching for the stars and planning for all the important things I will accomplish have taken a back seat to wrestling with how to survive the mundane.

Though this is definitely disappointing, in another way it’s quite liberating. I no longer have to be the one to save the world. The pressure is off. And if I don’t ever really accomplish anything, well, what could I have expected of myself- I was only ever average. 

In the midst of this epiphany, I am drawn to creative work- to write, build, experiment with colour and concept, find new outlets. I have average talent in all of these, yet I pursue them still, realizing that my motive for creating is no longer to express my uniqueness, it is simply to experience joy.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Things that Didn’t Happen

We are often encouraged to count our blessings, to give thanks for all we have. Yet, how often are we thankful for what we don’t have or for what does not befall us? 

Here I go giving it a try.

I am thankful that today:

1. The car speeding through the yellow traffic light didn’t run me over.

2. I didn’t go hungry or thirsty.

3. I wasn’t attacked by zombies. That would suck. A lot.

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This fun post was inspired by 1095 things I am grateful for as referenced by Kate.

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Mixed Motives

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Motives

 

I talked once with an artist-turned-social worker about what motivated his career change. He told me that after years of painting he grew tired of his self-absorption wanting instead to help others. He told me that, in his view, all artists are ultimately self-absorbed, spending endless hours exploring their own feelings and perspectives.

I asked to see his paintings. Perhaps, I wondered, he was never really good in the first place. When he showed me his work, I was astonished. An old, damaged door at the end of misshapen stairs, a battered antique car with an ominous storm in the background- images evoking strong emotion, stories embedded deeply within.

Not long ago I was at a poorly attended book-signing of a businessman-turned-writer-of-social-advocacy-non-fiction. He had worked for a large corporation making money for it and for himself. Through circumstance, he saw how negatively his work affected those in poverty and abandoned his aspirations in order to write books with a conscience. An intriguing metamorphosis. Yet, as I talked with him, I couldn’t help but think that he was more interested in selling his books than in changing the world. I wanted to discuss his experiences with him, but when it became apparent that I would not buy, he turned away, waved a copy of his book in the air,  and called out to a passer-by, “Have you read my book?”.

I wish I had never met the author of those books. I would have stood a chance of reading them and being changed.

I wish the artist-turned-social-worker had not judged himself so harshly. I would have loved to have seen his future creations.

Perhaps even poor motives can lead to inspiring work.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Instilling Culture

Melissa is ten years old. She likes trying on make-up, playing Star Wars computer games, and making beaded jewelery.

Her mother is cultured, obsessed with museums, art, literature, and ballet. She loves her little girl and seeks every opportunity to pass along her passion.

Mother has decided that it’s time for Melissa to learn the work of Botticelli.

Melissa stares at Venus standing on a seashell that looks like the one in their bathroom. She’s embarrassed by what the lady is not wearing.

Her mother speaks rapidly, hands flying, eyes round, unblinking.

Daughter wishes she could just go back to being an uncultured, happy kid.

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The Journey

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Contrast

 

I sit down to write. I have an uplifting theme in mind, and am eager to explore it through the writing process. I immerse myself in the words spilling onto the keyboard and am drawn into a world apart. The words take me with them through breathtaking views and minefields of danger.

I put the last period in place and go back to read through the journey. I discover that what I set out to write is nowhere to be found. An uplifting piece has turned into a brooding one. The contrast is staggering.

I ask myself what happened and ponder my subconscious, the memes I have encountered of late, and recency effects. It’s all so easy to explain.

And yet, it’s not.

In those moments of being immersed, I know that I am not alone. There is Someone flying ahead of me, and I am merely following. The journey is soul-satisfying when I follow well, and the end result is often unexpected. It’s when I  get tangled in the weeds of morbid introspection, or get sucked down a vortex of self-defeating logic that the bond is severed and what I write no longer carries its satisfying flavour.

I suppose there is still value to be redeemed from the journeys gone wrong. They keep me humble and remind me that mine is to follow, and that the One whom I follow satisfies the soul.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Journey of a Lifetime

This was it, the journey of a lifetime, the “it” he had been dreaming of all his life. He’d jumped through all the hoops- twelve years of grade school, four years of university, another two years of grad school, thirty-two years of working for the man to support his wife and three kids. Now, it was his turn.

He stood in the airline check-in counter and chatted with the attendant about his round-the-world ticket and his excitement to see the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef, the lions of the Serengeti. She smiled, checked in his baggage, and directed him to the security line.

All his life he had waited for this moment, this moment that would end far sooner than he expected with a heart attack at 35,000 feet.

What are you waiting for?

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Contrast

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Contrast

 

It’s the silence after the echo,
the alarm clock shattering the dream, the last red rose in the snow.
Such contrasts heighten our sensitivity to the complexity and beauty of life.

Ours is not a world devoid of feelings, of dark greys, going through the motions or mechanical gestures.

No, ours is a world of thunder and dead quiet, cheering crowds and peace marches, imagination and mathematics. The more of the world’s many shades and moods we see, the richer our grasp of possibility.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

A Picture of Perfection

It’s a perfect scene, quaint cabin, warm glow emanating from inside, smoke billowing out the chimney. A pristine valley with snow-lighted mountains rests in the background.

Millions of copies of life idealized hang in the living rooms and bedrooms of the middle-class from coast to coast. There’s one in Grandma’s house. Margaret always hated it. 

There’s been another Thanksgiving family feud and Margaret has stormed off into the spare bedroom, slamming the door behind her. The picture frame rattles on the wall, catching her attention. Her eyes narrow as she stares at it and seethes.

A rush of adrenaline.  

She flings the desk drawer open and grabs a black Jiffy marker. With a few quick strokes the mountains turn into erupting volcanoes, lava streaming down into the valley, bursting the cabin into flames.

“A picture truer to life,” she proclaims.

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