30 April 2012

Abbey's 57th Poetry Party!

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

 t’s another Poetry Party at Abbey of the Arts! This month’s theme: the center and the edges. You are invited to write a poem and then post the image below (with a link back to Abbey of the Arts) and an invitation on your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

(C) Christine Valters Painter
Can’t wait to see you at the party!

My contribution below ~ a little dark, I’ll admit.  It was one of those days.

Oremus pro invicem,

So often I’ve come to the door seeking sanctuary,
a place to shut out the silence
of pain;
and to forget
the utter loneliness
Of being human
and other.

“Knock and it shall be opened.”

But the door is locked
By some unseen part of my past --
Unmet needs
Hurts unhealed
Unloved lesions left by
Hearts unfeeling.

Does it really matter?
The door remains shut
Dark, cold,
And silent.
Outside, unimpeded,
The rain berates my shivering skin.

If only another would raise
The unyielding iron
And gain access;
Or shout for the inside to open up.
I’ve screamed until my lungs bled
And the chords shattered on shards
Of despair.

But only my pain thunders
back to me
As tears streak the windows.

©30 April 2012 – M. D’Eigh

27 April 2012

Top Five Friday: Preserving Our Memories

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. 
~ from The Wonder Years
oday I begin my foray into hobby farming.  The down and dirty part: walking the property, gathering estimates from country boys with work boots, easy grins, and mellow accents, filling the beds with aged compost and soil, and transplanting veggies and putting in direct-sow seeds.

This will leave little to no time to search the vaults of my grey matter for a list of five very important items you will absolutely need this weekend.  But I didn’t want to leave you orphans!  So I cheated.

Since it is Preservation Week [what, you didn’t know!? My bad!], @YourLibrary has some great articles about preserving books, digital photos ~ even fabric!  And I know everyone has at least one box of slides sitting around.  I have more one, I fear.  Not to mention a projector screen, and even the huge clunky projector!

Preserving family items ~ whether they have been passed down for generations, or just last year ~ means more than just taking care of material possessions.  It means preserving memories.  It is one reason why I journal and encourage others to do so.  Even if it is only journaling in scrapbook or photo album.  Someday, you will have trouble remembering.  Capture it now, while the moment is still fresh. 

Otherwise, that bed that George slept in so many times will get donated and your children and grand-children will miss out on that awesome family story!

A great place to start your preservation research. Has a list of resources and links to help as well.

A quick and dirty list of things to do and watch out for.  Follow the link for How To Care For…and it takes you to another page of external links such as The Henry Ford Museum, and PBS for a video from “The History Detectives.”

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods.  How can you preserve family heirlooms against accidents?  This page has another webcast that you can access to learn more about protecting your past against Mother Nature’s future fury!

This one is a top five within a top five!  The only thing I would add to this list is to find a reputable company that can transfer or convert your slides into digital files.

This was a webinar on how to preserve, store, and display textiles.  There is a session recording as well as presentation slides.

Have a great weekend digging in picture boxes.  I’ll see you next week!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Do you have boxes and boxes of slides or pictures?  Do you scrapbook?  What items have you preserved that are precious to your family’s memory?

25 April 2012

WordCount's 2012 Blogathon Begins Next Week!

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: 
I wanted to know what I was going to say. 
~ Sharon O'Brien

 ark your calendars: May 1st is the beginning of the 2012 WordCount Blogathon!  I participated last year and had a blast ~ even though I didn’t post all 31 days.  I have signed up again this year and hope to post at least 23 days out of the 31 ~ that’s one post a day, not counting the weekends.

It’s a great writing exercise and you get to “meet” some really talented and supportive writers!  Registration is still going on ~ sign up today and let the fun and madness begin!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

20 April 2012

Top Five Friday: In the Quiet Green - Five Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Every time I have some moment on a seashore, or in the mountains, or sometimes in a quiet forest,
I think this is why the environment has to be preserved.
~ Bill Bradley

 pril 22nd is Earth Day.  An appropriate time to announce that I will be starting a weekly series here on my adventures in organic farming rather than starting a new blog for just that topic.  There is an art to farming and gardening ~ especially if one wants to actually produce food! 

But one need not start an organic farm in order to celebrate Earth Day and all that is green and reusable.  Here are five things to do to help preserve our national green this weekend ~ preferably out of doors and off the roads!

Read Up!
You know I will always recommend reading.  I have one whole room in my house dedicated to books!  My favorite nature author is John Muir.  Mother Earth News also has some great articles on sustainability and organic farming.  This one deals with GM (genetically modified) crops and this one talks about why we are seeing a decrease in the bee population, which not surprisingly, relates back to GM crops. 

Another great book is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Create a Kitchen or Herb Garden
Starting out small is good.  Less room for mistakes.  Not that I expect I won’t make mistakes, but they hopefully will be on the small scale.  Begin with a few containers on your patio, desk, or porch.  It’s too late in many zones to sow seed for some veggies ~ although I did just receive my direct sow seed packets ~ and too early to plant seedlings in others. 

from 123rf

Here in Virginia it’s hit or miss.  There is still time for one last nasty frost.  So I’m waiting and spending the time continuing to read (see point #1) and prepping the ground so that once it is time, my plants will have a fighting chance of growing healthy and strong.

A great blog to read for gardening advice: Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden.

Plant a Tree
There are many places that are giving away free trees.  Take them home and give them lots of love and a good mix of organic matter, soil, and compost.  Just don’t forget to plant them!  I, uh, sadly did that last year.  Mea culpa!

Visit a Sustainable/Organic Farm
You can look up local farms in your area here and here.  It is a great way to meet the people who grow your food, and learn a bit about how things are done.  Some farms are part of an organization that encourages people to volunteer at farms to learn more about the agraiein life. 

If P. Allen Smith’s farm was closer to me, I would go there in a heart-beat, as he is the guru of all things green.  Actually, he’s a Renaissance man: in addition to gardening and farming, he cooks, paints, writes, designs, builds, chops wood – I don’t know, he may even sing or play an instrument. 

And he’s good looking.

That is just wrong.
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
This is the mantra of the Piedmont Environmental Council ~ love them! ~ and it is a great economy booster.  You use less gas driving there, and you help create a vibrant and sustainable community.  Plus it’s fun!  Especially if you live in a great small town with cute downtown areas filled with boutique shops and chatty owners and salespeople like I do.   

And of course, we can all start small by carrying around reusable bags [they come in such cute patterns now too!] and not using the plastic ones; buying less items with plastic containers, and donating our gently used items to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or St. Vincent’s.  One woman’s trash is another’s treasure ~ really! 

I haven’t read it yet, but I just saw an interview of Edward Humes, the author of Garbology, where he talks about how much trash we actually produce and ways to reduce it.

Happy greening!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are some other ways you plan to celebrate and preserve our beautiful, bountiful planet?

18 April 2012

The Discovery of Awe

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
~ Albert Einstein

 esterday,  I stood gazing up at the sky with about a thousand other people on the National Mall, waiting for a glimpse of the Discovery.  It was a perfect day ~ sun-drenched, temperatures in the low 70s, and a flirty breeze.  I walked around with my smarty-pants phone at the ready, talking to chatty strangers and an occasional co-worker.  We were all excited, wondering when and where the shuttle would appear, and whether we would be able to see it without binoculars.

And then someone shouted, “There it is!”  And we turned as one towards the Washington Monument and saw it ~ this giant 747 with Discovery riding on its back like a large bug.  It quickly disappeared behind the trees; some people started running towards the Smithsonian Hirshorn Museum to see if they could catch another glimpse; others looked a little confused and disappointed. What that it?  That’s as much as we’re going to see?

The Discovery shuttle flies over Washington, DC (C) 2012, M D'Eigh

The seers in the group [those with short wave radios, or WTOP playing on their phones] assured us that it was just flying over National Harbor and would be back.  To just be patient.  Wait for it. It would appear again.

And then there it was ~ flying over the Capitol rotunda, over the White House, and back around the Washington Monument and over the Hirshorn.  It made this circle three times.  And each time, I snapped blindly away, the sun was in my eyes.  As well as tears.  Because Discovery was saying goodbye. 

And I hate goodbyes.

But the tears were also because of awe.  Awe that we, mankind, had gazed at the stars for a long time, and dreamed of reaching them.  And then we did.  How amazing is that?!  We imagined what it would be like and then we did it.

Last Saturday, I attended a lecture co-hosted by The Saint Cecilia Group and the John Paul II Fellowship.  It was the first in a series of talks that explores the relationship between art and faith.

During Saturday’s lecture titled The Healing Power of Art: The Role of Art in Reaching the Wounded, Dr. Andre Leyva, the President of Montgomery Clinical Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, mentioned that we have become immune to beauty, even blind to it.  We walk around with our heads bent over our smarty-pants phones, and never see the beauty that surrounds us. 

We are unmoved.

And thinking about the exhilarating rush of seeing the Discovery fly overhead, the tears stinging my eyes as its retirement brought to mind loved ones who were also growing older, I wondered. Is it really as bad as that?  Have the majority of us lost the ability to lost our breath at brilliant sunrise or sunset?  Do we no longer feel anything when a parade goes by?  Does the thought of a Puccini opera make our eyes glaze over?

Have we forgotten how to be in awe?

There is no doubt that a crisis is brewing.  Certainly, it is a challenge to reach a generation who has never known what is like to live without the constant hum of technology. 

But standing amidst that crowd of excited Discovery watchers, and seeing all the subsequent Facebook statuses and tweets about it, I have reason to hope.  Yes, we had our smarty-pants phones out, but it was because we were aware of being part of something historic.  Something amazing.  Something awe-inspiring.

Beauty is not dead yet, and neither is our sensitivity to her.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Did you see Discovery with your own eyes yesterday?  How did it make you feel?  Do you think it is more difficult to be sensitive to beauty with all the technology we have?  Or does the technology put us more in touch with beauty?

13 April 2012

Top Five Friday: The Taxman Cometh!

People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes
to a government that can't live within its income. 
~ Robert Half

hh! It’s almost that special time in Spring that we all look forward to with such anticipation: Tax Day!  I am woefully behind this year in getting my taxes filed.  I swore up and down that it would be different this year, but I was earlier last year!  My accountant just rolled her eyes when I asked to come in tomorrow. 

On top of that, I misplaced my W2.

Paper organization is not one of my strengths.  But hey, a person can’t be beautiful, a great cook, musically gifted, AND organized!  It just wouldn’t be fair! 

So what does such a person do two days before the deadline?

Come up with five fun things to do INSTEAD of getting your taxes done, of course!  Hopefully it will ease the pain when the Taxman cometh.  Enjoy!

Go for a Hike
I recommend deep into the forest or high on a mountain.  Then you really won’t remember any of your boring chores.  Taxes? What taxes?

Have Spikes Pushed Under Your Nails
Well, maybe that is a bit extreme.  How about a pedicure instead?  It’s the next best thing to the spikes.  Do this preferably with your best gal pals.  I went to a spa in a tiny podunk town in Pennsylvania, and they served margaritas to us while we had our footsies scrubbed, massaged and polished. Heaven!

Read a Book
Especially since it’s Library Week.  Even better, take your book with you to read while you get your pedicure.  Brilliant!

Watch the Grass Grow
What?  You would rather do your taxes?  L-a-m-e!

Throw a Cocktail Party
Even more than a hike, if this is executed correctly, it will really make you forget taxes.  And everything else.  Plus, you can save your friends from their taxation woes.

And all done with perfectly manicure feet, a well-read mind, and on beautiful green grass.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What would you rather do than work on your taxes?

12 April 2012

National Library Week: April 8-14, 2012

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. 
~ Edward P. Morgan

t’s  National Library Week!  I’m a little late with the notice, but there are still two days left to celebrate the awesomeness that is a library!  Hat tip: Debbie Ridpath Ohi over at Inkygirl ~ where she has cute, ROTFL illustration to go with the theme.

When I was growing up, the library was a magical place, filled with adventure and excitement.  The ladies that worked there [forever it seems!]  knew our family very well.  We always walked out with our arms full of books; they were skeptical that we could read them all within the allotted time we had them checked out.

I don’t remember how much my mother and my sisters read, but I certainly devoured my stack fairly quickly.  Inevitably, though, we had to extend our time, and generally were still late returning our books.  Oh the shame!

My local library introduced me to Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, The Boxcar Children, Trixie Belden, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot ~ notice a pattern here?  Not to mention the classics: Treasure Island, Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Tale of Two Cities, Little Women, and of course, Little House on the Prairie.

Reading can be a huge mind opener and most people can’t afford to buy all the books that a lirbabry offers.  We certainly could not have.  But because of that library, I fell in love with books, and ultimately, with writing.

We don’t often think about it, but libraries really are guardians of knowledge and freedom.  A people that can’t read are a people more susceptible to manipulation and deception.  Today, we seem to have become a people that can read, but chooses not to.  Even with the advent of e-books, people are reading less and less substantial, mind-expanding works, and settling for the crumbs of pulp fiction – the fast food of writing.  Easy to swallow and oh so tasty ~ but a steady diet of that and eventually you’ll die of a heart attack, complications due to obesity and general lack of nutrition!

Nowadays, libraries don’t just stock books; they host educational events.  Mine is hosting a series of events around organic farming and sustainable living.  I’ll be attending as many of the talks and farmer panels as I can, so expect to hear more about that in the coming weeks.  At eh MyLibrary site, you can find a library near you.

Step inside ~ an adventure awaits you somewhere among the stacks!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

When is the last time you visited your local library?  What books did you check out?

11 April 2012

Love Me Tender: Crossing Musical Generations

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you,
following you right on up until you die. 
~ Paul Simon

y mother was in love with Elvis Presley for many, many years.  In fact, we were set to go see him in concert in 1977, when we got the news that he had died.  I was still very young then, but I remember going to the concert hall and watching a video tribute of his life; it was dark, smoky [probably with weed], and filled with sound women mourning the passing of a legend.

Fifty-six years ago today, Elvis Presley’s first single, Heartbreak Hotel  hit #1 on the charts.  I know this in part because

1)      I looked it up when searching for a topic to write about for today.
2)     See opening paragraph.

I was one of the lucky ones.  Although my parents are not musically gifted themselves,  I was classically trained on the piano from the time I could walk, and there was a variety of music played in the house throughout my childhood.  Records, 8-tracks, and cassettes from eclectic artists like: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Sammy Kay, Glenn Miller, Michael Legrand, The Statler Brothers, Johnny Cash, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tom Jones, several tango and rhumba records from South and Central America, and soundtracks like Oliver!, Exodus, Kiss Me Kate, and Pal Joey all lived next to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Debussy.  And of course, no vinyl collection is complete without The Reader’s Digest Hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

The King

Remember The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers?  And Bobby Goldberg’s Honey?  And my personal favorite growing up – Love Child by The Supremes.  They were all in that box of 10 or 12 records.

As I grew up, my musical taste expanded, but I never stopped loving the old songs.  Instead, I added to the collection: The Bee Gees, Jim Croce, Duran Duran, Foreigner, Journey, Michael Jackson, every Barry Manilow album ever made [yes, you read that right], Ace of Base, Enigma, The Secret Garden, Loreena McKennitt. . .the list goes on [just like the beat.]

So I was shocked and yes, I admit, a little disgusted, when a friend of mine who is GenY had never heard of Love is Battlefield by Pat Benetar.  Her excuse?  “I can’t be expected to know that! I wasn’t alive then!”

Yeah, honey.  Neither was I when Mozart wrote Concerto #21, but I know it!

But maybe I’m being too hard on her and others like her.  Maybe I’m just one of the few lucky enough to be surrounded by all genres of music from a young age.  And not everyone views music like I do: as important and necessary as the air I breathe.

Paul Simon is right: music is forever.  And no matter what the genre or what era it was written in, it still has the power to touch hearts.

Especially broken ones.  Thanks for the memories, Elvis.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What is your favorite music from an era NOT your own?  And did you grow up surrounded by music?

09 April 2012

Poetry without Fear: National Poetry Month

We are living in a great age for poetry.
~ Anne Eliot

pril is National Poetry Month.  I’ve already begun to celebrate it by composing a new song.  It doesn’t match the spring colours, or warm spring days at all.  Forbidden love, angst, and large doses of frustration.  And of course, minor chords.

Oh. Yeah.

You already know some of my favorite poets.  Another one I enjoy reading is T.C. Samford.  His poems appear in different literary publications, including a chapbook of original poetry, Crossing the Border, written with poetry buddy Peter McEwen, and which he very kindly sent me.  Tom is one of my more fascinating and prolific pen friends.

Many people, both writer and reader alike, shy away from poetry.  Too difficult to pen, too complex to read and understand.  There are some self-important poets [and painters, sculptors, etc] who seem to create in order to confound and confuse.   But it doesn’t need to be that way. 

Art should not be feared. 

The point is to play ~ in writing poetry, with words, rhythm, structure, rhyme, imagery. This month, I encourage you to try some poetry play.  Share your playtime creations with us in the comments.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

By the way, the first person who can identify where today’s quote comes from will receive a free copy of Josephine Ross’s Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners.  Happy Easter and Blessed Passover!!

05 April 2012

The Gift of Receiving: Accepting Another's Gifts

. . .the bridges had been blown up; we squat on piers that don’t connect anything. . .
~ Ruth Kluger 

uth Kluger wrote her memoir, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered  about her experience in Austria during (and after) World War II.  After reading Richard Chess’ unpacking and exploration of her observations about bridging the gaps between “my memories” and “our memories,” I not only want to read the book, I want to take his class at UNC!

This gap is illustrated by an incident where Kluger and some friends were relating their experiences of claustrophobia.  The stories they offered seemed piddling compared to the one she could have told regarding her ride in s stifling boxcar to Auschwitz.  She felt that to have told it would have been rude, that somehow her friends would have resented her.  So she remained silent.

That struck me: this fear that Kluger had to share her story because it might make someone uncomfortable.  She said: “And so my childhood falls into a black hole.”  Chess goes on to discuss how an experience can be informative versus transformative and then relates that to writing. 

But I am stuck on the loneliness of Kluger’s statement.

Perhaps it would have been inappropriate to share her memories with the group.  Perhaps she knew that they would not have received it well.  But what if they had been open?  What if the sympathy she feared she might have elicited was what was needed in that moment?  Such a feeling could have been healing, both for her and for her friends.

Why is this?  Why is receiving a gift ~ whether it be of their time, talent, love, support, or even something material ~ so difficult for us at times?  What makes us uncomfortable with another’s generosity?  Chess discusses this discomfort and relates it to writing and learning:

The desire to understand may also be a natural reaction to the discomfort of being confronted with something new and strange, a discomfort that can trigger feelings of inadequacy and failure. Most of us, I expect, don’t want to sit with such unpleasant feelings, and we might be willing to do anything within reason to rid ourselves of them.

Feelings of inadequacy and failure.  Could that be why we are sometimes poor receivers?  Do we think we are unworthy of the gift?  Maybe we have received gifts in the past that were not freely given ~ that came at a price or with emotional strings attached.  But then, those were not real gifts.  They were bribes, Trojan horses.  So fear of gifts becomes a defense, a protection against further pain.

And we do not like pain.  As Chess says, we will do “anything within reason” to avoid it.  Some of us will even do things outside of reason.  But that is a topic for another post.

It might help us to move in the direction of becoming better receivers if we remember that a gift is always given twice: to the receiver and to the giver.  And when we don’t receive someone’s gift, we both lose. Henri Nouwen, the 20th century mystic, observed

. . . by receiving we reveal to the givers that they have gifts to offer. . . . we make givers aware of their unique and precious gifts.  Sometimes it is only in the eyes of the receivers that givers discover their gifts.
What an incredible and freeing idea! That in receiving a gift well, we are in turn giving back.

May we all work towards becoming better receivers of each other’s gifts.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela 

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when you’ve received something?  Were you ever resentful when a friend shared their story?  Share yours in the comments!