we can sketch it out.

I love these quotations and how they are placed in these great portraits!

malcolm-yelloThere is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. — Malcolm X

leonard-cohen There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen

tawakkol-karman In our hearts, we are just human beings who want a dignified life. Is that too much to ask? -Tawakkol Karman

bill-murray-yello The last time doesn’t exist. It’s only this time. And everything is going to be different this tie. There’s only now.  — Bill Murray

coetzee We are not by nature cruel. — J.M. Coetzee

mother-teresa Peace begins with a smile. — Mother Teresa

tim-gunn Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration.  — Tim Gunn

shermanWe are all products of what we want to project to the world. — Cindy Sherman

henry-jamesThree things in human life are important. The first is to be kind…

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there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Great! So sad to lose Leonard Cohen.

We lost singer-songwriter-poet-artist-novelist Leonard Cohen, one of my personal heroes and the mentor I never met. Here’s my little tribute.

leonard-cohen There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

cohen-color Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.

leonard-love Love is the only engine of survival.

cohen-yesterday-colorHow can I begin anything with all of yesterday in me?

cohen-trainingBTW, I’m training mediators in New Orleans this week, and Mr. Cohen was my co-trainer.

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What kind of American are you?

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them. James A. Baldwin
Newly edited: what I’ve learned from this Election Process:
1.) Shut up and listen.
2.) Act, don’t react.
3.) Edit yourself.
5.) slow down and breathe.
6.) Be grateful.

I mostly turn to literature and writers and some other wise figures for explanation and important things to consider. American Literature is a place I go to to see how people answered this questions on what it is to be American. Here are quotations from them.

This passage in the Great Gatsby is etched in my brain. It comes up often when you work with oppressed people…

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

In just a few sentences you see the complexity of American History since it was born starting with “smashing up” Native Americans, slavery…

James Baldwin has written so much about all of it that resonates today, it’s hard to choose what to put in here:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. James A. Baldwin

Here is a quote that speaks to a part of myself I certainly don’t like. Baldwin is talking about taking responsibility. When you are born or choose to become an American, you are agreeing to participation in its history and learning from it, I’m quite not sure how to say that; Baldwin articulates it well:

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. James A. Baldwin
This one really gets at what is happening in this moment of our collective history:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Here are some from Leonard Cohen, whom I think about today and thank him for his magic.

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.”
This one above speaks to me as I remember many times when I’ve tried to figure out how to emulate someone’s behavior and it seemed like I needed to wear this person on me to be like them; you can strive but I get weary of chasing buses.

“We are ugly but we have the music.” this short sentence seems to sum up how it is to be an artist made in America.

Last one:

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded,
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed,
Everybody knows that the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost.”

American women writers:

Here are some words for today and tomorrow: Audre Lorde

There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.

Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
Emily Dickinson:

In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
Here is a provocative one that speaks to the last year and last few days:

People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.


America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

Here is Malcolm X with a prescription for all of us people asking today what to do, what can be done:

“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” — Malcolm X

I will end with this. I always fantasized about just reading for the rest of my life:

“My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X



Writing = Cutting Lemons

Writing has become quicksand filled at the bottom of the well. You take Alice potion to get to the size to go down to the water in a bucket, and there’s no water, it’s quicksand at the bottom. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in quicksand and holding someone’s hand desperately pulling me out; like the Twilight Zone little girl stuck int he 4th dimension with her dog, her dad half in the wall reaching out for her, frantically pulling her back in to her bedroom.

I have wanted to go to the 4th dimension, to escape all the dirty corners of living, the things you like to pretend are not real inside you. It’s ok to imagine killing someone, that’s a clean piece of evil I’m familiar with and can enjoy, but there are dirtier secrets that pretend they aren’t there.

If you want clean water and clean air, writing is still some kind of curse, you throw a pebble in a pond and see the ripples of water. Each ripple is 4-10 pages of meandering writing, that starts out excited and full of clean water inspiration and goes to drinking out of a dirty glass that went through my dishwasher and still has pieces of dirt stuck to it.

My therapy homework is to find and read The Third Policeman. There is a different third policeman policing my writing; he is disgusted with it. When I was a kid I dreamed I was walking down a road and getting spanked by a policeman standing waiting for me. He’s back and he’s spanking every meandering piece of prose that gets saved, the names for the files are:  ProcessElection.docx, NewIdeas.docx, SmallPottatoes.docx, I have spent my life figuring out what books.docx, HilaryLemons.docx…

The Hilary lemons, the lemons is connected to cutting lemons the wrong way, somehow it was connected to something in my mind about Hilary, I don’t even want to read it. The lemons were what was important, not to do with the election or Hilary, buthey were about me and this maze of writing stop starting, how I must be the same me in some way with the me of my fifteen year old self, who got yelled at by my chef expert brother for cutting lemons wrong. He was right, I had shamed these poor lemons, messed them up, disrespected and disgraced them. There is something about lemons, and if you cut them wrong, it better not be for anyone else, just your own glass of water which if it would talk would yell at you too. Lemon cutting shaming. Cutting fruit wrong permeates my personality. My daughter is not please at my butchering her granny smith apple. My mind refuses to fall in and get the facts properly placed and numbered.

Trying to get a container thing you use to put electric things in the light socket, I go to that row in Home Depot, where inconsiderate customers have put all the different iterations of this box like thing in the wrong boxes, where the person helping you is jumping from box to box, pulling these boxes out, some have wings on the side to screw in, some are hexagonal. On a different day, I might have done something with this panoply of boxes for light to go to the switch you flick, enjoyed their strange shapes and sides, aluminum box trolls. I am too confused, my mind goes into words about 2 by 4s and tops without the holes, there are tops with circles that mean you punch through them. My daughter noticed this difference. Making decisions when FaceTime doesn’t work and you can’t take ten photos of these things to make sure you got the right ones. How important is it? The first time round my mind turns into quicksand. The stress of connecting words to sentences to actually getting the right ones. I thought it was 3 each of 2 and 3 inch ones. But it was 3 each of one and two light switch things. Lucky I caught that one.

I told my daughter I am learning the English language of real people all over again. It’s not my language at all. Off to the paint department, an island of my language, colored swatches and fantasy walls, where you can find the paint color errors and spend 50 cents to get some pink color you won’t use at home, but maybe I could paint my studio closet door with this. It’s a small container of random paint; of course it’s going to be useful.

What’s in the Hidden Box: Being a Writer

I have loved writing since I was a kid. I got more into it in high school. At the time, I wrote poetry. Recently, I dug up an old journal out of a box in a cabinet in my studio. It was there alongside my two failed Road tests.

I couldn’t even remember the notebook, a green Meade wire bound notebook. I started reading it. It was a strange time capsule to 1985, 11th grade. I will copy some entries and post them here soon.

Very bizarre to be in my high school self. There was also the teacher in the notebook/writer’s journal. I didn’t remember who she was, then I had an inkling that it might be a certain English teacher. Her presence was there as the reader and her gentle encouragement was woven through the journal

This writer I encountered was trying all kinds of things to get that key to open the door to the land of writing. It was like trying all different sizes and being the wrong size to get the key. And then transform again to get the key and the door in the same size match.

I wrote some things about people I knew. I made up some things too based on prompts, like a few paragraphs told from the point of view of a 38 year old father on the day of his birthday. The journal was a search, a frustrating, exciting, sometimes magical, erneast and sometimes desperate search for what writing is and most perplexing: WHAT TO WRITE/WRITE ABOUT.

I even wrote a sort of ode to writing itself in that journal. What do I write about? Do I write about the things I know and are familiar with and see them from a writer’s point of view? Do I make up things about stuff that I’ve never experienced and see where it leads? Do I take a prompt and try to get me pushed off? What is so important about my experience that anyone else would be interested in reading it? What is the secret key to the garden of writing well? Even if you are your first and/or only reader, what do you want your reader to be reading?

On to college, 4 years of wrestling with the same thing, along with, which things I write are in pursuit of writing and becoming a better writer? Again, who am I now as a writer?  I still write poems, which seem easier but much harder to like or find good enough. Somehow poetry was easier because it was shorter. I could hardly read any long poems even though I was assigned them. With reading, I could read long things and feel dumped and disappointed when they ended. With writing like in high school, I could take off and do the first moments of getting up in the sky, some turbulence and then to the point of taking off the seat belt sign.

That is where I will end this post. I hope to investigate further my quest to be a writer or at least someone who writes things that can be read. Words have always been my friends. Topics and content still enemies.