Archives for the month of: November, 2013

I have a craving. Not a craving for chocolate (that’s always there) or to go on a shopping spree (that’s never there), but a nagging little notion that wet willys itself into my ears and eyes and brain matter.

I want to paint.

Wanting to paint isn’t all that new for me, I’ve come to find a brush in my hand now and again, but this isn’t a desire to sit and just spill some color around until I’m satisfied and/or bored. This is much more complicated, and specific, and frankly, terrifying.

I want to paint the face of God.

Where does one start with a feeling like that? Where do you look for a starting point? Where do you even find the nerve?

One day in meditation, I found myself thinking of starting small, like just trying out the eyes. I can’t even draw an acceptable eyebrow, yet here I am trying to wrap my head around painting God’s eyes.

Who am I kidding? I must be delusional.

And yet, I remember this image that I saw scribbled onto a bathroom wall in chalk this past summer. It struck me so much that I took a picture. I went looking for it tonight, and only when I located it did I remember that there was text underneath. Text, as I recalled, I didn’t understand the meaning of until this moment.

Godseye

All eyes are God’s eyes. All creations are God’s creation. All art is an expression of God, and therefore, all art is true and perfect and good. It doesn’t matter what I paint, as long as I do it. The mistake isn’t in the lack of form or style, the mistake is in believing that creative expression is anything less than divinity made manifest.

I think about the artist that took the time to sketch this upon a simple bathroom wall. I think about the spark of inspiration within that lit up, causing her (I was in the woman’s room after all.) to place such a divine and odd message in a truly humbled environment, possibly even causing her to wonder as to it’s meaning. And I think about how this pebble in a pond rippled out to inspire me, months later, to believe in my own unborn creation enough to overcome doubt and begin an inspired quest.

How can we deny that creativity, in any form, isn’t a direct call from Upstairs?

Guess I’ll be buying some paint.

Advertisements

rockclimbing

Do you remember a time in your life when fear just never entered into the picture? The summer I turned five years old, we visited a friend’s pond; a murky hole in the ground that was teeming with soupy rich greenness. Being upstate NY in July, it was beastly hot and humid, so submersing in more moisture was surely the best answer for finding relief. We were told that the only way we could enter the water was on a float, because it was home to several snapping turtles. (Yeah, looking back upon that concept really colors my childhood in a whole new questionable hue.) Not really understanding what a snapping turtle was, or how that possibly could be a bad thing, I eagerly accepted a ride sitting upon my teenage friend’s back, on the float. (I’m not talking the sturdy water crafts of today that are tied off to docks and boats across upstate NY. This was 1977. Half deflated and covered with Pabst Blue Ribbon emblems, this raft was less floatation device and more flagship for a drunkard’s folly.)

We paddled out towards the middle, leaving behind the oppressive climate of the shore, and the casual concern of our parents.

About 10 feet offshore, the raft tipped over. Looking back upon it now, I’m not sure what is more surprising, the fact that no one anticipated this or that I was in the middle of a snapping turtle infested swamp, practicing Cirque du Soleil-like feats and did not know how to swim.

(Seriously, I need to take a minute here. This is the first real good think I’ve donated towards this memory. Where in the Hell were my parents? I know it is the 70’s and all, and surely I don’t expect a helmet or safety harness, but my God!  Would it have killed them to strap one of those inadequate styrofoam eggs to my back at least?)

As I sank to the bottom, I remember feeling only one thing. The sounds around me went silent and as I looked up towards the green dappled surface, and felt the sweet coolness of the water around me, I felt completely at peace. I wanted to stay there below the surface, bubbled in this womb of nature, but before I knew what was happening, I was being yanked to the surface where heat, blindingly bright light, and shrieks of terror reclaimed me.

As children, our innocence prevents us from being swallowed by our fears. Often times we aren’t afraid because we don’t know any better. Then as we walk through the world, we encounter obstacles that tend to come with the stories, anxieties and failures of others, which then become fears of our own. If only we can remain in that innocence, and simply view each experience, each obstacle, as new and separate from every other moment, fear wouldn’t stand a chance.

Yesterday, I brought the nine year old and the six year old to an indoor rock climbing gym for the first time. Imagine a warehouse sized space with multiple two and a half story high walls built out in various gravity taunting formations, dotted with a series of shaped holds that appear to be made from Play Doh. In the middle of the gym was a structure meant to resemble a boulder, standing 15 feet tall.

As we entered the space, the palms of my hands instantaneously began to perspire. Despite having spent time in the quarries of Massachusetts and the rock formations of New Hampshire climbing in my youth, I could feel my pulse quicken and my breathing shorten.

My daughters, who had never seen such a spectacle, were mesmerized. To them, I couldn’t sign the documents declaring them able to throw themselves to the wolves of gravity fast enough.

Within minutes of donning the equipment, the nine year old had bouldered her way (read: climbing guide rope free and thereby giving her mother another reason to drink on a Thursday afternoon) to the top of the 15 foot structure. The six year old was complaining that she wanted to remove her safety guide line (the belay) because the tension of the automated rope was competing with her tiny sparrow-like frame, and preventing her from being able to get close to the wall.

For them, there was no hesitation, only excitement. For me, there was a litany of emergency room menu items scrolling through my head. I tried my best to keep my anxieties to myself, and gently guide as opposed to aggressively scream. I did see my six year old pause once, as I reminded her when she had bouldered her way three feet above my head, that there was no guide rope and I couldn’t come get her down. She retreated down the wall, only to chalk up her hands, immediately remount and make her way the full five feet above my head so that she could loudly declare me wrong from her perch.

Recently, The Universe was kind enough to call me out on my nightly prayer of wanting to be shown my path. Apparently there is this notion that I should be writing a book. To further back up this cosmic plan, a famous and well documented journalist has been placed in my circle, near enough for me to reach out to, ask for assistance, and firmly solidify this next evolution of Mikko Cook.

My palms are sweating, my pulse is racing and I’m finding it difficult to breathe.

Thanks to the lesson of living in oblivion from my children and my own youth, instead of hitting ‘ignore’ when I see The Universe pop up on my caller id, I’m going to set aside all of my ‘what ifs’ and my ‘remember THATs’ and take the call. I’m going to take this new experience for what it is… new and to be experienced. Sure there is so much that can go horribly wrong (don’t think I haven’t been calculating it all out since I took that initial call), but now what if I pretend that I don’t know otherwise, that humiliation and rejection are like snapping turtles to a 5 year old… something that exists, nothing more.

Guess it is time to dig out my chalk bag and begin my ascent.

daviddheart

Dear David,

It has been a while since you’ve heard from me. Perhaps you don’t recall my initial communication, or maybe it is tucked away in your underwear drawer, so that Téa might not find it. Either way, I wanted to follow up my initial romantic musings since I find that who I was in my 30’s has changed somewhat and there are a few additional insights that I’d like to share.

First, I forgive you for not dumping Téa and sweeping me off of my wedding altar, as previously suggested in my first letter, a mere 11 years ago. After Bree Sharp’s infantile song, “David Duchovny, Why Don’t You Love Me”, I can understand how my very real admission of love can seem like yet another pandering attempt at sex with a celebrity. While I don’t dismiss my own pandering attempt, mine was much more earnest as well as grammatically correct, and therefore prose to be taken a bit more seriously.

Second, if you are indeed still considering my offer to come carry me away to a life of witty repartee and hot alien role play, let me point out that I did marry that man that you left me with on the altar, and we did pop out a couple of kids. So, don’t be surprised if a toothy little six year old, probably with chocolate smeared on her lips, gives you the stink eye when she answers the door. Lately she has taken to supreme disappointment when I arrive to pick her up for anything, so she’ll have no issue with my departure.

I should inform you that I am no longer the be-damned-for-consequences person I once was. While I used to live on a diet of chili cheese dogs and Fresca, I’m now more of a hearty vegetarian stew with quinoa kind of a girl. My drink is no longer several gin martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives (I’ve discovered I’m lactose intolerant – something that can only help us both), but a simple glass of French wine or a fair trade coffee. While I still love good sci-fi, I prefer one that doesn’t involve naked women being ravaged by monsters of any sort. I like a healthy female lead with a head that remains on her shoulders. Somewhere along the way, extreme choices in food, drink and entertainment felt great in the moment, but the aftermath of ugly that stuck with me became too high a price to pay.

I love children now, which is a bonus since I have a couple, as do you. They don’t terrify the crap out of me anymore, and I find myself able to understand them better than the adults around me. I used to find their constant questions and curiosity annoying. I can’t help but wonder if that is because uncertainty in any form can be my own kryptonite. Now I see the constant questioning perspective of children as a different way to see the world and an opportunity to remember who I am when I don’t know all of the answers either.

And, about that man that I did end up marrying … I made a good choice. All of my secret fears of totally committing myself to someone only to have them emotionally crack me open like a coconut, drain out all of my marrow and leave me dehydrated and disintegrating, never materialized. I didn’t need you to save me from myself and my pending marriage. Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was that you never showed up.

Please David, don’t be upset. It’s not you, it’s me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I am different, and not in any of the ways that I would have wished for 11 years ago, I love my life now. I reached out to you to save me from a life that I imagined with fear, and asked you to replace it with an idealized version born from stories created by others.  Instead I should have realized that imagining my life with hope, born from my own romantic dreams, was a much more realistic and very possible outcome.

Let’s just be friends. Why don’t you stop over? We can have a lovely glass of wine, heck bring Téa and the girls! We’ll sit around and wax philosophically about life, government conspiracies and the role of women in sci-fi programming. I’ll bake us a batch of gluten-free pumpkin muffins and we’ll laugh over our French presses. I’d love to get to know you as a friend, a father and a real human being. My days of celebrity love obsessions and make believe realities are over. I’m interested in what makes real people fall in love, chase their dreams and cry out loud.

If you’re interested, give me a shout back. But don’t wait too long. I’m guessing I’ll hear back from Jon Stewart any day now.

typingmonk

Recently I was rejected by an online journal after I had submitted a piece for consideration. After much whining and foot stomping (on my part), I passed it along to a few friends for critique and then sat down with my own scalpel. Seems that the journal in question wasn’t all that insane and the piece did indeed need a little more meat on the bones. I scraped around inside my soul and came up with more batter, perhaps even some tasty morsels that should have made the first batch. I submitted and then waited… and waited… and waited.

I never heard from them again.

Here is a little advice to all of the editors out there who sit behind an inbox filled with the hopes and dreams of us typing monkeys, trying our damnedest to recreate our version of Shakespeare’s plays.

1. Please do us monkeys the favor of being consistent and clear about what your submission guidelines are. We are monkeys and we get easily confused. A simple email address, format for the submission, any requirements for attachments and a deadline is all we really need. If you would like to include your standard stylebook, that would be greatly appreciated, and would most likely make your life easier. What makes us bang our heads on the keyboard and fling feces at each other is when you have three different website links going to three different sets of instructions as to how to submit to your publication.

2. We appreciate you. We realize you probably have to slog through a football field of donkey crap each day just to emerge with a golden nugget, hoping it isn’t just a polished turd. We get it. We understand that as a writer, rejection is a part of our life now and without rejection we’ll only ever create polished turds. So go ahead, reject away! However I would ask that you do the favor of at least reading a good portion of the piece before rejecting so that the standard response sent out actually applies. If I’m writing a piece on footballs, please don’t tell me that you can’t possibly use one more article on palm trees.

3. Be honest. Isn’t that what editing is all about? Don’t tell us that you’d love to take another look if you really wouldn’t. We are all adults (well, according to our birth certificates anyway), and need to handle straightforward rejection without taking it personally. If you tell me that you’d be happy to look over the rewrite, then I don’t hear from you ever again, this really isn’t any different than that crappy guy I dated in college that promised to call me after he returned from spring break and never did. I’m left bitter and you look like a liar. Come on, we’re both better than that.

4. We realize that there are a lot of us monkeys out here, and we are producing a lot of polished poo, so if you’d like to give us helpful tips for revision, be sure to clearly state that these are great general tips and try not to infer that these were meant specifically for our submission. Again, we know that you’d like to let us down gently, but we’re monkeys and we need to be hit over the head. Don’t send me revision tips if you don’t really want my style of crap.

5. Finally, just be kind and courteous. I know we’re monkeys. I know we eat with our hands and have bad hygiene. But we are have feelings and thumbs and aren’t that different from you. ‘Please’, ‘thank you’ and the consideration of a response (even a standardized short but final one) would go a long way towards developing our relationship as future editor and writer, and more importantly is some of the best marketing for your publication.

Thank you for the job that you do. Without editors our literary world would be a steaming cesspool of blather. You stand at the edges with your industrial sized strainer, sifting to find the gems of our madness. We love you and appreciate you. We just want to remind you that once upon a time, on the evolutionary scale, you were a monkey once too.