Dec 29, 2010
We arrived home just in time. My grandmother passed away less than two months later. (Read my response here.) I thank God for the timing of her passing and that she was surrounded by family and loved ones.
After her death, I began meditating on Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore (suggested by my good friend, Kyle) and I have found myself connecting with its imagery. The last three months or so have been a Night Sea Journey. I had been fighting unsuccessfully to stay above water. I was drowning. Then I accepted the advice of Thomas Moore and let myself sink into the dark waters. I imagine myself as a mermaid, intrinsically comfortable with the darkness and the water. I’ve spent the last few weeks writing about mermaids and the strength of fluidity they symbolize to me. This has given me peace about being in the dark.
As we look forward to the New Year, let us be at peace with the darkness. We are safe in the knowledge that this is the season of darkness. The season of light and joy lies just ahead.
Seasons Greetings to you and yours! May the magic of the holidays fill your hearts and homes.
“She loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” ~song lyric of The Slow Poisoner
May 20, 2010
I have lived many lives. In fiction and in my dreams.
I am a Gemini.
I am a Welsh fairie with hair of fire.
I am Native American.
I am a runaway slave.
I am a Chinese immigrant.
I am a Woman Warrior.
I write the Word of God in the native tongue.
I walk through the mountains to protect the children.
I create peace.
In Paris, we visited Shakespeare and Co. in the Latin Quarter, near the awe-inspiring Notre Dame. This famous bookstore is known for its belief in unity and peace. Writers, famous and otherwise, throughout the last century have come to this bookstore. I walked in and fell head over heels in love. It is a quaint shop with hidden treasures in nooks and crannies. Wanderers can still lay their weary heads on small beds among the books in exchange for helping in the bookstore for a few hours.
I bought Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Fifth Book of Peace. I wanted to carry a good friend into the strange land with me. Reading her words, her talkstory, creates a home for me. I feel at home reading about her search for peace.
Kingston had a workshop for peace on June 19th, 1993: “Reflective Writing, Mindfulness, and the War: A Day for Veterans and Their Families.” She writes that June 19th is a “holiday for Chu Ping, whose name mean ‘peace.’ […] The dragon boats race to honor his martyrdom for peace.”
I was born on a Chinese holiday for peace.
* * *
Since arriving in Cogolin, France, we’ve been somewhat living in the 1930’s. We do have electricity (although it went out for a few hours the other morning and I panicked) and running water, we are shut off from most communication.
After being in an information overload for over six years, it has been both calming and frustrating to not be wired to the world. Our cell phone is mostly for local calls and emergencies because it’s so expensive to call abroad. We have a TV, but all of the channels are in French. We don’t have internet. The internet café down the street charges 5 Euros per hour. David and I were accustomed to being on the internet for six to eight hours most days. We read blogs and articles and news feeds. We were up to date. We knew what was going on.
Here, we don’t have NPR or the BBC to connect us with all that’s happening in the world. We don’t have an English speaking or expat community here like we did in Brussels.
It’s pretty quiet in this quaint town. After school, the teenagers ride around on their scooters. The church a block away is a simple medieval building. The town was built on hills and the view overlooking the town, only a steep hike up a few streets, is breathtaking. You can almost see the true blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
We walked the five or so kilometers (which we think is about three miles) to Port Cogolin. I was thrilled to see the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. We stood on the beach and watched storm clouds sweep towards St. Tropez (on the right). I saw a flash of lightning over the water. Then the wind became fierce and blasted sand into our eyes and teeth.
Shut off from the busy, stressful world, we have had a lot of time for meditation and reflection.
We’ve been writing daily in our journals.
I have the presence of quiet in my mind. Fewer panic attacks. I’ve been able to see and think clearly. I’m aware of myself and my worldview. I’m not afraid. I feel confident and at peace.
“If only for once it were still
If the not quite right and the why this
could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,
and the static my senses make—
if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake—
Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.
I could posses you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you
to all that lives,
-Rainer Marie Rilke, The Book of Hours
* * *
I’ve finished over seventy good pages of my third novel. When I’m finished with this draft, I’ll go back to my second novel and do another revision.
But I’ve felt isolated. Lonely. I miss my family and my friends. I daydream about when we’ll go back to the States. I miss (yeah, I know…) my TV shows and watching movies. I miss being able to call anyone anytime I want to. I miss the internet…a lot.
The town shuts down on Sunday and most of Monday. Every day between 12:30 and 3pm, everything closes. Siesta time. It’s a beautiful concept. A leisurely lunch and cuddle time with your honey or a nap. How divine! I admire the European attitude toward daily life. Things are in perspective here.
It has taken us Americans awhile to get used to this serene lifestyle. We expect shops and places to be open when we want them to be open. We wonder: How does anyone make a living here?
In Port Cogolin, we stumbled upon a nonchalant art gallery. One of the artists, Valerie Hadida (a sculptor and painter), creates these lovely, slightly flawed, waif girls with masses of hair and delicate facial features. She’s captured the humanness and holiness of Girlhood.
I am a clay sculpture on the coast of the Mediterranean.
* * *
As an empathic writer, it is a healing process to be alone with my writing. I draw from my memories, experiences, and emotions to create a world, from whence there was none.
Sometimes I have difficulty separating how I feel from the people around me. I feel what they are feeling. I dream what they are dreaming. It is good for my writing. I am able to create layered characters.
But my soul needs silence. It craves release. It strives for balance.
I know what I want to do with my stories. I want to create a home for others. I want to offer a drink of water for the soul. A place to lay one’s head and rest. I want lovers, strangers, and castaways to read my stories and find a place to belong.
The words of Rilke, born in Prague, and Kingston, an American girl born of Chinese illegal immigrants, have been churning the water of my mind. Like the angel’s finger stirring the pool, they have given me the signs that I needed. I see the ripples and I’m ready to dive in.
Apr 19, 2010
“Not all those who wander are lost.” J. R. R. Tolkien
We’ve spent much of the last two weeks getting lost. Of course. We make one wrong turn down a cobblestone street and find ourselves in a labyrinth of French and Dutch-named streets. If we are wandering without a destination, we cannot get lost. It is only when we are keeping to some schedule, especially before we figured out how to get a European cell phone and couldn’t call to say we would be late, that we find ourselves panicking and frustrated. We spread open the map and argue about which direction is north.
But if we are not worried about here or there, right or wrong, then we are free to wander pleasantly through the alleys. We see every detail. We see the smiling baby waving at us and the grandmother eating an ice cream cone. Here is our destination. Always. Here is where we are supposed to be.
David and I had been reading The Tao of Pooh over and over again like a mantra for the last nine months. In preparation for the transformative journey, we knew that the biggest threat was the need to be in control. I am guilty of this sin every day. I hungrily seek control over every situation. I want to know what is going to happen. I don’t like surprises or accidents. I am solid like the stones that I continue to trip over.
When I was fourteen, I learned how to ride a horse. Well, not exactly a horse. It was a pony. A big pony named Lady, which she was not. Lady hadn’t been ridden much and was not trained very well. I learned how to ride at the same time as learning how to train. The most important thing I learned about horseback riding was how to listen with my body. If I felt what the Lady was doing, I would know when she was afraid. I would feel when she was about to run me into a low-hanging tree branch. I could move with her if I was relaxed and aware.
It was my first lesson in listening. Being aware. Going with the natural flow of things. I didn’t need to be in control because control was an illusion anyways. But I could be at peace because I would be soft and pliable. I would be like a dirt path instead of a cobblestone sidewalk.
Couchsurfing.com has provided us with the means to live in this way. The members are all people who are welcoming and open to connecting with others. The generosity and hospitality is reminiscent to those hippie followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts. All for One and One for All. Couchsurfing.com is about giving others a home, a place to relax when one is traveling. This lifestyle rings true with me.
One of our fellow couchsurfers said it simply. She’s a French-speaking Belgian with a very good knowledge of English. In her favorite bar near Place Flagey, a dark place where a gnome on the counter grins at you when you order your Kriek, she told us that her new word to live by was: Easy. If something is too difficult, you need to stop. Listen. Breathe. Life is easy when you learn how to let go. Be more like Winnie the Pooh.
Letting go is a process. It can take many forms. David finds that he lets go of much while he’s boxing or working out. I let go when I walk through a quiet park and feel the tree branches above my head. Both of us find this place of letting go through the process of creation. All anger, frustration, stress, and heartache are transformed with each movement of the paintbrush or key stroke.
The calm of this lifestyle has created a place—a room of my own—where characters begin breathing and moving. I am free of the daily grind, the mundane stress of work, work, work. Meaningless work where every minute counted only towards paying bills.
Here, I am free to play god. I can write without distraction. I disappear into the background. I am the cobalt sky, the crooked sidewalk, the illuminated lamppost. I am free to pour past failures and dark conflict into the characters, bringing the story to life.
Yesterday, we rode the elevator to the top of Parking Garage 58, just steps away from St. Catherine’s. It is the best free view of
On top of the parking garage, I imagined how Jesus felt when the devil took him to a high place. Like Jesus, the devil tempts us with his twisted offering. “All this could be yours…if only…” That “if only” binds us in chains of sleepless nights and mental exhaustion. We think that if only we had that perfect career, that perfect marriage, that perfect outfit, we would have it all. But it already is ours and the devil has nothing to offer. When you don’t own anything, you have everything. When you give it all away, it is all yours.
Of course, I am still afraid. But I have been in the presence of freedom. When our hosts gave us—strangers with tattoos and piercings—keys to their lovely apartment. “Come and go as you please.” We were given the gift of trust. I am still afraid but fear has an enemy. I will not let fear keep me caged. It may feel against my nature to let go, but letting go is what my nature truly yearns for.
Couchsurfing.com is part of this redemptive process: the letting go of that which is not important. We find healing and restoration in the simple sharing of blankets and towels, early morning hellos, and the offering of much-needed coffee.
In this place of vulnerability, we are not lost. We are home.
(For photos, check out my other blog or facebook.)
Apr 16, 2010
For the time being, please follow my travel blog posts at www.open.salon.com/blog/gwendolyn_glover.
I'm unable, perhaps because of poor internet connection, to copy and paste my blog posts into blogger.
You can become a fan on facebook or email me to get on my mailing list: gwendolyn dot derosa at gmail dot com.
Feb 23, 2010
Meet Jason Pettus.
I met Jason Pettus, founder of The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, at the Pilcrow Lit Fest in 2008. This well-spoken intellectual is intrigued by quality literature and film and has dedicated his life to promoting the arts. He is intricately involved with the Chicago literary scene and is a strong supporter of self-publishing. On the CCLaP website, Jason reviews books (including self-publications) and movies, discusses artistic movements, and interviews authors via podcasts.
“CCLaP is currently a one-person operation, put together by me, Jason Pettus; for those who don't know, I studied photography at the University of Missouri in the '80s and '90s, and then became a full-time creative writer myself once moving to Chicago in 1994. Among other fun experiences during those years, I […] received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council; released three novels, two travel books and a host of miniature "chapbooks;" went on numerous American tours and two European ones; […] all while remaining a self-publisher the entire time and without once hiring a publicist or agent.”
Recently, Jason became interested in how Twitter can be used as a publishing tool for short literary expressions. So he came up with the “TwitLit” experiment.
“CCLaP Publishing is happy to announce "TwitLit," the center's first-ever story series. Written as a collection of haiku-like chapters, each no longer than 140 characters, TwitLit stories are first published serially through the short-message service Twitter.com, then published here as high-quality, printable poster versions.”
What the project means to me?
I was thrilled when Jason asked me to be a part of this project. In the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with short fiction. I want to see how much of a story I can tell in the least amount of words. It’s similar to writing poetry. Every word is important. Every word is a gem.
You can follow my TwitLit story “Cat” starting March 10th.
Do you want to get involved?
“CCLaP is always on the lookout for intriguing TwitLit projects, ranging from 10 to 50 parts; simply email Jason Pettus at cclapcenter [at] gmail.com with your submission.”
Feb 22, 2010
I had the pleasure of reading one of the first copies of Flowergirls, A Mirroir by Robin Sneed. This debut novel is a beautiful and intimate mesh of memoir and fiction.
"Robin Sneed was born in Los Angeles in 1962. After an eight year career in television as a child, she went on to have a 17-year career in corporate hell. A Physics major, activist, and adventurer, her greatest accomplishment has been to well and truly love another."
Erotic, brash, and sometimes profane, Flowergirls, A Mirroir, will change the way you think about marriage. The eighteen-year chronicle of two women who fall passionately in love through years of socio-political upheaval and change in Los Angeles, will leave you believing in the intrinsic sanctity of the heart.
I always want to know the story behind the story. What inspired you to write this book?
The love of my life, Rebecca, inspired me to write Flowergirls. After she died in 2001, I went through a very rough time of it in grief. It was truly devastating. We had talked about me writing a book, and so, I did. Although I have always written, it makes absolute sense that my first novel would be about our lives together. I created a couple of fictional plots in the book so that I could express my grief without writing about her death. I wanted to write a very alive book as a gift for Rebecca. A book with an ending she truly deserved. God, I love that girl.
While I was reading, I felt like I was eavesdropping on the lovely relationship between these two women. I think the diary form enabled this closeness between the reader and the main characters. Why did you choose to write it as a diary?
I kept a diary early in our relationship, although sadly, I do not have it now. I wanted the very present tense of a diary...while writing Flowergirls, I was working through grief, and by writing the book in largely journal form, I could get 'close to the blood' as I like to say...it was an intense experience working that way...exhausting even...to let myself get into that space and relive those days...it was also very healing.
Flowergirls, A Mirroir is a hot and steamy love story. Were you worried about family members reading it?
I never thought about that. Flowergirls is our story and one we wanted to tell. I have express permission from Rebecca to write of our erotic connection...we wanted to 'throw the doors open' as Beck would say. This is an interesting question because...I think that kind of self editing probably gets in the way of a great many potentially brilliant books making it to the stands.
Someone asked me this question in an interview and I thought it was timely due to the recent incline in self-publishing. Why did you decide to self-publish this book?
Because I don't like asking for permission. When I wrote Flowergirls, I wasn't even thinking about publishing. It took me a couple of years to let go of it. At any rate, I don't like the idea of asking permission to share what I write...most especially with this book.
I seem to always have one or two stories in my head, even as I’m working on a current project. What are you working on now?
I'm working on a second novel, The American Daughter. This book chronicles my life growing up in Los Angeles in the television industry. About knowing I was gay, about my father being in the military. I was a small child during the 'hippie movement' and during a resurgence in feminism. It has a lot to do with being a child who was thrust into the world of entertainment, and there was a dark side to that. At that time, I desired nothing more than a life in science and philosophy. I think many women felt that kind of longing growing up, for whatever circumstances they were thrust into. And during all of that, I'm feeling that I'm a boy in a girl's body! The American Daughter is a book about the resilience of dreams and natural inclination; one does not have to win the Nobel Prize nor solve world peace to know intellectual and spiritual.
Feb 16, 2010
She already knew when you first met in the break room, which always smelled of burnt coffee. She “accidently” bumped into you, splashing scalding coffee on your favorite Spiderman tie. This led you to apologize with that Irish guilt of yours, even though it wasn’t your fault.
Nina said, “Well, now you’ll have to take me out to Starbucks,” which would have been cute in her Oklahoma accent if she hadn’t been so congested due to seasonal allergies.
“Sure,” you said because you have never said no to anyone.
Nina wanted to believe that you fell madly in love with her at that moment like you said you did two months later, but she just couldn’t. Falling in love was inconsistent with her life so far.
Nina found your Myspace page almost a whole year before you met, back when you were still working in medical records and she was a part-time medical assistant. She knew then.
You had fallen on one knee in a spastic moment of adoration in her favorite, used bookstore. You were asking her to be you one and only. You didn’t have a ring so you put a twist-tie around her finger.
Nina said yes because she really didn’t think there would be anyone else since there had never been before. Her life was straight-forward like a shopping list. Plus she was almost sure that she loved you.
You had asked Nina to move in and she started doing your laundry right away. She liked to fold your warm briefs into triangles. She bought you colored and striped underwear. She hated tighty-whiteys.
That was how she found the pen, with its tell-tale inscription. To Ben, with Love. From Kari. You had forgotten to take it out of your pocket. It was a dull silver and black. She picked it up gently as if it might burn her fingers. Nina held onto it for two weeks while you tore through the entire apartment, your stomach caught in whirling circles. You lost your appetite. You couldn’t imagine where you had misplaced it, but didn’t mention it to Nina. You didn’t know that she already knew.
Finally, Nina confessed but with a tone that made you feel like the guilty party. “Look what I found,” she said accusingly. And, immediately after, “when were you going to tell me?” As if you had hidden it from her on purpose, proving that you were a liar like all the others.
“It’s nothing,” you retorted, reaching out for it. Nina tightened her grip. “I’ve just had it forever. It’s like a lucky charm.”
Nina almost felt bad but then she remembered. “Really?” Nina asked because she already knew who Kari was. “It doesn’t mean anything? Then you won’t mind if I replace it with a nicer one?”
Then she threw the curve ball before you had a chance to respond: “Who gave it to you?”
You abruptly opened the refrigerator. “What do you want for dinner?” Nina knew all about this avoidance trick. She had used it before. Nina just wanted you to admit it out loud. This monster that she had known about for over a year. She just wanted it said so it wasn’t a secret anymore.
“Please,” she pleaded.
“Don’t you trust me?” you asked. Nina thought it was such a cliché that she didn’t want to answer. But that wasn’t the only reason.
“I want you to get rid of it,” she finally admitted.
“No.” You snatched your corduroy jacket off the hook. “I need to get some air.” Nina could see that you were shaking. She wished she could make herself very small and crawl inside you and see what was really going on.
As soon as the door shut, Nina threw the pen on the hardwood floor that was impossible to keep clean. When it broke she started breathing again.
Nina knew that you were running along Lake Michigan. That’s what you always did when she wanted to talk about you. About your past.
Nina fixed the pen and told you it was just her hormones. She went crazy at that time of the month. She didn't bring it up again. It's two years later and she still pulls out the hidden marriage certificate with the names: Ben Holden and Kari Inson. She traces the names with her finger. She wonders if you even know that it’s missing from your desk drawer.
Jan 31, 2010
The first month of the new decade has been exhilarating. I decided to try something different on my Open Salon blog. All of the posts during the month of January had something to do with the theme of “The Body.”
If you want to catch up on the posts, here’s a list:
1/5 This Is My Body
1/8 “Cat” (A Flash Fiction Story)
1/12 Exploring the Body (A Poem)
1/15 Misbehaving Body
1/19 Dear Body (A Brief Letter)
1/21 Body Language: Inside the Mind of a Playwright
(A Guest Blog by Julie Ann Seals)
1/25 Oo La La: Sexual Pleasure and Body Image
(A Guest Blog by Laura Anne Stuart)
1/26 A Portrait of the Body as a Young Woman (Part of a Joint Blog Post)
Thank you for reading and responding to these intimate musings. I truly believe that writing is communication. The circle isn’t complete if no one is reading. So thank you very much. I wanted to especially thank my guest bloggers for giving of their time and experience. This has been a wonderful collaboration.
P.S. I now have an author page on amazon.com and you can check it out here.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.
Jan 21, 2010
Julie Ann Seals is my guest blogger today and she is one of the enchanting people that I befriended at Oral Roberts University. I think we became friends because my roommate was a friend of hers and we had an apartment off campus with a washer and dryer. I would come home from work on Saturdays to this blue-eyed nymph doing her weekly laundry in my home. We soon bonded over our adoration of Kurt Vonnegut and a shared weakness for worn-out jeans.
Julie is a playwright and actress (although she won’t call herself an actress) at the Nightingale Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s one of the best local theaters that I’ve ever been to. When a place is hidden in the shadows of extreme religiosity, sometimes it breaks forth and shines like a diamond. I watched my first lesbian love story, complete with partial nudity, at this theater.
I asked Julie to write something the body and the art of acting.
Body language is the often subconscious enhancement or explanation of our verbal communication. Beyond facial expression and vocal intonation, the body gives social cues regarding the underlying intent and emotion of individuals. Often, along with the subconscious expression of the communicator, there is a subconscious interpretation by the receiver. So what exactly is going on when an actor--whose words and sometimes actions are dictated by another entity--is onstage attempting to convey an imaginary character to a theater full of strangers? How much of the subconscious is moved into the conscious? How self-aware can a gesture be before the audience recognizes the forgery?
If the answer to those questions, particularly the second one, were cut and dry, I imagine we could elevate the likes of William Shatner and David Caruso above pop culture self-parodies: every smoldering removal of sunglasses beckoning an Oscar nod. Alas, there are as many schools of thought on this as there are actors (and directors...and writers...and so on). Furthermore, not all characters require the same physicality, nor do all plays call for the same level of naturalism or theatricality. So, there is some disparity even within the individuals who address this issue.
Personally, when I am onstage (at an all-volunteer community theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so you know you can trust my expertise), about the only thing I'm thinking is, "Don't look like a jackass. Please, don't look like a jackass." My greatest acting weakness is my physicality. I know how to sound good. I'm excellent at memorizing lines. If a role requires me to be lying in bed paralyzed, I'm golden. I'm just too self-conscious to express myself very well with my body.
Anyone who has seen me in a show may hesitate to call me self-conscious, considering that many of my roles have required minimal clothing. (Remember: it's community theater. In Oklahoma. We gotta do something to keep its doors open.) I'm not embarrassed by what my body looks like; I'm just limited in what I can do with it. It does not matter if the director leaves me to my own devices or if the piece is highly choreographed: I struggle if it requires gross motor skills. The audience can tell I'm acting (which is great when we do Vaudeville), whether I'm operating consciously or subconsciously.
However, I am not really an actor. I'm actually a playwright who performs sometimes because I've got the sweet ass and the moxy to give it a shot. Of the real actors I work with (I do not consider a humble venue to be a limiting factor for talent), I have noticed that they do not all approach material in the same way, nor do they all share the same strengths. One thing that always impresses me with them is that they are capable of fully committing to whatever action they take, whether they have consciously chosen it or the theater gods have bestowed it upon their worthy forms.
I mostly make my way in the theater as a disembodied voice in my actors' heads, and I leave it to them to make everything look right (with, perhaps, some gentle nudges). I provide them with the sounds, and they in turn grace me with the action. Of the talented, working actors I know, many operate within a fairly narrow physical vocabulary. Rarely are they asked to stretch beyond their comforts zones, and I'm not suggesting they should be if the result is not stage-worthy. At my home theater, the Nightingale, we've learned and are still learning how best to suit our material to the strengths and limitations of our ragtag players. Often the limitations of a specific actor become the very quality we exploit in writing and onstage, as if we're collectively struggling with and celebrating the eccentricities of our individual natures. Because we do not have the luxury to rely solely on our strengths, we find a use for the whole turkey. The bar is low, the house is half empty, and we have each other to lean on and learn from. As we continue this process, self-correcting as best we can, we find that we are able to dive ever deeper into the language of our craft and of our own bodies, eventually awaking and then shaping the voice within, the one residing in our muscles and our minds, immeasurable and unknowable even to ourselves, no more real than the stories we serve, but true and undeniable in the mind of the audience. Bravo, Caruso...Bravo.