The Prompter Room

For Friday, April 6, 2018:

 

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week, for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

Charles Darwin (h/t to JB via YD)

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The Prompter Room

For Friday, December 29, 2017:

 

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

(h/t to Phibby for the source)

The Prompter Room

For Friday, December 15, 2017:

 

 

We’re all — trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria — pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship.

Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory. We are not, in the words of the folk hymn, wayfaring strangers traveling through this world. Nor are we the estranged creatures of Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads, fallen out of Nature into a “stagnant pool” of artifice where we misshape “the beauteous forms of things.” Our bodies and minds, our “Science and Art,” are as natural and wild as they ever were.

We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.

Our ethic must therefore be one of belonging, an imperative made all the more urgent by the many ways that human actions are fraying, rewiring, and severing biological networks worldwide. To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors, is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.

David George Haskell, THE SONGS OF TREES: STORIES FROM NATURE’S GREAT  CONNECTORS

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, December 12, 2017:

 

Children speak the language of the flowers and understand the whispers of the wind.  They’re in tune with the subtle songs of the forest; they can listen to the trees, interpret the chatter of the rivers, and intuit the meaning of each sparkle of sun.

Our job isn’t to correct that, but to nurture it, to preserve it, and perhaps even remember it ourselves.

Cristen Rodgers, meme on Facebook (cristenrodgers.net)

The Prompter Room

For Monday, May 2, 2016:

 

“The art of the word is painting + architecture + music.”

Yevgeny Zamyatin

Two images come immediately to my mind whenever I read this quote.  One is of some of the book covers from the 1940s and ’50s, where Art Deco style and cityscape buildings were the featured style on hardcover dust jackets.  The other is kind of a blend of my mother, her sister, and their parents sitting in front of the long shelves of their family library.

My mother was a musician, my aunt was a watercolorist, my grandfather was an artist and an architect, and my grandmother, also a musician, could recite almost any poem at the drop of a hat and was something of a poet herself.  Mother and Daddy Tom were the two quote-unquote professionals, but all of their family used the arts in every aspect of their daily lives.

The paternal side of my lineage is similar: music and engineering wove in and out of their lives in myriad vocational and avocational directions, and I remember many happy hours reading the volumes and volumes from their bookshelves as well.

So I have an idea, even if through osmosis – and the years of reading the books in their collected libraries – of the three disciplines that make up Zamyatin’s art of the word.  As I’ve said here before, I consider my art and literature heritage a tremendous blessing.  Until I read this particular quote, however, I never really considered how the three facets can come together to make words.

Neither have I felt all that comfortable calling what I do ‘art.’  While I have no trouble calling other writers artists, I had long been hesitant to include myself in that appellation.  I always tried to build effective structures when I wrote, and I always strived to make my words sing or evoke appropriate images in readers’ minds, but art …?  Not so much.  At least not compared to the accomplished artists in my family.

Perhaps, I thought, it’s because the disciplines in writing are less visible to the eye of the beholder.

I should have known better.  I knew firsthand how much the musicians in our family practiced every day, even down to the simplest of scales and vocal warm-ups.  I knew about the regular classes the painters, engineers, and architect had to take, and I saw the progress of their ‘studies’ (the visual art equivalent to writers’ first, second, and third drafts) that filled their drafting tables and easels.  I knew all this, but not everyone is aware of what goes into a polished musical performance or a stunning painting ahead of time and behind the scenes.

Even so, it was not until I was an adult and undertook some art courses of my own, that I realized the similarities between writing – my own, at least – and the other arts.  By then, of course, I had taken all kinds of writing classes, gone to writers’ conferences, and practiced, practiced, practiced, and was encouraged by family and teachers and other writers.  Something finally fell into place, though, and I really saw the erasure marks on painters’ studies and even, sometimes, their eventual final products. I finally realized we had a lot in common.

I know.  Talk about a ‘duh’ moment.  It was embarrassingly long in coming, but it was worth it.  Now I carry all the artists in my family on my shoulders as I pursue my own version of art in the world of words, and I do believe they smile every once in a while and maybe even whisper ‘Welcome to the club.’

The Prompter Room

For Friday, March 11, 2016:

 

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.”

Truman Capote – McCall’s, November 1967

Once in a great while, I have heard that music as I write, and it is a wondrous thing.  I wish it happened more often, but I am grateful that it happens at all.  So it is a joy to read the words of other writers who obviously have that inner music.

Salman Rushdie’s newest book is such a one.  The dustcover blurb for his novel Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015) describes it as “an enduring testament to the power of storytelling” and “a spellbinding work … that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story.”   Rushdie takes the tales of 1001 Nights as his foundation to introduce the jinns of ancient times into the world of today and how the jinns’ lives and ours are inextricably interwoven, whether we know it or not.  The jinns do, of course, and therein lies the story, there are the stories.

I’m only about halfway through, but every time I pick up the book to read, I hear the bards of old in Rushdie’s words.  Like 1001 Nights, I want to hear this story spoken – nay, sung – aloud.

I keep trying to say more about this novel, but nothing feels right.  Everything I try to say seems to get in the way.  Let me just finish, then, with this: If you want to get caught up in a story that will challenge you, if you want to read words that will delight and sing to you, then find this book.  I think you will hear the music of the wind beneath a magic carpet.

 

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, December 2, 2015:

 

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Abraham Lincoln

My mother was a professional musician.  She was an opera singer, a concert pianist, and, in later years, a composer.  After she left the stage, she taught singing and piano.  Mother trained from the time she was five years old, attending Julliard and the School of Music in Chicago before she was 20.

She knew music.  Me, not so much.  I loved music, and still do, but I didn’t have the discipline or the drive to pursue it.  When I was young, Mother taught me the mechanics of the piano, and some theory – and I was halfway decent – so I have some instinct and a lot of appreciation, but all I can do now is play the melody of the treble clef on the piano.

One thing she said, though, has stuck with me.  Mother explained, when I complained about a symphony composition I thought was terrible, that – and I have to paraphrase the gist of her words here – accomplished composers were able to predict the future of the world about 25 years ahead of time.  In other words, the state of the music reflected what the world would be like a generation ahead of itself.  If the music was loud, frantic, atonal, society/societies would face conflict, hardship, or war.  If the music was quiet, peaceful, and melodic, then times would be more peaceful.

I have no idea if this theory pans out now, but it certainly did with the examples she showed me (none of which I can remember specifically after all these years).  The musicologists among you can check it out better than I can.  It makes me wonder, though, if writers can or do the same thing.

I wonder if we can create the future intentionally through our writing.  When I first saw the quote above in a meme on Facebook, I didn’t see the final word because of the graphics and thought it said ‘The best way to predict the future is to create.’  Period.

Perhaps the future depends on us to create something, anything.  Write, paint, sing, play an instrument, compose a song, build homes and new wetlands.  If we compose new creative works with the intention of benefiting humankind and our world, then maybe we can be ahead of our times, too.  And maybe when the next generation looks back at our work they will see, hear, and live in peace and prosperity, a healthier environment, healthier peoples.

My soul longs for that, and I pray it may be so.

Guided Meditation

This dreary, rainy day and the soft music on TV have put me in a meditative mood, so I thought I’d post this piece I wrote a few years ago for a workshop.

The workshop never happened — the weather was horrendous — and the time of year was autumn, not summer, but I think the meditation is still appropriate. A Native American flute CD was supposed to play in the background, so find something similar or just as soothing to listen to. It’s best if someone else can read this quietly for you.  If that can’t happen, read it over a few times first and then just listen to the music as you settle in and close your eyes ……

Relax into the music, let it refresh your spirit as you take a few minutes to release any demands on you or concerns you have. Take some slow, deep breaths and feel the oxygen regenerating your body.

We’re going on a short journey together, to find our muses and to find our own unique voice.

By now you may see an aura behind your closed eyelids … maybe a brilliant sunflower, stars, or flashes of green and blue lights. Enjoy them for a moment, thank them for starting your journey for you with such beauty.

As these slowly fade away, you see you’re on a wide path deep in the woods. It’s a crisp, invigorating day in the early fall. Sunlight streams through the trees, a breeze sends a shower of multi-colored leaves around you as you walk, and you spot a partridge gliding past you on feather-covered feet that make no sound at all.

As you enjoy the sounds of the leaves joining those that make the tapestry in which you move, you inhale the rich, fertile fragrances of damp earth, the humus of the pine duff, the whiff of wood smoke that reached you just now.

You’ve come to a small glade of hemlock, oak and beech trees and you spy a granite and marble boulder among the intertwining roots. It’s as if the trees and the boulder are anchors for each other, holding the other into and onto the ground just for you. Near the granite ridge of the stone’s top, there’s an indentation that makes a comfortable place to sit.

So you sit … and listen to the silence of no traffic, the rustling whisper the leaves make as they fall … to the occasional bird murmurs, chattering of the red squirrel, squeaks of the chipmunks … As the silence fills up around you, you hear the sound of water and discover this peaceful spot is just above a mountain stream, heavy from a recent rain, rushing over boulders and stones placed there eons ago by a glacier as it scoured the mountainside.

You take a deep, deep breath, enjoying the cool air that rises from the water below to meet the warm drafts of sunlighted breezes playing among the trees. You’ve slipped off the boulder seat onto the musty ground; lean now into the stone behind you and close your eyes ……

Sometime later you awaken. The sun is lower, the woodland creatures are quiet, even the breeze has stilled. You’ve lost all track of time, but you know it’s that magical time when afternoon seems to hold its breath before it slides into dusk. It’s time to start back.

You start to rise from your nest of ground and boulder … and in doing so, your hand overturns a palm-sized stone smoothed and ridged from the stream.   Then your foot dislodges another one of similar size. Turn them over to admire their simple yet complicated beauty, the marble veins gleaming in the late sunshine tilting through the trees, and appreciate their soft heft and weight.

When you turn them over, you find there is writing, something roughly etched as if with a smaller, sharper stone or knife, or maybe woodland faery spirits.   A close look reveals a word on each: “Voice” on one, “Sing” on the other.

Curious now, you kneel to dig a little more and find an irregular circle of similar stones underneath the leaves, each with its own word.  You place the first two stones inside the indentation on the boulder, and each subsequent stone finds its place there as well. The stone words include ‘Risk,’ ‘Promise,’ ‘Empty,’ ‘Find’ … and there are several more.

Without intending to, you realize you’ve made a poem as you placed the stones onto the boulder. Perhaps this is where they started, then, after that unknown person or spirit scraped these words and placed them on the altar of the boulder near the stream.  Perhaps a squirrel or a heavy wind sent them into hiding, to wait for you to find them.

You place the last stone in the center of the circle, its word “Gladness” uppermost, and you back away. It’s time now to retrace your steps along the woodland path. You give thanks to the spirits of the woods, the stream, the stones and boulders, the creatures. Dusk is nearly here and you must be able to see your way out; but it seems that a light from behind you shines in just the places you need to put your feet.

It’s the words, you think. They’ve made the way easier and brighter. When you come through the woods again, you turn around and the light is gone. Gone along the pathway, yes, but there is new light in your heart.

You stand there for a moment or two because you want to remember the poem you left back in the glade. You want to write that poem … or song … or paint a picture … or tell a story ….

And you want to come back and add your own words for another to find.

© ERR/November 18, 2009