2015 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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We want to know.

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uluru-at-sunset

Taller than the Eiffel Tower, in a flat, desert area in the center of Australia. Eight miles around. More than 600 million years old.

uluru-anangu

Sacred places–unknown forces are at work to activate space with spirit. They hold things we want to know. Some of us believe we are meant to know. Some of us have a passion to know.

Photos:
image: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/49/5d/53/uluru-at-sunset.jpg
artwork: http://sites.coloradocollege.edu/indigenoustraditions/files/2011/11/uluru-anangu.jpg

Turkey Vultures

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One morning, when I was staying up country in a valley of the Manzano Mountains, I got up early to see the sun rise. I went out on the deck, and as I looked across the field, I saw about a dozen turkey vultures, each perched on a fence post.
turkey vultures

They stood with wings outstretched, unmoving, waiting to catch the sun’s rays, to warm their wings. It was a surreal sight, as if they were caught in a moment of worship.

It made me think of turkey vultures differently, to feel a kinship with them. We both were in that moment to appreciate something ancient and foundational that is rejuvenating to something deep within us. For that moment, we were worshiping at the same church.

Now when I see them surrounding road kill, I don’t go, “Ew-w-w!”

Photo from: http://blueridgeblog.blogs.com/blue_ridge_blog/2004/10/taking_flightpa.html

Can you teach? Can anybody?

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improvised-shakespeare-company
I used to teach, and for a long time, I tried to do it “their” way–the ones who taught us: construct your lectures from primary sources and the most current research, insert them into the teaching space/arena, repeat. It’s okay not to allow questions.
Look what happens if you allow questions–things can go anywhere. Can you bring them back? Can anybody? What about that point to be made? So why would you ever allow questions?
But there were a few insurrectionists, like the film teacher, and you could find out that some people allowed that kind of pandemonium in their classrooms. Of course, they were labelled kooks or unprepared or just not very smart. And you told yourself only some subjects permitted it.
But my own teaching began to bore me and I felt more and more like a fraud, standing up there delivering “the word.”
So, gradually I couldn’t help myself, and I began to allow questions. Well, all hell broke lose. They had opinions that challenged my “established knowledge,” many of them said the first un-thought thing that popped into their heads, some felt they had “the word” because they were in touch with the media–social and otherwise, some were just full of themselves. But more than a few were about more than themselves and made me think, and for a while I flew by the seat of my pants with them.
That became my definition of teaching–teacher and student flying by the seat of their pants. They begin in the realm of the subject matter at hand and see where it takes them. Both can end up going somewhere neither have been. And it’s fun.
I think it’s how the best writing happens–a conversation with you and your muse/source/etc.
I liken the process to improv, a practice that hands us back ourselves, often through a process of standing up to our own immense fear of exactly that.
The only thing to be nervous about, as one long form improviser said, “is the potential for large-scale humiliation.”

See Patrick Stewart talk about improvising Shakespeare: http://americantheatre.org/2014/11/how-patrick-stewart-learned-to-die-onstage/

The Snake

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Water drops on blue background

From Jumping: a Novel.
Babe, on the arrival of her sisters. [I have three sisters.]

“I remember seeing a snake come down from the porch roof of a cabin I was staying in with friends. As we watched, it extended half of its length down through space as if the space had substance to support it, leaving its other half anchored on the porch roof. It lowered that front half right into a fir tree leaning against the porch, into the nest of a small mourning dove, a nest clearly visible to our group on the porch, a nest with two small eggs in it.
The dove had left the nest, probably because we had scared her off by coming out on the porch, and the snake had seen its chance. It moved into the nest with half of its body still on the porch roof, and swallowed both eggs, so quickly, so effortlessly, I could almost believe it hadn’t happened. I didn’t want to believe it had. Then it withdrew itself back up onto the roof, again as if suspended by invisible wires, and disappeared from sight. We stood there, silenced by the finality of its act. . . .
“Later I found a snakeskin tucked in the fold of the bottom step of the back porch. It was beautiful, elegant, like a woman’s elbow-length opera glove, dropped unheedingly, while she was on her way to somewhere else. . . .”

Life is to short to play it safe.

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I discovered if you don’t regularly jump–off a porch, from a plane, into a new life–you’re not living. Life loses its juice and so do you. For every time I left town with a suitcase and never went back, I grew leaps as a human being–I think jumping is a shortcut to living. When do you feel more alive than when you take a risk, a life leap, a free fall?

Are you selling out when you sell yourself? Sure!

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You can’t let it change you.  Then it’s not selling out.  But is that even possible?  Nowadays, if you’re a writer, you’re in sales.  We just used to think someone else would be doing it for us.

The other day, the 21 year old technical whiz who works with me and I produced the first draft of a video for youtube.  The publisher will either edit it and put it up or send us back to the drawing board.  Their marketing person said two minutes, don’t read, talk about the book, but don’t give it away.  Right now, we’re at five minutes and six seconds.  And we’ve got lots of out-takes.  A couple of times we got to laughing and almost couldn’t stop. The techie/director took care of lighting, sound, time, setting, wardrobe, hair frizzies, script management, feedback, production design, and more.  I supplied the script and showed up.  That was a lot!

I think the truth is my apprehension, at core, comes from the fact that I’m still getting to know the book.  I wrote it and moved on to the next one.  Now I look at it and try to remember.  I’m surprised and unsettled by the comments of others who’ve recently read it.  They’ve seen something I didn’t know was there and been moved by it.  The book is clearly a thing unto itself.

I will say, as I go back into Jumping, looking for things to quote or things for readings, I find a lot I remember and still like.  Maybe that’s because I know the book wasn’t written just by me.  Go, little book!