Going Dark

•February 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Notice? I took a semi-hiatus from digital communication the past year. In part, because I have several writing projects racing to the finish line, and in part, because I had an epiphany a year ago: face-to-face contact makes me feel good. Not that I went completely dark: I still use my cell phone, and I do most of my research online.
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Not that I went completely dark: I still use my cell phone, and I do most of my research online. But I have scaled back from posting daily (to my agent’s chagrin), I call instead of text, I read a real hold-in-the-hand book instead of a digital screen. All have confirmed what I already suspected: texting, Facebook and blogging are not honest forms of communication. They have their place. But they’re not trustworthy.

As writers, the first lesson we must learn is how to elicit emotion from our written words. But authentic interaction demands voice tone and word inflection––and eyes.44-beautiful-eyes-photography_24

Words are often mistaken as the best medium for expression, yet communication falls flat without the crutch of emotion. And emotion cannot depend on emojis, it hinges on sight and sound to reveal its truth.

Consider the phrase, “I love you.” Tossed around mindlessly at times, the truth behind the meaning is purely dependent on the tone of voice delivering the intention. Think of the many ways those words might be spoken. The degrees of love, defined.

So, I have scaled back my digital engagement in order to be more engaged with humanity, with nature, and with myself.

With eyes averted from personal digital devices, and I am reminded that human interaction at the visceral level, and nature itself, is integral as a transformative experience. No need for an online course, daily quotation, or word-of-the-day delivered to my email inbox.

Digital-free becomes a full-immersion experience without the the blindfold of virtual reality glasses. Glasses that may simulate, but will never replace, the “God-light” of early morning or late afternoon where the spirituality of the natural world is revealed.golden_afternoon_light_by_chaoticriver-d4r0b0h

And words delivered in person tell me the truth of a matter more surely than any missive read on the screen. Loving or bloody, they touch the emotion. They leave scars. And scars show us the color of our blood, the tone of our humanity, they teach us to be human, to handle our emotions, to show us emotion should be embraced by every fingertip. That we must dip ourselves into the blood, feel it’s warmth, and its energy.

We must embrace our humanity, not our hardware.images

Bridges Crossed

•November 20, 2014 • 3 Comments

I had the great good fortune to sit next to director, Mike Nichols, on a Swissair flight from Warsaw to Geneva in the early 1980’s.

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We both made our homes in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California; both bred Arabian horse, and both loved Poland. We had attended the Polish National Arabian horse show and auction the week before and experienced a wonderful few days of spectacular horses, great friends, and marvelous stories.

The acting director of the Janów PolaskiPolish Arabian Studimages

we were visiting had spent a good deal of time reciting his adventures as a stable boy at the Janów Stud the summer of 1939. Fun, that is, until the Germans invaded Poland, and Russia crossed the Bug river less than two miles to the east, laying waste to the country as they rushed toward Berlin. What the German’s hadn’t destroyed, the Russians did.

 

imagesAndrzej Krzysztalowicz told a tale in Polish with an English translator in riveting detail. When Mike and I emerged from lunch, all we talked about was the horrific and heartwarming story of a young boy who, when the Russians threatened, opened the stall doors to a band of Poland’s most precious broodmares, climbed on the back of their best stallion, and guided the herd southwest bridging the border into the safer haven (he thought) of Hungary. Krzysztalowicz saved the seed blood of the Polish Arabian horse breeding program.images

When the Americans visiting the Polish Stud climbed aboard the flight from Warsaw, and the plane took off, the passengers cheered. Not because we hadn’t been treated exquisitely by the Pols. The Iron Curtain had yet to be drawn open. The oppression they suffered at the hands of the Russians was palpable the moment one stepped onto Polish soil. Americans needed to be sponsored just to visit, shepherded around at all times by those affiliated with the government. Freedom was a very foreign word.

Mike and I spent the short flight talking about how wonderful it would be to turn the Krzysztalowicz yarn into a film. The vision he had in his eyes as he spoke of the possibility bespoke the grandeur of such a film by his hand. But Mike felt the only place the film should be made was in Janów, and the red tape involved in accomplishing that seemed insurmountable at the time. By the time we landed in Geneva, he was talking about other projects in his queue: Working Girl, Heartburn, Biloxi Blues. Unfortuantely the dream of honoring Krzysztalowicz and the great influence of the Polish Arabian, unlike that Swissair flight, never got off the ground.

Andrzej Krzysztalowicz has passed, and the Polish border is an easier bridge to cross––but Mike is gone.

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The tale itself might be dead. But the memory of that day will live on. My writerly fingers can’t help but tap an invisible outline somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

There are simply too many tales to tell.

Auf Wiedersehen mein Freund. Your movies will never let you go.

Writing is Listening

•April 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Guest Blog––from the Dog.

The View from Down Here

Writing. A cakewalk some might think. Sit down with a cup of warm milk and a box of chicken flavored dental treats and pound the keyboard. For one who has inflexible toes, and no opposable thumbs, it’s an impossible scenario. To the canine writer, the closest comparison might be the paraplegic. Let me tell you why: it’s all about listening.156059336-124599_238x238

I propose a different point of view (I’m a dog): Writing is not a cakewalk, it’s a “dogwalk.”

A dog pulls the master along, pausing here and there to sniff a clue––or drop one. And so the writer leads the reader, imagining clues to add along the way as a path is created, hoping the reader will recognize, however subconsciously, the ones they’ve deposited.

How?

The written word of the author, as recited in the mind of the reader.

Ruh. You don’t have to be a canine ophthalmologist to know this.

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The Alchemy of Beauty

•January 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

What is beauty?IMG_1710

Something seen, or heard, or felt?

When experienced, what is the result? It draws us in, engenders pleasure. There is a physiological alchemy to it that transforms us. We may leave the beauty behind (quit the museum, turn off the music), but the sense of it is captured in memory that can be called upon at anytime.

That feeling, defined: Appreciation. The sensation most like love. Response is visceral when we look out over the Grand Canyon, examine a Renoir, listen to Beethoven (or Bob Dylan), or hold a child in our arms.

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But the simple memory of these things also calls forth feeling. The feeling of beauty is what changes a person. The feeling of love, as well.

If beauty is feeling, and appreciation closest to love, one can intuit the importance of beauty in our lives. And the definition of beauty is as diverse as those who appreciate it.

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The object matters not. The feeling is the thing. Feeling is always the thing. Universally available at anytime, anyone has the freedom to go there. There is a certain liberty attached to beauty and one’s sense of it. We are all free to appreciate whatever we wish.

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We need beauty as much as we need love. We need love as much as we need freedom. A equals B equal C.

Accesible anytime. Transformational, all.

A Brief Interview

•January 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A Brief Interview.

The First Song

•December 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Ever wonder who the first person was to sing? And why? Did a lone man walk to the edge of a canyon one night and try mimicing the cry of something wild, like the wind through the trees, or a lonely wolf?

wolf howl, moon, silhouette, full moon 159922

Or was it simply inspiration at the sight of a rainbow or newborn child that took wing through the human voice?

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To me, this seems the more logical origination for song: feeling, unchained.

This time of year, in particular, I think about what prompted that first a cappela song, and who joined in to make the original choir. I love the sound of the human voice alone, as though infused straight from Source, energizing and hypnotic at the same time.

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I have visited Salzburg’s Nonnberg Abbey (the abbey featured in The Sound of Music) many times for the mesmirizing midnight mass they hold on Christmas Eve. No matter one’s religious affiliation (or lack thereof), the mass sung by sequestered nuns, without the accompaniment of musical instruments, is nothing short of spiritual revelation. The old stone church is perched atop a hill above the city, its echoing walls the perfect foil to what seems to be music sent straight from angels above. Just the thought of it makes mefeel wonderful; makes me want to sing.

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If you had never heard song before, what feeling would inspire you to tilt your head back, open your mouth, and utter that first ode?

 

 

In this season of joy, think of that inspiration and feel yor way into song.

The Soul of Success

•December 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Evolution of the soul is akin to creative success. It doesn’t arrive in a flash, but is revealed inch-by-inch in editing. As humans, we tend to target imperfection miles before embracing the ideal. With this able companion to the edit,  negative thoughts and actions are replaced with the sweeter. We reach toward perfection.

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But, as any writer knows, there is no perfection. As any soul understands, utopia is impossible. Novels are published, typos are found, sentences could always be rearranged to be more pleasing, story structure improved. “Could have, would have, should have,” is our mantra.

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But looking back is nothing more than second guessing. So it is with our lives. It is only in reaching toward the perfect that we encounter the divine. In that reach, eternal hands always appear offering help. If we are astute, we see them and reach up. But even if we don’t, their embrace is powerful in subtle ways.

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At every stage of humanity’s self-edit, we are offered a thesaurus, if you will. A higher rung on the ladder. Those rungs take the form most attractive to us individually in order to coax spiritual growth: music that touches us, art we cherish, literature we re-read, a friendship, a rival.

Simple and intricate at once, each form is a mirror. Look closely and you will see in yourself that which needs editing. Just realize that no matter how much  is done, the work will never be complete. For in completion, there is perfection. And in perfection there is stagnation.

Because what is there left to do?

In the end, life’s mantra is no more than “can, will, and shall.”

Nelson Mandela said it well:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

 
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