Amazing!

In spite of all of the trouble, what a wonderful time we live in. We can be amazed by images sent back to us from the Hubble telescope from all over the universe; the galaxies, the stars, the planets and their moons. I love to peruse those mesmerizing pictures of Jupiter. We understand and map DNA, we  study and photograph tiny atoms and share those images on media that can be seen all over the world.  We can discuss quantum physics and alternate universes around the dinner table. We can learn how to change oil on our car, how to paint butterflies or can tomatoes on YouTube.

We can connect with people all over the planet in ways that no previous generations could have imagined.   Think of how all of this exposure to grand ideas and images changes us and expands our view of ourselves, and of the world.  Children growing up today know more about the universe, the world and their fellow humans than ever before.  This gives me great hope for the future, since it becomes more and more obvious that we are all living on one planet, and that everything we do affects everyone else.

No matter our circumstance, there is simple joy to be found in just walking out of the front door and looking at the sky, the clouds floating by, taking in all of the different and subltle shades of the green trees.  Tuning in to the bird song, the rustling breeze, and take a deep breath of wonderful, life giving, air.  Breathing air that, only last week, was being breathed by someone on the other side of the planet.  Amazing!  This is where I am at today.  Finding simple joy in simple things, being aware in the moment, of being alive, and of livingness in all around me.

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Sunset over the Salish Sea

This doesn’t mean that I am not aware the suffering, the poverty, the pain and death that is also part of this life.  There is the dark side of all of that enhanced communication and connection, where information can be changed and nefarious agendas propagated on the very same platforms that spread hope, beauty and connection, or it can be used to escape or replace real connection.  Sometimes it is hard to allow ourselves to experience joy, because there is suffering, and our hearts are heavy.

Embracing, and accepting the shadow and the dark of life and of myself at the same time as the co-existent good is what has made me whole.  Instead of projecting our rejected shadow out onto someone else, take it back and give it a place at your table.  Carl Jung said that if everyone took back their own projections, there would be world peace.  From experience, I know this to be true within my own life.

Becoming aware of the goodness all around us, and of the small joys in life makes us more human and more whole.  We cannot control what will happen next, only our response to it. In that, we have more freedom than we can imagine. If we can change our minds, we can change the world.

I will leave you with three thoughts from one of my guiding lights, Victor Frankl, from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. These are not mere words, but keys to wisdom that can be used to unlock secrets of how to change your mind.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”

Where are you finding joy and strength these days?

 

When the Show Can’t Go On

by Christina Lay

© Daniil Peshkov | Dreamstime.com

Our regularly scheduled blog post has been interrupted to bring you this public service announcement: Keep Calm and Support Your Local Artists.

Yesterday, with one fell swoop, the seasons of two local performing arts companies ended prematurely and many others were disrupted when the governor of Oregon announced a ban on all events with audiences of 250 or more people, and our local performing arts center cancelled all performances for the next thirty days.

The Eugene Opera was set to perform Puccini’s great opera, Tosca, today and Sunday.  This was the big event of the season, the opera’s Reason d’etre. The cancellation is potentially devastating to the small company. Tens of thousands of dollars have already been spent and the loss of ticket revenue is a crushing blow.

For this blog, though, I’m thinking about the cost to the artistic soul and the soul of the community. Countless hours of planning, preparation, practice and rehearsal led up to this point. The opera had gathered not only several fantastic principal singers to perform, but a twenty-two member chorus, a children’s chorus of fifteen, an orchestra of fifty-eight, a technical crew of about twenty, and dozens of peripheral people who contribute to the production in some way.  Thursday night was the final dress rehearsal (I’ll kick myself forever for missing it). The music, the songs, the concentrated effort of artists challenging themselves to the utmost, all pulled together to a pitch-perfect level, all the confluences of design, staging, costuming, directing, conducting, all arranged, organized, ready, to culminate in…silence. An empty stage. An empty theatre.

Ironically, the blog I’d been working on before this took over my attention concerned my grim determination to complete a novel that is a year past deadline and about a thousand hours of mental anguish over budget.  I wrote briefly about how I considered abandoning the project, walking away from all that work: 86,000 words and two years’ worth of practicing my craft.  I couldn’t do it of course, couldn’t stop striving for that final “performance” that is publication.

I’ve always believed that the main driving force behind art of any sort is communication, the burning need to express the inexpressible, to span the vast gap between one distinct person and another, to escape the shell of our body and let our souls fly free. To not publish, to not perform, to not share, to slip the novel into the drawer and quietly turn your back on all that you’ve created, is an especially exquisite sort of despair. This, alas, is what the opera, the grandest of art forms, is experiencing, only they don’t have the choice to forge ahead. Toscawill remain unsung; in this instance, in this remote corner of the globe, the show will not go on.

I’m certainly not blaming the governor or anyone else for this outcome, but that doesn’t mean I can’t mourn the loss and in my own small way, make a plea.

Eugene Opera isn’t the only arts organization being affected. The State of Washington has taken similar measures, and oh my god, Broadway Theatres are closed.  Italy, Puccini’s home, is shut. As we circle the wagons and go into crisis mode, I’d urge you, if you’re a ticket holder to a cancelled event, to donate that amount to the organization or artist in question. Even if you’re not, consider a donation to any group that’s hard hit. Beyond that, buy a book, a piece of art, a song.  Do not abandon the arts in these dark times.  This is when we need our artists the most, to give us hope and remind us of our common humanity, especially in times when isolation is recommended and communication is breaking down across all spectrums of society.

Yes, Toscawill be sung and sung again, but not our Tosca. And not today.

 

 

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

by Cynthia Ray

chapter one pic

Writing short stories, poetry and flash fiction is fun, interesting and doable for me.  Undertaking a longer work scares the pen off my pages, because the skills and commitment required for writing a novel are very different from those needed for the short story.  I didn’t realize exactly how different until I ambitiously started a novella over two years ago.  I spent a few months on the task, became bogged down in the middle, frustrated with myself and the process and in a self-induced state of embarrassment, shame and regret I quit writing.  I gave up on myself and the book.

once upon a time

Recently, inspired by a friend’s publication, I dug out my draft and read it again.  I was surprised to find that it wasn’t  as atrocious and stinky as I remembered.  In fact, I liked it enough to finish it after all.  Now that I am re-engaged with the project, and recovering from my feelings about my wobbly process,  I wondered how long it takes for someone, who is not me, to write a book. Is there an average?  Is there a right answer?  Do people start and stop, and then start again?  Is the process consistent among authors?  As you would imagine, the answer varies wildly among authors.  That, too, gave me hope and inspiration to write on to the end of my project, no longer alone in my leaky canoe.

In the writers who “git r’ done” category:

  • Jane Austen, according to family tradition, began writing First Impressions, the novel we know today as Pride and Prejudice, in October 1796 at the age of 20. She completed it in August 1797, just 10 months later. (Has it really been 300 years and they are still making movies of this story?!!)
  • Victor Frankl wrote his amazing and inspirational book, Man’s Search for Meaning, over the course of nine consecutive days, but he had thought about it for years during his time in the camps, and written it in his head.
  • It only took Charles Dickens six weeks to write a Christmas Carol- Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit helped speed up the process. When Dickens wrote he “saw” his characters much like the way that young Ebenezer Scrooge saw the characters from the books he had read.
  • Stephen King says that “”The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season,” he says. If you spend too long on your piece, King believes the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel.

But take heart, my slow writing friends. Look how long these famous books took to produce:

  • Melville’s tome, Moby Dick, took 18 months (but that was a year longer than he had planned).
  • Margaret Atwood took over a year, with starts and stops, to write the Handmaids tale.
  • JK Rowling worked on her first novel for more than six years.
  • George Martin also took six years to write Game of Thrones.
  • It took Tolkien more than 12 years to write Lord of the Rings, and he kept on tweaking his books even after that.

Finally, here is a short list of novels that took from 10 to 20 years to write.  Mine won’t take that long to finish.  I promise.  By the way, what are you doing here?  Shouldn’t you be writing?!

the end