Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: books

Shaping Time

#LiveTheQuest question 7:

How can you change your relationship to time? #shapingtime
What one thing could you do this week to shift your relationship to time? Having too little time is largely a matter of perception. William James observed this over 100 years ago, and psychologists and anthropologists alike are confirming that sometimes depending upon our economic level, our nation of origin, our experience of awe, and more, we might perceive that we are busy or not.

What one thing could you do this week to shift your relationship to time for the better?

One thing? Of course I have a list, including things I have already been working on, but for this week, just one thing, I will focus on this:

I will prioritize my most cherished activities early in the day–write at least one sentence, read at least one page, take at least one photo–before I dig in to email, chores, or anyone else’s work.

I started today that way and already feel the weight of my to do list and deadlines slipping from my shoulders. It’s strange. I wrote a  poem about this years ago for a friend. Sometimes it takes a while for us to embrace what we already know for ourselves.

TO DO LIST

Put yourself first. At the top of the list. Cross off returning that phone call you didn’t want to make. It’s too early in that time zone to call anyway. And the laundry will still be there an hour from now, still lounging in its casual best, happy enough to delay its swim.

Instead walk out into the gold and coral dawn. Watch the sun paint the sky every imaginable glowing hue as clouds coast by like boys on downhill bicycles.

Take your favorite mug filled with your favorite tea—the one that smells of coconut and the sea—out to the wooden Adirondack chair, now grey with age and the harsh Santa Fe sun, to watch the tinted light stream by as birds sing and centipedes dance at your feet.

Pick up that pen, the one that felt so good in your hand that it practically flew across the page. Flew, yes, like those birds, like those clouds, like those colors slipping away to pale as the sun rises higher and the sky flashes blue.

Or choose your own road—a paintbrush, a trowel, a chapter from that gloriously long book—but choose it and write it down. At the top of that list. Because once you’ve had that gorgeous moment, that day is yours. And nothing else can touch you.

 

Foundation

Yesterday, fellow Quester Erin Coughlin Hollowell posted an update on her big project to her blog Being Poetry, including this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert from her March 2014 TED talk:

“I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live…. The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.”

I have not been able to get that quote out of my head. Especially that second sentence… “you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most…and don’t budge from it.”

That sentence has been haunting me. This is where the fear creeps in. The clinging to current ways of thinking. The unwillingness to let go. Because that sentence challenges me to pick one thing. And I don’t just love one thing. It would be like asking a mother to choose just one child. Is it Sammi or Tommy? Words or quilts?

And yes, I’ve talked about this before, more than once. It even became my most burning question, the beacon for this quest I’m on:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And I am, and I will continue to, but I realize that what I’m talking about in that question is not the what, it’s the how. Writing and sewing and photography are the mechanisms through which I bring that “what” into the world. But what’s the “what”?

So here is where I make my confession: I want to tell you that the “what” is using art to help us heal from trauma and build resilience to better survive future disasters, because to be honest, that is a serious obsession, and it’s the thing that I have based most of my path-work on for the last I can’t even count how many years. But it’s just not true.

Because I actually do know what the thing I love most in the whole world is, and it’s not what I just wrote. What I love most, what brings me the most personal joy, what shines light into this whole messed up, terrifying, angry world making it a brighter place is this:

books

Yes, books. Actual books. Simple concrete objects–about as far from the lofty ideas I feed myself and my readers as a girl can get. Words on paper, the sound of turning pages, the scent of ink and dust. It’s to bound pages stacked on shelves that I pledge my allegiance. They have been my foundation since my Aunt Carol taught me to read when I was three, in the face of a deep fear that, soon after, gave way to trauma and grief. And it is into their soft or sturdy covers that I still retreat today when things get to be too much.

And so, on that foundation, I will build my house. A house of story, a house of dreams, a house of magic, a house of spirit, a house that contains other worlds, the future, the map to our healing and survival. Some walls will be constructed with ink and paper, some with needle and thread, some with light and pixels, some with the sound of a voice or the touch of a hand.

But it is the books that ground me. Everything else flows from there.

Play

At the intersection of Creative Work and Learning lies a space that invites experimentation, trying new things, getting our hands dirty. A space I like to call play. It’s where we explore those things that sound intriguing, that grab our attention, that make our ears prick up, or our hearts skip a beat. The things that we suspect with little or no experience or knowledge, might just be meant for us. It’s also where we give ourselves the freedom to do those things that just plain make us happy.

Soul Happy by Chloe MooreAnd because it can sometimes be very hard to give ourselves permission to “indulge” these seemingly non-productive dalliances (NOTE: they are not non-productive dalliances, they are essential to our well being), I’ve decided to make a list of activities, events, skills, whatever, that just plain sound like fun. Just in case I forget.

SEWING

  • Slow Stitching
  • Hand piecing class
  • Hand quilting class
  •  Embroidery
  • Embellishing
  • Learning to use the alphabet stitches on my sewing machine
  • Stitching curves
  • Quilt deconstruction
  • Quilt Guild retreat
  • More advanced free-motion techniques
  • Stash-busting
  • Apparel
  • Clothing and accessory modification
  • Apocalypse fashion and accessories
  • Electronics-enhanced fashion and textile art
  • Actually doing all my Craftsy classes
  • Quilt challenges
  • QOV or other service quilts

WRITING

  • FOGcon
  • Another poetry class with Tony Hoagland
  • The Brainery Spec Fic writing workshop (alas, will probably have to wait until next year)
  • Experimental poetry
  • Apocalypse poetry
  • Slow novel writing  (all mine have been written during NaNoWriMo)
  • Short story and novella writing
  • Playing with mixed forms and genres
  • Riffing off other people’s work
  • Blogging, blogging, and more blogging

ART

  • Photography
  • Tarot-inspired
  • Medieval/Celtic motifs and themes

PREPPING/APOCALYPSE

  • Apocalypse and disaster stories, movies, and art (review, share, make)
  • EDCs
  • General prep
  • History
  • Profiles in resilience
  • Skill building
  • PrepperFest
  • Prepper cuisine
  • Games/apps
  • Prepping in small spaces
  • Prepping for artists

RESEARCH

  • Transition
  • Tiny homes and homesteading
  • Journal publishing (online and print)
  • Video game/app design
  • Art of protest, social change, injustice
  • Shamanism

TRAVEL (doing/dreaming)

  • British Isles (Wales, Ireland, Scotland)
  • Truth or Consequences, NM (again)
  • Pacific Northwest road trip
  • Famous authors pilgrimage
  • Sacred sites pilgrimage

It’s improbable that I’ll get to all or possibly even any of them, but the mere existence of this list makes me excited for the new year. And since I plan to add more ideas as they come up, I will probably be even more excited as the year goes on.

Heart Leaps

Today’s Quest2015 prompt from author Pam Houston asks us to consider what makes our hearts leap.

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

The list is longer than I expected, which shouldn’t surprise me. I have a lot of different interests.

  • Holding the finished 7 Blessings quilt top up to the light and watching it glow like stained glass
  • Having a fellow quester compare 7 Blessings to an Australian Opal
  • Finding, watching, and sharing Apocalypse Rhyme on Apocalypse Garden and on Facebook
  • Dreaming the future shape of the Apocalypse Garden
  • My near perfect Apocalypse Garden blogging streak (only one day missed since I started the blog on 9/30/14)
  • The Friends of the Library book sale and all its treasures, especially finding a $1 copy of the Book Lover’s Journal and a mint condition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Discovering, browsing, holding, sharing, reading books of all kinds, but especially having them in my space–more than anything else, they are my security blanket, my inspiration, my solace, and my joy
  • Finishing CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (and sci-fi lit in general)
  • Watching some amazing, original, risk-taking movies, including Birdman, Twilight Angel, and an old favorite, Strictly Ballroom
  • Poetry class taught by Tony Hoagland (and his amazing reading last month)
  • Sharing and discussing poetry with my two poet cousins, MJ and Suzanne Marie. whose work and interests are uncannily similar to mine
  • Making connections with some amazing fellow questers
  • Napping in my casita’s only comfy chair with the man I love
  • The koala painting in my bathroom–every time I see it

So how can I arrange my life to get more heart leaps?

Spend more time in the bathroom? But seriously, the answer is simple–prioritize what’s important:

  • Quilting
  • Poetry
  • Books and writing (let’s just call this stories to keep it simple)
  • Movies (also stories)
  • Art
  • People
  • My blog (which is set to include all of the items on this list, plus prepping, my favorite OCD obsession)

And stop trying to second-guess what I’ve already decided to focus on in 2015–the Apocalypse Garden. Instead, I should spend my energy this month sorting out just how all that will manifest.

Book Review: Grace From the Garden

What do former NBA player Will Allen, educational policy Ph.D. Ann Wasescha and oncology nurse Pat Williams have in common? They, along with twelve others profiled in Debra Landwehr Engle’s inspiring book Grace from the Garden, are changing lives through gardening.

Using language as rich as the gardens she describes, the author gives us a glimpse into the work and inspiration behind fifteen gardens that teach, nourish, unite, inspire and heal. From a memory garden designed to help Alzheimer’s caregivers reunite with their loved ones, to a juvenile detention center that uses gardening to help lost kids rebuild self esteem and learn practical skills, from a wetlands reclamation helmed by young students in the middle of a dessert to a lush family farm populated with food, family, livestock and art, you can’t help but be inspired by these giving gardeners and their stories.

For those who are inspired enough to learn and do more, she even provided a detailed resource list at the end of the book, including links to Will Allen’s Growing Power.

Book Review: Golden Gate Gardening

Golden Gate Gardening: Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California give an amazingly clear and comprehensive overview of the Bay Area’s many microclimates, including which types of fruits and vegetables thrive best in each one and what the best planting times are for each.

From there the author goes on to provide ample, accessible information on garden planning, seed/plant selection and acquisition, planting, watering, pest management and so much more. The real jewels in the crown of this book, however are the nearly 200 pages of detailed plant descriptions including recommendations about which grow best in which microclimate.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and want to grow fruits and vegetables, this book is a must-read. Especially if you, like me, have ever wanted to grow tomatoes in a garden 10 blocks from a foggy San Francisco beach. Try the variety Stupice. It grew and produced like a dream.

Book Review: Tropical Organic Gardening

Tropical Organic Gardening: Hawaiian Style by Richard Stevens is a sweet little gem of a book. Weighing in at a super-light 83 pages including a bevy of drawings, it still had plenty of room for inspiration.

The bulk of the work focuses on ancient gardening techniques and includes an entire section of methods of taro farming which I found myself longing to try, if only Northern California had the right climate. Ironically, another section of the book discusses what the author considers the top ten most nutritious vegetables, most of which he was sad to say he couldn’t grow because they required much cooler and less humid conditions, which made it the perfect list of what to grow in my garden.

It’s true that most everything in there is pretty basic, and that the author, who’s from the mainland, may not be the most immediately or obviously credible source of old Hawaiian knowledge and lore (gardening or otherwise). Still, he brings a joy and reverence to his topic that both charms and enlightens. And the appendices include pages of sobering statistics, inspirational quotes, footnotes galore, a glossary of terms, and, most importantly, a list of references and resources including the University of Hawaii’s Tropical Agriculture program.

 

Book Review: The One-Straw Revolution

I can’t even remember where I heard about this one, but something about it (and the reviews it got) piqued my interest so I ordered it from the library. It had been sitting on the shelf for three weeks untouched while I worked on Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez but when I got the renewal email and realized that a) both books were on hold and so couldn’t be renewed, and b) there was no way I could adequately get through the one I was reading, I decided to spend the day with The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka.

At 181 pages, I figured it would be a quick, easy read. It was. But the ideas in the book were deceptive in their simplicity. The four precepts: no cultivation, no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost, no weeding by tillage or herbicides, and no dependence on chemicals, seem like a fairy tale, but in his experience have led to the highest, most consistent grain production in his region.

The book reads almost like a series of Zen koans or the teachings of Buddha, every word about so much more than farming. The anticipated how-to on pest and weed avoidance was really a call to re-evalute your relationship with food, farming, the world and yourself — oddly similar to Dominguez’ approach to money management. Interesting to have borrowed them both on the same day.

This book was a gentle but powerful reminder of what I already intrinsically believe and where I am hoping to take my life but which has been buried in the side-effects of my current day-to-day.