Wasp Paper

Writing from the Writers Group this week. We’ve been doing this, but I can’t find the piece I used as inspiration.

+++++++++++++++

What would a wasp say if it could write its little heart out on that huge scroll?polistes_may_2013-2

I’ve never liked bees. Honey bees are ok—almost cute—but the rest of the beekingdom have always terrified me. Maybe not bumble bees. They are miniature winged golden retrievers, following too close and bumping accidentally; curious and furry. Hornets, wasps, yellow jackets; they are all evil.

The girl scouts had a giant hornet’s nest in the corner of the room where we met. It was something to do with North Carolina or Mecklenburg County. I never paid attention to that part. I had nightmares about it; swarms of these evil creatures would pour out of the bottom of their paper castle and come for me, vengefully pricking me to death for daring to cast my eyes in their direction, their fury unstoppable, their wings like a machine of war propelling them towards my vulnerable face.

But they…make paper! They have probably been making paper since well before humans ever did. What if a little wasp took her stinger, dipped in my fresh blood, and wrote on her paper. What would she say?

“Keep out! No trespassing,” big jagged letters around the belly of the nest. “Private Property!”

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw this morning! The sun made tiny round jewels on the ivy leaves round the old tree stump,” careful, precise holes poked, needle stitches for each letter. “You should pay more attention to the great world.”

“Yay for circles!” Big, punched out letters. “Circles are best!”

“My life is so brief and fast,” tiny bloody cursive, her ink from the well of my arm. “I must be fierce and powerful before I die, for it flies to meet me quickly. Then, I am no more.”

To read the nest book, one layer at a time, peeling pages from an enemy’s soul.

 

Note: that is NOT my photograph. I would never, ever get that close. The photographer is excellent and can be found here. 

Advertisements

Word and Works

Today I got to write with the writer’s group I used to spend time with and it was just delightful! Schedules change and things happen to make it impossible to go… but then schedules change again and make it possible once more!

The writing prompt for today was Word and Works. The group had been writing using a work of art as a prompt, but I kinda missed that bit, so I did it a little differently. However, they were, as they were in the past, kind and supportive. Looking forward to doing this again and hopefully on a regular basis.

 

Word and Works

The line between didn’t really exist. The line between the word and the action wasn’t really a line at all. It was the breath; that is all there was. A breath between the word and the work. The breath made word into work. Word made flesh and blood and bone, working together. Breath made static word into kinetic work of body.

But first
Breath and word became the perpetual motion of light; working, pressing back the dark. Always birthing, bringing the new.

Then
Breath and word became the work of flow. Flowing water and air. The work of ebbing life, the work of growing green, the work of shinning blue. The in and out of breath was the flow of word into work.

At last
Came the flesh and blood and bone. Finally, came the vessel to carry the breath. Word and work joined in breath became the beat of blood and heart, the soar of the mind, the lift of the hands.

Breath wove through words and became the fabric of work, wrapping up the vessel in life. Filled up the vessel to the brim, seeped into every moment, filled and stretched and pushed outward to overflowing; till overflow was inevitable.

The word rode the breath through the vessel, up and up and out of the mouth and the work was love. And the vessel was love.

But all of this
This was before. Before we drew a line between word and work; before we held our breath and separated the doing from the being; the bold, wide line that cuts us in two.

Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

Creative Impulse

Often, we seem to think that creativity is an uncontrollable impulse. It seems that all kinds of creative endeavors, from photography to painting or fabric arts to sculpture or writing to metalwork, are dependent upon the fickle and capricious appearance of this impulse. It comes and goes as it will and we are at this muse’s whim.

However, this may not be exactly as full an understanding of creativity as we might think. I’m not convinced that we are utterly at the mercy of creativity’s impulsive nature. Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen In the Art of Writing,  gives many good ideas on how to tame the muse or, put another way, find ways to stimulate creativity and not be continually at the mercy of its appearance (or absence).

A recent post on a chainmailing blog I follow has some fantastic ideas as well. Actually, they are ideas that come from some seasoned artists. The post summarizes the various suggestions and recommends some good books to read. It’s an excellent post and well worth the read! And these are good ideas and suggestions whether your vocation includes a creative component or if you need creative sparks in any area of your life.

For me, the very best things that have helped me remain creative personally and professional are simple: write every day even if it is a seemingly uninspiring journal entry, read both fiction and non fiction as much as I can, put intentional focus on the details, patterns, colors, people, animals and natural elements of the world around me, and when I realize I am stuck with a project(which usually occurs about 3 hours into stuck-ness) I get up and do something completely different for a while.

Of course, sometimes creativity simply won’t flow. There’s a reason why people sometimes equate a time when they cannot get moving creatively as dry and desert like. It seems that these times are a little like the times when people come to see me for pastoral care. In a crisis, even a mild one, our vision becomes narrowed. We see fewer options, see less support, help, and connections to our world around us. It is as if we are seeing, thinking and feeling with blinders on.  We remove those, or at least shift them out a bit, when we move out of ourselves and broaden our vision. The same is true for creativity.

Got ways you spark your creativity? I’d love to hear about it!

Tick

Tick tick tick tick. Stay this moment, you are so fair.

The clock ticks along the rhythm of life, the same measured amounts, eternally portioned out one at a time. That is all we have really. This second. It’s a cliché, I know, but how often do we all forget the obvious?

Some years ago, a woman at my church lost her husband. He was a tender, kind man, happy and loved by many. She was very little of those things. She was well loved, but not for any soft qualities. He had cared for her, treating her like a princess for all of their life together but it was not until his illness that she learned to care for him. She learned tenderness by force; learned to tend to someone else by sheer necessity of human need. But she learned well.

He died. We all wept. She was lost.

She, too, was sick and it was only a matter of months before it was obvious that she would not live much longer. Leaving worship one Sunday she said to me. “What is that song, Preacher? One Day At A Time Sweet Jesus? Well, I can barely handle that.” “Sometimes,” I said, “it’s just one hour at a time.”

But I was over generous really. It is only this unforgiving, forward charging minute, this tiny second in which we live.

The day she died I was there along with her entire family. She lay in the bed right next to the big picture window. I had my hand on her head and arm. We all prayed. Her breaths so slow it seemed that time arched out between each one, barely holding them together. I lifted my hand from her head. She breathed out one last time.

We had never gotten along. She had never been sure of “lady preachers” and she wasn’t the sort to temper her tongue with sugar for the sake of peace. I was half acceptable because of my paternal Madison County pedigree. But only half. Her words were often sharp and cut me more than once and, to be fair, it is possible I was not always as kind and gracious to her as I could have been.

And yet here I was, right here at this last second and that at her own bidding. All I could think was to hold tight to these little moments right here. This tiny second. And this. And this and this. And say: stay this moment, you are so fair.

 

‘Stay this moment’ is a quote from the diary of Virginia Woolf. More importantly to me, it is also the title of a book of photography by Sam Abell, my life long favorite photographer.

Afraid Of The Dark

Writing Assignment from today’s Writing Group

The lightbulb was burned out again in the outside light. I’d counted on it to light my way up the stairs every evening when I came home; to light the little porch all night long so I could see anything or anyone who might come unbidden to the door; to be the warm electric candle marking home for me as I drove up the dark street. But lately some electrical short or run of bad bulbs or perhaps just plain ole bad luck had rendered the familiar golden guardian of the door blind once again.

Betrayal! If I was honest, that was the feeling. Betrayal. Just like a reliable old car that suddenly decides to let you down at the worst possible moment by not starting when you’re late for that really important meeting. I pulled into a dark driveway at the end of a dark road at the end of an exhausting day. The light was out and I’d used my last bulb days before. Too late to go buy more so there was nothing to do but fumble up the steps and flounder around with the keys for the lock.

As I reached the bottom step, I remembered the huge black snake I’d nearly stepped on just days before. Kinked and frozen still into jagged crinkles like an old woman’s painfully twisted arthritic fingers, the snake had done its dead-level best to mimic a stick that just happened to be lying at the foot of the stairs as I came near enough to absent-mindedly step on her vulnerable spine. But I saw her in plenty of time to save us both, her silky blackness shiny in the hot June afternoon. I’d talked softly to her until she smoothed out her wrinkles and slid away like black satin night slipping over the mountain at dawn.

Blindly, I felt my body rise up each step as my fingers felt along the emery rough bricks of the wall. Thin bits of string…or grass… or something met my fingertips as I reached the top. The frail legs of a member of the granddaddy long legs clan who lived right around the door frame trembled beneath my lightly rested hand then artfully escaped before I could even recoil. They aren’t actually spiders. They are called herdsmen and their fat orange-red bodies bobbed a greeting to me each morning on their impossibly long and slender legs. I’ve read that they bob like that when they are frightened and are trying to be intimidating but they always seemed to be nodding or dancing.

In the herdsman’s scramble, I got a little confused and my right foot came down too hard on the patio. I’d miscalculated the top step and the unexpected chasm of space where another step was anticipated threw my balance enough that I nearly went flailing across the concrete. It was then I realized just how frightened I truly was. In my mind I tried to picture the door and knob and lock in front of me and with minimal additional incident I was able to get the door open and tumble inside.

I slammed the light on in the house and blinked at its brightness. Safe at last! Lock the door. Home.

Much later that night, so late that you could actually call it very early, I heard a sound at the door. Sleepy, I shuffled into the hall and peeked around the corner at the entryway. I never open the door at night, but I had to see what or who might be out there. I’d forgotten the outside light was burned out and was momentarily stunned by the darkness.

Normally, I would have just gone back to bed but curiosity had the better of my dreamy mind. I peered out through one of the small windows in the door and saw….nothing. Truly nothing but blackness. I waited. Still, nothing.

Something in me decided to take a chance and, without really thinking it through, I unlocked and opened the door. It was so very dark. The neighbor’s porch light across the street filtered through the tree at the end of the driveway casting more shadow that light on the lawn. The warm, damp night touched my bare legs as I opened the storm door.

It was then I saw him. The orange tabby cat that lived in the neighborhood sat patiently before me. He belonged to everyone and no one. Meow, he cried. Meow, he demanded. Meow, he whispered. But how could I see him? It was the middle of the night and the bulb was out! I stepped onto the gritty patio that bit timidly at my bare feet. Meow, he said again. I reached to pet his head, scratch behind his ears. And then I looked up and saw the full moon.

She shone bright as any bulb. Crisp and pure, light as early dawn to my now-adjusted eyes. I sat on the top step with the orange cat watching the herdsmen dance in the half-light, listened for the silky snake moving through the shrubs below and was not afraid.