Thursday, January 2, 2020

WRITE ABOUT … any (or all) of these!

I compiled this list of writing ideas to share with people in my writing circles at the end of 2019. Now I want to share it with everyone who sees this blog. Some of these "sparks" I thought of myself; some I borrowed from other people. You might find something here that appeals to you; if you do....pick up your pen! Start to write!!


Write about your earliest memory.

Write about a kiss. Any kiss. You'll know which one to choose.

Write a list where each entry begins with the phrase “And then….”  They don't have to be related (but they can be).

Write in response to one or both of these phrases: In my last life / In my next life.

Write about a compulsion, or compulsions.

Write about the face you show to the world and the face you show to no one.

Write a love letter (however you define “love letter”) to someone or some thing; maybe even to yourself.

Write about an encounter with a stranger.

Write about an umbrella.

Write about a coat (or jacket, sweater, poncho, cape, etc.)

Write about something that happened long ago.

Write about your Ideal Family (the whole family or just one person, for example “My Ideal Mother”).

Write about something that you can NOT do.

Write about something that happens within a small space.

Write about 3 wishes.

Write in response to the phrase “Things I did for love.”

Write about tea; teacups; teapots; tea cakes; High Tea; etc.

Write about all the things you are not going to think about for the next hour.

Write about lies you have told your mother; write about lies she has told you.

Write about eyes.

Write about where you live now.

Write about the first time you heard a particular song, band, or musician.

Write an apology to someone; write an apology you would like to receive from someone.

Write a letter to your younger self (at any age).

Write about being lost; write about some object that is lost.

Write about a door (opening/closing/slamming/etc.).

Write about yesterday.

Write about things that are disappearing.

Write about ice cream.

Write about games you used to play when you were younger, or games you play now.

Write about a friend's mother, truth or fiction.

Write about a (favorite?) sandwich.

Write about a secret.

Write about something you have stolen (or something that was stolen from you).

Write about nicknames (yours, someone else’s, a nickname you would give yourself, etc.).

Write about something red.

Write about something you never want to do again.

Write about an experiment (it could be a science experiment or a life experiment; something you did or heard about; etc.).

Write about a refrigerator, or a toaster, or any other kitchen appliance.

Write about tomorrow.

Write about one or more of your ex-partners. Variation: imagine what one or more of your exes might write about you.

Write about something that has happened to you in the last 7 days.

Write in response to this: if/then.

Write about a stuffed animal.

Write about things you do not (or will not) miss.

Write a list where each line begins with the words “I am waiting.”

Write about crying.

Write about rules/instructions (those you follow, or have followed; those you break or have broken).

Write about something sneaky (or someone sneaky).

Write about a ghost.

Write about an apron.

Write about rain.

Write about a doll.

Write about something tiny and/or something large.

Write about a mistake.

Write about a train trip.

Write about things people do not know about you.

Write about apples.

Write about things that have not changed.

Write about someone with red hair  — someone you know, or knew, or a character you create.

Write about hands.

Write about things you are not (or were not) supposed to hear (or say; or touch; or see; etc.).

Write about polka dots and/or circles in general.

Write about fish.

Write about something that happens at midnight.

Write about something that is not yet open.

Write about “that night.”

Write about a gift you have received — loved it? hated it?

Write about what is in your pocket, pocketbook, wallet, tote bag, backpack, etc. — right now.

Write about what it would be like to be an animal for a day.

Write a what-not-to-do list.

Write about before and after.

Write about a box (just the box, or something that is kept in a box).

Write about what you are willing to walk toward; what you are willing to walk away from.

Write about a grandmother (yours, someone else's, or a fictional grandma). Variation: write about your grandmother's childhood; feel free to make it all up if you don’t know anything.

Write about a room where something unusual (or hilarious, or awful, etc.) takes place, or took place.

Write about something you are letting go of, or want to let go of; write about something you want to hold on to.

Write a “praise piece” (poem or prose) for something ordinary: a toe, a pencil, a daffodil, etc. Write extravagantly, heap on the praise, make something ordinary seem extraordinary.

Write about a day in the future — be as specific and detailed as you can be.

Write about an uncle and/or an aunt.

Write about a dream, in as much detail as possible. Your memory of the dream might be fuzzy and vague but in your writing let yourself fill in any blanks.

Write on any subject you like, but each sentence should begin with the word “Maybe.”

Write about TWO — two objects, people, ideas, places, etc.

Write about coincidences.

Write about grown-up “merit badges” you would like to receive — they shouldn't be exclusively for scouts, right?

Write about a cat or dog — or choose any other animal friend/companion you have had.

Write a brief story from your life as truthfully as possible. Then write it again from the point of view of someone else who was there.

Write about a person you know well (or once knew) and hold them in your thoughts as you write sentence after sentence beginning with the words “You are…”

Write about “the other me” — a person living someplace in the world, with your name; go deeply into this imagined persona.

Write about opposites: off/on, hot/cold, in/out, wet/dry, soft/hard, near/far, slow/fast, up/down, left/right, etc.

Write about forgetting. What do you hope you'll never forget? What do you wish you could forget? What do you think you have already forgotten? What have people forgotten about you? How do you preserve your memories? Here is a quote by Doris Lessing: “Why should we suppose that what we remember is more important than what we forget?” You might want to start by writing a list where each entry begins with the phrase “I forget….”

Write in response to this phrase, posted by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, March 3, 2016 (accompanied by a photograph of her teen self): “13 is always hard.”

Write a story that someone else has told to you.

Write about what is (or was) “around the corner.”

Write about something you wouldn't want to live without.

Write about invisibility.

Write about forgiveness — how you did or did not forgive someone else; how someone else did or did not forgive you.

Write about a basement.

Write about an attic.

Write about good juju or bad juju.

Write about a mirror/mirrors.

Write about bliss.

Write about an altar you have created or one that you imagine creating (intentional or accidental).

Write in response to this question: “Wouldn't it be nice if . . . ?” Suggestion: keep it personal and specific rather than broad and general.

Write about things that change quickly; write about things that change slowly.

Write about a hotel.

Write a list where each entry begins with the phrase “And then….”  They don't have to be related, but they can be.

Write about something that is broken.

Write about a book you remember from childhood.

Write about mean girls.

Write about superstitions.

Write about things you collect.

Write 2 truths and 1 lie. Make the truths be things that someone would be surprised to learn about you. Make the lie sound as though it could be true.

Write about television shows and/or movies that were important to you in your youth.

Write down a geographical location, a date (month, day, year) and a time. Use this as your title. Then write a piece, truth or fiction. Additional suggestion: if you wish, make the piece have three characters.

Write about writing “tools” — pen, pencil, typewriter — but not computers.

Write about work: work you have done, whether it was paid work or not, whether it was a “job” or not. 

Write about time travel.

Write about your hometown.

Write about a bridge.

Write about something that happens in a kitchen.

Write about sleeplessness/insomnia.

Write about a reunion.

Write about beginnings and endings.

Write about a birthday: past or future; yours or someone else’s.

Write a shopping list or a to-do list for a fictional character. How does the list give you insight into the character?

Write about morning; create a morning poem or haiku if you wish.

Write about a journey (or part of a journey) in as much detail as you can; draw a map of how to get from one point to another.

Write about what makes you happy.

Write about shopping.

Write about family traditions/celebrations.

Write about the ideal you; the ideal day; the ideal home; etc.

Write a piece where every sentence is in the form of a question.

Write about listening, or not listening.

Write about quitting something; stopping; leaving; walking away; deflecting; letting go; detaching; etc.

Write about a bath (bathtub).

Write about disappointment.

Write about high school.

Write about a bicycle / bike ride.

Write about the weirdest thing you have experienced, or heard about, or imagined.

Write about a smell — a familiar smell; a terrible smell; a delightful smell; etc.

Write about a time when you said one thing but wish you had said something else.

Write about a promise; a promise given and kept; a promise broken.

Write about something that “disturbs” you.

Write about a scar.

Write about the worst thing you've ever done (the more cringe-worthy the better).

Write about bread.

Write about walking (in general, or going on a particular walk).

Write about a friend of yours.

Write about unexpected or accidental encounters.

Write about milk.

Write about a teacher you have had.

Write about a lucky number.

Write about a dream in as much detail as you can remember; don't hesitate to make up some details to fill in blanks in your memory; embellish if you wish. If you only have vague fragments to begin with start there and keep on building as the words and images come to you.

Write about royalty.

Write about a tree.

Write about a baked dessert (cake, pie, cookies, etc.).

Write about fire.

Write about being late and/or being early.

Write about the public library of your childhood years.

Write about a guilty pleasure.

Write about sacred space.

Write about taking a leap of faith.

Write about night.

Write about teeth.

Write about changing your mind.

Write about a crush (or crushes) you have had (or have right now).

Write about a pair of shoes (your favorite? a lost pair? a painful pair? etc.).

Write about a rug/carpet.

Write about things you worry about and/or things you are afraid of.

Write about water.

Write about cheating.

Write about being in a big crowd.

Write a song.

Write about solitude.

Write about a time you were embarrassed, or a time when you embarrassed someone else.

Write about mending/repairing.

Write about dust.

Write about wrinkles.

Write about danger; something dangerous that you did; something dangerous you avoided; something dangerous you witnessed; etc.

Write about a sister or a brother (your own or fictional).

Write about a hat.

Write about a camera/taking photographs/having your photograph taken, etc.

Write about something true that doesn't seem true.

Write about laundry/laundromats/clotheslines.

Write about “the old house.”

Write about a round thing (or round things).

Write about “how to be tough.”

Write about leaving home.

Write about small annoyances; things that irk you.

Write about eyebrows.

Write about something cold (or being cold).

Write about ink.

Write about a nose, or noses.

Write about how you became yourself.

Write about things you do not want to know.

Write about something you’ve never told anyone else.

Write about the flower name (or “nature name”) you would choose for yourself, if you were to do such a thing.

Write a good-bye letter to someone or something.

Write about doing something (experiencing something) for the last time.

Write about the lies you tell yourself.

Write about creating a ritual for something that is ordinary; pay close attention to things we don’t usually pay attention to; focus on the tiniest details.

Write about running away.

Write about chaos.

Write about ANYTHING you want to write about, in any form you choose (a list, a poem, a story, a memory, etc.).


















Sunday, December 22, 2019

Aunt Willow Goes Green: A Hanukkah Tale (revisited)



I wrote this bit of Family FICTION a few years ago and I've shared it on this blog, around Hanukkah time, before. Now I'm sharing it again, and I do hope it makes you smile. Love and latkes to all!


The family is becoming increasingly concerned about Aunt Willow, my mother's oldest sister, the one who has adopted an environmental stance more radical than you might expect from a woman who, until recently, proclaimed as her personal motto: "More More More!"
   
But now it's "less less less" and she is vigorously pruning — her closets, her cupboards — which is all well and good, but for some reason the concept of anonymous re-giving holds no appeal for Willow. She has turned her back on the Salvation Army Thrift Store, as well as numerous consignment shops in her neighborhood, and has chosen to recycle her old garbage in the direction of her relatives, whether we like it or not. And we don't like it.
   
It began last year when she sent everyone a tuna can for Hanukkah. The cans were empty — either a plus or a minus, depending on your opinion of tuna fish — and haphazardly adorned. Some were lined with cotton balls, some with felt; some with what appeared to be bits of old socks. You either got a tuna can with used gift-wrapping paper taped around the outside, or one that was entirely undisguised and looked exactly like what it was: albacore or chunk light, packed in water or in oil. Nothing was left to the imagination.
   
Aunt Willow enclosed notes, written on the back of used envelopes, instructing us that the tuna cans could now be used to store our tchochkes and what-nots. But in typical Willow fashion she admonished us. "Why do you continue to accumulate tchotchkes?" she demanded, in her large loopy handwriting. "Down with tchotchkes! Go Green!" she added.
   
We all disposed of the tuna cans immediately. I know this because we have a cousins list-serve and some of us (naming no names) did not actually recycle the cans, but tossed them directly in the trash. (I know, I know: shame on me.) And since none of us are inclined to accumulate tchochkes and what-nots in the first place, Aunt Willow's Hanukkah gift was appreciated by not a single soul.
   
For my birthday last spring, Willow sent me a paperback copy of Crime and Punishment. It was the very copy she'd read in college, copiously annotated, margin notes on nearly every page. It came as no surprise to discover that Aunt Willow had an opinion about everything. "Raskolnikov!" she scribbled on page two, "get a new hat already! Where are your brains?"
   
I consulted with my cousin Lilian. She received a book for her birthday as well, a tattered volume of Hamlet. "Zee, it was horrifying," she told me. "The things our aunt wrote, nobody should have to read that. There were curses in 4 different languages, including Danish. She's totally ruined Shakespeare for me."
   
Over the course of a year the entire family has been subjected to similar assaults, as Willow ruthlessly clears her bookshelves. Cousin Harry, who's always been a little twitchy, is worried that the Peter Pan she foisted off on him could land him on the "dangerous persons" list with the FBI. He buried the book in his backyard, which is something Harry could do because he lives in Tenafly; anyone else would have thrown it down the incinerator chute in their apartment building and been done with it. Now his sister, Rosalie, who is even twitchier than Harry, is afraid some dog will dig up the book and Harry will be hauled off and never seen again. His fingerprints are all over that Peter Pan.
   
My own father became apoplectic when he saw Willow's margin notes in her old copy of Portnoy's Complaint.

"Why didn't he stop reading it?" I asked my mother. "Oh you know how it is," she said, "it was just like watching that Jerry Springer show, you can't stop yourself. He had to read to the very end, even though he hated every second of it."

I'm worried about what this Hanukkah will bring. Mom's already warned me that Aunt Willow's been going through the letters she received, and saved, over the decades, reading each one over and over again. We suspect she will now return them to those senders who are still alive.

Who wants to be reminded of what you wrote to your aunt from summer camp in 1961? "Made three laniards today. Went swimming. Stepped on a worm."

And knowing Aunt Willow, she won't merely return our letters to us, she'll persecute us. "What do you mean, 'stepped on a worm?' What kind of maniac murderer are you? You're no niece of mine, Zee Zahava, you're a regular Raskolnikov."

I've never dreaded a holiday as much as I'm dreading this one.
   
Perhaps I should strike first. I could always send Aunt Willow an empty tube of toothpaste: "For storing your long skinny tchochkes and what-nots," I'd tell her.

But I won't. Why start a war you know you can't win?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Thanksgiving Letter



Thanksgiving Day, 9 a.m.

Dear Ava,
   
I’ve been up since six, bet you were too, and I wish I could have come over but Daddy says it’s slutty the way I run over to your house all the time and I told him it’s not slutty when it’s two girls but he said he’s speaking metaphorically and anyway this is Thanksgiving (like I didn’t know that) and it’s meant for families to be with families, which is just plain stupid, but anyway that’s why I’m writing to you and not talking to you in person and as soon as I can get out the front door without being caught I’ll run this over and put it in your mailbox. I hope you look there. Try to read my mind this second: M-A-I-L  B-O-X.
   
Do you like this paper? It’s not really purple. I know it looks purple but it’s called mauve and no I didn’t spell it wrong, my grandma sent it with a note telling me the color because she’s always trying to improve my mind, so get used to this mauve, you’ll be seeing a lot of it, who else would I write to?
   
She also sent me a book, "A Child’s Garden of Verses," she is so two centuries ago, but I don’t want to be mad at her because the reason she’s sending me this stuff instead of waiting until Hanukkah is she thinks she might be dead by then which is really sad. But on the other hand it’s not sad because there’s nothing wrong with her, she just gets seasonal dread she calls it, but if she’s still alive on New Year’s Day then I’m really going to be mad at her for being so negative about life.
   
There was a lot of activity in the kitchen this morning, Dad and his new live-in girlfriend playing around with the turkey, giggle, giggle, giggle. I stayed up in my room because watching them make out over a naked animal would turn my stomach, but now they’ve gone back to bed and it’s quiet as the grave though any second I expect to hear her panting and oh-my-god-ing and I'm sure this is not good for me, mental health-wise, but Dad, being a psychologist, would probably say “Facts of life, Dorrie, get used to it.”
   
So I'm just wondering about something: “quiet as the grave,” what do you think? Is it quiet in the grave? I doubt it. Gross. Hold on a sec, I’m going to change the channel in my mind. Okay, I’m back.
   
My ex-step-mother and her two gnomes will be here at one. Is this the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard of? My father is like one of those men with a harem, he gets his ex and his current to come and fuss over him with their cranberry sauces and we’re all supposed to act like it’s normal. He says “We make the rules, not society” but by "we" he means "he" because if I made the rules I’d be at your house right now and we’d have mac-and-cheese from the microwave and we'd play with the Ouija board until our finger tips fell off.
   
One of the things I’d really like to know is how a woman who is old enough to drive still can’t figure out the meaning of the word vegetarian. When Dad’s live-in realizes I’m not going to eat a single ounce of that 300 pound turkey there’s going to be World War 4 in the dining room. My ex-step-mother might even start crying. She’ll be sad because now that she’s a guest in the house she won’t get to call me names and throw fits. But you never know, anything can happen, I’m sort of hoping for a food fight with the two gnomes, for old time’s sake.



So now it is so much later, how did this happen?
   
You might have noticed I still haven’t managed to get this letter into your mailbox, hope you haven’t been waiting there, that is if you read my mind in the first place. Did you?
   
There’s something of a scene going on downstairs, I’ll tell you every single detail when I see you tomorrow, but for now just try to picture this: After the so-called feast my ex-step-mother stood up and recited a poem she wrote especially for the occasion. I thought she would have outgrown that sensitive phase of hers, but apparently not. It was a very long poem, seemed like 3 hours, and I didn’t understand all of it, but I think it was supposed to be erotic, and it kind of upset the live-in who might be living out soon. Hallelujah.
   
This is the last letter you’ll get from me on this mauve paper. You remember Jeffrey, one of my former step-gnomes, well he was hanging out in my room — don’t ask me how he got through the barricade — and it turns out mauve is his favorite color, which was something of a shocker but not in a totally bad way, so he’s taking the whole box of stationery off my hands except for one sheet which I’ll use to write a thank you note to my grandmother. I couldn’t get him to take "A Child’s Garden of Verses," though. What did I expect? It’s only Thanksgiving. They don’t promise you miracles on Thanksgiving.

Look for me early in the morning, I’ll be right there on your doorstep. You'll know it's me because in spite of everything that happened today I still look the same. On the outside.

Love, Dorrie


NOTE: I suppose it is something of a tradition for me to post this story around Thanksgiving every year. So here it is again. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Thinking about special gifts to give to your loved ones this year?



Perhaps you are already thinking about the special gifts you would like to give to the special people in your life, when this year comes to an end (and a whole new decade arrives!)

I have an idea:

Why not write something? That would be a VERY SPECIAL gift, no doubt about it!

When I was a child my mother always said that a handmade present was the very best kind. And I agree.

“Handmade” can be a poem, story, memoir piece, letter, reflection, etc. that you write with your own hand! (And of course it can be printed out afterwards.)

I can help you generate ideas about the kind of writing you would like to do, and I can guide you through the process of getting started. If you already have something in mind I can assist you in fine-tuning the details.

You might decide that you want to write one piece, to print out and give to many people. Or different pieces, each one tailor-made for the recipient.

I envision one session, of 60 - 90 minutes, as being sufficient to make your plans come together and to allow you to leave with a clear idea of what your VERY SPECIAL GIFT will look like.

The fee for a session is $75.

If this idea appeals to you, please be in touch with me and we will set up a time to meet…and get started!


You can call: 607-273-4675 or send an e-mail: zee@twcny.rr.com

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Rain is Not

NOTE: On this rainy day in October, 2019 I'm reprinting a long list from 2011

This list was started on Wednesday afternoon, December 7, 2011, in the periodicals room at the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street. I finished it on Saturday morning, December 10, at Emma's Writing Center in Ithaca, New York. My inspiration was Lynne Tillman's poem, "Flowers," which was part of the Library's exhibit "Celebrating 100 Years."

Rain is not curious, romantic, mischievous, insolent. Rain is not a locked door. Rain is not worried, twitchy, literate, bossy, funny. Rain is not a good correspondent. Rain is not tiresome, egotistical, hungry, itchy, bored. Rain is not a cheerleader. Rain is not abusive, late, cheeky, polite, intolerant. Rain is not a gift giver. Rain is not impatient, neat, over caffeinated, artsy fartsy, giggly. Rain is not a picky eater. Rain is not frugal, discouraged, cramped, whistling, whispering. Rain is not running away from home. Rain is not doodling, dreaming, reliable, paranoid, grumpy. Rain is not a fan of garden gnomes. Rain is not blameless, dishonest, indiscreet, thirsty, forgiving. Rain is not a Scrabble player. Rain is not chocolatey, smarmy, chatty, vague, particular. Rain is not holding on by a thread. Rain is not surprised, near-sighted, calm, confused, lost. Rain is not taking violin lessons. Rain is not ambidextrous, rich, embroidering, zany, accessorizing. Rain is not concerned with moral ambiguity. Rain is not sloppy, arrogant, wasteful, alphabetical, licorice. Rain is not ignoring library overdue notices. Rain is not gossipy, absent-minded, tap dancing, accident prone, rude. Rain is not blowing out the candles. Rain is not well-coiffed, clumsy, sneaky, childish, fidgety. Rain is not able to count backwards by seven. Rain is not nosey, anonymous, self-conscious, coughing, warmongering. Rain is not the next Fred Astaire (or Ginger Rogers, either). Rain is not shy, cuddly, old fashioned, tantrumy, irrelevant. Rain is not a role model. Rain is not sleepy, entertaining, disappointing, clingy, stubborn. Rain is not living in the past. Rain is not superstitious, proud, pushy, verbose, jumpy. Rain is not a team player. Rain is not grammatical, political, phony, laced up, vain. Rain is not saving up to buy anything. Rain is not solitary, cluttered, forever, melodramatic, docile. Rain is not afraid to mix plaids and polka dots. Rain is not photogenic, permissive, trendy, embarrassed, confiding. Rain is not listening to a word you say. Rain is not lonely, social climbing, dieting, regretful, spiteful. Rain is not good at meeting deadlines. Rain is not vacuuming, preaching, cheating, pregnant, butterscotch. Rain is not looking to start a revolution. Rain is not fantasizing, plotting, star gazing, anticipating, sentimental. Rain is not searching for the final piece of the jig-saw puzzle. Rain is not cranky, nervous, mealy-mouthed, broken, knotted. Rain is not refusing to ask for directions. Rain is not dithering, queasy, undernourished, victorious, distracted. Rain is not teetering around in high-heeled shoes. Rain is not introspective, brassy, lazy, plastic, married. Rain is not a rock star. Rain is not mathematical, grieving, bruised, constipated, matchy-matchy. Rain is not a bargain hunter. Rain is not innocent, moody, telepathic, bleeding, breathless. Rain is not trying to make a good impression. Rain is not religious, crafty, shedding, fashionable, careful. Rain is not a floozy. Rain is not athletic, multi-lingual, stoical, rebellious. Rain is not tall or short. Rain is not lipsticky, squinty, observant, secretive, studious. Rain is not hiding from anything. Rain is not waffly, conforming, attentive, paisley, gnarled. Rain is not a good luck charm. Rain is not envious, reactionary, fickle, complaining, higgledy-piggledy. Rain is not a distant cousin. Rain is not timid, quarrelsome, allergic, young, apologetic. Rain is not the one who walks off in a huff. Rain is not polyester, tomorrow, finger paint, quotable, Xeroxed. Rain is not always losing a mitten. Rain is not inappropriate, hypnotized, zaftig, stalking, undressed. Rain is not a gargoyle. Rain is not diplomatic, gambling, pierced, disappearing, calligraphy. Rain is not trying to make a good impression. Rain is not masquerading, punctuated, poetic, grateful, over. Rain is not another way of saying something else.

Monday, September 30, 2019

How To Knit a Pair of Socks

This is a re-posting from August, 2011


Assume you know everything you need to know. Don’t bother getting a pattern. Don’t think about the correlation between needle size and yarn ply.  Don’t ask anyone for advice. Especially don’t ask your mother, who is an expert knitter.

Go to a discount store and buy a skein of the cheapest yarn you can find. Don’t even know if you’ve chosen wool or some sort of acrylic. Don’t think about the meaning of the word “blend.”

Assume one skein will yield one pair of socks. Choose the color lime green. Base your choice on the fact that you don’t especially like the color lime green. Consider the reality that all your favorite socks, in your most beloved colors, mysteriously vanish in the laundry. Resolve that these lime green socks will be with you for the rest of your life.

Cast on.

Immediately realize you don’t know what those two words mean. You understand them individually: cast — the people in a play; on — on the bus, on time, on your mark. You could go on.

Sit and ponder what you need to do in order to “cast on” in a manner appropriate for knitting. Remember all the times you’ve heard people use that phrase. Think of your mother. Stop thinking of your mother. Think, instead, about your friend Julie Pinkus.

Picture her in the dorm room you shared 43 years ago. See her surrounded by balls of yarn. See her hands manipulating knitting needles. Hear the click click click of the needles. Force your mind to see exactly what it was she was doing with her hands and the yarn and the needles.

Realize you cannot force your mind to do anything.

Feel despair. Really feel it. Wallow in despair and discouragement, and also in disgust. Wallow a little bit more. Just a little bit. Remind yourself not to overdo it; you don’t want to step on the down escalator and wake up in the pit of depression. Not because of knitting. Not because of the lime green wool (or non-wool, as the case may be) that is sitting in your lap. Not because of the two knitting needles that, with a bit of creativity, you could easily put to some good use.
   
Think about the many things you could do with these needles. While you are thinking, transform the skein of yarn into a ball and throw it on the floor. Call to your cat. Observe her delight as she pounces on the yarn and rolls it from one end of the room to the next.
   
Take the knitting needles and plunge them into the soil of that huge plant you don’t remember the name of — that plant in your living room that’s been listing to the left for six months. Prop the leaning stems against the knitting needles.
   
Go to the kitchen and get a piece of string from the junk drawer. Tie the plant stems and the knitting needles together. Realize this would have been a good use for some of the lime green yarn, but tell yourself it’s too late now, the yarn is covered with cat spit and you’d rather not handle it too closely.
   
Think about what a good day it’s been. Your cat is happy, your plant is happy, your mother is happy — because she doesn't know what you've been up to. (If she did know, she'd wonder where she went wrong with you.)








Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Stay Open at the Top (dedicated to Jackie Mott Brown)

This is a revised version of a post from years ago
 

A while ago I attended my first art class since junior high school days

"Look with new eyes,” the teacher urged
"Colors don’t have to make sense"
"Don't be afraid to be tacky" 

"When you think you’re finished, it’s just the beginning" 
“Stay open at the top”
 

Scattered across the table were tubes of acrylic paints —
bold reds and pretty pinks
lime green and forest green
a yellow so lemony it made my teeth hurt
orange and eggplant
sixteen shades of blue

I freaked out

Then I pulled myself together and
painted a bright red spiral in the middle of my canvas

It looked like a squiggly piece of pasta

A few minutes later I
painted a few yellow circles
next to the red pasta

I painted lots and lots of circles —
the full moon
over and over and over
   
The woman sitting next to me looked over at my canvas
“What beautiful suns,” she said
And I said “thank you”

I felt like the little prince in the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
when he draws an elephant being digested
by a boa constrictor and the well-meaning
relatives mistake it for a drawing of a hat
   
But I didn’t correct my sister-painter
because she had used the word beautiful

She didn't say “you stink at this”
and for that I was grateful
even though my moons
would now be suns forever more