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Saturday, July 22, 2017

No, Vic, Really See

                                                 Image result for cardinal in a pine tree

I remember once, Jim and I were sitting on the front porch, it was a few months before he died. He saw a cardinal in our big pine tree and said, "look, Vic, isn't he beautiful?" I said, "yeah," and I meant it but he wasn't satisfied with what he thought was my lukewarm response.

"No," he said, "I mean really look!"

So I really looked and suddenly the snow seemed purer and the sky seemed bluer, the pine seemed greener and the cardinal seemed more scarlet. I heard my brain go "click", like a mental camera taking a picture I would never forget.

I had another similar experience when Dallas was dying. I went over every Tuesday to visit and take him for a ride. "Take me past the river. Take me past the cornfields," he would say because it's the common, ordinary things that mean the most when you face the reality that you are dying.

That is the difference between someone who knows their time is short and someone who assumes they're going to live for years and years (though, of course, none of us know for sure).

I tried to always remember that lesson. If I caught myself taking my world for granted, I'd stop myself and say, "no, Vic, really see." Whether it was the beloved little cowlick on the top of my son's brown head or the way my black Pekingese, Sebastian, sprawled out with all four legs going different directions and a curly tail wagging furiously.

I remember feeling the silky softness of my mother's cheek when I kissed her and the delightful taste of a sensuous hot fudge sundae on a hot summer day. I sometimes tear up a little when I hear songs that bring back joyful times, even ones I didn't like then, when they screamed down from my teenage son's bedroom.

I am now at the point in my life where Jim was when he saw that cardinal. I don't know if I'll live long enough to see another cardinal in the snow but that picture is forever because Jim made me really see.

Things that irritated me once no longer do. Road rage. How can anyone have road rage? It's such a silly thing to stress about. Who cares what bathrooms people use? Could that possibly be so important in the scheme of things? I've never been very judgmental and I'm even less so now. So much that I see on the news seems so irrelevant when there are roses to be smelled, bird songs to be heard, mushrooms to be eaten, soft beds to be felt and family and friends to be loved.

Don't waste your time on nonsense. You don't know how much you have left.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Is A Muse?

                                                         Image result for artistic muse

Definition: Muse - a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

When I went to a writer's conference in New York year's ago, I attended a work shop called: "Freeing Your Muse". I don't remember much about the course now. I barely knew what a muse was then and I certainly never thought of myself as having one.

However, it is true that most creative people have something like a muse - call it what you will. It is the spark that is the inspiration for a never before seen way of putting words or musical notes or colors together.

I looked up Muse in Google images and it appears that all Muses are lovely, as in the picture above. I don't know how we know that since no one I'm acquainted with has ever seen one. Maybe we simply believe that any entity caught up in knowledge and beauty and spirit would naturally be beautiful.

I don't know if my muse is attractive....I don't even know if she is a she. My writing is more masculine than feminine and I relate to my male characters much more than my female characters so maybe my muse is a man. We aren't personal friends. The only time he wants to communicate with me is when I am asleep. He can be a little snarky. If I have a column idea but am having trouble fleshing it out, I try to explain it to him, he says, "go take a nap, I've got this without any help from you."

He probably resents being assigned to be my muse instead of say, James Patterson or Diana Gabaldon or John Scalzi. John Scalzi (who has sold millions more books than me and made millions more dollars so you'd probably be wise to try his suggestions before mine) says that when he needs his muse to help him out, he takes a shower. He stands there and thinks about nothing, letting the soothing water massage his skin until his muse (who must be a water sprite) makes her presence felt.

Another writer I knew could not get inspiration indoors. She had to be out in nature. The ideas would come and she'd take notes, then bring them in to transcribe into her computer. (This was several years ago so maybe she takes a laptop outside with her now.

I don't know that I believe in muses. I think it is whatever allows you to ignore the part of your brain that is always busy with everyday concerns in favor of the part that drifts dreamily, opening itself to new thoughts. In other words, I think we are our own muses.

On the other hand, it kind of nice to think of this other entity inside your head ready to take over for you when you don't feel up to the job. I think I'll call mu muse Reno.