Sunday, January 9, 2011

Newspaper ads

I am indebted to a friend...or very soon will be... for the drama of which I am about to enter. Thanks to my writer friend’s gentle encouragement, I salvaged an advertisement I’d cut out of the newspaper MANY months ago that was suffocating under a stack of papers. There was a reason it was UNDER the pile – fear and trepidation on my part. There was also a reason it was on my desk and not in the garbage can (which is, by the way, my favorite invention. I relish the feeling of throwing things away). While I’ve been intrigued since first hearing about this group, I’ve been nervous as hell to actually show up at a meeting. I think it’s because it means I actually and seriously take myself to be what I am: a writer.
Parenthetical Guidance Suggested
presents informative and supportive meetings open to writers of all levels of experience and all interests. No principal players here, we have members with various stages of accomplishment to their credit.
*Act Now!*
Join us for motivated guest speakers and engaging explorations of literature, poetry and prose.
Scripts and screenplays co-star with essays and press releases.
Meetings are open and informal; we have reel after reel of fun!
Your input is welcome, and your writing will receive the direction and validation only fellow authors can supply.

Yes, there are some things only friends can help us do: take ourselves seriously and venture out, even if our knees are shaking and our hearts pounding within us.

So I called Frank and learned their next meeting is Jan 25th and the writing assignment this month is for each person to write a "drabble," which I guess is a short story of exactly 100 words. Then they project your story (or if you are an over-protective writer, they project your baby) on the screen and the author reads it aloud as everyone else follows along (who knows what thoughts in their heads). Then everyone talks about it (dissects its parts), as the author stands up there and wishes for her own death over that of her baby. Writing groups are not for the faint of heart.

In the next few weeks, I am going to work on composing a decent short story of precisely 100 words. And if I give birth to it, I shall present it willingly to the babysitters club. It might just be that they could do me and my baby some good. Of that, I have no doubt.

Hmmm… the whole advertisement scenario reminds me of a delightful movie, Enchanted April. Ever seen it? Oh, poor Lottie Wilkins! Stuck with an unromantic name and worse, an overbearing husband, and drab, rainy London. Something goes wild inside her when she glimpses an advertisement in the newspaper for “Wisteria and Sunshine,” an Italian get-away, and desperate to escape life’s miseries, she loops a stranger, another suffering Englishwoman, into taking the vacation together to escape everything that is ordinary, especially the men in their lives. Two other ladies will join them, an old cranky widow and a frivolous playgirl. Each character becomes so inspired by the beauty in this Italian paradise and their bruised hearts begin to open and blossom until they have to share their new life with others…even those men their husbands! It’s an amusing story, richly characterized, poetic, romantic, and satisfying. If that sounds super sappy to you, it’s not; it’d happen to you, too, if you were in an Italian paradise.

And finally, in closing, this brings me to another thought. Oh for that writer’s retreat in Georgia! May the dream come true, friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Feet

Everyone has been talking about resolutions. Although encouraged to make a resolution myself to start off the New Year and the 24th year of my life right, I felt blank as to what I should do. Was I supposed to think up something dramatic? Or make a goal to live up to? I felt reluctant. What’s in a New Year anyway? The days and weeks of life and work will continue to be as humdrum as now, I thought pessimistically, and I wallowed in that boring monotony of day-to-day life.

It was New Year's Eve and I was kneeling in our pew after Communion. I was still wishing for some kind of revelation about my New Year. When I opened my eyes, I saw so many pairs of feet! Shoes were parading down the aisle past my pew. Feet in brown shoes, feet in black boots, feet in clickety-clack shoes, feet in moccasins, feet of all shapes and sizes walking down the aisle together in clusters. I thought this perspective kind of comical. It was as if I was looking through a telescope that concentrated my vision on one thing: feet. Soon all these feet would be parading out of the church and into the streets of daily life. Feet look so ordinary but at the same time can do such marvelous things! In that instant, I felt comforted and inspired, as I realized that, yes, we’d all still be walking with these crosses but we were all walking this journey together!

“Perspective is really the comic element of everything,” said G.K. Chesterton. Seeing with this new perspective, I was finally able to accept and welcome the New Year. The Lord doesn’t ask the impossible of me, just that I continue to carry my cross and walk the way. That is what I’m meant to do - except for one thing. You see, I no longer have to wear those old, dirty, scuffed up shoes, worn down to the sole. I’ve got my New Year’s shoes! Bright, shiny and new! Skipping along in my New Year’s shoes, I will continue on the way, striving to live healthily, lovingly, and patiently as I endure and persevere on this course. Thankfully, I am not alone. We all have new shoes to put on.

This year I pray our paths cross. God puts everyone in our lives for a reason. This year, I am hoping that my writer friends and I may be reunited this spring for a writer’s retreat in the lush beauty of southern, coastal Georgia. There our feet will come from many miles apart to walk the historic streets together and rest on the wooden porch swing of our abode, to sit under the oaks in the yard or curl up on the sofa to pen the words of our hearts. There we little Inklings will share our writing labors, our hopes and visions, the metaphors that make us laugh over life, and the silence of solitude, of listening to the spirit’s inspiration, and then sharing meals around the table. Where our feet touch the ocean’s edge, we shall contemplate the ancient and unchanging mystery of the tide washing in, washing out, and our own feet leaving deep footprints in the sand.

From the southern sand to European soil, my feet will build bridges this year (if all goes accordingly). In August, I shall put on my pilgrim’s shoes to travel to Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day with the Holy Father. I’ll be traveling with a group of young adults from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I love traveling, for it is in that quest we seem to find ourselves. Having taken many pilgrimages in Europe while studying abroad in Austria, I know that traveling always has an element of surprise - that unexpected discovery and adventure - but it also involves discipline and sacrifice. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey or exercise, which has the potential to open your heart to God in a unique way. I can’t say I’m looking forward to sleeping on the ground or trekking everywhere on tired feet with backpacks in tow, but it’s all worth it to be together and witness the Church in its universality and visit places like Lourdes and Avila along the way.

And I hope my travels will keep me faithful to bringing tidings of great joy to others. Our feet should carry the message of peace wherever we go. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

So I remind myself: cheer up! You've no reason to be reluctant in starting off the journey of a New Year. Whether we find ourselves fully equipped for the journey or pulled along by our friends, we’ll all find plenty to be jolly about when we find we have each other. Yes, there will be inconveniences and discomforts along the way, but as the dwarf Dwalin reassured Bilbo Baggins upon his departure in Tolkien’s novel There and Back Again:

“...don’t worry! You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end. As for a hat, I have got a spare hood and cloak in my luggage” (Chp. 2).

Let’s do that for each other.