“I raise the pipe of my being to the rising sun in openness and humility.”
Richard Wagamese in Embers
About a month ago, I participated in a book study about Richard Wagamese’s beautiful book Embers.That night the leader asked us to pick a line at random and answer a series of questions. The line at the top of the page was my line.
What words does it bring to mind?
The sacred pipe in Wagamese’s First Nation context is the pipe shared in a circle as part of community. It brought to mind blessing, cleansing, centering, sharing and accepting each other in community.
What does it remind you of?
It reminded me of the Hafiz quote from my last post and the poem I wrote for Jessie. “I am the hole in a flute that God’s breath moves through.”
What does it call you to do?
It calls me to be an instrument for co-creating using what nature provides. Using matter–the science–to create a beautiful story.
If I am a sacred pipe, I am blessing, cleansing, centering, sharing and accepting others in community. Passed from person to person in a circle, never-ending, with respect and with intention.
That was my line, brought to my attention just weeks before Jessie died. I send you out into the day to find your line. Choose a book you love, pick a line at random.
What words does it bring to mind? What does it remind you of? What does it call you to do?
That was the question asked of the children gathered at the front of the church. All of them nodded. Yes, eating an apple was an easy thing for them to do.
“Could you always do that, or did you have to learn?”
Roxanne Goodman, a performance instructor in popular voice with Carleton University, started her presentation with those questions. I think she wanted all of us — children and adults — to think and learn and honour our potential.
Every day she works with people who tell her they want to develop stronger, more beautiful voices. The problem is, she says, that those same people don’t have a good perception of their voice at the time.
In other words, they want to “eat an apple” but they haven’t yet, and they’re sure they’ll never do it as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Gaga, or Elton John.
She shared a story from her own life to help us on our path to understanding. When she was a young woman she sang a solo in her church. After the performance a gentleman said to her, “You have such a beautiful voice.”
“It’s okay. It’s all right,” she replied.
Hearing that, he said, “Tell me, am I the only person who’s ever said this to you?”
“Oh no, people tell me that all the time.”
“Do you think that we are all lying to you?” he said.
After that she asked herself: if she was wrong about her ability as a singer, what else was she wrong about? What else could she do that she was telling herself she couldn’t do?
She started from there, with a new belief that she had a beautiful voice. She studied to learn the technical aspects and how to get the emotion out.
She made lots of mistakes and learned from those too.
She believes that anyone can learn to sing from their true voice if they do two things:
Appreciate what they already have; believe in the beauty of their voice.
Sing from the depth of their being, their essence.
She pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t say we must do the thing we cannot do, but the thing we think we cannot do.
We sometimes think our way out of facing fears and opening ourselves up to the next step.
We can also think our way to our true self.
I apply Roxanne’s lessons to writing: appreciating the beauty of my writing voice, learning the technical aspects and how to get the emotion out, making lots of mistakes, and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to let my readers see me.
Can you eat an apple? What else can you do that you’ve been telling yourself you can’t?
Some days I barely manage to thole the Twitter experience. Other days, it sends wonderful gifts.
Last week, @RobGMacfarlane sent this gift:
Word of the day: “thole” – to endure with fortitude, to cope with suffering or challenge patiently & with dignity (Scots).
This is one of my favourite Scots verbs; quietly, toughly inspiring. If a situation is “tholeable” it is, in the end, with courage & support, survivable. pic.twitter.com/mv3U7x0OPD
Today’s topic brought to you by: 300 Writing Prompts.
My son and his girlfriend teamed up and their brainstorming led to this book as one of my Christmas gifts. It contains three hundred ideas to set me (and you) thinking. I flipped through it this morning.
I passed by “What color do you feel like today?” (Blue, but in the good way. Not much more to say about that.)
I turned the page quickly from “How clean is your house now?” Not going there.
I landed on “What is something you learned in the past few days?”
I thought back to the scrap of paper left lying about on one of the desks at one of the places where I work. (I have too many jobs, really.) Someone had written the word OBSTREPEROUS in well-spaced capital letters. I picked the paper up. “What’s this about?” I asked.
A co-worker, whose first language is not English, said, “What does it mean?”
I thought about this. I had heard the word before and I could take a stab at a definition, but when it came right down to it I had to confess that I wasn’t sure. “I think it means grumpy,” I said. “I’ll look it up.”
I felt I had to follow up my previous blog about the never-ending story with this post on a similar theme.
I was a pre-school playgroup leader for a time when my children were young. For each day’s session I prepared a craft for the kids. I cut out all the bits and pieces so I could give each child with exactly the same materials. I made a sample of the craft so I could hold it up for all to see.
“This is what we’re making,” I said before setting them lose to create.
If there were 15 kids in the group, at the end there would be 15 completely different crafts.
I admired (and envied) how freely those children followed their artist souls and created without apprehensions about what other people might think. I loved how they danced with excitement with their finished products in hand, no matter what they looked like.
A workshop at the writers’ conference I attended recently reminded me of this.
In the workshop led by Cordelia Strube we worked together to come up with a particular set of circumstances and characters, and then we each wrote individually for about 20 minutes. After the time was up we shared our work.
If there were 20 of us in the group, there were 20 completely different stories.
Once handed the common building materials, each of us scanned them to see what resonated with us individually. We attacked the story from starting points and viewpoints that felt right to us.
Writers in a workshop setting strive to be like those children doing crafts: honouring our artist souls and opening to inspiration, ideas and images, unimpeded by barriers and apprehensions. When we succeed at this, the work we come up with amazes us—shocks us, even—because it’s better than anything we could have foreseen in advance, with all our adult barriers in place.
When we get out of the way of our artist soul, the spirit of the work is good. True.