THE MOON

THE MOON

supermoon-2016-photo-by-alan-larson

I would, if I could, bring back
into fashion the moon and the
stars, the dawn and the sunset.
I rarely hear anyone speak
of them. One would think these
perpetual wonders had
passed from sight.
There is peace and rest in the
contemplation of these miracles
that nature paints on the
canvas of the sky.

But we do not want peace
and rest; we are enamored of
noise and motion. A St. Vitus
dance has seized us.
Things must change. The nerves
have a limit of endurance.

Tonight, I looked at the moon
for a while. There was a
faint circle around it.
A friend came by and asked what
I was looking at. I pointed
to the moon.
“I don’t see anything.”
“The moon,” I said.
He chuckled and went on. He will
report me as growing queer.

The mystery of the night!
And our own mystery! Who
knows what we are? No science
has yet grasped us.
The moon – the beautiful, mystical
moon – playing nightly
to empty seats!

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

[Supermoon 2016 photo by Alan Larson]

Thoughts from the Scrib Room: What is Your Manuscript Worth? Probably More Than you Think

What is a published manuscript worth? As all writers know, it’s rarely easy creating good writing. Author, editor and poet Katerina Stoykova Klemer understood this all too well:

“manuscript
meanuscript
moanuscript
manurescript
and so on.”

MANUSCRIT by Jean Mirre
Original abstract painting: MANUSCRIT by Jean Mirre (France)*

And so on, indeed. It’s one thing to produce a solid, concise, interesting piece of writing. Quite another to garner fair compensation when freelance writing is your bread and butter.

Imagine if we began referring to all written works as “manuscripts”. Would it change our perspective and boost our confidence as writers? Would publishers look at us differently if our email subject lines said something like: “Valuable Manuscript Attached!” or “Environmentally Conscious Scribe Submission Sans Papyrus” or “Do Not Open This Manuscript If You Do Not Respect Scribes.”

The word “manuscript” conjures up intellectualism, aesthetics, value and respect. Aren’t each of those components a given for artful writing? (Yes, writing is a form of art.)

Consider that Scribes were the intellectuals of Ancient Egypt, ranking high up alongside priests and educated dignitaries. These ancient people had great respect for Scribes because the written word was recognized as having great power. In essence, Scribes were the protectors and developers of the culture itself. Their contributions were central to academic research and the smooth running of the state and society at large.

Much of ancient writing was also incredibly beautiful and visually captivating (as any archaeologist, font fanatic or hieroglyphics expert can attest). Form followed function, yet while carved messages remain, complexities crumble into dusty shape-shifters as new editors pick and choose how to interpret their meaning.

A bit of interesting “scrib crib” research, as I like to call it: Scribes were “considered to be members of the royal court and as such did not have to pay tax, undertake military service or perform manual labour.” (Source: ancientegyptonline.co.uk)

WOW. Just let that sink in for a moment. Gather yourself and reflect upon the influence you possess. The multi-faceted power of words is still true today, of course!

In today’s world, a manuscript is defined as the work that an author submits to a publisher, editor or producer for publication within respective format guidelines.

It’s important to understand that your writing is a creative commodity that has a long history of intrinsic value. And POWER, lest we forget! This is particularly important to recognize if providing for your (and possibly also your dependents’) basic financial needs. Your self respect needs to be fed and protected, too. Demanding a fair wage for your sweat equity is only right. (Good thing sweating makes you smarter!)

Fellow bloggers/writers and those who respect us: $100 minimum for a modest size post of 250-500 words (which would typically take about an hour or so to compose) is fair compensation for a freelancer. Longer pieces should demand a comparatively higher rate.

If you are providing your own photos, video clips, graphic design elements, motion graphics, original source interviews, etc. then you can charge more for these value-added extras.

You should charge more still if adding promotion via your own social media channels. Your personally cultivated network of contacts brings additional value to the table. Businesses pay a lot of money for mailing lists. If your contacts are aligned demographically with your client’s target market, then your network is especially golden to them.

Keep in mind also that it takes additional time and know-how to put out strategic social media content. Each platform/channel has its own ever-changing protocols. Once you think you’ve unlocked “best practice” secrets the rules change. This is the nature of this often beastly arm of marketing. Keeping up with the fickle social media world and learning how to effectively integrate its monstrous potential is a valuable skill.

If you are an “expert” in a particular arena beyond general freelance writing/blogging, your rate should jump even higher. You’ve worked hard to gain expertise and likely have a lot of money and time invested in your education, training, and related experiences. This boosts your market value.

Every element you bring to the table is worth something. YOU are worth something. Own it! You do right by yourself and your profession by respecting your craft and not second guessing your value.

Stop giving it away. People who try to take advantage of you and your skills are not worth writing one word for. (At least not a word I can publish here.)

*Note: I love visual artists as much I love writers. In addition to being a freelancer, I also represent a variety of talented artists from around the world. My friend Jean Mirre from France painted ‘Manuscrit’ shown above. This and many other fine original works of art are available for purchase. See more of Jean Mirre’s work here: https://in.pinterest.com/jeandetjen/art-of-jean-mirre/.  Please Follow me on Instagram to see the work of additional fine artists, random photography and more: https://www.instagram.com/jeandetjen/?hl=en. Thank you for looking!

 

Books, Covers, Junkyards, Revelations

junkyard

Since early August, there has been a trend on Facebook and Twitter that has people listing their first seven jobs. I wasn’t going to join in and do it initially, but thought it might be an interesting exercise and hoped my sons Brendan & Eric might get a kick out of it. So I posted my list on Facebook and got so into the exercise that I lost count and had to stop myself at number nine.

I’ve had some shitty jobs. No doubt about it. “Not the princess life I imagined,” commented a friend after reading my descriptive list (which didn’t include adolescent babysitting jobs that were unusually horrid and involved one particular red haired demon child and his cheapskate, hoarding mother… another story for another day).

So back to job number nine* (number nine, …number nine, …) which is significant only because it was so detestable that it led me to impulsively run out the door and into one that was in many ways worse. But the new challenge involved wine and I was seduced by the romance of the stories (and sample kit, of course).

My new job as a fresh out of college wine consultant at which I most resembled a Beaujolais Nouveau was a life changer in many ways. It was tough being on a 100% commission structure with no benefits. Even tougher was making cold calls in a sterile cinderblock room as the sole female amid a group of grey-haired men, all old enough to be my father. (One of them claimed to have survived being struck by a lighting bolt which turned his hair prematurely white – Ha!)

I hated the cold calling. I hated the up and down looks I got every day that made me worry about whether or not my skirt was too short or too tight. And I hated being told I should “just show up” at a potential client’s home without confirming a wine tasting appointment. That just seemed lame and unprofessional. And it was. The strategy backfired. But it led to my revelation. The life changing one I mentioned at the preface of this post.

So, here’s some more background info so you get where I was at this time. While I knew I had the potential to do well in wine sales, I was making frighteningly little money and my small savings was starting to run out. There was no backup, no financial support system other than moi. I lived in a apartment by myself that was more expensive than I could afford and I needed to find a way out of my lease or else starve.

I decided to make a plea to my landlord (whom I had yet to meet in person) and just be honest about my situation in hopes he would release me from my 1-year lease with several months left. So I made an appointment to see him.

Upon arrival at the landlord’s house, I was feeling rather confident that I could make a convincing case. Within a few short minutes he told me how people often mistook him for Clint Eastwood, showed off his handcrafted Italian loafers, and suggested we discuss things over lunch as he was famished. Caught off guard, I meekly agreed. He led me to the garage where he unveiled his shiny Excalibur which whisked us off to a fancy lunch at Elsa’s in downtown Milwaukee.

For over an hour I heard more Clint Eastwood doppelganger and designer wardrobe stories and couldn’t get a word in about my reason for being there. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” I kept thinking. UGH!

Finally, we got back to his house and I put on my assertive (yet desperate) hat and pleaded my case. In a nonchalant manner, he agreed to let me out of my lease and gave me back my security deposit. He then suggested I move into his abundant home with plenty of extra room for me and all my belongings. “My daughters would like you,” he said in a hair-raising almost-whisper. EEK!

Scared out of my wits I hightailed it out of there and never looked back, thankful I made it out of there relatively unharmed. But the creeped-out feeling lingered and I was smart enough to not leave my forwarding address and changed my phone number. Being anyone’s concubine was never going to “make my day.”

The next part sucked even worse. With no other affordable options in sight, I had to move into a tiny hole of a room on Milwaukee’s east side, sharing a house with three other young women. My upper floor bedroom was so small that my Queen size bed and dresser couldn’t fit in it. I slept on a mattress on the floor and used plastic crates to store my clothing and other belongings.

Back to the vines and rushes I went after a few miserable sleepless nights, still feeling optimistic that I could be successful selling the elixir of the gods.

But it was hard. And people were jerks. Not just the leering good ol’ boys in my cubicle kingdom decorated only with a dun plastic phone and black index card box filled with coffee stained leads. The biggest jerks were actually the phony “yuppies” (remember that term?) I dealt with who took advantage of free tastings to impress their pretentious button-up, seersucker wearing friends.

More than once I drove up to two hours as expensive gas drained out of my vehicle and expensive wine was quaffed with not a single purchase. They just wanted free alcohol, free fun, free jokes at my expense. Some were even no-shows, the ultimate of rudeness. I was living on fumes, and I was losing money with every trip to fancy homes with doorbell chimes too many times unanswered.

I was sick of the lack of courtesy, respect, and basic human kindness. No more unconfirmed appointments. I’d rather lose a potential sale than waste my time and precious gas money.

While milling this all over in my head one sad, late, dark night on a lonely Wisconsin country road, I became lost and was going about 10 miles over the speed limit in what I thought was a 55 zone. I got pulled over and issued a ticket that I could ill afford. When the officer pulled away, I collapsed on the side of the road and became a sobbing, mucous dripping ball of sadness.

Getting those emotions out felt good. It left me exhausted, yet determined. The next day I looked at my schedule and groaned at the thought of a drive to Burlington for another wine tasting party. I confirmed the appointment and set out on the road again.

The drive wasn’t too bad. I was encouraged to learn via billboard education that Burlington was the home of a Nestle Chocolate factory. I love chocolate, must be a good omen!, I joked to myself. But the internal hope and humor faded when I could not find the address. Driving back and forth on what should have been the destination based on the numerical address given provided no visual of a residence that I could see.

Crestfallen, I assumed the worst, that some Preppy Handbook zealot had played a mean trick on me and given me a fake address for pink and green kicks and giggles.

Frustrated, I pulled into a nearby gas station to make sure I was on the right road. The clerk told me I was on the correct street and knew the people I was scheduled to see. “They own the junkyard there, nice people.”

Junkyard owners. Dammit. Am I being punished? Should I just drink all the wine in my sample case, gorge on some Nestle chocolate bars, run out into an adjacent cornfield and give up? No. I will not lose hope, I will go into this with an open mind and see what happens, I said to myself.

What happened was beautiful. And absolutely life changing.

wine bottle overalls
Would you like wine with your overalls?

I found the junkyard main building and knocked on the door. A big, burly, overall wearing man welcomed me with a firm handshake, a warm smile, and introduced himself as “Bubba.” (No, I’m not making this up.)

Bubba then pulled me in to meet his clan of family and friends. His gracious, gregarious nature was infectious. Within minutes he was rolling intoxicating wine language and history off his tongue that surpassed in authenticity and depth anything I had read or learned elsewhere. The man truly loved wine, and he knew the good stuff! Bubba even brought out some special bottles from his own collection to share with me.

I soaked it all in with utter gratitude and awe. The excellent wine, the genuine, humble, hospitable people, the inherent goodness of what I was experiencing.

Bubba bought several cases of wine from me that day. It was by far my biggest sale ever. I will never forget that experience and how it taught me to never judge a book by its cover.

Cheers to you always, Bubba! Thank you for what you taught me in your glorious junkyard.

***********************************************************************
For reference, here is my initial #first7jobs post that prompted the telling of this story.
My first 7 jobs (not including pre-16 babysitting):
1. Marc’s Big Boy (Oshkosh, WI) – take-out server, hostess [owners were crooks, treated staff badly, illegal practices, horrible!!]
2. Thom McAn Shoes (Park Plaza Mall, Oshkosh, WI) – retail sales [decent job experience though my boss was usually high on cocaine, saw too many hammertoes and bunions, laughed a lot with a friend who worked there with me, had fun flirting with the guy across the court at the Bresler’s Ice Cream Shop]
3. Pioneer Inn & Marina / Caboose Cabaret (Oshkosh, WI) – food/cocktail waitress, hostess [always a busy place, fun people, overall good memories, very social group and we often went out together after our shifts to “The Corners” in downtown Oshkosh]

4. Mayan Dude Ranch (Bandera, TX) – lived in a tin roof shack over an entire summer, worked my hinder off as a resort worker 6 days a week doing everything from waitressing, themed costume events, dance lessons for guests, tiny bit of singing in shows, and more.
5. Schultz Pharmacy (Oshkosh, WI) – sales clerk [weird place, odd vibe, Farside-ish, but surprisingly stress-free for the most part]
6. Telemarketer (Oshkosh, WI) – Brief stint raising money for a “Beatlemania” concert to (supposedly) benefit Special Olympics (which was actually a sham… can’t remember name of the agency but I do recall that the (very nice!) guy heading it absconded with all the money and was never seen again. (Now I know why it was so easy for him to be generous treating the staff to multiple happy hours after work. Ha!) None of us callers had any idea the guy in charge was a con-artist. To this day I mistrust all telemarketers.
7. Mercy Medical Center (Oshkosh, WI) – Public Relations Intern [professional, career focused, but an unpaid summer job, sigh…]

Extra mentions (because I can’t count)…
8. Coach’s Bar & Grill (South Bend, Indiana) – food/cocktail waitress [hard work, busy place, worst part was having to wear polyester black & white striped referee outfits that resembled Foot Locker uniforms. Most of the customers were ND students and notoriously bad tippers, but many staffers were fellow students also, hence I remember mostly good times there… and lots of free dried out pizza]
9. The Wholesale Club (Milwaukee, WI) manager trainee [horrible fit, hated every second, cringed when someone mentioned forklift training, left after the orientation was over to be a wine consultant]

Connections… Conversation… Community

This post is dedicated to my father, Dr. Leo Thomas “Tom” Rozum, who passed away Thursday, August 27, 2015. May we all be mindful of creating meaningful opportunities to connect with one another during our short time on this earth. It’s never too late to reach out and tell people you love them.

Tom Rozum in his boat (1976)

Feeling isolated? Blue? Out of sorts? Perhaps those feelings are a cue to take a look at where you are investing your time and energy. If you’re shutting yourself away from people – actual people, not visages on TV or the internet – this could be the root of your discontent. The trappings of a modern world netted with technology can make us forget how important is to have face-time with one another. But these real connections matter greatly.

“When we’re connected to others, we become better people.”

~Randy Pausch, ‘The Last Lecture’

fish network sky by dmitry zhuravlev‘Fish, Network, Sky’ by Dmitry Zhuravlev

Put your greatest energy into personal relationships. Listen to your passions rather than focusing on material concerns. Connect and engage mindfully with living, breathing people in your community and beyond. Risk being vulnerable and show others your authentic self.

People need to touch, see, and read each other directly. As social beings, we need to engage regularly in connection opportunities which utilize our entire repertoire of human cues.

connetions by denthe ‘Connections’ by Denthe

There are invisible threads which connect us to one another. Grasp them! You are are interconnected with every living being whether you realize it or not. Get to know your web-mates and cultivate relationships of depth. Your health and happiness depend upon doing so.

You can choose to see yourself as a lone, slender thread. Or you can let your inner light illuminate the other threads which are in intricate, tender connection with your own.

slender thread

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa

visiting friends again by robert tarr ‘Visiting Friends Again’ by Robert Tarr

Do you see yourself as part of one big group of several smaller ones? Are your boundaries loose or tight?

groups

“In this painting I used different colours to represent the different groups of people in the world. On the left side of the painting, I tried to resemble the world in my eyes. Groups all separated by different things, with the black lines and white words representing those things. On the right I painted what peace would mean to me, all the groups being mixed together, with the happy and peaceful colours around everyone.”

~Shannon Pennifold, 14 years, Red Deer, Canada

cross paths by abol bahadori ‘Cross Paths’ by Abol Bahadori

It’s funny how, in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope.

~Steve Maraboli

belonging by ricklene wren‘Belonging’ by Ricklene Wren

We all yearn to be known and valued, to belong, to find meaning together and to work together. Poet and spiritual teacher John O’Donohue reminds us that:

“Belonging is related to longing. If you hyphenate belonging it yields a lovely axiom for spiritual growth. Be your longing. Longing is a precious instinct in the soul. Where you belong should always be worthy of your dignity.”

little treasure by brigit byron coons‘Little Treasure’ by Brigit Byron Coons

“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.”

~Mollie Marti

vintage story circle

Don’t forget to be thankful for and to create opportunities to share stories.

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe. ” – Neil Gaiman

sharing stories by kara hendershot‘Sharing Stories’ by Kara Hendershot

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize.

~Chimamanda Adichie

going fishing ‘Going Fishing’ by Elin Pendleton

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…”

“Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” (Chapter 22, Howards End)

**********

“Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the gray, sober against the fire.”

– From chapter 22, Howards End (1910)

— E.M. Forster​, Howards End

only connect gravestone

Are you familiar with the concept of Ubuntu? It’s truly lovely and I reflect on its meaning often.

Ubuntu is a synonym of humaneness; it involves having a spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness with others. Ubuntu is an African philosophy that provides an understanding of the human being in relation with the world.

There is no English equivalent to the word Ubuntu. The Nguni word from South Africa refers to the capacity to express compassion, justice, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building, maintaining and strengthening community. It is about the self being so rooted in the community, that your personal identity is defined by what you give to the community. ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am’ is a good example of the ‘self-in-community’ foundation that gives rise to sayings in Zulu, such as ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ — ‘It is through others that one attains selfhood.’

ubuntu

When we acknowledge how much we depend on each other, we can rise above our relatively small differences.

chained together by salemo‘Chained Together’ by Salerno

September 2010, acrylic paint. Done for “The Peace Project” art exhibit sponsored by The Whole 9. For this piece, symbolism substituted for realism. The inspiration came from a story in which people chained together at a banquet table must cooperate or starve.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ‘Community’ by Aleathia Brown

Have you lost an appreciation for the art of conversation? Do you set aside adequate time for it?

conversation by ruth parson ‘Conversation’ by Ruth Parson

If not, make efforts to spend some time with a trusted friend. It will do your spirit a world of good!

la conversation by henri matisse‘La Conversation’ by Henri Matisse

And remember to get outside in nature which is so nurturing for the soul! Converse with nature and other humans at the same time and find yourself lifted in a harmonious way.

conversation by rosalie nadeau ‘Conversation’ by Rosalie Nadeau

Many people on their deathbeds lament that they did not spend enough time with their friends. Prevent similar regrets by cherishing friendships as so deserved. And build new ones with diverse people who add vibrancy, richness and interest to your friendship bouquet.

friendship by ricky chou ‘Friendship’ by Ricky Chou
“It says we met in this world, and we can enjoy each other… Because in this world we are the same. You are Western, I am Oriental. But we met and we can enjoy each other. The fish in the painting are different, but they are the same. They don’t know each other but they can enjoy each other together. In the whole world everybody is strangers, but it doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. I did not know you before, but now we can understand each other and be friends.”

togetherness by adeyinka fabayo‘Togetherness’ by Adeyinka E. Fabayo

We all feel alone sometimes, and perhaps that is part of the human condition.  Yet connections exist all around. It is up to us to see them or not.

“When you look into the faces of these quiet creatures who don’t know how to tell stories–who are mute, who can’t make themselves heard, who fade into the woodwork, who only think of the perfect answer after the fact, after they’re back at home, who can never think of a story that anyone else will find interesting–is there not more depth and more meaning in them? You can see every letter of every untold story swimming on their faces, and all the signs of silence, dejection, and even defeat. You can even imagine your own face in those faces, can’t you?”

― Orhan Pamuk

i am not alone ‘I Am Not Alone’ by Angela Treat Lyon

MY TRIBE – by Alberto Blanco
(English translation: James Nolan)

Earth is the same
sky another.
Sky is the same
earth another.

From lake to lake,
Forest to forest”
Which tribe is mine?
— I ask myself —
Where’s my place?

Perhaps I belong to the tribe
Of those who have none;
Or to the black sheep tribe;
Or to a tribe whose ancestors
come from the future:
A tribe on the horizon.

But if I have to belong to some
tribe
— I tell myself —
Make it a large tribe,
Make it a strong tribe,
One in which nobody
Is left out,
In which everybody,
For once and for all
Has a God-given place.

I’m not talking about a human
tribe.
I’m not talking about a planetary
tribe.
I’m not even talking about a
universal one.

I’m talking about a tribe you can’t
talk about.
A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence must yet be
proven.

A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence
We can prove right now.

a coming together by d.m. le bris ‘A Coming Together’ by D.M. Le Bris

A Friendship in Flowers: Paintings by Irma Freeman

a friendship in flowers - irma freeman

After emigrating to the U.S., Irma Freeman lived a good part of her life in poverty. Yet, despite her personal hardships, in her paintings she created a richness that inspired her family and friends, as well as a following of young artists. In particular she often received the gift of flowers for her to paint, often from her friend Joan Brindle’s garden. Irma’s colors were vivid and surreal. No matter where she was, or how dreary her environment seemed to others, her paintings drew from a place beyond her reality where she transformed her life into a vase full of no ordinary flowers. Although she lived in her poverty stricken home, she metamorphosed it into some sort of wealth of color that was incredible to those around her. Through her beautiful flowers and landscapes, she made others see what she saw. It was if she had some sort of fairy tale she was telling though painting, a fantasy of her own imagination. It is her notion of imagination and wonderment that lead us to an idyllic world: using color and form, she was able to transcend her little city row house into a palace of dreams. http://www.irmafreeman.com/irma_freeman_center/past_exhibitions.html

Blessed in the spirit of Camaraderie

‘Blessed in the Spirit of Camaraderie’ by Fauna Warfield

When is the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger who piqued your interest?

the encounter by johannes ittenJohannes Itten – Die Begegnung (The Encounter)

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

~Fydor Dostoevsky 

circle of friends by delilah smith ‘Circle of Friends’ by Delilah Smith

The artful expression below called ‘All In Our Boxes’ is strangely captivating and a bit unsettling. How does it make you feel?

'all in our boxes'

Can you imagine how you might react upon seeing this while taking a walk through the woods? What would Thoreau say?

starry beach

Give place to others, as others have given place to you. Equality is the soul of equity. Who can complain of being comprehended in the same destiny, wherein all are involved?

~Michael de Montaigne

bridges not walls

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

~Isaac Newton

(Photo: Alsace, France, Jean-Michel Priaux)

understandingMarrit (gr. 6, right) and Luuk (gr. 1, left)

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” -Ralph Nichols

in the shelter of each other by tammy olson‘In the Shelter of Each Other’ by Tammy Olson

Storytelling is incredibly powerful, yet we often fail to appreciate its value in our lives. Do you make time for sharing stories with others?

Here are some reasons to do so:

  • Storytelling influences change at individual practice as well as organisational level
  • Listening to stories facilitates better person-centred care and can lead to improved services
  • Hearing personal stories engenders greater understanding, empathy and reflection
  • Rapport, trust and care can be nurtured in practitioner-service user relationships through storytelling
  • Personal storytelling benefits the teller as it can empower, encourage personal growth and build resilience
  • Due consideration needs to be given to ethical issues in storytelling and telling stories has the potential to be demoralising and disempowering for the teller

[This Insight was written by Michelle Drumm (IRISS) – http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/role-personal-storytelling-practice]

storytelling (1)

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. ~Irish Proverb

connedtedness by eliz kim‘Connectedness’ by Eliz Kim

“The important element is the way in which all things are connected. Every thought and action sends shivers of energy into the world around us, which affects all creation. Perceiving the world as a web of connectedness helps us to overcome the feelings of separation that hold us back and cloud our vision. This connection with all life increases our sense of responsibility for every move, every attitude, allowing us to see clearly that each soul does indeed make a difference to the whole.” ~Emma Restall Orr

human structures and the light of consciousness

“The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.”
~Frederick Buechner

‘Human Structures & The Light of Consciousness’ art display by sculptor Jonathan Borofsky. Borofsky describes his work as being connected through “the search for human understanding – symbols that give us a feeling of connection to each other.”http://www.percontra.net/12borofsky.htm

community street art

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.” ~Frederick Buechner

ocean garden by pat gellenbeck‘Ocean Garden’ by Pat Gellenbeck

“We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden.” ~Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordair

story telling here

“The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.” ~Barbara Deming

[Cover art: ‘Four Blobs’ by my son Eric Detjen]

Layers. Changes. Integrity. Transformation.

I’ve always loved the creative exercise of pairing art images with verse. Below are visuals, quotes, poetry, etc. which have spoken to me this past year or so. May they speak to you, too.

(Note: Known artists/writers are credited for their work when I’ve been able to find the source.)

THE LAYERS

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

– Stanley Kunitz

layered reflections by david dunlop

‘Layered Reflections’ by David Dunlop

…the water is not clear,
the water is not still…

You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
“Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/…/antholog/kunitz/river.htm

Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.

– Laurence Olivier

nightscape

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

― Maya Angelou

Emergence pat gellenbeck‘Emergence’ by Pat Gellenbeck

sophia wisdom beauty painting

What awaits behind the door,
The whole you never fed?

The Doorway by Mela Richardson‘The Doorway’ by Mela Richardson

“Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.” ― Sarah Dessen

Hiding Brick Wall

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, ‘Animal Dreams’

animal dreams

TOP 5 REGRETS OF THE DYING…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html

“Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn one’s back on life.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

m twain - living

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

― William Blake, ‘Eternity’

joyful being

To be nobody-but-yourself ― in a world which is doing its best,

night and day, to make you everybody else ― means to
fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and
never stop fighting.

~ e. e. cummings

be yourself street art

Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.

― Henry Miller

bright hued tree

“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things. Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.”

― ‘Red Emma’ Goldman, Living My Life

red woman grafitti

A credo for living with passion and creating a life worthy of your inner fire…

jack london credo

behold by wenzel hablikWenzel Hablik, painter and graphic artist, architect, designer, and craftsman of the early twentieth century, associated with German Expressionism, painted this piece after his solo ascent of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, in 1906. This feat was a formative experience for him and quite an accomplishment at that time.

“Behold!… I am that which must always overcome itself.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

+++

“A bit of advice

Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.”

-Joseph Campbell

heart hands ocean

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film.

– Ansel Adams

sand  contours

“Believe in the holy contour of life.”

-Jack Kerouac

unapologetic brightness

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

― Henry Miller

leap in the dark

“We have only one life during which to make our short existence in the world somewhat valuable. Painting our lives with emotions is our personal free choice and the choice of our self-consciousness… How much more we can paint our lives with the soft colors of our emotions, the more our lives will begin to look like works of art. Whether anybody can appreciate these art masterpieces is a conundrum which is strictly related to the development level of the consciousness of humankind. May our emotions kill us softly.” ~Anonymous

life is a work of art

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

― Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings’

tiger fire

Live fully. There is only now. No one can live for you.

Go now, and live

Basic elemental instinct to survive

Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive…

Anything can happen…

― Neil Peart, ‘Prime Mover’

prime mover

Hold your fire…

Breaking Eggs: A Dream Poem

Our dreams show that the unconscious mind acts in a poetic way. Dreams “speak” in images – the pictures that come to us in the night. Do we listen to and learn from them as often as we should?

During a rather chaotic – and utterly transformative – time of my life, I had a very vivid and startling dream about throwing and breaking eggs. I wanted to capture the aliveness of my dream while attempting to understand its meaning, evoking the colors, sounds, and textures recalled.

This is my poetic interpretation of the dream:

BREAKING EGGS – by Jean Detjen

She wants to break something
On the unforgiving surface –
Stark, cracked and rutted,
Glistening with yesterday’s rain.
This seems, somehow, a place for endings.

Out of her satchel resting against her core
She reaches for something small and smooth,
An egg just gathered from a neighbor’s gracious coop.
So fragile it appears,
How easily broken.
But some things must die before they bring forth fruit.
And then, of course, the tug of curiosity.

Unsympathetically, she throws it with force
Onto the grey, hard road.
And another, and another, yet another still.
Yet stubborn life holds on,
Herculean shells refusing to give in.

Maddened and confused,
Mists of sweat form above her dry lips.
One egg now left.
Drawing all her energy, she projects it toward
A horizon far ahead, certain of its demise.
Yet curiosity speaks again.

Feet walk quickly to what is now a gloriously large egg,
Yet cracked to reveal a glow from within.
The newly translucent veneer reveals a creature unknown,
One ready to unfold its limbs and spread its wings.
This is life anew.
This is beauty.
This is.

Since writing this poem, I have come to realize that there is beauty in brokenness. When we acknowledge inner fears and anxieties as catalysts for transformation, it becomes easier to take risks and break through our binding layers and shells. We all carry a basket of eggs with us throughout life, awaiting rebirth via our attentiveness and nurturing.

So don’t be afraid to let yourself be re-born over and over again in big and small ways. New life awaits each and every day. Break free of your confines and self-imposed limits. Crack open your shell and fly!

“If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.” -Jim Kwik, learning expert

disrupted egg path on blue by james lavott ‘Disrupted Egg Path on Blue’ by James Lavott…Finite and infinite tiled paths disrupted by a Daliesque dangling egg on a background of blue.

broken eggs body paint Broken egg body paint

broken eggs by jean-baptiste greuze ‘Broken Eggs’ by Jean-Baptist Greuze.

Broken Eggs attracted favorable comment when exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1757. One critic noted that the young serving girl had a noble pose worthy of a history painter.

The canvas was painted in Rome, but the principal source may have been a seventeenth-century Dutch work by Frans van Mieris the Elder (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), which Greuze would have known from an engraving. The broken eggs symbolize the loss of the girl’s virginity.

expanding buddha by arley blankenship ‘Expanding Buddha’ by Arley Blankenship

transcendental shame by rich fautch ‘Transcendental Shame’ by Rich Fautch

the awakening by teresa gostanza ‘The Awakening’ by Teresa Gostanza

cracked by marisela mangia ‘Cracked’ by Marisela Mangia

fragile by aliya michelle ‘Fragile’ by Aliya Michelle

life by cynthia occelli ‘Life’ by Cynthia Occelli

Morning After – A Tribute to Artist Edwina Sandys

“I think women should allow themselves to be luscious. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a brain.”

~Edwina Sandys

A few years ago I had the privilege to help with an exhibit at The Trout Museum of Art in Appleton, Wisconsin featuring the Art of Sir Winston Churchill. One of my main charges was to research Churchill’s family of artists. In doing so, I was particularly inspired by the captivating art of his vibrant granddaughter, Edwina Sandys. Her work spoke to me in a primal way, serving literally as a catalyst for artistic yearnings too long dormant inside of me.

During an intimate pre-opening gala, I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Sandys in person. While chatting, I shared with her my particular fondness for her Library Series. Edwina Sandys grew up surrounded by books and inherited her mother’s library. Over the years, the artist has repeatedly turned to books as a background for her images. The brightly colored Library Series serves as a literary obbligato to Edwina’s many themes.

“Wherever I live, I always have my favorite books with me: ‘Rebecca,’ ‘A Town Like Alice,’ The Discoverers,’ ‘The Oxford Book of English Verse.’ Even if I don’t reread them, their existence on the shelf is a tangible memory, a reassuring presence. This is my virtual library.”

Her companion piece Literary Woman – which I beyond love! – echoes that theme:

literary woman edwina sandys ‘Literary Woman’

A great lover myself of books, libraries, and art, we quickly connected and I told her I hoped she would complete the series with all star signs represented (of course wanting to see how my own sign, Aquarius, would be depicted). Below are some print images from this wonderful, witty series:

ls1‘Taurus in the Library’

ls2 ‘Aries in the Library’

ls3 ‘Pisces & Poppies’

ls4‘Literary Horse’

ls5“Pisces & Tulips’

ls6 ‘Catfish in the Library’

ls7 ‘Gemini’

Also of particular interest to me was hearing that although Sandys has sketched since childhood, she didn’t take up art seriously until 1970, when she divorced her husband and started her life over again. “I wanted to do something interesting in life,” she said.

She never went to art school, concluding that at 30, she knew who she was and how she wanted to express herself. “I wanted to get right into it,” she said.

So did I! I immediately bought her gorgeous hardcover Edwina Sandys Art book. While graciously signing it for me and – unbelievably! – spontaneously sketching me (something which those close to her said “never does”) she asked if I was familiar with the term ‘ekphrasis.’ I wasn’t and she briefly explained that it was one form of art describing another.

As soon as I returned home that evening I Googled the word and learned the following: Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise, and is a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, verb ekphrazein, to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name. [Wikipedia]

Immediately intrigued by the concept, I wanted to give it a try. Sandys’ life, words, and art were like a spark to me, igniting a part of me somehow forgotten, a flame diminished and begging to be rekindled. I was on the cusp of what I have since referred to as an “awakening.”

From that point forward – the very next morning, actually! – I frantically dove into writing poetry. Flipping through her brilliant book, a small image on one of the inner pages caught my attention for some reason. Perhaps it was the curly, mussed hair I related to. Or maybe the inquisitive eyes of a woman metaphorically buried, her face only partially exposed, drew me in.

morningaftersandys ‘Morning After’

Lit from within, I recall feeling an urgent desire to express myself and started with this ekphrastic tribute poem:

MORNING AFTER – by Jean Detjen

Languorous, lascivious, like a landlocked siren in a high fever,
Drowned in a pool of forget-me-nots
in a wave of cerulean blue.
Red hot embers tamed underneath,
smothered and stifled by a blanketing heaviness
as solid as the cage of encroaching bed rails.

Like a seasick woman carried away
with the rhythmic ebb and flow
before the silken waves have a chance to wash their cool relief over the beckoning sands,
she summons Melusina to ease her restlessness.

Dissolved by something reflected for a moment
perhaps only imagined,
she fashions herself like Sedna the Sea Goddess,
creatures swimming around her,
darting in and out of the wavy tangle of her long hair,
moving like dancers with the cadence of the tides.

Something now remembered by Anaïs Nin-
“I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths
and a great fear of shallow living.”
Eve’s curiosity embraced, all is wide open now.

She touches her hair, rubs her eyes,
settles her core with a gentle touch,
wishing only to float out to sea in ancient bliss.

Compelled to express my gratitude, I forwarded a copy of my poem to my momentary mentor and muse with my appreciation for all she shared. I expected no response, and was incredibly surprised and humbled to receive this reply from her, which I shall always cherish:

Wow. What a poem. I hope you have a big collection and will make a book of them. My goodness! Brilliant you have let yourself journey far … And returning .. Like Mozart’s music never quite letting go of the thread. Letting the kite fly but knowing when to girl it. Look forward to seeing you again. -Edwina xx

Since that life-changing meeting back in 2012, I’ve rediscovered my love for all forms of writing and art. Poetry, painting, music and other forms of creative expression have healed and nurtured many elemental parts of me.

My kite is flying, Edwina, and I’m girling it without abandon. Thank you for reminding me that it’s never too late to create a new thread and soar.


breakthrough floor

I couldn’t resist lying in the floor of The Trout Museum of Art during pre-installation of the 32 x 12′ Edwina Sandys Breakthrough art display.

One of Sandys’ major works, Breakthrough, is a tribute to her grandfather. The 32-foot-long sculpture, which is made of salvaged sections of the Berlin Wall, is installed at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., site of Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech.

Here I am several months after the exhibit at the site where her actual Breakthrough sculpture is displayed at The National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri:
jean breakthrough ncm


If you are interested in learning more about Winston Churchill and his family of artists, here’s a link to the exhibit’s Facebook page I developed and administer: https://www.facebook.com/ArtOfSirWinstonChurchill

Photos below of me meeting Edwina Sandys…

edwina and jean

Edwina  signing book

edwinasandysbooksignsketch

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks.” — Simonides


Resources:

http://www.edwinasandys.com/Edwina-Sandys-Art

http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/news/edwina-sandys-show-at-ann-norton-sculpture-garde-1/nLh9G/

The King’s Table

I can no longer eat this peasant food.
Force feed me if you must.
When you are not looking I will spit it out and let my salty tears sustain me instead.
After that crystal well is dry I will welcome the hallucinations,
Illuminating visions of feasts yet celebrated.
Starving while awake, savoring only dreams.

Your grace, – a voice imagined?
This table is set for you.
Come sit,
Open your eyes wide and take in the splash of bold colors!
Close them now and let yourself feel the depths of your voracious hunger.
Slow down your mind and inhale the inviting aromas.
Now let your hands enjoy the textures of the beautiful fruits before you.
Don’t be afraid to touch that which is both smooth and rough,
All is good.

Bring to your lips that which your appetite craves.
Is your mouth on fire and your lips bruised and scratched?
Then I would say you have eaten well.
There is pain and pleasure in many of the best dishes.
Devour with abandon, feed and be fed.
Let your electric taste buds flood your body and mind until you are numb.

Soft laughter? Am I being teased?
You are not, you are being healed.
But am I Queen? Or King? Whose table is this?
You are both. We are both.
This is all yours and mine and ours.
It is the only way to live.

So are you ready for another bite?

the picnic by gerard mcgourty‘The Picnic’ by Gerard McGourty

Cover art: Pablo Picasso – Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (d’après Edouard Manet), 1960 (Musée Picasso, Paris)

Thirsty Dream Cat

The abode churns chaos.
Yet creature comforts abound amid the clutter.
Doors swinging open reveal crumb-laden hallways
Darkening into both wide and small spaces.
What then?
A cat grey as fog skitters in,
Defiant muzzle raised in my direction.
Has it always been there?
Neglected, forgotten somehow?
It quietly circles my human form,
Soft, padding steps tapping out a plea,
Unmistakable frustration told through its eyes.
I know what that look means;
The crumbs have been eaten,
It is scarcely enough.
Yes! Thirst! Of course!
My visitor is wild for water, distractedly so.
I feel it, too.
The bowl is empty, stagnant, a mirage of relief.
Hesitation, a stare, and then-
Water sensed through smell, noses twitching,
Feline and female alike.
Yes, so very alike we are.
A washbasin ready for soaking away toil and sweat beckons.
Eyes connect, pulses quicken, a choice is made;
Silvery lithe blur leaps with wings imagined,
Its tongue ready to lap up its craving.
Puddle, pool, lake, endless ocean…
Airborne, limbs outstretched like a plane in flight,
Dive! Splash! Drink!
I lick the spray across my lips,
My own thirst quenched.

“Rapturous Life Defiant”

Below is a tribute poem to Grania Uaile (Grace O’Malley)…Queen of Clew Bay, Irish chieftain, pirate, trader and seafarer. I have been told by my mother that she is an ancestor of ours.  Historians have varying perceptions as to her virtues and vices, but no one can deny that she was a fierce and strong woman who fought for the people she loved. Definitely a woman ahead of her time.

Oh, no; ’twas not for sordid spoil
Of barque or seaboard borough
She ploughed, with unfatiguing toil,
The fluent, rolling furrow;
Delighting on the broad back’d deep,
To feel the quivering galley
Strain up the opposing hill, and sweep
Down the withdrawing valley.

Or, sped before a driving blast,
By following seas up-lifted,
Catch, from the huge heaps heaving past
And from the spray they drifted,
And from the winds that tossed the crest,
Of each wide-shouldering giant,
The smack of freedom and the zest
Of rapturous life defiant.

Sweet when crimson sunsets glow’d
As earth and sky grew grander,
Adown the grass’d unechoing road,
Atlanticward to wander,
Some kinsman’s humbler heart to seek
Some sick bedside, it may be,
Or, onward reach, with footsteps meek,
The low, grey, lonely abbey.

~Sir S. Furguson

Some interesting folklore:  Even though she had long, dark hair, Grace is often called ‘Grace the Bald’. It is said that when Grace was a young girl, she asked her father if she could sail with him. He refused to take her, because she was a girl.  However, Grace was determined to go with him, so she cut off all her hair and dressed in boys’ clothes.  She went back to her father and said, ‘Now will you take me?’

And so the adventures began…

One memorable story shows how Grace dealt with her enemies. Grace and Sir Richard Bingham were deadly enemies. He had been sent to the west of Ireland by the Queen of England to control the Irish. He made life very difficult for Grace, taking her lands and cattle. Once, Bingham locked her away in jail. Grace became so angry that, in 1593, she wrote to Queen Elizabeth I to complain about Bingham and his nasty ways. Elizabeth agreed to see Grace. It is also saidi that during that meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Grace sneezed in the presence of the Queen and her lords and ladies. A member of the court, in an act of politeness, handed Grace an attractive and expensive lace handkerchief. She took the delicate cloth and proceded to blow her nose loudly then tossed the kerchief into a blazing fireplace. The members of the court were aghast that she would be so rude to toss an expensive gift so easily into the fire. The Queen then scolded her and said that the handkerchief was meant as a gift and should have been put into her pocket. Grace replied that the Irish would never put a soiled garment into their pocket and apparantly had a higher standard of cleanliness. After a period of uncomfortable silence, (during which the members of the court expected the Queen to have Grace executed for her rude behavior) nervous then roaring laughter followed. The Queen was amused.

She was also a mother who protected her own.  Grace’s son Tibbott (Toby) was born aboard her ship. She defended her new-born son from an attack from Barbary Pirates.

Grace was definitely used to living life on the edge and taking risks. Another interesting tidbit:  Grace loved to play cards – one of her nicknames was ‘Grace of the Gamblers’.

In another story, Grace arrived at Howth Castle and requested hospitality. When she was refused because the “family was at supper” she kidnapped the young heir and held him until Baron Howth promised that the gates of his castle would never again be closed to unexpected visitors and to have an extra place set at every meal.

http://www.libraryireland.com/HealyEssays/Grania1.php

http://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/grace-o-malley-16th-century-pirate-queen-ireland-001773