Category Archives: Stuff I’m Reading

Why Rupi Kaur Gives Me Hope For the Future

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Have you heard of Rupi Kaur?

I hadn’t, until my 15-year-old stepdaughter asked if I was interested in reading her favorite book – a book of poetry, no less.

I am not normally a poetry person. I continually try to open myself to poetry, and there are some poets I do love (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings and Mary Oliver come to mind), but I often struggle to make a connection to poetry. To hook into what the poem is conveying. I have problems finding my way in.

But when a 15-year-old girl gives you an opportunity – an invitation – to peek into her world, to have a glimpse of what grabs her attention, what penetrates her heart, what expresses even a sliver of her own inner life – you don’t say no. It’s an honor to be let in.

So, she deposited “Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, on my nightstand. I’ll admit — it sat there for two weeks before I finally picked it up. But the universe has a way of tapping you on the shoulder by way of synchronicity, so when a close friend shared a Rupi Kaur poem on Facebook, I took the hint and immediately picked up the book.

 photo by rupee rags
photo by rupee rags

You guys – wow.

First of all, the language is simple and bold. There’s no fluff, no fancy constructs, no unnecessary elaboration. It gets straight to the point and immediately taps into some decidedly raw feelings.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Secondly, the subject matter speaks to what is arguably the every day experiences of many women around the world. It’s about hurting and loving and losing and healing. It’s about vulnerability and strength. It’s about learning to be female in the modern world. It’s about self-knowing and growth.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The poet is in her early 20s. She was born in Punjab and moved to Canada when she was 3. In addition to writing poetry, she performs spoken word and writes fiction and plays.

But to get to the point – Rupi Kaur gives me hope for the future.

Why? Well, millennials are often maligned in our culture, characterized as being lazy and self-absorbed and stupid. And, OK, when I see interviews where young people can’t correctly tell you who the Vice President of the United States is or who won the Civil War, I worry. I do. This characterization isn’t totally unfounded.

But when I read Kaur’s poetry, and when I know that it resonates in the soul of a 15-year-old girl on the precipice of adulthood, I’m fucking grateful. I’m grateful that our culture has birthed young women who are unafraid to speak about their experience, their emotions and their bodies.

For the past five years I’ve been involved with charity productions of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day and One Billion Rising. I know that odds are 1 in 3 that a woman will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. I know that we have thousands of years of patriarchal culture to unwind before women can feel safe and heard and equal.

But I think we’re making headway. The teenage girls I know are smarter about their bodies than I was at their age. They have less shame. Many have cultivated an emotional intelligence that probably outstrips men twice their age. They are empowered in many ways. There is still work to do, of course, but I can see how positive change has affected this next generation.

And it gives me hope.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

If you haven’t, check out “Milk and Honey.” And if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Winter in my Southern California Garden

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Winter is my second favorite time of the year in my Southern California garden. It can’t beat spring, because it is just…well, it’s spring! Spring is cool mornings and warm breezes and an explosion of growth and color and texture and it’s all just magical.

But winter does not follow far behind in my esteem. Winter holds the promise of spring. And while we may have a night or two with temperatures plunging below freezing, and I may lose a plant or two as a result, there are still things growing out there, telling us all that if we wait just a few more weeks the world will suddenly be resplendent.

Sometimes anticipation is sweeter than fulfillment.

52 weeks
52 Weeks in the California Garden by Robert Smaus

It’s usually about this time of year that I pick up my Garden Bible. I found this book at a garage sale about three years ago. I paid exactly $1 for it. Of all the books I own, this one is probably the most valuable and has given me the biggest bang for my buck. My one buck. It‘s written by the garden editor of the Los Angeles Times, and it simply lays out, week by week, what gardeners in California should be doing in their little patches of earth. It lists chores, what to plant and when to plant it. It offers clear advice on what grows well here, and why. It is a book that has helped me become more methodical in my gardening, and the results show.

Care to take a little tour?

BACKYARD

My backyard is a concrete jungle, save for a small strip of dirt. I decided there wasn’t any reason that tiny patch couldn’t be an awesome veggie garden – and it is! Especially in winter, when it’s not so scorching and dry. I’ve got it on a drip irrigation system so I just pretty much let it do it’s thing. I’ve stapled nursery flats along the bottom, because my neighbor’s pit bull, Skittles, likes to dig. Right now, I’ve got mint, Brussels sprouts, kale, rainbow chard, broccoli and cauliflower growing out there. There’s also some volunteer lettuce peaking up through cracks, from the lettuce I let go to seed in the summer.

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FRONT YARD

Most of the gardening at my house happens in the front yard, out of necessity. I’m a big advocate of growing edibles in the front yard, and try to choose those that are most ornamental. These spring peas are awfully pretty crawling up a spherical trellis Hubs picked up for me from a garage sale (garage sales are garden goldmines!).

Delicate - and prolific - spring peas grow well in winter
Delicate – and prolific – spring peas grow well in winter

January is the month to plant bare-root roses in California. It is also the month they start to wake up. I only have four bushes – one of them miniature – but they provide just enough blooms to collect for a twee little burst of color on my desk.

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The last blaze of sunset glory
The last blaze of sunset glory
A tiny, pink, miniature rose
A tiny, pink, miniature rose

January is also the month where succulents take center stage. I have several varieties in my garden, due to the ease of propagation and their drought-tolerant lifestyle. Many of them are coming into bloom now, including the aloe and the ice plant. I’m not even sure what this little guy is – again, I bought it at a garage sale – but it sure is pretty!

IMG_0845Many of the perennials are dormant in January, but there are one or two that are coming alive, such as this gorgeous canna lily, which boasts the most colorful leaves in my garden. Later in the year it will bloom with a magnificent and soft orange flower.

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Last, but not least, we can’t forget about the birds! I have a few feeders and birdhouses in my garden, as well as not one, not two, but THREE birdbaths. I finally got around to cleaning them and filling them with fresh water yesterday. I can’t wait for the birds to discover them. Watching them play in the water always brings a smile to my face. And in this particular birdbath, they have a turtle friend. He’s very shiny and colorful and came from the dollar store!

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I hope this helps those of you who may be experiencing the winter blahs right now. And if you’re in my neighborhood, stop by for a garden respite! I’ll make you some kale chips!

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The Book That Saved Me

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Since this blog is predominantly a writer’s blog, I thought it would be fitting to share with you what I’m currently reading.

I know I’ve said this before, and perhaps I have gone on about it a little like a broken record, but I’ve got a well-loved copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron on my desk. I took myself through the program from August to November, 2014, and while you could say I’ve “completed” the program, it’s something I want to go back to again and again. It saved me.

artistsway
http://juliacameronlive.com/

Last summer was tough, fraught with problems I never thought I would have to tackle in my lifetime. It depleted me in every sense – emotionally, creatively, energetically. I bottomed out in August, after one-too-many rejections in my acting life. I had an idea for a book I kept trying to start and just couldn’t, I never seemed to get around to shooting new episodes of my web series “Bertie and Margie“, and I felt I had a big, steaming plate of nothing in front of me. I belong to a loosely organized gang of creative beings called the Creative Women’s Circle, where we talk about our creative projects, successes and failures, and find ways to egg each other on in our endeavors. In our meeting that month I talked about how I was working on nothing, felt like creating nothing, and had come to a total creative standstill. And I felt very apathetic about the whole thing.

One afternoon late in the month, after a particularly challenging day of doing nothing and accomplishing nothing, it suddenly occurred to me to pick up The Artist’s Way. I had had the book for 15 years, it was recommended reading in graduate school but I had never gotten around to it. That book had been on the chopping block countless times over the years when desperate circumstances found me selling books online for a quick buck, but it was always spared that fate. Some little part of me inside felt it just wasn’t time.

I’m so grateful I never let that book go.

I picked it up on a stifling afternoon in late August and began the program that very day. I could get all preachy and proselytizing here about how it transformed me in those dark days. Or you could just look at some of my previous posts like this one or this one that were inspired by the lessons I was working through at the time. I began to remember how to look at the world with joy and love again.

The Artist’s Way is an incredible resource for blocked creatives. It has been a life-saving tool for me. I honestly would never have written a novel last year if I hadn’t thought to pick up this book.

If you need a lifeline, I can not recommend it highly enough. It saved me, and I believe it has the power to save you, too, if you need it.

 

Showing My Work

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/16/14)

I’ve been anxiously waiting for a book that I’ve had on hold at the library, and finally got it into my hot little hands yesterday afternoon, after a wait of about three months.

I’m already finished reading it.

In fairness, it’s a short book, easily digested, but it is FULL of GREAT and USEFUL IDEAS. That book is “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.

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Do you know him? If not, you should check him out. Particularly if you are a creative type person. His first book, “Steal Like an Artist” is also right on the money. You can find out all about his books and his blackout poetry at www.austinkleon.com.

I’ve been thinking about this concept – showing my work – for a few months now. Ever since I started on the journey of The Artist’s Way, back in August. A journey which is coming to an end this week. I’m a changed person because of it.

I’ve got lots of ideas brewing in this brain of mine. I’m smack-dab in the middle of working on a Young Adult novel – called “New Summerland” – as part of NaNoWriMo. This very blog you’re reading right now is scheduled for a New Years overhaul, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve got a better idea of what direction I’m heading in, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I’ve been enjoying this new process of showing my work on a regular basis. I thank you for going on this ride with me, and sharing your work with me. We’re all in this together. We are all students and teachers, simultaneously.

Go forth and create! And show me what you’re working on!