Coy Mistresses

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘andrew-marvell“To His Coy Mistress” is an example of carpe diem, seize or pluck the day, poems about making the most of time. There is nothing coy about Andrew Marvell. He wants to get laid and leaves little doubt about his lustful desire.

I often say, “Had we but world enough and time,” to describe dismay at what I can’t control. Usually, it is a pleasant experience I want to last and to enjoy longer. Focusing on what I want rather than being in the moment is the opposite of carpe diem. Saying “I don’t have time” or “there isn’t enough time” is nonsense. I have all the time there is. When my time is up, that’s all the time there is.

A mistress need not be a human object. A “coy” mistress may a metaphor for an art medium whose inspiration an artist seeks. Writing is my mistress. Demanding, coy, and capable of cruelty, she expects me to sit alone in a room and to write.

Writing is my art, my love, my passion. I am willing to devote as much attention to my art as Marvell is to his lady. When my muse smiles on me it’s like a glimpse of Heaven.

I need my muse’s love while my willing soul still “transpires.” Therefore, I write to demonstrate worthiness of my muse’s attention. Dying with unwritten words still in me is an unpleasant thought. A “fine and private place,” the grave is no place to embrace a muse.

Making the most of time is good advice; but, it is possible to make time a fetish. I don’t like rushing from activity to activity. I don’t like the endless media stimulation and distraction of email, cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I want to be mindful of rather than frantic about what time I have.

Mindful use of time, thinking about what I do and why I do it is being present in the moment. Living mindfully eliminates worry about making the most of time.

Focusing on today is making the most of time. Being where I am when I am there is making the most of time. There is no need to outrun the sun.

A Bequest of Wings

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘emily-dickinson

Life is unimaginable without books. The worlds created by Dickens, Bronte, Austen, Steinbeck, Irving, and a host of other writers enrich my life.

Emily Dickinson expresses her reverence for books as “a bequest of wings.” In another poem, the book is a “Frigate” and “the Chariot / That bears the Human Soul!”

Dickinson regards a book’s words as precious, capable of loosening the human spirit and granting liberty of mind. Opening a book is freeing a genie from captivity. The loosened spirit is free to soar. Life is bigger, horizons are broader, possibilities endless, and liberty unlimited.

Like Dickinson, my favorite books are “kinsmen on the shelf.” The wall above my desk is lined with shelves holding the books I’ve acquired over a lifetime of reading. Looking at my bookshelf is like looking at a family photograph. Each book is a collection of memories. I recall when I bought the book, why I bought it, and where I was when I read it. If the book was a gift, I recall who gave it to me. Each book transports me back to the experience of reading. I am free to reconsider its content and meaning. I am inspired to build on what I learned. And, I am free to take the journey at any time.

How would Dickinson regard the effect of modern technology on the book? What would she say of ebooks and Kindle? While I love the feel a book in my hands, I am no Luddite. My Kindle is handy.

But, Kindle does not provide all the benefits of a printed book nor does it provide all the benefits of modern technology. For example, most Kindle books lack an index linked to the book’s content and, unlike electronic books owned by some libraries, it lacks the option of full-text searching.

Emily Dickinson might say it comes down to a question of access. A book, whether printed or electronic, is “a bequest of wings.”

Annabel Lee

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘edgar-allan-poe Poetry enriches my life. I recall hearing James Mason read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” I was in the seventh grade. Priscilla Zwitzer, who taught at my school, was a friend of my family’s and a neighbor. Priscilla and her husband had an exquisite collection of classical music and spoken word LP recordings.

Priscilla and Martin had no children. Educated, well-traveled, and sophisticated, they were the parents I thought I should have been given. They let me have unsupervised access to their LP collection. I enjoyed countless hours of listening to classical music performances and poetry read by actors who created magic with their voices.

James Mason’s “Annabel Lee” was dark, morose, and appealed to my moody adolescent sensibilities. The tone and rhythm of the poem and the images of “high-born kinsmen” and “sepulchres” by the sea captured my imagination. “What’s a sepulcher?” I asked Priscilla. She smiled as she handed me a dictionary.

My seventh grade drama class introduced me to Poe’s short stories. We were given literary passages to prepare as dramatic readings. When I was handed the opening paragraph of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” I could not have been more pleased. My hours of practicing to sound like James Mason paid off despite the effect of puberty on the male voice. “That was very well done,” said Mr. Edwards, my drama teacher. “Dennis has set the performance standard,” he announced to the class.

It was many and many a year ago in a place beside a phonograph where I lived with no other thought than to be transported worlds away by the delights of poetry.

From the seventh grade to today, poetry has given me great joy and pleasure. Priscilla and Martin passed on years ago leaving me with the legacy of an incomparable gift.

A Personal Blog Challenge

‘ ” ” ” ” ” ” ‘‘ ‘‘ ” ” ” ‘26x26I survived the 2013 A to Z Blog Challenge. I wrote 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet from April 1 through 30 (Sundays off). The theme I chose was “important people in my life.” I learned I could write on a schedule and stick to a theme. The challenge was fun, enjoyable, and did not seem difficult.

I skipped the 2014 A to Z Blog Challenge; but, the idea of writing 26 blog posts on a theme stayed with me. What about setting a personal challenge, I thought? How about writing 26 posts on a theme in any month? I don’t need to wait for April to join the A to Z Blog Challenge. After more thought, the idea for a personal challenge turned into a challenge to write 26 blog posts on each of 26 themes over 26 months, a total of 676 posts.

Initially, I thought of one theme for each letter of the alphabet and began listing themes. For each theme, I began a list of 26 post ideas, one for each letter of the alphabet. On further reflection, I abandoned the alphabet criterion in favor of selecting themes that come to mind. I set August 1, 2014 as the challenge start date.

By beginning my personal challenge on Friday, August 1, 2014, I will finish on Friday, September 30, 2016, an auspicious date that coincides with another personal goal.

The blog challenge commitment serves several purposes the most significant of which is forcing me to write and post on a schedule. The challenge causes me to seek a balance between writing and other projects I am working on.

I am curious to know who is in my balcony willing to cheer me on. Anyone?

Adios, San Miguel

I added two weeks to my San Miguel stay to be here for the Easter celebrations. Am I am glad I did. Mexicans know how to celebrate. The Mexican Easter celebration is filled with processions, music, color, drama, and even a bit of comedy. The past three days were a feast for the senses.

Viernes Santo (Good Friday)
Viernes Santo, there are processions held in several locations throughout San Miguel.

Santo Encuentro (Holy Encounter)
At 11:30 a.m., the Santo Encuentro procession takes place at the Parroquia and through surrounding streets. The main attraction is an antique figure of Jesus that includes a mechanism allowing the statue’s head to be raised as if to look at his mother, represented by the statue of the Vigen de los Dolores (Virgin of Sorrows).

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Santo Entierro (Holy Burial)
At 5:00 p.m., the final procession of the day assembles at the Oratorio.  The Santo Entierro is a royal funeral procession. Those who walk in the procession are dressed in luto riguroso, strict mourning. Men in black suits, white shirts, black ties. Women in black dresses and mantillas, white gloves. The formality of the procession is memorable. More impressive is the reverance of the people who line the streets for two hours to attend the slow, slow advance.

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Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday)
On Sunday the celebrations end. At noon, the traditional burning of effigies of Judas and other disliked figures are strung up in El Jardin. The pinata-like papier-maché figures are blown up with internal firecrackers! The crowd roars its approval. The figures’ heads are collected and sold.

My flight to Los Angeles departs early Tuesday morning. My bags are packed and my head is filled with memories of a magical place and friendly, beautiful people. I accomplished the goals I set for what I’ve called my “artistic retreat.” I feel like I’ve found a place where I am free to focus attention, time, and energy on activities that nourish my creative spirit. I return home refreshed, invigorated, and with my creative batteries charged.

Adios, San Miguel. Hasta.