I have always loved taking photos. It took me quite some time to switch from film to digital, and more recently have I forgone using an actual camera for my cell phone. As the online world is more interactive and visual I try to take photos to accompany my writings. I think it adds to the layers of my writing life as well as much of my spiritual life. In looking for photos to include on this day, I did some googling and research into photography. Living in New York, I’m partial to Kodak and the Eastman-Kodak company, not to mention their connection to Paul McCartney and his family.
In reading up on National Photography Day from the National Day website, I was reminded of a postcard that I carried with me for the longest time. It is one of the few pieces of artwork that I recognize immediately and draws me into the black and white mysteries of the art world as well as a bygone past and of course the romanticism of Paris.
The Kiss by Robert Doisneau
There is so much going on that it inspired me throughout high school and college in creating characters, writing their stories, and including myself in the background of the photo, perhaps in the lobby of the Hotel de Ville.
A picture is worth a thousand words as the saying goes, and in many cases more than a thousand words in descriptions, feelings, dreams, and spirit. Although not all of them need a caption; the picture is often enough. Here are a few of my own:
I’m not feeling particularly inspired this month after last month’s partisan, rogue display by the Supreme Court, so I will leave you with two quotations that I listened to today on Jon Meacham’s podcast, Reflections of History, both by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall:
We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people. We will command that respect only as long as we strive for neutrality. If we are perceived as campaigning for particular policies, as joining with other branches of government in resolving questions not committed to us by the Constitution, we may gain some public acclaim in the short run. In the long run, however, we will cease to be perceived as neutral arbiters, and we will lose that public respect so vital to our function.
Thurgood Marshall, 1981
I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendant of an African slave. ‘We the people’ no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘justice’ and ‘equality,’ and who strived to better them.
Thurgood Marshall, on the Bicentennial of The Constitution, 1987
“A day’s work is a day’s work, neither more nor less, and the man [person] who does it needs a day’s sustenance, a night’s repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman.”
George Bernard Shaw
I’ve been on and off my computer quite a lot and it’s only just come to my attention that my last publication was back in May. While my bout of covid was mild by all standard metrics, it has still taken me some time to return to what my normal is. As our family closes out the school year with a graduation and my formal writing classes finish, I’ve taken on a few new things, both personal and professional. My third child is also joining the summer workforce and planning her junior year. My (draft) presentation for the Cursillo community went very well, and I have a focus for my book’s introduction. I have also been asked to teach a writing class for our local continuing ed program at our school district,
Prior to this and during my covid days I had trouble finding the inspiration to do more than what was essentially required of me. I had commitments that needed to be rescheduled, phone calls to make (and that list is still significant), but during all this busy time, where did I find inspiration?
I know we’re a little late with our inspiration, but May has been both inspiriing and challenging. When I decided to share my inspiration received from St. Hildegard of Bingen, I needed some quotes. Then I went to a workshop about her. Then I thought I’d add a picture, and here we are.
Friday Food will continue to be delayed but I expect it to be published within the next seven days, despite the end of May creeping upon us.
“To sense each creature singing the hymn of existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope.”
Pope Francis, Laudato Si
“Humanity: take a good look at yourself. Inside, you have heaven and earth and all of creation. You are a world. Everything is hidden within.”
St. Hildegard of Bingen
Last week I had the privilege of attending the first of three explorations of Catholic mystics, Hildegard of Bingen; the other two are St. Catherine D’Ricci and St. Julian of Norwich. I have long been intrigued by St. Hildegard, both because of her strong personality at a time when that was frowned upon in women as well as her body of work in a plethora of fields.
“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.”
Her words from the 16th century are equally true today for us as they were then; perhaps moreso. Her words of advice remain a strong reminder that we remain brave and strong, and in control.
“Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.”
“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”
Phillip Andrew Adams
This week marks my massaversary. Two years before I received my sacraments, I began attending church services. It was during Holy Week that this started and it marked a profound change in my life. Attending mass, sitting alone in a pew reading Scripture didn’t make all my problems go away; they didn’t suddenly create a magical turnaround in my mental health issues, my personal issues, my crisis, but it did create light in the darkness, both metaphorically and literally in a bright light vision. I met new people who influenced me in all the positive ways you want friends to influence you. I discovered a group of people who were glad to know me, and provided material help despite not knowing me from Adam. I saw what a calling was through their actions, and I saw what it means to walk with Christ.
I was welcomed with great joy, and I continue to be.
My massaversary is more than simply a date on a calendar or a memory of long ago. It is present, it is here, it is now, and I am welcomed with great joy whenever I enter the church and cross my self with the holy water from the font in the gathering space.
Even in an empty building, I am welcomed because Christ is always present.
I will try to put words on my feelings in small ways as the week continues on, and as the Lenten Journey ends and Easter begins.
Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accesible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.
Charles W. Eliot
One week ago was World Book Day, although everyday is a good day to read a book. This is proved by the fact that this is one week late. Things happened, one of which was laziness, but not entirely. Last week was a particularly not great one, but nothing that can’t be overcome.
This is the list of books I read since last Monday. The ones with the asterisk are the ones that I completed before tonight (although most were not read entirely in seven days.)
Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone 2022 by Amy Ekeh and Thomas D. Stegman, SJ
Thirsty and You Gave Me Drink from Clear Faith Publishing, various authors
Quantum by Patricia Cornwell *
Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by Rev. James Martin, SJ
Spin by Patricia Cornwell *
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The NY Times Magazine *
The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
Never Tell by Selena Montgomery (Stacey Abrams) *
Search Me: A Way of the Cross in Solidarity with the LGBTQ Community by John T. Kyler *
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside by Nick Offerman
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. –
My thought daily are with Ukraine, each morning and throughout the day checking on updates. My thoughts have also been with my parish (and selfishly myself if I’m being completely honest) as the search continues for a new pastor. I wrote a short reflection on Facebook a day or so ago, and I do feel a slight weight lifted as the parish trustees announced on Sunday our new incoming pastor (who will start at the end of April).
A friend described her feelings as “being at ease with the decision” and I would agree with that sentiment. I’m not anxious although it helps that I’m acquainted with the new (to us) pastor and looking forward to his ministry, but of course, my feelings are bittersweet. Fr. Jerry, my only priest so far in my journey would talk during his homilies at funerals as the bittersweetness of the Christian journey: we who are left behind are sad, but the one whose gone home is with Jesus and so how can we resent that.
I’ve written before about my struggle to move forward in my faith and my practices and I’m reminded of something else that Father Jerry so wisely said during funerals.
He has also talked about a life that’s not ended but changed, and I think with this new pastor announcement, I feel that my Catholic journey isn’t ended, but it has changed, and with this resolution, I may be able to be changed and follow this new path. I also feel more reflective things to say on this subject, but my words need a bit more study and discernment.
At the moment as I look around at my messy table and my busy calendar, I hope that I can spend some prayer and meditation time to get back on track for Lent. There are other challenges ahead, and I need to organize myself for them. It may be time for a list; a very, very long list.
To be honest, I’m not sure if that holds for writers.
I’ve recently read two book series, both fiction, both taking place during the same hundred years or so, period pieces, both murder mysteries and romance, and while there are things that I like and dislike about each of them, I am finding that I learn more about myself and my own writing as I pass my critical eye over them.
The second one is intriguing and interesting although full of (sometimes unnecessary) exposition and descriptions, as well as changing perspectives (not indiscriminately, but by chapters) with colloquial language and appropriate proprieties between gender and servant class relationships.
The same could be said of the first series in the cases of colloquialism, proprieties, and gender/servant class relationships. There is also a feeling of overabundance (in both series) of feminism that I find anachronistic for the time periods, but I could be relying on stereotypes myself to feel that way.
Similar things can be said about the first one, although the historical perspective is a bit more specific. I am more attached to the characters of the first series and I have not come to terms with the ending of the series. That’s not to say that the books’ conclusion was not satisfactory – it truly was, but I’m not ready for the series to be over and I am not competent myself in the time and geographical period to try my hand at fan fiction. And while I very much enjoy the second series, it has not captured my heart as much.
What does this have to do with writing?
Well, it has to do with the specific writing (or planning) of my book on my journey to and through Wales.
Some things I have added to my outline are:
Maps. It may be easier to describe my adventures if readers can see where I was geographically.
Historical perspective. Much of my relationship to Wales is counterbalanced by my research into the history of medieval Wales, which fostered a deeper understanding and connection.
History. Including some of the history of the places I traveled, especially how they related to my journey.
Multiple genres are okay.
Quotations at the beginnings of each chapter to sort of set the stage. I also like recipes and photographs (which these two series do not have) and I’m trying to decide if these would be appropriate for my book in any way. Perhaps in the case of recipes as an appendix.
My faith journey being a main part of the relationship, both secular faith and religious faith.
I’m sure that I will find more things to include as I hone in on the path my writing of this book should take.
*I’m interested in suggestions for a new title for this series going forward rather than Inspire and the month. Comment below, and don’t forget the links (found on the home page) for the Spotify comments and the Writing Challenge.*
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
…any writer who waits for “inspiration” to strike will never finish a book. Inspiration is all very well, but it will never replace sheer dogged determination.
Author Elizabeth Peters in an interview that appears at the end of The Golden One, one in her Amelia Peabody series.
Every year, just after midnight on January 1st, I take out my new calendar/blog planner. It is perfectly even. No bent pages, no stray marks, no correcting tape, no bookmarks, no stickers. Empty pages and I never go to bed until I’ve filled in the dates that have been piling up in lists at the back of the old planner. New appointments, new school days, new writing assignments and ideas. Over the days and weeks, it will fill in and be the guide that I use throughout the year.
Resolutions get broken. They start out with good intentions, but often they fall by the wayside. I try to set goals; to have determinations; to focus. I do this a few times a year beginning in the fall and adjusting and re-adjusting what I want to accomplish.
I have a few writing series that I will continue including this Inspire series. It may have a change of name, but all in all, it will continue in the same format.
I am continuing the new Instagram and Spotify compilations; Instagram as the mood strikes and Spotify during the last week of the month.
I would also like to begin a more definitive travel section, including places of interest as well as giving more time to my book writing.
So much to do, but I am determined to take those two quotations to heart and simply keep moving forward.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In some things I am struggling, but I still find that inspiration is all around. I see labyrinths everywhere, and I’m beginning to find words to accompany them. I search for new ones to walk and to pray on, and each one is as different as the clouds in the sky.
I am devoted to Mary, and I think on all of the knots I’m called to untie, many of which I cannot do without her intercession. Last week was the feast of her Immaculate Conception, a special day in my parish of the same name, and each Monday I recite the Joyous Mysteries with my Cursillo family.
I have also completed a book series that I long to write about and share with you. It was not only entertaining, I have decided on a Halloween costume (already!) and it has inspired a few ideas of where to approach my book on my journey through Wales (although that particular title is already taken – *shakes fist at Gerald of Wales*). I have lists to make for my book, and having finished the series, I have already began it again. I read the first five books in 2018 so they were not fresh in my mind. I was able to be surprised by some twists and turns that I had forgotten, and I will continue the rest in the new year. Fear not, I will share my thoughts on Amelia Peabody and her adventures in the coming weeks, if not days.
In the meantime, enjoy the waiting of Advent, the lights of Chanukah, and the promise of the New Year, and eat all the foods of all the holidays.
I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual.
– Henry David Thoreau
November is full of thanks and gratitude. If only, we held onto these sentiments throughout the year, what a wonderful world it would be. I don’t know that I can show gratitude for the difficulties I had in October, but I can offer thanks for the inauspicious start to November. Somewhat quiet and subdued. While we will not see our cousins for Thanksgiving, we will see my brother-in-law and hopefully have a nice get-together later on with my son’s girlfriend and something quiet for my birthday. I am hesitant, but cautiously optimistic.
Sitting in front of the typewriter/keyboard, I am clacking away at the keys, and while I still haven’t taken hold of my Nano projects, I have been jotting things down on all matter of things.
I still have hope to take Thoreau’s words to heart, and be grateful for who I am, for what I have, and remind myself perpetually of all that I have to be thankful for. Every day can be thanksgiving if given the mindfulness to quietly look around and take in the life around me.
The picture below is a reminder that not everything is expected. About once a week, my family goes to The Fresh Market chain. They have what they call a “little big meal”. It feeds a family of four for $25 and usually comes with five or six components. The most recent one was a chicken roll up dinner and surprisingly one of the items was a bouquet of flowers. I thought it strange since they are not edible, but instead they fed something that was missing from me recently. The brought on a quietness, a contemplative series of moments as I trimmed the stems and arranged them in my vase. I smelled each one, adding water and a bit of the powdered food daily. We got them Sunday and they are just as strong, just as beautiful as when I brought them home. They are a welcome addition to my work space. I didn’t know I longed for them until I received them.
Sometimes looking past the expected brings us from the ordinary to the extraordinary.