Friday, July 27, 2018

A poem that moved me

Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith.
I sat down and thought about it.
And when I had had enough
of that I got up
and went on my way.
And that--the getting up
and going--was faith.

Mary Jean Irion, Yes, World

Monday, July 23, 2018

Examining our assumptions

I've been thinking a lot these past weeks about assumptions and how poorly most of them serve us. We treat many of them as facts ("I could never do X") when they're not necessarily true; we treat them as beliefs ("People always X") when thinking that doesn't promote peace or happiness in our life; we treat them as real when all they are are thoughts. And just like that clever saying, "Don't believe everything you think," most of us are better served by examining our assumptions for what they are rather than assuming our assumptions are valid, the ultimate vicious circle.

What I'm most interested in is making assumptions that promote possibility and peace of mind. From "I have to choose between X and Y," I want to be assuming "I'm sure there's a way to work out both X and Y and I'd like to find it." From "They done me wrong" to "I'm happier if I don't live in resentment." Because our culture is so focused on bad news and what goes wrong, it's revolutionary to shift our attention to what's possible, to live in wonder and curiosity instead of cynicism and resignation.

A wise man I know suggested that the best way to judge an assumption's value is if it elevates your mood, if you feel happier and calmer assuming whatever it is. I like that idea.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Finding an old memory and how I had used it

In my first novel, the Color of Longing, one of the main characters lives in an odd roof-top shed/apartment in San Francisco. Only a few scenes take place there but it adds to the color and romance of the story. I knew I hadn't made the idea up completely, that somewhere I'd seen such a place but I couldn't remember where and I couldn't remember if it was from direct experience living in San Francisco many years ago.

This past week, I rewatched Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City, about a group of quirky characters in San Francisco in the early 1970s, not long after I lived there. I'd seen the then controversial TV series from the early 1990s when it first came out. It was controversial because it's about gays and free spirits and transgendered folks and it's lovely and so time-bound (the language, the jokes, the clothing all so 70s). It was a delight to see it again.

But here's why I'm telling this story. There, in the fourth episode of the series, was the roof-top shed apartment that I put into my novel. I didn't remember being impressed by it when I first saw the series (there are only two scenes of it and it's the home of the villain of the piece) but something in me stored that image away so I could use it later. It is delightful to know where it came from and a wondeful experience of the mystery of creating.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Wanting to have less stuff

Whenever I travel, I love having so little stuff. A few simple choices in clothing with mmy decisions based on being warm enough or cool enough or if it is still clean. This last trip I took two pairs of trainers, one a bit dressier and one a bit sturdier. I had a warm jacket and a rain jacket. I had my iPad mini and a paper journal. I had four tops, two pair of pants, socks and underwear. I took nothing dressy. We didn't have those kinds of plans and I could wear a black T-shirt if need be. That was pretty much it. I love the simplicity of living like that.

When I come home from a trip, all my stuff feels overwhelming. A closet full of choices (quite a few of which I never choose), lots of books, art supplies, plenty of food and things to cook with. It's so much more than I need, and I feel really tempted to throw out a lot of it. In the dark hours of jet lag, I did just that. Well, maybe not a lot of it but at least some.

I forced myself to get rid of all the clothes in the closet I had never worn, all the shoes I wasn't sure I liked, the extra, extra set of towels and sheets, some pots and pans that have been in the back of the cupboards for a decade or more. It still isn't as sparse as I'd like but I feel more comfortable with it. Now if I can just not fill it up again. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The DNA of landscape

Although my last name is Kelly, I'm not very Irish. My grandfather's father was Irish, most likely from Antrim County in Northern Ireland. His mother though had a Scandinavian last name (Rapp) although many Irish and English families trace their ancestry through the Vikings. Most likely she came from an English or Swedish family. So my father is most likely 1/4 Irish (his mother was German and English) and me then I'm even less (my mother came from English families all the way back to the Middle Ages).

I didn't grow up Irish either. In fact, I don't remember my grandfather ever talking about being anything other than American although my father seemed proud of the Irish line. We didn't grow up Catholic or in an Irish community as occurs in Boston or Chicago or even Kansas City. But my sisters have Irish first names (Shannon and Kerry) and we all like that.

I didn't know how I would feel about going to Ireland or even why it was on my wish list. I knew from photos that it was a pretty and green place, and I'd long been interested in the Celts as I'd studied them during my years as a professor of French.

Well, I loved it. I felt at home there, especially in the landscape. I do not know if landscape resides in our DNA but it really felt familiar. The green hills, the sheep, the wild coast. The sky with its clouds and colors. All of it familiar. I relaxed there, I breathed deeply there. I walked in the countryside and in the town streets and felt at east. This experience has me wondering many things about where we come from and the land that we belong to.