Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blog Blog Revolution - Women's Voices

(Click the picture to see the new moon.)

It's the weekend - and (with Peter away for a while) I can just browse and ponder this expanding world, the blogosphere, that I've plunged into. And it does feel rather like a plunge. In reading these blogs and comments, I've felt there was something familiar about the give and take, the self-expression and response, that I finally identified as very much like the experience I had for many years as a member of the Women Poets of the Twin Cities (later Women Poets and Writers of the Twin Cities).

We started when I was a college kid, and the first meeting (if I remember correctly) was held in my scruffy apartment on Grand Avenue, a block from my school. This was (it dates me) the beginning of the Women's Movement, as we called it then, and women writers in my burg were just beginning to recognize that they had been second-class members of the writing community, or felt themselves to be. The journal editors - the creative writing professor/gurus - the international poets coming in for readings and booze-drenched parties - all were men, and we writing women came along for the ride. So some of us, who had met each other at those booze drenched parties (and sometimes shared the same booze-drenched writers as romantic interests), decided we were interested in - each other, each others' voices, each others' ideas, experiences, wisdom.

This group continued to meet, once each month, and did occasional readings and published at least one or two collections over the years. A couple of women who started with us moved away into lives of being full-time professional writers, feeling perhaps that the group wasn't up to their level, or not appreciating that the primary purpose of the group was not so much to hone the craft as to share lives at a deep level through the writing that people were doing. There was one woman in the group who was a particularly influential mentor to me in the art of being a mother and continuing to have a creative spirit. I needed that model when I started my own family.

Alas, I couldn't continue to meet with the group (though some of the members are, I believe, continuing to meet even today, more than 30 years later). Raising children - working full time - teaching occasional college courses on top of that - and trying to finish my degree on top of THAT - consumed more than a decade of the prime turf of my green and growing years. I also found that what discretionary time I had was spent with my Quaker meeting (serving on committees, being involved on the planning group of our regional Spiritual Nurture program for some years).

But - now my young 20-something men are (more or less) launched - at least out of the house for the present. After wanting to find some way back into writing that offered more than the insularity of my journal, I finally started blogging.

I had read blogs - usually blogs of some of my favorite authors, which I found when I researched them on Google. These bloggers seemed to have so much fun doing their blogs, and they had such lively, affectionate blogging correspondents. I thought it was something that could only happen to published writers, or - I don't know. People living in London.

But plunging into it myself, I find that it is a very open community, much like the Women Poets used to be, where each voice is given attention, whether or not it is polished. We used to give feedback of the sort and level appropriate to the sophistication of the writer, and always with kindness and empathy. It never was a "professional writer" sort of place, but a community of soul-builders, supporting the development of self-understanding and the strengthening of our women's voices, through calling out what was strong and good in what was shared. That's what I'm finding now in the blogosphere - hundreds of women (and men, too, but I gravitate to the women's blogs), all communicating facets of their lives, from the hilarious to the trivial to the heart-breaking, and receiving, for the most part, thoughtful and warm-hearted responses.

My Women Poets group started out as part of a revolution - thinking we needed to give voice to the previously unvoiced women's perspective to bring the world into better balance (remember this was at the end of the Vietnam War). I love that women now have places to share their lives - old and young, home-schoolers and professionals, mothers and artists living on the bohemian edge. And creating community with others, full of laughter and sometimes tears.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Work blurring with home

A short opinion piece in the paper struck a nerve today: (Jim Shea/Hartford Courant - "What a way to make a living") - with a description of something like "work-creep." He described that because technologically we can work at home, pretty soon there's an expectation that we are doing so pretty much all the time (checking e-mail, doing reports, doing work-related research . . . ). I had a list of work-related things I thought I would tackle over the long weekend, but didn't - instead, I experimented with my new camera, discovered and read new blogs, helped Peter get off to Philosophy Camp, then rushed my grown-up-kid Ben off to the urgent care after he got a deer-tick bite that was getting infected (bulls-eye rash, etc.). He should be fine, but I flipped instantly back into Full-Scale-Mom.

And this coming week, there won't be much unbroken project time at work, as we are doing three days of training. Also, I'm now working in a cubicle for the summer, with the buzz and rustle of others in motion around me (chatting, strolling past to visit the bathroom), which makes it hard to do concentrated work.

The columnist said we used to use the word "workaholic" - but now, he said, the behavior is admired. Is it? What changed? Why am I faintly guilty all of the time that I'm not doing "something productive" e.g. work-related?

In spite of the guilt, after doing the mom thing, I made it to my nearby public wild place, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. New camera: not so good at scenery (I revisited the reviews and found this was clearly stated), but nice quick, close-up pics of flowers. Also very nice to have something in my pocket. (Click to enlarge - REALLY large - I'll size them down in the future.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Here are the links to new / old blog posts

I started with a recollection from a conversation years ago that led me to connect Rumi and country western music.

Then I went on a fruitless Google hunt for the perfect image of Divine Love.

I reflected on gender and the Spirit - which led to another search on Google images (and a Russian icon of St. Sophia and her daughters, Faith, Hope, and Love).

And the last posting of the "secret" (e.g. unvisited) blog was a long-poem reflection on loss, grief, and the search for connection, accompanied by photos from my favorite local nature sanctuary. (Note - pictures enlarge if you click on them.)

Then - I started over with this blog, and now it's all in one place.

No more blogging today - I need to get outside!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Putting it all together . . .

I started blogging very privately earlier this year, picking a pseudoname and an obscure blog title, and for some reason, nobody noticed or at least nobody commented. That blog was about, more or less, the spiritual side of my life. This blog ("Is there anyone else up there?") has been about pretty much anything going on in my life - except for the spiritual side of things. The tone has been more tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted, than my first blog, which had perhaps somewhat too much of a weighty or sometimes academic tinge.

For some reason, religion/spirituality is harder to talk about than most other things about us, except in contexts or communities where there is already tacit permission for God-talk/Spirit-talk. (I am really fortunate that one of these places is the college classroom setting where I teach one course a semester as an adjunct in Religious Studies. This is an overload to my "day job" doing college student services administration.) But I will say that, even though I am a member of the Society of Friends - where a spiritual practice and religious experience are supposed to be common ground - even in that community, many people struggle to find ways of talking about what is really going on with themselves spiritually. And there are many, many differences among us in my Friends Meeting - often around this difficult notion we call "God".

So, I'm plunging in today and uploading into this current blog the postings from that other, hidden blog, with the thought that this writing reflects important parts of the puzzle that is me. Maybe there are other long-dormant puzzle pieces that will stand up and want a voice (the poet part of me? the memoirist part of me?). You'll find them in January and February.

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Camera - Old Dog - Spring Days

Somehow, I blinked and May is almost gone. It started with an unusually hot and bright May Day parade and ceremony in Powderhorn Park, put on for the last three decades by the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater, and involving scores of neighborhood people.

The theme of this year was the importance of the soil and of green, growing things as the real source of our wealth, contrasted to greedy profiteering / credit card companies / banks, etc.

During the pageant, I sat under my umbrella for more than an hour, feeling smug and grateful that I had some protection from the unusually bright sun.

I was using my old camera, which has served me well for several years - very advanced for its day, with 3+ mgpx photos. But I've been hankering for something that would be small enough to carry in a pocket, which I could always have around, so I would take more pictures (and have things to illustrate this blog with, incidentally).

So I picked up the latest version of my old camera - still very much automated, which wouldn't please a real camera buff, but works for me. Playing around, I found that it can do very acceptable short videos (I'll try not to subject folks to too much self-indulgent sharing). Now 10 mgpx.

Last Easter, Bridget brought a bowlful of little packets of candy and flower seeds for folks at Meeting. I took home some extras and found that I liked the Spongebob Squarepants gummy crabby patties, so picked some up on sale yesterday at Walgreens. Don't eat them before breakfast.

Speaking of SpongeBob, you might get a kick from this movie review from the Atlantic:

The big question this holiday weekend is whether I'll get out and plant any of these seeds. I bought a big shaker-can full of flower seeds - last year? - some time ago, and never planted them. But I did plant five baby flowering trees that Joelyn got when she donated some money to the Arbor Day Foundation. A couple of them - skinny twigs, really, poking out of their little bowls of earth - are looking like they might sprout.

But mostly I've been taking pictures of my ancient and creaky dog Rufus. He has good days when he eats well and seems happy to stumble about in the yard or take a short walk, and less-good days when he seems to have no energy and turns away from his food. Kidneys shot - cataracts - arthritis - hearing shot - yet he still seems to enjoy being on the planet.

Off to do some lunch, then help Peter finish packing for his month at Philosophy Camp, then - who knows? - a nap could be in the picture. Or tackling the grown-over garden and planting those bright flower seeds?