On the Cusp of My Circus

Yesterday, I craved to write. A drought of days where I had not written a word had kept me awake at night for four days. Frustratingly, when a surge of words rumbled to my consciousness, I was either too busy prioritising other people’s needs or, on rare occasion, either floating in the bath or driving–both settings not conducive for tapping on a keyboard. Then last night, this stunning Chagall painting (The Blue Circus) popped up in my photos, along with a quote from the painter:

My hands were too soft…I had to find some special occupation, some kind of work that would not force me to turn away from the sky and the stars, that would allow me to discover the meaning of life.

At risk of hurtling over the wall into sentimentality, Chagall’s words broke through the writing barrier that had contained my creativity since last Friday. Understand this: far from bigging up my ego to the size of a buffalo, I confess that my writing is a slow-burn at the moment. My projects are diverse: two fiction manuscripts, a screenplay idea I am tweaking, a thickening compilation of short-stories ready to print and a pushed-to-capacity external hard-drive packed with ideas begging me to develop them to publication. Too many projects distracting me from mastering just one.

‘There is not enough time in the day!’ I shout at files in my laptop. My head often feels dizzy. It would be easier if I had not made the decision to write full-time; instead, be a casual writer, scribbling Haikus on beermats and banging out flash-fiction when a spare fifteen minutes cleared in my diary.

But I am on the cusp. I feel it. I felt it strongly last night when staring at Chagall’s upside-down woman painted brazenly red, the yellow moon aside her with violin, the green goat against vibrant blues in a chaotic masterpiece. Some days my life is a chaotic masterpiece. My writing is a chaotic masterpiece. It is a circus. Chagall said:

 For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world.

So, today I begin to write again. Mundanely and monotonously, I was brushing my teeth this morning when a breakthrough idea about the protagonist in my novel burst in my head. I recognised that fluttering of excitement in belly, that urgency to transfer the idea from grey matter to grey MacBook before it evaporated. I strode with vengeance to computer. An hour later, I am here and my protagonist, Billie, has enjoyed a romp at The Metropolitan Museum of Art within the confines of a 3,000-word chapter. Apparently the answer for Billie was that I as starving her of art, so I delivered my main character to The Met where she, too, can stare at the beauty of Chagall.

With this new chapter added to my manuscript this morning, returning to my blog felt the next step. I sit here, ruminating over the supremely expressive Chagall, his paintings and his words again: ‘…some kind of work that would not force me to turn away from the sky and the stars, that would allow me to discover the meaning of life.’

I may not have discovered the meaning of life today but, damn it, I sit here on the cusp of creating a world of beauty for my life in words.

via Daily Prompt: Cusp

Dense: A Grammarly Photo Challenge

Dense. Speak the word aloud. The mouth experiences tightness of one syllable being expressed. The word is itself dense–an expressive adjective, a photographic theme that ranges from lush greenery to dim-witted souls.

I am a writer consumed by and attuned to words so I leapt at this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge. Such prompt encouraged me to scour my portfolio this afternoon. Quelle menage de dense!

Dense is defined by The Cambridge Dictionary as boasting three adjectival meanings:

  1. Thick: ‘having parts that are close together so that it is difficult to go or see through’

IMG_7578.JPGThe density of these woods one gorgeously warm day last summer offered us coveted shade where our bodies cooled amongst beauty, whilst still glimpsing the sun.

2. Matter: ‘physics (of a substance) containing a lot of matter in a small place’

IMG_7367.jpgLike my luscious, three-tiered chocolate cake pictured above, these homemade brown bread baked goods are every morsel an adventure in delicious density.

3. Stupid: self-explanatory (unless you consider yourself to be dense)

Dense Far Side – Version 3

My all-time favourite The Far Side single-panel comic. Gary Larson encapsulates human denseness with artistic panache!

Dense woods, dense deliciousness, dense mind–I am mulling over the sublime and the ridiculous of language today while ogling my photographs. I also think about a brilliant music festival I am looking forward to attending soon, with its exciting spectacle of observing and joining a dense crowd of dancing bodies in a sunny field. Magic awaits when you slip into the dense.

My Alternative World

When I was eight, I thought this was hilarious:

‘When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.’

This morning, I awake to a lorry-load of baffling reports online, on the radio, on the telly, carving a wider trench between ‘fake news’ and fact.

My head hurts from unraveling facts cloaked in hype when I read; my ears hurt from listening to politicians barking out bile about other politicians. Yet, curiously, mixed with my frustration is an unsettling sense of amusement. It does not feel like real life but as if I am captivated by reality television on the grandest scale: world-wide Big Brother. And we are all watching.

When is a carrot not a carrot? When it’s mnuchin.

When are children not children? When they’re pancakes.

What a folly-filled world it would be to point at things and declare them to be something else. For such actions to persist without someone shouting ‘Desist!’ is madness.

Perhaps Trump is right and Obama is actually Lucille Ball. Oh—see what I did there? Trump didn’t actually say that, did he? Or did he? I can no longer discern the truth.

I don’t want to live in a world of ‘Alternative Facts’. That’s why I am a writer. I can inhabit that world, if I choose, by powering up my MacBook. Other people can watch reruns of The Flintstones or Twilight Zone to get their ‘Alternate World’ fix. Sadly, if we ultimately vote for people who drag the world (and let’s face it, this is symptomatic of many present-day rulers) into an automaton existence of inhabiting a one-religion, one-colour, one-way-of-thinking life, then there will soon be no door from which to exit. No off button on the remote. No escape over the wall. `No exit, no Brexit, no text it, no correct it.’

The only other choice is that we all have a collective lobotomy—reminiscent of Randle being brain-neutered at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Me? I don’t want to end up staring at ceiling tiles, thinking there is no hope or way out of this political mess. I don’t want to look at my feet and call them peppers, nor point at a map in the morning and wonder if by the time I go to sleep the UK will comprise of two, three or four countries.

If politicians keep making up facts, they’ll eventually put us writers out of a job. No one will need to buy fiction anymore. Sort it out, all ye political folk!

[Rant over—enjoy your weekend.]

Arts: St. Patrick’s Landscape Legacy

Ireland’s lush greens, serene bogs and staggering peaks rise up against skies, the purple Burren rock, snaking canals and silver lakes…the magnitude of inspiration one small island has ignited in writers, poets, artists, musicians and creatives. On this St. Patrick’s Day I scan the landscape and cast mind over Ireland’s history, tipping my hat to the country which steeps deep within my writing, my photography, my art.

I snapped this photo on a warm summer’s evening in Mayo. Drive along this road another mile or two and you pass Croagh Patrick, the legendary peak linked with Ireland’s patron saint: St. Patrick. Much we know about St. Patrick as Christian Missionary—indeed, many do not care a shilling about his religious background but embrace this mighty green holiday by trouncing up streets around the world, sporting shamrock, glugging Guinness and saluting brass bands. But this sacred spot in Ireland is linked with St. Patrick because here, it is said, Patrick fasted for forty days at Croagh Patrick’s summit and now flocks of people climb this peak in their droves, some 25,000 humans making the annual pilgrimage with gusto, stepping the steep landscape barefoot. Casting aside footwear for religious purposes—or for the lark—is serious business so do we honour these folks for their dedication or chide for undertaking such mad trek sans shoes?

Rain befalls Ireland almost daily, though sunshine oft breaks through and illuminates fields, brightly-painted villages and just the every-day ordinary landscape of people going about their lives. In literature, Ireland of yesterday has been preserved and celebrated, and today, Ireland continues to thrive as a truly brilliant culture of life and craic, the central point for stories, films and art.

I am writing today. Fiction and poetry. I am reminded of Yeats and Wilde, Roddy Doyle and Colm Tóibín, Seamus Heaney and Marian Keyes, Father Ted and Mrs. Doyle. I am connecting to the roughness and beauty of the West. No marching bands, just a MacBook and definitely a few pints tonight.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Celestial Blue Haiku [Weekly Photo Challenge]

Summer Blues

Crisp Oxford, cyan

Grey March forgets your beauty

I wish for blue skies

 

Simple, right? A simple, sun-filled sky. Pure Blue. Pure beauty.

I could wish for riches today, good health, love of family and friends, success of seismic proportions. But today, the dull March skies overhead, an every-morning-awakening to threat of rain pellets frizzing my straightened bonnet and a daily longing for a slick shot of Vitamin D is getting me down.

Thanks to The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge for nudging me to dig into my huge catalogue of images and reflect on this week’s topic: Wish. This photo is far from a standout in my portfolio but I love its randomness and the surge of joy felt when I took it. It was snapped last August on a 7am meander in a seaside town–a cloudless morning before tourists attacked footpaths yet a healthy gaggle of smiling joggers were already enticed to join me by the promised sizzle of the day. Lovely.

The colour of this sky is blue. Bluest blue. On grungy-skied days like today, I close my eyes and wish for more days when my feet stroll paths under seabirds creating patterns against cyan. Today, summer wishes are stirring as spring begins.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

‘I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.’

A beautiful bombardment of writing about International Women’s Day buzzes online today, nudging me to reflect on my life as not only a writer but as a female writer. Is there any relevant distinction, any greater challenge or any added responsibility in being a woman writing than a man?

The quote above is Emma Goldman’s, writing about her commitment to the anarchistic cause. It reminds me of growing up with a brilliant mother who wrote and aligned herself with feminism and who, when I was a teenager, gave me an Emma Goldman badge which I wore on my jacket. The badge was the circumference of an oversized coffee mug so it did not sit daintily on my denim jacket’s left-breast pocket, bouncing against my chest when I walked, so it rarely got an outing. However, I loved the (attributed) Emma Goldman quote printed around the edges with Goldman’s sketched face in the centre:

‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’

Politics, philosophy and literature were at the heart of my childhood so I loved this anarchistic message I was sporting like some spotty-faced billboard trying to rouse a flicker of feminism amongst the girls I romped about with. But that’s not what happened. Mostly, my teen friends thought my Goldman statement was about dancing—and my mates decided the ‘revolution’ reference was about shunning bands we thought were twee and listening instead to indie and punk. None of this was true but that didn’t matter. That Goldman quote and badge was my teenage mantra, my inside joke, my connection to a woman who bravely wrote about her life as a woman in an age when her voice was diminished, though she spoke it with gusto. That quote at the top was written in 1931—has much changed since then?

I want my own freedom, the right to self-expression…my right to beautiful, radiant things. Best of all? I have the power and platform to share my voice about women, writing and, yes, I might even toss in a bit of anarchy along the way.

Happy International Women’s Day to all women: those who inspire, who heal, who mother, who create, who support, who overcome challenges to remain upright each day and to all of you who contribute to this multi-coloured world of ours. I want to be part of your revolution.

Desk with a View

Are you sitting comfortably? Are you reading this on iPhone against the throng of a crowded street or are you lying supine on sofa, feet up and perusing the internet for daydreamy nuggets related to Austen?

Do you write? Where do you write–at a desk, on a coffee-stained formica table in a cafe, or tucked away in a library nook? Being a mobile writer is one strong perk of this trade. I have an office with expansive windows which always cheer me as I observe people striding footpaths below; but I also love the weight of my mobile office adjusted from left to right hand as I heft my MacBook from various public seats. Right now, I am typing this propped up with pillows in bed, coffee at my right, notepad at my left. I’ve already been out of the house this morning, now I return for a twenty-minute reviving rest before the day goes full-throttle.

This drawing of Jane Austen’s desk never fails to elicit my smile. It is, of course, peppered with hints about her personal and writing life, but it also makes me reflect on what objects both physically and metaphorically I would place around me to represent my life and my life in words. So, what does your writing space look like? What inspires you?

I’m off shortly to my office to nab space and solace to tap out a few words. I’m thinking of mimicking this Austenesque drawing for inspiration today so I may prop on my desk a framed photo of Dorothy Parker (nudging wit to come out to play), sharp scissors (office necessity), a candlestick or two (blunt instrument to aid my writing of a crime thriller), lavender (just like Austen’s and it may help induce a well-earned afternoon nap) and a pile of my manuscripts (so I am reminded I actually accomplish something at a keyboard).

Pull up a chair–we are writing today!