Wednesday, December 31, 2008

looking ahead, of course

many people make new year's resolutions. some people keep them, some don't. some make them later. some start the year fresh as if nothing happened before, some commit to doing better.

i don't want to make promises i can't keep. and i don't want to continue to say 'i will.' so.

it's time for another year. and, while i've definitely learned a few things this last year and there are changes i want to make, i don't want to set myself up. if i make a promise i stick to it no matter what; which is not always a good thing; sometimes the promise was a mistake in the first place or wasn't what i meant or is detrimental in some way. so.

what i want to do better in 2009:
- write more often on a regular basis
- have more time off; meaning down time not just 'to do' time
- keep up with the exercising
- get enough sleep more often (may be related to time off)
- play more
- make dates more often that do not include anything to do with work
- learn to avoid the charged cloud of conditioning (shh, it's a secret)
- learn something new
- believe in myself

what i'm already doing towards these:
- am signed up for a winter writing workshop (Lit Star Training with Ariel Gore)
- in February, I have some pairs of days marked off (January doesn't look so good, due to a play - note to self...)
- have a 10k walk event on Jan 4th and a 5k walk event mid-march; joined a dragon boat team and training starts next week and continues into june
- sleep... make good faith efforts; keep sleep needs at top of awareness of things to do
- am noticing that 'charged cloud'... step one
- dragon boats is new!
- i like my nanowrimo novel, despite its need for heavy revision and recognize that it is no more outlandish or dumb than many things being written and published; is it a urinetown idea? no, i think it's more based in this world than that play - but wouldn't it be great if it were that successful?!

i think i'm off to a good start.

i hope your new year gets off to a good start and that you remember the good things from 2008 because, although there were some pretty awful things, i know, i'm sure there were at least a few good things. like seeing the sun break through the clouds and shining down on a bright yellow dandelion in the middle of a field of green. or seeing one perfect honey crisp apple sitting right there waiting for you to pick it up at the grocery store when they were on sale. or having a child walk up and offer you a grin spreading from cheek to cheek with an outstretched hand to give you a blue m&m.remember a smile and pass it on.

Monday, December 29, 2008

event: new play reading

Portland Center Stage's
NOW HEAR THIS
invites you to a rehearsed concert reading of

CONTINUUM
a new play by Patrick Wohlmut
written with the support of a playwriting commission from
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

directed by Stan Foote

Monday, January 5, 2009 at 7:00 pm
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue on the Main Stage

The outstanding cast includes:
Paul Glazier, Michael O'Connell and Amaya Villazan
Admission is free and all are welcome
A discussion will follow the reading

In the abstruse world of astrophysical research, Peter -- whose
promise in the field is dubious -- needs all the help he can get. But
he gets more than he bargained for from a brilliant but erratic
collaborator he rescues the streets. In the course of their cat and
mouse game, roles reverse and shift, stars and planets collide, and
both men find that the universe is not as quantifiable as they
expected.

Patrick Wohlmut
Patrick is an actor and playwright. His most recent stage role was as Harry Berlin in Mt. Hood Repertory's production of Luv, where he also played Colm in Sea Marks. Other favorite roles include Vaughn in In Apparati, for Defunkt Theater; Faust in Faust. Us., for Stark Raving Theater; Peter Austin in It's Only a Play, for Profile Theater; Sebastian in Twelfth Night, for Portland Actors Ensemble; Ted in Three Plays Five Lives, for Liminal Performance Group; Miles in The Drawer Boy, for Artists Repertory Theater, which also starred William Hurt; and Todd in Earth Stories, for VERB: Literature in Performance, a role that earned him a Portland Drama Critics' Circle Award for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role. As a writer, two of his short plays - The Surrogate Mothers and K-PAN - were featured in Portland State University's New Plays Festival in 2002. He was also a featured writer for Bump in the Road Theater's 2004 original production, (Old Age Ain't) No Place for Sissies. In addition to being the recipient of a Sloan Foundation New Science Initiative commission, Patrick is also working on a play titled The Chain and the Gear, about the effect of the hit-and-run death of a cyclist on a southeast Portland community; a novel, Putting Woody to Rest, about two teenagers who are haunted by the ghost of Woody Guthrie; and is
co-writing and self-publishing a book of poetry with PDX Magazine editor Hollyanna McCollom, titled Assemblage. He lives with his wife and two children in Portland.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

borrowing words

Richard Foreman is a writer, director, designer and the founder of Ontological-Hysteric Theater in NYC. He has written and produced over fifty of his own plays, in the US and in other countries.

You can read much more about this interesting writer and his work here.

He is a very prolific writer. Every day he writes around a half to three pages of dialogue. It is random and is generally not connected from day to day. He periodically (meaning every few months) reads through what he is written and gathers bits that catch his attention. When he gets enough bits that feel like they could be a play, he starts constructing a script.

He saves this writing in his online notebooks, which are there for anyone to peruse. And not only to look through, but to pick out parts which spark a writer's, director's, actor's, dancer's, or anyone's interest. Foreman writes:

I here make available my notebooks for the last fifteen years or so in the hopes directors/writers will make use of the material as I do. Choosing, arrangning, re-arranging, inventing situations into which the dialogue can be dropped, and ending up with a theatrical poerformance.

This material if offered freely. I ask no royalty. Because of the unique way I generate plays-- this may mean I myself will still be using from this pool of material in the future. I invite you to do so also.

The only thing I ask is that if you make use of this material in performance
a) you simply notify me, so I can know if this material is stimulating anyone.
b) any material used for production or publication displays in program or title page-- relatively prominantly-- the statement that the text involved is re-arranged material taken from the notebooks of Richard Foreman.

So, with that in mind, after the video is a small sample I have collected to pass on to you, from his notebook, SEEDS. Take from it what you will and write / paint / draw / dance / create! using whatever pieces of this peak your interest. If what I have selected leaves you flat, click here to go to his online notebooks and find another piece which suits you better.

The following video is an interview with Richard Foreman, where he discusses his creative process.



SEEDS (what is this-- this thinking)

I want a world in which the central seed

Is the

Being-a-human-being

That isn't biology or psychology or a life story

but

Openness

To a certain

noise

You offer me one more way to be in this world

World then to be manipulated

'experienced" put together

language manipulates, copies

tries things out

GIVE ME A DRINK

No

GIVE ME--

Situation=accept frame of situation, promotes it

OR

Re-frames it?

NO

Shatter frame

With NOW

Rather than past and future


Struggle to be inside lifelike-life

Old, dialogue goes forward in serpentine line

Now, from a little explosion (seed) thrown out and come back in loop to re-constitute-- wipe out?


What is it

This being-a-human being-ness

(Beehive and many hopes, revolves)

how man relates

to that center hive

with holes

that present, emptiness

(Not psychology, sociology, narrative

but something inside one

that is not

of one!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

melting vs thawing

Two words sometimes interchanged; yet do they mean the same thing?

Melting tends to be a going away or destruction of something. As in 'the mounds of shoveled snow are slowly melting, long after the layer on the grass and sidewalks are long gone.' Or the wicked witch of the west melting/disappearing after Dorothy throws water on her. As is 'my ice cube is melting' which means it will soon be gone or absorbed into the liquid in which it is floating.

Thawing tends to be a warming up from too cold temperatures; a positive experience, generally. Thawing can be done quickly or slowly. Thawing can be an emotional or mental activity; melting is a physical activity. No, wait - we do say we "thawed our heart" towards someone or something; but it does still need a physical element. However, we can "warm to the idea."

Yes, I'm thinking about melting and thawing because that is what we are doing. Today I went places where there were no signs we were snowed in with twelve to sixteen inches of snow (yes, inches, here in Portland). It had disappeared in the near 50 degrees and several inches of rain. Melted. The trees and grasses and plants have thawed. The ground may still be thawing in places where there are still piles of snow. And today I drove through areas where there is still snow covering the ground and plants are starting to peek through, but one could see there was some significant snow recently. And some cars, still surrounded by piles of snow from the street plows, which will still need to be dug out unless the near 50 degrees holds through the night and there is enough rain to wash or melt it away.

And then I started thinking how my heart and spirit thawed a little in Mexico, though I haven't talked about that much since being back. But they did. I think this was the next part of my journey I was supposed to find in Mexico: opening to relationship. Opening, melting, thawing. Being curious and being willing to see what lies underneath.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

goodbye to two cultural and creative inspirations

Today, December 25, 2008, two artists died: Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt. The following are excerpts from NPR articles about each of them, with links to read the articles in their entirety.

HAROLD PINTER

British playwright Harold Pinter, who won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, died Christmas day at the age of 78 after a long battle with esophageal cancer.

Pinter was best known for writing such plays as The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and Old Times. He also adapted other writers' novels for the screen, including The French Lieutenant's Woman, A Handmaid's Tale and The Comfort of Strangers.

Pinter wrote dozens of plays, essays and poems. His lifelong friend, actor and director Henry Woolf, says Pinter's major contribution was what became known as the "theater of menace."

click here to read the entire article

EARTHA KITT

Singer and actress Eartha Kitt has died of colon cancer. She was 81. Kitt, who was ostracized as a child in South Carolina because of her mixed-race heritage, got her start in show business as a dancer and vocalist, and earned early international notice as a featured singer in a Paris nightclub.


click here to read the entire article

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy ... whatever

I totally get not calling the K-12 school break, "Christmas Vacation." Not all of the children and their families celebrate Xmas and many of them celebrate other holidays around this time of year and some people don't celebrate anything - well, no holidays - this time of year; it's just another few days off (or not). I get that those with authority saying "Have a Merry Christmas" to someone who does not have the authority may seem like they are telling the worker/customer/client that Christmas should be celebrated or it may be perceived as such.

I also understand the idea of offices having the "Office Holiday Party" for the same reasons. See above.

But aren't there times it is appropriate to actually tell someone "Have a Merry Christmas?" And this is coming from someone who, while I do celebrate Xmas because it is the culture I live in and I have a child in my life and it is a favored holiday of my family. But if PersonA knows that PersonB celebrates Xmas/Christmas and PersonB is being transferred to another location on Xmas Eve and PersonA wants to wish PersonA a fond farewell and, well, is it not okay for that person to say "Have a Merry Christmas" without fear of being reprimanded by a supervisor? After all, it *is* that actual day - it is not Solstice nor Hanukkah nor Kwanzaa nor Boxing Day - it is Christmas in the USA.

I witnessed this somewhere today. No, not the employee getting in trouble. But the employee being afraid s/he would be disciplined, or at least written up, for forgetting to not say "Have a Merry Christmas" to someone who was leaving the company. It would not have made sense in that setting to say "Seasons Greetings."

I'm still rolling this pearl around in the silver bowl. How to not offend and not unintentionally oppress or unduly influence? And yet how to genuinely say that this day is called Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas and I hope they are good days for you?

Many years ago I knew someone who celebrated HanSolMas with her multicultural/multi-ethnic family.

Some people say, "Happy Whateveryoucelebrate Day."

Some people say, "Merry Christmas."

Some people smile and say, "Have A Good One."

Some people smile.

What do you think? What are some of the perspectives on this issue?

Try writing a story with a protagonist whose beliefs are the opposite of yours on this issue.

And, whatever you celebrate around this time of year, may it be good and joyous and fulfilling in the way you need it to be.

Blessings.
photograph: a Zubble

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

so, about Oaxaca

I realized the winter weather and resultant transportation issues have derailed me from talking much about the Oaxaca experience. We have been home five days now and snowed in (or snowed out, in my case) for a couple of those days.

Serena has some nice photos and just wrote about her experience on here blog here. The above picture was taken by her and is from that site.

The local people were great. The workshop participants were amazing, supportive, talented, incredible. The workshop facilitator, Ariel Gore, was awesome, as always. I love the town and the art and the people. Was it perfect? No - Serena's purse was slashed, along with a Guadalupe heavy duty shopping bag she had just purchased when we were walking near the mercado one day. The thief did not get anything, because she was not carrying her money or ID in the purse or the bag -- just water, make-up, a book, things like that. It was only a little unsettling - that was a known risk and could happen anywhere. But that was the only time.

I was thinking that I am still processing the experience and I believe there was a realization or revelation, whatever one would choose to call it, while I was there -- and it is not totally known, yet. So, because I saw another

Seven things I do or don't miss about Oaxaca (I've seen more of the "7 things..." listing, sorry to add another one to the pile!):

1. I miss the sunshine.
2. I miss not having to go to work.
3. I don't miss putting used toilet paper in the basket beside the toilet and not in it.
4. I miss having someone make the bed, cook breakfast, make the coffee, bring me fresh bottled water, and cleaning up the room every day.
5. I don't miss the air thick with exhaust from the vehicles.
6. I miss the slower pace of most things there; show up when you can; bring the dinner check only when you ask for it; de nada.
7. I miss the Zocalo - a more "user friendly" community living room than Pioneer Square.

Actually, the snow and ice have prolonged the slower pace aspect a bit. When I have to take transit, I can't go as many places in a day as I can drive. And I have to spend time waiting and transferring. And I get to read on the bus. I am reading more, again. Always a good thing for a writer to do *smile.

Monday, December 22, 2008

and with the snow...

...closures and cancellations. Many of them. This snow storm has proved to be the biggest on record for somewhere between 25-45 years, depending on which television channel is talking. There is much to say on that subject; maybe later.

Little did I know when I posted on Saturday that I would not even be near my computer for a couple days.

I left home yesterday morning - early - to get to a job. That was in the post I wrote Saturday night. I left nearly two hours before the job to walk to a bus to ride to the Max to get to the job site. It worked well and there was even a Starbucks open, so I arrived at work on time and with coffee.

As the snow continued to fall and stick and accumulate, and more businesses were closing there were a couple other pages to cover for other interpreters who couldn't make it to other jobs. One thing led to another and I found myself volunteering to cover the morning shift where I was working (the interpreters couldn't make it in); I was scheduled to be there at 3PM anyway. So I ended up spending the night at a nearby motel and going in early and staying until tonight. It actually worked out well - and I am tired.

Tomorrow I will try to dig out the car and see if we can go for a drive.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

the snow storm that actually appeared

For the past couple or few years, there have been predictions of winter storms that never appeared. I don't mean early predictions from, say, the summer where people are saying "oooh, this coming winter is going to be a cold one." Rather, the meteorologists and weather forecasters saying that a cold front is on the way and with it some snow and by the morning of ... and so on. Then nothing materializes.

It is important to understand that here in Portland, Oregon, snow has been a rare thing. I understand there was actually a minor bit of snow for a day last year; we missed it because we were in New York City & Brooklyn. There were shouts of winter storms fast approaching and time to bundle up and get out the chains and drip the pipes several times, but nothing appeared here in the Portland metro area. A little farther south, a little farther north, to the east and the west - but here in the land of Portlandia all was wet and just warm enough to not cause us any winter troubles.

This year it is different. And for the first time in many years, it looks like we may actually have a white Christmas. Or a gray one, depending on the temperatures and the level of melting and refreezing that happens between now and then. But the recent predictions of a snow storm truly arrived. I have not been out of the house yet today (still getting over the sickness -- and I'm trying to retain strength and continued climb to wellness since I'm working 12 hours tomorrow) - but I see the wind and the snow and the accumulation which looks to be a good five or so inches.

That is an amazing amount for us here in the little heat bowl of Portland.

So I'm hunkering in for the day. And I've plotted two routes to get to work tomorrow.

The good news is that the agency realized they had a Salem interpreter coming up here for a job and me going down to near Salem for a job, so they switched us. Yay! I don't know that I would have been able to make the drive in the early morning if the freezing rain materializes as well as the snow. But, with having the job here in town, I will get there. I have abandonded the driving option; I could probably do it with the studs and the chains - but it might be undue stress and more dangerous. I have to go over a couple minor hilly areas to get out of here and the neighborhood is pretty well snowed in. I imagine the main roads are more easily navigated - but I'd rather not tempt an accident.

So that leaves me with a couple of other options: walk to a bus to take to the Max train which stops just two blocks from the job site; and the bonus? There is a Starbucks between the train stop and the job site. The only potential drawback is waiting time in the wind and blowing snow and/or freezing rain/sleet - yuck. The buses are already running 20-30 minutes late; the Max is pretty much on time. And at 6:00 AM it shouldn't be crowded. (Normally it is only a 15 minute drive to the job; in the snow and sleet and via mass transit I need to allow a minimum of 90 minutes.) If worst comes to worst - I could walk. It's just under 5 miles and that is do-able. It would be very cold and, because of slick conditions, slower going than normal; but I could. I will get there tomorrow. I just figure if I'm going to be out in the cold, I'd rather be moving than standing waiting for a bus.

My best guess is that I will walk to the major street where I will catch the bus to the Max. I will walk towards the Max station and keep my eyes and ears open for the bus - but make that 1.5 mile walk if necessary...which may be faster than the bus is traveling.

The snow actually arrived this time and, right now, it's beautiful. From sunny Oaxaca to snowy Portland. "It's all good" as they say.

photograph by
Angel McCormick of Gresham, OR
(just a few miles east of home)
on the KGW.com website
viewer's pics

Friday, December 19, 2008

holding on to slow

It was a pleasure to wake up without an alarm this morning. And after nine hours sleep. I still have some sinus stuffiness and the reappearing cough - but otherwise feel fine.

It was also really nice today to not have any appointments. Things I wanted to do, yes; places I had to be at a certain time - no.

For example, I did have to put the studded tires on my car and broke down and bought chains, as well. I was planning to skip the studded tires this year - but with the weather, I can't. The ice is what scares me more than snow and I have two out of town jobs in the coming week. There is another storm forecast for the area, which is supposed to hit us sometimes either late Saturday or on Sunday - with a prediction of 3 - 6 inches of snow. Hence the chains. I haven't used chains for probably 15 years. The last time I did it was kind of a disaster and I remember being miserable putting them on - and just to get out of our little neighborhood, because downtown and where I was going was fine. These are supposed to be easy install. We'll see!

I think it would be hard to maintain this laid back, "whatever," "when I get to it" attitude all of the time. But I would like to hold on to part of it.

For example, we did go out for dinner tonight because there was no food in the house (we did scrape together coffee and toast for breakfast). What a contrast. When in Oaxaca, we would eat leisurely, they would very occasionally come over to see if we needed something more or to clear away an empty or abandoned plate or bowl. And they would wait around until we asked for the check; which we sometimes forgot we had to ask for it. But tonight, the waiter was over a couple times to see if we were ready, came by when one of us was not yet finished to whisk away the plates, and the check was there while we were still eating. Very different feeling - even though tonight's waiter was very friendly and doing his job well. Cultural difference.

I like the slower pace. Now to figure out how to incorporate some of that into the "here" where I live.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

home

We're home from Oaxaca. No major airport delays, although a threatened one (yes, Houston, again) due to fog. The fog went away and we made it home on the day scheduled, although a little later.

From 80+ degrees and sunny to 30-ish degrees and snowy/icy. At least we know we have arrived someplace different!

A brief post right now because I did pick up a little cold while in Oaxaca - I think brought about because of not being used to the exhaust level in the city (smog). After some rest, I will recover and the cold is mild - although I do have an annoying cough. sigh.

Sleep awaits.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

partings

This was the last day of the writing workshop here at Casa Colonial in Oaxaca. Several of us read pieces, we gave and received feedback. There were tears and smiles and laughter. Exchanges of contact information. The making of bracelets or anklets from yarn made of reclaimed materials by one of our members.

All of this was followed by an amazing comida at la casa de Eva (our writing facilitator's mother). Tostadas with guacamole (a condiment at meals here, rather than an expensive addition), Oaxaca queso (string cheese at home will never be the same - this cheese is so incredible, especially when fresh), and the perfect salsa (hot, yes, but a hot with flavor and it dissipated easily with a bite of guac). Next was a perfect soup: beans with cactus and other vegetables and bacon for those who eat meat (or are eating meat on this trip, anyway), and a vegetarian soup with calabasa blossoms and an assortment of veggies. The main dish was chicken wrapped around sliced carrots, nopales, and some other veggies I don't remember. Then all smothered in a light sauce with some sliced almonds (only negative thing was not main dish for the vegetarians ... hmm). After a little while we had a postre of light and lightly sweetened rice pudding with freshly ground cinnamon. Yummy. A nice ending meal, although there were a couple of groups who ventured out for other meals and shopping and who knows what all.

One person had already left very early this morning (she missed the final workshop meeting, too). Another one left late afternoon (after the meal). One left at 9 tonight for an additional trip to the coast before heading home in a few days. Several of us are flying out early tomorrow (a taxi will be here at 5:30 AM for four of us - eek, must sleep soon) and then the others are leaving at scattered times.

This has been a successful trip. I have more stories started. Some rough drafts which will probably be discarded but which will lead to other writings. And one piece which I think is done. It might need a couple more tweaks - and I will get some more feedback on my final (I hope) edits before sending it forth into the world.

I want to take a little more piece of cyber space to say thanks to all of the wonderful writers I've met here. I hope that we do keep in touch and that we all achieved what we came here to do.

Thank you to Ariel Gore, our talented writer facilitator for bringing us together. And thank you to Desirea, Noel, Gabby, Angela, Krystee, Elena, Alexandra, Shell, Kait, Colleen - awesome writing and feedback. I've enjoyed spending the week with you and hope to see you all again in the future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

visit with the Navarro family

We held our writing workshop at the Casa, as usual, in the morning. There was a field trip planned out to a nearby village to visit the Navarro family at their home and place of business. They make beautiful weavings for table and wall runners, bags/purses, belts, etc. This is the traditional lap weaving, where one end of the threads are tied to a post and the loom fits around the weaver's waist. There were four of them working to make the textiles while we were there.

video

On the way back to Oaxaca we stopped for comida at a nice restaurant along the road. It was very delicious. I don't remember the name of the dish I ordered, but it was a squash blossom stuffed with cheese, pepper, and vegetables, and cooked with a light eggy outside, similar to chile rellenos (one of my favorites).

It took a while to get back through town to the Casa, because they were preparing for a big celebration which starts on Thursday. There have been some parties and other celebrations and protests while we've been here. But for this one we saw floats (different than the Rose Festival at home - but still floats) and carnival rides and heard marching bands practicing.

I wrote another short piece tonight from the writing prompt. Not an easy one and I went way off topic. And that is okay here. As cliche as it sounds, I am itching to get started on revising the novel. But I am going to wait until I get home. I still am feeling a little lost about how to begin, but am sure I will figure it out. With help.

Only one more group meeting at 10 AM tomorrow. Afterwards we are going to our facilitator's mother's home for a home cooked comida. Then a couple people are leaving. Most of us are staying tomorrow night and leaving at various times on Thursday. I will miss these writers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monte Alban, near Oaxaca

video

Today we held our workshop atop one of the remains of the pyramids at Monte Alban, near Oaxaca. A few of us read a piece of writing, then we gave feedback, then Ariel gave us an assignment and we spread off to our own space on the grounds to write for an hour.

We were all grateful for her planning, as several bus loads of school children arrived, plus many other tourists, as we were sitting around the space writing. We had the entire space all to ourselves for the first hour or so; well, it was just us and the first of the people who come to sell things, such as replicas of masks of the original people, replicas of statues/icons, and so on.

The following is an excerpt from Advantage Mexico's website:

What is known about the history of the region is that 4000 years ago, a village-dwelling people of unknown origin (believed by many to have been Olmec colonies) moved into the Oaxaca valleys. Then, around 500 BC (1500 years later) a new people (the Zapotecans) moved into the region. One of these groups then began the monumental task of leveling the top of a 1,600 meter high mountain that intersects and divides three valley, and built Monte Alban with a maze of subterranean passage ways, rooms, drainage and water storage systems.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December in Oaxaca

Earlier today I had to write the date. I found myself struggling because, well, it just doesn't feel like December to me. Not down here in Oaxaca, Mexico. It was hot - in the upper 80s in the sun; we went out for our exploration after the workshop and I had on capris, a light cotton shirt over a string undershirt, and my Kumfs sandals. And sun screen. There are fake Christmas wreaths hung on balconies and over doorways; real and plastic and metal trees in restaurants and shops and homes; garlands of green, glass and plastic tree decorations, and twinkling Christmas lights on the trees in the Zocalo. Christmas is here and, well, it's hot and sunny. Disconnect!

Whereas I see that home in Portland, there was a snow storm. It looks like there are two to four inches of snow around the area - which is unusual. The temperatures will be dropping into the teens at night for up to a week, the latest forecast says. The high temperatures will be about ten to fifteen degrees colder than the low temperature here.

This is a new - and not at all unpleasant - experience. We have tended to go to colder than home regions the few times we've been somewhere in December. So going someplace warm is a treat. And I did not expect my reaction of "what's wrong with this picture."

The workshop is fabulous.

The food is yummy.

The culture is comfortable and I am finding that, while I don't speak Spanish, I am being able to pick up some things I'm being asked. If they go at gringo speed, I know - slow. And I have actually been able to ask for a few things myself. Another new experience. I've needed to rely pretty much entirely on my partner for the language part of the trips to Italy or Mexico (all one time to each I've done in the past!) - being completely unable to comprehend or produce anything myself. But this time I've been able to do just a little bit myself.

I must end this post for now, because tomorrow morning we have an early continental type breakfast at 7:00, then it's off to Monte Alban at 7:30 am to walk up the ruins - where we will hold tomorrow's workshop. So I must stop to sleep.

With a smile of contentment.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

wisdom and insight

After a good night's sleep, desayuno delicioso, a couple cups of coffee, and a couple glasses of water, I was ready for our second writing workshop this morning. It was our first round of sharing our writing and sharing feedback. For me, it was also an opportunity to get to know the other writers a little more, since I had missed the first one to two nights to do that due to flight delays.

This is a delightful and diverse group of writers - all of whom are women. Being female was not a requirement, it just is what happened.

I was one of the lucky ones today to be able to share my writing. I was a little nervous, since I had just met most of them. I am always a little nervous when I share my writing; even with my partner, which may seem silly that I would be nervous showing it to her after being together for nearly twenty-six years - but there you have it. So I was not upset about being nervous - I know that is just how it is and I can handle it. I felt good about my writing, received good and valuable feedback, and picked up on a few things in my reading of it which I had missed in the writing. When I was reading one section with one character talking,I started thinking that it was time for that person to shut up now - it had gone on too long. And I did get external validation of that fact.

And as I listened to the different writers reading, I had several important insights and what feel like pieces of wisdom. Those are some of what I came here to find, although I couldn't articulate that even last night, let alone when I signed up for this workshop in the beginning of July.

One thing that struck me is how I felt that all of what was read and said was "true." Not necessarily true in the sense of real life facts of the author experiencing the story (some were and some were not) - but true as in this was her author's voice. Nothing felt forced or phony or show-offy. It all felt like "I have something I want to say and this is it." It did not matter if it was raw or revised, rhythmic poetry or staccato teenager speak wanting to get high or a five year old searching for safety - it was real in the telling. It did not matter if the author was a poet or columnist or novelist or grad student.

And in that truth telling, I had a spark of feeling that I can do this. I can write. I have found my voice. I am a writer. I am writing. I not only can, but I am, doing this. And I do not have to be a particular type of writer or write in a specific way or about specific things. I write about what I see and experience and think and dream and make up. No, it is not all real but there are pieces of reality and the words I write are real in the context of the story.

These other women writers are real, too. And they have words which fit them and say what they have to say. And together we are a small community come together in Oaxaca for the week. To share our passions and our stories and our dreams. And our wisdom from being writers in the world.

photograph of
As the Crow Flies

encaustic by Serena Barton

Friday, December 12, 2008

arrival

We arrived in Oaxaca at 11:35 AM today. Yeah. It was upper 70s with a nice breeze.

And I finally got to meet the other workshop participants. We had the first meeting with our facilitator and received out first official "homework" assignment. It is a diverse and interesting group of women. It did not have to be all women - it just turned out that way. There was a guy originally scheduled, but he had to back out.

I am here. My luggage is here. Everything is well!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

new lesson in patience

We're still in Houston. Our flight to Oaxaca this morning was canceled, reason unknown. (Weather was cited, but it was clear and totally dry here - all signs of last night's snow gone. Oaxaca was clear and sunny and 80 degrees.)

But tonight we're in a hotel in Houston. No, not at the expense of Continental Airline; they did provide a voucher for a discount on a hotel room (we got one for $59).

The new plan is to leave at 9 AM and fly into Mexico City, from there transfer to a partner airline and go to Oaxaca. We should arrive by 4 PM.

I will write a letter to the airline after we get home. There are several issues I want to address with them. But, for now, the agents at the airport could not address these issues, I still have a week left on this trip and most of the workshop (and the facilitator is in the hotel room next door), and I don't want to spend my time being bitter.

I am still away from home. I am still away from work. I still have the option to relax. I will get to Oaxaca.

And I was able to work on a story. And finish the book I was reading and start another.

Patience. I *can* relax now and I *will* get to my destination. Different than how I had it planned, but we will get there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

flight to sun cxld due to snow

...more to come...

Right now we're stopped in Houston, where it is snowing. Our flight was canceled because by the time our plane got through the line to be de-iced and on our way, the Oaxaca airport would be closed. In Oaxaca today it was sunny and near 85 degrees.

Right now waiting to see when the airline can get us there tomorrow - IF. They normally don't fly to Oaxaca on Thursday.

So-

...more to come...

And the writing workshop starts tomorrow. But the facilitator, Ariel Gore, is here in Houston; she was on the same flight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a new threshold

That is where I think I am standing. I have worked emotionally and spiritually to integrate creativity and exercise and - I guess - I have those down. In theory. When I remember. No really, I do - I am just not perfect. That was the personal work I was doing before integrating creativity and self-care through exercise -- or maybe the project before that -- to not strive to be perfect because, well, I'm not and we can't.

So here I am, again. On a new threshold. Except I am not sure where I am heading and do not have a vision of what lies ahead on the road. Roads, excuse me - there is not one road, I know. I need to pause a few minutes or hours and rest. And think. And just listen.

So here I sit at the computer when I should be asleep because the cab will be arriving in 3 1/2 hours to whisk me away to the airport. Once I arrive at my destination (tomorrow night), I will have the time I am craving to rest and think and pay attention to what is around and within.

This is not the post I intended to write - but here you go.

Beginnings do not require endings. Beginnings do require mindfulness and a willingness to go along.

I am willing. And I do need to get a little bit of sleep to be able to get through the airport security. Then I can catch up on my sleep and my reading and the beginnings of resting on the planes and the layover tomorrow.

So I will end this little ramble of thoughts. My next post will be from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Monday, December 8, 2008

freedom tastes like...

... mango hearts on a stick...

Today at 11 pm I finished my final job before vacation begins in a couple days. Well, a writing workshop-vacation. My only task while I am there is to sleep, meet with the other writers and our wonderful person-writer-facilitator Ariel Gore, write, sleep more, see art, see ruins, and did I say sleep. Oh, and relax. I do have a couple of personal appointments tomorrow -- but no jobs. So I don't have to wear only solid colors and have no opinions and be neutral for the greater part of my day. I can be, well, Me, in full living color and opinion laden.

photograph from Zoe Bigley
(it is not me *smile*)



* QUESTION: What does freedom taste like for you? *

Sunday, December 7, 2008

returning to the work

By which I mean the work of writing.

The work of working to earn money to pay the mortgage and feed the cats and buy toilet paper is the work I have to do. And I am not complaining - I have work which pays the bills; not everyone does right now and the lay-off statistics for November were staggering. But I realized that I scheduled a heavy week last week because I felt I needed to make up for working a little less in November; and, yes, I am lucky that I have that option. And I accepted extra assignments for a heavy week the week of Xmas - in the name of making up for taking a week off to go to a writing workshop.

Yes, a writing workshop. For which we were given a pre-assignment I have not yet completed. Started: yes; completed: no.

My NaNo novel is staying with me. And, funny thing, while I was cleaning out my laptop bag to take on the trip, I came across some notes about the novel. It must have been about three-quarters into the story, based on what I read. Some of it happened, some of it did not. What is interesting to me is some ideas I had about where the story was going. As I read them tonight, I thought, "hmm - that's a good idea" or "what an interesting alternative to what I wrote in the first go 'round." Reading them I realized that I will be able to edit the 59.000+ words because there is more than one way it could have been written.

Which I knew.

And which I was just reminded of by my own hand, tonight.

Photograph by Serena Davidson
from online gallery of Performers

WRITING PROMPTS:
(a) I was lifted by ....
(b) The shifting light brought in to view...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

sense of accomplishment and what's next

As I promised myself (after I reread the reminder in "No Plot, No Problem"), I am taking a little time away from the novel. I do, however, have a new writing assignment. And, as much as I hate to admit it, having an assignment is generally an asset to me actually following through and writing. Not always a requirement, but it does get my "butt in chair" as someone - I can't remember who - calls it, for the purpose of writing.

The new assignment is not mandatory, but a suggestion to do before the writing workshop I will be attending next week in Oaxaca. Yes, Mexico - or Oaxaca, Oaxaca in Mexico if I were to be more accurate.

I just read Chris Baty's (the founder of NaNoWriMo) post about the post-nano blues. I guess I planned for that in advance without even knowing it: a trip to a warmer climate for a writing workshop seems like just what's needed to stave away the blues just a little longer. I am also thinking about either starting the editing process while I'm down there, or holding off until I get back home. Because I will be writing more while I'm there -- that is the point, after all!

For now, off to bed soon. I am still catching up from the November novel writing excitement and time and I - in my usual manner - overscheduled myself this week for work, since I was working lighter the last four weeks so I could write. I forgot to build in a little break in between ending the novel and starting back up to my usual level of work. So - I don't have anything until 11:00 tomorrow morning and think I will take this opportunity to get a little extra sleep.

Watch for my post about the "new play festival" which will be happening here in Portland. I love it that Portland is such a theater town.
Picture of the Casa Colonial
in Oaxaca, Oaxaca

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The End - with a sigh of satisfaction

I completed the story last night. It was all by hand, so today I had to type it into the rest of the novel - what I had completed by the end of NaNoWriMo on Sunday 11/30 (56,001 words!).

I am very satisfied with the ending. I could not have planned it out as smooth as it was written. This has truly been a humbling and exhilarating and challenging experience. I have had to just open up to the creative flow, knowing that not everything is what I would think it could be and that editing will need to be done. (Big duh on the last one, right?!) On Sunday, as I was working on something else I had to do, I could not imagine how the novel would come together in anything that was not utter forced nonsense. And just now I finished typing up what I feel is a very appropriate and plausible end to the journey the story took me on - and I hope will take others on, once I have time to work out the issues and rawness.

What a wonderful experience November was.

And I wrote 59,199 words in 31 days!

Monday, December 1, 2008

the stats

Okay, so I have to do one more (at least - hehehe) NaNoWriMo post. Just when you thought I was through with it! Here are the statistics from the NaNoWriMo website with total word count and more - amazing! (Visit the linked website for even more fun stats!)

This year, we had 119,301 authors sign up for NaNoWriMo. That's a 17.5% bump in turn-out from 2007, when we had 101,510 writers.

Of everyone registered, 21,683 of us won. That's an 18.2% win rate. If you throw out the first two years of NaNoWriMo win rates as too small to be statistically significant (in 1999 NaNoWriMo had 21 participants, and in 2000 we only had 140), you can see that we just hit an all-time high in percentage of winners. Woot!

On the collective word-count front...Together, we wrote 1,519,501,005 words. That's a 28% increase over last year, when we reached 1,187,931,929 words.

I'll be posting another blog entry this week to help all of us better grasp what 1,519,501,005 words means to humanity, and whether that many words would actually weigh more than a grocery store filled with donkeys (early results point to yes).

The top 10 wordiest regions this year were…
1) Seattle
2) Maryland
3) Germany and Austria
4) Los Angeles
5) Holland and Belgium
6) Chicago
7) Twin Cities (MN)
8) New York City
9) Portland, OR
10) London