Tag Archives: imagination

On mystery, as inspired by a visit to my parents’ outhouse

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My Mom would like me to lay claim to the outhouse. She thinks that I should call it the family outhouse. I disagree. When I stay with my parents, I say that I am staying at my parents’ house. And I maintain that the outhouse is also theirs.

On the wall of my parents’ outhouse is a poster with a quote on it that I am now struggling to remember. It’s something about “living into mystery…” which is funny for an outhouse, but reasonably wise, I think. Or catchy. Or something. So I decided to look for life and mystery quotes partially to explain to myself how I have ended up where I am currently sitting (not in the outhouse — don’t worry!) and partially to remind myself that not knowing everything is actually probably a gift. Maybe that’s my pessimist half talking, though, because I worry a little that knowing much, with any certainty, would be depressing.

Annie Dillard says “We wake, if ever at all, to mystery,” and C.S. Lewis says “Consciousness is either inexplicable illusion, or else revelation.” I want to assert that there are more options, but I like those two. Helen Keller is credited with “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to unchartered land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” So I’m avoiding believing it’s just pessimism that allows me to give in to mystery or surprises or wandering.

We have to invest more than pessimism; we have to focus and diligently follow whatever mysterious force asserts itself in us.

And this is what I think, all thanks to the poster in the outhouse.

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Old Poems Posted (3) “Casting”

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1

Vision – like drawing a picture, or doodling, you have an idea how it will look, even a precise image imagined. But rarely does it go very smoothly. If you cannot adjust to a bump in the paper or a twitch of your own hand, then you cannot finish. You must find a way to include mistakes in the final product. You must learn to work through them. Sometimes it exceeds all expectations, even those of its creator.

2

My dreams like water
dripping from my outstretched hands.
Wet hands.
I remember
without pain
what ache is.
This indecision.
No aspirations can be
separate from childhood,
from parental input.
No collaboration
can dim the floodlights
on a mistake.
On fire.
My promise to myself
is an abstract on life.

What is the long run anyway?

3

Never keep secrets too long
inside, to must
to memory’s withering.

A mouth opening
closing, a fish spitting
thoughts wide

reality shelved temporarily
self-interest on pause
leaves us feeling emphatic

out-of-place.
I hear my voice in the abyss
and all the attention paid
crashes and echoes.

What I Could See

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For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with “crazy is how you perceive it” and I challenged Grace O’Malley with “delicious food is involved.”

Making her way down the post office steps, a woman gripped the railing. Her back and shoulders were hunched and bent forward. She was murmuring. Passersby paused just long enough to look her up and down and one or two seemed to consider offering an arm for her to lean on, but they did not, maybe for the fierceness of her grip or the flash in her eyes when she glanced up.

Down the block, a dancer stepped up to a booth on the street. He wore a thin shirt that hid nothing. Without touching, he ran his fingers through the air above the trinkets and finally looked shyly at the man behind the table. The man glared back, almost as if he might growl or shout. The dancer shifted and narrowed his eyes then, transforming a reticent, tired look into something hard, something that became gangster in the way that water freezes to ice. His hand crashed onto the table as he leaned forward.

Just then, a homeless man staggered past, clipping the dancer and swerving toward the brick wall past the table, where he stumbled on a few feet before crashing into the brick and slumping onto the ground against it. His eyes came up, unfocused, and his long fingers, splayed and flopped over his knees, were creased with dirt.

A girl sped along the sidewalk in front of him. Her backpack bounced. She smoothed her hair into a ponytail as she half-ran, exposing green fingernails through blond strands. Every time someone passed going the opposite direction, she grinned.

I came behind her. No one talked to me, no one waved or told me to have a good day. I met the eyes of the old woman at the post office. I noticed when the dancer stiffened and straightened. I smelled the homeless man. And while this girl smiled, I painted my face into a mask. No one noticed me, and I knew I could protect her from here. I was so powerful, so outside of them.

A voice ripped through me. It tore the scene away, the girl first, and I gasped for air.

“Charlie,” she said. “Charlie, I would like you to refocus on the present.”

Everything went black and then I recognized the voice and the walls of a room.

“Come back here, Charlie,” she said. “Find now.”

I felt the chair beneath me, the office air around me.

“That’s right,” she said.

I looked at my therapist and began to cry. She was gone.

looking inside


(Rules for) Living Life on the Lime (89)

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A). Imagine what you would be like if you were 89 years old.

B). Eat a seasonable fruit.

C). If you are going running in Scotland, wear protective layers over your ears.

  1. For example, a bandana that would be mistaken for gang gear in the south Seattle or Chicago is definitely appropriate while running in Scotland.
  2. I mean, you could wear a hat, too. That would probably work.

D). Consider writing down a plot to take over the world. It will probably be a bestseller.

E). Read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Reading is good for you.

  1. Then draw pictures of tattoos you wish you could get for a year and then make disappear.
  2. Draw lots of these pictures because it is good to exercise your creative mind.

F). Having a schedule is good.

Sometimes you just need to shut the door.

Musical Hands and an Introduction

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Some developmental psychologists say that pre-speech, babies don’t think in a way that we would qualify as “thinking.” That may be true, but Olivia learned listening early.

She could see stories the way sailors can eye the sea and the wind and know without hesitating where one wave will crash and another will rise. Olivia could see stories as if they were maps laid before her in a second world that existed physically only because she was aware of it.

That is, in fact, how I came to exist. Like so many other beings, she imagined me out of vibrating air.

Her parents told magnificent stories. They sent her mind arching and diving through lands made of food and lands where animals spoke, lands under ground and lands where the small was big, the big was small and even one that had only a single tree, a single glorious tree in all the world. And they read to her.

She grew so practiced at imagining that when she began to speak, certain characters she had created, characters like me, never left her side. We trailed along, existing because she had thought of us, because she imagined with such power that we went on existing even after we were forgotten.

In the beginning, I could not understand the rules of the real world. I did not know that the food I ate was imagined, or that when I climbed a tree and fell, I would only be hurt if she thought it so. Sometimes I was a mermaid and it became very difficult to move about. Sometimes I was a dog or a bear and I felt inexplicably happy or hungry or clumsy because I could not always see my own form.

Later, her mind tamed and I began to understand my own world better. I became more static – at least in shape. She made me into a little girl like herself, but older and wiser so that I might advise her. I was always very tall.

There was a moment, though, when I realized how different Olivia and I were from one another.

It was late at night and we were awake. She was lying in bed, not more than six years old, I think, and I was wandering the house, waiting for a dream. Her dreams were like standing on a waterfall, then: gorgeous so long as they weren’t terrifying.

I went to the basement, thinking I might ward off the terrors of the deepest dark, that I could be brave for her while she dozed. But down in the basement, a band was playing. I stared, wondering if a dream had begun, if my girl upstairs had drifted off and joined me here. But, no, these were not the characters of her type, and I could feel her still awake upstairs.

A tall woman, in sharp profile, played the piano. She wore jeans and cowboy boots and her hair was shiny brown and long over her shoulders. There were two men seated facing me. One beat a box turned drum and the other played an old guitar. And there, in the middle of the room, was a campfire.

It dawned on me that the scene was imagined. It was in my world. Somehow it was shocking. I had a world. It was separate. Olivia was not here.

The men spotted me and stopped playing. The woman stopped, too, and glanced over her shoulder,

“Why, hello.”

I must have looked horribly surprised. She smiled and turned, drawing her legs over the piano bench to face the fire and me.

“You must be Olivia’s friend,” she said. “You’ve grown.”

I nodded.

“Come sit with us.” She smiled and gestured to a stump sitting on the basement floor in front of the fire.

I couldn’t believe it. I could feel Olivia drifting into sleep – it made me dizzy – and I knew this was not hers. It would be a few minutes before she whisked me away to her dream.

Even though the band was watching me and had stopped playing entirely, I could hear the echo of music, almost as if the notes were escaping from the woman’s big hands clasped and still on her lap.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Can’t you tell?”

I examined these three adults. I looked at their faces and their eyes. They were so relaxed.

“Oh,” I said, “you’re her mom’s friends.”

It was the first time I collided with another person’s imagination.

The One Glorious Tree

This piece was inspired by bekindrewrite‘s Inspiration Monday, which has very few rules but very lovely prompts.

Break by Metaphor

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A layer of paint has separated us;
we look so hard we’re seeing sun spots.

We forget.

A faded blue lamp on my side has lit me in twilight
and I am wearing the pretty purple shawl that I dreamt last night.
There were stars out in the black sky last night. The Milky Way
made the moon seem watery, and so I stared
into its face without eyes. I felt a little afraid;

somewhere between my lips and my ears
a monster roared morosely and I
went to bed, thinking mostly of the paint,
a façade between you and me,
but found myself distracted by the roar.
Now my imagination is rolling toward me,

and you do not hear trembling or me asking
Is this real? What I hear, what I see
enough to panic or forget.

I am here in the tormented silence imagining torment,
and no sunlight. There is a layer that sealed us separate.
I am confused. It was deliberate.
The ocean is rising.

You and me, we will be preserved in salt and distinction.
I know what you would say to that, how your eyes
would slide to one side and you would nod
to show you were listening even though you are not listening;

I can see.

Flight by Self[ish]

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I went from there –

the past,

a different self –

to here,

hardly thinking it would matter.

 

In between is always easier.

Maybe I should have known.

 

I imagined myself found.

I imagined myself.

 

Dreams are appearing

in front of me

on the ocean

like fireflies in the night.

 

How did I get from there

to here?

 

I remember you asking

when I would be back.

 

I told you I was back

already

but when you misheard

I did not repeat.

 

Now here is there

and you are you

but unremembered.

 

If I had a million wings I would sew them to my body and fly away again.