Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category
In honor of International Women’s Day 2013, I asked my social media connections to send me three words that describe the women that most inspire them. I received 150 words, from a cross-section of 50 women and men (thanks all!). Here they are shown in a Word Cloud, via Worditout. Some personal favorites were sassy, selfless and laughing. The top submissions were: 1) Loving, 2) Compassionate, 3) Brave/Independent/Strong (the third place spot was a 3-way tie).
I recently listened to historian and civil rights activist Vincent Harding’s discussion with Krista Tippet on the radio program “On Being,” and I was blown away. The former speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr., shares memories from a tumultuous time in U.S. history, but one he says birthed unprecedented creativity, kindness, love and compassion. He instructs us to use the wisdom gleaned in that time — those important lessons — to heal today’s fractured U.S. society. What moved me the most were Harding’s words on the importance of storytelling. In a society that is so diverse, he says, listening to the stories of our neighbors can have a profound impact on our ability to build a “beloved community.”
“It’s a powerful time in this country for young people and others to be asking the question And what are we for? Do we exist for some reason other than competing with China or finding the best possible technological advances? Are there some things even deeper that we are meant for, meant to be, meant to do, meant to achieve?
When the mother with the baby at her bosom starts telling stories, it is clearly not just to pass on information. And what I find is that even in some of the strangest situations most often where I go, where I speak, where I share, I start out by asking people to tell a little of their stories. And it is amazing what people discover of themselves, of their connections, of their community. It’s wonderful.
How do we work together? How do we talk together in way that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts? My own feeling that I try to share again and again, is that when it comes to creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religion, democratic society, we are still a developing nation. We’ve only been thinking about this for half a century. But my own deep conviction is that the knowledge is available to us if we seek it … those are things that can be available to us if we’re willing to work with each other and work with the universe on developing them. They don’t come free and easy. They are tough tasks to take on.”
“If consensus is overrated, I think balance is, too.
I have no interest in living a balanced life.
I want a life of adventure.”
- Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity
“I burn a lot of omelets. It’s a regular occurrence. I’m drawing robots with my kid, I’m jotting down an idea I don’t want to lose, I’m taking the call. And then the smoke alarms go off. I “work” on holidays. I’ve been known to read in bed all day on a Monday. I send birthday gifts three months early or three months late, but I always send just the right gift. I can eat granola cereal every day for a week, wear the same clothes, and not leave the house because I want to finish a project. The last time I was at a monastery, I tweeted about it. This is not a balanced life. But it works for me.”
- Danielle LaPorte, The Fire Starter Sessions
Today I woke up with eight — eight! — giant mosquito bites on my legs. I drank cold water so furiously that it dripped down my chin and onto my shirt. My mid-afternoon ride on the bus was overwhelmed by one word: sweat. Here in the Southern Cone, it’s…. SUMMER.
I love summer. (Even here in Buenos Aires, which redefines the definition of hot.) And I even think I love summer more than spring. But there is one spring thing I am very sad to be saying goodbye to: the JACARANDA trees. The Jacaranda mimosifolia, to be exact.
Spring in Buenos Aires means the most beautiful shade of purple at every glance in every part of the city. A purple so rich it looks like a can of paint has exploded before your eyes. Purple that seems unreal to have been created by Mama Nature. (Famous Argentine singer María Elena Walsh dedicated her Canción del Jacarandá song to the tree.)
One night last week it rained very hard and all the sidewalks in my neighborhood were covered in jacaranda blossoms for days. There was even talk of them being dangerous — causing slips and slides and minor injuries. I tried to imagine that it was the purple buds themselves reminding all of us busy city dwellers that they’d soon be gone … and to look and adore.
I wish I’d gotten it together to write some sort of love song or ode to the Jacaranda, but this photo will have to do as my memorial. Until next time, you magical beauties.
While I’m visiting the states for a few weeks, lucky me gets to stay at my parents’ house in Maryland. What a treat. Today I woke up early and took my cup of coffee outside to the patio, where it was already sweltering hot before 8 am. As I sat, I watched and listened to the creature world awaken as I haven’t in so long. It occurred to me I’d somehow forgotten to notice that sea of living things that is there moving and singing and serenading us always.
Two bird feeders lured red finches, chickadees, cardinals and doves. A chipmunk scurried across the grass and then back — chomp, pause, chomp — in his wired, fast-twitch way, just as a rabbit hopped out of the blue and pink hydrangeas and into the neighbor’s yard (but don’t tell my dad, because the rabbit is apparently hungry for our plants). The loud summer bugs raged in a chorus and a yellow butterfly landed on a table nearby, and then floated away. Squirrels jumped between branches in a mad chase. A breeze let a spiderweb catch a golden ray of sun, and a mosquito feasted on my leg. Everyone free to grow, interact, sing, yell, cry, jump, run.
I couldn’t believe it! Oh what we miss when we live in the city. I suppose that, too, is just another creature world — of the working, playing and noise-making. Both worlds are beautiful, and both are alive. And loud.
From the introduction of The Best American Short Stories 2011, which Brooks edited.
So, my advice to young writers is, read this book. Enjoy the stories, admire the craft. Then put it in your backpack and go. As far as you can, for as long as you can afford it. Preferably someplace where you have to think in one language and buy groceries in another. Get a job there. Rent a room. Stick around. Do something. If it doesn’t work out, do something else. Whatever it is, you will be able to use it in the stories you will write later. And if that story turns out to be about grungy sex in an East Coast dorm room with an emotionally withholding semiotics major*, that’s okay. It will be a better story for the fact that you have been somewhere and carried part of it home with you in your soul.
* in reference to some of the crazy plots that she read while selecting for the anthology.
How about that Champions League final, aye?! What. a. match!
People seem to be really surprised lately to learn how much of a fútbol fan I’ve become. The truth is, it’s hard not to be in this town! Everything you’ve ever heard about Argentina being obsessed with football is 110% true. Of course there are exceptions — like people who prefer tennis or field hockey, or those who are turned off by football’s association with riotous violence — but on the whole, this country is stark raving mad for it. I went to my first River Plate match a few weeks after I got here and I was near tears at various points in the match, singing Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole as loud as I could. I was also covered in confetti.
Shortly thereafter I met two Brits here in BA who travel the world collecting chants at football matches. They plug them into an archive they’ve called Fan Chants and people can go and listen to their favorite team’s chants. I was instantly fascinated by the project. Sure, not all the chants are beautiful (and some are just downright mean), but without a doubt they are an amazing example of what this sport means to much of the world outside of the US. As passionate as Americans are for baseball, basketball and American football, I’ve really never experienced such deep, collective passion for sport.
I went on to write a story about the site, and then a series on the specific chants of eight European football clubs.
I woke up to learn that today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. To mark the day, here’s the poem in my pocket:
* * *
“Creative action plays with the unknown.
But as the child fears the dark,
full of big dogs and mental monsters
formed from fantasies,
the adult child will be fearful too,
faced with the dark world of the unknown mind,
with vast concepts looking enormous
just beyond the front yard.
Peering out, he sees no parents
in the darkness of that land
where he has never been.
The unknown is uncontrolled,
no strategies exist that will enclose
the endless territory of the new.
Only trust in yourself and in this world
can carry you past the watchdogs of your fears
and out of the iron gates of the already-known.”
In exactly one month from today, I will descend a long airport platform and find my seat on an airplane. I’ll have just a suitcase and a backpack. Likely I’ll be crying because I always cry, and because I’ll have just said goodbye — temporarily — to people I love. The plane will eventually land and let me off in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I’ll stay for an unknown amount of time.
No, I don’t have a job lined up, or a winning lottery ticket in my pocket. No, I don’t speak perfect Spanish (gimme two months to get it back), or have a lot of friends there. Nope, I’ve never even been there.
I’m going because I’ve always wanted to, and I’m going with a dream … to write, see more of the world, have random experiences and learn about myself and all kinds of other folks. C’mon, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t find a way to be supremely cheesy about all of this!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that naive – I am also going with a sense of the reality that this all may be quite hard. Even maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But until I try it, I’m not going to stop believing that if I really, really want it, I can make it happen. Even if “it” ends up meaning something completely different than what I set out thinking it could mean.
Steve Jobs’ words are speaking loud and clear to many of us today. Selfishly, I can’t help but feel comforted by his permission to be both hungry and foolish.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.