Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Take your time

Occasionally, I encounter a client who appears to have trouble putting words together in cogent sentences. On the other side of the continuum, I have clients who create work in breakneck time, sending it to me “to make sure that it’s right.” In both cases, these situations result in work for me. But I wonder about the ways that we each interpret pace and speed.

It’s been some time since I was graded on my writing or had it evaluated for a contest. Somehow, I can’t forget a client years ago who said that my work was so bad that he could have had better from his third grader. But as hard as I try to remember writing under pressure, I simply don’t recollect writing faster or slower, depending on the context. It appears that we all define speed in the same individual fashion as we do many other dynamics.

Driving on a 55 mph highway, 59 is speeding. As I travel. I often see drivers who are doing 75, 85 or 90, clear examples to me of extreme speeding. But do these drivers think of themselves as speeders? My guess is no – they are simply getting to where they need to be in as little time as possible.

Observing them and race drivers, I wonder if some of us have a need for speed? While I admit to improve my time for each 5k that I complete, time is vastly secondary to the victory associated with finishing.

Somehow, we all feel about pace or velocity as we do happiness, success or serenity. As in the case of those desirables, we have no need or right to create legislation or normalcy. It’s true that I would feel safer without drivers doing 90 behind and beside me. Identifying or citing them is ultimately the responsibility of local law enforcement but I admit to feeling happy when I see one of them pulled over by a police officer.

As for my slow, methodical writers, do what you need to feel right about what you write. My job remains the same, a responsibility that I eagerly and happily assume. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Grasshopper

Once again, I am amazed and enthralled by the cornucopia of inspiration that I receive from sitting in the patio. Following the brutal wind we experienced yesterday, I am grateful for the light breeze and the flourishing of blooms on geraniums, marigolds and pansies.

Sitting quietly and receiving energy from my surroundings, I notice a solitary grasshopper who shares the nearby rocks. He stays still for a very long time and if it weren’t for the movement of his tiny legs, I would wonder if he is still alive.

Under no circumstances would I put an end to him or chase him to another spot. He is as much a member of the community as I am. Without knowing exactly what he eats, I respect the fact that he occupies a specific place in the great chain of nature. As much as I have the right to do my part in this nature community, so does he.

Many years ago, I had a wonderful, irreplaceable friend who welcomed me to a new city and extended the most hospitality I have ever known. She was a dedicated wife and mother as well as being a prolific gardener and cook. We observed many insects in our gardening and canning endeavors, and I will never forget that every time she had to kill a bug, she would implore, “Go to God.”

This is not to say that I don’t kill critters who are uninvited house guests or those who attack my thriving plants. But for the most part, I welcome Mr. Grasshopper, Mr. Bumblebee and the numerous species of birds who partake of our food or nectar.

Whenever we lose sight of the rights and privileges of those around us, we disrupt the rules of life and survival. Each time I hear of murders, rapes or other atrocities in this community we call civilization, I shudder at the thought of what that person could have represented or given. While Mr. Grasshopper will never win a Nobel Prize or invent a cure for cancer, I am grateful for his presence and that of his fellow residents on our earth. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Music in my soul

Too many years ago, due to the crowd with which I was associated and a deep love for music, I decided to learn how to play the guitar. As I remember, by virtue of a tax refund or by purchasing it a few dollars per week, I was finally the proud owner of a classical guitar.

Because folk music was so popular, I took several lessons at the Old Town (Chicago) School of Folk Music. Ten years later, I was living in San Diego and pursued two courses in classical guitar. While Segovia had nothing to fear from my accomplishments, I was very proud to do what I did.

The guitar is still with me, lonely and unappreciated in the corner of my office. Rheumatoid arthritis makes it impossible to play chords and my musical endeavors are limited to vocal ones. As recently as last night, I began to wonder what lesson is to be derived from being unable to do something I loved.

There are no obvious answers. But because of my guitar background, I have a profound reverence for guitarists who craft magical musical melodies. While I’ve thought about other instruments, very few don’t include some level of manual dexterity.

Beyond observation and camaraderie, I remain an educator. Now and then I accept music teacher assignments and enjoy helping young people create and immerse themselves in music. And as in the case of so many abilities lost and saved, I remain grateful for what I can still accomplish.

For now, I am capable of an occasional 5k, singing as part of a professional choral ensemble and cooking a festive meal.  A number of people around the globe call on me for editing. So many who are around me have fewer capabilities and depend on others for essential activities of daily living.

And so, my lesson is that of gratitude instead of the sorrow of loss. One day, my guitar will find a new home with someone who can retrieve the memories and secrets it preserves. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Life is but a river

One of the books that I have recently completed includes a passage from Talmud (Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend) that is delivered by a father to his son at the beginning of their Nazi experiences in Germany during World War II. Although I’ve seen the quote attributed elsewhere, the gist of it from Talmud is as follows: Life is but a river, with no beginning, middle or end. Our value is what we do while we float upon it and how we treat our fellow man.

Taken within the context of the Holocaust, the advice is clear and valuable. No matter what we may do, our actions and reactions will be within the course of the human experience. We can direct some of it but are incapable of controlling all of it. The best we can hope is to float peacefully along our individual and community rivers of life.

Beyond that, how we treat each other is crucial. My guess is that our treatment of the other residents of this world becomes more important because it is one of those few things that we can manage. Our fellow men, likewise, can only control how they treat us and everyone else.

While initially this quotation seems dismal and sad, I believe that it is helpful and constructive to see ourselves as part of an entity much more formidable than any one of us. As residents of that which we call life, we were not present at the beginning of life and will not be able to see the end of it (we hope).

Whether or not that reality is good or bad is not for me to determine. But I do like the idea that the way I treat others is the means to improve and enhance life in general, both for me and for all those whom I touch, either personally or through my writing. That’s a considerable responsibility and one that I consider a gift and privilege. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Mr. Twain revisited

Mr. Twain – it’s wonderful to see you again and resume our fascinating conversation. I’m hopeful that you’ve had some time for further reflection and life observations that I can share with my readers.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

That’s a great idea except when writing or any other act of creativity is blocked or uninspired. What do you think?

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

Don’t you ever experience frustration over the need for self-expression and the limited areas in which to do so?

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

If you’re anything like me, you find that our emotions surface in our writing, regardless of our attempts to be analytical or dispassionate. Maybe, the truth for those of us who are authors is that emotion is the triggering mechanism and the prerequisite for words that follow.

When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.

As always, you find the right words to express what many of us are feeling. Before we adjourn, do you have any final thoughts that you seek to express?

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Put all your eggs in one basket – and watch that basket!

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have someone to divide it with.

Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Twain. My hope is that my readers are inspired to read more of your work and learn a great deal about your powerful philosophies. You’re obviously passionate about life and its intricacies and I am so moved to have spent some [imaginary] time in your presence. Shalom.

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If only

Every now and then, I think about the possibility of life after this one. Because we have no evidence of which I am aware to confirm our next lives, it makes the greatest amount of sense to live each of the days we have to the best of our strengths and wisdom.

That reality doesn’t prevent me from pondering what I would do differently if I had my life to live again. With the understanding that I can’t do so, I offer some observations about what changes I would make.

For one, my career as a writer/author/editor tells me to write everything down. In the past few days, I was surprised to find that I did so, writing poetry and observations many years before I began publishing them. Our thoughts and adventures are worth recording, for ourselves and those who follow.

Talk less, listen more. As I remind my students, there is a very good reason why we have two ears and one mouth. Maybe I spent too much time demonstrating what I knew, with the consequence of not hearing those facts and thoughts that I didn’t know. And as I reflect on the assertion that I take things personally, perhaps it’s true. But if we don’t take bullying, anti-Semitism and racism personally, nothing changes.

Demonstrate patience whenever possible. Many days I wonder if I had as many career positions as I did because I embraced change, I wanted bigger chances to contribute or I simply needed personal growth. In retrospect, I believe that more patience would have been desirable, both for seeing situations work out to my advantage and that of my employer. Advancement may have been imminent if I had waited.

Seek advice and wisdom, not agreement or validation. In my role as advocate, educator or leader, I am careful to provide opinions rather than imperatives and feel strongly that we should lead by education, not mandate.

Finally, while those who overlook or ignore the past are inevitably going to repeat it, dwelling in it is toxic. We must learn from the mistakes and good decisions, being careful not to commemorate them through endless reiteration. Be selective about your memories, lest they serve to hinder you from treasuring the present and future. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Ending and beginning

As this year comes to an end, many of us contemplate what has taken place and what we hope for the upcoming calendar year. The fact that none of us can accurately predict the events that will take place, this lack of impact doesn’t prevent anyone (including me) from wishing the best for 2019.

Listing the realities that I hope to take place next year, I can only wonder how many of them I can in fact influence. The easy answer is that most of it is out of my hands. While I can suggest to others that they purchase and read my autobiography, ultimately, I can’t cause anyone to do so. The same is true for reading my blogs, soliciting professional services or asking me to teach. And as I hope for continued good health for my family and me, how much of that health is out of my direct control?

With all of that inability, what are our options for 2019? Sitting in my recliner in preparation for the next year seems neither attractive nor productive. My intention is to return to the classroom, for the opportunity to touch young lives every day. Along with that, I hope to join a local choral ensemble so as not to allow my vocal chords to rust. And in a community that actively seeks volunteers in a wide collection of venues, I will seek out the one where my energy and experience may be best put to work.

While I am aware that none of those intentions will insulate me from negative occurrences, I also believe that all of them will maximize my opportunities for a happy and fulfilled life. And the bonus is that by engaging in my planned activities, I have the ability to make the lives of others better in some way, large or small.

Thank you in advance for your wishes for a happy new year; they are enthusiastically reciprocated. But I leave you with the recommendation that you can be a contributor to a good year, primarily by engaging in giving more to the world than you take. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Losing a friend

Difficult though it may be for me to acknowledge, it appears that I’ve lost a friend. This is someone who has been in my world for approximately ten years and losing him is an experience that I am having difficulty understanding and explaining.

In other times, I would hear from this friend every several weeks or at a minimum, once per month. His absence is now almost two months in duration, without explanation or apparent cause.

Because of my views about friendship, I have emailed and called him, with no response. His family has also been part of my world. Consequently, I’ve texted one of his daughters who has also failed to answer me.

Our last contact had no conflict or problems that would explain a lack of communication. To exacerbate the loss, there were neither holiday wishes for Thanksgiving nor an invitation to his annual holiday gathering.

My view of life dictates that I have a lesson to learn or a reality to be gained from this situation. One consequence is to be a better friend to all those who are truly friends. There is no such thing as telling these people too often how important they are to me.

Another reaction is to evaluate my liaisons to see whether there are signs of weakness or dissension. Is it possible that I failed to keep promises, didn’t maintain sufficient contact or fell short on taking actions that needed to be taken?

Eventually, I suspect that I will understand this loss – it may be a busy schedule, illness, family emergency or other situation that I can’t identify. No matter the reason, I will always wish him and his family well, cherishing the many happy memories. The greatest challenge will always be in not knowing why. In the meantime, I have the incentive to value the friends who are present and constant, express my feelings for them and make certain that I remind them of their value. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Rock to remember

Last week, our journeys through Oklahoma created a stop for the night in Stroud, OK. We scanned the possibilities for dinner and discovered The Rock, a famous and highly touted landmark.

The decision to eat there was an excellent one. As we entered, the owner and solitary wait person greeted us, suggesting that, “Y’all can sit anywhere you are comfortable.” She handled the bill for group that was leaving and approached our table.

The owner provided menus, 3’ x 2’ plastic laminated affairs with a substantial menu on the front and a map of Oklahoma on the back. She then asked, “Where y’all from?” We described our recent travels and New Mexican destination and she never lost her smile or hospitality.

This is unlike any venue you are ever likely to encounter. The room is top to bottom knotty pine, with an old stone fireplace, large institutional wooden tables and chairs and Route 66 memorabilia throughout. Our best guess was that the interior was essentially the same as it was fifty years ago.

Much of the memorabilia was historical. We saw the aged kitty clock with eyes and tail that moved in harmony. The walls were covered with pictures of long established products, cars and motorcycles, some of which were quite old. And the exit sign was neon, with a large arrow pointing to the door.

We ordered dinner and absorbed the surroundings. At one point, the cook approached our server and asked her to ask us if we wanted sauerkraut with one of the entrees. She politely asked if we did and when hearing a no, she scrunched up her face and said, “Yah, I didn’t think y’all were gonna want that.”

The meal arrived and was fastidiously prepared. Portions were huge and replete with fresh ingredients. At the end of our meal, we were offered homemade peach pie with ice cream, but she gracefully accepted our decline.

It seemed that every sentence we heard had a “y’all” and a “thank you.” Any thank you we offered was responded with another thank you. A guest book was offered, and we were politely requested to add our names to it. Finally, our hostess happily proclaimed, “Thank y’all for coming to The Rock!”

After we left, we determined that we weren’t the only visitors who marveled at the unique quaintness of this restaurant. The owner was a legend in town for her kindness and for having provided employment for numerous locals. We also discovered that she was a character in a famous Disney movie where her likeness and mannerisms were faithfully duplicated.

If you’re ever near Stroud, Oklahoma, be sure to stop on by. Getting into the restaurant is a challenge because of a circuitous and uneven path. But the food is worth the visit, especially when paired with southwestern grace and old -fashioned hospitality. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Prose photography

It occurred to me recently that although I am occasionally lucky or timely enough to shoot remarkable shots on my phone or camera, I am by no means a photographer. Likewise, I am not an illustrator, gourmet chef, musician or interior designer.

That’s not bad or sad news. Our world is rich with those who can capture fleeting images, unforgettable likenesses, stirring sonatas, delicious meals and inviting living spaces. My role is to select any one of those arts and make it available or enhance it with words.

While mine may seem more limited than other art forms, I will hurriedly disagree. If I am selective, I can aspire to manufacturing images that are visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory. What an amazing challenge and incentive!

Here’s an example. Walk into a Roman cafe and scan your surroundings. As a writer, I perceive and capture the aged decorations and well-trodden wooden floor. At the same time, I am aware of the collection of voices large and small, intrusive and mellow. Through that, I can hear the scurrying back and forth of wait staff. And while my sense of smell is missing, I am advised that the aroma is a cornucopia of oregano, freshly grated parmigiano and bubbling marinara sauce.

You might argue that a photographer of this scene could capture all these nuances and disseminate them in a photo. Likewise, an artist could place you in this setting and faithfully duplicate many of the sensations. My hope is to provide the entire sensory adventure.

All of this is to observe the power of language, mine and others, to expound and elaborate on other forms of expression. To the musician, while I can’t hope to duplicate or improve on powerful symphonic subtleties, I can respond to them through prose.

To all arts and artisans whom I admire and enjoy, thank you for your brilliance. It thrills me to be an associate, joining the ranks of other wordsmiths who have sought to create enduring memories. My words will continue to celebrate and embellish your creations, for as long as I have the ability to assemble them. Shalom.