On my recent trip out West, we went to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA for a day. I was struck by the beautiful design elements and artistic touches I saw all over the California Park. There were also many California Craftsman style pieces as well as Art Deco, often in the most mundane places.
QUESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK
Credit for this first question goes to Teresa of The Haunted Wordsmith. She asked for TEN books, in her challenge, so the SYW folks got off a bit easy..)
Name two books that have influenced you and share how.
O Jerusalem: Day by Day and Minute by Minute, the Historic Struggle for Jerusalem and the Birth of Israel by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
I first read the book when I lived in New York. It’s a great book for anyone who likes history. But later I read the same book when I was actually living in Jerusalem. When they wrote “… and then they charged up the hill …” and I looked out my living room window and realized — that WAS the hill. Suddenly, I realized there’s a no comparison between wars fought thousands of miles away and a war fought in your backyard.
Angelique, by Ann Golan.
I was 13 when I first read the book and in my fifties when I read the last one that had been translated into English.
With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through every imaginable personal tragedy and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are temporary setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.
She is deathlessly beautiful, but Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex.
When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own and does. She fights for her family, her home, her beliefs, her rights.
She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties. She became a kind of mystical image of perfection for me. A dream woman whose feet were firmly planted on the earth.
In your opinion, where is the line between art and not art?
I don’t think there is a line. Each person has their own version of “the line” between what is and isn’t art, but it’s not a real thing. It’s just where each individual puts it.
This doesn’t mean that I like everything. I don’t. There are many things deemed artistic that I find repulsive, even ugly … but I don’t define art.
But on the other hand, if someone gives me a museum, I know what I wouldn’t put in it!
Trivia for Halloween: What item is banned only during Halloween from 12am October 31st to 12pm November 1st in Hollywood California?
Silly String. And I don’t know why either.
What is something that really annoys you but doesn’t bother most people?
Stupid people. But that bothers a lot of people. People who use bad grammar — but that hardly makes me unique. Actually, I don’t think I have an answer for this one. I think I get annoyed by the same stuff that annoys most people. The only difference is that I write about it.
Instead of our usual gratitude question, I’m posing this one for this week: What or who in your life brings you the most joy?
Garry. Maybe it has always been Garry. He aggravates me, annoys me, frustrates me. He’s the soul of my soul and heart of my heart.
I have to start this out by explaining that just a couple of days ago, I heard a noise in the bedroom. It was the kind of noise the wakes me right up because it was a little squeaky noise. Like the sound a mouse makes. And it was followed by little scrabbly sounds.
We had a mouse in the bedroom!
Now, we’ve put a fair amount of energy and money into controlling our mouse problems and we know we haven’t had any up here, and just a few in the basement. The last time the mouse guy was out — just a couple of weeks ago — I asked if there was any chance we’d solve the mouse problem and he said, “No. You live in the woods.”
I said: “I know the mice are just looking for a warm cozy place to spend the winter, but not here.”
He looked at me. “You are,” he said “Exactly what they are looking for. You live in the woods. The mice will find you. Do you know they can slip in through a space no wider than a dime?”
We spent considerable time cleaning the bedroom but didn’t find any sign of mice actually setting up a home in our bedroom. But if I hear that sound again, those mice people will have to get back here and do their mouse annihilation thing. I sympathize with chilled mice, but not my bedroom. Sorry small furries. If I won’t sleep with my dogs, I ain’t sleeping with you!
There are other sounds I’ve heard that cannot be managed by the mouse guy.
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer
I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts. Friendly ghosts or at least, they were friendly to us.
Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t think if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts. There seems to be a general agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they have slipped that mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, and era. Even today, there are rumors and stories.
I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear our ghosts. It was 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing my degree.
The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was overtly friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and then died in it. They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved.
We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies. I could feel it.
The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.
Initially, we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half of it had become a bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was bigger and had great light, but we needed to fix it up first.
Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.
We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor heard it.
The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.
We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until we moved in.
At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.
Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.
Life is full of strangeness. If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me about it. I’m dying to know.
We have tons of art in the house. I like to think we also have a fair bit of truth, but if no one seems able to define truth, how in the world do you define “art?”
I collected dolls for years and antique Chinese porcelain … and for a long time, teapots and other oddities. Some people find the dolls creepy. I love them. We have paintings and photographic prints and small items that really are pretty, but currently (in this world) useless.
A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.
This is an evergreen post for me. I’ve modified a bit with each iteration, but it says something that’s fundamentally true about the creative process and certainly about my creative process. Writing is me. It’s the sport I play, the goal I seek. Sometimes, I need to remind myself of things I already know, so here it is, again.
We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.
I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question makes me fairly sure they are not writers.
If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.
I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.
Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.
Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.
If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy. Writing itself is a gift.
If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it quite young.
Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.
My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.
Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. Or not.
But at least you will know you did your best, even if your best wasn’t quite up to snuff. If you don’t write, it might be a personal loss for you, but possibly, it’s the world’s loss.
You will never know how good you can be if you don’t at least give it a try.