Garden in the East

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I’ve been working on the new book this past few months. It’s going well. I think that’s what I’m supposed to say, by default, whenever someone asks, and so that is what I say. If they press further, I might mention the potholes, the detours or the time wasted at the truck stops because the road to finishing this book has been, at times, no damn fun. Writing books is not always fun.

Even so, I’m almost there. Garden in the East– The Spiritual Life of the Body is on its way, soon, to my editor and will present itself in full form in the middle of next year. It’s exciting to see the image of this new thing emerge from the block of marble that is the blank page. I hope it is beautiful. I hope it is good.

In any case, I was re-reading a chapter today, fine tuning, shaking it out a little and I came across this excerpt that describes the first time I threw my back out. The chapter is foundational to this book about how we view and care for the body– physically, emotionally and spiritually. I thought I’d go ahead and give a sampling of what’s coming out of this here marble slab these days, in case you’re into that sort of thing.

Once while vacuuming I threw my back out. Something twinged and then a shooting pain ran down either side of my lower spine deep into my hips. I could not move. I had four small children. It was the middle of the day. I made my way to the floor, instructed my daughter to turn off the vacuum cleaner and then give me the phone. When I told my husband that I needed him to leave his meeting and come home, right now, he was confused. I’d never had a complaint about my back in my life. I was still awfully young for “back trouble” and there was no immediate cause apart from vacuuming. When he came home and saw me weeping on the family room carpet he remembered his back issues and the pain that comes with them and set to work to get the kids in line and me to the doctor.

There was no “reason” for my back to go out, no injury, no inherent trouble with the spine or congenital defect as there is in my husband’s case of spondylolisthesis, which is a slipping of the vertebrae. I was home full time then, working out as often as I could, but not eating or sleeping as well as I ought to have been. Even so, I was in relatively decent shape for my tender mid to late thirties. The best my doctor could offer is that in addition to carrying children around or bending over picking things up off the ground all day, I was stressed out and that most likely I carried my stress in my lower back. I was parenting and vacuuming and worried and one thing led to another until the twinge and pain came along. After a massage, a lot of Advil and some rest, my back pain subsided and I made a silent pact to pay better attention to my stress.

Pain is a signal. My body was telling me something.  Slow down. Pay attention. Breathe. Overly tight muscles cannot do what they’re made to do. I’d felt those twinges, tiny, shoots of pain here and there. I’d ignored it and kept going until at last the muscles shut it down to reboot.

All things work together for the good.  When one part of the body is suffering other areas will rally to help support that part. Weak core muscles will gain some support from the lower back. They kick in to keep us upright even in the light of that core weakness. Over time those muscles, doing their job and that of the core will begin to grow over worked and then before you know it you’re laying on the shag carpet, weeping in pain while your six month old son throws plastic blocks at your head from his bouncy chair.

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Your lucky day!

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I’ve been blogging so long now I have to say that coming up with great titles to posts has become somewhat difficult. You’d think it’d get easier right? Not so. The competition is steeper round these parts, people. Everyone has new content going up every single day, sometimes twice a day. I’m lucky if I get words on the internet to update my status update these days.

I do have some words up though at Ruminatemagazine.com and I’ll say they are nice words. Mostly, they are Luci Shaw’s words which means that they are far sweeter and much more luscious than anything I’ve put down lately.

If you have a moment and perhaps, even if you don’t, you should read them…and then you should read Luci’s work. Ruminate aims to make that a whole lot easier for you in fact. If you simply leave a comment on the blog post over there at Ruminatemagazine.com you can win a copy of her book.

And you should want to do that because the book is wonderful…and Luci is wonderful…I want to be Luci Shaw when I grow up.

So go, my feisty friends! Go and read and make merry that this is indeed your lucky day! But go FAST! The drawing is tomorrow.
🙂

Click the image below, what are you waiting for?
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Monk in the world…

I’m pleased to have a piece up on Abbey of the Arts this week for their “Monk in the World” guest series. I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out and to browse the rest of the site. It’s a sweet group of folks and there’s a whole catalogue of wisdom there!

Monk in the World

fotos: lullaby

It’s been a while since I posted an entry for “friday fotos.” It’s appropriate that I ran across this beautiful picture of the culmination of my husband’s recent work with Opera-matic, a small non profit street opera company he’s been developing. You’ll be glad to know that you can see more pics from the event held last weekend in Humboldt Park on the Facebook page. You can see more of Jim’s great photography on his site: http://www.jimnewberry.com  

Years ago, when the idea of Opera-matic was very young, the idea of the Lullaby Parade was percolating in the minds of a number of artists we knew and worked with on other projects. Dave and his partner, Mark Messing (who you’d know from the amazing Mucca Pazza fame) would often stoke the fire of this idea in between paying gigs, in between deadlines and the daily pressures of being creative small business owners in Chicago.

I saw the maiden voyage of this parade before we moved to Tennessee I think. My kids were small, some still toddling, some clinging to me. The bikes began it on that side street near the office we kept for Maestro-matic, Dave and Mark’s sound design company. The bikes rolled out, slowly on those dark streets in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The name of that neighborhood even now gives Chicagoans pause. They shake their heads at the sound of it, it’s a place you wouldn’t catch any decent person after dark, they’d say. But the truth is that there are and have always been decent people, even in the roughest of neighborhoods. Humboldt Park is no exception.

There were children here, playing and singing, long before the attempts at gentrification. There are families everywhere-  good people, loving folks, needing beauty no matter how gang infested, graffiti covered or low income. In the food deserts and the abandoned lot riddled areas, in the places where the city shrugs its big shoulders and throws up its hands, here we hold the first essences of the Lullaby Parade. And we roll out the bikes first, like an ice cream truck without the dairy treats attached, and the singing begins as they pedal down Talman Avenue from North. And the Paper Moon is projected on, the face singing sweetly, an easy song to catch, to hold, to carry. We are a small group at first and I am, I admit, a bit afraid because my children are small, some still toddling, some clinging to me as the parade makes its way down the road.

Then a child comes to the porch, then another, then a parent, a caregiver, a grandmother and they all wander down to follow along. And we sing as we wind our way down one street, then another, never going far, never going fast. The singing continues and the streetlights burn above our heads and the Moon smiles and the stars feel closer than they have ever felt. There is some laughter and some head shaking. There is some apprehension and some unbridled joy. There is confusion and honesty and the feeling that something important started here with something so small as this, something lasting, something truthful and beautiful.

There were more tastes of this between that first Lullaby Parade and the one held last week in Humboldt Park, more small starts, more important moments, lasting, truthful and beautiful. And it’s something, that given the chance, you should not miss and I mean that. Take some time and check out the amazing work of Opera-matic and the lovely photography of Jim Newberry (and others on our Facebook page.)

See what it stirs in you.

Momentum Muri

Momentum Mori OCT 30TH 2010:Opera-Matic in the Haunted Paseo Boricua Parade.
The procession featured a Crossing Guard, Ghost horses, and Ghost bikes and was performed in collaboration with West Town Bikes and Cyclo Urbano.
Photo credit: Jim Newberry

jellybeans…

I got a rejection recently on a piece I submitted to a new literary magazine. I had some expectation that it might not be what they were seeking but I submitted it anyway mostly because the non-fiction editor is Kathleen Norris. There, I said it. I submitted my essay because the editor is a writer I love a whole lot.

Now, it’s entirely possible she read the first line only or had her cleaning lady read it, I’ll allow for that. It’s really ok with me. I’ve been rejected by a LOT of people in the publishing field in the last few years. I’m a little giddy, frankly, that I got rejected by Kathleen Norris. Lord knows, I’d be a great deal giddier if she’d accepted it, nonetheless, it’s fun to have Kathleen Norris (or her assistant or her cleaning lady) send me an email.

I realize now, this being the maiden voyage of that particular literary review that I had no idea the scope of the non-fiction category. Frankly, when I read that a magazine is looking for non-fiction essay I often forget that what I write is more “personal” essay. The piece that showed up in the magazine was ASTOUNDING. You should read it, I mean…it was astounding and beautiful.

Now that’s not to say that my personal essay is not also astounding in it’s own way. The point is that I sent in jellybeans and the piece that got in was a dark chocolate torte with ganache and white chocolate piping. Really.

I like jellybeans, I’m not bashing my own work. I like chocolate tortes better and could probably write one given the time and interest and brain space. It was, however, a treat to read the one made by the hands of Olga Sedakova entitled “The Morality of Art, or the Evils of Mediocrity.” Ach du lieber…loveliness…and decidedly not jellybeans.

If you have the opportunity I’d invite you to pick up a copy of St Katherine Review. The poetry by Jennifer Aktinson and Nicholas Samaras in particular broke open the tastebuds of my soul in a way that I did not expect. It may very well be the sweetness you crave today. Check it out. I’m going to hole up and start work on a three layer, triple fudge cake with coconut cream filling…and topped with jellybeans.