Post #105: “It’s a Poor Sort of Memory That Only Works Backwards.”

IMG_2801Dearest All,

It’s time.

Aw, but there are few things I’ve loved more than this!

When I began this project so many years and so many words ago, I was terrified that I’d run out of things to say, petering out like a gasless motorboat stuck in the middle of a lake. Instead, I think I’ve learned to paddle stealthily forward, sometimes stopping both to catch my breath and to enjoy the view. 

This blog is called Notes From The Room in My Head, of course in honor of Virginia Woolf’s  seminal A Room of One’s Own.  That book, and the fact that I’d found a large print edition of it, squirreled away on a back shelf at the public library,  was the subject of my very first blog post in August, 2014.  In this slim volume, Woolf says that to write a woman needs these absolutely essential things:  a small independent income and a quiet private space of one’s own. Moreover a woman needs time to create. I had none of these things.  And yet,

I am incredulous that somehow I consistently managed to squeeze things off the shelf to make the time to think and to write.

I’ve reveled in the experience of making myself a part of the world around me rather than floating unseeing above it all.

I am deeply moved to at last understand at last that there are connections to be made with so many who  take the time to reach out, to read, to offer. That a tentative step out the door is in fact a  brave and brassy renewable swoop of faith.

And oh dang, really and truly,  it’s been fun. And “fun,” said the inimitable Theodor S. Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, “is good.”

Was this a tiny bit of what the luminescent and brilliant Virginia Woolf was thinking all along, cajoling us,  enticing us, goading us all forward?

Over the course of this blog I’ve thought so often about time itself, how one can wrap time back upon itself through  memory, how to make it as malleable as softened marzipan, how to bend it to appreciate it’s differing shapes and changes of pace.

And now it’s time for a shift.

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” said Lewis Carroll.  In my memory going forward then, I have many more things to say, many more things to write.  There will be a bit of a break from the blog, although the writing redoubles. You will hold my work in your hands and I fervently hope, hold it it your minds and your hearts.  You’ll all hear from me again.

Until then, a toast to each and every one of you and a wish for much happiness. Here’s to the power of the written word, to the myriad  joys of reading and writing.  Back in touch soonest.

With thanks and appreciation, C

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Post #102: The Cottage Loaf

IMG_2658It was different this time.

Instead of the usual tumble of ingredients cascading from the cupboards,  sprays of spices gracefully arching from one end of the kitchen to the other,  a true crazy salad of culinary invention,  this was something else entirely.   It was simple baking, nothing more than flours, salt, yeast and water,  but like all things of great beauty, really wasn’t simple at all.

Sometime ago I came across a lovely piece from the marvelous Paper and Salt  (paperandsalt.org) blog, on Virginia Woolf and her immense pride and preoccupation with cookery and particularly the creation of what even in Woolf’s time would have been considered an unfashionable loaf of bread: The Cottage Loaf.  Bulbous,  unwieldy, awkward, Paper and Salt surmised the odd shape of this bread was created to save horizontal space in small ovens.  And yet, as Paper and Salt note, Virginia Woolf herself took immense pride in crafting this old fashioned, traditional English bread, readily leaving her writing to elbow her cook out of the way to knead, to mold, to shape.  Cooking, and especially bread baking, it seems gave Woolf a sense of calm and comfort.  Like so many others I adore her work.  I wanted that kind of comfort for her. But I also I wanted in some small way to experience it. 

I wondered about this. Writing I think is often an attempt to assuage a gnawing hunger. And yet, what happens when one writes?  There an avalanche of literarily thousands of words as you gingerly reach out into the torrent to hopefully capture a few precious pebbles to cup in your hands. Sometimes this is sheer terror.  But gather what you will, you then polish them, cherish them, and pile them carefully into sentences, wincing as you vaguely recall the rules of grammar and syntax.  You lash the trembling piles of your sentences together to move others, to to express the inexpressible.  To give pleasure.  To be memorable. To maybe, just maybe,  leave something of lasting value to the world. Especially for someone of of Virginia Woolf’s immense talent, the pressures to create must have been intensely magnified.

One wonders, does any writer truly feel that they’ve done it all right? That they wouldn’t change  a sentence, a word, a thought?  James Joyce famously continued corrections of  Ulysses throughout his life, to such an extent that to this day there is dissension about some of his true intentions.  One of the towering works of literature is essentially a work in progress.

But there are respites. For Virginia Woolf it was baking. Something that could be begun, worked methodically, and truly completed. This, as far as I’m concerned, is far more fun than housecleaning.  Unsurprisingly, I could find no records at all of Virginia Woolf pirouetting around her Bloomsbury abode with a mop and feather duster.

It was decided! For a precious afternoon then, I would slip on Virginia Woolf’s own apron to make her favorite bread.  And so I set out to make The Cottage Loaf.

Squinting hard at the recipe,  I began by carefully measuring and mixing, solemnly kneading and waiting and watching, reveling in what I hoped would be a meditative experience that left me serene and centered.

But I am who I am.  I typically bake and cook to jazz standards,  punching dough and stirring the contents of pots in time to the beat of Gene Krupa or the thrum of Django Reinhard. So after a bit I reverted to typical form, poufs of flour hovering around me like dust from the skids at the Indy 500, punching at the dough like a pint sized Joe Louis. Moreover, I have found that the results of my cooking and baking endeavors are enhanced with a nearby glass of chardonnay.

This may be why the resulting Cottage Loaf possesses a rather atypical slooped roof.

It didn’t matter.  While I did not channel Virginia Woolf in the slightest, in my own inefficiently efficient way I’d like to think that I felt some of her joy in completing a task, in creating something that if not perfect, was quite real.

Moreover, I think I understand why Virginia Woolf loved to bake.

I stared at the Cottage Loaf and for a moment or two I could not imaging cutting into it. But eventually I did, slowly dribbling honey on each slice, savoring the sweetness.

***

The inspiration for this post comes from the excellent paperandsalt.org literary cooking blog.  They’ve posted the Virginia Woolf Cottage Loaf recipe.  Do check them out via the link below.

Virginia Woolf: Cottage Loaf

Post #100: The Dance

maxresdefaultI never really expected to be here. But I am so very happy to have arrived.

Four years.
Every other week.
Upwards of 70,000 words.
One hundred posts.

But as I’ve staked my by-weekly Tuesday by Tuesday way through these writings, I’ve found that as I’ve moved forward, I’ve gained so much by looking back. By slowing down. By simply wondering. By just thinking deeply. In a way I feel as if I’ve regained parts of myself that I didn’t even know were lost. Moreover, I feel somehow that I am putting myself back together in ways that I still find a bit mystifying. But I’m grateful it’s happening.

Over the past week I did something that I probably should have done ages ago but didn’t: that is to simply read each blog post once again. Starting at the beginning all the way to now. After writing each post I’ve never before reread them as I’ve always been propelled by the next idea, eager as always to put fingers to the keyboard.

But I did finally reread them, feeling like an guest at my own party. But an honored guest, one who was just handed a flute of champagne, a dish of chocolates, a bowl of wild strawberries. This has been a pleasure.

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. But I think all writers, whether good or pedestrian or exceptional (think Virginia Woolf or Jane Austen or M.F..K.Fisher or any of your own favorites) all are truly are linked by one extraordinary idea. That is, if one writes one is somehow joining in the conversation of thought, of ideas, of glorious words that stretch back over time and through time. If one writes it feels as if one is part of some magnificent ongoing relay race, each runner fervently doing his or her part, giving all in the hopes of handing the baton up to another to keep moving forward, all for the team.

It’s an honor, no matter how mediocre or how good one’s work is, to simply to try to add to that conversation. Then too, there is so often buoyant bliss, jubilant joy in just putting words on paper. The effort is worthwhile.

In reading over my own work I am struck by how supremely happy so many memories are and how grateful I am to have snared them. Each year becomes studded with wondrous, memorable days of birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, successes. They are the ongoing treasured jewels of the crown of each year:

May 13, August 30, November 17, June 23, July 7, November 6, April 30, September 6, March 9, July 20, April 7, May 9, January 4, December 21, July 15

But what are the special days yet to come? What unforetold successes are there yet to be: marriages, births, anniversaries, celebrations? What children will be born, what happinesses yet to happen? How wonderful to think that they will all be there, embedded somewhere in those 365 days of the coming years.

Since we do not know this, which days to come will be hallowed and celebrated as we move forward, I propose then it makes sense to quietly celebrate them all. I like doing things in advance.

In other words, to my mind there is no such thing as a “regular” day. Or, if you choose to turn it inside out, regular days are celebratory days.

My mind turns once again to Matisse’s radiant The Dance. The women cavort in a never-ending circle. They dance with joyful abandon. But a space is open. A hand reaches out. Grasp it.

Come join The Dance. See you soon. And once again, thank you all for reading along with me.

 

Post #79: “Spacious Pastures of the Spirit”

FullSizeRenderI started this activity for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t just embrace schedules. I am constricted and a bit smothered by them, like a hapless fly caught in spiderweb, oddly proud nonetheless. My day, and each activity in it, is carefully choreographed and timed as I punch and feint through each moment. My joy is magnified as I smugly check things off my lists—only to begin another as soon as all my checks are made.I don’t just make every moment count. I squeeze the daylights out of every second. Again and again and again. Good for me. Good for me?

And so when I found this idea—this brilliant idea— via The Art of Manliness blog I snagged it. There are minutes wasted in every single day, they noted. Time spent waiting in line, a moment or two before an appointment, downtime before dinner (at least when someone else is cooking it). Grab those moments, they implored. Make them count. What if, The Art of Manliness noted, one spent that rattling bagful of minutes reading? A bit here and a bit there? Do those moments add up? They do. Oh yes they do.

And so tentatively I began.

My work, in its various iterations over the decades, has always meant that I essentially read for a living. This makes things a bit harder because reading, which I believe with my whole heart should always been a joy, is sometimes for me a slog. And so, I determined that my special moments of reading book would never been a book I am supposed to be reading and thinking about for work. These stolen moments throughout the day, then, would not be work. They would be just for me.

It wasn’t hard to dig through the pile of night table books to find the first ones to slide into my backpack, nestled between my wallet and my phone charger. I grabbed my reading moments greedily, beginning with Northern Farm by Henry Beston

I read it in tiny gulps, a minute or two here, a few leftover seconds there. Like a hummingbird dipping into a daylily. Weeks later, I came to and end and began another, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepard, then Beston’s The Outermost House, followed by the poems of Rumi. The pile of books is unending.

The interesting things is there shouldn’t have been time to read these books. And yet, by snatching the moments, there were. Was I somehow making time itself burgeon and expand?

By lassoing lost moments, tweezering them in to my tightly stitched scheduling, I found that I was providing myself with something truly extraordinary. I was making these stolen moments not scheduled work but as Rumi said, “spacious pastures of the spirit.” Over and over, even for a few brief moments I could melt into thought.

It’s a gift that each of us can so easily give ourselves. Just find things that you love to read. Find the spare moments to read them.

The words and thoughts will set your spirit soaring!

 

Thanks to the always interesting The Art of Manliness Blog for the idea. Definitely worth a look for any of you have haven’t found them yet. http://www.artofmanliness.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post #77: Shall We Play?

IMG_0003Shall we play?  Say each of the following words slowly, allowing the sounds to tumble over your tongue.  Each will then  slowly dissolve in  your mouth beginning with the sharp tang of a lemon drop, melting down into a mellow sweetness.

You can do it!

fizmer

zwer

snitter

tripple

clumst

apricity

mungle-bungle

whanged

tussock

gormless

nictictating

spicules

adamantine

sibilant

sensorium

asmother

glancous

Well really. Don’t you love the tingle of a tripple on your tongue?  Can you stretch and twist to mungle-bungle?   Grind your teeth to snitter? Hold yourself close to clumst?

Want to trade a glancous for a swer?  Cozy up to apricity? Twitch to nicictating?  You’re on!

Bundle them all into an warm afghan. Knit them into sentences.  Pick and pluck them from the branches of knowledge, take a tentative bite then have your mouth filled with the most extraordinary sweetness!

mumpsimus

nugacity

Canorous

superbious

argle-bargle

paludal

wowser

Each voluptuous word, softened by a dip into afternoon tea, is allowed to casually wend its way into casual conversation, flutter into debate, soar into rhetoric!

So I’ll slap down a fugacious! You whack out a razzia!  I’ll parry with a snollygoster!  You lunge with a wabbit!

My collection of words hangs on the clothesline for all to see and hear, to roll in the wind, buffet and snap in the breeze.  Sometimes a bit wrinkled. Occasionally starched.  But meant to be proudly used and cared for, never ever just simply hung out to dry.

I am the rucksacked etymological  lepidopterist in search of The Great Spangled Fritillary, The Grizzled Skipper, The Silver-Studded Blue.  A glutton who cannot bear to leave the never-ending banquet.  The sweet taste of zenith, the sour of cacoethes, the lingering finish of a paraph! 

I want them all. But like love itself each word is incomplete unless it is shared, lofted to the sky and smartly served across the tightly pulled net. Back and forth and back and forth.   Oh the joy of a great volley!

These sought after gems are cared for and remembered by me,  jotted down on little index cards. Shuffle them, read them, consider them again and again.  Sometimes flipped into the air in a raucous game of 52 pick up.

They flit and float through my mind, they sing in my ear. Sometimes they even flow through my pen and make my fingers dance on the keyboard.

The most beautiful sounds are not a whisper, not a murmer, not a shout not a cry.  But a conversation peppered and pinged full of rhythmic and rollicking and simply exquisite words.

Talk and write and listen.

Post #76: Nothing Wasted

IMG_1409And so with the first glint of  sunlight I tip far forward, spilling out of the house, splashing on to the lawn.

I am splayed frishprayt like a squished sowbug, and as I lay in the grass my insides become  warmed as a lava cake, my fingers and toes crisping in the heat.   Then a quick spatula flip and I am flattened  on the taut top of my hammock, gently rolling back and forth,  lulled into the rhythms, dulled by the heat.

And then, I think of nothing, nothing at all.

I’ve spoken often of how hard all of us work.  How many demands—emotional, social, societal— are placed on each of us. Does anyone else have this awful sense of running in place? Or of being part of a race one doesn’t have a chance of winning? Or sometimes, of not even knowing what the race itself is about? 

For my whole life I’ve dreamed of having a mind that would leap and stretch with ideas but found myself mired in the day to day slog that would leave me spent and despairing. I was wasting my time, my life. I was sure of it.

It was my mother who told me years ago that nothing anyone ever does, no time is ever wasted.

She was right. 

One of the great joys of these writings over the past three years has been these ideas that keep percolating through my head.  They’ve percolated simply because I’ve given myself the opportunity to lay back in a hammock (or a lounge chair, or a bed or the floor if I have to) and simply relax, at least once every other week.  And think of nothing.  Because in thinking of nothing. all the experiences of a lifetime have found a way to surface.  Nothing wasted. I’ve grabbed them. I’ve embraced them.

None of us are on the same time schedule for creativity it seems.  And perhaps it is so, the best ideas come from rest, when one is thinking even when one doesn’t realize it.

So snatch those moments of respite!  A moment or two of calm.  Only then can we take a true measure of the world around us.

This post is dedicated with love and thanks to one of the most remarkable and creative women I’ve ever known, my mother,  Joyce Chudler Adelman.