My work, as I see it

highly compressed

economy of expression

vivid imagery

an acknowledgement of mystery of the universal seed in the particular

if only I’d been able to uphold it in the newsroom

~*~

Yes, clean lines, stripped-down materials, and elegant craftsmanship meeting a love of the baroque in a quirky, inimitable style

 

This will be the Barn’s biggest year yet, I promise

It’s hard to believe the Red Barn has just passed its tenth anniversary. Frankly, I thought this blog would be going dormant by now, that we would have exhausted everything I have to say or show, but that’s not what’s on the horizon after all.

Instead, thanks to our downsizing and relocating to a remote fishing village with an active arts scene on an island in Maine (whew!), I promise you the best year yet. And, yes, Dover back down the coastline will still be a big part of the mix, but in a new way.

Each year, the Red Barn has changed its emphasis somewhat, and in doing so explored new fields while leaving others behind. Looking back, I’d say it’s made for a natural evolution. The poetry, for instance, has moved over to my unique digital Thistle Finch imprint. Much of the Quaker experience has gone to my As Light Is Sown blog. And newspapers just aren’t what they were, while their “war stories” fade into a foggy past.

During that decade, though, my novels were finally finding publication, and that provided a lode of new material and thinking to share with you.

Photography also became a much bigger part of the mix, thanks to my digital cameras, so much so that I can now claim shooting as one of my hobbies.

Add to that the bunnies and vanity plates and some wordplay, for a little fun, which will continue, as will the Tendrils.

The original visual artwork from my high school portfolio, alas, has been depleted. Let me confess that as the pieces came up, I often wondered why I had done this or that back then. There are some wild leaps of intuition that amaze me now, not that I’d ever venture such confidence these days. Ah, youth! (Sigh.)

A double rainbow, as seen when I was caught in an unexpected shower behind us last summer.

What’s new this year is a close look at Eastport itself and the surrounding Bold Coast and Sunrise County. It’s a remarkable landscape with a host of fascinating characters and wildlife. Having been here a year now allows for some perspective in the discoveries, ones you, too, will be sharing. The encounters have opened a whole new world for me, even as part of upright New England. They’ve also revived many sensations I’d been forced to leave behind in the Pacific Northwest more than 40 years earlier. I hope to be able to convey that awe of natural wonder. I still can’t believe this landlocked Ohio boy looks out the window and sees the ocean daily.

A neighbor’s first holz hausen firewood pile, though it took him three efforts to get it right. I didn’t miss stacking firewood last year, but I definitely missed the comfort of wood-stove heat through much of the winter.

The year also provided me with a writer’s retreat, long stretches of solitude while the rest of the family remained behind, apart from their festive visits.

I was already well into the first draft of my next book when we uprooted but quickly got back down to business here. Alas, after showing the manuscript to a circle of beta readers, it was back to the drawing board for a thorough reworking. I should have been suspicious when the book seemed to write itself. Without revealing too much, I will say the project keeps me connected to Dover but in a fresh way. You’ll definitely be hearing much more while it inches along toward publication.

Another neighbor’s red barn just isn’t the same as the one I left behind.

The barn itself has become a memory, a symbol of the longest place I’ve lived in my life, and maybe even my roots in the farming heartland.

 

 

Not to get too sentimental, but …

What is life without memories?

The most tragic part of Alzheimer’s is what happens when one crosses that threshold and leaves the connecting memories behind.

Quite simply, stories – and storytelling, one way or another – are essential. Stories are, after all, ultimately memories within human existence, no matter how fanciful or mythical.

How else do we remember where we are in the universe? Or even why?

There are good reasons we swap stories, from pillow talk on.

Manifesto or perchance confession

Fellow workers in the field know the practice is not easy. They notice movements and deft accomplishments as well as slips and defects the wider public doesn’t. They’re also rarely moved by easy though flashy flourishes and scorn the con-artist and cheat.

I’m not referring solely to other writers or artists, either. Watch a gymnast evaluate a meet or a figure-skater a competition. Even a software writer or electrician. Or a surgical nurse.

That said, when I’m drafting and revising intensely, I’m also more appreciative of qualities in the writing of others. At the best is an admiration of something I lack, a time for humility and gratitude rather than jealousy or envy.

It’s work, after all. Which is why published pages are called “works.”

Given a choice, the rational decision would be to browse through great pages already given to us by others. Browse, as sheep or cattle – OK, I joke, but the fact is I seldom find what most calls me.

Writing is work, especially when you’re already working a regular full-time job somewhere else. Why else where there those periods in my life where I rose at four a.m.  to write and revise before going in to the office? How many others do likewise? At what personal cost to their lives and growth?

Real work, I’ll contend, is the practice of being fully alive. Aware. Totally there, at times.

Some people charge up and then release it in an extended explosion, as Kerouac did in his fiction.

I, in contrast, see it as a balance, between inspiration – breath within – and exhalation – the atmosphere without.

Creativity? No, God creates.

Man discovers, cultivates, nurtures, at best.

Practicing an art (and likely much more) means wrestling with power – including, in the Apostle Paul’s phrase, the “powers and principalities.” Powers of destruction, on one hand, and sustenance, on the other. Destruction that can, as seen too many times, include the artist. Hence, the fascination with Faust. With madness. Alcoholism. And on.

Self-absorption and inflated self-importance. We hazard much, often without the slightest awareness of the risks afoot. In Satan’s dominion over “the world,” which is the realm of the arts, or in Eastern thought, the traps of Maya, that spider web of worldly attraction and deadly illusion.  Either way, cause to be wary.

~*~

Self-discipline, route to true freedom, strips away false attachments, barriers, chaff.

Writing involves observing my own shifting mind while opening to manifold living energies around me. It means simplifying, following unexpected leadings and openings, sometimes to dead ends, other times to unanticipated ranges.

~*~

Some of my fellowship at the time would have argued that’s not where I should be. Some were praying for me through this period. The kind of work that once would have had me read out of Meeting. Is this acceptable activity for a free Gospel minister? All I can do is explore the Truth given to me.

“We Quakers read only true things.” Distractions from worship? Traps of the flesh? So where does fiction fall?

The piece goes its own way: a living organism: readers, editors see it differently from you. What you would cut they love. What you love they see as sore thumb.

Versus becoming so rarified we lose all sense of joy and delight. The danger of Plainness or strictness, that it suffocates personality, makes us so humiliated we cannot move forward in the Holy Spirit to perform bold action.

~*~

My poetry has been influenced by the craft of headline writing and news reporting more than I care to admit. The trade paid the rent, provided a point of resistance in my personal endeavors. The Political Science Fiction I once envisioned has since come together in real history as a horrid reality.

Not that we’re anywhere near done yet.

An artist’s handwriting

Coming across a handwritten note from a friend who’s a wonderful artist, I once again thought how amazing the handwriting is. Not just his, but other’s I’ve known.

Sometimes I’ve suspected they’re taught a special draftsmanship script, but now I’m seeing they differ.

Still, they are amazing.

Ending with “In peace and friendship …”

Ten reasons I write

I’m talking about the poetry, fiction, even letters and blogging. My “personal” stuff, much more than anything I usually did at the office.

  1. To remember.
  2. To explore.
  3. To play with language.
  4. To connect.
  5. To dialog with myself.
  6. To read/share in public. To be part of a community.
  7. To become visible, earn recognition in the now fading dream of fame.
  8. As a form of prayer.
  9. To better understand and appreciate other writers. See what makes their work tick from the inside.
  10. To make money?

No, it’s not always business as usual

My first published novel ends as the protagonist joins with five hippie siblings who run a restaurant they’ve just inherited.

My novel What’s Left returns to the scene, to find the family’s prospered under the alternative approach.

Do you know any “retired hippies” who did quite well professionally? Tell us about one.

~*~

When her family buys an old church like this and converts it into a hot nightspot, the move simply feels like a natural extension of what they’re already doing.

How do you doodle?

Some of my Kinisi postings feel to me like mathematical equations, with words instead of symbols.

Not that I could say what they “mean.”

Fits a lot of lit or math, for that matter. A poem or an equation simply works – or doesn’t – while dwelling within its own beauty. Both are flights of imagination plus a little doodling. Some of these could even be prompts for a longer work or serve as a title.

What ways does your mind wander … playfully?