Why Do We Write?

Writers have changed through the ages. That is, of course,  inevitable considering the course of history, but I don’t mean they’ve changed due to technology or current events. Writers today think differently about writing.

In the past writing was a channel; it carried the thoughts of one mind to be processed by a million others. It was the tool used to craft a masterpiece of rationale; the writing was not an end in itself. It was not a voice for the sake of expression. It was the expression of an individual voice.

Present or past, foolishness will be written. There are countless pages, likely the work of long nights and longer thought, that prove nothing and mean even less. But today it seems that the quota has greatly increased. Consider writing handbooks, for instance: they consist of quotes and quaint lines on self-expression or inward thought, ideas to ‘get you writing’. My question is: if you can’t think of what you want to write, then why raise your voice when you have nothing to say?

The best writing through history has been motivated by an urgent desire to get a message across succinctly for a specific result. So much writing today is the product of confused and depressed minds, providing no encouragement for its readers, much less motivation to better themselves. Of what benefit are a writer’s personal, depression-cloaked musings but to sadden the joyful reader and plunge an identifier into further despair?

They write just to write. That’s what writers are told to do. It is true we sometimes have to write to keep the craft in practice, disciplining ourselves and the skill we hope to gain. But truly, does the world really want to hear the full vent of your anger and depression? How will this contribute to a greater good or worldly peace? All it does is plant one’s work in the desert of self-expression, to be  honored by a narrow audience of those who likewise wish to wallow in their pain.

If all depressed writers would acknowledge what they do, they may write to free others from what apparently is a very dissatisfying existence. They would write not just to write, but to tell the world a message worth hearing; one to motivate, one to encourage, and one to inspire them toward the better and the best.

PDD

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John Adams

HBO’s John Adams series, lent to me by a friend, was incredible; six hours depicting the highlights and pitfalls of a career that is memorialized in the pages of thousands of books and now portrayed on the television screen.

Could the Adams have ever known the result of their sacrifice?  Could Abigail have borne her husband’s absence easier if she knew it would build the nation we have today?

Conversely, what would they say to see the state of the nation now, following the Jeffersonian pattern John resented so much?

More later…

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The Natives are Restless

At the present moment I am not only guarding my five siblings but also the children of some friends of ours — seven of them.  Consequently, I am the sole matriarch of the establishment, guardian of the Goths:  twelve in number, from ages 16 to 3.  Why then, you say, are you typing on a computer?  Well, these tribal children are rather well-behaved; just be prepared to excuse any interruptions in the fluidity of my writing style while I get the peanut butter out of my hair and yell for someone to turn off the smoke alarm…

 In all honesty, it is a fun job, watching the Huns.  I must say, the eldest boy can sometimes resemble Attila but overall he is a harmless chap.  Wait a moment while I tell him to take the baby down from the ceiling fan — there. As I was saying, it’s an enjoyable pastime.  My favorite element to large families is the diversity of personalities.  When another large, homeschooling family is present, the diversity is even more interesting.  And sometimes dangerous.

Diversity is good, they say;  colleges brag about the ethnic groups on their campuses, people strive to be diverse in their interests — it’s all over the place.  But when it comes to thirteen personalities trapped in a house, in winter, with the parents gone… chafing may ensue.  How so?  Let’s begin with a little profile of each of my precious charges:

Kodi enjoys reinstating the fact that he is the oldest male and therefore is the rightful authority on the premises.  He also takes an uncanny delight in teasing anyone, and everyone, who happens to come within his range of sight.  And his ammunition stash seems to be endless.

John finds joy in supporting Kodi in his teasing and handing him the ammunition so carefully stashed away. 

David quietly escapes notice until he throws out a well-placed remark that instigates John to hand the ammunition to Kodi to tease anyone who comes into sight.

Marshal gives David the idea to throw out the well placed remark to instigate John to hand the ammunition to Kodi to tease anyone who comes into sight.

Shireena simply plays like a good girl should.  God bless her soul.

Vinny makes a little smirk that gives Marshal the inclination to give David the idea to give the well-placed remark to instigate John to hand the ammunition to Kodi to tease anyone in sight.

And Ben just sits on my lap and smiles. My siblings rally around their personal favorite members of the other family which generally means that I am the only one on the side of rationality.  Which may strike you as strange, since I am the self-proclaimed romantic.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, and practicality is necessary for the moment.  It is always necessary when the natives are restless. 

2703244591.jpg  As seen here.

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At the Nursing Home

Today, as on every Tuesday, I went to our local nursing home to play the piano.  I have been playing there for the past several months.  At first I wasn’t sure I liked it all that much.  The place smelled sterile and my audience was far from rewarding — I might get a few weak claps from the kind little lady in the corner, all the while hearing “What the heck is SHE doing here?” from the mean little lady in the other corner.  But after a few weeks, I actually began to enjoy going there.  Other than the few people present who seem to think its the haps to be unhappy, for the most part, the residents are so pleased to hear the songs they loved long ago. 

Like when I played “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, a woman walked up to me at the piano and began to sing along.  Her voice was excellent, especially for her age, and by the end she was really swingin’ to the beat while all her room-mates clapped or hooted from their wheelchairs in encouragement.   As I talked to her afterward, I found that she had been born and raised in a nearby village, and that her father had built one of the most popular soda shops there.  I found also that some cottages my parents had owned were also built by her father.  “You know,” she said, staring intently at my face.  “You look exactly like my mother.  My mother played the piano… she made a living playing the piano.  Couldn’t read a note, could my mother.”

Then there is The Biscuit Man.  He worked for Nabisco years ago, and now is in the Alzheimers ward at the nursing home.  It seems he wears a permanent smile on his face, and his faded blue eyes are always happy.  When I play, he sits at the closest table or at a spot where he can watch.  After each song he claps enthusiastically.  During one such occasion he leaned forward a little and whispered, “Where have you been all my life?” I hated to break it to him that I wasn’t even born. 

Addie plays cards with a vengeance.  Every time I come she is sitting at the table shuffling the deck.  Often it is so quiet that all you can hear is the murmur of the radio and “Fffllliiipppp, thump; ffffllllliiipppp thunk” of Addie’s favorite pastime.  Cowboy Bob smiles toothlessly with his cowboy hat perched on top his head, delighted to simply be in the room.  He likes to sit by the window and look out at the garden.  My great-grandma, Charline, sometimes comes in to listen too.  She doesn’t know me anymore, but she still hums along with the music… and its amazing how I can see the reflection of her face in the face of my baby sister.

Uncle Iggy, whose real name is Ignatius, is the most entertaining of the residents. His memory is still rather good, and he always recognizes me when I come to play.  Since my Grandpa, who is Polish, announced that I am a “regular Polish girl, name and all” Uncle Iggy has made me his language mission field.  I have learned “Gere dubre” and “Dze mi buzchi” so far… “Good day” and “give me a kiss”.  I only use the first one.  Today he was playing cards and seemed to be rather pleased with his performance, especially after his partner said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, because I sure don’t.” 

The fact that the music, which is mostly hymns and folk songs, brings just a little joy into their lives brings me joy myself.  There are so many people who just buzz in and out to pay a visit out of duty — but I hope that this never becomes a ‘duty’.   Sure, it’s not quite the most romantic of places.  It doesn’t always smell good and sometimes no one even likes the music I play.  But maybe, this time, I don’t get to see anything but the practical side of things — while other people may be receiving the “romantic” end of it.  I just enjoy all the different personalities you can meet — the stories you can hear.  Sometimes “romance” can be found in the most unexpected places.

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Skunk Hunt

First porcupines, now skunks.  Perhaps you’re thinking I have an uncanny attraction to all members of fauna in northern Michigan — but truth be told, I don’t.  I actually don’t care much for porcupines, or skunks, as this next episode will relate.

Last night we got home late from a friend’s house.  As usual, I got ready for bed — read my Bible, turned on my music…  I was in bed at about 11 pm, which is late for me, since I get up pretty early.  I was hoping to get to sleep fast because I had to be at church at 7 am, and was waking up at 5:30.  As I lay in bed looking out my window, the full moon glimmered on the sill and little beams lay like silver ribbons on my comforter.  I was almost asleep when I saw a movement on the grass below.  The moon made the outside almost as bright as day, but I couldn’t tell just what the creature was at first.  I thought it might be my cat Fatty, because the animal was dark with a white face; but the tail was unnaturally bushy.  “Maybe a squirrel?” I thought to myself.  Then it dawned on me that it could be a skunk.  I wasn’t sure, but I figured whether squirrel or skunk, it was better off dead, since neither provides benefit to the collective, at least not in terms that I could appreciate.   So leaping soundlessly from my slumber, I dashed up stairs and pounded on the bedroom door.  “Dad! Dad, there’s something under my window!”  He’s probably thinking,  “What is it this time, the Abominable Snowman?” Like I said before, there is a certain Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf tendency to the natural romantic that casts doubt upon all her claims; but we are striving for some attempt at practicality, are we not?  Dad came rushing out in his plaid pajamas to answer my pleas.  At the word ‘skunk’, he grabbed his .22 and followed me quietly onto the deck, from which he could shoot the seed-eating stinker.  But it heard us come out and made a fast track for the woods.  Four shots later, it was still waddling with remarkable capability.  Dad was not about to be outdone by a rodent.  While he donned his coat and boots I did the same and we chased that skunk nearly the entire length of the property, Dad in his plaid flannels and I in an ankle-length nightgown and boots.  The setting was lovely — sparkling snow, a full moon, still trees, brilliant stars — and perhaps with a little background music and Prince Charming the scene would have met my romantic ideals.  But reality has a way of making ideals seem rather idealistic.  I was in a gown, just not the right KIND of gown; and while Dad is great, he’s my dad after all and, well, the plaid pants… 

It was midnight when we came inside, skunkless, and cold (It was 15 degrees outside, by the way; try that in a nightgown.).  I expected a welcoming committee at the door begging to hear an explanation for the gunshots:  “Why was Phylicia out at midnight in a nightgown, and why was Dad chasing her with the .22?” But alas, no, it was not so.  All six remaining members of my family were still soundly snoring.  So much for appreciation — here we were out in the ice keeping an illegal away from the border, putting a lot more work into it than the government does, and who thanks us?  No one.  Now here is where being a Romantic has its benefits — while a Practical may think, “Wow, a chase in the snow at midnight with a gun and all I get is cold feet and a lousy sleep”, a Romantic can take with her all the lovely memories of a chase in the snow at midnight with a gun and write a fascinating blog post about it.  Being a Romantic can definitely have its advantages.

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Blue Porcupines

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This morning dawned brilliant and beautiful — the snow glimmered and glistened in the beauty of the dawn.  Considering that we have had only two weeks of sunshine since November, and these scattered to and fro wherever Father Winter chose to disperse them, I was elated to see that the day we were going skiing was not another cloud of despondent grayness. 

All winter long I have been skiing at our local resort, only miles from our house, with the ski pass I bought in December.  All my high school friends, and my siblings, have passes too, so I usually go with my sisters, my cousins and some other homeschooled friends.  What does skiing have to do with being a practical romantic?  You are yet to find out.

My romantic tendencies squeak out at the most inopportune moments.  I mean, doesn’t everyone think the view from the ski lift is ethereal?  Or that the snow-coated trees are exactly like the ones in Narnia?  I found out — no.  “Hey Phy!” they’d yell from behind me on the lift. “Isn’t the view romantic?” I have tried to overcome my indignance at the mockery.

A few weeks back I was skiing on one end of the resort by myself, on the top of a “black diamond” hill.  As I was tooling along the ridge before skimming down the nearly vertical surface, I looked up to see a small round figure waddling toward me. No, it wasn’t my sister.  The rotund rodent (for that is what it was) was slowly sauntering right up to where I stood.  He continued until he was three feet from my skis, and then stopped.  It was a porcupine! Other than saying the eulogy over a porcupine my dad shot, I had never seen one of these creatures.  It had the most precious little face — round as a saucer, with little black, gleaming eyes like lumps of coal (yes, that rings of Frosty the Snowman, but it works) and a little delicate nose.  It peered out at me from beneath a little cowlick of quills on his forehead before waddling away.

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 As I skied down the hill, I was reflecting on how lovely it was to see such wildlife in the most unexpected place.  I couldn’t wait to tell my family and friends!  “Hey!” I yelled. “Guess what I saw?” “What?” they asked, rather unenthusiastically. “A porcupine!  It walked right up to me!”  “Really?” They were interested now.  But I missed the gleam of mischeviousness in their eyes.  “It walked right up to you?”  “Yes, right up to me — it was so close I could have touched it!” I exclaimed breathlessly.  In all seriousness my sister leaned forward and whispered just loud enough so everyone could hear:  “What did it say?” Suddenly I felt remarkably how Maurice must have in Beauty and the Beast.  “But I saw it!  I really did!”  “Was it blue or purple?” Laughed one of my friends.  Giving up on them, I skied away.

As a practical romantic, you must come to understand that you will be very often misunderstood.  While you may personally enjoy reflecting on the beauty and grandeur of God’s handiwork, many people don’t want to stop to share your reflections with you.  I have discovered, as illustrated by the Blue Porcupine, that sometimes, as a romantic, you are destined to enjoy your little epiphanies alone.  And being practical, we have to accept that.

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Practical Romance?

Practical Romance? Is there such a thing?  I didn’t think so.  I still highly doubt it.  But it’s definitely worth looking into. 

 

The eldest of six children, you would think I would be the essence of practicality and filial bossiness.  I would be the driver, the motivator, the motivated; the one who only stopped to weed the roses but never bothered to smell them.  Unfortunately, I did not end up that way.  Fortunately, I have enjoyed not ending up that way.  Unfortunately, other members of my circle of friends and family have not.

 

My mother is the essence of practical. I am the essence of romanticism.  For instance, driving beside the beautiful bay in Northern Michigan, looking at the sun setting over the azure expanse of water, I say, “Look at the sunset!  The clouds are gorgeous… and the peninsula is just glowing like the flames of Hades!“ while my mother is perhaps thinking, “Well, the sky’s red, guess it will be sunny tomorrow.”  I don’t actually know what she’s thinking, since she usually gives me a cocked eyebrow as soon as I begin extolling the ethereal.  Our perspectives are entirely different.  However, this is not to say they are not conducive to each other.  And out of my discovery of this concept hath sprung the documentation of a journey – the journey of the Practical Romantic.

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