Maintaining my creative drive is as hard as starting a campfire. I get excited about something–that is as easy as striking a match–and then a gust of wind comes up like a phone call or the thought of billable hours and the spark is extinguished.
Kara Walker’s exhibition at Crocker Art Museum is inspiring.
Then I pop into the Crocker Art Museum to see Kara Walker’s silhouettes and I am inspired. I am reminded of the beautiful puppet theater in Cambodia and I purchase the silly silhouettes in the gift shop.
Then this morning I work up at 5:30 and finish Kurt Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday. The author gave it a “C” grade on page 284 so I feel no embarrassment for thinking it quite mediocre. I got it from the Evenstar Little Library and I kept reading because the first chapters were about book censorship and school boards and Indianapolis and I thought “I will share this with Brian who was just elected to the school board and is from Indiana.” I finished it because I am compulsive that way. This book would have snuffed creative spark except that it signals to me that even pretty good writers do not always produce a Slaughterhouse Five.
Persistence is the way to get creativity to go from a spark to a small blaze. Some might say perspiration (as in 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration). Tricks and stratagems are okay too. I have loved puppets my whole life having been weaned on the Muppets so I bring my silly museum bought silhouette’s to bed and play with them. And try to find a way to take a picture and laugh aloud, which is a much better way to start the day than getting up and checking my calendar and listening to sad NPR memorials of Nelson Mandela, God rest his soul.
Spirit of St Louis flies too close to Eiffel Tower!
What is the point of a redesign if you cannot bring your coffee and your computer to bed and spend a portion of the morning writing silly blogs and playing with puppets?
One of my favorite t-shirts says “Eat, Sleep, Read” and when I wear it I almost always draw compliments from other avid readers. I have recently read a couple of books that are books about books. The End of the Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe is a memoir that focuses on the last two years of his mother’s life and the books they read together while she was waiting for chemo treatments. It is not as sad as it sounds. And it led to on-line shopping at Powell’s Books. My first box of books included:
- Mary Tileston, Daily Strength for Daily Needs
- Susan P. Halpern, The Etiquette of Illness
- Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons
and Alan Bennet’s The Uncommon Reader. This novella is comfy to hold and a hoot to read. It imagines what might happen if the Queen of England discovers reading in a mobile library parked behind the kitchen at Buckingham Palace. Of course she reads; however, there is a difference between a casual reader and a compulsive reader. She raises eyebrows when Queen Elizabeth II becomes an avid reader. It turns out that the books that Alan Bennet (who also wrote the delightful play/movie The History Boys) are books I love so I did not discover any new titles. Except Proust, but I doubt I will read Proust.
Other book titles that I jotted down from the End of the Life Book Club and have not bought yet:
- Frances Osborne, The Bolter
- Sheila Weller, Girls Like Us
- Alice Monro, Too Much Happiness
- Victor LaValle, The Big Machine
- Thomas Mann, Magic Mountain and Death in Venice
And these books I downloaded on my Kindle with my sister-in-law Heidi’s Mother’s recommendation (at Thanksgiving):
- Simon Winchester, Krakatoa
- Simon Winchester, Their Noble Lordships.
What are you reading? Please comment, I really do want to know!
The December issue of Esquire magazine has a feature called, “2013 Best + Brightest Second Acts” (p.131) and focuses on “the promise of the second act… it’s not a reinvention. It’s a reveal.” (p. 25) Nor is it a comeback. Rather a second act “has been within the person the whole time. The actor becomes the writer (Steve Martin). The comedian emerges as a painter–an an exceedingly good one, at that (Martin Mull, believe it or not)… They keep right on after something new, based on what they like doing and what they can do, rather than what they once did well enough. That’s the second act.”
A wild remnant near the Feather River in the Sutter Bypass
I love this definition. As the creator of my own second act I am relishing the reveal. Today after a delightful day in the Sutter Bypass helping people connect the dots about salmon floodplain and an relatively unknown landscape, then coming home to ride my bike in the sunshine to mail packages to friends, then returning home to work, write and bake cookies with lemons Sarah Harriet gave me from her tree, I am so thankful for the turn in my life that affords me so many blessings.
The best part of the second act is that it can be followed by a third act and, God willing, a fourth act. Because unlike our physical bodies that stop growing and then begin to decay, there is no reason why we cannot keep revealing ourselves until the end. My friend Barry Bridgman is biking his last leg of his bicycle trek across Australia as I type–and he’s in his 3rd act. Hip hip hooray!
P.S. Took me a day or two to post this and so… today is my birthday. I am 51 now. This is also the start of the Thanksgiving holiday and I have so much to be thankful for: my friend Ray who called and sang me Happy Birthday, birthday loot from Cameon, Jim and UK Sarah, a day traveling with my Auntie J to my brother’s house in Yucca Valley, making pies tonight with Heidi, and all of my friends and family whom I love. Oh and the silly things like Google customizing my Search to say Happy Birthday Julie. I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is as full of blessings as mine.
One of the joys of adult children is reconnecting with their friends from childhood and celebrating how they are all grown up. I chatted with John Luke Wolff who is a rocket scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at a recent wedding. He loves his work and figuring out a parachute for a spaceship is fascinating, so I said yes when he offered to give us a tour when we flew down for the USC football game.
Tevis and John Luke at JPL
He arranged passes with security and personally guided us through the very large campus, which is the equivalent of the Google campus for aerospace engineers. It is set on a hill, so instead of bicycles, the enterprising project engineer wants a golf cart. The grounds are extensive and accommodate the tamest deer herd I have ever seen.
Replica of Mars Rover at JPL
We learned that JPL is a unique joint partnership with NASA and CalTech. It hosts some of the smartest people in their field, like the guy who knows everything about fasteners including fasteners in space. (Remember the Muppets’ Pigs in Space-ace-ace? hahaha)
John Luke, who is a very sweet-hearted young man, is also wicked smart. He is working on the Mars landing team and manages experiments that I do not really understand. I love his laid back enthusiasm. And I love the JPL motto: Dare Mighty Things. Like sending a Rover to Mars.
A year ago I submitted a manuscript for consideration to the Capital Crime chapter of Sisters in Crime. They chose “Delta Suicide” for inclusion in their anthology. (Drum roll) …It is finally published! I am writing as JA Pieper. I will be at my first book signing event at the Barnes and Noble in Roseville on November 22 from 6-8 p.m. (across from the Galleria).
All of you who have e-readers, it is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo at the “real deal” price of $2.99. (Mom, you will get one for Christmas!)
I was going to write: insert Snoopy Dance here. Then I remembered Google Images!!!
Give to any organization you trust if they are mobilizing resources to the Philippines. I gave to World Vision and to Habitat for Humanity. In what ever way you can, please help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan today.
Donate to the Relief Effort
The idea for a community library box started in the fertile field of reading about someone else’s library box in the newspaper. Then a seed was planted when I received some books from Mr. Adan and bought some too. This led to a bookshelf purge of books I have read or never intend to read. I also have a lot of magazines that I have been recycling to a hospital via a friend that I can add.
In laundry room against the sliding glass doors leading out to the clotheslines.
It seemed simple enough: buy an inexpensive shelving unit, register my books with Bookcrossing, put all in community laundry room in my complex and see what happens. I spent $22 at Target on the build-your-own wire basket unit and only used half of it. (Room for expansion.) In about 2 hours I had everything done and installed in the laundry.
I went online to see if there is a website for small community libraries. Of course there is: Little Free Library.org. On the “getting started” page they encourage me to write a press release, get family and friends involved and fundraise for the $34.95 to register my little library. Um, no thanks. The final step they suggest is a celebration for the opening of the library. Now that I can possibly embrace.
When I moved in I imagined hosting a kube party and other celebrations. Until I met everyone and realized how disparate and busy my neighbors are. Maybe my urge to create this library is an opportunity to give the community party a try. Plus I have been wanting to bake the Smitten Kitchen’s slab apple pie.
There are 10 apartment homes that use the laundry room on a regular basis. One unit is empty. I have met all but 1 person who lives here and regularly speak to 5 of my neighbors. Next weekend I have time to make the pie and host a Sunday afternoon celebration. I can invite everyone for a slice of pie and ask them to bring a used book or magazine or video to share with the library. Then see what happens. I will keep you posted.