The Practice of Creative Living (31 Days)

 

September Reading Stack

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This week brought a return of summer weather. It’s hot, hazy, and sticky outside and, by mid-afternoon, even the cool interior of this 19th century house has succumbed to the wave of warmth and humidity. No matter the temperature, my reading list is alive and active. Usually, I read at night, but on occasion, I sneak in a few chapters before dinner or in the early morning.

Here’s what I’m reading now:

Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg. Every short chapter stirs my imagination, pokes at my inhibitions and challenges me to be as real in my writing as I can be.

The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense by Dean Koontz. Jane Hawk is the brave, tough, smart and sexy heroine trying to uncover the what, why and most importantly who behind a series of “suicides” that includes her own husband. I’m halfway through and it is fast-paced and full of action and suspense.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova takes the reader on an intricate journey that weaves between the present and the 1800s. I am over halfway through this book and as unsure of what it’s really about as I was in the first couple of chapters. A mad artist and the women who love him are interspersed with scenes and letters of people from long ago. How do they connect? That’s what I want to find out.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood brings the lives of a quirky centenarian, a musician and a librarian together to learn of her past and attempt an entry into the Guinness World Records.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins is a positive book declaring that artists can make a living and be successful doing what they do best–creating. Each chapter has examples of people who have thrived with their art. Jeff shares principles that creative people need to incorporate into their life and work if they are to move forward and support themselves with their art.

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O Donahue has been a book I’ve savored a few paragraphs or pages at a time. Almost every sentence makes me stop the book down and ponder the significance of his words and bask in the turn of phrase and way he thinks about life. It is rich, imaginative and emanates beauty. I’ll continue to take my time with this.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) by Laini Taylor is my first YA read in a long time. It’s set in Prague and there is a young artist with blue hair and other supernatural characteristics. I think I’m going to like it.

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What are you reading now? I’d love to hear all about your current reads in the comments.

 

 

Here is Happiness

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Alan and I had a fun, full weekend with a gig both Saturday and Sunday. We got to see our friends who showed up, to talk, have a drink and enjoy the places we played at. Bandwagon Brewery just opened up practically around the corner from us and we are thrilled to be playing there once a month at least through the end of this year.

On Saturday when we played there for their Grand Opening, our friends Mimi, Bill and EJ from the Busy Bee came. Some other Bee people came too, but I don’t know their names yet. Judy and Jim were there–my friends of several years. I always ask Jim about sound because he knows what he’s talking about and knows how to make the sound quality great.

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On Sunday we played at Barrett Marine in Geneva where our friends Dennis and Sandy have a boat. Dennis got us that gig, which was sweet–playing for a few hundred people while they ate their lunch and chatted. Then we hung out with Sandy and Dennis by their boat for a couple of hours. The day was bright and not too cool and I soaked up the end-of-summer feel.

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When we got home and unpacked the equipment, I was exhausted but felt the pull of the sunlit Sunday evening and decided to take a walk. The lake flirted its blue shimmer, the cornfields threw off their golden glow, the cows stared as I passed the first farm and horses watched me from far away as I turned a corner. The Amish must’ve had a wedding that day because the road was busy with a steady stream of horses and buggies on their way home.

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I remembered the feeling of summer’s end from when I was small. My mother and siblings would come up from Brooklyn and stay with my grandparents in Interlaken all summer. Right before school started, we returned to the city and I felt so sad to leave what I thought was Paradise behind. The woods, meadows, lakes, fields, waterfalls, birds and other wildlife all would go on through the fall, winter and spring until I came back for another summer. I hated the idea of missing it all. I wanted to see the leaves turn, feel the air become cooler, hear the mornings grow ever more still as birds migrated South.

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So there I was walking past farms and woodland with Amish going by feeling as thankful as I knew how that I live here now. I trudged up the hill homeward as the stars came out and sat in the gazebo listening to the night sounds. I heard two barn owls, dogs barking, someone singing far away, more Amish horses clip-clopping on the road and even saw a shooting star. The peace of this place soaked in and filled me with contentment. Eventually, Alan slipped out of the house to make sure I was alright and we sat together enjoying the end of a delightful day.

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Finger Lakes Love

IMG_2388Do you ever take where you live for granted? I must confess–I have. Not that I ever meant to, but I allowed my thoughts, the day-to-day stresses of my little world and all the activity in my schedule to blur the beauty of my surroundings.

This year I divorced, moved to a new home, worked two different jobs and have been in the process of adjusting to a different way of living. I’ve been trying to find how to create new patterns and reestablish rituals I’ve let go or forgotten. I’ve been doing my best to keep close to my kids, see them as often as possible, communicate through text and phone when they aren’t with me and make things as alright as they can be. Every day seemed full from morning to night. Exercise, work, cooking, practicing and performing music, chores and errands, driving to pick up or drop off my daughter and spending quality time with both of my kids, with my partner and occasionally, with a friend.

The year transitioned along the usual trajectory of Winter, Spring, Summer and it is nearly Fall. I let the outdoors be outdoors, kept my head down and tried to make order, sense and stability in my days and nights.

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Then I injured my neck and back in early August and couldn’t start cleaning houses as I planned to do once my other job ended. But that didn’t slow me down. Rather than sit and wallow in misery, I decided to paint the kitchen. Sure, if I was smart, I would’ve heeded Alan’s advice and waited until I healed up and he could help me; but I didn’t. I pushed through and it took three long and painful weeks to finish. When I finally took myself to the doctor’s office yesterday, she said that painting hadn’t been the best idea and I needed to rest, take ibuprofen and apply heat and cold.

So now I’m in the library, sitting with an ice pack around my neck, writing and looking out the window at the sun dappled grass and the dancing trees rustled up by the never-ending wind. In a few minutes I will walk (slowly and carefully) down the road and take in the view of Cayuga Lake, the rolling corn-filled fields and the general peace of this lovely landscape. I am going to turn on my senses, be grateful and love the place where I live.

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What I Read This Summer

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My summer reading list was longer than I was able to get through, which is a common bookworm problem, but here is what I was able to read in the past couple of months and a few thoughts on each book.

Louder Than Words by Todd Henry inspired and encouraged by asking to the point questions and getting his readers to take a look at their message, their voice and their audience and focus on developing a specific vision and clear message to convey. I admit to skimming the last third and if I wanted to really glean all I possibly could from it, I would need to take the time to answer, in writing, all of his questions. This may be a book I return to, although compared to The Accidental Creative, it wasn’t as enjoyable.

The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows was a slow, Southern read that drew me in gently but firmly until I needed to know what happened to these people. What an interesting, entertaining and feel-good yet not-shallow read. After finishing it, I purchased a used copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows and set it on my nightstand. I’ve heard good things about this book for so long, it was definitely time to read it. Right away I recognized the similar delightful style and cast of quirky and fascinating characters. They sparkle. They made me laugh. They were thoroughly believable and now I’ve added Guernsey to my travel bucket list. So I recommend both books.


I See You by Clare Mackintosh was creepy, but not as much as I’d hoped for. Except for the very end, which makes me think there must be a sequel in the works.

The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper was much discussed, but I guessed who the murderer was early on. I hardly ever manage this, so I would say it was a bit of a let down. Also, the writing style was dry and dull, like the setting, so I wouldn’t read other books by this author.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware scared me so much in the beginning that I almost put it down for good. Not wanting to wimp out, I pulled myself together and kept reading. It was worth it. She was a bit like a more modern Agatha Christie, and I had an idea who might be the murderer, but was Red Herringed until the end. I liked the main character, her boyfriend Judah, which is my son’s name, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the small cruise ship where the murder took place. I will read more books by this author.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Naht Hanh was my first Bhuddist book and first book I’ve read by this author. Picked up at my favorite local used bookstore, Autumn Leaves, I liked the short chapters and his very practical and straightforward style. Really, I didn’t feel preached to or like he was trying to convert one to Bhuddism. Simply, he shared what helped him or possible scenarios of how one might incorporate breathing, being present, kindness, gratitude, etc., into one’s every day. I will read more by this author, and, in fact, I already have.