Archive for January, 2011

Patti Smith, Just Kids, and I Ride the Bus

January 26, 2011

Last Saturday, I had one of those jittery, jumping, monkey-mind mornings—the kind that sometimes happen when the machine is on and the shiny buttons beckon. Click on tweets, click on Facebook, click on tweets, click on Facebook, click on email, click on news, click on email, back to news—and even though I felt myself sinking in the slough of despond, I just kept clicking away.

Granted, the despond was partly due to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, who’d rejected my offer to do a reading there.  I wasn’t famous enough, they wouldn’t sell enough copies of my book to make it worth their while.  But all that clicking also meant ignoring what feeds me: Art.  Creativity.  Writing.  Engagement with the world of weather and people and city streets.  So I wrenched myself away from the desk, stuffed Patti Smith’s Just Kids in my bag and bolted.

Virginia Woolf once left her house for a winter walk across London on the pretext of needing a pencil.  Even before I shut my front door behind me, I remembered her errand, which I often repeat.  I, too, need a pencil. Scotch tape. Tea bags. Paper. A new pair of shoes. But mostly what I need is the world and the chance, from inside the bubble of urban anonymity, to listen, watch, observe.  I need to rub up against stories and think quiet thoughts. To let ideas rise up while my body moves through three-dimensional scenes—the kind you don’t need special glasses to see.

Patti Smith once left her parents’ house in New Jersey with a stolen copy of Rimbaud in her bag, and headed for New York. Knowing she needed to be there, she lived on the streets, slept in Central Park, went hungry, and then one day by accident, ran into another kid her age whose name was Robert Mapplethorpe. And the two of them—just kids—with no way of seeing who they would both become, devoted themselves to the only things that mattered: one another, and art. (more…)

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New Year’s Resolution: Wrap a Fast Year in Slowness

January 10, 2011
Red tomato-shaped pin cushion with strawberry needle sharpener

There's a reason my pin cushion looks like something from my garden

As you know, I like tootling along in the slow lane, making jam, planting onions, reading books made of trees.  Just this past weekend, I sewed up a satchel for my laptop. And if that’s not an emblem for the coming year, I can’t think of one that is. On the outside, you’ve got something hand-crafted. On the inside, a machine that’s a sign of the times: speed, connection, information, and oh that monkey, monkey mind.

Because 2011 is the year of the book. My book, which comes out in March. So while books usually take me to the slow side, this book means crankin’ things up.  My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas is going on tour.  Ten weeks on the road starting in June, from California to Indiana and parts in between.  And having just spent the last of my trust fund, I am become my own publicist.  Let’s not even get into the details of such a chore except to say it’s composed of a million little pieces that could well fritter away my brain.

So my challenge in the midst of the whirl is to do something slow every day, to bring it all back to the ground of stillness and contemplation.

New Year’s Resolution #1:  Take a tip from that satchel with the laptop inside: Wrap each day in slowness.  To start with, on waking, give an hour to writing.  Sit for awhile and breathe.  In.  Out.  And before tucking myself in for the night, have a nice, slow read.

fat, black question markWhat slow resolutions have you made for the year?  And what’s on your reading pile?

Links: If you’re new to the blog and wonder about monkey mind, read here.  If you want the scoop on My Ruby Slippers, start here.