Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

Please join me with your comments and make this a dialogue . . . and visit Susan's Poetry!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Does Your Life Support You in Your Creative Process?

Deep Creativity 365
I've been writing to Tanya's free prompts.  

This is the one for Day 33:
WRITE:How do I get beyond my own perceived limitations? How do I get down to my own core creative process? How can I begin and complete something meaningful?How to I open to discover/receive my breakthrough? What most needs to be broken through?I hope to God that you have begun working on your dream project, one baby step at a time if necessary. Don’t waste this year. Don’t waste this support.
For the love of story,Tanya

After reading Tanya's entire story and considering the prompt in my thought journal, I wrote to Tanya:
This post left me crying.  For the first time in my life I can say YES, YES, YES, I have the three spaces needed for my creative process: physical, psychic and emotional.  I feel the baby steps and the breakthrough--not always what I expected, but YAY!   Good, Golly, Ms. Tanya--you are the spirit guide at the right time for me, you are my lucky star, and all you need to do is keep being who you are and doing what you are led to do.  Thank you for giving, thank you for baring your heart and risking vulnerability--I know there is no other way--in the service of creativity.  This is a marvelous book you are writing.  And I can't even say I am doing it everyday, but do you know why?  Because it is working!! I am creating one of my dream works.  I am not scattered, but on a path.  Posts like this one help me to recognize and to affirm it, but I love them all. 
Hugs.Love, Susan
I want to remember that I felt this way today after the doubt I felt all weekend.  I spent over an hour today telling Israa stories from my novel because when I went to the basement to do my laundry I found her sorting piles of linens.  I immediately thought of the Miller's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin, who is charged with turning a room full of straw into gold.  (I want to include a retelling of this story in my novel.)  Israa's response was that she wants to read my book.  Wow.  Better finish it quick for Israa!  

Stories already in my novel are: Wendy's Laughter, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I Never Went to Paris (Helene's Story), The Singing Cowboys, The Frozen Words and . . . did I include a version of The Three Little Pigs?  of my Joan Jet performance? The other one I researched to use is The Emperor's New Clothes. I'm thinking to include another Greek myth, Philomela (The Story of the Nightingale).

I'll write more as way opens.

God is Not a Man ~ The Color Purple Music Video

What a brilliant song!  Why didn't I listen to it before?

Jennifer Hudson & Cynthia Erivo

For years I heard about the God of man
but it took an Alice Walker to show
in her Color Purple over and over
that God is in me and all that I know.

The year was nineteen eighty-three
and now she’s here again singing to me—
thirty-three years later I still can see
the mystery her book made real for me:

All nature’s forms are filled with that of God
and visible to all who want to see
direct or through the artistry we share
with our creator who is always here.

I find my meters gallop strong tonight
and don’t think I’ll like them at break of day
yet I still trust nature’s indwelling Light
I found because a writer showed the way.  

Copyright © 2016 Susan L. Chast

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Seeing what Love Can Do

O 175x360
O, photo from Pendle Hill

This is the end of my second week at Pendle Hill.  Time flies!  I’ve created the floor plan and imagined the colors of my character Alice’s home—so very different from my own.  She loves colors and moves into daffodil yellow, rose pink, tulip crimson, iris blue or sea green as the spirit moves her.  In contrast, my own rooms are eggshell white.  (Oh!  That may be where my 5-part eggshell poem* comes from. Hmmm.) 

I’ve written a few new pieces and revised some old that I clumsily lost in transferring them from Google drive to drop box in search of a program I could call up on any computer without worrying about privacy.  And—due to being here, and to a certain extent to a First Monday talk by the amazing “O,” prophet of “Love is the answer”—I remained calm inwardly as well as outwardly.**  

I am amazed to be less explosive.  I once saw my spontaneity as a positive tool of passion, and I still am unable or unwilling to mask my feelings.  But, following O (and Amanda Kemp’s meditation challenge), I find I breathe as a first impulse and that breath can inspire more choices.  O invited us to love, recognizing that she can’t command it.  She invited us to “Let us BE what Love will do.”  Let us be love!  Much of her talk/performance was calculated to make us feel—invite us to feel—the truths in these two Bible passages:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22: 34-40

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands on neighbor love: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” —Matthew 5: 44-45

O helped us to breathe in the words, especially “love” and to grow into a deeper awareness of the meaning of the choices in front of us.  She told us that the heart is the first working organ of an embryo and that nothing was more difficult than growing to be who we are from something so small.  Since we have done the impossible already, we can love as the first choice (after breathing and then diffusing situations). 

I totally agree with O, as did most of the attendees, but fear prevents me from being that loving and giving, especially where I have been hurt or fear hurt.  As Frank Herbert wrote in the ‘60’s cult classic Dune, “Fear is the mind killer.”  And yet I know that to change the structures that cause and maintain inequality in the world, I have to be willing to face death.  Like the Quaker man who immolated himself as an anti-Vietnam war protest.  Like the activist woman who stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Like the Freedom Riders who bused through the USA South to register Black people to vote.   As an ally of Black Lives Matter, I should be willing to stand up even if standing means a bullet or a beating.  If love matters, debilitating fear is its opposite.  I could bear feeling fear if it still allowed me to choose to act in love.   My holding back is partly my age and disability, but when I am less worn out—which I will be—I will no longer have an excuse not to act. 

How does being a Quaker with both a radical tradition and a direct line to God help me with this choice?  O’s answer is to realize that we die daily whenever the love we offer is rejected and that we are resurrected every day by love (and debriefing) from our friends.  True death, then, is a matter of degree.  

          Today in the break from a traditional monthly workday at Pendle Hill, we heard that the man who burned to death in protest of the USA-led war and destruction in Vietnam was at Pendle Hill the week before. One of us had known him and his wife, who wrote about her husband's action.*** We sat in silent reflection. There were no words. But I thought about the similarities and differences of the love that causes one to be willing to die vs. the suicide bombers who are willing to die in order to (or along with) killing others.  Can willingness to die remain a non-violent action?

          I am adding these thoughts to my meditations as I worship here at Pendle Hill and write my novel “Alice in Wonder," write blog posts and construct what is turning out to be almost a poem a day!

          I'll write more as way opens.

*"Walking Egg Shells," Part One, Part TwoPart ThreePart 4 and Part 5.  I have found that they have a different impact when read in reverse order, the way they show up on my poetry blog with the most recent poem first.

**I decided I need a reliable laptop so I don’t have to use community computers and have taken steps to purchase one with a reliable Word program.  I won’t use it for much else.

***Fire of the Heart: Norman Morrison’s Legacy in Viet Nam and at Home By Anne Morrison Welsh, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #381 (2005).  See also "Norman R. Morrison 1933-1965: A Light Cuts Through the Fog of War" which contains the poem " Dear Emily" written in memorial by Tố Hữu.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Imagining Abundance

Thursday night I left the Pendle Hill Quaker Study, Retreat and Conference Center campus to attend an event in Germantown that relates to every aspect of my "work" and "calling"performance, interaction, dialogue and stimulus for writing that will lead to more interaction that I believe is our only hope for creating meaningful changes in society.  Here is part of the flyer for Just Act Ensemble's People's State of the Union, a Lisa Jo Epstein production:

 A theatre-based catalyst for community activism and personal change.

Do you have a story about something awry in our union that the next President must absolutely hear?  A story about a moment you felt true belonging--or the opposite--in this country?

Do you want to take action and do something about it?

Just Act's mission is to ignite public dialogue and action planning using theatre-based tools with collaborating partners invested in making meaningful social and civic change. 

As a multi-dimensional resource across sectors, Just Act is a distinctive, innovative hybrid of artistic and community engagement.
What will happen at Just Act's "People's State of the Union" Community Gathering?
  • People will gather in circles to share stories about things they have experienced that gave them insight into the true state of the American "union." 

And then, through theatrical improvisations, led by the amazing Just Act Ensemble, we will collectively try out solutions for changing the state of the union towards making it the more just and equitable one that we all deserve.

We all know that once a year, the President delivers the State of the Union address to highlight important national issues and suggest priorities for the year to come.
It's a broadcast from one to many.
But we need to speak and listen to each other, and so stories about the state of our union are being exchanged and collected across the country to form a "People's State of the Union" poetic address.

     Please join Just Act at our People's State of the Union tonight

Take action to change the status quo. 

Collectively, let's name our country's challenges, make the invisible visible, identify actions to change what has become 'normal' today so tomorrow's state of the union is more equitable and just for all.

This event moved me mightily, and I want to thank the entire assembly with a "nearly poem" that chronicles the stages of the event:   

Cornucopia (PSF) bg.png
Imagining Abundance

Every circle is full of folks eager
to talk.  At first a word, a sticky note
of love, of want, of obstacle to life.

Images rise embodied and fair
when next actors’ imaginations flair
in loud then soft and fast then slow machines.

We laugh, applaud, and story on exper-
ience to tell the president the state
of our union, our belonging, or not.

Then actors’ embody story for spect-
actors to hold in theatre labs of change,
forums of joined expertise that will heal.

Heal?  Yes! Trial and error win in time
when every circle full of folks donate
its bodies and instincts and space to try.

We are the union, don’t forget!  We are
the solutions and not the problems.  Our
dialogue proves we can and will succeed

where corporations fail.  Imagining
abundance, after all, restores the truth
that we, informed and gathered, elders and youth

can touch and heal if we but take the chance
to listen to each others’ stories and care
to see and weave our varied strands as one.

Abundance, skill, and strength are visible!
Once we see beloved society
on stage, we know we kind can make it be.

Imagining Abundance
From the vision of Augusto Boal and Lisa Jo Epstein
After the Just Act State of the Union

Copyright © 2016  Susan L. Chast

          Stories people told were about fearful encounters with violence, about betrayal by justice and education systems that were supposed to help, about disparities in raising children in conditions of poverty and wealth, about people wanting to vote for Trump because they were ignorant of how Trump was against themthere were so many stories! But what moved me is that the one we all chose to enact and find interventions and alternatives to was the one in which a camp counselor/teacher cried in front of his mostly black students while telling them the statistics that 1/3 of them would die before the age of 40.*  
          Several students told the teacher that he shouldn't have shown his emotions in front of them. Administrators and parents agreed that students should hear the reality but not be subject to the teacher's emotions. One child (or maybe two?) wrote a note to the teacher thanking him for crying because they didn't know anyone cared.  The community in dialogue this night felt that crying was a human reaction to a horrible reality based in white supremacy, that education should allow it.  That human emotions are needed as groundwork for change.  
          I  nearly cried to see this agreement among the multiple nationalities and ethnicity represented in the room.  We examined the possibilities if it was a man or woman who cried and whether it was a person of color or white.  We dialogued and "spect-acted" about how different approaches to the situation allowed change among the human beings engaged in the interactions.  
          In short, we all walked out thinking and talking, no longer strangers.  I sensed that the Just Act Ensemble changed many of us present from feeling dis-empowered to feeling empowered.  Our voices matter, and our voices carry more weight when we "just act" together.  I hope to attend many more events like this.

          The Dialogues/Conversations I've attended by Just Act and Cranalith and NewCORE have convinced me that we can create positive change from the ground up by listening to each other's stories.  Someone asked at the last NewCORE event at the Art Museum of PhiladelphiaWhat if we could fill rooms as large as Trump fills with his misleading speeches?  I say, yes, yes! And what if so many of those occurred thatno matter where we were and what crowd we were inwe could look around and always see people we've been in conversation with.  What a network of people with positive values, people who have experienced feeling empowered!  Maybe when that happens we can make a living democracy and keep social programs and education alive.

So, does what I am doing as Artist-in-residence at Pendle Hill have anything to do with this?   I hope so.  I am one human, and the Susan that God leads to partake of these conversations and the Susan that God leads to write this Alice in Wonder novel, these blogs, and so many poems is one and the same.  I expect to find the intersection. Maybe it is in the performance incubating in my heart, maybe in the writing workshops and tutoring I want to do.  All of this feels God-filled though I can not name it yet nor see where the path leads.  I will keep on taking action, praying and being mindful, caring about and participating in community, and perhaps live into the answer.  This is what Jesse reminded me of on Thursday morning during our Arts and Spirituality consultation, a quote from Rainer Marie Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 
I will write more as way opens.

*I am not sure if the  exact statistics, but the teacher and several participants knew them well and agreed on them.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Do it, do it, just do it!

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Christ Hagia Sofia

What are my beliefs about my ability?  This is the prompt from Tanya on her Day 8 of a 365-day prompt cycle.

I don’t think others can write what I write better than I can (though they can surely help me revise).  I know I have a unique topic.  However, I believe that it won’t matter—those that disregard me will still disregard me and leave me whining on the stairwell, always shorter than them, of course, saying "What about me?  Look at me.  Listen to me!”  I will never be good or original enough as a writer.  God should have kept me on as a teacher able to bring out other people’s voices.
The image seems funny to me now, me as "The Incredible Shrinking Woman."  In the movie of that name, Lily Tomlin’s character shrinks due to household chemicals.  I don’t remember what brings her back.  I’ll have to watch the movie again.  But not now.  That would be procrastination.

Susan, is anyone as hard on you as you are?  I have a list of people I would like to please, but I won’t put it here because those on the list might be reading.  Actually, I know better.  Some of them are dead.

And I have to grieve the time I spent/spend still internalizing these voices.  I’d like to laugh with them instead, which may mean to mature a whole lot.  But here’s the trick:  Anyone can work on getting stolid and stoic and moving on.  I’d like to face them and talk with them and not squelch them but find out how to work with and use them.  If being ignored was the biggest hurt, I won’t do the same to them.

I wonder if I could love this enemy in a different way: Instead of using the enemy for whining material, I’d like to use it as writing material.  I could read to it or write with it, like I did in today’s poem Courage,” maybe.
Sweet Jesus, my buddy, collaborate, OK?  Sit right here by me or on my lap or in the big chair and let me read to you.  As you listen, help me notice what is past and what is present and what would—ground down a little—make good ink. 
I remember being angry about a God that would sacrifice his only son on a cross even only symbolically.  It was just recently a member of my Buddies of Jesus group said to me (acting all innocent like), but Jesus is God.  God wasn’t sacrificing his son, he was experiencing being sacrificed.  You see?  That’s the mystery of any life, the Alices' lives surely, and maybe even my own.  It is God carrying these crosses and surely it is the Great Mystery that needs to experience what we’re going to do about it. 

I will write more as way opens.