Photo Prompt # 8 Reason for the Season? 12.20.12

Tree

It is inescapable.  Swivel your eyes to the left and you are bombarded with Christmas trees.  Squint to the right and you are inundated with wrapping paper, lights, gift bags, and tinsel.  While your eyes take in the scenery, your ears signal to you that you are humming along with the Muzak playing religious or holiday songs.  And if you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time you may be jostled, by like-mesmerized-shoppers, right off your path only to discover you are in front of a shop filled with the wonderful fragrance of gingerbread or peppermint.

Thinking about Christmas this year what struck me was this: why do some people celebrate Christmas if they are non-believers in God?  What purpose do they have for purchasing or exchanging gifts?  Why do they go through the hustle and bustle of the holiday?

As a believer I know that with each token I bestow on someone else I am honoring God and the gift He gave us in the gift of Jesus.  While my tokens certainly don’t measure up, it’s the thought that counts right?  Although my public practices have been stifled by man’s offensive bastardization of what my innocent childhood relied on to be true, I continue to foster my faith by holding true traditions instilled in me from an early age.

Prancer

Not a season goes by that I don’t watch all movie versions of “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Clause”, the only version of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and of course “Prancer”.  I try not to miss televised offerings of “Frosty”, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas”, and the original “Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. I always hope to catch the Norelco commercial with Santa sledding through the snow.norelco-santa

 

These shows are certainly not religious in nature but they infuse, in my heart at least, the basic kindness that propels humanity toward being compassionate,   kind, and supportive of one another as we journey through our life here on earth just as Jesus portrayed during his journey.  It is the least he expects of us and most days we fall short of the least of his expectations.

I read the story of Jesus’ birth while playing the religious holiday songs that are my favorite.  I contemplate that goal of reading the whole Bible and again have the internal argument about being cheated out of the books someone before me felt didn’t need to be included and what I am missing by not getting to read everything.

So someone tell me what I am missing now.  If you don’t believe in God, what are you celebrating on December 25th?

 

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Where Is God In Tragedy? Photo Prompt #6 12.16.12

Eye_of_God_by_SSpirito

Acceptable answers don’t exist. We are told repeatedly by our religious leaders and faith-filled friends that the answers are not for us to know–at least not now. One day we will know, the adage goes. Today is not the day. You will not find the answer here. I don’t have them. I apologize to you now for not having the answers for you; the same answers I am seeking. Where is God in tragedy?

My venture will be clumsy but I have to make the journey because to do nothing is too crippling and mires me to the anguish. At this point I’m on the quest for hope. Whether you believe in a benevolent God or God at all, I believe in humanity; yes even after Sandy Hook. Maybe–especially after Sandy Hook. Humanity is the only place I can look for answers right now.

A lady once told me that every time she looked into someone’s face the first thing she saw was the face of God. I can remember the discussion was about intolerance and literature and teaching and she was older than I. We were at an English teachers’ conference and her words struck me with such an epiphany of clarity that I have never forgotten the moment. What intolerance led to such an event in Newtown is unclear. How much intolerance measures out the young lives of those taken who cannot possibly have done wrong? Did the carnage erase the calamity he was dealt that drove him to such a rage? Evidently not, since his life was the last he took.

So if you pay attention to God, if you believe, or attention to goodness, or to simple humanity EVERY time you look into the face of another, and filter your thoughts and actions from that angle, maybe, just maybe, the evil that pervades our earth will lose its stronghold and God (insert whatever) won’t have to be doubted. Try to live like the children of Sandy Hook did in their innocence and ignorance to intolerance. Step up as the parents of these children are in their humble handling of a loss so egregious it could have turned them to ash in the firehouse when the words were heard. Be the reflected face of God and extend kindness before rudeness; acceptance before judgment; assistance before blindness; charity before stinginess but most of all love before indifference and power earth with the good that should connect us all instead of tragedy that draws us together shouting why and God where are you?

Photo Prompt #3

Beloved 2Beeloved 1Beloved 3

 

Newspaper Clipping to Pulitzer

Writers get their inspiration from many places. To read a newspaper and create a novel is one thing. For that novel to win the highest of honors is a whole ‘nother draft. Years of reading and studying literature inside and out enough to teach it to others has taught me that inspiration comes to writers from many places. To think that a mere four line newspaper article started the research that led Toni Morrison to write the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved is overwhelming to those of us hacking away at writing. Margaret Garner’s story is by far the most compelling inspiration to write I have learned of to date and the outcome greatly enriched the American literature canon.

While at Florida A & M University studying for a Master’s degree in American Studies I was first introduced to Garner’s story. Garner was a slave who escaped captivity only to be caught fleeing. As she and others in her escape party were surrounded, Garner made the decision to kill her two year old daughter rather than have her daughter returned to a life of slavery. It is while doing research and coming across the news report of this event that Toni Morrison wrote her Beloved.

If you have read Beloved you know how gut wrenching that read is to get through. I personally picked the book up and put it down hundreds of times that weekend. Each time it overwhelmed me I turned away from it and put it away there was something that lugged me back to it. It is the only high literary piece of work I have ever read multiple times in a weekend. My copy is tattered, filled with post it notes of multiple sizes and colors, manic marginalia, and drastic underlined portions that took my breath away and caused me great emotional distress as I never before experienced as a reader.

When I developed this prompt and looked for the pictures to accompany it I chose three; one of what I imagine Morrison looking like as she pondered the information she found, the book cover, and another of my imagination of Morrison with her face raised in reverent acknowledgment to Garner that the story had been told as only Morrison is skilled enough to master. These pictures of Morrison are in no way connected to the novel other than they are of Morrison. This is just my view of things as I pulled them together.

So my challenge today is this: check your newspaper for a miniscule story that is deplete of details and set about to give the story a life as full as Morrison’s Beloved.

Photo Prompt #2 12.8.12

What intrigues me most about reading is the way the title sometimes, not always, but sometimes, sneaks into the fiber of the paper on which the words lay in the book. water fountain It is the same way with music lyrics—for me anyway.  L.L. Barkat’s book Rumors of Water is one such title.

The author is at a picnic conversing with someone about her difficulties with writing and the elusiveness of creativity all while Barkat’s young daughter is hovering and eavesdropping.  Once you read this book you will see that the daughter is just trying to soak up the knowledge her author mother has to give as evidenced in how Barkat fosters writing in the lives of her daughters’ daily routines.  Nevertheless, Barkat sends her daughter on an errand for a cup of water in hopes of continuing the conversation in private. Her daughter returns quicker than expected without water but the simple declaration that, “there are rumors of water”.

How delightful is that? Barkat is having difficulty writing and with her creativity and things blocking her way and what is the result?  A simply fabulous book for writers seeping with sage signals directing the path to ink filled pages.  All from the inspirational precocious statement from a child chiding her mom for leaving her out of the angst writers face.

So, today’s prompt?  What comes first for you as a writer?   The story or the title?  Has a title ever dropped in your lap in such a delightful way as Barkat’s?  Whatever your response, read Rumors of Water; you deserve the treat!

Photo Prompt #1

“Life is really simple, but we make it complicated.”  ConfuciusPhoto prompt 1

Simplicity for me did not arrive until my 50th year.  It was delivered by a box in my head.  It was only me that stood in my way.  I created the obstacles and mountains that had to be traversed and I even loaded the backpack that I hauled on the trek.  Not only that but I procrastinated as well.  I thought I could push things aside, ignore them as if they had no connection to me, and blunder on through life.  Oh woe was me to discover I was only existing and not living.   I was on a treadmill to nowhere and losing ground as well.

There was no midlife crisis to shift my existing to living.  I finally dealt with those things pushed aside, focused intently on the issue that was the essence of me, and was finally able to live and not just exist.  The box in my head where these things resided lost its lid.  They were neatly and tightly packed away for forty-three years.  With the box now open, I shared the contents, inventoried the things, and dissected the connections to me.  And at every dealing there was such simplicity and clarity that I was both amazed and dismayed at the results; amazed that it could be so simple and clear to understand and correct, and dismayed at the loss of time I forfeited.

A box and a lid; how simple.