Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Note: Spirituality, Blogging and Dorothy Parker

I confess, here on a sun filled Easter morning, I miss our Northern California redwoods and the hill of trees above our house. Where my husband would rise while it was still dark to hide the goods: jellybeans, chocolate eggs, malt-balls tucked inside the neon pinks and yellows of plastic eggs. From the upstairs bathroom window I’d see the flash of his legs as he powered along the acre trail ringing our property. We’ve new rituals to make at our sunny San Diego home where we’ve as many hummingbirds flitting amidst the birds of paradise as we used to have juncos in their black hoods bobbing along the deck of the old house.

Easter holds for me the memory of my father waking our family of five in the dark so we could drive to the top of the nearest hill to wait for sunrise. Remember? The chill of night air, the smell of damp grass and dew wet sneakers. Then, jostling shoulder to shoulder beneath sleeping bags with my brother and sister in the backseat, the last handful of stars starting to wane in the predawn grey as we stepped out and spread out our blankets on the hill. How still and quiet. Nothing to do but wait. Gradually the layers of grey, muting brighter. Til more silver than gold, the morning light surrounded us and the sun’s rim crowned.

I love that Easter has been an experience my body remembers, that my father gave us a way to know it. Watching the sun come up, connecting to something so far from us in the sky that radiates with the same heat as the core of the earth. Or, now that I’m older, a mother myself, reading Dorothy Parker’s, “Prayer for a New Mother,” written for Mary, which opens with the lines, The things she knew, let her forget again-- / The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold…praying that Mary have all the peace and time with her son that other mothers have in their earthly incarnations. By stanza three, she begs on Mary’s behalf, Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd, / The smell of rough cut wood, the trail of red… For now, there is enough time. To bask in the sun. To imagine one’s children grown, thriving.

I’ve also fallen down the rabbit hole into my new Transformative Blogging site, but an equal portion of my heart lives here still at Feral Mom, Feral Writer. My hope in launching The Year of Inquiry for Women Bloggers was to learn as much as I taught and the trail of synchronicity has already begun. I’ve met new writers, creatives, and bloggers to engage and play with along the way. Edith O’Nuallain, who blogs at In a Room of My Own is one such new writing companion (she also happens to be a mother) who took the time to interview me about the work I’m developing in my classes for women bloggers. Edith’s questions, such as her lead, “Why transformative blogging? What is the connection between the spiritual and the personal?” took me on a reflective journey you can read here: Tania Pryputniewicz on the Art and Craft of Transformative Blogging.  And Edith just posted part two of the interview here.

I’m throwing a good deal of my blogging energy into giving examples of each of the posts from my Twenty Inspiring Blog Posts You Can Write to Kickstart and Transform Your Blog worksheet (offered for free to email subscribers on my main site). Here are links to those latest posts:

Inquiry Posts, Chaucer and Blogger as Pilgrim (about question posts and considering blogging as pilgrimage)

Trickster Angels: Collaborative Posts and SynthesisBlogs (about hybrid blogs and teams and pairs of bloggers)

An Interview with the Collaborative Team Behind TheScience of Parenthood (about a humorous postcard blog put together by a writer-designer duo)

And the latest post I wrote for Mother, Writer, Mentor, is part of a “Postcard for Nursing Mothers” series I started, though my postcards are metaphorical:

Postcard for a Nursing Mother: Be Where You Are

And if you wish to read Prayer for a new mother, I found an online version of it here at Poem Hunter:

Prayer for a New Mother

photos by Robyn Beattie.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What the Heck is Transformative Blogging Anyway or How I Used to Not Sell Vacuum Cleaners

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

Over an omelet at Clayton’s on Coronado Island (and generous portions of coffee), tired of listening to my manic lamentations about the deluge of slicker, smarter blogging classes and a profusion of free e-books online on the same subject, my husband blurts out, “What the heck do you mean by Transformative Blogging anyway? Why don’t you just teach Blogging 101?”

As usual, my man’s not even intentionally after my goat. He’s just earnestly confused.

He perpetually forgets he married a poet. At least he likes to pretend that’s the case. Just like he likes to pretend he’s not spiritually connected. He’s the one our daughter visited before she was born. Here’s yours truly, the reiki-loving, tarot-throwing dreamer, who can’t stop free associating long enough to tie her shoes, famous for leaving apple cores all over the house as a child (ok, and as a grown woman) reading everything from Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe to Terry Tempest Williams's When Women Were Birds). And our firstborn appears in a dream to tell him, the husband--the former ten-year Ironman triathlete, women’s cross country coach, fitness instructor and mentor extraordinaire, etc., etc., more grounded in his body than a sumo wrestler—that she’s a reincarnation of a blue-eyed woman who formerly died in her 40s. Nope, he’s not spiritually connected.

There’s nothing wrong with my course title, I tell my husband (secretly hoping there isn't and trying not to sound too defensive). But maybe there is room to grow in other arenas. Which brings us to to the M word: Marketing. Which still calls up “used car salesman”, or worse, college memories of two miserable weeks pushing Kirby vacuum cleaners. Memories of singing How Much is That Kirby in the Window to the tune of  How Much is that Doggy in the Window at the sales meetings while standing up in front of cold metal folding chairs with half eaten powdered donuts still clutched in the palm.

And memories of pulling dirt pads out of the tiny, wet, dome window besmeared with dog hair and family filth meant to shame people into buying something they couldn’t afford. And that was back in the days of the land-line, when you were required to phone in to the top sales guy who barked out an excruciating set of questions you were required to parrot at the tired housewife as you dragged the tightening ringlets of the phone cord all through the dining room on the way back to the newly cleaned back bedroom. At which point you were invited to leave.

Except, Kirby didn’t realize they were sending us untrained artist types into the homes of un-shame-able people who really just wanted the back bedroom carpet cleaned for free. Nor did they realize how much we empathized with our desperate potential customers, that we might be too appalled to foist a vacuum cleaner on a family with seven children, so that the only way most of us made news at the sales meeting was by selling product to an unsuspecting uncle or aunt who took pity on us over the weekend.

I’m far better at the art part of life, making poetry movies and hooking up tangential lines of reverie, pushing the borders of association for what might reveal itself towards a world of beauty, wonder, and cross-pollination. That skill transfers joyfully and easily over to the work of supporting women reach their blogging goals and mine their dreams for how they’d like to use a blog as a tool towards exploration.

Any act one returns to repeatedly, with intention and care, has transformative value. Transformation simply refers to a process by which you just might be changed, or the act or instance of transformation. Or, in relation to math, it refers to “mapping of one space onto another or oneself." At the end of the class and our mutual exchange of ideas and exposure to new tools, if I’ve done my job well, participants emerge with a new blogging map.

Transformative Blogging II is a course for students who have worked with me in the past or for those somewhat acquainted with blogging. We delve more intensely into mask-making, tapping into the power of art to give ourselves three-dimensional room to play with the concept of on-line persona. Why would you need or want a mask or on-line persona? Why do we wear clothes? If you are curious, image-driven, hands-on hungry to work with a group of eclectic and motivated women readying themselves to blog, join us (sign up here). Or stop by my main website for the latest articles written in support of blogging women looking for post variation ideas:

And if  you have an opinion either way, cast me a vote: What does Transformative Blogging sound like it would offer?  Is my husband right (bless him for his opinions), should I change my title to Blogging 101? I welcome your thoughts.