Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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She’s Not Glinda and She’s Stalking Me

“Wake up. “

I rolled towards the wall and buried my face in a pillow. 

“Wake up!”

I flung the comforter off and sat up in bed.   

“What!?  Leave me alone!”

I switched on the lamp next to my bed.  There was no one in the room. The big blue numbers on my nightstand clock glowed 4:37 am.

I tried to go back to sleep, but after several minutes, I knew it was pointless so I reached for my phone and started thumbing through my social media feeds.  I must have dozed off because the next thing I felt was a vibration on my chest and heard the muffled sound of my cell phone’s alarm.

I  was certain that I had disabled the alarm before I went to bed last night. My plan had been to sleep in for once on a Saturday morning.  I was not surprised though.  This could only mean one thing. She was back.

“Stop messing with my electronics!”  I muttered.  “I hate it when she does that.” I sighed and rolled out of bed.  After making a quick pit stop in the bathroom, I stumbled into the kitchen.

She was standing there with her head inside my refrigerator.  “Don’t tell me you were planning on having cold pizza for breakfast.”  

“Arvilla, what do you want?” And shoved  a K cup into the machine and jabbed the button.  I could not deal with her without a big cup of Columbia first.

Arvilla shut the refrigerator and plopped down in a chair.  “I think you know. “

Her voice made me wince. Most of my creative friends had muses who were lovely ethereal beings who sprinkled inspiration like magic dust— someone like Glinda, the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  My muse, Arvilla, is a middle-aged brassy redhead with a nasally whine and the personality of the Wicked Witch of the West.  She also did double-duty as my inner critic.  And: my other friends’ muses don’t stalk them.

She read my mind. Literally. “I am not into sprinkling fairy dust and I do not stalk. You have got to do the work,” she pronounced.  “You’ve read enough self-help books for creatives so you know what you need to do. “

I reached for a box of organic granola and shook it at her. She shrugged her shoulders. “You need to get out of the house,” she said, “and do some fieldwork. “

I perked up.  I thought she was going to nag me to sit down and write.

“I thought you might like that. You, my dear, are a little constipated.”  She nodded her head at the box of cereal. “And that isn’t going to help you get unblocked.”  

I glanced out the kitchen window at my yard and the two large magnolia trees in it.   “I’ve got so many chores to do. I need to rake leaves for one thing. “

“What leaves?”   I looked again. There were no leaves under the trees.   “And don’t even mention your laundry. You have enough underwear and towels for one more day. Good grief,  you sure do know how to procrastinate.“

I opened the refrigerator and pulled out a box of almond milk. As I poured it over my cereal I said, “So what’s the plan? “

“Bring your camera, a notebook and pen, and your inventory list of colored pencils.”   I arched an eyebrow at her. 

“Trust me.  I’ll meet you at Blick’s in at 9. Don’t be late. “

*****

Right on time, I entered the art supply store.  I found her on the drawing aisle.  I consulted my list and reached for a pencil in the open stock bin.  “No, no. You don’t need any more burnt umber or yellow ocher. Ghastly colors.  How boring. Get the spring green. Oh, better yet, the lime green. “

“Lime green? When am I ever going to use a lime green pencil?’

“Trust me.”  Going shopping with Arvilla is always an interesting experience.

A few minutes later we were in my car.  “Home?”

“Not yet.  The art store was the appetizer.  We still have the main course coming.”

Arvilla directed me and soon we were speeding south on the freeway.

“Get off at the next exit. “   I immediately knew where we were going.

“The botanical gardens?”   Arvilla just smiled.

I have always liked the botanical gardens, a place where I could get away and unplugged for a few hours. I have never been there in May, but I knew the colors would be glorious.

The garden did not disappoint me. Every conceivable flower that could grow in this area was in full bloom.  The rose garden was particularly vibrant. Trees, leaves and other foliage were thick and lush from all the recent winter rain.  They displayed every possible shade of green, including, yes, lime green.

I toured the vegetable patch, the succulents and cacti, the herb garden and the indigenous plant section, enthusiastically snapping pictures and getting a feel for my new camera’s features.  I started down a path towards the large pond in the center of the park and the banyan grove.

“No, we’re done. Time to go.”  Arvilla was suddenly at my side. I jumped.

“Stop doing that!”  I glared at her.  “And why are we done?  We haven’t been here a full hour.”

“Because I know you.  You’ll hike all over this place and snap a few hundred pictures.  Then you’ll be too tired when you get home to download your pictures and they’ll just sit on your camera for three months which will make me have to come back and kick you in the butt again.”

She had me pegged.

“Fine.”  I started hiking up the hill towards the exit.

“We’re going to stop for a few minutes at the gift shop.”

“Why?”

“Just do it.”

A few minutes later I arrived at the garden’s gift shop.  Arvilla was already there, seated on a bench and filing her nails as she waited.  I settled down next to her.

Arvilla pointed her nail file towards a rack of succulents on sale.  Next to them was terracotta bust that looked just like Arvilla.    “I know the sculptor. That one turned out pretty good, if I do say so. She really captured my essence.”

“You know the sculptor?”

“Well, of course.  You don’t think you’re my only client, do you?”

“Um, I guess I never really thought about it…. um, well, now what?

Arvilla sighed and put down her file.  “Good grief, do I have to do everything?  Get out your notebook and start brainstorming.”

“But…”

“But what?  This is why I brought you here– so your pump can get primed.”   Arvilla stood up and looked into the distance.  “Uh-oh.  I gotta go.  There’s a poet having a meltdown in the Walmart parking lot.  I need to do some consoling.  See you later.”  Arvilla vanished.

“You never ‘console’ me,” I grumbled as I pulled out my notebook from my backpack.

As my pen started moving through the journal, ideas started pouring faster than I could write them down.  I considered the images.   I could use many of the photos I shot simply as they were— as photographic compositions. I definitely could use most of them for reference in creating drawings, watercolor paintings, and elements in digital compositions.  Then poetic phrases started forming in the back of my mind as well as themes for essays on creativity, spirituality and environmental activism. History, theology, philosophy, and ideas for funny short stories all presented themselves in momentary glimpses across my mind’s eye.  I scribbled notes in the book until I finally slowed down and stopped.  I felt light and refreshed.

I clicked my pen shut and shoved it and the notebook into my bag.

“Now…” Arvilla’s voice seemed to be coming from the terracotta bust. “…go home, take one of these ideas and create something”. I nodded.

“And if I find you screwing around on the internet, I will knock out your WiFi for a week.”

“You know I hate it when you do that!”

Arvilla chuckled.

 

ljg 2019   Today’s Ragtag prompt is “stalk“.


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Wandering

I recently read Keri Smith’s book The Wander Society, another of countless books on how to jump start the creative process. The author promotes the practice of “wandering” through the world, both literally and figuratively, and learning to mindfully observe what is discovered.  The book’s description at the Amazon website describes “…the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life.” At Goodreads I gave the book only 3 stars simply because this is not an original notion. That criticism being made, I quickly realized that I have been negligent in this very form of creative self-care.

It has been raining quite regularly for many weeks, but this morning the clouds cleared and the sun broke through. So I grabbed my camera, hopped in my car and began to wander.  I ended up being entertained by a pair of white rabbits in a vegetable garden, joining a gathering of members of a bread baking guild as they made pizza in a wood-burning oven, roamed around the outside and inside of an old church, paused for a few minutes in a Zen meditation room, drove through a university, stopped at a library, and came home to a steaming bowl of home-made beef stew.

I visually documented my wandering.  Here are a few of my images:

ljgloyd (c) 2019


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The Face of Confidence


On my morning exploratory walk, I came across this giant mural. Mural painters amaze me. To create such a huge, public display of art takes an immense amount of confidence on the part of the artist. There is no room for fear of mistakes. The entire neighborhood will see that mistake in the process of being made, not to mention the humiliation of correcting it in front of the world. And heaven forbid if the mistake is not corrected and it stays on view for decades until someone mercifully paints over it. Hats off to public artists.

Teddy Roosevelt said this: “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

I dunno, Teddy, I dunno.

 

Ljg.

I don’t know who painted this; otherwise I would’ve given her/him credit.


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More Reasons to Write Every Day

I came across this TedX video about the benefits of a daily writing practice.  Since life recently threw me a curve ball, I have fallen out the of that practice.  This video has motivated me to pick it up again and make it a part of my daily spiritual routine– just like prayer, meditation and yoga.   If you are a writer — or even if you are not– I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to this writer’s entire presentation.  She really provides some practical advice for developing a daily writing routine.

 


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Being Captured by A Story

I honestly believe that stories float around in the ether looking for a storyteller to bring them life.  They send out little snippets of themselves– images, clips of dialogue, a tripping phrase or two– capturing the attention of the writer who then puts the pieces together and writes the story.   That has happened to me this week.

For me, the structure of a story is classic:  three acts comprised of a set up, rising tension or conflict, then a finale with a resolution.   On Sunday, an image presented itself to me and I thought it would make a great “first act”.   Then another image with some dialogue captured me on Monday for a second act.  Then last night I fell asleep while watching television.  When I woke up about midnight, the third act was right before me.   I had the complete story in bits and pieces.

Before I finally went to bed, I scribbled a tangle of one line phrases into my journal — I was that afraid I would forget it.   Now when the day job settles down a bit and I am not so darn exhausted when I get home, I plan to get to the business of actually writing the story.

The story captured me and will not let me rest until I write it.

 


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Noisy Toys: How I Start a New Creative Project, Part II

In yesterday’s post, I shared how I engage in a new creative project. In the process of working the plan I ran into a glitch. Or, to be more optimistic, you could say I expanded my knowledge base on a grand scale. At first, I almost jumped through the loophole I articulated yesterday of admitting the plan was not workable. Instead, I powered through and made the first of I hope many recordings of my own percussion music.

To make a long story short, I had no problem mixing a very short audio clip. The problem came with sharing it. Oh, is that not the bane of the creative’s existence: showing the rest of the world your work? In order to share the audio, I ended up having to make, with great difficulty, a video. Even though I felt like I had enrolled in a crash course in film editing, I was pleased to learn some new applications, and refresh myself in some old ones.

What I learned is this:

  1. Pushing the boundaries in my creative process requires hard work and a headache. The idea came easy.   Mastering the tools and technology, well, not so much.
  2. It is not enough for me, at any rate, to create. I must also share it with an audience for it to be worth my while.
  3. Finally, I will never be happy with just one creative genre. I need to be trying new things on a regular basis. I may never be very good at music making, but I enjoyed the process. And that is just as important as the product.

Without further delay, here is my twenty-four second sound mixing experiment.

Note:  To create and share my percussion work,  I used my iPhone to access Garageband (only available for Apple products) and to shoot the video,  a PC laptop in order to access Windows Movie Maker, my email application to mail the audio and video files from one device to the other and, of course, WordPress. Oh, and the instruments:  A darbuka, an egg shaker, and a cowbell.

Oi.

ljgloyd 2018


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A Cow Bell, Two Shakers, and a Strumstick: How I Start a New Creative Project

I am an over-committed person (AKA a workaholic):   I have the day job. Then I have a continuous home improvement project that is going to take months, if not years, to resolve. I do things for my faith community. I drum as much as I can to relieve the stress of the first three commitments. I love to read (see the Goodreads list on this site). I do about forty-five minutes to an hour a day of cardio exercise and yoga for health maintenance.   And, of course, I write.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I can permit myself to try out new activities because of all these other activities. I believe, though, that to call myself a Creative, I must constantly push the boundaries through to new experiences. And once the permission is granted, it is simply a matter of making a plan and then working the plan.

One of the new activities I am considering is composing and recording some of my percussion work. Let me say here that I am most definitely NOT a musician, but nevertheless I have given myself permission to still explore this creative and technical genre.

So how am I doing this? First, I set the intention by granting myself permission to try something new AND, just as importantly, permission to set it aside mid-stream should I find it not a viable endeavor.   Next, I brainstormed the project on a pad of paper, grouping the dump of ideas into actionable items. For this project, I realized that I needed to review the technology I had on hand or could access without cost,  investigate online videos and tutorials for the software, and inventory my percussion instruments* and song sheets. After sorting, reviewing, and prioritizing these actions, I determined that I would start by learning if I could use my cell phone and the Garageband app on it to record and mix MP3 tracks.   Before I start working on this, I started a Project page in my planner.

So my process is: 1) set the intention, 2) brainstorm ideas, 3) sort the ideas into specific actions, 4) implement the first action and make note of the results.

If I am able to get past the first action, then I will proceed to the next, and so on until a finished product is at hand.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

ljgloyd 2018

*FYI:  I have four frame drums, two darbukas, four egg shakers, a flex-a-tone, a strumstick and a cow bell.   That’s going to be one weird and funky track if I am successful.


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Appeasing the Muse


I have said it before: this is not a food blog. I’m write mostly about the creative process. But since my writing has been a little static for a few days, I thought I would take a little break from that and be creative in the kitchen.

What do you do with a couple of ancient squash?  OK, they’re only two months old, but for produce that’s a long time.   I roasted them, gutted them, paired them with an equally ancient pair of apples, an onion, and various spices and other seasonings. After pouring it all into a casserole, I glued it all together with big fistfuls of fontina and mozzarella.

Many times when I get loose in the kitchen, the end result is a disaster. Not so this time. It turned out quite tasty.

Who knew that one could overcome writer’s block by appeasing the Muse with mounds of hot, gooey cheese?  She’s easy that way.

Ljgloyd 2018


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Back to Basics Across the Disciplines

Once or twice a month I gather with others at a local drum circle. This particular circle has a lot of djembe and conga players and most of them are experienced and talented percussionists. I am learning a lot from them.

However, I am an amateur darbuka player, and my initial study of drumming was with middle-eastern rhythms– which are enormously different from the Afro-Latin beats of the drum circle players. Furthermore, once a week I practice with a band (guitarists and vocalists) who play contemporary pop/folk. So you can see that I am exposed to an ecclectic variety of musical sounds. Unfortunately, this is resulting in me developing, in my opinion, a rather eccentric drumming style where I am not particulary good at any one of them.

To mitigate this, I have assigned to myself the task of going back to the fundamentals of middle-eastern drum patterns and practicing them until I am competent in them.

I think this return to the fundamentals is important in all creative disciplines. If you crochet, perfect that single chain stitch. If you cook, be a master at hard boiling eggs or making that bechemel sauce. If you write, dust off your dog-earred copy of Strunk and White and review the elements of style.

Before Picasso started painting like this,

he learned to paint like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ljg (c) 2017

In case you are interested, I am working on perfecting a maqsoum pattern: