Originally photographed in the late 1980s.
Originally photographed in the late 1980s.
I love stationery stores. Not today’s big box stores where you buy copier paper by the carton or paper towels and coffee cups by the hundreds. No, I mean the type of stores that sell elegant linen stationery and fine fountain pens, ledger books, and sealing wax. There was a sensory experience in those old stationery stores that just did not translate to those big warehouse stores. When I do come across an old-fashioned stationery store, I cannot help but slip inside.
In my youth, there was a stationery store nearby that also sold books. In fact, it was the only bookstore for miles around with hardbound books and paperbacks too, with classy books of poetry and philosophy, with not a bodice-ripper to be seen — except if you knew where to look for them.
Books. I remember delicately opening the pages of a newly acquired book, sticking my face in the binding and inhaling the aroma of glue and fabric. You can’t do that with an e-reader.
E-readers do have their advantages. These days I can’t always read the fine print of a book, so that text enlargement function on the readers is useful. I can download the latest publication of favorite authors the second they are released. And when I have the overwhelming need at 2 in the morning to have that book on water dowsing or quantum physics for right-brained people, I can get them with a single tap on the 1-Click button.
However, there is something about a physical book that entices me. There is just something more intensely satisfying about running a slow hand over the soft, warm texture of paper– more gratifying than the cold touch of an e-reader’s slick surface of plastic. It does not even come close.
Paper can be quite sensual in its own seductive way.
ljg (c) 2017
Then I fell head-first into the the wave of “New Math” that swept through our school district in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The particular curriculum imposed upon us eliminated the classic categories of mathematics such as algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and instead grouped concepts into what the curriculum designers thought were “unified” ideas: sets, relations, operations, groups, rings, fields, and vector spaces. Particularly onerous to me were the exercises of proving theorems with axioms. And as a result, I floundered. I was pulling C’s and D’s on tests and barely squeaked a passing grade.
My parents were not able to help. They knew arithmetic and some algebra and geometry. My mom was a capable bookkeeper and my dad could calculate board-feet of lumber needed to construct a house. But vectors and axioms? Forget it. I don’t recall any offers for after school tutoring from the school. In fact, I blocked out most of that middle-school experience from my memory.
I must have scored high on some assessment test because in high school I got dropped into pre-calculus. The teacher with an absolutely loathsome man whose disdain for young women was quite evident. Fun and chatty with the boys, he was cool and condescending with the girls, often belittling them for incorrect answers. Furthermore, the boys were rewarded for quickly finishing their in-class assignments by being allowed to play chess with the teacher. (Several chessboards going at the same time with the teacher moving from one to another). The rest of us, mostly girls and a few boys, were left on our own to work on our assignments. I don’t recall any help offered (he was busy check-mating). In another course, the instructor was much kinder but could not control his class. At the time, computers were being introduced, and we were given assignments to complete on it. To get the girls off the computer so they could play with it, some boys would do the girls’ assignments to move them along more quickly. If the instructor knew what was happening, he did nothing about it.
Worst of all was my having to explain to my parents why I would come home with a report card that had four A’s and a C+ in math. They were not buying my explanations of the poor quality of the teachers. They figured I was spending too much time reading books or watching television. By that time I had developed a full-blown case of math-anxiety.
When I went to college, I was able to avoid taking math for several semesters until I just could not dodge it anymore. Before I became a history major, I was a psychology major and had to take Statistical Math and Statistical Methods before I could take some of the more interesting psychology courses. Two remarkable things happened:
First, I excelled in Statistical Math. I think it had a lot to do with the course being taught by a woman who was patient and took the time to explain and help. I was also an adult who had had time to build up some inner confidence. Whatever psychological block I had seemed to evaporate. I got my first A ever in math.
Secondly, I learned something about math. You might think mathematics is cut and dried, black and white, always precise. That is, with math there is only one correct answer. Not true. Half way through Statistical Methods I discovered that there are multiple ways to analyze data. One statistical formula could give you a different result than another formula with the same data. My eyes were opened to the fact that you could prove just about anything if you tinkered with the numbers. A major disillusionment with math set in. It was probably an over-reaction, but was real nevertheless.
With that I marched into my advisor’s office and said “I’m switching my major from Psychology to History.” His reply: “You would rather study dead people than live ones?” Yep, because at least I would not have to do math.
I have often wondered: if I had had a better experience with math, would I have gone on to excel in the sciences and perhaps have had a better-paying and more prestigious career?
I’ll never know.
Preparing the soil, planting the seeds, or priming the pump…. I don’t know which metaphor to use.
I have been a bit busy this last week with a lot of life chores and I haven’t had time to write. Well, truth be told, I haven’t felt like it. I just didn’t have any words to say. (Now, be nice, people. 🙂 )
One chore that has engaged me this week is setting up a new computer. My 12-year-old piece o’junk was gasping its final breath when I finally relented (I am very cheap) and got a new one. Now I am installing applications, moving files, in general taking a walk down a digital memory lane in the process. I realized that I haven’t made any digital constructions for ages and my hope against hope is that Photoshop and Illustrator will install and properly work so I can get working again. (Windows 10 doesn’t work and play well with older applications.) I may even try to install Terragen.
All this digging around in the soil of my creative garden has got me excited again to get back to creating visual pieces. I would suggest to any Creative to revisit older work or media to prepare the soil or prime the pump for new work.
For newer subscribers, here are some examples of my visual work:
LJGloyd (c) 2016.
Inspired by the Letter P at the Soul Food Cafe
I have very few windows and all of them look out upon the backs and sides of other apartment buildings and busy streets and walkways. It is a dismal experience to look upon the plain boxiness of the adjacent buildings, my neighbor’s parked cars and trucks obscuring the view, the thin film of dust on the window panes from the construction site down the street, and the terrible waste of water as the automatic sprinklers feed the tiny patch of lawn under the front window.
However, the prompt instructs us to look out the window for a full minute. This is good. This is necessary. Taking the time to really look at something can reveal many things. For example, I see the jade plant just outside the window. This crassula ovata has been here as long as I have, even longer. It has grown so large that I can no longer see the ceramic pot it lives in. Looking at it closely has made me wonder how this plant can thrive so well in such a confined space. Then it is revealed to me that this plant’s life mirrors mine. I live in this tiny apartment, yet I thrive as well. Confinement makes one appreciate what one has.
Looking through a window often adjusts perspective. If I turn from the far-sightedness that sees only the ugly buildings across the street and become near-sighted, I see the objects that I have placed in the window sill to beautify the space. There is the stained glass rose panel I acquired years ago down in Baja. It reminds me of the days when my circumstances allowed me to wander a little further than I do now. It reminds me of the friendships long gone. There is also the hand-blown glass globe that I purchased from an glass artist in Mendocino even longer ago. The swirling blues of the glass remind me of the colors of the sea crashing upon the rocks on the northern coast. I remember the beauty of that area and my time up there as one of artistic and personal growth.
Looking through rose-colored and blue sparkling glass makes me realize that, God willing, those days will return. I will one day travel again. I will one day have a view of the world that is not clouded by ugly buildings and dusty cars.
In the meantime, I will continue to thrive like that jade plant.
ljg (c) 2015
Note: I have pointed out the waste of water to the manager but nothing has yet been done. If I knew where the timer was I change it to once a week. Such a horrible waste.
Today’s prompt: “Describe your personal style, however you’d like to interpret that — your clothing style, your communication style, your hair style, your eating style, anything.”
Short answer: comfortable, flowing, and eclectic.
Long answer: When I was a child, there were people in my family who liked to sew. I remember when I was about six or seven there was some sort of big family to-do — an anniversary celebration or wedding or something along those lines– and I had to have a proper dress. So one of the seamstresses in my family made this teal blue dress out of a dreadful fabric. It was probably just a cotton broadcloth, but my memory wants to call it burlap. Thick, hot, stiff, scratchy burlap. Long sleeves. Stand-up lace on the collar and wrists. An ice-cold metal zipper running down the full length of my back. I remember having to try it on for “fittings”. I would stand with arms outstretched and totally immobile to keep from being poked by the straight pins piecing it together. I remember being hollered at for not moving around naturally so they could see how it fit. I remember sobbing because it was so uncomfortable and I just wanted to rip that scratching shroud of torture off my body. I received no sympathy. I have no idea how the dress went over at the function. I have blocked that memory because of the trauma.
As an adult, I allow no person to dictate what I wear.
I will never wear anything stifling and physically uncomfortable. (Though I did go through a high-heel phase because I fell in love with a pair of snakeskin pumps to DIE for).
And I have been around the block enough times to have picked up many disparate and resonating ethnic and stylistic themes. I conform to conventional style when I want to conform, not when I am required.
My apparel style is reflective of many aspects of my life. I am eclectic in my interests and pursuits, I am flowing with positive energy and emotions, and I think, for the most part, people find me comfortable to be around.
Finally, I may not always be “proper,” but I always strive to be classy.
I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to that hideous blue party dress.
ljgloyd (c) 2015
Here is my response to this prompt at the WordPress Daily Post: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Dreams should not be taken literally — at least that is what I used to tell myself.
At one time I was big into symbolism. I used to think that images in dreams were the detritus of my mind, the bits and pieces of real-life issues that I had left unattended during my waking hours which would then float up to nag me during my sleep. These realities of my day would take on fantastical or striking forms in my dreams in order to get my attention. ALL dreams were like that. Yeah, that’s what I used to tell myself.
But then that changed.
A number of years ago I had a dream. Actually, it was an honest-to-gosh nightmare. It started out pleasant enough. I found myself in a backyard garden in Manhattan Beach. How I knew it was MB, I don’t know. I just knew. I was surrounded by people I did not know. They were obviously wealthy people dressed in fine party clothing — suits and cocktail dresses. Someone was grilling steaks and fish on a barbeque. Tables were laid with fancy appetizers and other dainties. Beer and wine freely flowed. The sun was shining and a salty breeze came off the ocean. I don’t recall any music but then sound has never been prominent in my dreams, but everyone was smiling, laughing, and having a good time.
Then I looked up and saw the sky turn color. From a bright cerulean it morphed into a puss-yellow. The party-goers looked up too. Some set down their glasses and plates, and they all stopped chatting and laughing. They, like me, were frozen in place. With our eyes fixed on the western sky, we saw them coming — at first dark specks, then growing into the silhouettes of planes. I felt my stomach tighten and my heart start to pound. I knew — we all knew — they were coming for us. If you have ever seen any movies about Pearl Harbor, you know the scene: the planes swooping in on defenseless people. You knew what was coming.
Just as the planes were nearly to us, everyone began to scream, including me. That’s when I woke up. It was the classic bolt-upright-in-bed type of nightmare response. I don’t know if I really screamed, but I was sweating and trembling in fear. I sat there for a moment and as I realized that I was at home, safe in my bedroom, and that it was only a dream, I calmed down. Then I began to analyze it.
Yes, I had been busy at work. Stress, that was probably it. Yes, I was worried about some family issues too. Yeah, that’s had to be it. Worry working itself out in the dream. Oh, maybe it was my health. That could be it too: my body telling me to take care of myself. Maybe I should make a doctor’s appointment. That’s it, that’s what I’ll do.
With it all figured out, I felt relieved and ready to go back to sleep. Just as I settled back down, I turned to look at the digital display on my nightstand:
2:15 a.m., September 11, 2001.
ljgloyd (c) 2015
Decades ago I moved out of my parent’s middle class neighborhood on the Westside and to a more affluent town in the South Bay. It was not because I could really afford to live in a beach-side community in the aerospace corridor with engineers and rocket scientists as neighbors. Actually, It was because I knew a local landlord who offered me a sweet deal on a tiny apartment she was trying to swiftly turn over. I do not think she realized that by making it so affordable for me, I was not inclined to move out too soon.
Although I have lived here for nigh on a quarter of a century, to this day I still feel like I am just a visitor. I just don’t fit in. I do not work for aerospace or the military. I am not into surfing or the Women’s Club. I do not not have a family lineage here that stretches back three generations. I did not attend the local high school. Oh, and then there’s the apartment: Property ownership here defines your place in the community. For example, once I had an exchange with a man who lives around the corner from me about his not cleaning up after his dog that he regularly allowed to dump next to my front door. His response to me was, “You’re just a renter so I don’t have to clean up after my dog.” Yes, he really said that. For some folks, renters are second class citizens on the periphery. We are transients and, therefore, to be treated like outsiders.
Don’t get me wrong: there are things about this town I like. I can go walking at night with little fear of being assaulted. I don’t step over homeless people. I am fond of manicured lawns and Little Leaguers. For the most part –the jerk with the dog not withstanding– the people are pleasant. And the town does offer up an amazing fireworks show on Independence Day. I am grateful to live in this community even though it has never felt like home.
In the last few months I have needed to spend more time caring for an elderly parent back in the neighborhood where I grew up. I am usually at my family’s house a couple of nights during the week and most of each weekend. I am gradually becoming reacquainted with the neighborhood. I was over there this weekend and since it was a stunningly gorgeous Saturday, I decided to get out for a bit and walk the half mile to the business hub of the neighborhood.
A lot has changed since I last lived here. Now there are trendy shops, like the one that sells handmade soaps, a tattoo parlor, several highbrow bistros and gritty-looking coffee houses. (No sign yet of the green and white mermaid). Some places are gone like the paperback bookstore where I spent many a hot summer morning in my youth and most of my allowance money on Anne McCaffrey and Barbara Cartland novels.
The bowling alley is still here, as is the post office and library. The vintage bookstore is still here too, and I swear the same guy is running it thirty years later. When I entered it today, the musty smell of old books and the hypnotic drone of the NPR announcer on the speakers were comfort food for my soul.
Five generations of my family have lived in this community, but unlike the good folks of my current residence, I revel in the newcomer — especially newcomers who look or sound a little different than me. My hometown has always thrived on diversity. I grew up hearing Spanish and Japanese spoken everyday. I appreciated the observances of my Buddhist and Jewish friends. I am glad to see that this has not changed. Today I see more signs in Korean and hear more European accents, and the cafés are as likely to serve hummus and pita as burgers and fries.
This is the place a writer like me belongs.
As I returned to my childhood home after my walk, I took notice of the weeds growing in the cracks in the sidewalk. Yes, the house, like a lot of others around it, needs a little work and the garden has gone a little feral, but the cedar tree and magnolias planted by my parents decades ago remind me of my own rootedness to this small community. As the afternoon breeze softened the heat of the sun on my face, one thought fell upon me:
This is home.
ljgloyd (c) 2014
This morning I was trying to remember why I used to paint and why I don’t anymore. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was painting, I had the time to do so, had the room to do so, and had not yet taken on the burdens that life throws at all of us. In other words, I was still a child, or at least a child at heart, when I used to paint.
Now I live somewhere where there is no room or ventilation to paint. I don’t have blocks of time to get into the process of painting. And I just have too many adult concerns to have the freedom of spirit to paint.
I found some of my paintings I did in those freedom days many decades ago. Here are a few of them. These were all done in my late teens and very early twenties:
ljgloyd (c) 2013
Some of my writing colleagues have been revisiting their experiences at Riversleigh Manor, a virtual writers’ retreat associated with the Soul Food Cafe. I thought I might join in and re-post a story I wrote back in 2006 where we meet Arvilla, my Inner Critic, for the first time. Arvilla has popped up in a few stories from time-to-time since then.
My room in Riversleigh Manor is comfortable. It has hardwood floors and a bright berber carpet, recessed bookshelves filled with all my favorite history and art books, fine literature, and religious and philosophical treatises of all sorts. A map of Riversleigh hangs on wall, and I am delighted to discover all the cozy places I could hole up and work. Though the room is furnished with only the most basic pieces—bed, writing table, reading chair, and chest of drawers—there is one item that seems out of place. On the wall over the chest of drawers, hangs a large silver framed mirror with inlaid amber around the glass. Its luxury contrasts the utility of the rest of the room.
I unpacked my sparse belongings—a change of clothes, a few special books, some toiletries, my writing and art supplies. I slid open the French doors and stepped out onto the balcony. I gazed at the valley below and saw the River ribbon its way towards the sea. In the distance I could see the mouth of the River, a vast delta spreading out like a large green lotus, spilling into the Bay.
As I leaned on the railing and tried to compose a poem in my head about the River, I heard a banging sound from my room. I rushed back in and saw the mirror over the chest rising and falling against the wall. As I grabbed the mirror to keep it from shattering, a glow emanated from it, filling the room with a orange-yellow light. I had been warned that Riversleigh was a place of unusual happenings so I wasn’t afraid or even surprised.
Holding the mirror firmly in place, I looked into it and saw it filling with a wall of fire. The flames writhed and shimmered but cast no heat. In the depths of the flames, I could see a dark speck grow larger and rush towards me. It grew into the figure of a woman. Just as the figure filled the entire mirror, a large pop sounded and I released the mirror and fell back on my bed, covering my eyes against a bright blast of light.
Silence enveloped the room and after a moment, I opened my eyes. “Oh, no, not YOU!”
“Well, hey there, Sugar!”
“What are YOU doing here?”
“What? Can’t a friend drop by and say hello?”
“Yeah, right, like WE’RE friends,” I said as I pulled myself off the bed. Standing in front of the mirror was Arvilla. Tall, platinum blonde and gorgeous, she was dressed in a pin-striped business suit, pearls, and stiletto heels.
“That’s a different look. And what’s with the flaming entrance? That’s over-the-top, even for you!”
“What can I say, Sugar, it’s the twenty-first century and I’ve got to keep with the program.”
“Like I care. You didn’t answer my question—what are you doing here?”
“I heard you were taking a little vacation and I just wanted to stop by to see if I could be of some assistance.” Arvilla strolled across the room, grimacing at the furniture. She plopped herself on the chair and put her feet on my writing desk. She picked up my journal and began thumbing through it.
“I most certainly do NOT need anything from you.” I started picking up my clothes that had fallen to the floor.
“You only brought one set of clothes and no underwear—now that’s rustic, darlin’.”
She was right. How could I have forgotten underwear? “Um, I’ll pick some up at the Gypsy Camp. They have everything anyone would want.”
“Oh, yes, Gypsy underwear. How Bohemian of you. Dressing the part of a writer? You might as well, honey, because that’s as close to being a writer as you’ll ever be.”
“Just who do you think—!”
She opened my journal. “Oh, looky here…..’I strive to transform reality through my words and images.’” Now, ain’t that a hoot and a holler.”
I rushed over to the table and grabbed the journal out of her hands. “Arvilla, get out! I came ten thousand miles to get away from you. You are NOT going to spoil this for me.”
There was a knock on the door. Glaring at Arvilla, I stomped to the door and yanked it open. Standing there was the Riversleigh Manor concierge backed by two beefy security officers, unsmiling in their black shades.
“Madam, I understand that you have a visitor. As you know, Inner Critics are not welcome on the premises.”
Dang, I’m not here a day and she’s gotten me in trouble already. “Yes, sir, you’re quite right, I understand. My ‘guest’ was just leaving.” I turned to Arvilla.
With a sigh, Arvilla dropped her feet to the floor and stood up. “Oh, alright! Don’t have a hissy fit. You’re just not much fun anymore, are ya, Sugar.”
I pointed toward the mirror. “Go!”
“I can’t get out that way. Where do you think we are? In a Harry Potter movie?”
The room began to vibrate and Arvilla spread her arms out to her sides. “Just wait until you have forty-three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that you need me to edit. You’ll come a-runnin’.”
The room filled with intense yellow light and I could see Arvilla’s arms morph into enormous bird’s wings. With a harpy’s shriek, Arvilla began flapping them. She bounded through the French doors and off the balcony. I rushed to the railing and saw Arvilla gliding up the river valley towards the mountains. Looking over her shoulder, she yelled “I’ll be baaaaack……”
“And I’ll be ready for you,” I muttered as I slammed the doors shut.
ljgloyd, originally published 2006