November 24, 2017

LOL: Hortatory Humor

Humor, unlike hubris, ranks high in the hierarchy of hortatory writing. But where does alliteration alight in such alignments? Whether in allegory or analysis, alliteration can sometimes suggest subtlety in craftsmanship. But too many of the same letters or sounds falling close together on the page may ring clumsy or clunky instead.

Humor and alliteration have formed an unexpected and delightful couple for me. I have laughed out loud more than once, not because I finally learned what LOL means in text messages from my adult daughter. Why not “lots of love”? The alliterative arrow that found my heart came with, I promise, the letter “q.” [Read more…]

Sanity and Spirit, Finding Your Lupine

Guest Post

Chris Abbate

Photo by Sharon Penn

In his book, The Story of Your Life: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography, Dan Wakefield provides what he calls a “step-by-step approach to exploring your past and understanding your present,” including excerpts from what workshop participants have written. Bill Finger has used this approach in leading workshops at his church and among men’s gatherings. In evaluations, participants have said things like, “inspiring and joyful… I loved hearing what people wrote. I liked that we didn’t critique but just listened.” Finger is scheduled to lead a similar class at the Five Points Center for Active Adults, Raleigh NC (May), and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, N.C. State University (October). Chris Abbate, who participated in a 2016 workshop led by Finger, wrote about his mother, Mass, poetry, and lupine, a good example of how reflecting on the past can illuminate the present. A portion of what he wrote follows in this guest post.

 

The highway to work each August was purple. A huge purple field on the east side of the highway, that in the morning, a big orange sun would rise over and create a purple haze. It sparked something deep within my spirit. It gave me an awareness I hadn’t had before. It was new life. [Read more…]

The Power of Telling Our Stories

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.

Bill discusses his book and the power of stories at a reading in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by Georgia Springer

Mary Karr, in her book The Art of Memoir, says, “In a great memoir, some aspect of the writer’s struggle for self often serves as the book’s organizing principle, and the narrator’s battle to become whole rages over the book’s trajectory.”

In writing my memoir, The Crane Dance, I did struggle to understand my core identity. As the drafts unfolded and finally formed a coherent arc, my narrator’s battle did in fact help me “to become whole.”

The writer and memoirist Joan Didion says, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images.”

In The Crane Dance, disparate images bounced about from India to Boston, then to North Carolina, back to Mississippi, to Atlanta and Mendocino, Cairo to Stonehenge, the beach to the mountains, then finally back to Jabalpur, with home in Raleigh the center of this crazy journey. What drew the line straight and true, finally, was the journey of the heart, determined to find the right compass coordinates for the larger story. [Read more…]

Joy and Sorrow

16 02 02 labyrinth at Brookgreen Gardens

Photo by Georgia Springer

How can pain and happiness sit together in our heart at the same time? The poet William Blake made this paradox more understandable, even inviting: “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine.” The next lines contain the paradox: “Under every grief and pine, runs a joy with silken twine.”

In recent months, I have noticed this juxtaposition of joy and sorrows as I review parts of my life. One of our ministers thought it was a good topic for a Sunday evening vespers service. In helping to prepare the service, I came across the famous Blake verse, which I vaguely remembered from high school English perhaps, but had never absorbed. Working with the Blake phrase opened up layers of another gift for healing, the power of music.

Growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, I sang in the youth choir at the large downtown Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. The youth sang in most Sunday night services, and our introit was nearly always the beautiful and familiar hymn, “Now the Day is Over.” [Read more…]