With my mum gone for a couple of years now, it’s especially poignant for me to hear that old saw, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”
When I was just a baby, my mother taught me to recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Word has it that I could recite it all until I got to “The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow gave a lustre of midday to objects below.” But here’s the thing: I was only a baby. I wasn’t even 2 years old – I was one and a half. She read it to me every night getting ready for Christmas and then I recited it with her, so she knew I had learned it. Then I just said it without the book. (Have I mentioned to you that I have ALWAYS been verbal?) So now when I think of the lovely rhythms and rhymes in the poem, how I learned the words in sequence, the patterns of the word rhythms, the meanings such as I could gather – not much at first but reinforced as the years went on, I am just so grateful that my mum took all that time to love me in that way.
Now when I use words, appreciate words, think or write, I have such gratitude to my dear and loving young mother who gave me that great gift. She was just 30 years old or so, and delighted in life. She really listened to what I said, and it brought out in me the ability to speak. She didn’t necessarily correct me but allowed me to discover what I was saying, what I was expressing, and affirmed it at source. It was a way for her to love me and for me to love her back.
Later, when I became older, adolescent and more secretive, thinking that I was so very different from her and her expectations of me, I held back my words from her. I didn’t tell her what I was thinking or doing. But by then I could write, and think, and read, for myself, or so I thought. Yet when I wrote in my diary, or had my private worded experiences I was actually building on the foundation that she had begun for me so many years before, singsong reading The Night Before Christmas, or encouraging a little baby to speak, and tell, and share. Not information, but rhythm, sounds, and love, in the beauties of the English language, with all its quirks and playful twirls and swirls. At the time I took it all for granted. All those words, flying through our hearts on the wings of love!
The air changed just as we entered September, and my mind is slowly returning from the summertime haze. Its been a lovely summer and here are a few highlights – more to come next post.
We went to Portland for a week, dogsitting while friends of friends went to Northwest Sufi Camp.
Around that time the article I’d written while we were housesitting for my cousin at Nanoose Bay came out in Heartbeat, the Ruhaniat newsletter (published as a pdf online.)
The theme is Sacred Nature.
The In Love with the Mystery book and CD Project is now at press, with delivery in a week or so. It’s great being part of the Eskova team helping to make this project happen! We’ve put out a few newsletters with info, plus created the website for Ann Mortifee, with info on this latest project.
Keeping in Touch #1 – announcing the book project
Keeping in Touch #2 – features the new video
R. sent me this via email:
The land of copyright free books…. Gutenberg and ipod meet in one and I now have access to “Fifteen Thousand Useful Words and Phrases” from 1910.
Do not consider this to be “Antiquated Prudery” or full of “appalling difficulties”, this book has “apparent significance” and “assiduously cultivated” “apparent genius”… What an antidote to the “barbarous statecraft” of “bellicose humanity”, at times this might be “burdensome business” of a “bygone period”. Each “celebrated instance” has “characteristic audacity” and “charming radiance”….
oh, the hours one could waste in the “collective wisdom” of this “colossal failure”, with its “complacent platitudes” – and yet I have a “consuming zeal” for it. Is there a “crucifying irony” (what?!) here on this “crumbling precipice” of “decadent poets” and “deceiving mists”? Or does my “dazed brain” perceive a “dazzling triumph”?
LOL! I could go on, but this is a “droning worl”
So I asked her if I could blog this, and she replied:
Would it have “doubtful authenticity” if you blogged it instead of me? Well the “effervescent multitude” shall not mind. These “embellished truths” have an “elusive charm”. You shall not be the recipient of my “embittered gaze”, nor are you under “enforced silence”…. If you are also concerned about potential “eviscerating shrieks”, remember you shall experience the “exact antithesis” of an “excretory secretion”. Instead, in an “exultant condition” I shall break forth in “ejaculatory prayer”. In other words, use your “girlish spriteliness” and “glorious freedom”.
…I can’t stop! I descend from “gushing enthusiasm” to “gutteral incoherence”…. ahhhhhhH
From Cliche to Archetype, indeed!
This is what they’re talking about
A body as large as Mount Meru
Can the heart survive the procedure?
Experiment after experiment
Produced only cast off Frankensteins
Our heart blood incompatible: wrong type
Now, remembering Whitman’s lines
On the body electric
I lay on the power lines
And fuse through the grid
Light zaps white
Nobody home anymore
Centers everywhere, no boundaries.
The heart is overexposed
In light too high to see with any eye
How can words be known here
Where all is blinded light?
The listening heart hears
The rush of love’s waterfall
As a million butterflies per second
Crash into the pools below.
On the mountain peaks
Siva wears his snake around his neck
Like a prize
He has let it out completely –
And uses it now as a garland.
Yearning toward this freedom
My own wisdom illuminates
The seven caves
All elaborately decorated with images of you.
(I’ve been reading over some of my earlier poems – I’ll post them here from time to time.)
So inspiring! This video of Dave Eggers’ talk at TED is just under 25 minutes long but worth every minute – see this to the end.
Aside: I’m glad to see it’s also posted on YouTube since WordPress.com wouldn’t let it through via the direct link to the TED site.
I loved putting together this little slideshow based on some earlier writing. The words hold the vision, so I decided to share the pictures in the much more fluid medium of the mind’s eye (rather than on the screen.)
(Link here for a random post from my blog.)
With client books in various stages of evolution, plus the new blog part of this business, I’ve been quite busy for the past month. There is a renewed interest in blogging of course, which is growing exponentially, but this doesn’t eliminate the book as a method of keeping, transmitting and retaining information, thought, and meta-concepts.
When a person learns to speak another language in a rudimentary way, she may be able to communicate the basics, but the subtleties and metaphysics in the language can take a very long time to evolve.
I feel new media still has a long way to go in this regard, before it can embody the rich and deep interior landscape that has been the realm of literature for the past many-hundreds of years. The place of the book is still ensured, even if the book is in an electronic version. What comes to mind here is McLuhan’s studies in the effects of light “on” a screen as in movies, and light “through” a screen as in television.
We have all felt the fascination and seduction of a strong jewel-like visual image on the computer screen, followed by a let-down when that image is printed and looks flat, and rather emptied of the illumination. “Light through” brings it to life, “light on” – not so much. With text it is a different story. The “light through” makes us feel as if we were viewing, rather than reading, and other aspects of the brain and our sensorium are activated. The process is more rapid, scanning and viewing. “Light on” – the printed word – we are back in the realm of reading. Both methods are complementary, and we prepare differently for each.
Although the books we prepare are put together on the screen, written in Word, or some such program, then laid out in InDesign, their destination is not the screen, but the page. They are created as books, not as screen-experiences, not even as documents of screen-experiences. The process is one of projecting the mind to imagine the words on the page and to imagine the page in print, working from that point of view.
When I was younger I was wise and inspired,
Now I look around and can barely find myself.
What happened? Was anything lost or gained?
Who am I? Have I become anything at all?
Sitting here, seeing the world at dawn,
I know what those old Chinese poets meant:
Floating beneath drooping willow branches
My boat drifts on the calm river.
I sip last night’s wine and watch
(Surprise: Link here to see a random post from my blog.)
I believe it all began when I was facilitating workshops for the VideoWomen group, showing women how to use video equipment, camera, audio, lighting, and basic editing. In those days we were suddenly aware of the role of women in media imagery, so I prepared workshops on that topic as well. It was my first foray into the realm of teaching adults, and I loved it. At that time I also created ongoing VideoWomen-sponsored public events and screenings, along with our weekly cable tv interview program. I saw all of it as teaching, on some level.
In Edmonton, I co-taught an evening course on Meditation Techniques at Grant McEwan Community College. We went over the usual information on the chakras and sitting postures, mantras and concentration exercises. At the same time I was facilitating and leading a sufi group, which also involved meditation instruction, and individual study.
Later I came up with a continuing education course about the coming computer revolution: “Computers Feed My Family and Pay My Taxes.” This was a riff on a popular Alberta bumper sticker of the times: “Oil Feeds My Family and Pays My Taxes.” Both seem applicable today. In that 8 week course I presented an overview of the effects of computers on society and the transformations that could be expected in the years to come. I also showed the students innovative (at the time) video of computer-generated imagery and tried to open people’s eyes to the changes that were just around the corner. This was in the early 80′s, in Banff, and was the only course I taught there.
In Vancouver, I taught an 8 week course on Writing Skills at Langara College’s Continuing Education Department. When I began I was working with the course materials the previous instructor had passed on to me, but soon I had prepared my own. I then expanded to two additional 6 week courses: Writing the Opinion Piece and Research Skills for Writers and Reporters, both of which I developed, prepared and presented.
I was sad to stop teaching in the evenings, but had to do it, as my day job at that time (with THA Media) required travelling so I wasn’t be able to commit to the courses. So it wasn’t until I was working at VFS that I could get back into it.
While at Vancouver Film School Multimedia, then New Media, I taught several courses, and many of them shifted and changed with the industry over the years. All the courses I created and taught were 8 weeks in duration. I first came in to teach Marketing, and I prepared the curriculum and course plan for that aspect of the program. It was a combination of lecture, anecdotes and hands-on work from the students, who presented at a mock trade-show at the end of the course. (Marketing was not a favorite course for students who wanted to just create media.)
I also gave an overview that I really enjoyed, on the history of multimedia from cave paintings and synaesthesia through to Vannevar Bush to the Xanadu Project to Alan Kay to the the world wide web – with lots in between. The information was in two parts: History of Media, and History of Multimedia. If my notes ever turn up, I’ll find a way to add them to this blog.
Other courses I prepared and presented over the years there were PreProduction for Interactive Media (involving groups making pitches for their interactive projects, and presenting their production plans), Portfolio Preparation (in which individual students prepared resumes and their final work for jury assessment), Writing for Interactivity (an optional and exploratory course also offered in the evenings), Proposal Writing (developing skills in preparing materials and writing effective proposals), and the ongoing and often-changing course Introduction to Multimedia (sometimes featuring guest instructors in specialized areas, also offered in the evening program).
These courses were all hands-on, and any theory was presented in order to be applied, keeping in mind the student population at VFS were individuals who had chosen to go there to learn skills, not necessarily for theory. For example, the Industry Speaker Series which I facilitated for several years was not well attended as the students would much rather work on their computers than listen to someone present. It was a pity, because innovative artists and the people who were driving the new media industry in Vancouver (and who could have perhaps hired these students when they graduated) were weekly guests in the main theatre, and they showed all their latest and greatest in software, projects or industry stats. Whenever anyone “big” or “important” was coming to town, I tried to bring them in to speak to the students as part of this course.
By the time I left VFS, I was done with teaching for a long while, and had shifted myself away from that presentational mode. But just now, I was thinking about all that effort, all the energy and dynamism of the students, and of the great experience it was to take material and find ways to present it to people in such a way that they could grasp it and make it their own.
It’s been fun just remembering the teaching I’ve done in adult education and community colleges. I certainly learned a great deal from the course and curriculum development work and from implementation of the planned materials. All that stuff about learning outcomes, it’s still rambling around in my mind.