Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo: It Never Really Over

Don't stop. Keep on writing — or being creative in a way that makes you happy. Carry On. Write On. Right on!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Poetry Wednesday: Noël


When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies

Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

 by Anne Porter
from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

'Black Friday' Migrates — in the Wrong Direction?

As Thanksgiving draws nearer, commercial establishments hoping to whip people into a shopping frenzy on so-called "Black Friday" have begun using a new ploy: opening hours earlier.

I'm not sure what people are calling it, but I'll call it "Black Thursday." And I am horrified.

Now, don't get me wrong. I benefit from those who work on Thanksgiving Thursday, and I'm grateful for the supermarket workers, restaurant workers and movie theater workers who spend a portion of their day taking care of my needs. But not every commercial establishment needs to lure their customers in with wanton abandon as do some retailers.

Retailers such as Target,  H. H. Gregg, Bass Pro Shop open on Thanksgiving day, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes earlier. Their workers, who have to show up before the store opens, wind up missing most of the day they could otherwise be spending with family and friends.

For those who choose to work those days, fine — I loved working Christmas Eve at the jewelry store and would gladly put in a 12-hour day, missing a few hours of the neighborhood party. However, that was my choice, and those who ran the store made sure those who celebrated the holiday had options.

The problem comes when employees do not have a choice. I could be wrong, but from the scale of "Black Thursday" hype, the number of employees working at those stores does not reflect a "voluntary" or skeleton crew. The cash registers are open, the shelves are full and the deals are cut-throat. These merchants are gunning for business, and their employees are conscripted.

Maybe employers make it up to them with fantastic wages. Maybe these workers don't mind skipping their own celebrations. Maybe some of these shoppers are what a friend calls "orphans," with no real plans and this is their Thanksgiving tradition.

Maybe I'm totally wrong for suggesting people not be required by corporate America to work on one of the biggest holidays on the calendar, where in years past parking lots remained empty and stores remained dark. And maybe, when people start expecting the "day after Christmas" shopping to begin on Christmas night, people will see the absurdity (though I suspect retailers will keep at least part of that day off the books so a truly skeleton crew can clean up after the eve-shoppers from the frantic night before).

It may be the wave of the future, where people choose to skip the "reason for the season" to line up outside of K-Mart to try to buy a camera on Thanksgiving for $15. But don't count me among them, and don't color me happy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Picasso Note — Inspiration Works

Creativity is a muscle: keep it fit and you'll be able to win The Hunger Games. Or survive NaNoWriMo. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Poetry Wednesday: The Wound-Dresser


The Wound-Dresser

An old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,
Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?


O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover'd with sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur'd works—yet lo, like a swift running river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade—I dwell not on soldiers' perils or soldiers' joys,
(Both I remember well—many of the hardships, few the joys, yet I was content.)

But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill'd again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)


Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have cross'd and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

by Walt Whitman

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day: Remember, Recognize, Hope

World War I officially ended with a cease fire scheduled for 11 a.m. November 11, 1918.  We began by recognizing Armistice Day, then evolving it into Veterans Day, for all who serve.

Nearly a century later, we rely still on our military to try to make the world a safer place.  We are fortunate that many other countries will take up arms with us in this endeavor. "Thanks" isn't enough, but I hope it will do until we can give them what they really deserve: no reason to take up arms.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs produces a poster every year to recognize this federal holiday. At left is the poster for 1996. Click here to see this year's poster, and others produced since 1978.

The fields in Flanders, Belgium, where the earth was churned by battle and burial of the casualties of war, were covered in poppies.  John McCrae wrote this memorable poem after presiding over a friend's funeral.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Friday, November 9, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Lost in the Woods

Fellow adventurers, I share with you a fantastic entry on Brain Pickings that hopefully will serve as inspiration as you venture into unfamiliar lands during NaNoWriMo.

Click here to read the list kindly typed out by Maria Popova.

Once you are done here, go to the Brain Pickings website. Support that incredible effort and all it brings you. You'll be glad you did.

And find out more about NaNoWriMo — it's a fun challenge you'll be glad you did. Well, when it's over, you'll be glad. Like training for a marathon: it's often less painful in your rear-view mirror.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Poetry Wednesday: Getting Out of Bed

A Haiku About Getting Out of Bed

No no no no no
No no no no no no no
No no no no no

Photo by Dorit Salutskij via Pinterest