Newcomers: My friends have Big Personalities and this thing is a hoot. We have a lot of fun doing this; don’t be afraid. Sign up in the comments below (don’t forget to include your email address!) and wait for further instructions via email. To get more of a gist, you can refer to previous posts about the swap here.
I’m capping this year’s participation at fifty swappers. You have until Wednesday, December 4th to sign up; I’ll close the list and start pairing folks then. Yippee kai ay!
Hey, so….it’s time once again to launch myself into the Woods of Wunder with all my Doo brethren and sistren!
I thought I might send a postcard from the artist village to whomever might chance to want one this year.
That’s right, I’m gonna send postcards to my pals from the heart of Doo-Nanny. If you want one please put your John Henry below in the comments-place (I’ll collect your address afore we pack up to leave out at the beginning of next week). International friends, you are most welcome to participate!
Here is the catch, because there is always a catch, son: It may not be signed by me. It may be signed by a world-famous folk artist! Or just some freak who likes bonfires. Or the one laydeh who always hangs around the kitchen, waiting for me to put out more salsa. You just never know!
DOO-NANNY! \0/ Collaborate, initiate, investigate, propagate, stay up late, create, inflate, relate! Burn stuff! Whoop, holler, dance, sing, hug a neck and pat a back! Amen and amen.
We gather in warm brick houses with brocade paper on the walls. Candles burn in jars and the hands of the boys move so quickly that they become blurs as they play.
The people are happy, the people are smiling and clutching one another mirthfully as they dance. Singing, urging the band on, they are fevered and joyful and shine; the people shine so hard that the stars would be jealous if the roof was not protecting their feelings.
There is shalom in every bounce, in every handclap, in every laughing face of every dark-haired girl.
Dance, women. Shout, men. Play on, beautiful music-makers. Hold back the evils of the world, make us one with each other. Help us to hear God.
(a very special thank you to Demian, to Katy, to Derick, and to the Flying Balalaika Brothers for the amazing time….also to Sean for that crazy-assed drink that I still don’t know the name of but that suited the mood perfectly)
Hello! I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but it’s already the end of the year. What the what??
If you’re new in these parts, the middle of November means that it’s time to round up a bunch of rowdies who want to send holiday cheer to one another through the post. By way of an ornament! (please insert jazz hands here)
It goes like this: You drop a comment on this post telling me you want in. I’ll close signups on Friday or when we reach the Preset Numerical Threshold of Sanity, whichever comes first, and start pairing everyone up. Sunday I’ll e-mail you your swap partner’s specifics.
I wanted to do a charity tie-in with this year’s swap, but I’ve had a bit of a hairy time over the past few months and couldn’t pull that aspect of things together. I have a plan in place, however, and the fifth annual swap will be a full go on the charity front.
If you’re not sure where you stand on all of this business yet, then go here and read up on previous swaps. I will tell you that when I did it on a whim that first time, I didn’t expect it to be a recurring thing. Also, I’m super-delighted that a sense of community has popped up around this whole deal, with people starting and maintaining friendships over one tiny little box sent from one home to another. I think that’s pretty dang neat.
It makes me want to hug the faces off of the whole internet, truth be told.
Sometimes when I am in the studio my Memaw Susie’s voice kind of melds with mine and before I know it there’s this strange hybrid of the two of us saying things like “Now. How can we go about effectively dandying this up?” all up in my head. This is while I’m turning something special –a porcelain hand, a business journal dated sometime in nineteen-nineteen, a length of rusty-and-twisted wire– over with my fingertips.
There are so many things up there in my escape room (a plain-yet-apt name) that lay there humming. Some chance to sing when I pick them up; this is how I decide what I’ll keep pulled out so that I can stare at it loudly and expect something to happen. My fingertips listen for the want(s) of the thing, trying to decipher if it will be the focal point of something whose elements have yet to be drawn together and arranged or if it will be used to subtly pull the eye toward some other highlight altogether.
Two broken wall hooks, a cigar box, a heavy brass mail door (with! keys! hallelujah!) sidle up to one another and become a sweet treasure box that is pretending to be art. An old eight-by-ten of a stoic group, snippets of text from various magazines and newspapers, a castaway picture frame all jostle and slide until there is poetry: a free-form mishmosh amalgamation of philosophy gleaned from this dying age we’re trying to pass off as all hopeful rather than incredulous.
Tonight, while straightening then cutting lengths of baling wire, I marveled once again at the greasy black-smoke condition of my palms, the mark of handling raw material and manhandling it with purpose. It put me in mind of photographs from my father’s creakingly heavy album, the one that catalogs his time in country. Cinched up between its covers are faces and faces and faces of young men with smoke and sweat and trouble smeared all across them. That, or freshly-scrubbed and thick with drunkenness, no trace of a uniform in sight, arms crooked about the necks of a variety of little Vietnamese women, so dainty.
I am not particularly a student of history, but I like for the things around me to allude to having a story that is ready to be conveyed. There is richness in this, in having a story, and I sometimes I am struck by how many options we are afforded in order to get that story across.
People e-mail me on the fair regular with snippets of this or that, wanting my take on something. I give it to them (sometimes it takes a minute, but I try to accommodate). We all have something to give and we all have something to take, right? “Give enough so that the amount of your taking isn’t bastardy, and then give ten more percent on top of that.” is one of my life mottoes. There are others; we may or may not get around to talking about them sometime.
Sometimes people e-mail me and ask my advice on telling a story. WHAT??!? You might as well ask me how to blink.
“Just, um, do it.”
That seems glib and haughty, though, right? Right. So I never give complete answers, just disjointed approximations of tips and a virtual neck-hug before I send the soul foolish enough to ask me, of all people, back out into the world. How am I a suitable candidate for teaching anyone a dang thing?
While I was at my father’s, attending to the Mathematics of Cancer (now THAT is an almost-complete other post for another time altogether), the mechanics of telling a story came together and I wrote them down on the back of a receipt from a convenience store gas station deli combo joint: Its name, hysterically enough, is ‘Kum & Go’. It’s printed right there on the receipt that contains my Big Ideas About Storytelling. The Universe will always find a way to keep you humble, there Shotgun.
The list has five points on it. They are, exactly as I first penned them on the back of that now-crinkled receipt, as follows:
FIRST I want you to listen to their stories.
SECOND I want you to listen to how they tell their stories.
I want you to pay attention to the language.
I want you to find the song in their stories.
Breathe life to that song.
That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. So either you learn to pay attention to several different aspects of an experience, or you learn to take a pass or five at it after it’s up there in your Rememberator so that you can squeeze all the juice out of it.
One thing, though….I was in such a hurry to get those handy-dandy tips down that I left out an obvious preface: Go into the world and find people. Interact with them in some way….actively, passively, whatever; I don’t give a shit about the niggling details. Then you are ready to move on to Point the First.
And then (this here is the fun bit) you are ready to hear, “Now. How can we go about effectively dandying this up?”
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
This looks incredible. Hollywood is trying to get better and tell stories worthy of this world, I think. God bless the writers, every messy last one of us.
1) You leave a comment to the effect of “Oooh, me! Me, me, me, pick me!”
2) I add you to the swap list.
3) I e-mail everybody on the swap list.
4) I pair up everybody on the swap list and e-mail you your partner’s info.
5) You send your ornament ON TIME (you know who you are!), by the date I specify.
6) Commence Christmas Cheer!!1!
I’ll be looking for ideas on how to do a charity tie-in for next year’s swap, too. If anything dings you on your pretty noggin, please do let me know. The list closes Friday the 25th and I’ll pair you up the Sunday or Monday following.
pee ess….I’ve been really hot for bullet lists lately. I have no idea.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of two weeks ago I pinned a photo to one of myPinterestboards (the one entitled ‘loud as words’, where I post up images that are striking or powerful to me). It was this one, an AP file photo shot by Al Steinkopf on 20 December 1940.
The faces it depicts are those of Jewish children living, at that time, in a Polish ghetto (one in Szydlowiec, to be exact) under Nazi occupation.
A few days later I got an e-mail from one of my beloveds, a pocket person from way, waaaay back:
The girl, the defiant girl in the center, slightly unfocused…
She is the maternal grand aunt of my biological father. She is related to me and to him because she was defiant. She stayed in Nazi occupied Poland and helped Jews escape until she was captured in 1943 and sent to Auschwitz. She worked with Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, until her death.
She was the only member of his family that gave a damn about us after he died. I think I get my devotion from her.
I have dim memories of her.
And her chicken soup recipe.
Her name was Eva. The photograph had struck me, but now –in a very real way– I am connected to one of its subjects.
But yep that’s her. It makes me wonder how many quiet legends are also a nurturing figure in some boy’s room, adjusting his blanket as he stirred in sleep. Just a sense of some indomitable Spirit passing through his life.
That that Spirit may have touched your life is frankly mind blowing. As in physics and metaphysics I can’t comprehend were messing around with us.
And I know it is because I know you, but I would bet real money that she was the one that you identified with. Visually she’s in position to be seen first, but I think she would be seen even if she was obscured by another child.
I’m about to set sail some experiments in my life. One of them involves telling a big story and a central character to that story is your basic snapshot; it has the feel of a good idea’s infrastructure….but we’ll see. Another of them involves the realtime recounting of history in a vibrant and personal way. Something akin to a voyeurnal, but more exacting and more moving. In time I’ll be inviting all of you to come with me, some in more hands-on ways than others.
The longer I live, the more purposeful ‘accidental’ connections seem to become, and they leap out at me more often. I’m there, part of you, and you’re here, part of me. It’s messy and painful and sexy and expansively, terrifyingly wonderful. Take my hand. Let’s go look for the dots so that we can link them up. Then let’s tell everybody who’s not paying attention aaaalllll about them. Let’s feed them Eva’s chicken soup; it’s seasoned with defiance and care.