Sunday, November 20, 2011

the muse

I've been studying English literature this semester. We just finished discussing John Milton's, Paradise Lost, which was intended to be seventeenth century England's greatest epic.  The text broke away from the conventional rhyme of iambic pentameter and introduced enjambment- a technique which permitted the lines of the text to bleed from one verse to the next.  Milton's lines also had clauses that would modify two or more nouns instead of the typical one, thus making for a much denser read.  And if that weren't difficult enough, he drew upon numerous references from the Bible and mythology.   Needless to say,  I wasn't comprehending even half of what Milton was trying to convey despite the one "Love and Erotism in the Middle Ages" class I took about twenty years ago that touched on some classic mythology.  Thankfully our professor understood that her students would have a difficult time with the text and compassionately instructed us on how to decipher it all. 

However, I bring up Milton to simply explain how brilliant he was (while in school he felt the education he was receiving at Cambridge was subpar) and point out an interesting little footnote I came across while trying to machete through his masterpiece as found in Book 9, line 22:

Of my celestial patroness, who deigns 
Her nightly visitation unimplored,
And dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:
Norton Anthology, pg.1974

Milton's nephew claimed that his uncle John had a muse.  She'd visit him in the night and when he arose in the morning, lines of poetry would be fully formed in his head, ready for dictation.

This really peaked my curiosity especially considering that earlier this week, while reading Julia Cameron's, The Right to Write, one of her chapters touched on this subject.  She explained in her chapter entitled, "On Being an Open Channel", that many artists subscribed to the belief in a muse as well.
The following are Julia's examples:

"The music of this opera (Madam Butterfly) was dictated to me by God.  I was merely instrumental in getting it on paper and communicating it to the public".- Giacomo Puccini

"Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God"- Johannes Brahms

"The position of the artist is humble.  he is essentiallly a channel." - Piet Mondrian

"I myself do nothing.  The Holy Spirit Himself accomplishes all through me."- William Blake
                                                                                                                
Interesting, don't you think?

And then a few months ago, I came across this you-tube video in which Elizabeth Gilbert shares at a TED Conference the visit she had with Ruth Stone and what Ruth had to say to her about her own muse:



(I highly recommend the rest of Gilbert's talk if you have the time)

All of this leads me to wonder, if these great artists had pretty substantiated beliefs that they were simply channels into their genius, instead of the creators of it, couldn't anyone else use this tool, as well?

Think of the courage such a thought would instill in anyone who wished to have a dance with their creative self.  Think of the risk a person might be willing to take on him or herself because they knew that they wouldn't have to go it alone.  The mother of three little ones next door might finally decide to get out her paintbrushes that have been collecting dust and put something down on canvas.  The young boy who'd always wanted to write a novel about the Zombie Apocalypse might take a deep breath and sign up for the Nanowrimo event after all, and get that much closer to his goal.  Or the forty-year-old homemaker might summon up her courage to enroll in the adult ballet class she's always dreamt about taking.

There's power in this way of thinking.  And I'd love to hear what you have to say about this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

common grounds cafe

On 17th and Market, one can find a little cafe located in the basement of an hundred-year-old church.  It isn't anything fancy, really, just a bright clean room with twenty or so tables and chairs set up. There is a kitchen that is staffed with eager hands, ready to pile servings of "the works" onto crisp, white plates which will be filled with waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, and a bowl of piping hot grits.

Other hands in the kitchen man the dishes-washing plates and silverware, one after another in the hot sudsy water, until their fingers hurt.  The stainless steel sterilizer that is the size of a refrigerator and dates back to the 1940's, still manages to fulfill it's job, thanks to a mechanical engineer who tinkered around with it a bit.

The magic of this cafe is found in the people that come.  There are smiles and hugs, laughter and conversation.  People who wouldn't dream of speaking to each other in any other circumstance, easily rub shoulders in a joint collaboration to fill empty bellies for a morning from eight to eleven, two Saturdays a month.

And that's it.
No proselytizing, no business solicitations, and no donation cups.


On this particular day, two hundred and eighty-two individuals were served- men, women, and children. When Mr. Reporter, Mr. Tailor and I put on our coats to go home, we walked away with something we hadn't had when we'd arrived.  It was like the feeling you get on Christmas morning when you're a kid.  That feeling of excitement and utter joy that just sits pretty in your heart.

And unlike the Christmas feeling that might last for an hour or so until the presents are unwrapped, this feeling lasted all day long.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


There have been days like this one. 

The sun pouring into my southern window 
fails to bring warmth to my frozen fingers, as I struggle to repair what has been lost. 

 Should I cast on twelve stitches of forgiveness 
or frog the whole damn thing?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

smith

I know this little bug who just celebrated her fifth birthday.  She is a precocious child who likes to keep her parents hopping with her questions.  She likes to keep Dorothy braids in her hair, and she enjoys a good zombie or two (they have to be nice ones).

For her birthday, I thought she might enjoy Ysolda's Smith.  I figured that the spikes wouldn't faze her in the slightest.  But just in case, I enclosed minimal care instructions which explained Smith's shy nature but loving heart, and his need for a safe warm bed to lie his tired head.

Worked like a charm.

This guy is made up with Blue Sky Alpaca yarn in colors 505 and 506.  I purchased the yarn from this source here.  The pattern is from Ysolda.  She gives instructions for three different sizes of hedgies- Big Smith, Little Smith, and Teeny, Tiny Smith.  This Smith is the Little Smith which only requires 100 yds / 90 m of double knitting weight yarn.
His spikes are knitted separately on straights and then attached to the rest of the body, which is knitted in the round on double points.  Trust me, they only look intimidating.
And besides, if a five-year-old can get past them, then surely you can, too.

Enjoy.