So another Valentine's Day has come and gone. This one in the time of Covid. Different, yet in some ways, the same. Single no mingle. That's the way of the world these days. In any case, as usual, I'm busy doing other things. No time for romance. No chance for romance. Romance? Ha! Yet I'm still a romantic at heart. True love will triumph in the end. I still believe...despite all the evidence to the contrary. So I soldier on. I warrior for the cause of amor and dreams. Ala that over the top Titanic theme song, my heart will go on....even long after I am gone.
The picture above is one of my favorites I took years ago at Descanso Gardens around Valentine's. It was there only briefly. We circled around and the wind had around blown it away.
It's confession time: I tend to live with my first draft here in these blogs. I can be a perfectionist yet I am content to live with a first draft. I pound out a blog then want to publish immediately. Yet I find errors, as I'm sure you do, that I should have taken time to fix. I can fix them later, but by then it is out in the world. Of course, I can do this quietly and readers would seldom be aware I did so.
Sometimes I do take the time to edit. Pages on my Mac has text to a speech function. When I use this, and can hear my words out loud, I can catch errors and odd turns of phrases that need fixing. I actually enjoy this process some of the time. Other times I get lazy and hit the "post" button. I rationalize that the first draft is me speaking naturally. But then I realize it is me just being lazy.
First drafts are important. Anne Lamott wrote in her her book on the art of writing, Bird by Bird, that it is important just to get the words down on paper. She calls it the "shitty first draft". Just write with little attention to editing or corrections. It'll be awful, just as the term implies. But it will be something you can work with. I agree, but ... then again, my impatience and haste can overwhelm me.
When writing this blog, I tend to be mostly happy with my first draft. I am overcome by this feeling that if I don't immediately press the post button, the ideas expressed will get stale or spoil entirely. I wonder if that is because everything seems to pass so quickly these days. I also find if I work it too long, my feelings about the piece begin to fade and I lose interest. It might well die on the vine.
I remember when I used to write letters. I always wondered almost immediately when the recipient would respond. Would they respond? And after several days, why haven't they responded? Did they even get the letter? What the heck is going on? I need a response, a validation and I need it right away. I'm am only half kidding here. But it is nice to get some sort of immediate gratification!
So I guess this is why I live with the first draft. Most of life is a first draft after all. I'm gonna run this through the speech to text and do some editing. If you are reading this, know it is at least a second draft. In the end, like most things on the internet, these writings are somewhat ephemeral any way. They may be consumed, but are seldom retained. The thoughts and musings pass through my consciousness, and probably yours, too. But I can't help but think that on some level something sticks. First draft or not, this blog is a conversation we have. Take from it what you will. And your response, as always, is most welcome.
Link here to Lamott's chapter on writing the first draft:
UPDATE: I did use the text to speech feature to edit and as usual, it is better. But I bet there are still things in this post that could be improved!
Imagine my amusement. After all, a muser extraordinaire such as myself would find it amusing. Picture it. Riverside. 2021. Or any day in any year. Me, sitting here, at my computer typing away. Thinking and musing. Imagining, that you are deep in anticipation, waiting for my latest blog or photo or whatever I choose to share any given day.
Then I get distracted. Pulled away. Otherwise engaged. Someone needs help. An elder needs a sitter. A friend needs help with a daunting project. Taxes need to be done. Household chores. Dog to walk. Cat to pet. Shopping for supplies and groceries. You get the picture.
And so, here I am, blogging about blogging and how it seems so weird to think anyone is actually reading and responding to my quirky thoughts and musings. It is so fanciful I often wonder if I am just being a putz. LOL
So this morning I woke and overwhelmed myself with all I had, or thought I had, to do. Chores got done. Stuff to UPS and the clothing repair stores. Now off to see what I can do to help my friend with his big yard sale coming up this weekend. All in a day in the life. And me, sharing this with you, as if you might be interested, or least amused. Such is the world of a Muser Extordinaire.
Every year I seem to get caught up in some of the excitement surrounded America's newest - if unofficial - national holiday., the Super Bowl. It has everything for everyone. Football of course. But even if you don't like or don't know much about football, there are the commercials, the halftime entertainment, the pageantry and the technicolor field of play. Plus the snacks and foods at Super Bowl parties. It has been and continues to be a national phenomenon one which almost no one can not be at least aware of.
I find refreshing that the Super Bowl, and most of Super Bowl Sunday, is apolitical. It doesn't seems to matter if you are red or blue in you allegiances. Just pick a team and root root root. Quarterbacks are the stars and it seems they carry everything on their shoulders. Can you honestly say you haven't heard of Tom Brady? I'm sure there are other team members on both sides who are equally great at what they do, but it is the quarterbacks are the main attraction it seems.
I find it personally amusing that I know any of this. I am not a football fan by any means, yet year after year I tune in. The singing of the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful seemed particularly poignant this year even if I think the performers were not exactly on key or up the monumental task of these challenging songs. Amanda Gorman's poem was moving in the way it honored the pandemic first line workers. I missed the halftime entertainment, but from the clips I've seen, I wonder if I need to see it.
The Super Bowl game itself was a lopsided victory to be sure. Not at all the battle of the titans promised the viewing public. I lost interest and had to leave for a while anyway. But in its wake, the triumph of supposed underdog Brady, is fun to think about. Underdog? At 43, I guess it proves age is relative.
Overall, I think this is an afternoon of fun and excitement much of America needs after a year of outrageous and tragic events. It was just a year ago the Pandemic began to flare up. And the election was kicking into alarming high gear. Protests everywhere regarding Black Lives Matter and more. We all need a break now and then.
Now it's over, Super Bowl LV goes into the annals of history. Time to turn our attentions to world and national events of more consequence again. But at least for one day, many of us were focussed on something of little consequence that gave us some relief from what is now a daily reality show.
Sprezzatura describes being a "studied carelessness — often describing attempting to seem calm or relaxed when undertaking a particular action*". The literal translation seems to be at odds with that as I share here later. It is Italian in origin and usually pertains to art or literature. I'd like to think I practice sprezzaturic qualities, but not always in my art or literature, but in my daily life.
People often tell me they see me as calm and relaxed. I usually chuckle (and downright laugh to myself) when I think about my inner churnings. I like that I have that facade going. It keeps me grounded I guess. And I don't get into confrontations very often. I suppose it is the peacekeeper in me that was imbued in me early on. Not a bad thing, I suppose. But I would like to be able to color outside the lines more freely more of the time.
Sprezzatura describes the works of Picasso and Jackson Pollack. For much of my life I never really got that school of work. Realism and representational work seemed to be more comfortable in my need to make sense of the world. But increasingly in recent years, I find these styles to be very appealing. I especially like vibrant colors and impressions rather than replications of reality. I think that is because I have finally recognized that emotions are the weather vanes of the soul.
The cool thing about the term sprezzatura is that it is Italian. The bewildering thing is that when you use the Google translator, sprezzatura, in English becomes "contempt"! I am not sure how that gels with all I wrote above. Unless it is a contempt for the restrictions society tries to place on non-conformists. I'll have to ponder that a while. Meanwhile, I will remain calm and relaxed....lol.
For the duration, just know that beneath my calm demeanor, there might be a bit of sprezzatura going on. But not contempt! Never contempt. Just a studied carelessness while I try to express myself while not being offensive. No easy task. And, no, I don't completely understand what I am talking about right now, but it certainly is good fodder for thought.
Two links that might help or confuse in the search of understanding what sprezzatura is
Forty-0ne years ago today I started to work for San Bernardino County. I spent the first four years with the Department of Public Social Services. In '84 I went to work with the Public Guardian/Public Administrator's office, where I spent the next 25 years for a total of 29 years, four months, four days and four hours (approximately). I laugh that I figured that out, but it is pretty much accurate. It was a career I guess.
Now, going on twelve years in retirement, (I did retire young they say), I look back and still wonder if I did the right thing. I stayed even when many times I wanted desperately to leave. It was a good job overall, and very interesting at times. I dealt with people's lives and estates, trying to help those who couldn't help themselves or those who had no one else to wrap up their affairs. I worked with some wonderful folks and we are still friends. And of course there were some things I never got used to, like office politics and such, but overall, it was a choice I made to stay.
That all said, and after all this time, I still look back and wonder, "What if?" What if I had pursued my real dreams? What if I had more confidence in myself, believed in my talents and abilities and really lived the life I dreamed of? As I kid and even into high school and college, I always thought I wanted to be one (or all) of the following: teacher, writer, artist, bon-vivant. And over the years I have dabbled in all of them. And here I am, still second guessing myself. For criminy sake.
So here I am. I earned a comfortable retirement. Its the security I thought I needed to obtain. At what price? In the end, though, I am content. I am doing fine. And here I am getting back to writing again and working toward other artistic interests. As usual, life is a series of starts and sputters. Here I am, starting again. The second guessing is more of a musing these days. Thank goodness it is not paralyzing any more! But like the poem by Robert Frost, it came to many a fork in the road...but I, I tended to take the road well travelled, which, of course, has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Nature can be amazing.
I was parking my car at my friend's house when this little guy landed on my rearview mirror. He hopped to the door and peered in through the window. He flew to the windshield and then back to this perch. He was looking directly at me and my little dog in my lap. He didn't seem a bit afraid.
Sometimes nature sends you a sign. Everything in gonna be okay. I had been listening to NPR news. They were reporting on the political controversy that rages on in Washington DC and beyond. I was feeling rather discouraged. So many problems in the world right now and we don't seem to rally ourselves together to rise to the occasion. There are signs that things might get better. I know I keep looking. And there he was, this little emissary from nature.
Everything's gonna be okay. Really. We just need to look for, and believe, the signs when they are sent our way.
You don't have to do a big celebration of this important Day of the Groundhog, but it is important to observe this unofficial holiday. Why? Because Ground Hog's Day gives us some sort of hope. Whether the varmint sees his shadow or not, the outcome gives us some sort of feeling of certainty about the future. If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring supposedly will arrive early.
Fun fact: on the calendar, the official arrival of spring is six weeks away.
Whether the little guy sees his shadow or not, it offers a reason to celebrate. Short though it may be, our attention goes to Punxsutawney and we are offered some peek into the future. Isn't that something we as humans yearn for? Don't we all want to know what the future holds? Isn't that why we go to fortune-tellers and listen to prognosticators?
In the end, we really can't know what the future holds. And in reality, how many of us even remember the prediction of the shadow of the ground hog in mid March? But it's fun. And for a moment we think we know what lies ahead. If I have learned anything in recent years, the future is not ours to see, let alone control. As sang Doris Day, Que sera sera.
By the time you read this, it will have been revealed that Phil indeed saw his shadow in the early morning snows of Pennsylvania. So if we remember, in six weeks we can check to see if winter ends on its official date, or came early. In the end, life will go on, and we will not know any more about what the future holds. But it human nature, and probably mentally healthy, to imagine the future because what we do today, how we act, what we accept, will indeed affect and effect the future. This is why it is important to celebrate Ground Hog's Day every year whether we believe or not!
For a different take on Ground Hog's Day, here's a link to info about the movie. Also fun and in its way, thought provoking.
Ground Hog's Day: The Movie
Oh, Muse, where have you been? You seen to have gone away for such a very long time.
I last wrote here in September. I have thought about it oh so many times. But I just shied away from those qwerki thoughts and musings. In and out they came. Easy to ignore. Some stay a while amounting in little of substance. Some just evaporate immediately.
I could blame it on the state of the world. I could cite isolation and stay at home orders. I could ascribe it to health challenges. Many reasons, more excuses. It just didn't seem like the time to muse or share or whatever it takes to tap these keys to put down those thoughts and musings.
I think about ways to re-ignite my inner inspiration. Just do it seems to be a mantra I hear, but it hasn't been enough to chant a mantra to entice my Muse to return. My Muse, it seems, has been socially distancing. No matter how I implored it to return, it remains away. I think the muse was overwhelmed by 2020.
But it is a the beginning of another month. The first of February. 2021. Not too late to pick up anew. Not necessarily where I left off. Maybe transform it. Maybe just open myself to the universe and see where it takes me.
The Muse has been socially distancing more than necessary. It's time to for us to don our masks, stay safe and begin again. Or perhaps the Muse prefers to zoom? I could handle that. Do you happen to know it's zoom contact info?