Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life of Simple Beauty

Photo caption: Reproduction of Thoreau's cabin with statue of Thoreau. From Wikkipedia.

"For seen with the eye of the poet, as God sees them, all things are alive and beautiful."

This beautiful quote is by Henry David Thoreau, from his journal dated March 13, 1842.

It's appropriate in Nashville today, since beautiful, fat flakes of snow are falling, bringing peace and beauty to our world.

Thoreau is considered by many to be the first nature writer, and of course is best-known for his essay, Civil Disobedience, which influenced Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, among others.

His other great contribution to the world came through his commitment to living simply, in harmony with both nature and humans.

He lived at Massachusetts' Walden Pond for "two years, two months, and two days" and although he was criticized by his peers for allowing his mother to bring him home-cooked meals once a week, there is no doubt that Thoreau's political and nature writings have had tremendous, lasting, influence.

Through his nature observations, documented in 2 million words in 24 notebooks, Thoreau began noticing environmental and ecological patterns. His observations were not taken seriously, however, until the 1970s, more than 100 years after his death in 1862 at age 44.

He also was an early proponent of public land conversation.

Like many forward thinkers, Thoreau was criticized, especially by adventure author Robert Louis Stevenson, who considered Thoreau's simple, woodsy life to be "effeminate".

From what I have read and understood about Thoreau, he was so in harmony with himself and the world around him, particularly the natural world, that these criticisms had no effect on him.

He continued to live his life by being true to himself, and perhaps most importantly, shared what he learned with the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Experience Healing Through Remembering the Past's no secret that I am hooked on reality shows, and one of my favorites right now is VH1's Confessions of a Teen Idol.

Conceived by Scott Baio, a former teen idol himself (Happy Days, Charles in Charge), the show puts 7 former teen idols (like Christopher Adkins of The Blue Lagoon, Billy Hufsey of Fame) and places them in situations in which they have to confront their famous pasts--and the fact that they are no longer famous.

Today at lunch I watched the most recent episode, in which the 7 were taken on a Hollywood bus tour, with the twist being stops in their own famous pasts.

Several of the idols admitted that they either left their series' in a huff of ego, or in Adkins' case, were too messed up on drugs to move forward in their careers (Adkins admitted for the first time that he lost the role in Footloose because he was high when he went to talk to the producers. The role instead went to Kevin Bacon and that was the making of Bacon's career).

Adkins stated that the opportunity to talk about this on the show, and shed a tear or two, was very healing for him and empowered him to move forward in his renewed quest for fame via acting. Several other idols had similar experiences as they confronted their own pasts.

Confessions of a Teen Idol is functioning like a series of memoir in a documentary film format, and offers a key reason for writing--or filming--one's lifestory: healing.

It helps to come out of denial, open up, share with others, and experience acceptance as these 7 former idols gave to one another.

It definitely can be challenging to confront your past through memoir writing. I know, because I've done it myself.

Depending on the severity of the experience and how much emotion has been repressed, it can bring a big, dark cloud swirling around.

Often as you write, you begin to remember things that you had completely forgotten because they were so painful.

Eventually, though, if you keep breathing and keep writing, the sun does come out, you begin to forgive yourself and others, and healing takes place. The writing (which you may or may not choose to share with others) begins to have a transformative effect, and you might even begin to recognize some good in the experience.

Then it's time to write about a beautiful, new future!


Your writing may take place as a "stream of conscious"--writing anything and everything that comes to mind within a specific timeframe of 10 minutes, 20 minutes or whatever feels comfortable.

Or you may uses old photographs and other memoribilia as writing prompts, and writing about a specific event, like a parent's funeral, or breaking up with your first boyfriend or girlfriend.

You may choose to write in poetry instead of prose, and to even incorporate drawing or painting into your healing memoir.

Be free to choose your own path to healing through remembrance writing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Do I want To Teach?


I just found the coolest (for me!) blog called

It gives a writing prompt for each day, and suggests writing for one minute.

Today's prompt is: what information or skill would you like to teach others?

Mine is definitely teaching homeless kids and their families about Abraham-Hicks' emotional guidance system of how to have better-feeling thoughts in challenging times.

I read an article a few weeks ago about kids whose families lost their homes in foreclosure, and it broke my heart.

Ooops, one minute up already! That went fast.

Saturday morning I was listening to Whad'Ya Know (I had to look up the spelling of that!) with Michael Feldman, one of my favorite radio programs on NPR. (, for those not familiar with him).

He's introduced a new segment called Happy Talk, in which listeners can call in with happy news! The first caller was from Nashville, but I was unable to catch her name or what she was calling about, other than that it had to do with the Belcourt Theater and was some sort of exhibit.

I was just excited that someone from Nashville called in!

Then, this morning I was reading the Sunday paper which I did not have time to read on Sunday, and there was an article about a plein-air artist named Peggy Snow, who has a painting exhibit at the Belcourt through Jan. 22.

I feel sure it's the same person who called in!

There are several really special things about Peggy Snow: one is that she preserves "vanishing street scenes" with her paintings. She paints old buildings and houses, some of which eventually get torn down.

Peggy also exclusively paints in plein air, which means that she stows her paints, canvases, and other "painting stuff" in the back of her vehicle and is always ready to stop and paint at a moment's notice.

Which leads into what I think is the coolest thing of all about Peggy: while she is painting on the street, often in a derelict neighborhood, she interacts with passersby. Often, she meets people who know something about the house, building, or church she is painting.

And often she interacts with homeless people who respond to her work.

She says she meets people from all social stratas.

Now, this is really taking art to its ultimate limit.

I am a writer, and a beginning painter, and know that most artists (whether visual or words) require solitude. It's considered sacred and necessary.

So I think Peggy is pretty special.

My future step-son-in-law (mouthful!) is very involved in his church; he, the minister, and the other elders are becoming more "missional" as they call it.

Basically, it entails being more involved with others and interacting with them where they are.

That's what I see Peggy doing with her art--being "missional". Giving people who live marginally an unexpected gift and receiving in return.

Here's a link to a Tennessean article about Peggy:

I'm definitely inspired, and feel like I am looking at art in a completely different way. One of those seemingly small things that is fundamentally life changing.

Like the song from our special music at church Sunday, from Steve Fox: "When you change the way you look at things, things change."

Thanks, Peggy. I look forward to seeing your show at the Belcourt and hopefully seeing you on the street painting someday. Maybe you will see me writing or painting there as well!