Happy Anniversary Random Acts of Writing!

Thank you all of you for reading these Random Acts of Writing (and art, photography, poetry, et cetera) for the past 10 years! It’s been a blessing to share this journey with you!.

You can take a look back on our past 10 years HERE, but if you’re like me, it’s the What Comes Next that’s the best part! I hope you’ll come along!

With love and gratitude, Jen

All Shall Be Well

I am eerily reminded this week of my experience during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hunkered down here in my little house without power for days, the whole world seemingly stalled and subdued. There was no work and no technology, the roads were strangely as quiet as the airwaves. And no one knew how long it would last or how bad it might get.

At first, there was the natural reaction to kick against what I could not control. Worry and fret. Freak out. But then a calm settled in, a different pace than the norm, a day guided by the rising and setting of the sun.

Looking back now, I remember those quiet, restful days as blessings.

So here we are — on the edge of a storm we’re watching overtake everything we know as normal. And we are freaking out.

But the Universe is sending messages, if you listen. She’s there in the poem “Pandemic,” that Lynn Unger was inspired to write this week.

She’s in our daily prayers, if you are inclined, like me, to whisper on occasion:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

She even showed up yesterday morning in my meditation reading:

“We must except we are there and settled enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us. Even fallen leaves float in lakes, demonstrating how surrender can hold us up…. In life as in water, when we curl up or flail we sink. When we spread and go still, we are carried by the largest sea if all: the sea of grace that flows steadily beneath the turmoil of events.” — Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

So listen for those messages.

Pay attention.

Do the things you need to do to stay safe and healthy.

Get rest.

Breathe.

“Just as fish can’t see the ocean they live in,” writes Nepo, “We can’t quite see the spirit that sustains us.” But it’s there.

Pandemic

A POEM BY LYNN UNGAR

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love —
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Poem ©2020, Lynn Ungar. Lynn’s first book of poetry, Blessing the Bread, earned her fans around the world. In her professional life she serves as a minister for the Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online congregation for Unitarian Universalists and other religious liberals. In her free time she trains dogs for competition in obedience, agility and canine musical freestyle (dancing with dogs). She is also an avid singer and contra dancer. Lynn lives on the east side of the San Francisco Bay with two Australian Shepherds. For more, visit www.lynnungar.com. IMAGE: Creation of the World III, Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis.

Morning Inspiration

This morning, as I settled into my day with coffee and the local newspaper, I found myself wondering on things. Wondering on the miracle that a local print newspaper still exists. Thinking about the young journalist I met 20 years ago who recently announced her departure as its publisher. Reflecting on how things move and change seemingly so fast sometimes, and how brave and resilient we are in the face of that.

And then a photo caught my eye — the determined and genteel final photo of a woman named Phoolan Nandlal.

Phoolan was born in 1931, and died at the age of 88 on February 16 surrounded by her seven children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was the daughter of Motyah and Galo and is the last of 4 daughters: Bhyaratie, Sylvia, and Lutchmin.

Phoolan’s parents died when she was only 2 years old. She was born in Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, where she attended school. Later, she moved to Avocart and grew up with her grandparents Bhahuartya and Dhoray who were from Bastilya, India. She was taken out of school and married at age 16 years to Raghunath Nandlal.

Phoolan was heartbroken that she was denied an education, not being told about her parents, and denied her inheritance. Despite her anguish, Phoolan persevered. She brought up seven children on her own, took care of her 14 grandchildren, and visited her 10 great-grandchildren.

Phoolan valued education and instilled this among other values in her family. In addition, she went back to school in her 50s and 80s for a GED. She was astute, witty, organized, clean, neat, and took pride in her appearance. In addition, she loved all those who came to know her and vice versa. She enjoyed cooking, gardening (fruits, vegetables, flowers), flower arrangements, art, and music. Phoolan was detail oriented. She always wanted to learn how to play the piano and learned to play the keyboard at age 88 years.

Phoolan worked very hard from sunrise to sunset in Trinidad with her husband to build her empire while raising eight children. This work ethic stayed with her into her golden years. In 1978, Phoolan lost her husband, a son, and a grandson. She persevered, and was extremely independent as a widow as well as a private person. Phoolan lived independently in Trinidad for about 25 years and designed the addition to her home. She chose to live with her daughter Radhika Nandlal and son-in-law Richard LaRonde in Branford for the last 4 years of her life.

I never met Phoolan — these remarkable details are from her obituary — but I suspect she had as much moxie as my local newspaper, and of that young journalist now off to seek new adventures.

Things do move and change so fast sometimes…and oh how brave and resilient are we!

Which came first…

An ekphrastic poem inspired by The Egg by Susan Doolittle

Which came first…

Who better to guard
the mountains than
Ursa Major?

Great She Bear
mothers over
oak and pine
where Noctua / Owl
keeps watchful eyes on
swayed grasses
grown by Eridanus.
Sister river flows
clean and pure,
sings bubbling songs to
Grus and Vulpecula
crane and little fox —
running nearby

We can almost imagine Aquarius,
great water carrier
divine this lush, verdant sphere,
pour life from a star-crystal pitcher.

But man gives and man takes
hardly in equal measure —

The ghost of Lepus, rabbit,
runs quick from Orion
hunter and destroyer
wondering: is this your Eden before
or our Eden finally after?

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. Poem presented at the Guilford Poets Guild Fantastic Ekphrastic event at Guilford Art Center, March 1, 2020 in response to its 2020 Student Art Show. IMAGE: The Egg by Susan Doolittle. Susan’s stoneware egg is carved, painted, and glazed with animals, trees, plants, rivers, and oceans. It’s crowning glory is the cobalt blue sky with stars. Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of constellations named in the sky, some with familiar names, some with Latin counterparts, like Ursa Major/great bear, Noctua/owl (noke-tua), Eridanus/river (eri-dah-noose), Grus/crane (g-roose), Vulpecula/Little Fox (ool-peck-oola), Aquarius/water bearer, and Lepus/rabbit (lay-poose) who is said to be chased in the sky by Orion/hunter.

If you’re reading this…

If you’re reading this, then you follow my blog Random Acts of Writing — either by email, or from Facebook, or within the blogging community at WordPress.

According to WordPress there are about 1,500 of you who might, at any moment, read something I’ve written or see something I’ve seen. How cool is that?

Of course, some of us remember the old days of WordPress, when we seemed a little more connected than we do now. But that was before the shorthand days of Facebook, the cryptic moments of Twitter, and the no-words-necessary glances at Instagram and Tik-Tok.

We weren’t memes back then, we were writers and poets, philosophers and considerers, photographers and artists, sharing ourselves with the world. And the world shared back. Not just with a thumbs-up or heart emojis, but with questions and conversations. Some so real, we’d find ways to meet in person to keep talking. Imagine!

One of my dearest friends today is someone I met right here, in the comment field of this very blog. Seriously! Here we are, seven years ago, meeting in-person for the first time. >>>

Some of you have been following Random Acts of Writing from its very beginning — 10 years ago this month! Some of you have joined us along the way, and some of you are brand new to this hodge-podge of writing, photography, art, and musings I call my blog.

No matter your history here, I’d like to say Welcome and Thank You and Please Keep in Touch. Because if you’re reading this, you’re curious and inquisitive and maybe of like mind to start a cool and lasting conversation. I’d like that.

We Are the Authors of Our Lives

As many of you know, I’ve been a long-time fan and follower of Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology — since my early 20s, when he was an 8-point type addition at the back of the old New Haven Advocate. Now, his poetic wisdom arrives through the ethernet, always delivering good things to think on and fodder for deep contemplations.

This week’s newsletter included, among other tasty morsels, thoughts on Mercury Retrograde, change, transition, and Zen Buddhism, a poem by William Stafford, a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, and pieces of good and redeeming social news to soothe the weary soul.

And then this, my horoscope for the week:

Cancerian novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1819–1875) is famous for Vanity Fair, a satirical panorama of 19th-century British society. The phrase “Vanity Fair” had been previously used, though with different meanings, in the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes, as well as in works by John Bunyan and St. Augustine. Thackeray was lying in bed near sleep one night when the idea flew into his head to use it for his own story. He was so thrilled, he leaped up and ran around his room chanting “Vanity Fair! Vanity Fair!” I’m foreseeing at least one epiphany like this for you in the coming weeks, Cancerian. What area of your life needs a burst of delicious inspiration?

Well, funny you should mention it, Rob.

For the past month, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my new book, Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story. But something has kept me from saying Done! and hitting Send! I wasn’t sure what until…

Vanity Fair! Vanity Fair!

A brilliant piece of inspiration that walked into my consciousness just two days ago and handed me the keystone. Handed me a beautiful, odd-shaped addition that holds the whole story together — thank you Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. Done.

Now one might think that sending a new book off to press in the throes of Mercury Retrograde is risky, but let’s consider it brave, shall we?

Brave because not only is Mercury Retrograde a dicey time for all things technology and communication, but also brave because Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story is a sweet piece of creative non-fiction, a true story deserving to be told by this writer who finally decided to claim it as her own.

Watch for more about Water Under the Bridge, due out this spring!


I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains;
I invented a brighter flame for myself. — Friedrich Nietzsche


 

YOUR SUPPORT IS APPRECIATED

Copies of my new book Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story can be pre-ordered now, click here. Books are expected to ship by the end of March 2020. (Sales processed through Words by Jen of Branford, CT)

 

 

Post ©2020, Jen Payne. IMAGE: Writing, Zhang Xiaogang. Blog title is a nod to Brené Brown’s “Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted,” from Rising Strong. Horoscope text from Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology. Book cover art by Sarah Zar.