Sued51's Blog











{July 31, 2013}   The Garden of Books…

Garden at Flower Show

This morning I read Colline’s blog about curling up on the couch with a book and tea…Oh, I could so relate!

It inspired me to pull out a poem I wrote several years ago about reading and share it.  My reading time has always been the highlight of my day (except for going for a walk outside on a beautiful day). Reading is going for a virtual walk. 🙂

Reading in the Morning

 The story grabs me

like a childhood friend;

Together we tumble

through a garden gate,

where the words are blooms,

some delicate, some loud,

vying for my raptured gaze.

In this garden of a book,

there are places to pause and sit

and soak it in,

and places to roll,

smell the soft grass.

I watch the sun

scamper squirrel-like

around the garden,

teasing the leaves

and branches.

I watch them brush each other

hesitant, yet tender

as new lovers,

my vicarious pleasure,

becomes longing and then…

I come to the end.

There is reality,

solid as a wall my fingers can touch;

away from the sun,

the stones are cold.

Duty time has come

too soon.

The world calls,

harsh as a crow’s caw.

Time to leave this place;

place my closed book

aside

and get to work.




Argentinean Ants

I have a lot of daily chores in my new, smaller place. I’m very aware that keeping things cleaned up can transform an overstuffed look into an everything-in-its-place look. I had expected to do my dishes immediately, scoop the cat box twice a day, and constantly vacuum the high-traffic-area throw rugs, but what I didn’t expect was to be killing and cleaning up bugs twice a day.

To be honest, I’ve lived quite a few places in my lifetime and I’ve never seen these before. But perhaps that is because they are easy to miss…tiny, tiny ants like a period on a page. It is only their sheer numbers that makes them visible. I looked them up on the Internet: they are called “sugar ants” (though that is also said to be a misnomer). One article that I read said that they come out in the heat and dryness and are attracted to sugar and water.

So despite my initial panic, I am not intimidated. They don’t bite, and from what I researched, their presence is not a reflection on the host’s cleanliness (though you apparently have to be more diligent than you think). They are annoying and overwhelm you with their numbers. My problem did not seem to originate with my sink; it was the cat food.

My first reaction upon seeing them was to toss the overrun cat food dishes into the sink and run the hottest water I could, then desperately downpour on the ants with the only thing I had: multipurpose Lysol cleaner, which I then followed by wiping up the bodies with a paper towel. After getting rid of the ones I could see, I went to the store and bought Lysol spray instead. I didn’t want to use poison of any sort because of the cats (although I suppose too much cleaner is also poison). My mother suggested bay leaves so I purchased those as well (that was also mentioned on the Internet, as well as cloves). My landlady said we needed a mixture of Borax and Karo Syrup to poison them. I decided to forgo that and see how I made out with my Lysol and bay leaves.

So far, I am managing to keep them from overrunning my whole apartment, but they are not going away easily. As I was writing this, I suddenly remembered a favorite passage of mine from a Margaret Atwood book, “Lady Oracle.” The main character engages with the ants:

“The ants were into the spinach I’d bought the day before. They lived in the outside wall, spinach and meat were the only thing they’d actively hunt, everything else they’d ignore as long as you put out a saucer of sugar and water for them. I’d already done this and they’d found it, they were marching back and forth between the saucer and their nest…I poured myself another drink, then dipped my finger into the saucer and wrote my initials in sugar-water on the windowsill. I waited to see my name spelled out for me in ants: a living legend.”

At the time I read it, the only ants I had ever seen were carpenter ants, so my reader’s vision of big black ants spelling out a name like all-cap boldface type, was off-base. Now that I know what sugar ants look like, I can appreciate the subtlety of the image. I can imagine a “dotted” marquis look.

With that literary image in my head, I take wiping them out a little less seriously, but it is an uneasy truce. Give me a few days and I’m sure I’ll be stashing the Borax and Karo Syrup in my cupboard. There’s romance and then there’s reality…




Writing In FlowMy morning routine includes reading a chapter of a book about writing and then writing my “morning pages” (as coined by Julia Cameron). I am currently reading “Writing in Flow: keys to enhanced creativity” by Susan K Perry, PhD. According to Ms. Perry, Key One is to Have a Reason to Write. In the questions at the end of the chapter she suggests that the reader examine his/her motivations for writing. She knows that her readers will find many. (I certainly did.) Her theory is that when you clear away the peripheral ones, you will get to the heart of the matter and learn a lot about how to foster flow in your writing.

It has always been easy to tell when I’m “inspired” in my writing vs. when I am not. It is as if I am a completely different person. When entering college I was required to write an essay to see whether I could opt-out of Freshman English. Unfortunately the topic was something I knew nothing about and had no interest in…so it was Freshman English for me. Once in class, we were able to choose our own subject as long as we followed the assigned format: comparison essay, descriptive essay, argumentative essay, etc.  Lo and behold, by the time I got to the third paper, my professor had written “A+” and a note that said, “Do you really belong in this class? See me.” Ah, the power of writing about something that interests me!

But I don’t want to depend on being “inspired” to write well, that’s why I am reading the book. So…what is my motivation for writing? I have loved books from the time I was a small child. Consequently I have always admired writers; it was always a club I longed to join. Also, one strong aspect of my personality is that I am a “communicator,” someone who is constantly trying to make sense of my world and interpret what I see, to create relationships between people and things that may not appear to be related (i.e., creating metaphors, the source of my poetic bent). And I want to connect with others, gain their respect, and have them appreciate what I have to say. But although I found many of my reasons have to do with connecting with others, I have written so much that no one has read: endless journals and poems that I haven’t shared. I’m thinking getting to know myself and being comfortable with myself is also an important reason that I write; it may be the bare bones reason, because even if no one reads what I have written but me, I still feel compelled to do it.

One of the most important things I learned from this exercise, though, had to do with a motivation that wasn’t there: making a living with writing. I’ve always struggled with that: making money by editing is one thing, doing it by writing is another. I have often felt conflicted, at times guilty, envious of others, and angry at myself for being a “failure” at making my writing “pay off.”  I often beat myself up about this “failure” and think that “I should” be making money. This exercise helped me work through some of those feelings. I simply don’t have the motivation for it. I am not a “failure” as a writer because I’m not making money at it. If I really wanted to make money at it, I would approach it differently. I would be writing what I think others are interested in; I would be doing research and treating it as a profession. I have to recognize that I am “choosing” not to make it a living at it.

I’ve got a long way to go with this book. I’m interested in what else I will learn about myself and where it will take me. My readers, have you ever REALLY explored your motivations for your passion?



{March 6, 2013}   A Writer’s Sense of Service

Julia Cameron's booksI have recently been rereading Julia Cameron‘s books to give my creativity a boost, but it’s also been making me think about being a writer with a “sense of service” or an “attitude of gratitude.” I decided that what I really like about Julia’s books is her teacher’s sensibility and her nurturing attitude. I’m not naive enough not to recognize that she’s trying to sell books, but I see some sincerity there. I think she truly believes in writing as the salvation and glorious gift it can be and wants others to experience that feeling. It lead me to thinking about being “of service” as a writer and what that means.

One of my coworkers writes poems for her church in her spare time. Her church publishes them in their program and sometimes they read them as a congregation. I think this is a wonderful use of her gift. This is her third Easter performing this service and if you think it is easy to keep seeing a topic in a new way and creating fresh material, then you haven’t tried to do it.

For myself, it has been most gratifying to me when I have been able to write a poem for a friend going through some kind of worry or difficulty: a death in the family or a sibling serving overseas. This is one way I can be “of service” as a writer.

How else can we be of service as writers? The most important way is to encourage and nurture other writers; this is what I feel Julia does very successfully. This type of service could be as small and simple as “liking” someone’s work on Facebook or a blog, or attending a poetry reading. If you feel confident and can take an interest, critique their work in a positive and constructive way. If you have extra money, you could purchase their book. Give them the kudos they need and deserve for completing such an undertaking.

Funny thing, though, I think a lot of writers, once they start to have a following forget what it was like to need that support. They forget what it was like to be someone struggling to find their voice, struggling to feel that what they have to say is relevant. Many writers write because they have a need to be heard. If they don’t feel heard, they give up, and I believe the world loses something important. We let jealousy stand in the way of being of service as writers. (See the video where Julia addresses this topic.)

I believe every writer, famous or not, has a duty to encourage other writers; they are performing a very important service if they do. So…you bloggers reading this…go out and like someone’s blog, comment on someone’s poem…do your part to keep the world writing!



{February 23, 2013}   Book “Stories”

After reading a comment by Annina on my last blog on Book Care and a comment by Lingering Visions on another blog, I felt inspired to tell the “stories” of a couple of my books.

First of all, I’m a saver. (I prefer that term to “horder” or “pack rat.”) I love meeting people and consider myself blessed by all the wonderful people I have met in my life. But, as we all know, acquaintances come and go; saving things they gave me or wrote to me helps me remember them and their role in my life, however brief. I’m very aware, though, that a lot of this will be lost someday when my memory (and my body) is no more, and someone combs through and discards my belongings. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but it is reality.

So…I’m starting to allow some of my books to tell their own story. Here’s a couple of examples of what I mean.

books, God Among the ShakersA one-time co-worker and friend wrote a book about The Shakers. We lost touch when she moved out of state. While going through some old stuff, I found a photocopied review of  her book, as well as a promotional card on which she had jotted a note to me. Instead of throwing these things out, I put them in the back of the book. As I continue to sort through my papers and saved items, I will find other things and add them (I know I have photos, cards, etc.) If I never tell anyone the story of our relationship, I hope someday that someone finds the “treasures” in the book and is interested in the story behind it.

John Adams, David McCulloughAnother book with a story? I have an autographed copy of “John Adams” by David McCullough. When the book came out, McCullough was reading from it at a nearby charity event. My employer’s president had purchased a whole table of tickets to the event. He was not able to attend, but he gave the tickets to our company librarian to distribute. The librarian thought the company book club members were the logical choice to receive the tickets; I was one of the lucky ones! Each table had one autographed copy of the book. At the event, a photographer took pictures of the attendees at each table, trying to sell the photographs. I did not buy a picture, but I have a xerox copy of our photo. I came across it in some papers and put it in the back of the book, along with a the ticket and brochure about the event.

The story is there if someone wants to piece the items together and read the clues. How about you? Do any of your books tell their own story?



{February 15, 2013}   A Book Lover’s Care Guide?

Has anyone written such a thing?

The last blog about bookmarks lead me to thinking about book care. I figured bookmarks were created to keep people from folding back the corners of pages (as a tool for book care), but I had no idea of their history until I found this link. Interesting! (I should have used that link in the last blog.)

I then did a search for book care and found most of the information that came up was directed at children and was regarding library books. The exception was this humorous video created by the George Mason University library, which was directed toward college students. Wouldn’t we treat our own books at least as well as we would treat library books?

I guess not. I recently pulled some old poetry anthologies out of my bookcase, and I have a confession to make. Book lover that I am, I found dog-eared pages. Oh, the shame! The anthology was from college, I believe, so I can claim I was just young (like the young people in the video) and didn’t know better…do you buy that? The book was Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. (2nd edition). The cover is damaged with folds too. (I’m really dating myself here because from what I could find online, this book  is now up to the 8th edition. There was also a 4th edition in my bookshelf that could have been from graduate school.)

Poulin Poetry Anthologies

I could try to defend myself by saying that they are paperback books. Paperback books were created to be more “disposable” versions of hard cover books. They were also more “affordable” versions of hard cover books, although nowadays they are pretty expensive as well. I have saved a lot of my paperback books because it would be pricey and a lot of work to go back and replace them with hard cover versions. I made a big “book care” mistake with my paperbacks though: I had them in a bookcase that got direct sun! So I have…bleached out spines.

So..there’s two book care no-no’s: don’t dog-ear the pages (#5 on the video) and don’t keep them in the sun!

And how many of us can claim we don’t eat while we read (#4 on the video)? I love my tea and toast with a good book. Some of my books have a butter-grease thumbprint or two on a few pages. That can be a reason why some people don’t like to read library books or used books…you don’t know where the book has been! (Anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode with George taking the book to the bathroom?)

Finally…I come to book covers. Anybody else out there old enough to remember covering your school books with paper bags or other paper book covers? The paper bag ones were wonderful to doodle all over and personalize. Book jackets were originally used to protect the covers of hard cover books and now are pretty much a marketing tool.

How about it book lovers…do you have any “rules” for taking care of your books? Any book care tips to pass on?



{February 8, 2013}   Using Bookmarks

bookmarks, reading, books

Bookmark gifts

As you can see, I’m not talking electronic bookmarks here. I’m talking about those items that you stick between the pages of paper books. I have received many of them over the years as simple gifts, made of so many different materials: metal, paper, cardboard. The photo shows just a few; there are countless others still stuck in books that I abandoned mid-read. My bookshelves are probably full of twice as many.

So you would think I would use them, right? Nope…I’ve recently taken to using scraps of paper as bookmarks. I find myself writing down words I don’t know, or jotting down references and subjects that I want to look up later. The scraps with scribbles go into a small box on my desk for when I have some free time on the computer (which isn’t often, I must admit). I felt like I wasn’t getting enough out of my reading by skipping over words or using the context to guess at their meaning. I felt I was giving up opportunities to learn!

I’m wondering, how many of you still use bookmarks?



et cetera
%d bloggers like this: