these are the truths

Every time I clean, I lose things. Organized chaos tells me exactly where things are.
I try not to get too philosophical about this.

Living my faith is harder for me than giving faith up.

I am more aware now of the reality of my privilegedness than I ever have been in my life.

Chocolate-flavored vodka is my jam, but I don’t put it on my bread.

I have forgotten how to blog.

Freedom means more to me than ever before, and it has not a smidgen to do with patriotism.

I am weary of holding my tongue. I wasn’t built for it. (And neither were you.)

Writing cover copy for a short story anthology is vastly different from writing cover copy for a novel. This sucks.

I have come to the conclusion that no one who cannot bear or has not borne a child should have the right to tell me when or how I should bear one.

Pinkie Pie.

I possess more materials for unbegun art projects than any one human should.

It’s okay if you end a sentence a preposition with.
I think I decided this after learning Koine Greek.

ἀγάπη is the highest, and no single English word expresses it adequately.

If I could tell my late-teens self any three things, it might be: (1) dye your hair and get a tattoo, (2) turn every moment of your life into the most glorious dance, (3) but don’t dance in front of that fireman named Michael, because he’s going to get the wrong idea and it’s gonna be really awkward later in front of your mom and his sister.

This year I have read only women authors, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Nowadays I laugh at things I used to look down my nose at.
This isn’t a bad thing.

I still love sparklies.
I don’t think that’s ever gonna change.

Yay. 🙂

15045737_10154395327853113_212867872_n

ancient egyptians get sexy for #nationalpoetrymonth

Hile, lovelies,

I’d been thinking I hadn’t blogged since January, and then I check and find that I last blogged in February.

On Valentine’s Day, to be prezact. And it was my poetical ode to villains, which is extra appropriate to look back upon today.

‘Cause this post is gonna be POETRY Y’ALL. BANGERANG.

So, without further ado or adon’t, let’s get to it.

Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry

Back in nineteen-hundred-and-none-of-your-bidniss, I was a college student. As such, I got to take such splendid classes as Western Thought & Expression Through the Renaissance. And one of the first things we read was Ancient Egyptian LOVE POETRY.

IT WAS CRAMAZING.

We were freshmen, giggly and oh so sophisticated, and we had a blast with this stuff. Here are some of my favorites. Until the writing of this post, I hadn’t read any of these texts in well over a decade. But I remembered them. Those Egyptians really had it goin’ on, y’all. 😉

These translations are by John L. Foster.

Love, how I’d love to slip down to the pond

Love, how I’d love to slip down to the pond,
     bathe with you close by on the bank.
Just for you I’d wear my new Memphis swimsuit,
     made of sheer linen, fit for a queen–
Come see how it looks in the water!

Couldn’t I coax you to wade in with me?
     Let the cool creep slowly around us?
Then I’d dive deep down
     and come up for you dripping.
Let you fill your eyes
     with the little red fish that I’d catch.

And I’d say, standing there tall in the shallows:
Look at my fish, love,
     how it lies in my hand,
How my fingers caress it, slip down its sides…

But then I’d say softer,
     eyes bright with your seeing:
          A gift, love. No words.
     Come closer and
          look, it’s all me.
_______________

MY NEW MEMPHIS SWIMSUIT. SWEET SAINT BRUNHILD.

Also…that “little red fish”?

Suuuuuuure.

‘Cause we totally go around caressing fish.

Um.

Yeah.

*fans self*

*AHEM*
_______________

Why, just now, must you question your heart?

Why, just now, must you question your heart?
     Is it really the time for discussion?
To her, say I,
     take her tight in your arms!
For god’s sake, sweet man,
     it’s me coming at you,
My tunic
     loose at the shoulder!
_______________

Hotep! Seriously, dude. PUT DOWN THAT ADZ AND PAY ATTENTION!!!

By the way, y’all, these poems were written 1100-1300 B.C.

Apparently, human nature ain’t changed a ton since then.

WHO KNEW

😉

_______________

This one’s my absolute favorite:

I was simply off to see Nefrus my friend

I was simply off to see Nefrus my friend,
Just to sit and chat at her place
               (about men),
When there, hot on his horses, comes Mehy
     (oh god, I said to myself, it’s Mehy!)
Right over the crest of the road
     wheeling along with the boys.

Oh Mother Hathor, what shall I do?
     Don’t let him see me!
               Where can I hide?
Make me a small creeping thing
     to slip by his eye
          (sharp as Horus’)
               unseen.

Oh, look at you, feet–
     (this road is a river!)
          you walk me right out of of my depth!
Someone, silly heart, is exceedingly ignorant here–
     aren’t you a little too easy near Mehy?
If he sees that I see him, I know
     he will know how my heart flutters (Oh, Mehy!)
I know I will blurt out,
          “Pleases take me!”
               (I mustn’t!)

No, all he would do is brag out my name,
     just one of the many…(I know)…
Mehy would make me just one of the girls
     for all the boys in the palace.
               (Oh Mehy)
_______________

Heavens to Betsy, it’s Mehy hot on his horses.

HOT ON HIS HORSES, Y’ALL.

OHHHHHHH, MEHY!

*SWOONS*

_______________

I think I’ll go home and lie very still

_______________

Or take a cold shower, after all that “little red fish” and Mehy business. Good gravy.

_______________

I think I’ll go home and lie very still

I think I’ll go home and lie very still,
     feigning terminal illness.
Then the neighbors will all troop over to stare,
     my love, perhaps, among them.
How she’ll smile while the specialists
          snarl in their teeth!–
     she perfectly well knows what ails me.
_______________

Mehy? Is that you?

😉

_______________

And An Original by Yours Most Coffee-dly

To finish up my little celebration of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem of my own creation. I used to write a lot more poetry than I do nowadays (my theory is that noveling takes up what creative juice I might otherwise spend elsewhere), so this one is a few years old. But I still enjoy it a lot.

And it is still the Truth. : ) Enjoy.

The Wild and I

There is wild in the air tonight.
I don’t know where it comes from, and
I don’t know where it’s going.

But I am sure I want it to take me along.

I want it to rip through my hair,
batter my skin with insistence
and its demand.
The wild shall embolden me
to abandon all my tethers
and shed my clothes and shoes as I run.
The wild and I shall skitter down darkened alleyways,
the only light a pale reflection of the moon,
glinting off rain-drenched broken steps
and curves of metal.

We shall laugh and howl songs and
climb leafless, lifeless trees as indistinct
as puffs of smoke.
The wild shall lead me over each hillcrest,
into eerie fog and witchlights,
where tiny red berries glisten, waiting.
I shall pick them with fingers clumsy
with excitement, and taste the juice on my tongue
before the sweetness plunges into me.

The wild and I shall whirl and twirl,
and it shall teach me to fly upon the lightning.
The wild and I shall surrender ourselves
to rustling leaves and earthy scents,
while the deeping darkness beckons, envelops,
and sets free.

There is wild in the air tonight.
And so am I.

Courtney Weger Cantrell
November 10, 2010

passion

all i can think to say

this is the capture
and the crystallization
of a thought concept idea emotion
and all the talk around it
     illustration with words

the one thing
to brighten darken collect and sing
crisp the breath
the mind
emboldened to lay aside all reservation
     just before the now

deliver ye unto me
the fresh cut the distinctive taste
singular pleasure
texture on the tongue
raw volcanic sensation
remaining locked in a moment

     just before the now

no quarter given
relinquish our original
yield up to me the whole
and witness the transformation
from love to always
from made to right

     promise me the wine of undiluted delight

               and i am yours.

Courtney Weger Cantrell
July 2, 2015

You can’t be bad at art.

When it comes to art, even personalities that aren’t perfectionist suddenly descend into weird, nit-picky hangups.

“It doesn’t look right.” “It doesn’t look real enough.” The one who never alphabetizes her books will develop a dire need for right angles and even planes. The one who can’t keep his pantry in any semblance of order will agonize over brushstrokes that refuse his attempts at realism. “I can’t make it look the way it does in my head.”

“I can’t.”

More demoralizing, discouraging, and disheartening words probably don’t exist in the art world, whether you’re talking visual arts, writing, music, or performance. Artists in every medium and of every range of experience maintain this mental image of what their art should be — usually in comparison to someone else’s. “I can’t” — because nothing they produce ever measures up to that ideal they’ve carried around probably since childhood.

“They.” What am I talking about? This is a case of “we,” for sure, because I’m one of those artists.

Talking to Yourself

There’s this thing called the Self-Talk Cycle. Maybe you’ve heard of it; I can’t remember who first coined the term. But the Self-Talk Cycle describes:

how you talk to yourself about yourself in your head;
what emotions this engenders in you;
what actions you take based on those emotions;
what you tell yourself about yourself as a result of those actions;
and so forth.

Here’s a visual of what I’m talking about (click to embiggen!):
 

selftalk

 

So, imagine that you consistently tell yourself, “I’m bad at art. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. If I try this, I’m just gonna mess up. Besides, doing art isn’t productive. I shouldn’t waste my time or other people’s time.”

What we say to ourselves about ourselves always leads to feelings. How will you feel as a result of talking to yourself like this about your artist self? Your musician self? Your writer self?
Frustrated.
Overwhelmed.
Guilty for even thinking you could take the time for this.
Disappointed.
Angry with yourself.

What actions will you take as a result of these emotions?
Avoid your art projects.
Ignore your urge to create.
Dam up and wall off the impulses that lead to art, music, writing.
Block relationships with other artists, musicians, writers. Keep them at arm’s length so they don’t remind you of what you’re not doing. Heaven forbid they tempt you to try creating again.

What do you tell yourself about yourself as you take these unpleasant actions?
I’m alone.
I’m not as good an artist as ________, so they wouldn’t want to hang around me anyway.
I’m no good at art, music, writing. There’s no point in trying.
If I try, I’ll just waste people’s time.
I’ll just screw it up again.
I can’t.
I’m bad at art.

This circle is particularly vicious. It has teeth, and if you let it go on long enough, it will tear your spirit to shreds. (I should know.)

Don’t let that happen.

Fight that vicious, spirit-shredding monster with the Truth.

Here’s the Truth

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

You can’t be bad at art.

Read this and let it sink in:

Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist
(@Jay_T1313)
(emphasis mine)

…and…

“When we say we are afraid to begin a project, we are actually saying something else: “I am afraid of how I will feel as I continue.” We do not want to start because we do not know that we can continue. It is not the start, it is the finish that troubles us.”

Julia Cameron

Part of the fear of beginning is the fear of being seen as a beginner…a novice or even an “inferior.” (I can’t remember where I originally came across this idea; possibly it’s more Julia Cameron.) Another part of the fear is fear of knowing ourselves. Fear is where the cycle of art-murdering Self-Talk begins. “It’ll never look right. I’ll screw up. I can’t…”

…because I’m afraid.

But you can.

Because you can’t be bad at art.

And you don’t have to let fear rule you.

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

That little subtitle there is a quote from the Bible, specifically from the Old Testament book of Joshua, Chapter 24. Some might accuse me of taking it out of context (though I really don’t believe that I am), but here’s the crux of it for this post:

You have a choice.

You can choose to be subject to fear.

You can choose to immerse yourself in the negative things you tell yourself about your art.

You can choose to obey your fear of being a beginner again.

You can choose to obey your fear of failure.

You can choose to serve your fear.

Or…

You can choose to be subject to freedom. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose life. Because that’s what art is.

You can choose to immerse yourself in speaking kindness, joy, peace, love, and beauty to yourself about your art.

You can choose the courage it takes to get to know yourself.

You can choose the courage it takes to show the world who you are.

You can choose to serve your art,

following where it leads,

even if it leads you to truths about yourself you didn’t want to know.

You can choose to serve your art,

thereby serving Truth and Life and Joy,

thereby serving Good and Light and Freedom.

Sometimes, following your creativity, following Truth and Light and Freedom, means looking into dark places. This seems a paradox, but it’s one of those universal paradoxes that crop up in our existence every so often.

Look into yourself, delve into the dark places, and find in them the Light.

“I know myself, and I will know myself further. I am brave enough to learn who I am. I am good at art. I feel free and strong in my art. And I am brave enough to show it to the world.”

You are everything you need to be, but you’re not there yet.

Become what you already are.
 

Obligatory First Post of the Year: Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch

“…[Y]ou have to walk through time. A clock isn’t time, it’s just numbers and springs, pay it no mind, just walk right on through!”

–The Skull
“The Last Unicorn” (film)

Happy New Year to you, my most dashing and darlingest inklings! I hope your 2014 is off to a safe and pleasant start.

As ever, I am mindful that the calender is naught but a human construct for making our lives more convenient (or less so, as it were), so in reality there’s little difference between calling today “January 1st” or calling today “Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch.” All this talk about “new year’s resolutions” and “let’s make this the best year yet!” doesn’t make much sense when you consider that there’s as much difference between December 31st and January 1st as there is between April 3rd and April 4th.

But.

There’s also this whole collective subconsciousness concept, this idea that when the majority of us humans are celebrating the new and the fresh and the forward-looking, it’s not a bad thing to get caught up in what it all really boils down to, and that is: hope.

This is a hopeful time of year, a time of new beginnings, and I would consider myself particularly jaded if I went around believing and telling everyone that their hope-filled joy is nothing but a chemical response in their brains to the continuance of a human construct. If I believed that and tried to shove it down people’s throats, I might as well stake out my spot on the porch and start yelling at everybody to get off my lawn.

So. HAPPY NEW YEAR, PEOPLE. And yes, let’s make it a good one…and a better one than last year.

Let’s make changes that are beneficial to us and to those around us.
Let’s practice kindness, compassion, and empathy.
Let’s dream big, go out, do things, and make lots of somethings.
Let’s say no to bigotry, no to oppression, and no to hate.
Let’s say no to security and yes to vulnerability.
Let’s give without expecting anything.
Let’s help people when it doesn’t make any sense to help them.
Let’s love people when it doesn’t make any sense to love them.
Let’s read things that disagree with our worldview.
Let’s make friends with people who disagree with our worldview.
Let’s watch less TV and play fewer video games.
Let’s spend more time outside and more time in face-to-face conversation.
Let’s open the windows and let the air in.
Let’s drink more water.
Let’s smile and laugh more.
Let’s say no when we mean no and yes when we mean yes.
Let’s tell the truth kindly but firmly.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Let’s face reality.
Let’s give ourselves a break.
Let’s enjoy the ice cream without thinking about the scale.
Let’s take that vacation.
Let’s write that book.
Let’s write that email.
Let’s write that letter.
Let’s speak those words.
Let’s paint that picture.
Let’s jump out of that plane (with a functioning parachute).
Let’s play more.
Let’s quit that job.
Let’s stop waiting.
Let’s forgive.
Let’s step out boldly.
Let’s dance.
Let’s sing in inappropriate places.
Let’s take the stairs.
Let’s revel in the sunshine.
Let’s revel in each other.

Let’s live.

Happy Pookiebottoms Sweetmunch. : )

In Which Pregnancy and Car Wrecks Don’t Mix

A little less than two days ago, I had what was probably the scariest experience of my life: At 36 weeks pregnant, I was involved in a car accident.

My car. Click to biggify and behold.

I won’t say much about the details, because I’m not certain of what legalities I need to be aware of in discussing this in public (before all insurance claims are settled, that is). But the bare bones of it is that I was driving on a city street and another driver pulled out of a parking lot in front of me. My car collided with the other driver’s.

As far as I know, the other driver was not injured. Both vehicles sustained damage. The other driver received a citation.

Me, I went on my first ride as a patient* in an ambulance. By the time the EMTs were loading me up, the husband had arrived. I asked if he could ride in the ambulance with me, but the EMT said, “No, the police need him to stay right here and take possession of your car. He can come to the hospital afterward.”

Having witnessed the understandably reckless manner in which the husband had arrived at the scene in his pickup, I asked, “Is he okay to drive?”

The EMT shrugged and grinned. “Well, he drove here.”

And that was that. In the ambulance, the EMT checked my vitals and stuck an IV and some saline in the back of my hand. Over the next 15 hours, I would come to hate that IV. But in the meantime, I lay there on the gurney, watching the highway recede between my outstretched feet, wondering what would happen if one of the cars following close behind us plowed into the back of the ambulance.

The EMT talked to me in a soothing voice, especially as he explained (after I asked) that hearing a fetal heartbeat through a stethoscope in a moving ambulance was practically impossible. I took the opportunity to practice my yogic breathing.

When we reached the emergency room, the EMTs took me straight up to labor & delivery triage. On the way there, we passed through multiple winding corridors and rode two different elevators. The EMT who had driven the ambulance looked at me said said, “After this elevator, there’s a set of stairs.”

I looked at him, looked down at myself strapped to the gurney, and looked back up. “You guys have fun with that.”

He grinned. “Oh, no. We’re riding. You’re carrying.”

I motioned at my belly. “I’m already carrying!” And I was even able to chuckle through my tears as I said it.

Once I was in a room, a nurse came in and started doing things. A fetal monitor was involved, strapped to my belly. When I said something about Braxton-Hicks contractions, the nurse said, “Oh no, these aren’t Braxton-Hicks. These are the real thing.”

I managed an askance look and a shaky, “Oh.”

The most beautiful sound in the world was our baby’s steady, strong heartbeat, loud and clear over the fetal monitor. The most beautiful sight was her snub nose and plump cheeks on the ultrasound. (This was when I finally truly stopped crying.) The best feeling was her regular, healthy movement inside of me.

From triage, they moved me up one floor to labor & delivery, where the husband and I spent the (restless but as restful as could be expected) night. Tuesday morning, my doctor came in, pronounced the baby’s condition “excellent” and my lessening contractions “normal for anyone who’s 36 weeks pregnant,” and sent me home to relax for the remainder of the week.

I see the providential hand of God in every moment of this entire, terrifying experience. I see his protection of the baby and of me. I see his kindness and gentleness in the ministrations and the humor of the EMTs. I see his knowledgeability, his efficiency, and his loving care in my nurses and in my doctor.

In the story of my life, God is always present — but in this particular chapter, he’s obvious.

Have a good day, dearies. And tell someone you love them. : )

___________

*When I was 7, my grandparents came to visit us in Germany. Parents, grandparents, and I took a trip to Berlin. On the way there, we were involved in a 10-car pile-up on the Autobahn (which word, by the way, is nothing more than the German version of “interstate”). My dad had to stay with the car and talk with the Polizei. As the only other German-speaker among us, I had to ride in the ambulance with my grandma. At age 7. But that’s another story and shall be told another time.

It ain’t about the stuff, y’all.

It’s not about rushing around two days before Christmas.
It’s not about slogging through car-clogged parking lots.
It’s not about plowing through a crowded store to find the best deal.
It’s not about snagging the last one of something off the store shelf.
It’s not about mashing the potatoes right.
It’s not about defrosting the turkey in time.
It’s not about how many different kinds of pie.
It’s not about the ubiquitous fruitcake.
It’s not about the Douglas fir or the Jeffrey Pine.
It’s not about the lights on your front lawn.
It’s not about getting presents.
It’s not about Santa Claus and reindeer.
It’s not about St. Nicholas.
It’s not about the nativity scene.
It’s not about the angels.
It’s not about the number of wise men.
It’s not about Baby Jesus.
It’s not about traditions.
It’s not about religions.
It’s not about the correct seasonal greeting.
It’s not about the agendas.
It’s not about the next new thing.

All of that is just stuff.

This ornament — a dove carrying a heart and an olive branch — hangs on my Christmas tree every year. It reminds me of these truths:

It’s about generosity.
It’s about compassion.
It’s about patience.
It’s about forgiveness.
It’s about kindness.
It’s about joy.
It’s about peace.
It’s about hope.
It’s about love.

It’s about LIFE all year ’round.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Happy Holidays.

Love,
Courtney