Ken Allan at Middle Earth has set the theme for this month’s Green Pen Society blogging. He asked for reflections on, “What gets you flying”? I am not a natural writer. I have experienced failure in writing on numerous occasions. I brought poems in grade ten to my English teacher. He gave a muted, less than enthusiastic response to my writing. I was discouraged. I regularly received grades of a “B” or less in university at twice the effort of my husband-to-be’s A papers. My comments were routinely something like, “A well-researched paper”. My mother often mentioned having difficulty making sense of my writing. I recall comments such as, “What are you talking about here?” Still, I became a blogger. Why? I was and am exploring the fun and features of the world wide web. I want to understand how it works, and what it can be used for. I write to save my ideas, play with avatar makers, learn to post pictures and videos. I enjoy hearing from people around the world and batting ideas around with them. I feel connected to some of my online colleagues and participate because of my relationship with them. I am inspired by my colleagues.
Having a blog was my Master’s project but I didnt’ quit when my Master’s was complete. I have floundered a little as the project was completed and I wasn’t sure how to continue and yet didn’t want to completely shut things down. I have not been sure of the purpose of my blog and not having a purpose made it difficult to post. My posts became less frequent and still are. I am beginning to see a place for myself in book reviews from a teacher librarian’s perspective. My reviews steer away from lengthy descriptions of plot and character and towards the possible connections and uses for the classroom. I am inspired by my work.
Mostly the reviews are for me. I want to remember authors and titles for future endeavours. I love hearing from authors. They pop up from time to time and comment on my reviews. Knowing they might be reading my reviews is a daunting idea. I want to give honest opinion but I may well hurt someone’s feelings. I don’t like that idea at all. I am hoping my awareness of author as audience will not make me censor myself too stringently. I have a great respect for authors, people who write well and make vibrant and believeable worlds into which I may walk. I am inspired by great books.
Today I ran across an astonishing blog of book reviews, Becky’s Book Reviews. What makes this website gold? Becky read. She reads a whole lot. She reads everything and then she writes about it. I feel I am reading a bunch and I’m reading for work most of the time. I like it but I don’t hold a candle to this. She has genre search, she has favourite lists, she has different blogs for children’s literature. If you want to lose yourself in books or you need to find something for a friend, child, niece or nephew or for yourself. I recommend Becky’s Book Reviews. This blog is definitely Gold Standard.
I am interested in the way we are tied to the land in which we live. Connection to the land is a precarious part of my cultural history. I am a bi-ethnic mix of English and Mennonite. Mennonites have a history of refugee status. Originally from the lowlands of Netherlands and Northern Germany, once known as Prussia, Mennonites joined many groups in settling into the area which is Ukraine and Southern Russia at the request of Catherine the Great. When conflicts in the region took a nasty turn, Mennonites moved again. Some early, 1870’s, some later 1920’s, some later yet 1940’s out to the West in Canada. (Forgive me if I am vague and inaccurate I am recounting this as a descendant and not a historian). Attachment to the land in which we live is not something which has been a part of my understanding of who I am. I live on First Nations (Treaty Six) land. I am a permanent guest. I can not go home for home in Prussia is so distant as to be impossible and home in Russia equally so. Here in Canada I am at home. As at home as I will ever be and I love this land.
In particular, there is a piece of the valley on the North Saskatchewan River which has come to be owned by Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, called Shekinah Retreat Centre. It is the piece of nature which I have spent considerable time in. I began as a camper in 1981 and continued as a counselor 1988-1994 (on and off again). This is my first year sending my son to be a camper there. Shekinah is an incredible sanctuary. I love to stand on its hills and feel the prairie wind sweep me off my feet. I have felt rejuvenated, cleansed and freed by its breath. I have added my tears to the rain, added my cries to the wind, added my joy to the sunshine. If there is anywhere I am at home, it is here. I hope my son feels that same sense of sanctuary, blessing and joy cradled in this valley. On Treaty land, we are guests, partners, caretakers of this piece of Creation. I have heard First Nation’s people talk about the reserve as a place where they go to be connected to the land and to their history. Shekinah is this place for me. It is where I have been nurtured by nature.
I really want to do this. I have a wish to be more creative, more interesting. Somewhere inside me I hope there is a writer an inner Robertson Davies or Madeline L’Engle. I know writing takes practice and I believe I can improve so when Paul at QuoteReflections started to invite people to pursue their craft in a more deliberate way, I knew I had to do it.
Photo by Arslan
Lately, I have had even more cause to believe I must start to cultivate my creative self. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight, has given me renewed hope my creative side exists and has simply been dominated by my more logical analytical self. Jill suffered a major stroke at the age of 37. She is a neurolanatomist and has written about her experience and its blessings. She experienced massive damage to the left side of her brain and found her right side experienced the world in quite a different fashion. Her right side was capable of great joy and being in the moment. Her left side organized her thoughts and helped her to communicate. (This is an extreme simplification, please read the book). She found with practice following her recovery, she could more deliberately choose which of her characteristics she would allow dominance.
“Some of us have nurtured both of our characters and are really good at utilizing the skills and personalities of both sides of our brain, allowing them to support, influence, and temper one another as we live our lives. Others of us, however, are quite uinlateral in our thiking – either exhibiting extremely rigid thinking patterns athat are analytically critical (extreme left brain), or we seldom connect to a common reality and spend most of our time “with our head in the clouds” *extreme right brain).
I believe writing and reflecting, drawing and painting, singing and playing an instrument have been past times which helped me to balance my natural tendencies to criticize and judge. I believe nurturing my other capacities will have some long term health benefits and perhaps even has eternal consequences. (That’s a philosophical discussion I don’t have time for).
I am intrigued by the alignment of the reading I have done sporadically over this year. Each piece has given me reason to take another step in the direction of developing my ‘right’ brain abilities. I am hopeful about the changes it may bring to me.
Thank you for the invitation Paul.