Am I asking a question?…

That thinker doesn’t look very comfortable. 
Leaning back in a rocker — now that’s my preferred contemplation pose, knitting needles clacking or netbook keys tapping.

Thinking about thinking, writing about writing, posing quandaries, positing solutions. 
That’s some of what i had in mind when i conceived of this site years ago, in particular with the Ruminations tab. 
To me the term has always had an agreeable association with “a reflective thinker characterized by quiet contemplation” [Free Dictionary].

For obvious linguistic reasons, i recently wondered if there could be a relationship to the thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi. As fitting as that might be, the theory apparently has the lamentable disadvantage of not being rooted in fact. 

It turns out the root of ‘rumination’ has a more down-to-earth source. Ruminants are animals who ‘chew the cud’ — gaining additional nutrition from what they ingest by later remasticating what had been only partially digested. 

Yuk — not the most pleasant image. And yet i do relish the idea of turning one’s attention to a prior experience in order to glean further nutrients from it.
For me that is exactly what the process of writing creative nonfiction achieves.

I’m coming to understand, though, that the term is gaining wider use lately in a negative sense, referring to an inner thought process more problematic than productive. One that keeps a ruminator stuck in futility, either replaying a past event or worrying about a future one.

This is what prompted me to post about how i think of the term. 
When i see a friend or family member struggling with depressive ruminating, i’m aware that my personal methods for coping with difficult thoughts and emotions wouldn’t necessarily help them with theirs…

It reminds me of the phenomenon of seeing someone else’s eyeglasses slipping down their nose and responding by pushing up one’s own.
Still, the action comes from empathy, from being able to relate to their issue at some level. 

I suppose one reason the statue above is, well, thought-provoking is that observers see themselves in it.
Similarly, seeing ourselves in each other is key to connecting, and to doing so with creativity and caring. 

That’s worth reflecting on.

Analogies are like…

That’s it, end of quip.

I thought of it as i was considering what writing is like, and what this year has been like.
Writing is gazing back and forward at the same time.

The raw material of experience and imagination forms an idea… 
In shaping that idea for an audience, i’m looking ahead toward how the past-birthed notion might connect with the reader.
Even if i am its only reader, my future self usually takes something fresh from rereadings of past private expressions. 

Personal essay writers and bloggers perpetually distinguish between the “I” and the “we” to decide which of our thoughts to impart. 
Two kinds of intimate writing i bristle at…
Starting too many sentences with the phrase (or attitude), “We all…” 
Or starting too many sentences with “I” — if they end without drawing me in. 

The question is, What makes any one person’s thoughts of interest to another?

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Half-deserted streets…

“A tedious argument of insidious intent…”

I recently saw this phrase used as a social media tagline — and it wasn’t a T.S. Eliot account. It struck me as a pleasing expression; i didn’t immediately recognize its origins.

I should have. I studied Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in college, though that was admittedly more than a few years ago.

Looking up phrases online, mine and others, is something i make a habit of in order to properly attribute them or to make sure one i’m about to use is original.

Rather than assume its social media user had concocted this one herself, the online search for this snippet rewarded me with a reminder of Eliot’s stunning craft. 

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What’s your blog about?

It’s about how the end justifies the memes.

Ok, that’s not a serious answer — although it’s true that this blog does include the occasional meme.

Over the years, i’ve given a fair amount of thought to answering the query concisely — starting with concocting the tagline about reflections. 

When i began blogging, i’d had little exposure to the blogosphere in general. I simply set out to write about what interests me, hoping to make it interesting to others.

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Lane change ahead…

Don’t you hate it when you miss your turn-off?

Yes, i know, many of us use GPS now. But i still like to study a map at home before heading to the airport.
I tend to become anxious about catching the information in time to get to the lane i need, so it calms me to have an aerial view in mind as i’m trying to follow the signs and instructions.

The idea of planning for changing lanes came to mind when i noticed the date first thing this morning. Today marks seven years since the name change which precipitated the title of this blog.

I like it when dates sneak up on me like that. This anniversary wasn’t one i’d been looking ahead toward, as i’m prone to do, hand at forehead shading my squinting eyes.

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Foggy roads and grieving hearts…

car on road in fog

Foggy roads and grieving hearts make it hard to grasp where you are.

Fans of the brilliant songwriter John Prine will recognize an echo there with a line of his. I borrowed its framing as a tribute.
(“Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see,” from Souvenirs.)

When we look back on this time at some far future point, we will each recall hallmarks large and small that most remind us of it. Events that moved us from an abstract sense of its singular seriousness to reality hitting home.

The manner in which we lost this songwriter is one such marker for me, given what he succumbed to after surviving so much else. 

It says something significant about the times we’re in that readers across the globe will instantly grasp what i mean by “the times we’re in.”

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Life in motion…

turtle on sandcats dancing

A few months ago, i wrote a post about movement

Its theme was how we experience movement through time, and i said i would write a further post on the subject. Here it is…

As i noted in the earlier piece, i got to thinking about movement when i became able to return to it after a period of stagnancy and lack of control.
Movement, to put it simply, feels good.

When i think of enjoying movement, i think first of bodily motion. The visceral elation of being on a swing as a child and going as high as i could. Or the excitement of driving a fast car or being on a roller coaster. Thrilling physical motion feels as though we can almost be taken out of time for a moment.

A second notion of movement (which i focused on in the earlier post) makes me think of time passing, and why there’s a sense of satisfaction in noting our relationship to it.
We like checking things off to-do lists and finding shortcuts that help us move through tasks more efficiently.
When we don’t sense progress we say we are spinning our wheels or treading water — not very positive images.

A third aspect of movement has to do with our emotional experiences.
I acknowledge a subtle shift in meaning between these usages, but i think there’s a relevance between time passing and being moved in our sentiments.

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Change and challenge…

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  

(James Baldwin)

As i was about to post that quote this morning — one equally applicable to our social surroundings as to our internal selves — i realized today is a personal anniversary, marking six years cancer-free. It was almost an afterthought. (Almost.)

The quote pairs well with this one: 

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.” 

(Stephanie Schulte)

cello snow

Seasons’ fleetings…

leaves on snow

Here in southeast Wisconsin, the first snow came early this season. 

While October’s foliage still stunned with radiant hues, the storm moved in, dropping several inches of wet white stuff — and shaking me out of my ardent embrace of autumn. 

This photo shows the view from my bedroom window that morning. It felt important to capture the reversal of order, the leaves that were dropping onto the fallen snow. 

Perhaps this isn’t all that uncommon and i just never noticed it before. 

But it’s making me think about the suppositions i carry of what is likely to happen next. I’ve learned to welcome the stirring up of settled notions, the upending of unacknowledged assumptions — to keep from becoming too staid.

Let the wind rustle the leaves over the snow.

I would have liked for autumn to hang around a bit longer. But i do also delight in gray skies and the neighborhood layered in white. 

Winter has charms of its own, and the best of them is that it doesn’t last for too long either.

Witnessing fitness…

cat lifting weights

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest post for fitness blogger Saguren’s site Exercise and Health, on the topic of fitness blogging in general. When he issued the invitation, I was interested in contributing a piece because I find his blog helpful, interesting and balanced. I highly recommend you check it out.

You can read my guest post with his added comments at this link. I am also republishing my original text below.

***

I have a tendency to get a little annoyed by some fitness websites (not this one) — for at least two reasons.

First, it often seems like they’re ‘preaching to the converted’ — catering to people who are already fit.

Second, they can come across as looking down on those who aren’t, by over-simplifying both what the attainable goals should be and what it takes to reach them. 

(An earlier post of mine from a few years ago also touches on this idea.)

I was especially interested in doing a guest post for this site because neither of those is true here.

For all my early life, I had little natural inclination toward strenuous physical activity. My interests ran to the cerebral and stationary: writing, reading, meaningful conversation. 

(My twin sister, in contrast, was in high school sports and seemed, from very early childhood and throughout, to have a noticeably faster metabolism, even though we share the same DNA.)

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