Last year’s A to Z Challenge became a year long focus that changed how I approach art, poetry, and writing fiction. I like to combine the A to Z Challenge with the daily poetry prompts from NaPoWriMo and Poem-a-Day, so last year I picked the simple topic of “Abstract Nouns.” Abstract nouns are nouns that denote an idea, quality, or state rather than a concrete object. In other words, they are things that cannot be measured or perceived with the five main senses. They represent intangible ideas.
Studying abstract nouns led to reading lots of philosophy. Trying to capture photographs of abstract nouns led to a deep dive into abstract art and creating many new photography techniques. And the challenge led to some interesting poems about how we each have a different definition, sometimes contradictory definitions of the same abstract noun.
After the April Challenges were over, I continued my study with a new daily challenge of abstract nouns, and by the end of the summer, I had discovered a new passion: Contradictory Abstract Nouns. Inspired by a piece of writing advice, “Find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” I started trying to capture images of these contradictory abstractions, and this led to a continuing study of what I call the Big Five: Truth/ Deceit; Beauty/ Ugliness; Love/ Apathy; Happiness/ Despair; Wisdom/ Naivete. I even used the Big Five as inspiration for the main characters in my NaNoWriMo novel.
For this year’s A to Z Challenge I will be looking at contradictory abstract nouns that both start with the same letter. This will make for less obvious combinations, and more creative contrasts. Since A to Z subtracts Sundays, I’m going to leave this year’s Sundays open to collage my images and thoughts from the week.
Here is a calendar of the ideas I have so far. Like last year, X needs some leeway. These are tentative and may change by April first.
Today’s prompt for some stream of consciousness writing is “element.” Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s journal pages:
These days everything is an element of novel prep: story broken into characters, settings, plot points, broken into their elements: physical, psychological, sociological. My life, each day broken into its elements, sleep, work, play broken into their elements, trying to gear everything toward novel writing, to organize to efficiency and motivation.I’ve seen a periodic table of writing tropes, I wonder if there’s a periodic table of novel writing. How would I organize it? Like the periodic table of elements has metals, metalloids, and gases: my table would have story elements, writer’s life elements, and what else? Or maybe it needs for categories like the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. What am I thinking? I don’t have time to be making some silly periodic table of novel writing, I still need to develop my characters.
Today’s prompt is Pumpkin. I didn’t get a pumpkin this year, but I did grow some adorable tiny acorn squash in my garden. They are delicious. I bake them with a tiny bit of olive oil and fresh herbs. I thought I would have some fun attempting to carve one this morning.
I am so happy with how my tiny Jack-o-Lantern squash turned out. I put some color-changing fairy lights inside and this is now my favorite Halloween decoration!
Today’s prompt is about writer’s block, and the challenges of birthing something new. Bianca mentions blackout poetry, and I decided that would be fun since I’m having a crafty morning.
When it comes, timid and predictable, It’s been watching the world. You don’t survive when it comes nobody does
View—for the night has fallen
Switch on in the early evening You will see I know scared, ponderously slow, ferocious, and seeking to survive
View—for the night has fallen
Many are the figurative, especially those under the bus tomorrow who are pretty and have totally collapsed that, of course, is no accident I swaggered into a hotshot; they carried me out in a body bag.
I’m excited for a little relief today. I’ve had stomach pain the last couple days, so alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc. is greatly appreciated. A rain-free day with some sun is also something affording a pleasing change, as from monotony: release.
While thinking about visually creating relief, bas-relief came to mind. Bas-Relief is a sculpture technique in which the shapes only rise slightly from the flat surface of the background. In this case relief means the distance of the carving; bas-relief is low relief or a short distance, close to the surface compared to high relief. Coins are a good example of bas-relief images.
Because I finally have some relief from the rain and clouds, I can play with all my new transformer filters on the lake. The images I create using the glints of lights on the lake are like bas-relief in a way as the shapes stay connected to the water’s surface.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday
Today’s prompt is “clear.” Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s journal:
A clear blue sky. Finally. A faint half-moon lingers just above the all firs behind the house across the lake. Today’s mission is clear: to plant. I looked at the seeds I have, the herbs my sister gave me for my birthday, the vegetable seeds left from last year: lettuce, spinach, cabbage, radishes, and beans are all going to find homes in the soil today. Here I go.
Clearly, I did not expect pulling that dead plant out of the bed and putting my sister’s little birthday flower in its place would be so difficult. The dirt was hard as concrete and full of rocks. The wayward grass did NOT want to come out. I hope that little flower lives after all that effort. I’m glad it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow too because my nieces are here, and now I clearly have other things to do.
Maria L. Berg 2022
And when I finally find relief release from pain and mind left clear blue sky cloudless and half-moon near,
I hope the moment isn’t brief the sun set free is quick to sear and blinds all thought to steer or veer
Since time is such a greedy thief a heart remembers cupid’s spear a pain that aches renewing fear,
relying on our group belief of control and measured hours: we’re among our peers existing here
to smear the days with its mischief the half-moon leers then disappears leaving a trail of relief’s tears
And when I finally find relief I hope the moment isn’t brief since time is such a greedy thief relying on our group belief to smear the days with its mischief.
The quality or state of being easily broken, shattered, damaged, or destroyed: delicate; brittle; frail: vulnerably delicate, as in appearance: lacking in substance or force; flimsy: in a weakened physical state; slight; tenuous: fragility comes to everything and everyone at one point or another. I think of thin, brittle, sheer tissue; skeletal frames; loose connections, crumbling.
For my images, I thought about how fragile the paper filters I created with paper punch shapes were. I pulled out the roll of paper to make a new one, but then thought about the loosely connected fragility of old lace. I have a collection of old lace trim, and tried placing some over the lens shield. I really like the effect.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday
Today’s prompt is to write about a phrase from childhood. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s journal:
I thought of discipline first: Just wait ’til your dad gets home, and I’m gonna count to ten, but there has to be some fun phrases from childhood. I thought of Step on a crack . . . ; Tag! you’re it; Jinx! you owe me a coke; but none of those really spoke to me. Then I thought of Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me–a phrase used a lot as a kid that proved not to be true–and I’m rubber and you’re glue; your words bounce off me and stick to you–fun to say, but also not true. The sticks and stones saying goes well with today’s abstract noun “fragility”, and both phrases feel like they would work well in a poem.
Maria L. Berg 2022
Sticks and stones–
so abundant / all around on the ground quick to hand / broken from a dry branch weaponized / slung, thrown, whipped, battered, broken with the slightest aim / anger-fueled force
–may break my bones, but words–
symbols and sounds / agreed upon to have meaning combined with malicious intent / to produce hurt in the perceived fragile shouted and chanted to taunt / because repetition erodes caverns from the cracks because words evoke emotions that / though we’re told they don’t matter
I found this month’s prompt Rest, Sleep and Hibernation very inspiring, and I’m excited to share my finished multi-media video. I really enjoyed how the stills and video fit with the sounds I collected and arranged. And it was fun to put my poem in the fire. I hope you find this relaxing and restful.
Though today is Day 2 of OctPoWriMo and Writober, it’s also Stream of Consciousness Saturday, so I thought I would start the day with some thoughts on “inspire/aspire/expire.”
Unedited Stream of Consciousness
At first I thought of the note I made yesterday about surrender: hope/disappointment/death and it fits. After looking up the words and finding the connection to breath, I wanted to move around, inhale, raise, fly, hold, exhale. My original interpretations of each word were far from breath. Inspire as a challenge, guiding to new thoughts, new ideas, excitement. Aspire as something or someone to look up to, something one strives for and wants to be, qualities one wishes to acquire, skills one practices to master. Expire, I thought of death, but like the death card it can be any ending which really means a turn or change. It doesn’t need to be the last breath, but the beginning of the next. breathe/desire/breathe again.
~Maria L. Berg
The prompt from 2018 Day 2 was “Poems and notes to you.” The image is a still from a 1941 Looney Tunes Porky Pig cartoon called Notes To You. I don’t think I made the connection to, or watched the cartoon back then. There are a lot of odd references, and a great ghostly twist at the end.
I’m going to keep “Surrender” as a theme for every day this month. Specifically, sonic surrender. Continuing my stream of consciousness and keeping the prompt in mind, here’s today’s poem:
breathe / desire / breathe again
inspire to acquire to acquire breath breath and excitement breathe delightment delight in inquiry, synergy, serendipity, connections with recollections memory in emergency emerging to aspire arise and pine in fire’s desire thirst to soar so struggle in ambition’s direction toward more and more the apex point pointing against the sky eye-popping, intoxicating impassioned urgency to fly high not to expire until ready to breathe again
Yesterday’s fun combination of an image and a memory led me to lots of questions and ideas. So today I thought I’d do some research and brainstorming.
Research – First, I wanted to know more about the image if possible, so I looked up the artist and I’m glad I did. On Alex Timmermans’s website he has videos about his liquid plate process, and beautiful photographs in his portfolio. The group of photos that includes one with the boar, is called “Storytelling.” Knowing that he uses taxidermied animals took some of the magic out of the image, but I’ll get over it.
I didn’t find anything specific about Alex Timmermans’s inspiration for the image, so my next area of research turned to the mythology of boars. I found some interesting stuff at Trees for Life. Even a story about Merlin hanging out with a wolf and a wild boar when he gained his powers of prophesy. This site said that boars are guardians of the forest in Princess Mononoke which I have never seen. This idea sounds promising for my story, so I know what I’ll be watching this evening as I brainstorm story ideas.
I finished off my research by taking a look at Dream Meaning. It says dreams with boars are positive dreams that speak to an ability to face challenges to your happiness. It also says that the wild boar symbolizes people who are instinctual, and act on instinct to protect their interests and family. It represents the effort and will to solve your problems. It also means to stay strong.
A couple of the specific boar dreams listed might apply to the image:
“If you hunted a boar and you caught it” : the man with the boar in the image will be lucky and get everything he desires which will make him truly happy.
“When a boar attacked and persecuted you”: This might apply to my wheelbarrow and shovel man. It indicates that someone he cares about will be his enemy. He won’t believe it’s happening, but it’s true. That could be an interesting twist in my story. Something to think about.
How are your stories coming? Have any spooky ideas yet?
Last month I was excited to find the Changing Focus Blog Challenge, because I’m always looking for ways that my talents and creativity can work together, and a multimedia project around a theme each month felt like just the thing for me. I came up with, and executed, my Pathways response in two weeks. I like it, but it felt like a draft: rushed and rough, And I didn’t realize I didn’t have until the end of the month, so it was late.
I thought about reflecting bokeh and tried several shots with the big mirror in the closet, and got some very interesting shots, but that needs a lot more practice.
The lake wasn’t calm enough to get much other than dock shadow. I took a few photographs of reflections in the windows, thinking of setting up scenes inside and doing an inside/outside type reflection.
I wrote more poems about reflections. I found a great site for kids that inspired me to do an acrostic, but that led me to working on a submission for Constellations: A Journal of Poetry and Fiction with the theme Redirections. I love how my work on pathways and reflections had my mind firing for redirections.
After I looked up “reflections” definitions and found “folding back,” I thought my daily inkblots that I started during “Pathways” could continue into this project and I thought about playing with my Rorschach mask, a mask that reacts to temperature change to change its black and white pattern. I couldn’t see through the mask, so the 10sec timed shots were very tough, but I had some fun with it.
However, a couple of minutes of that would take more space and time than my computer or I have; we would all get dizzy; and it seams like something I want to save for a more Halloween inspired piece.
I came up with some melodies in A-flat, chose beautiful chords with my capo on the fourth fret, and yet nothing was coming together. I even started a page in my hardback The Musician’s Notebook: Deluxe Edition, titled it “Reflections in A flat major.” But blank those pages stay. Perfectionism is a curse. Nothing will ever be perfect.
I took my small, ornamental mirror into the bathroom, creating eternal reflections, then I remembered that the large mirror in the office closet wasn’t attached to the wall. It was heavier than I would have liked, but I shoved, slid, carried it into the closet where I was working. I had ideas to film myself moving the mirror while filming to create more and less eternal reflection with my eyes and feet around the mirror: naked to full costume was also an idea through all of these processes.
By this time I was stressing and hitting other deadlines and any one of my ideas would take another month. So this morning, I decided I had to let this reflections project go and do a project every other month and be happy for the inspiration.
But this evening, the world provided. And this panoramic image says it all.
I’ve wanted to try something that combines music, photography, and writing for a while, so this was a great inspiration to give it a try. This first effort was a bit rushed ( I happened upon the challenge halfway through the month), but I had a lot of fun with it and learned a lot.
While putting together the video, I learned how to do some animations with my photographs (haven’t figured out how to use them with my video editing software yet), and learned some techniques for combining motion and still photography.
Recording myself reading my poems was great practice. While practicing, some revisions and edits became obvious.
Writing music to go with the visuals and poetry was very challenging. Many of my ideas just wouldn’t work. I went through days of discarding recordings, but finally came up with the feel of pathways I was going for.
September’s theme is Reflections. I have a lot of reflection to do about my Pathways project. 😉
This year’s Writer’s Games are over. I’m happy to say that one of my stories placed third in its event, so it will be published in the anthology. My first publication this year. Woohoo! This is the first Saturday I’m not working on a story, and am excited to have a Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The theme for today is Luck. Here’s a sample of my stream of consciousness writing on luck in my journal this morning:
“I’m still in disbelief of how unlucky, and lucky, I was yesterday. A simple act of gravity could have been a complete tragedy, but turned out fine. Talk about drama: hot water pouring over a frozen banana in the sink, I step out to get mint, and not wanting bugs to get in, close the sliding door behind me, but the house and gravity conspired, and the hinged bar fell. The door wouldn’t budge. At least I know that little bar does its job keeping people out, but I lock all my doors and windows at all times, so I was screwed. But luck was on my side. I still can’t believe how lucky I felt when the shop door opened. Maybe I wasn’t sure kitty wanted to stay in, so I didn’t lock it after I watered, or if he opened it telepathically, but somehow his recent choice to spend these hot, smoky days in the shop saved me, and the house. It was such a bit of luck, it felt spiritual, supernatural. Luck favors the prepared, but I was not prepared. Once I was back in the house, and had taken many deep breaths, I made the connection that it was Friday the 13th. It had never been a date I paid much attention to before. I wonder if I will take notice and act differently the next time.”
Maria L. Berg
Looking through my WordPress Reader, I lucked into a cluster of Flower of the Day posts: Zombie Flamingos’ black and white response to Cee’s Flower a Day challenge, inspired me to go out and try a black and white flower photo. I love it! And lalalaMonique has a flower a day challenge in which she draws a flower each day. I think I’ll combine all three (though I ignored Cee’s dahlia prompt).
Stumbling upon Cee’s flower-a-day was also lucky because the site has lists of all sorts of challenges. Because I want to focus on recording music on the weekends, I took a look at her list of Music Challenges. I like the blogging challenge idea at wRightingMyLife because it combines writing, photography, and music which is something I want to do. The theme this month is “Pathways.” Luck and pathways go together well.
Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie has something called Lucky Dip which today is a poetry prompt to write a Nonet which is a nine line diminishing syllables poem.
When all is shiny and bright as gold the path ahead clearly unfolds a gentle ease fills the day no blockades in the way birdsong fills the air not a blister or ache. We call it luck
When all is dark, and hope has run out everything tried fails, leaving doubt dare not ask what could go wrong dread makes the day too long chainsaws scream a dirge the next turn will be worse. We call it luck
And talk about lucky! I made the last of my quinoa, not sure what to eat with it, and just before I threw out the bag, I noticed a recipe on the back for Blueberry and Feta Quinoa Salad. And I had all the ingredients (except for cucumber). Delicious!