The Mixed Mercies of Sleep

Mercy by Maria L. Berg 2022

Mercy

I’m finding this study of abstract nouns fascinating. We think we know what these words mean, but the more I study them, the less clear they become. When I dive into their definitions, I always find something surprising. Mercy has a very interesting definition: compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence.

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. “Stricken by misfortune” brings in ideas of destiny and luck, and forbearance brings patience into the mix. But it’s the next part of the definition that surprised me: “an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power.”

The wording implies that an offender or enemy is a person in one’s power. That any person is in another’s power is a warped idea. Power struggles are one of those facts of life from beginning to end that are an instinctive part of the human struggle that is intertwined with the question of evolution and/or creation; and the basic questions of nature vs. nurture. However, I was even more interested in the idea of the offender, or enemy being that person in one’s power. When I think of an offender, or enemy, I think of bullies: people out for a fight; people looking for those they perceive as weaker than them, to belittle and have power over. How would that person be a person in my power? There’s a lot to think about there.

For today’s images, I thought of my door filter that I created for “Close” and used again for “Adventure,” symbolizing the mercy of giving someone a way out. What could symbolize removing suffering? A mouse with a thorn? Too obtuse, the viewer would have to think of the fable of the mouse and the lion, and interpret, a line in its paw as a thorn removed from a lion. Instead, I tried to open and close my door filter to flowers.

Mercy 2 by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s quadrille, Sarah challenges us to write 44 words about sleep.

The Poem

Merciful sleep,
thick, heavy fog
with power
over me,
have pity
this one night
keep out intruders
lock the doors
and hold them
fast from the
dreams of
suffering
and sorrow,
haunted
memories of
possibilities
filled with desires
that you steal
away come
morning

Mercy 3 by Maria L. Berg 2022

Reflecting on How to Continue the Abstract Adventure

My Theme

For my theme this year, I chose abstract nouns which are words for things that aren’t perceived by the senses, and can’t be physically measured. They are ideas, qualities, or states rather than concrete objects. I chose this theme because I combine the A to Z Challenge with National Poetry Writing Month and abstract nouns are the breath of life for poetry. Two–love and beauty–have kept poets busy through the ages.

I really enjoyed this theme. It kept me inspired every day. My attempts to express these concepts as abstract photographs led me to try new techniques:

  • using clear fishing line in my filters to create floating shapes
  • more detailed wire work
  • a light curtain as background
  • over-exposure
  • using the camera’s built in effects in the mirrorworld
  • opening the blinds to let the outside into the mirrorwold
  • light-painting with a flashlight for still and moving bokeh at the same time

and create fun new bokeh filters. My favorites:

  • spiral
  • loop
  • squirrel
  • roller skate

I also enjoyed diving into the definitions of these abstract nouns and discovering how many of them had circular definitions: What is comfort? Solace. What is solace? Comfort. I found I would like to explore many of them further.

Tales of Adventure by Maria L. Berg 2022

The A to Z Community

I want to thank everyone who came by to read my posts. I appreciated all the likes and comments. There were a lot of really fun themes this year and posts that I enjoyed reading. I especially enjoyed:

It’s fun to look at what everyone’s thinking about and exploring. If you are looking over the month of my work as a whole, I would love to know: Which of my images was your favorite? Which of my poems was your favorite?

Opening Doors by Maria L. Berg 2022

May Photo Challenge

I enjoyed my daily exploration of abstract nouns so much, I want to keep doing it. There’s so much more to explore and think about with each of the abstract nouns I looked at in April, I could repeat that calendar over and over, but there are also so many more abstract nouns to explore. I created a new calendar for this month, including homographs for Sundays like last month. Though I won’t be posting every day, I will be taking pictures and writing poems each day focused on these abstract nouns. I may return to April’s nouns in June.

Starting today, my focus returns to my main priority of finishing novels. Yesterday, I was thinking about how I can bring the same passion and daily feeling of accomplishment I feel with photography and poetry to my daily novel writing. I wrote in my journal:

“What if I approach each scene as an exploration of an abstract noun? How would I explore –adventure (for example)–in my scene today? How would my POV character encounter–adventure–in this setting? Or express –adventure– to another character? How would he show–adventure– on his face/ with his body language? How would she perceive the world in this moment through–adventure?”

This month, I’m going to play with this idea in my morning pages, replacing –adventure– with each of my abstract nouns each day and see how it affects my scenes. Hopefully it will give my novel writing that same sense of discovery, exploration, and wonder I find in my photographs.

Adventure by Maria L. Berg

Adventure

So on to this next adventure, full of exciting risks and hazards, daily daring into unusual undertakings. What does adventure look like today? I want to see what my new door filter I created for yesterday’s “close” images looks like in the mirrorworld, and revisit my squirrel while continuing to practice light painting with a flashlight in the mirrorworld.

I also took a real adventure to the library to pick up the copy of Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite and Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell that I’ve had on hold since they ordered it. I’m excited to dive in.

dVerse Poets Pub

Today’s prompt for Quadrille #151 is “static.” Static, it turns out, is a homograph with all sorts of great meanings. To end today’s adventure, I’ll attempt to condense it all down to exactly forty-four words.

Staring at the Static

a screen full
of snow hissing
hush, mesmerizing
smelling of soap and ash
rough and jagged
out of touch
off the dial
dissonance
untuned
to the
frequencies
of the immovable
missing today’s
adventure
of the shadow
or another
not getting through
because
static clings

Open to the Unknown by Maria L. Berg 2022

A Year of Finishing Novels: Rewards and Celebrations

A small jar full of colorful papers that says rewards , a valentine's card that says you're AMAZING! and a small purple plastic megaphone on a desk.
Celebrate the Little Things by Maria L. Berg 2022

I tried again to do a Sunday week in review post, and again my work wouldn’t load, so Monday is my Year of Finishing Novels posts day. I am not going to waste time fighting with my internet. My time is for writing novels and reaching my goals. And sharing my progress and what I’m learning with you, of course.

Rewards

As I mentioned in my last post, a habit cycle consists of a cue, a behavior, and a reward. As I began this process of identifying the habits I would like to create, and the habits I would like to change, I found it hard to identify my rewards.

I don’t like shopping. I have everything I want and need, and I don’t have money to spend on things as rewards. I also didn’t want food or beverages to be my rewards. I felt kind of stuck. I wanted to set up these systems to reward my new behaviors, but how?

Then I really looked at myself and thought about times in my past when I was really happy. I went through a period of time when I closely associated with Tigger because I love bouncing. I’m trying to increase movement and exercise, so jumping on my rebounder (small trampoline) became a reward.

That got me thinking that many of the behaviors I enjoy that are not writing could act as rewards for meeting my small goals. With fun activities as rewards I came up with:

  1. Jump on the rebounder
  2. Draw for 10 minutes
  3. Dance Break!
  4. Go take some pictures
  5. Stretch on yoga ball
  6. Put stickers on stuff
  7. 10 minute meditation
  8. Play guitar for five minutes

I was also reading Jack Canfield’s Success Affirmations and was inspired to write some phrases to tell myself I am doing great.

I wrote my action rewards and my affirmations on colorful slips of card stock paper, folded them up and put them in a jar, so when I had done my desired action, I could open my reward jar (pictured above), and get a surprise reward.

At first, when I pulled an affirmation out of my word jar and said it aloud, it didn’t feel like much of a reward. Then one day, when I was cleaning out the closet for my meditation, I found an old toy megaphone (pictured above) that has five different voice-altering settings. When I said my affirmation (any of the affirmations out of my reward jar) using the megaphone on either the high pitch, low pitch, or monotone settings, it made me laugh. That felt like a reward.

Celebrations

In Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg takes a different stand on what reward really means. He says the idea of a large reward in the future for achieving your goal isn’t going to work. You need to reward yourself instantly after your behavior (Made me think of training a pet). To do this, he chooses to fist bump and say, “I’m awesome” (Even after he flosses one tooth, since that was his tiny habit that he started with to create a flossing habit).

It’s important to send yourself that little dose of dopamine (pleasure) to get the behavior to stick. Finding what works for you is important. Fist bump and “I’m awesome” didn’t work for me. After thinking about how I respond to happy news and practicing some things, I found clapping three times and saying, “Yeah!” or “Woohoo” in a certain way, gave me a smile and a good feeling of accomplishment.

With my rewards and celebrations in place, I have the tools I need to create and solidify the small changes that will make my large goals possible.

A Salty Poem Interlude

Over at dVerse Poets Pub the Quadrille Monday prompt is salt. Whimsygizmo challenges us to use any form of the word “salt” in a poem of exactly 44 words.

The Salty Bite

Like the squares of Himalayan Pink Salt I’ve pinched
so sparingly for years from the squat jar sitting
by the coffee in the cupboard, each word can pack
a surprising punch, especially when the salty bite
hides in the center of the sweetest treat.

A photograph of a small jar of Himalayan Pink Salt on a shelf.

Assessment

Last week was big for me. Some set-backs and disappointments on the sleep goal, but also some break-throughs.

My weekly check-in:

  1. What went right last week? My morning writing habit is going so well. I have started thinking about my novel the moment I wake up. This morning I ran to the keyboard so I wouldn’t forget what I was thinking, and had my daily words before I started my routine. I’m now doing the full writer’s meditation (body, heart, and mind) and getting better at sitting every day. I find that when my mind wanders, it wanders to my novel which is fantastic! I’m moving more and more throughout the day. I have fuller range of motion, and I’m pain free!!
  2. What didn’t go well last week? Sleep is still difficult. The week’s biggest disappointment was a day and night when I felt I had done absolutely everything right, then I got into bed and it was like I didn’t know how to go to sleep. I stared into the darkness for what felt like forever. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned. I gave up and read. It felt like torture. The next day I gave in and slept with the laptop. The next day I read three sleep books. Two of them: Restful Sleep by Deepak Chopra and The Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter explained why I had been disappointed by my efforts, and they both said the same thing: Sleep is natural; you can’t try to sleep. You have to let sleep happen. I had tried so hard, worked so hard to sleep, I had created an entirely new anxiety keeping me awake. Sounds like something I would do. But no more! This week I will let sleep happen.
  3. What small steps will I add this week? This week I’m adding my voice to the mix. I’m going to do vocal exercises in the morning and sing and play guitar at night after I put the laptop away and before I go to bed.
  4. Is it time to increase one of my habits? I’m happy to say I feel ready to increase my daily writing goal again. This week I’m writing 750 words or more every day. I always said I wasn’t one of those people who writes every day, but that is exactly who I am, and it’s making such a difference in every aspect of my life.
  5. What else did I try? One of the little things I tried last week that turned out to make a huge difference, was a simple Youtube video called Vagus Nerve Reset. The sleep issues and constant state of fight or flight that my poor body has been in both stem from surviving Hurricane Katrina and the the piles of stressors after that. I never stopped being in that survival mode, until now. Since I started these small new habits of motion in the morning and meditation and paying attention to my body, I’ve noticed my range of motion improving and the knots in my back loosening up, but I also had a horrible pain in my right shoulder. I knew it was all that stress not wanting to let go; I’ve held stress in my shoulders since high school, but this was an acute pain that wouldn’t loosen up and was hurting when I tried to sleep. I was almost crying by the time I went ahead and tried the Vagus Nerve video. And I noticed a difference. That same day I did the Full body scan meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass and though my shoulder was still bothering me, by the end of the meditation, it wasn’t screaming at me. I did the Vagus Nerve Reset and the Vagus Nerve Exercises again the next day and then yesterday was my first pain free day. I was so happy I was dancing and singing around the house all day. It might be a placebo. I don’t care. I’m going to keep doing it and being so very happy.

Accountability

One area that every resource talks about is social accountability. I have found many times in the past that if I share my goals here on Experience Writing, I am more likely to achieve them.

I would really enjoy if you would like to join me in an accountability club. Every week, type your goals in the comments, or leave a link to your post and we can check in with each other to see how we did with our goals.

My goals this week are to:

  1. Write at least 750 words of my novel every day
  2. Add vocal warm-ups in the morning and guitar playing before bed
  3. One story submission and one poetry submission this week

That’s it. I hope you will hold me accountable.

We Can Reach Our Goals Together!

Stuffing Stockings

Morning Stocking by Maria L. Berg 2021

This morning I made a Christmas stocking filter and started by turning the neighbors’ security lights into stockings.

Stockings Stuffed with Light by Maria L. Berg 2021

New Poem

Today’s prompt from dVerse Poets Pub is Quadrille #142. The quadrille is a poem of 44 words and Mish challenges us to put some tinsel in it. The only time I remember decorating with tinsel was the year I lived in Sweden. However, Mish provided other definitions of tinsel which look fun. I’m liking tinsel as a verb.

She Wants to Tinsel Everything

She wants to tinsel the world
put a silvery sheen on it
make it sparkle, but
not like he does
with false promises
denial and delusion
She want to emphasize
what is already there
with a thin, metallic shimmer
wrapped around
the branching minutiae

Hanging Stockings by Maria L. Berg 2021

If you’ve enjoyed the photographs I’ve been taking, I’ve added some to my RedBubble store and I’m excited about the new products. The abstract bokeh really lends itself to product design. So fun. While you’re looking, please click the hearts to like the images on the RedBubble site. It will help my work get attention. Thank you.

December Daily Prompts by Maria L. Berg 2021 Please leave your links in the comments. I hope you will join me.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Stone Soup Poem

Steadfast-slab Soliloquy

set in stone
a tome, a tomb
slow to erode
unmoved by storm’s
wet starved moan
leftovers torn
forlorn, stone cold
bones hold known tones
strummed by the stubborn
turned to stone
struck, stuck outta luck
stored enduring alone
a stone’s throw
from home

Today’s Quadrille #137 prompt from De Jackson at dVerse is to “carve a poem out of the word stone.” The Quadrille is a poem of 44 words. (Images taken by me this evening. The light was really nice. Glad I went searching for stones)

A Wine-tinted World

The World through Grape-colored Glasses

Peering out my wine
windows tinted
and clouded
at a swirling landscape
of bitter-sweets
the view skewed
by tannins and cork
floaters among
the cloudy
reveries
shuttering my
wine windows
I delve
the cellars deep
for lofty thoughts
and epiphanies
before the heady
kerplunk

This poem is a response to today’s Quadrille prompt at dVerse Poets Pub.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS): Run Yonder

Young boy running on grass.
Go go go photograph by Maria L. Berg 2021

Yesterday morning I happened upon Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt. This weekly writing prompt offers a word prompt and a word limit. This weekend it is “Yonder” and the word limit is 44 words which I found familiar as it is the same as the dVerse Quadrille. I thought I would give it a go and remembered that it was Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was “run.” Those prompts could go well together, so I did some journaling.

I enjoyed the stream of consciousness writing and had some ideas for poetry but wasn’t ready to post yesterday. Today, I gave it another look and came up with a “yonder” poem of 44 words that I like.

Here is an excerpt of yesterday’s stream of consciousness:

. . . I used to love to run, through the woods around the lake, lil sjön in Sweden. Now, I run a few steps and I feel like I’ll die. So what “run” do I want to talk about? Colors run, mascara runs, people have the runs, a run in stockings, fingers run up and down scales, a keyboard, race to the finish, the rat race, sprint to the finish, flee from fear, run from a bad memory, from the past, run from the truth, run to love and hope, an embrace, someone’s arms, a familiar face, race to a banquet table, an all-you-can-eat buffet, “do you know where you’re running to? Do you like the things that life is showing you?” Run in place, on a treadmill, in a hamster wheel, run for the ball, run from the police, scatter, only have to run faster than the person behind you . . .

And here is the yonder quadrille poem I wrote this morning:

Ever Yonder

Beyond the hives filling with honey
and the rolling hills where we would roll too
through the soft, sweet grass that held us watching dawn
to the lapping waves against damp sand
we traveled so far to be here
where nothing became any clearer

The hummingbird is a close relative of the swift, but a swift can also be a lizard or a reel for winding thread.

Oh, the tiny things photograph by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today at the dVerse Poetry Pub the Quadrille prompt is “swift.” Because I had been bird watching this morning, I thought I would give this 44 word poem a try. Then I started looking at swift’s definitions and synonyms (like I do) and found the noun definitions very interesting. The birds that are called swifts are closely related to hummingbirds and are also the cave bird in Asia that make the nests for nest soup.

A very vocal hummingbird started hanging out in my cherry-plum tree this winter. He’s always trying to show off by making a loud, sharp chirp. I don’t know how well he’s doing, but I’ve seen three hummingbirds looking at each other in my tree recently. I love that he perches at the tip of the very tallest branch, attempting some minuscule dominance.

Swiften

tiny
humming-
bird, a swift’s
closest relation, chased
from his perch in the cherry-plum’s
top branch by three sparrows wanting, but he’s not gone
a snappy chirp and he dive-bombs, headlong, a kamikaze at breakneck,
dispatches the intruders and poses, prominent against the clouded sky


Surprised he’s a redhead photograph by Maria L. Berg 2021

Monday Quadrille – Mr. Fix-it

Since I finished my short story draft for the Writer’s Games and need to let it sit a bit before the final edit, I thought I would wander over to the dVerse Poets Pub where it’s Monday Quadrille day. Today’s word to put into my 44 word poem is “fix.”

tools of physical labor

Mr. Fix-it

He has always been Mr. Fix-it
he can fix anything
every motor, structure, even nature
bends to his will eventually

But this time admit
he can’t fix this
the right part isn’t online
WD40 won’t loosen this screw
no spray will discourage this scourge

dVerse Poets Pub Quadrille: earth

Today’s prompt for the dVerse Poets Quadrille is the word earth.

Tiny shoots in a new garden

Cruel Dance

Your roots, deep veins
in dark earth smell
of heat and safety
Clinging sweet on savory
Luscious minerals necessary for

Life on earth our
feet stabilize during the
eternal push and pull
of gravity’s cruel dance
The earth leaves its
mark upon our soles.