Something About a Sunrise

Sunrises and sunsets arrive and leave quickly and are but a flash in the grand scheme of things, another quick step on life’s path. In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, during the wedding scene with Tevye, Golde, Perchik, Hodel, and chorus, these well-known lyrics are sung:

Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the days …

These dynamic parts of a new day and its closing are valuable to savor.

And there’s something about morning and a sunrise. Its beauty. Its promise. Its joy. The wash of color. Early mornings are my favorite time.

Desert Sunrise

Sunrise in the Desert

The coming alive of the sky, the first sounds of the day, the promise of what the day may hold, planned or unplanned, seem like a giant helping of cosmic energy. It’s the time to enjoy the quiet in the house, the collecting of thoughts, the feeling of well-being. Time for a cup of coffee and the reading of a newspaper undisturbed. It’s time to take a morning walk and notice the sky and the wash of color.

But not everyone is able to have that morning solitude, the leisurely coming about of the morning. Some days start with a bang. Hopefully, the energy of a new day can help with getting kids up and ready for school, mobilizing a crew, or giving care to a loved one.

And even if you already know a day is going to be bad, a bummer as they say, the sunrise can offer a bit of strength, of hope, a feeling of “I can do this,” or “I can get through this,” whatever this may be.

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A Coachella Valley Sunrise

                                                                                      Photo courtesy of Carol Quance  

My favorite time to write is early, when the sun is on the rise. My mind is fresh. I may have been working on a story or blog post during the night, in and out of sleep. What seems problematic or a fuzzy idea often clarifies in the morning.

The sunrise makes way for untold possibilities. So much to do in a day.

Contemplating a Sunset

As the sun slips behind the Santa Rosa Mountains in the southern California desert, it creates a sunset washed with changing light and color. Seeing that sky fills me with wonder and a feeling of well-being. Of course, I have to look up from life’s challenges to see it.

I wonder what people are thinking as they watch the sun disappear for the day.
Some possibilities?

Wow! That’s beautiful.
It was such a great day, I wish it would never end.
Thank God, this day is over.

Hopefully, people enjoy a brief glimpse of a sunset before moving on to life’s next event. Maybe they’re already focused on the day to come.

It’s nice to know there will be another day. Another day to undo words said in anger to a significant other, another day to mend an awkward moment with a friend, another day to laugh and hug a child.

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Monet painted the same scene at different times of the day and year. The sunsets pictured here remind me why. Nature’s paintbrush is mighty and not to be ignored or outdone.

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At sunset, the drawing of the day’s curtain gives our part of the earth a chance to rest, gives us a chance to rest. The sun leaves us with a spectacular show, ready to be enjoyed.

Are you ready to be awed? To be inspired? To take a moment? Let’s.

 

 

The Thankful Challenge

Facebook is fun. I mean, where else can I learn I’m most like a chocolate chip cookie, I’m an optimist, and Happy is a song written especially for me? Where else can I laugh out loud or give you lots of love or wish you lots of luck with a simple lol? Where else can I see something that will absolutely blow me away? And where else can I take a quiz and learn I’m almost a genius!?!

And then my niece posted “The Thankful Challenge” on Facebook. And challenged me. Oh-oh. This felt like work. Or something risky. Would this be fun? The challenge: For seven days post three different things daily for which you are thankful and … pass the challenge to two new people each day.

At first I thought I’d pretend I didn’t see her post. But that didn’t feel right. So I accepted. The words came with starts and stops. Then they began to flow. Day one, day two, days three through six. Those posts can be found on my Facebook page – Carol Mann. 

Now I’ve reached Day Seven. I’m feeling a bit sad the challenge is ending. As a friend said, “It’s addictive.” And so I thoughtfully write the seventh day entry of the Seven Day Challenge :

1) I’m thankful for those who share their joys and sorrows. I know I’m not alone.

2) I’m thankful for a body and mind that allows me to feel and think, to know emotion and ideas.

3) I’m thankful for the mysteries of our universe which fill me with wonder.

Is our world a phenomena of nature? The work of a higher being? How did it all come to be? What is its meaning, its purpose, our purpose? With respect, I leave those questions for each of you to ponder. What I can say is this: I’m glad I’m here. I’m grateful for this gift of life.

It’s obvious thankfulness doesn’t begin or end with a Facebook post. It’s ongoing, whether in the mind or in our actions or in a journal. I know it feels good. Thank you to my niece Susan Beers for challenging me. And thank you to those who joined in, whether in a post or comment or silent thought.

Was it fun? The Thankful Challenge ran deeper than that. It was gratifying and humbling and soul searching. I’m glad I accepted. And with this breathtaking photo taken by FB friend Kate Porter I’ll close. How grateful I am for the eternal beauty of a sunset.

"Sunset in Joshua Tree"

“Sunset in Joshua Tree”

                                                                                           Photo courtesy of Kate Porter

Stopping by the Opera

The Old Met was the Metropolitan Opera’s home in the Big Apple from 1883 to 1966. An elderly gentleman I once knew worked there as a young man. His name was Bob. He wasn’t a singer or musician. I thought perhaps he worked with sets or props or lighting or costumes. But no. He was one of the animal handlers for the productions, including both off and on stage. If on stage, that meant in costume. He dealt with horses, camels, elephants – whatever animal was charted to be in the production.

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The Old Met

This made me think about the vastness of staging an opera. And what a job it would have been without the high tech innovations of modern stage production. During The Old Met’s time, it was not an uncommon sight to see set changes leaning against the walls outside. I assume any large animals in the production also waited outside. Being an animal handler back then would have been a cold, hot, or wet proposition.

The last time I was in New York City, I went to Lincoln Center, the home of the Metropolitan Opera since 1966. It was pouring rain when a friend and I left our hotel and flagged a Black Car. That evening we saw Carmen by Georges Bizet. I appreciated the Met Titles on a little individual screen on the back of the seat in front of me.

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Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center

I wondered what my friend Bob would have thought about the staging and animal handling in this modern production of Carmen. Just how were the horses gotten on and off stage? They weren’t waiting outside. I learned this opera house has what’s called The Horse Door which connects the parking garage to the stage. It’s the door through which any animals that are part of a production come and go.

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The Horse Door

The last opera I saw was not “live” or in a traditional opera house. No one had to worry about bringing animals on stage. The opera was at my local Cinemark Theater. The production was Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. Presentations such as these are available through The Met’s HD Live Program which makes opera more accessible for people. Reasonable prices. Familiar surroundings. I found myself on a Saturday morning in a comfortable theater seat digging into a huge box of popcorn while the story unfolded on screen.

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Check your local theaters to see if they offer this program.

It’s not quite the same as the excitement of seeing an opera on stage. But, unless you have prime seats at the Met and perhaps deep pockets, you can see the opera better, it’s captioned, and there are interviews with the principals as well as backstage tours.

If you already enjoy the drama and passion, the voices and music, the stories and pageantry of opera, enough said. If not, try on a morning of opera through the Met’s HD Live Program. Or attend a performance of an opera at your town’s Performing Arts Center or those staged at the local college or university. See what you think.

P.S. And writers, I wish I’d talked to Bob more about his experiences at The Old Met. He probably had some wonderful stories to tell. A missed opportunity. And it’s interesting to explore something quirky such as The Horse Door. By extension, it’s fun to build something quirky into a character.

Have you written a short short lately?

Writing a short short can make a writer very picky. Take, for example, creating a story with only 500 words. A real challenge. That means within those 500 words there will be a beginning, middle, and end. Obviously, the writer has to pick what goes into the story very carefully.

UnknownA short short is another name for the genre called flash fiction. Flash fiction pieces can be any length depending on the contest or journal editor, usually up to 1000 words. A story can have as few as six words, such as this one attributed to Hemingway:  

“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

I like this description of flash fiction found in an article by Pamelyn Casto called Flashes On the Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction:

Other names for it include short-short stories, sudden, postcard, minute, furious, fast, quick, skinny, and micro fiction. In France such works are called nouvelles. In China this type of writing has several interesting names: little short story, pocket-size story, minute-long story, palm-sized story, and my personal favorite, the smoke-long story (just long enough to read while smoking a cigarette).

Writers’ groups sometimes run incentives for their members to try the genre and hone their writing skills. The Palm Springs Writers Guild offers a Monthly Writing Challenge to create a 500 word story based on a monthly online prompt.

Members place their completed stories in envelopes along with $5.00 and submit them. The authors’ names appear on the envelopes only. Through the contest coordinator, the stories are sent to a panel of three judges. The winner is awarded “the pot” at the next meeting, plus the story is read to the membership.

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Flash fiction contests can be found online and flash fiction magazines offer publication opportunities as do some traditional journals. I googled “flash fiction contests,” discovered several that were interesting, and decided to try my hand.

I dug into existing stories in my files to find a section or chapter that could be shaped into a 500 word story. I found three pieces to work on, and I kept Kurt Vonnegut’s famous line in mind:

Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.

It was amazing how many unnecessary words I found, how the three stories could  be tightened. The old “less is more.” Two of the segments I worked on became completely new stories.

Titles become important ways to help the short short along. One contest editor discouraged the use of one-word titles. The titles I chose for my pieces: Jillie’s Last Slice; A Little French Pastry; and Nell, Rupert, and the Baptists.

I’m thinking about placing these stories into the hands of judges, editors, and fate. I like the feel of Gulf Coast, Gemini Magazine, Vestal Review, and Nano Fiction 14. 

If you want to challenge yourself, try creating a piece of flash fiction either from scratch or from an existing piece. It strengthens your skill of placing the exact word in the exact order, much as poets must do. Action can be implied (see the Hemingway story) or it can be explicit. The big plus is you’ll make important discoveries about your writing.

I found the whole process like working a puzzle. Like problem solving. It was fun. It was creative. What do you think?

Night thoughts …

Night thoughts are what I call them. They’re those trips of the mind that come when you’d like to sit for an evening’s quiet moment or go to sleep or are middle-of-the-night sleepless. Mine of late have led me down an unsettling path of questioning a world that’s exploding with divergent beliefs, values, motives … making me ponder what I know, what I don’t know.

I don’t know how to live in a society that accepts death by stoning. I don’t know how to live in a society that limits a woman’s value as a human. Or limits anyone’s value. I don’t know how to live in a society that teaches annihilation of a religious or ethnic group.

images-2I’ve never had my life threatened. Or lived in a war zone. I don’t know that kind of fear, for which I say thank you to all who serve and protect. I’m having trouble understanding societies, groups, and leaders who direct their people to these ends. I ache for those who endure it.

I’m a product of a democratic society, a culture which is young in terms of the world’s cultures, that practices, through laws and education, equality under the law and believes in the value of human dignity. A process exists for grievances, for making law, and for changing it. Yes, we have our in-house villains. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we have injustices. And out in the world, we don’t and can’t go grandly about, wagging our innocent tails. America tries to lead by example and negotiation, but has to act when attacked, when Americans are harmed, when groups want to annihilate us.

Perhaps the key to what we have is that we’re a young society. Our forefathers wanted a better way which involved change and great risk. Today we have the ability to evolve or change. The citizens have time to progress in education, art, science, technology, literature because they are relatively free from want and fear, and have a sense of security. They have food and shelter. There’s something to be said about an older society learning from a younger one, about not being bogged down by centuries of old ways.

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Change takes time. Vast differences in core values are difficult to overcome. In emerging countries, clean water, food, medicine, shelter, security, and a way to earn income help. But greed, power, and zealousness in those in positions of power are strong forces to counteract. They use fear, old ways and beliefs, superstition, desire for revenge, a worldview of hate toward certain groups to keep the status quo.

As has been said many times, education  and exposure are a way to new thought, to new values. The biggest asset anyone has is the mind, and the education and training that empowers that mind. Getting to that mind is another thing. In America we have those unique traits of individualism and independence, not tribalism. We value education and progress. We question injustices. We’re part of a team.

The internet is an interesting phenomenon. Yes, opposing and threatening points of view are published on it daily. But so also are ideas, different ways of thinking, of living, and of treating each other. Of spreading ideas and publicizing injustices. We’ve seen it happen. It may be up to the young.

Unknown-1Inclusiveness is a concept not all societies practice. Embracing diversity is an important key to coexistence and it enriches a culture. You have your beliefs. I have mine. One isn’t better than the other. They are simply different. I don’t try to impose mine on you or try to take yours away. We also realize we experience much in common … family, love, a sense of safety. There’s a belief in the processes that protect the greater good.

I attended a speaker series in which actor Richard Dreyfus spoke. I thought I would hear about his acting career. But that wasn’t the case. He spoke about the need for civility in our society. He spoke about the need to teach history and civics in our schools. We need to know whose shoulders we stand on and what events have shaped us. It’s up to us to learn from and take care of that heritage. I don’t disagree.

At the mall recently,  I saw a blue tee shirt on a young boy. On the front were the words “Too Cool to be Cruel.” On the back were the words “#Bully Free.” Perhaps the world needs an anti-bully campaign.

Sometimes I feel sad for the world and saturated by the media. That said, I’ll keep hope. I’ll keep faith in our leaders to be focused at home and abroad. I’ll keep faith in our values. I’ll look for heroes, whether wise statesmen or emerging young men and women. I’ll keep involved, vote, donate. I’ll try to understand. I’ll wander about in my night thoughts.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.                                         Desmond Tutu  

candle-in-the-darkness 

(Photos courtesy of public domain collections.) 

Keeping the Blogosphere a Beautiful Place

Have you ever had one of those mornings when, for some reason, you wake up in a bad mood? Or you wake up in a good mood, but things soon go downhill faster than a kid on a water slide? And you find yourself able to get into an argument simply by looking in the mirror?

I was having one of those days as I clomped down the hall to the office, plopped in the chair, and turned on the computer. Maybe Facebook friends could cheer me up. They helped. Then I checked my blog and found this. Well, hell-o. Where did you come from? Was I being punked? I investigated. No, I wasn’t.

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Well, talk about a mood changer. The blogger who sent this award my way can be found at viktoryarch.wordpress.com. And I send a Thank you back. It’s nice to know your words are being found and enjoyed by others.

Although we can’t be blind to some ugly stuff posted by individuals and groups if we go looking, I like the award’s fine print: Keeping the Blogosphere a Beautiful Place. It is a beautiful place to learn, share, explore, and write. And today, I’m paying the award forward.

In a previous post, I mentioned several blogs I like because they inspire me. I’m adding to that list, reposting those six, and sending a nomination their way:

www.charlotte-hoather.com  –  An aspiring singer shares her experiences and voice. I find her journey fascinating and motivating.

jimmisko.com  –  Jim is a novelist based in Alaska and a super storyteller.

anyshinything.com  –  A down-to-earth, informative, and well-researched blog about midlife crisis.

dawnrenolangley.wordpress.com - Living with Izzy. Any past or present dog owner will relate.

bucketlistpublications.org  –  This blogger is pursuing her bucket list and taking the reader with her.

dianereedwriter.wordpress.com - The One Thing I Know for Sure.  Poetry and thoughts are shared with great heart and warmth.

thebloggess.com  –  Here is an energetic, humorous,, witty, and contemporary look at issues.

nhwn.wordpress.com  –  Posted here you’ll find good information for writers.

Confessions of a Book Addict  -  This blogger is an avid reader. A few months ago I won a book on her site: The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed set in 1980′s Somalia. Excellent.

infinitefreetime.com  –  This is a place to enjoy a saucy and irreverent look at life.

fredcolton.com  –  With tongue-in-cheek style, this blogger describes his expat adventures abroad.

bottledworder.com  –  I find the content thought-provoking.

headinmyhands.com  – These posts are written with heart and compassion.

cyndymuscatel.wordpress.com  –  A Corner of My Mind. Here is a look at life, sometimes quirky, sometimes heartfelt, sometimes philosophical.

gwenniesgarden  –  Just plain refreshing!

I thank these bloggers for their inspiration, their unique styles and voices, and their contributions.

I’m also thankful for civility and the act of appreciating others, especially in today’s world.

I’ll tuck this random act of kindness from viktoryarch into a place in my head where I store good things, knowing goodness and kindness are alive, and the path they inspire is built one brick at a time.

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If you want to send your appreciation to bloggers whose work inspires you, visit Inspiring Blogger Award at viktoryarch.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/very-inspiring-blogger-award/