Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Make Time to Daydream

I don't know about you, but I miss daydreaming. My life is so busy and full with wonderful things - children, family, friends, work, but I am having difficulty finding any time to stare out the window and daydream.

I need to, my writing life needs me to, my sanity needs me to.


Maybe blogging is a modern form of daydreaming? But no, I'm searching for meaning in my thoughts here. Daydreaming is freedom from thought. To quote Winnie-the-Pooh: How sweet to be a cloud, floating in the blue . . .

I am running ten workshops this semester, working with kids and teens I admire and who inspire me with their capacity to daydream, to free associate, to build castles in the air. I challenge them, trick them to break through and follow up their dreams with thought. I need to practice what I preach.

I used to be a big daydreamer - so big, that I was self-destructive. I used to build castles in the air and then try to move in, inevitably falling on my face, wondering how on earth I (figuratively) broke my legs.

But I don't want to be the other extreme, do I? I need to make time to lie in the grass and make up worlds in the clouds, to stare out windows imagining inner and outer lives.

If I am not running a workshop, I am driving to one or I am constantly emailing or in meetings or training, and I play word games on my I-phone to relax, sometimes even to put me to sleep. I am constantly plugged in.

But my brain needs time during the day as well as the night, to dream and process things through my sub-conscious.

Last weekend I got my first speeding ticket. Ever. A tangible reminder to slow down, yet I haven't been able to do that.

So this is me confessing, me wanting to get right with myself and the world. I need to slow down. I've written about saying "yes" to things, but I also need to learn how to say "no", so that I can take care of myself and recharge my batteries with sweet nothingness.

On the next warm, sunny day, I vow to lie in the grass and have a date with the clouds. Will you join me?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baby Saining

In ancient traditions, naming is an act of magic, of calling into being. It is no different with a baby. 

This particular baby is my godson, James Oscar Rainwater Clemeno and I had the honor of going to Western Massachusetts this weekend to participate in his baby naming ritual, called a "saining" in the pagan community.

His parents, Amanda and Kirok, both chose to live in the Hilltowns because of this community, rich in both friendship and ritual. 

Amanda and Kirok have an older daughter who is two years old, Amanda Grace, and she has two godfather's - both are the blood brother's of her parents. For James, they wanted to have two godmothers: Kirok's sister, and me, a soul sister.

Amanda is one of my oldest and dearest friends, having lived many lives both with and without me. We met first at Barnard, and then reconnected on the Upper West Side of Manhattan almost twenty years go. Our interest in spiritual matters is what has bound us together, both of us having grown up in "the church" (her father is a Baptist minister) but searching for answers beyond traditional Christianity. She became involved in earth rituals, something that holds endless fascination for me and I have learned much from her. We both went to school to become Interfaith ministers - she was ordained as it served to enrich her community, while I wasn't - instead I was led to answer the call of writing.

She truly is a soul sister. She had asked me to find a poem that I liked and to read it at the saining, where we also planted an apple tree. (Of course I wanted to write a poem myself, but didn't feel quite "up" to the challenge.) A writer friend suggested I read a poem by John O'Donohue called As A Child Enters the World. John O'Donohue! I hadn't read him in ages - I used his poetry a long time ago in another life. 

You know what the funny thing is?  When I got to her house on Sunday morning, she had just been introduced to "this great poet" and was using another of his poem's in the ceremony.

And then, on the spot, half an hour before the ceremony, she asked me to write a call and response baby blessing that her husband would read out loud. GULP. I jumped in and am I glad that I was forced to be "up" to the task! 

I will leave you with the words of John O'Donohue, and once again I was struck by the wholly holiness of their community.

I love you, Amanda, Kirok, James Oscar and big sister Amanda Grace!

As a Child Enters the World
As I enter my new family,
May they be delighted
At how their kindness
Comes into blossom.
Unknown to me and them,
May I be exactly the one
To restore in their forlorn places
New vitality and promise.
May the hearts of others
Hear again the music
In the lost echoes
Of their neglected wonder.
If my destiny is sheltered,
May the grace of this privilege
Reach and bless the other infants
Who are destined for torn places.
If my destiny is bleak,
May I find in myself
A secret stillness
And tranquility
Beneath the turmoil.
May my eyes never lose sight
Of why I have come here,
That I never be claimed
By the falsity of fear
Or eat the bread of bitterness.
In everything I do, think,
Feel, and say,
May I allow the light
Of the world I am leaving
To shine through and carry me home.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Eostre, the New Dawn*

One of the holiest moments of my life was spent watching an Easter sunrise at Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah. It was fifteen years ago, and this is where and when I first realized I could fall in-love with a landscape, a place as "other" as other could be, a place that both squeezed my heart and made it ache.

My BFF and I were just beginning our vacation, so this was before I had any inkling that I would leave New York City and move to Moab for a year, meet my husband, or write a novel.  We awoke in darkness in our cabin at The Lazy Lizard Youth Hostel (the prototype of the hostel in Edges) and made our way up the windy roads of Arches National Park to greet the dawn.

We were in the perfect time and place to watch the sunrise in action. Perhaps Easter got it's name from goddesses of the dawn: the Greek Eos and the Anglo-Saxon  Eostre (East-ra)? There is so much layering and absorption of other traditions/ religions into this dominant Christian culture.

Yes, it was holy, walking over the sandstone and up some rocks, waiting, for the sun to rise above the arch on top of the world, at the end of the world, in another world. The dawn, like springtime, promising new beginnings and fertility of ideas. I was finally going to find out what I was made of.

And I did, I still am. I am always learning and growing, even when it seems like I'm stuck or I've lost my way. Springtime is finding our way again.

I grew up in an Episcopalian seminary with a Father for a father. I went to church almost every day throughout my childhood and there is no way that Christianity hasn't informed my life, and yet . . .

And yet I was lost. I had to find my own way with my own relationship to a Higher Power. And I periodically find that I am lost only to be found again with a new sense of awe in the universe. This is why I love other stories of the death and rebirth of kings, the return of Persephone to light, the eggs and bunny rabbits symbolizing birth and fertility.

So what are we giving birth to in our lives right now? What has been planted and needs to be watered? What are we going to pay attention to? What is going to grow?

*No references to Twilight here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hunger for The Hunger Games

It's more than a little ironic, isn't it? That we die-hard readers and Hunger Games fans are salivating for a screen version  where we finally get to be passive voyeurs of a sadistic world, rather than the co-creators.

Reading makes my imagination work over-time, but watching a movie, particularly one with such epic violence is almost a kind of pornography. A movie is someone else's interpretation of a story, where stuff inevitably gets left out or becomes conflated. But isn't that what writers and artists do?

I finally got to see The HG last night with two other fans: my mother Josephine and my twelve year old, Cooper. It had been hard for me to wait - it had been over three years since I compulsively read the book and I was eager for a different way of experiencing the story. (I didn't read any reviews, but of course my workshops have been buzzing with HG talk since it opened almost three weeks ago.)

Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still surprised and captivated. I gasped, cried, and even chuckled.

Jennifer Lawrence was spellbinding in last years' Winter's Bone and did not disappoint in her role as Katniss. She had me in tears in the opening scene, comforting her sister Prim. She was perfect as Katniss - I loved her. I wanted to both be her and have her as a sister. I wasn't sure about the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, but I fell for him quickly, and even though Liam Hemsworth as Gale didn't have as much screen time, I loved him too. I had rolled my eyes at Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch at first but he was spot on, and casting rocker Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was a stroke of genius. The tension building was masterful, the editing superb, and Stanley Tucci almost stole the show as Caesar Flickerman, the Master of Ceremonies, the media whore.

So yes, I loved it.

Gale points out in the beginning of both the book and the movie that the way to stop the Hunger Games, is simply to stop watching them. Our collective gaze does have power, and if we put it in the wrong direction,  we're the suckers.

But we, the audience, can't take our eyes away either. We hunger for a nightmarish version of our world to exorcise our demons and hopefully, society's.

Are we one step away from The Hunger Games?

Love and hope are the opposite of fear. President Snow says they need to be contained, Katniss needs to be contained - she can't give people too much hope lest they are empowered by that very hope. Yet too little hope makes for a very dull society, doesn't it? Ugh.

Is that how "they" get us in our world too?

How many times do we have to hear people say we are what we think? How many times do we need to hear messages of carpe diem? Yet the everyday struggles all of us have are overwhelming. Everywhere we turn we get messages that we're not good enough, smart enough, rich enough. We need to look this way, make this much money, have this many people like us. How do we get out from under?

Katniss. Peeta. Gale. They will save us!

We are what we think. We are what we watch. It informs everything in our world.

No wonder we hunger for an outcome of hope in The Hunger Games.