Category Archives: Pari Noskin Taichert

Another man’s gold

by Pari

Saturday yard sale. Card tables covered with the detritus of excess — too many impulse buys — no way to make order of any of it:

  Dick & Jane refrigerator magnets
  only-once used complete fondue set (with cans of “eco-flame”)
  the weird wrought iron candelabra given as a wedding gift and so ugly the people who bought it must’ve been feeling hostile that day
  the outgrown silvery flapper dress that was worn for Halloween
  the rollerblades, black with purple trim, bought with the hope of exercise
  boxes of books , hardcover and paperbacks, read and reread

“How much?”
“Would you take a dime for that?”
“Does it work?”
“Are all the pieces in this puzzle?”
“Do you have anything old?”
“What’s this?”
“It doesn’t look like sterling.”

We sit under a 50+ year old Ponderosa pine, its shade enough to drop the temperature 10 degrees compared to the eye-scorching sunlight just three feet away.

Cars pass
Slow down
Swerve to the wrong side of the road.

“You got any furniture?”
“How long you going to stay open?”
“You moving?”

Hours drag . ..  8 am, 9 am, noon . . . The Tabu-scented candle begins to melt, its strong sweet ‘n’ spicy smell evoking visions of lime green leisure suits and bad haircuts.

A car stops.

“You’ve got good books.”
“Really? I’ll take it.”
“I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
“Found it.”

Conversations pass the time and amuse:

An Afghani man shakes his head, his thick slicked down gray hair not moving even a millimeter. In a thick accent (though he’s been in the country since 1991), he says, “The years go by too quickly. Yesterday I was thirteen, today I’m fifty-eight.”

He walks away with nothing, but turns to my kids. “Always listen to your parents. Always! Do what they say. They know best.” He pauses. “Your parents are the only ones who’ll tell you the truth. Young men will lie. They’re all crooks.”

My kids smile politely.

A woman in a long Indian cotton skirt, braless too — as groovy as they come — brown hair hanging down past her waist:  “Oh my God! I can’t believe you’ve got this. You’ve just saved me having to figure out how to make helmets for my Transformer costumes.”

She leaves with four complete sets of bright red Tae Kwon Do protective gear and a custom-made wood and silver hair pin and ten books and a ring.

A neighbor stops by.  “Your signs are too small.”

He puts out bigger ones from his own past sales. More people come.

Most leave with small purchases:

  A pack of playing cards from Russia
  A box of clunky old computer keyboards
  A bag of multi-colored plastic beads . . .

Tonight: Sushi!

______
My question to you:
What did you do last weekend?

Rebooting

by Pari

Have you ever had times in your life when you feel like you need to hit the button and stop? I’m not talking about a pause here; I’m talking about letting the machine go cold.

Even before my vacation with the kids two weeks ago, I had an incredible urge to disengage from everything that wasn’t outright essential so that I could unbusy/undistract myself enough to really
look into my frenzied activity
to assess its causes
weigh its benefits
cut through the confusion
and reboot.

Last year at this time, my world flipped so completely the dizziness made me sick. Though I continue to live with tremendous upheaval, the quality of that movement, that unpredictability, doesn’t so much seem an oppression now as an opportunity.

After a year of hell, I’m feeling grounded.

And yet everything is up for examination.

I’m asking large life questions and yearning to answer them mindfully, heartfully, rather than relying on habits, assumptions or have-tos. In essence, I’m forcing the rules I live by — those that don’t impact family, health and economic survival — onto a high shelf.

After two years of writing daily, I’ve stopped that practice to ask: Am I a writer anymore? Do I want this creative identity that has brought such joy, anguish, satisfaction and self-doubt?

Do I need to be a member of professional and religious organizations? Do they enrich my life?
Do I need to answer every phone call, email, or even turn on my home computer? Are these activities bringing something meaningful into my life?
Is Facebook necessary to my sense of wellbeing and connectedness?

If I want to explore new options, why am I clinging onto old ones?
If I want to dance, why am I not dancing?

I don’t have answers to the questions yet, but I’m determined to listen carefully enough  to see if those answers exist.

I have two questions for you today:

  1. Have you ever experienced a similar reboot?
  2. How, if you work full time and have full-time obligations, have you managed to effectively do it?

 

Virtual Everything

by Pari

A few years ago ebooks and self-publishing scared me.  I handled my confusion and fear by rejecting them all in the name of “quality” and the benefits of “traditional” publishing. I felt superior somehow; that crazy, new-fangled technology had to be fringe. By gum, it was just too kooky to really take hold.

Boy was I wrong.

And I’ve completely changed my mind. Now I want to learn how to format my own works so that I can bypass traditional publishing completely. Yep. That’s a dramatic pendulum swing. I suspect I’ll come back a bit by the time I settle down and really start publishing again.

Ah, technology. Gotta love it.

However, for those of us  — of a certain age — a battle continues to wage. We’re unwilling Luddites, too intimidated by many new technologies to embrace them and too embarrassed to know where to seek help. I don’t know how many of you have seen the Saturday Night Live mock commercial about the middle-aged guy who walks into a Verizon store

. . . well, it’s painfully accurate.

I doubt I’d have a cell phone if my work didn’t pay for it. I have a Twitter account that I never use b/c I keep expecting something newer, faster, etc etc to come out any second. I’ve signed up for virtual bill paying for some of my utilities, but still end up paying almost everything by a check in the mail. I think I have a PayPal account, but am not entirely sure I do. And so it goes . . .

The worst part of all, I can’t help but feel that the entire world is leaving me behind in the virtual dust of my ignorance.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but I don’t have any idea how to pull myself out without stripping off all of the bark  or breaking.

So I need your help.

First a couple of questions:

  1. What percentage of your  total bill paying, marketing etc do you do online?
  2. What convinced you to do that much (or little)?

And now for your advice:

  1. Where would be a good place for me to start becoming more tech-literate?
  2. Which would you start with first:
    1.  virtual bill-paying
    2. e-baying
    3.  self-publishing?
    4. Can you recommend a blog or source where I can get info that doesn’t sink into jargon after the second sentence?

I may be away from the computer a lot today and tomorrow, but I’ll respond to comments by Wed afternoon at the latest.

Thanks!

The power of understatement

by Pari

With the heat rising and the rain a distant memory, I’ve been spending my non-work, non-parent hours thinking about understatement . . . subtlety. The subject came up the other day when I was taking one of my long weekend walks. There’s a house in a neighborhood near mine that has the most marvelous garden. Whenever I can, I try to walk by to see what’s blooming. The place is magical, glorious, especially in our drought-ridden, high-desert city.

That’s me in the corner taking the photoLast Sunday when I passed the house, I finally spied an elderly gentleman bent over a rose bush and inspecting a perfect lavender bud.

“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, not wanting to startle him.

“Yes?”

When he stood, the man towered over me. A white shirt and khaki pants hung loosely over loose, wrinkled flesh. He used a crinkled handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his flushed, sun-spotted face and looked at me with filmy blue-green eyes that still managed to show curiosity.

“I just wanted to thank you,” I said, suddenly self-conscious. “This garden is a work of art.”

“It’s her garden,” he said, pointing to a wrought iron sign at the top of a trellis covered in climbing pink and yellow roses. The sign had the words Peggy’s Garden on it. “She died two years ago.” The man stared at the sign for a moment before speaking again, his voice soft. “She loved this place.”

His attention returned to our conversation. “That’s why I promised myself I’d take care of it for as long as I’m able.” 

The way he said that last sentence really got to me. The man was already old, tired. He seemed so sad, as if the pain of his wife’s death hadn’t diminished from the day she’d left him. The fact that he had decided to dedicate himself to a garden that had brought her so much joy, as a quiet tribute, moved me tremendously. 

Often acts of love — or of other strong emotions  — are portrayed in literature, movies  and television with garish brushstrokes. They demand attention!!!

In the case of the gentleman I met, I didn’t get the sense that his was a loud action at all. He goes into that garden daily to honor his wife and to be near her, near to something that made her happy. And in doing so, he finds meaning and satisfaction.

So my question today is:

Can you share with us an example of a whispered action — real or fictional — that moves you more than a shouted one ever could?

Thanks.
I’m looking forward to a fascinating conversation.

Memorial Day . . . again

by Pari

Every year at this time, I think about writing a new post regarding Memorial Day
. . . and every year, I find that this poem still sums up how I feel.

May your Memorial Day be filled with peace.
Pari

Somewhere today . . .

Somewhere today a young woman sits in a muddy blind, her uniform wet through.
She knows she needs to pay attention to what’s happening, that she has to distinguish between a clap of thunder and the burst of a gun.
But all she can do is think of her baby graduating from kindergarten back home . . . without her.

Somewhere today a boy reaches for an automatic with only one hand.
The wind blows dust into his teeth and eyes.
He manages to prop his weapon against a sand-filled sack, using the stump of his other arm—the one where the rebels sliced it off at the elbow—to keep the rifle steady.

Somewhere today a mother waits on the tarmac, watching the military plane land.
It bounces two times on the runway.
Her son would’ve laughed at that.
Through the blur of tired and salty tears, she sees them lift the unadorned casket.

Somewhere today a father stares at the last letter his daughter sent him.
He has memorized every word, read between every line so often it has merged with the next in a confused gray.
Three weeks and nothing.
Not a note, not an email, no text.
He looks to the blue sky and wonders where she is, if she’s all right.

Somewhere today a young woman is shot in a border town
– wrong place, wrong time –
the “collateral damage” of a drug war she’s never played a part in.

Somewhere today a group of young men claim a village for their tribe
kicking children’s toys aside in the abandoned huts of former friends.

Somewhere today war will blast dreams away
cut lives short
and make sorrows long.

Somewhere,
someday,
I pray
we’ll have no need for this holiday.

My Emotional Magnetic Resonances . . .

by Pari

Last week one of my dearest friends came to visit. Though we do write and call, we hadn’t seen each other for 12 years. I’d had fantasies of staying up late each night and talking til dawn, of baring my soul and emptying all the emotions that I’ve been holding in and waiting for the right person to whom I could express them.

The visit didn’t end up working that way.

We talked a lot, it’s true, but there weren’t any great catharses . . . no hugely revelatory moments. Instead it was a gentle visit, a very normal one. Today my friend is aboard a plane on her way to a convention. And in spite of fantasies unrealized, I feel far more centered than I have in months. Merely being with someone I love so deeply and have known for so long had the effect of a soul balm, a magnificently solid realigning of my very essence that healed without fanfare or even apparent action.

This afternoon as I write this, I’m thinking about other things in my life that have a similar molecularly soothing quality. While I know the metaphor of an emotional MRI is inelegant, it’s the closest idea I can find to express what I’m hoping to convey here. (Use this link for a brief explanation of how MRIs work. In my odd world today, an emotional MRI heals while a medicinal MRI is used soley for diagnostics.)

One poem that always centers me is “Danse Russe” by William Carlos Williams. Reading it jolts my atoms and when they return, a joyous part of my heart has opened. The experience lasts for days as the images the poet creates — and I internalize — enter and reenter my mind’s eye.

The book Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman reminds me of magic each time I open its pages and allow myself the pleasure of reliving its stunning writing and beautiful story. While reading it, I see the world around me through a similarly magical lens. I suspect that The Book Thief by Markus Zusak will serve that role too in the years to come.

Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello stirs longing, pain, and utter beauty so fully that every time I listen to it my cells heal. The effect is quietly wrought, a shift of quarter tones rather than entire scales.

I return to these pieces of literature and music  — as well as certain others — because they reach a place of tremendous and satisfying meaning in my heart. They align my emotional molecules and bring a beautiful solace. Though I don’t end up with a diagnostic of my soul — and that’s where the whole MRI concept might break down in the telling —  I do end up feeling blessedly complete once more.

Today’s question:

Will you share one of your emotional MRIs with us?

Dreams, jungles . . . and creativity

by Pari

Although sleep has been elusive for a few weeks because of work worries, I often think about dreams past and what they can still yield in the weedy garden of my current imagination.  The extraordinary and wonderful disjointedness of dreams is especially fascinating because, in the moment of dreaming, all dreams make sense. They merely defy waking analysis.

I’ve opened my eyes many a morning grasping for the colorful threads of logic, the strands of story that felt so incredibly right just seconds before, but that seem to vanish at the touch of my mental fingertips.

And yet   . . . I know that dreams have logical counterparts in the world of storytelling.

Years ago, when I was in my last semester of college, I took a history colloquium on jungles. Like a dream itself, there was no waking logic to my finding this course. I stumbled into it, thinking I was in another class. However, that first day after listening to the professor speak about the mystery of jungles, I decided to stay — to take my intellectual canoe down that dark, muddy river to see what I might discover.

I adored the class! For my term paper, I read Amazonian Indian mythology.  The stories intrigued me so much that I taught myself enough Portuguese so that I could read original source accounts. I read Levi Strauss in French. I scoured the University of Michigan’s substantial library collections for everything I could find.

On the face of it, these stories were very odd. Animals transformed into other creatures, plants into animals, people into unrelated animals . . . Few things remained totally whole or the same. The stories were tremendously dreamlike in this way, constantly fusing aspects that didn’t belong together into a new creation. But somehow — within that world — they made sense.

I theorized that this constant transformation was born of the jungle itself: something dies and — due to heat, moisture and localized fertilization — another thing grows right out of it. In essence, everything dead is rapidly becoming something else; it’s visible and visceral . . . the Yin-Yang principle on LSD.

Why did I bring up dreams and jungles today?

When I started my blog yesterday, my topic was the fragility of creativity. I’d intended to float a couple of familiar memes about nurturing creativity, practicing it . . . yadda yadda yadda. But once my fingers hit the keyboard, this blog about dreams and jungle mythology sprang out of the carcass of predictable intent.

Perhaps the point, if there is one, might be that dreams — like jungles — allow seemingly unrelated topics to merge and, when we least expect it, creativity works in the same way.

Today’s question: What subject or project have you accidentally studied or undertaken that yielded marvelously unexpected results?

Where to?

by Pari

I’ve been thinking a lot about travel lately, doing things like seeing how far the drive would be from Albuquerque to Quebec. I’ve been searching for cruises to the Arctic Circle — in the middle of winter  — to chase the Northern Lights. I’ve been fantasizing about sleeping in ice hotels and tree houses, about stumbling on a shadow puppet performance in Bali, about taking a train up the coast of California and staring at the night sky in the middle of Yosemite.

Travel for me has always meant freedom. Even more it’s a way to shake things up, to have adventures and feel fully alive. Somehow, when I’m away from the very familiar, I tend to be much more open to experience — to meeting people, staying up late and sharing life stories, and marveling at the freshness of each new turn on the road — and I love that stretching of self!

I haven’t taken a long trip in ages, certainly not alone. And now that I’m working full time and have all of these obligations in my life that demand schedules and consistency, I want to break out and explore.

It’s natural to bristle at self-imposed constraints, to feel restless.

But what do I do with this?

Trips to Santa Fe and other fun locations in NM are still too familiar. I want to do something outrageous! Incredible. Life-changing. And I haven’t an idea of what that really might be.

Oh, yeah. There’s the matter of money and time. But those don’t have to be major concerns, do they? I bet there are places to see and visit that would be incredibly wonderful and wouldn’t break the bank.

There’s also the issue of traveling alone now that I’m old enough to understand danger. The situations I put myself in when I was a teen and in my early 20s make me writhe with horror now. And as a mother, I would be appalled if my kids did anything even close to hitchhiking from Tours to Marseilles at 15 years old or accepting rides across this country with strangers.

I’m a friggin’ mystery writer, for Heaven’s sake! My mind can go to really dark places really fast.

So . . . I need your help today.

Give me some ideas of great places to travel as a solo woman, places that are different enough from my arid and gorgeous NM to feel like I’ve really made a change. Or, tell me about tours and tour companies that are out of the norm where I can meet interesting — and interested (in life) — people.

Do you have a favorite trip or adventure you can recommend?

Who knows, I might even write a story about it . . .

Writing is for writing

by Pari

Every so often when I write one of these blogs I have a major revelation. That happened today as I continued working on a piece called “Writing as an act of love.” Frankly, I was proud of the concept; it tied nicely into what I’d examined last week in my “Writing as therapy” entry. It also dovetailed with the holiday themes that would’ve been so appropriate.

As I sat at my computer contemplating how to unite those concepts into a neat little bow, I asked myself a question: “Why does writing have to be for anything but writing?’

Excellent question, Pari. Life-changing, in fact.

You see, before I got married, I wrote because I loved to write. Sure, I had fantasies of publication, of being famous and retiring to the Cote D’Azur (or at least having a second home there since I could never leave NM permanently). Enough writing conferences taught me that, perhaps, those fantasies might be a bit overblown.

However, I still let myself dream . . . and let myself write for the pleasure of writing.

So what happened? Somewhere around the time I had children and opted to stay home with them, writing became a selfish act because it impacted others. I began feeling obligated to justify the time I spent doing it in terms of “success” and money and having it be a “business.”

How fucked up is that? More than sixteen years of forgetting why I’d written for all the years before. And now, even when I don’t have to justify why I write, I still automatically require the act of writing to serve double duty. 

I believe that that’s a huge part of why I haven’t been editing for nearly two years . . . Talk about confusing issues! I used to adore editing! While the Master Class I went to stood that idea on its head, I’d hope by now I’ve incorporated those lessons deeply enough that they don’t have to be impediments. So why haven’t I been editing? I think I was equating editing with selling and, intuitively, I didn’t want to jump on the must-market bandwagon again.

What happened to my old attitude about editing? It used to be about making a piece as good as I could.

Sheesh . . .

The challenge with epiphanies is that they seem incredibly important in the moment and then — poof — often they fade into the background and things return to the way they were. But this realization feels very different. I don’t recall ever pondering it before.

Writing is for writing.
That’s powerful.
And meaningful enough right there.

 

How about you?
Does your creativity have to serve multiple purposes?
Do you feel compelled to justify it?

Writing as therapy . . . or not

by Pari

From the beginning of my time as a writing being, back in the wee single-digit years, I have always used this form of self-expression as a way to make sense of the world. Whether it be through poetry, lyrics, journaling, nonfiction or fiction, there has always been that element of wanting to learn or explore my own emotional maze — and wanting to come away from the experience understanding more than when I entered it.

I wouldn’t have survived certain periods of my life without writing. Most of my adolescence, for example. Those were rough years filled with so much angst I could’ve made Jane Eyre look like a Katy-Perry California girl. Through jilted relationships, a year in France and a year in Hong Kong, through anger at my mother, fights, self-hatred . . . all of it, I put pen to paper or tapped on my old Olympus typewriter or used a computer to get it all out.

And yet, the works I’ve written specifically for publication don’t fall into this category. Perhaps it’s self-preservation that impels me to draw an emotional line between the truly personal and what is for public consumption. After all, for most of us, our personal dramas and insights are rather banal vis a vis the rest of the world. Sure, we think we’re interesting . . . but I long ago learned in PR that most of the time that doesn’t translate to other’s perceptions.

So why am I writing a novel right now about a woman finding independence in divorce after decades of marriage? Shouldn’t I know better? It’s odd, but somehow — in spite of everything in my life that might be applicable to hers — this story isn’t about me.

Instead, I’m exploring emotion — my protag’s — and letting myself really go in and look around at the human experience at this juncture in her life. Sure, sometimes while I’m writing a scene, I burst into tears because it touches on my own experiences . . . but the world I’ve created is hers, not mine. Her reactions aren’t mine, though they often move me to examine my own.

Is this a more subtle form of personal therapy? One could argue that any creativity is therapy for those of us who yearn to create. But I think something else is going on here, a kind of hybrid newness in my approach to writing. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for the process.

Question:

  1. What form of creativity have you used for your own personal therapy?

          Or

  1. Have you ever read a book and felt like the writer wasn’t so much telling a story as figuring out something for him/herself?

 

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