Listening to the MUSES

MUSES

 

muses anderson

Greek mythology tells of nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne: goddesses who inspire with their talents representing aspects of the arts and sciences.

The dictionary definition includes a brief etymology of the word, but also offers more modern day interpretations.

Muse definition

 

 

 

 

Often, artists (painters, writers, musicians…) tell of the muses whom have inspired them to create

muses dante

These are the muses and how I’ve been inspired by them:

Muse astronomy

 

There is nothing more majestic than the night sky. Symbols of it fill my pages of writing. In awe of the galaxy, the moon, the sun, the planets, I observe– me watching them, them watching me. As a student of astronomy and astrology, I study the constellations using aspects of signs in the characters I create. I believe their signs are part of the energy force that moves each character through a piece of writing, allowing him/her to take on a voice, action and thought that surprises even me, the creator.

Muse Love poetry

My first exposure to love poetry was probably during my freshman year of college in a Romantic Poets class studying Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge and Blake. This lead to the study of Victorian poetry– Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Bronte & Christina Rossetti. Later, I found Shakespeare’s sonnets and grew to appreciate brilliance of his work.

 

          “Love is not love which alters when its alteration finds

          or bends with the remover to move

          O no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on the tempests

          and is never shaken

          It is the star to every wandering bark

          whose worth’s unknown,

          although height be taken”

                                                          William Shakespeare

                                                          Sonnet 116

 

          “When I saw you, I fell in love

          and you smiled because you knew”

                                                          William Shakespeare

                                                          Romeo and Juliet

          “Be with me always

          take any form– drive me mad!

          Only do not leave me in the abyss

          where I cannot find you.

          I cannot live without my life.

              I cannot live without my soul.”

                                                          Emily Bronte

                                                          Wuthering Heights

 And, later still, I found other pieces that inspire. I write them all down– in a notebook, and on a wall in my study, so the words become a part of me.

 

“It’s only with the heart one could see rightly

          What is essential is invisible to the eye”

                                                          Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

                                                          The Little Prince

 

          “You know that place between sleep and awake

          that place where you can still remember dreaming?

          That’s where I’ll always love you.

          That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

J.M. Barrie

                                                The Adventures of Peter Pan

 

Love is the most powerful emotion. How could one write, after all, without love?

 

 

Muses history

If I didn’t pursue some vein (or many) of English in college or life, for that matter, I would have pursued history. It fascinates me. Everything about it. I’m drawn to antiquity. I’m drawn to stories of the past. I’m curious about how the past affects the future. I even get politically charged on occasion and relish a good political debate. History is about what makes people tick–  whole cultures, too.

When I was little, I grew up with two Italian grandparents whose parents immigrated to the U.S. before they were born. If I had to equate them to a modern(ish)-day example, it would be Cher’s character’s family  in Moonstruck.

 

My grandfather served in Guadalcanal during World War II, a great sense of pride for him until his dying day. My grandmother waited for him. Separately, they told me stories about the war and the Great Depression which, I believe, sparked my curiosity about history. Later, I would lose myself in research, digging to find more and more– the personal stories. I event went to Pearl Harbor and interviewed some of the vets there. THIS inspired my first novel– my first history muse.

muses war

 

 

 

Muse TragedyWe all have a tragic story to tell. Some hide it deep within; others share with ease. I’m still grappling with my story. Bits and pieces of it thread through my work– poetry, novels, short works, even some ideas I have for film. But I’m not quite there yet. Sure, I can make sense of some of the pieces. Some of which I represent in my writing better than others. But I’m still trying… with every piece I write I try to discover the triumphs of my tragedies, big and small.

 

Some of the tragedies that have inspired me include, but are in no way limited to…

 

Hamlet, William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest tragedy of them all. Hamlet explores the psyche– so many sides of it. It begs us to question ourselves, the choices we make, our own lives.

 

          “What a piece of work is a man!

`        How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties!

          In form and moving how express and admirable!

          In action how like an angel in apprehension.

          How like a God!

          The beauty of the world

          The paragon of animals!

          and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?

          Man delights not me”

                                             William Shakespeare,  Hamlet

 

Alex: The Life of  a Child, Frank Deford, a little non-fiction book I happened upon, then later saw a film adaptation of. It’s the story of a courageous little girl, struck with cystic fibrosis, and her loving family in the wake of her loss. Beyond sadness, it’s about the triumph of spirit, much like the fiction novel The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I am often struck by the strength of those in the face of tragedy, perhaps, because I’ve seen a lot of it, too much.

 

Yet, I hold onto the belief that life is about Yin and Yang– balance. One can’t know extreme joy without having experienced tragedy. One cannot know beauty without knowing the beast. One cannot know peace without fear and love without hate. It is through experiencing the depth of such extreme emotions that, as creative types, we create.

 

Muse dance

 

This is the weakest of my own muses, for I am a dreadful dancer. I try to avoid dancing except in the privacy of my alone time. I wish I were graceful. I wish I had the poise, stamina and talent to move my body to the rhythms of the day.

I do have two very vivid memories of dancing, however, which fill me with joy. One is standing atop of my grandfather’s feet as he taught me how to waltz; he was as good a dancer as he professed. His left hand held my right in a firm grasp, while his right elbow jutted out perpendicular to my ribs as he gently placed his right hand on my back. 1,2,3 and repeat. He told me it’s all about the timing. For the second there were no rules. Just me holding each of my babies, on separate occasions, in my arms, either swaying to the rhythm of soft lullabies or dancing wildly across the floor to upbeat children’s dance music. Their sweet eyes closing as they drifted off to sleep or opening wide, wide as their laughing mouths to mommy being silly.

I try to capture moments, just like these, little snapshots of perfection, in my writing.

 

Muse music

 

Now, music– that is one of my greatest muses. I listen to music of many genres: rock, soft rock, pop, indie, alternative, singer/songwriter, disco, classical, pop(ish) country, some rap. I like music for the melody AND the words. Often, when I find something that I love, I listen to it on repeat too many times for others but never enough for me. Music serves many purposes in my life. It is the basis of fond childhood memories– a time when my whole family saw plays and sung entire soundtracks in unison. I wished I were one of the Von Trapps or the Osmonds or Jacksons. I could sing The Age of Aquarius from the first word on the album to the very last, the same with the Carpenters albums and Jesus Christ Super Star. My mother taught me a love for music.

As I grew older, I learned to love music in different ways. Attending concerts is one of my favorite past times. I’ve seen too many (yet, still not enough) to count: Rod Stewart, Madonna, Carly Simon, Cher, James Taylor, Genesis, Dianna Ross, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Train, The Cars, Chicago, The Police, Third Eye Blind, John Mayer, Maroon 5 and Coldplay (I’m sure there are more…). There is still one band on my “to see” list that I’m dying to see: Aerosmith. Being at a concert, body moving to the music, crowd singing in unison, my blood feels as if it’s boiling, so much adrenaline running through it, and like it’s swaying on an ocean tide at the same time.

While I’m writing, I plug my ear buds in, choose a play list that either my character would be listening to or one that imitates the mood of the scene I’m writing. This is what gets me in the zone. I could write all day like this.

 

Muse Epic Poetry

When I was a T.A. in grad school, my mentor professor had this painting on the wall of her office. Earthy colors and placid. A girl, looking forlorn, dressed in a flowing white gown, halo band wrapped around her hair, sitting in a boat, tapestry draped over the side, floating down a river. She’s looking up, as if to something.

I wanted to know what she is thinking. Where is she going? Is she running to something or away from something? Is she sad or introspective?

I’d learn that the painting, rendered by John William Waterhouse, was of his adaptation of an epic poem entitled “The Lady of Shalott,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It’s about an embowered woman, locked in a tower by a curse, who sees a reflection of a man she instantly falls in love with living in what seems to be a utopia. She can only look upon this man and his surroundings in a mirror, for if she looks directly upon it, the curse will break.

Muses The lady of shalott

Upon reading the poem, my questions became more complex. My understanding altered and intensified. Is living life a reality or a reflection of it? Isn’t everything about our perception, no matter from what the approaching stance? Is it better to live safe and protected or risk everything to venture out into the unknown? Is the unknown always utopian-like? Will it never quite measure up to the way we had imagined it?

Questions like these, prompted from epic works such as “The Lady of Shalott” or “The Canterbury Tales,” “Beowulf,” “Paradise Lost,” “The Divine Comedy,” “The Odyssey,” “The Illiad”… aren’t they just questions of life, the basis of philosophy, psychology & sociology? This is what makes us think. Thinking. Taking action. Interacting. These are what make us human.

All of life is an epic poem. Each of us with a different story to tell. Conflicts to overcome. Tapestries to weave. Unique journeys to take.

Questions. Observations. Experience. These are where the ideas come from.

 

Muse comedy

 

 

muses bombeck

 

I try to find that line in my writing, the in between, the thing that we all feel but have difficulty encapsulating in words.

We need comedy to deal with life, for without it, we’d buckle under.

 

Comedians that inspire me: Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Howie Mandel, Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Dana Carvey, Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Dane Cook, Melissa McCarthy… and the one who makes me laugh the most: my son, Tyler.

 

The Yes Man

 

Muse Hymns

 

Listening to hymns, for me is like reading a good ending, one that satisfies all my expectations, to a book I can’t put down.

In all their majesty, hymns fill me with joy, faith, hope, perseverance. They remind me that beyond the struggle there is always something better. We need to live through the struggle to see that, for without it there couldn’t be clarity. Not only do hymns like these, my favorites, inspire me to be a better person, they inspire me to write more authentically.

 

Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley

 

Amazing Grace: Judy Collins

 

The Prayer: Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli

 

You Raise Me Up: Josh Groban

 

 

muses what inspires

 

Images:

http://www.firstcovers.com/user/1007044/lady+of+shalott.html

 

 

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A Room of My Own

room 4a

My summer is full of “projects”– tasks I simply don’t have time for during the school year. This summer is no different. However, one such project was multi-purposed: for me to create a room of my own.

room 7

As my children grew, physically bigger, the space in my house seemed shrinking and mine seemingly obsolete. When my 22 year old son announced he was moving across the country, I really thought about his room. Should I leave it completely in tact? Just in case? Completely closed off– a shrine of sorts. I discussed the choices that lay before me; he wasn’t happy he’d be losing stock, but it was his decision, after all, to leave the nest. After serious contemplation, I decided to reclaim my space. The room that had been mine before he became restless and independent wanting his own space outside of his shared room with his brother would become mine again. I’d sacrificed that and so much more. Making it clear that he’d always have a home in our home to return to, I set about the task of closure and new beginnings.

room 1a

I went with a black & white theme, thoroughly inspired by Pinterest. I decided I’d do three white walls and one blackboard wall (black chalk board paint which comes in an array of colors, but I chose black). Being the quote collecter that I am, a graffiti chalkboard wall made sense to me. On it, I wrote quotes and drew symbols that are important or inspiring to me.

room 2a room 3a

Because I already had a daybed, I just needed the dressing to make it look pretty. I needed a desk and a cabinet, too, so I set about my shopping spree.

room 6a

Here’s my list if you like what you see:

blackboard paint- Home Depot

whiteboard paint pens & chalks- Staples

bed linens & pillow cases- Wal-Mart

throw pillows- Overstock.com

valance- Kangaroo Closet

desk, white bookshelf/storage cabinet & white arm chair- Ikea

room 5a

This is my place to write– not a shared office space where I have to vie for time or a portion of the dining room where I can be distracted constantly. This is a room that inspires me because it’s mine. Only mine. It reflects all of who I am. And the best part– I can close the door.

Inspiration- Paying it Forward

We have all been inspired at one time or another, and, in my opinion, the best thing we can do is pay it forward. I suppose that’s at the heart of WHY I teach and what motivates me everyday.
Yesterday, I received an email from the assistant superintendent of schools, the person who oversees all of the curriculum for our town. It read, “Just watched this video and thought of the work that you did with your students in creating web pages for use by other students,” and attached was a link (which I will attach below, if you’re interested).
For four years now, a social studies colleague, Brian and I have been collaborating w/ our classes (his AP Euro and my British Lit). Throughout the year, our students work on common assignments and one culminating project at the end of the year. In the past, they planned and implemented a Renaissance Fair for the whole school to enjoy, they’ve written and performed such plays as The Trial of King Henry VIII & the Reduced Canterbury Tales, this year they will be bringing a novel alive in various ways (w/ skits, living histories, models…) in their production of London (a novel by Edward Rutherfurd) ALIVE, and last year (what the email was referring to) they researched information and designed instructional websites on different periods of British History (including major works of literature).
Like Alan Ted, Brian & I find kids work harder when we allow them to steer their own education. We set up the premise of a project which relates to our studies, and we allow them to use their creativity and resourcefulness to implement it. It is imperative to “shift the ownership” of education in order to make knowledge meaningful to students. I believe this is the ONLY way they will become life-long learners.
I’m not sure which of my teachers instilled this theory in me or lit the spark– there were many… too many to mention. But it humbles me that our A.S. recognizes the goal (the motivating drive) in mine & Brian’s work.
Alan Ted’s presentation reaffirmed for me what I already believed and inspired me to create more opportunities to allows students to be the drivers of their own education.

THE Link: