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

 

 

Christmas Carol Mash: “What Christmas Means to Me”

CCM ryan

Chestnuts Roasting, which I never liked, when Silver Bells always rang on a Silent Night. We bellowed our young voices to the old wondering for the first time if Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer would offend. Marilyn Monroe sings the best Santa Baby; I knew that even then. And I always tried to picture Daddy’s face when he saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause. Rudolph, my favorite reindeer, because he was different, I presume, battled The Little Drummer Boy for my affection. And I could sing a solo of Frosty the Snowman on repeat for as long as it took him to melt on a sunny afternoon.

My mother always taught me to Put One Foot in Front of the Other; while, my father played the part of a Scrooge, rather than a Heat Miser. With my brother and sister, we took the parts of Johnny, Susie and Nelly; I, like Nelly, wanted a storybook because I memorized the whole ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by the time I was three.

CCM tyler

Jingle Bells chimed whenever a guest arrived ducking under the Mistletoe and Holly, hung from the doorway, to find us Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Waiting patiently through The Twelve Days of Christmas, praying for a Winter Wonderland, waiting for loved ones to come Home for the Holidays.

As I got older, the benevolence of Christmas became apparent as I took part in Feed the World to Let Them Know it’s Christmastime. I worried about others, not only myself, having a Blue Christmas when I thought mine so Merry and Bright. I began to have faith that everyone would, one day, experience Peace on Earth.

CCM Lexy

Once I fell in love, You’re My Christmas Present became my theme, and together our love blossomed into Baby’s First Christmas. We warned our children of Grinch tactics by keeping the spirit magical by reminding them Santa Clause IS Coming to Town. We sang Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! sipping hot chocolate before and Open Fire after taking a Sleigh Ride through a Marshmallow World.

As our children grow, we hope they’ll always come Home for the Holidays because it isn’t a Happy Christmas unless we spend Christmas with the Family.

CCM angel

Just Be HERE

just be here

I was just about to begin writing a piece that’s been ruminating in my head for a while when I take pause to “just be here,” as my friend reminds me so often. At the beginning of summer, I created this room– this space, just for me. My study. I filled it with things and words that are important to me; a room couldn’t better reflect me than this one. And here I sit in the morning, ready to write. My son is here, laying on my daybed listening to music. And a few minutes later,  my daughter joins, plopping herself in the arm chair just simply daydreaming, listening to music, perhaps, while I’m madly typing on my laptop. No one says a thing. Until, in unison, they begin to sing… “If you really wanna’ go where you can find me, I’ll be unwinding…” (Zac Brown Band).

And all I feel is contentment, just a warmth that comes from the core of my being at the irony that my place, meant originally for escape, quiet, privacy, has actually become a meeting place for my kids to just be in my presence.

It makes me aware that this is one of those moments, when in the midst of it, I recognize happiness.

It’s Such a Perfect Day

I think in music lyrics. When doing a stream of consciousness exercise once, the professor asked, “What kind of thoughts ruminate in your mind when you’re idle?”

I hear a line from a song, sometimes from the last song I heard, but most often words that mirror what I’m feeling or thinking.

Music fills my soul. It sounds so cliché, but it does!

I identify with lyrics. I think about them, and sometimes they help me work things out in my head.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Cold Play concert on their Mylo Xyloto tour, and I call it an opportunity because it truly was– a magical spectacle! It was the most visually, aesthetically pleasing event I’d ever seen. Lasers, confetti, light-up bracelets, balloons; it was an orgy of color and graffiti!

Music moves my body to sway or jump or gyrate in ways that it doesn’t normally. I’m not a dancer, but when I hear notes in concert, I am moved to be on my feet and respond.

Stepping outside, today, seeing the sunshine, feeling the crispness in the air, watching the trees sway in the breeze, immediately, “Strawberry Swing” came into my head & I needed to play it. I needed to hear the music and the words.

I take every opportunity I can to see a band in concert whose music moves me this way. I’ve never been a groupie by any standards, but seeing live shows is one of my favorite things to do. And I’ve realized, I need to be up close to have the most amazing experience. The energy from the band seeps into the crowd. Once, Stephen Jenkin’s, from Third Eye Blind, ended his show by calling it a mystical experience, all of us being in the same room, sharing these moments. He’d said we were meant to be here at this moment in time, together. That stuck with me. Kismet working again!

The concerts I’ve attended:

Train ( 5 times )

Third Eye Blind ( 3times)

Bruce Springsteen & the East Street Band ( 3 times )

Elton John ( 3 times )

Shawn Colvin ( 3 times )

Rod Stewart (twice)

Madonna (twice)

Genesis (twice)

Cher (twice)

Cold Play

Maroon 5

Billy Joel

John Mayer

Phil Collins

Vertical Horizon

Carly Simon

Diana Ross

Chicago

Police

Cars

… an aside about MYLO XYLOTO

Meaning of Mylo Xyloto

During an interview with The Sun (UK newspaper) on 12th September 2011, Chris Martin discussed the meaning of the album title, Mylo Xyloto. Quoting The Sun: It is pronounced My-low Zy-letoe… and even the lads admit the title doesn’t mean anything. Chris says: “At the moment it seems a bit ridiculous and I accept that. “Something about it feels quite fresh. The title doesn’t have any other meaning. I think we’re a band with a lot of history now so it’s nice to come up with something that doesn’t have any history at all. We’ve had that title for about two years on a board and any other potential titles had to be written next to it. Other ones made more sense but we just liked this one, that’s all we can defend it with.”

Guitarist Jonny jokes that the process of finding a title was “like naming a child”. And Chris — dad to daughter Apple, seven, and son Moses, five — admits he has received a fair bit of banter about his name choices. He says: “I’ve had trouble with that too. I don’t regret that either. It’s just a feeling of a fresh start.”[5]


Before that interview not much was revealed at the time about the exact meaning of Mylo Xyloto, although there were developments from Coldplay’s TV appearance in Paris (on 9th September 2011) which will be televised in October 2011. According to Coldplayers, the band discussed the meaning of Mylo Xyloto, Coldplayer Lu’kaa saying: “Yesterday in an interview in the french TV show Chris explained that Mylo Xyloto was just an imaginary language, with two words: Mylo and Xyloto. It’s about creating a now word, from nothing, kind of like Google. How I know it? Well I was there!”

For those of you (most) still trying to figure out the possibly meaning behind this title following The Oracle’s confirmation that the title was not randomly made up without meaning, it’s a little unclear — though Latin derivations of “Mylo” tend to suggest that it is about something falling apart. (Meanwhile, “Xyloto” has been used to refer to a family of insects.) Could this be some sort of statement meant to suggest people coming together in the midst of what are difficult times for the world? Until Coldplay speak out about it themselves, we will probably not know for sure. Perhaps there is a tie with the colorful art, which seems to indicate there’s beauty in destruction which seems a fitting theme for the darker times we live in.[6]

Even The Oracle remained tight lipped on the answer, recently saying: “This could win the prize for the most asked question in the shortest space of time! All I will say is that if the band are asked it as many times as I have been asked, an answer will appear soon enough! I’d rather not be the revealer on this occasion. I will dispel a couple of suggestions I received though. It’s not been randomly made up with no meaning at all nor is it a foreign language. Everyone has been so patient so far with all the teasing that has been going on during the past 3 months so I’m sure we can hang on a little longer…” (August 15th).[7]

Ok I know this might sound a bit far out, but here are my thoughts. I think Mylo Xyloto might be an alien, for various reasons: 1- Aliens, U.F.O., stand to play a big part in the story of MX. I think they are going to be the good guys (light blinking to to tell me it´s alright) and will maybe help the two main protagonists in the end (hopeful transmissions). They might possibly end up flying away with the aliens in the end (up with the birds); 2- It would also tie in with Moving To Mars. Maybe it was not a metaphor at all. Maybe it is about the protagonists moving away from planet earth, after everything has gone up in flames; 3- It would explain the weird name Xyloto, which would be a good extraterrestrial name… I definitely hope there is nothing about alien abductions (scary!) hehe I still think the aliens are friendly and good. I interpret that sentence as just simply meaning that a sign came from outer space to let our heroes know that help is on its way and everything is gonna be alright. [thanks valypan][8]

This from MTV[9]: “Not only does it sound like a clothing-optional beach in the Greek Isles (or a nasty viral disease,) but, because it is largely inscrutable, it also inspires the inner etymologist within me. What, exactly, is the language of origin (Latin?) Googling it just brings up lots of Coldplay Web sites. How, precisely, is it pronounced? (Oh, just scanning the press release now, and apparently it’s “my-lo zy-letoe.”) And, since we’re on the subject, just how many anagrams can you pull from its 10 letters? Of course, it bears mention that whenever you’re talking about pronunciation and anagrams, you know you’re in the presence of true titular greatness. So, after spending some serious time with a pen and a piece of paper, here’s every possible anagrammatic combination I can think of. The word “Ox” comes up a lot. For whatever reason, I’d like to think that makes Chris Martin happy.”

http://www.wikicoldplay.com/Mylo_Xyloto

Top Pix 2011

Donna’s Top PIX 2011

~books~
One Day, David Nicholls
Before Woman Had Wings, Connie May Fowler
London, Edward Rutherfurd
Charlotte & Emily, Jude Morgan
Ghostwalk, Rebecca Scott
Cape Cod, Richard Russo

~films~
Black Swan
127 Hours
The Help
No Strings Attached
The Fighter
Hugo
The Adjustment Bureau
Love and Other Drugs
Anonymous
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Something Borrowed

~television~
American Horror Story
Revenge

~music~
Someone Like You & One and Only,
Adele
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall & Hurts like Heaven,
Coldplay
F**kin Perfect, Pink
Jar of Hearts, Christina Perri
Wish You Were Here, Avril Lavigne
Love it All, Kooks
Stereo Hearts, Gym Class Heroes (w. Adam Levine)

~old faves… on replay~
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Slumdog Millionaire
Across the Universe
Forrest Gump

Big Brother
The Bachelor/ette

Soul Sister & Brick by Brick, Train
Yellow, Coldplay
Animal, Neon Trees
Breath, Anna Nalick
The Story, Brandi Carlisle

You and Me, Dave Matthews