Reviews and Articles

Standing Rock: Does This Look Like A News Story to You?

Calmly, as a matter of fact, ask yourself,

Does what I see in these videos of what is currently happening at Standing Rock, look like a news story to me?

Not whether or not you agree with the protestors or what is happening there, simply, does it look like a news story?

Does it look like a big news story, or the kind of thing that usually gets covered like it is a big news story?

Does it look like a human interest story? Does it look like a lead story?

Have I seen this story of the protests at Standing Rock on the television news?
Is this story being reported by the mainstream news media?

If I have seen this story, of the protests at Standing Rock, how thorough was the coverage?

How many people are there?
How long have they been there protesting?

I think that you should make up your own mind about what kind of story it looks like to you.

To me, it looks like the kind of news story that should be a lead story every night on the nightly news, at the top of the broadcast, until some resolution has been achieved.

What does it say about our mainstream news media that the story of the protests at Standing Rock isn’t being covered as such a story? And if our mainstream news media isn’t reporting on this story in an unbiased and accurate way, that means offering no opinion on the subject while presenting to you the facts, then what else is our news media biased about?

Food for thought.

Teri

Cheyenne Madonna, by Eddie Chuculate

Eddie Chuculate’s descriptive prose reads like the view of the most brilliant landscape painting, the words providing a stark portrait in contrasts in some areas while melding into the delicacy required of a watercolor brush in others, whether the scenery be that of an actual landscape, the rolling countryside of Oklahoma, or simply the interior landscape of an adolescent bedroom and the awkward fumbling crudeness of a first “love.” We are introduced to artist, painter, and sculptor, Jordan Coolwater in this way, with all of the tenacity of a tornado while en route to Galveston Bay.

Writing without hesitation, Chuculate fully engages the explosive vernacular of racism in “1979” before sitting Jordan down at his grandparents, Flo and Zeke’s,  kitchen table to drink cheap cherry wine from jelly glasses with his uncle, Johnson L. Freebird, “A Famous Indian Artist.” Jelly jars, not mason jars, jelly jars. Like saving your plastic movie themed cup from the 7-11 or your cartoon character glass from the Taco Bell, drinking from saved jelly jars is something of a particular time. ( However, I did check and they do still make those particular jars though I haven’t seen one in a store out this way in years.) The Welch’s jars were often adorned with Peanuts or Hanna-Barbera characters, others bore flowers and some had even fancier raised designs on the glass. It’s a wonderful example of the small details that are present in each of these stories that make them come alive with familiarity and poignancy. It could be your grandmother’s kitchen table too, especially if they liked to argue over trivialities, the way that some forever couples do at that age, and have a beer now and then.

We learn of Jordan’s drunkard father in “Dear Shorty,”of his Listerine habit, and begin to better understand the roots of Jordan’s own alcoholism. It is here that Chuculate’s ability to create believable characters lets us know that this isn’t a coming of age tale, but the deepening continuing narrative thread of one man’s life, of his at odds-ness with a world that he is completely present in. From escaping incarceration to finding love and the hope of normality with a woman named Lisa Old Bull, as she runs from her own equally difficult situation, we begin to understand the struggle of Jordan Coolwater to either keep up with the spinning of the earth, or find a way to make it stop, to find a place to rest a while from it, the peace of that kitchen table again, long after the people who sat around it with him in his youth are gone.

These are hard stories of uneasy lives, alcoholism, poverty, dysfunction, love, the awkwardness of success as it is carried by one who has seen that it isn’t necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be. Full of heart and heartbreak, with a depth of understanding of the human condition and enough humor to be able to endure it, they are stories drawn from the palette of an intelligent, thoughtful writer about the life of an artist, about the discovery of self through art, and about the hope, and the redemption in, and of, the work.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories.

~ Teri Skultety

Released in 2010, you can get a copy of “Cheyenne Madonna” at Amazon.

Favorite Books of 2014.

My favorite reads of 2014…

1.) Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
This is billed as a story about father’s and sons and it is, it is also a hard-hitting rural noir, a crime story, and a how to write a story story. Patterson Wells is a mess not even really trying to recover from the death of his young son, a death that likely could have been prevented, no, he’s just trying to get through the day, and if the sun comes up in the morning, then he’ll deal with that. And so it is that an unlikely and unintentional friendship haphazardly develops between Patterson and Junior, the son of his not exactly a friend neighbor Henry, in close to the middle of leave- us- the- hell- alone- out- here-we’re dealing with things- nowhere. Patterson’s broken relationships mirror Juniors broken relationships, but these two men don’t care in a very different way. While Patterson is well aware of his own pain and that its having made him particularly empathetic to other wounded souls or those in unfortunate situations and that that may not be the best thing judging by how much trouble it keeps leading to while he’s trying to help, sort of, Junior hasn’t felt any pain in a long time and is just living to burn, running drugs, and tearing up as many people along the way as Patterson seems to be trying to do the right thing by.  This is some hard-hitting stuff, graphic and gritty, there’s a body count happening, though not gratuitous, the writing is clean, the story moves, and as unfathomable as some of the situations seem, Benjamin Whitmer sells it, he tells the story well enough that you could completely see how one thing could lead to another and isn’t that how those messes happen? I mean, it isn’t like anyone plans for it to all go perfectly wrong. I wanted to keep reading it and get back to it whenever I put this book down. This story and writing has been compared to the likes of Cormac McCarthy, it’s better than that.

2.) Not For Nothing by Stephen Graham Jones
This is a detective story. However it’s a detective story done in a particular style that we don’t often see so much anymore. First of all, it’s written in the second person, you understand what I’m saying? So you pick up this book and you’re not sure what to expect, well this too is rural noir, only Nick Bruiseman was done being a detective and he’s not exactly a private eye either or maybe he’s not even private eye material anymore, he’s on the skids and back in the town that he grew up in having taken a job that was really kind of given to him as a favor, managing a storage facility, and you can tell how interested in that he is from the get go. In walks Gwen Tracy, former high school femme- fatale with her cheerleader knees, only she isn’t Gwen Tracy anymore, you see? She’s Gwen Gates, all grown up now, and wife of Rory, and she’s got some troubles that she can’t exactly take to the local authorities, and she won’t exactly elaborate, so this dame walks into his office and she’s scared, she needs someone she can trust, someone she can count on, you get the picture? Then in walks Rory Gates, because, you know, he thinks there’s something going on with his wife and an ex-con she was maybe teaching the finer points of English to and he can’t exactly go to the authorities either. Never mind that there was something, for a moment, between Nick and Gwen, way back when, and that Sherilita, who’s maybe keeping an eye on things from her lunch counter, could likely really tell you what time the last tumbleweed crossed the road and exactly who with. Never mind who Sherilita’s ex-husband is and how that happened. This is a story about trust and about betrayal, a complex, nuanced story about the intricacies of relationships, small town talk,  the details folding back over themselves in Jones’ trademark  subtle prose, revealing a-ha moments as we understand all of the things that none of them would say.

3.) How To Take A Bullet by Hollie Hardy
I heard Hollie Hardy read from this book at Beast Crawl in Oakland this past July and I knew that I was going to buy a copy. “These poems in this collection have titles ruthlessly appropriated from The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.”  Damn it! That is so right up my alley, damn it! Why didn’t I think of that? Because she got to it first and she did it so right. Page after page of poignant, often humorous, hard-hitting, heart breaking, thought-provoking,  poems that made me want to sit down and start writing new poems. There were things in this book that are so familiar to me… “In the crackling after math, become a liquid …” from “How To Survive When Lost In The Desert” to the tough ending of “How to Treat Frostbite” which reads “A sky gallops across your brow, You are asleep in your bed, On fire, In the Winter of your history lesson” and that may be my favorite poem in the book, to the irreverent “How To Detangle a Bird Caught In Your Hair” which begins… “First you have to have hair, This trend toward baldness negates the problem…” Poets are the front line purveyors of language, poets do not just write words, poets create words, and new uses for words, poets provide us with comprehension of meaning and the expression of value in a deeper way and they tend to do that using fewer words to say more than in other forms of literature,  this collection has all of that and then some.  Completely loved it.

So that’s my list of favorite books that I read in 2014.

You can purchase these titles here…
Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
Not for Nothing by Stephen Graham Jones
How to Take a Bullet by Hollie Hardy

“We Create Culture.”

“Create your own roadshow.” ~ Terrence McKenna

Solarcidal Tendencies.

This hasn’t been a bad week.

Out now from the wonderful editors at Solarcide, Martin Garrity and Nathan Pettigrew, SOLARCIDAL TENDENCIES , the best of, so far! This is a unique collection of stories from some of today’s brightest authors on the rise. I am so very pleased to have my story THE LOVE included in this collection.

As I’ve sorted out my way on my journey to “really” doing this “writer becoming a published author this is my life”  thing, through pseudonyms and changes while finding my groove, Solarcide has been there taking chances. For me what that has meant and been is a reminder to write whatever it is that I want to write, something that has ultimately lead to having the confidence to drop the pseudonym, not worry so much, and get after it.

With an introduction by author Richard Thomas and a table of contents fully loaded and ready to rock your socks, this one is really a must have for anyone of discerning literary tastes looking for that particularly delicious flavor of words to satisfy their palette.

Get Yours Today!

And be sure to visit Solarcide, The home of dark and weird fiction, for their latest goings on!
Happy reading!
~ Teri Skultety
( and be sure to check this out too… Terror Train…)

OPEN 24 – 7, But It’s Closing Time: The Re-Rewiring of the Internet Affected Brain.


Recently I’ve been thinking about how much time we, I, spend on the internet. I’ve thought about it before.

 

There was a time when I did not want a computer, whether it was a matter of being something of a technophobe or simply a general leeriness for reasons that I couldn’t quite explain, the idea simply didn’t appeal to me. However, we did get that first computer and eventually I learned how to use it pretty well. But how much internet time is too much internet time?
To say that we are a nation, a world, addicted to the internet is an understatement.
In her 2011 film “Connected: An Autobiography About Love, Death and Technology” Tiffany Shlain explores some of these ideas, from her unique perspective, constructing the film as an autobiography of sorts during the last months of the life of her beloved father, renown brain surgeon and author, Leonard Shlain. Her narrative begins with recounting a trip across country to see a dear friend whom she had not seen in some time. During their lunch, Shlain found herself overwhelmed with the urge to check her phone, admitting to eventually excusing herself from the table to go to the ladies room where she hid in a stall to check her emails, twitter feed and text people, thinking and chiding herself about it, wondering, “What am I doing?”
Shlain goes on to explain, through a very personal story, with wonderful narration by actor Peter Coyote through the less personal parts, how use of the internet actually rewires the brain, how dopamine is released with every click. While Shlain does not make this comparison, I was reminded of experiments done on lab mice, click, click, click, to get that fix. Shlain goes on to explain how this constant state of connectivity is creating a global thinking, what she calls “interdependent thinking.” She also covers the ideology of how literacy, left brained thinking and the like have typically lead to patriarchal societies and the suppression of women. While I do not agree with everything that Shlain puts forth, there’s certainly a lot of food for thought there.

 

We, my husband and I, had at times talked of how it was when we were kids, the evening news, the East Coast was a very faraway place, Europe seemed practically another planet, rarely did we hear about car chases that occurred out of our local vicinity, for something to make the National News, it had to actually be something. It made the world seem big, it made those stories that did make the news, seem important, because they were. Issues arising in foreign countries were presented as they related to us here, and then as they related to the world because here, meaning wherever you were, was the world. If a major movie star were photographed getting out of a car in a skirt sans undergarment, the story might not have hit the media for weeks, if it ever got to the media at all. Post war generations were appreciative the of problems of the day as they related to daily survival, from the Great Depression to the post WWII years of the Cold War to issues like the 1973 OPEC crisis, people understood the world differently, as a matter of how did the “news” affect them directly and how could it? “Problems” were viewed less globally, more individually.
Rewiring our brains one click at a time.

 

I thought, as a matter of thought, “Am I supposed to be more worried about the riots in Egypt than the weeds in my own backyard?” And what I mean by that is thoughtfully this, what Shlain poses is the ideology of that connectivity, the idea that if it affects one of us it affects all of us through this connectivity and in some way this connectivity of the world via the internet is really just a reflection of that reality that we are all connected only now we can see it in a way that we never could before, one satellite photo and there it is, however…the reality, in asking that question, if I spent less time on the internet, on this “connectedness” and more time concerning myself with those weeds, with … a garden where I could grow some of our own food, our some flowers…wouldn’t that be more beneficial to the world? To me? Something I can do something about, verses something I really have little power over? If I cut down on my wastefulness, as an individual, doesn’t that benefit everyone a lot more than my awareness of things going on thousands of miles away that I have no ability to affect? These are generalizations to be sure however the gist of it is that doesn’t individual responsibility, in whatever way one is capable, help the group? It is also important to continue to ask these questions.

There were themes in Shlain’s promotion or proclamation of this new “interdependence” that I didn’t care for, that gave to me the feeling of all of us being one interdependent blob of humanity lacking individuality, frankly, there was something kind of “Shiny, happy, people holding hands.” ~ R.E.M.  ~ to it and as a writer, that kind of bothered me. But there again, that speaks to individual experience as apart from asking some of the same questions, there’s little in Shlain’s experience or personal relationships that I’ve anything in common with. It’s important to note that because as an independent being, it matters. Though this is not intended to be a critique or review of her film, not at all, moreover a matter of looking at how much time the world spends plugged in. And me, as an individual, rethinking how much time I spend on the internet and other such activities.

Shlain provides this quote from her father, “We are the only species that knows we are going to die.” ~ Leonard Shlain
Meaning that while some animals may go off alone when they are ill or when their final days are upon them, humans possess conscious awareness of our own mortality. She also gives examples of what I will call the arrogance of mankind’s interference in nature in attempting sometimes to control it. During what was known as The Four Pests campaign from 1958 to 1962 in China, Mao Zedong undertook the eradication of rats, flies, mosquito and sparrows. When they killed all off the sparrows the locust population exploded, the results to crops were disastrous. She also talks about the dying honey bee population, how we have begun feeding honey bees the cheapest food source available, corn syrup, and importing honey bees from Europe. This reminded me of the many articles that I have read about the proliferation of soy in our diets and its many dangers, soy is very cheap to grow, it is, in effect, filler. Mankind has often lived without respect for the balance of nature, most markedly since mankind determined itself not to be a part of that nature but separate from it as beings capable of self-awareness…this is also expressed by Shlain as man trying to separate himself from nature, the irony.

 

But then, one must ask the question, is that the nature of man, in some way, and therefore somehow will it ultimately prove to be in balance with the nature of everything else? Is mankind a kind of ultimate checkmate for all of the other creatures and perhaps a very necessary one?
About the technology she offers…“Nothing vast enters society without a curse.” ~ Sophocles and,   “What began as a way to improve life is now threatening to consume it.”   Aha!

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently set new guidelines for “screen time” for kids. According to their studies, children ages eight to eighteen spend an average of seven and a half hours a day using media for entertainment and that this increased web time has actually begun to interfere with verbal communication and personal interaction and relationship skills. They issued recommendations for children age two and under because apparently this is also an issue, parents introducing their children to tablets and computers use while those children have yet to be graduated from diapers. I am thankful that in my day it was still simply a matter of trying to set limits on television and video game time.
I began to feel very uncomfortable with these new facts knowing full well how my own internet use had sometimes eaten my life. I spent less time on the internet for several days, I noticed that when I got back online again, I didn’t like the way I felt. I didn’t feel as good as I had when I’d been doing other things. I thought…to paraphrase something from Napoleon Dynamite, “I don’t love technology.”  I like technology, but I don’t love it, in a general sense. Specifically though, Shlain’s story illustrates the sometimes phenomenal benefit of advances in technology, particularly in the field of medicine. Technology was meant to be a tool at our disposal, something within our control, not out of it.
“Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” ~ 2001: A Space Odyssey
I thought about how the internet has created the seeming demystification of nearly everything. The East Coast doesn’t seem so far away and what is it that has happened to our sensitivity as there is so much available to be outraged over at any given moment that again…are we missing those things closer to home? Those things that we might actually be able to affect? I thought about how it used to feel to go somewhere and be somewhere and not have anyone there be telling the world in that exact moment, “Here we are!” To take pictures of happy things that would only end up in a regular photo album for posterity, for joyful personal memory. I mean no criticism in that, it is the technology driven world we live in, only to comment on my growing awareness of it. There are also seemingly endless sources of inspiration and knowledge available twenty-four seven, and thus that click, click, clicking as the internet has the potential to rewire the brain, it is also, according to Shlain, an external extension of it, almost a prosthetic, if you will.

Being on the internet, after a time, there was this strange feeling, this thinking that I had to define myself according to the options presented by social media in neatly pigeon holed categories, ostensibly as identifiers for…other people? I realized that I didn’t or hadn’t thought about any of those things all that much in terms of explaining them to other people, that I was who I was and I didn’t worry about it but that really maybe I had experienced that in the “real world” too.  What are your politics? Religion? Your position on the major issues?  And if you cannot answer any of those questions concisely or are unwilling to, can you come up with something erudite, pithy, clever, to fill in those blanks so as to disarm those who feel that they need to know, so we can all feel comfortable? Is this any way to get to know one another?

I also realized that it was out of character for me to have concerned myself with it, trying to define myself in some way that was understandable or palatable to others, to the degree that I did, with such a preoccupation. I think that I wanted to or wanted that to be easy, as though I expected that something that took me years to figure out could be reduced to a simple equation for others. I’m really intelligent but I’m not Einstein, I had and have no simple E=MC2 to explain…me, other than maybe that somehow does because Einstein was that kind of smart. I’ve not ever been one to really use the full capacity of my phone as the hand-held computer that it really is, still I found myself in a moment of realization not unlike that of Shlain, hiding in the bathroom stall to text during a lunch with a friend that she had traveled cross-country to see and hadn’t seen in years, I thought, “What am I doing?”

With this came a lot of what I’ll call scattered thinking, keeping more than one notebook at a time, writing things down and forgetting where I put them, making the same list over and over again, inability to concentrate, trouble reading books which was something that had never happened to me before, I could plow through a few hundred pages of good book in a couple of days, worrying about things I had posted in the same way that previously was reserved only for stories I had written or conversational faux pas that would previously have been made only in the actual presence of maybe one or two people. The internet, is the constant stage. However part of the appeal for me in being a writer, not that being a writer is really something that I think anyone can choose or help, was in that it is largely a behind the scenes activity. Rock stars join bands because they want to be…rock stars, writers… it’s usually an individual activity, or lack there-of depending on how it’s going.
 Could it be that what I was feeling were the effects of the internet on my neural pathways? The results of my brain being rewired without my even realizing it and in a way that I would not have approved of ? Studies have shown this to be the case, Shlain herself cites one such study that indicates that the I.Q.’s of those who became internet multi-taskers dropped as much as ten points. A 2007 study by UCLA Professor Gary Small indicates the same and worse than that, that within this rewiring there is often increased anxiety as well an increased inability to focus. The internet is rewiring our brains.  
I thought, I really liked the way that my brain worked before the internet, back when I didn’t even want a computer. I loved my brain. My brain was AWESOME.
The truth is that my brain still is awesome, I still love my brain that figured out that it needs to spend less time on the internet so that it can rewire itself the way that I like it to be again.

 

While Shlain ends her film on a hopeful note with a positive regard for the future of technology in our world, I don’t know that I’m quite as certain about that or the ideas of interdependent thinking and, or living in the global technologically connected sense at least. Call me old-fashioned, I’ve made peace with that, I remember the real olden days before answering machines and pagers even, when being away from home meant that whoever it was would have to call back, and the world kept turning. For me, my opinion and belief is that independent thinkers and group problem solving are both a vital part of the balance and on a more personal level, learning to let go is essential to our individual growth and maturation. It is the “Think globally and act locally” ideology and that isn’t a bad one, only, perhaps there is some room there for defining what that means and I mean, I think I’m going to spend less time on the internet and more time pulling weeds, metaphorically speaking.
Teri
smiles.

 

Journeys End in Lovers Meeting; The Haunting of Hill House.




With “The Haunting of Hill House,” Shirley Jackson is often credited with having set the standard for Gothic haunted house stories and rightly so. Dr. Montague, with a questionably morbid curiosity that readers of the genre have come to take for granted in its necessity for creating the backbone of why any of the characters are there, wants to investigate Hill House.  Enter the invitees by application, Theodora, a vivacious woman, a possible telepath, who presents as being social and confident if not to the point of being intimidating in her ability to charm, we are uncertain if Theodora has any real interest in being there as such women are, it could all just be a lark for her, a non-plussed adventure because, well, what else was there to do and something exciting could happen. Luke, the heir to Hill House who provides arrogant annoyance, dipped in occasional smarm and the impetus for a romantic rivalry and competitiveness for his attention. And Eleanor, a potential “sensitive” who experienced unexplained phenomena during her youth and who, after many isolated by years of caring for her ailing mother, has become even more hyper aware of the underpinnings of the thinking of those around her and yet, strangely unable to read them accurately at times as the same isolation has created in her a modicum of self doubt. This is perhaps the most important element in the story for everything hinges on Eleanor’s grasp on reality. 
Shirley Jackson slowly draws us into the inner workings of the mind for what is an empty house but a hull waiting to be filled, its character drawn out by whoever crosses its threshold? The history of Hill House is revealed to us with all of the prerequisite mysterious deaths of the past presented in properly macabre shadings so as to set the standard and establish the cliche but what is different about this book is that direct address of that cliche as it throws the door wide open for the possibility that these guests won’t be scared by it all for they do know that they have entered a “haunted house” to begin with. What is then illustrated to us is how the perspective of one person can color the landscape as it is Eleanor who lends herself to the haunting in her awareness of it and while it begins to seem at moments that perhaps she is being toyed with, the other side of that coin is that Eleanor has become an unwitting accomplice to the ghosts of the past in Hill House as it is she who is actually the most powerful of all the guests and yet made weak somehow in her lack of awareness as to that fact.
Such is the definitive nature of the haunted house story and here is where and why this book is considered by many to have set the standard, because there’s no such thing as ghosts, silly, and we as readers, while willing to accept a certain level of fantasy as reality going in, knowing that we are reading a story and are wanting still something plausible to take us all the way there and keep us from setting aside the book until its end. That something is the potential of madness but that too must be made believable, understandable, we must be able to relate to it so that by the time we get to the more fantastical elements of the story, we are all in.  Jackson provides everything on the checklist, creepy old house with previous mysterious deaths, strange caretakers who are laughable and laughed  at in their rigidity because you won’t be laughing later because they know what you don’t and dinner is set when it is set and Mrs. Dudley will clear the dishes in the morning, Dr. Montague himself is nothing less than a cliche of the ever curious, over intellectualized…intellectual…who finds that he must play with the fire of a supernatural mystery as what is left in the regular world that would be so interesting as watching his three chosen specimens squirm. Jackson creates a microcosm of society within the walls of Hill House with these few characters and we believe and wonder because we think we know the “type.” However this is done so skillfully, with an obviousness that becomes subtle as it turns in on itself, that the reader is unaware of what it is that they have been pulled into, it’s just a haunted house story, after all, one that you won’t be able to let go of.
 Hill House is a killer lying in wait, getting to know its intended victims by allowing them to think that they are getting to know it. Jackson takes us inside the catacombs of Eleanor’s mind, layering the story with altered perspectives and slowly deteriorating perceptions. Is it the house or is it Eleanor? Is it an elaborate prank gone wrong perhaps perpetrated on Eleanor in all of her longing? Why does Eleanor ignore her initial instinct that she should flee? Because she wants what somewhere deep in each of us we all want, or think that we do, a place to belong, a place to call home and people to belong there with. With the steady refrain through Eleanor’s thinking of a line from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” we are drawn into the power of Eleanor’s secret hope, “Journey’s end in lovers meeting”  and the unfolding of her potential destiny as a permanent resident of the world of Hill House. 
 A perfect story for Halloween reading!
~ T.S.
From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

The Clown, Singing…

O mistress mine, where are you roaming,
O stay and hear, your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low,
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know

What is love? tis not hereafter,
Present mirth hath present laughter,
What’s to come is still unsure,
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

The Latest Fashion.

 

“For an artist virtue can be deadly. The urge toward respectability and maturity can be stultifying even fatal. We strive to be good, to be nice, to be of service, of the world. But what we really want is to be left alone. When we cannot get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves. To others we may look like we are there. We may act like we are there. But our true self has gone underground.” ~ Julia Cameron, The Artists Way

Ms. Cameron isn’t necessarily talking about being literally left alone in the physical sense although that can be part of it, she is talking about being “free” of the pestering demands of a world that seeks to preach and prod all of humanity into what it deems an “acceptable conformity” of placid, homogenized blankness, a veritable frontal lobotomy of sameness from which the creative true self will retreat as a matter of the true definition of what is “self-preservation.”  ~

It is human nature and a built in device of self protectiveness that if repeatedly bludgeoned with the message that who or what a person is, is unacceptable to whatever sphere they are in that they will usually then adapt to, accept and sometimes even adopt the behavior of the group even if they think, find or know that behavior to be abhorrent , or ” wrong,”  or even if the behavior runs completely counter to who they are as people, for fear of being driven out and left on their own. However, it is almost always, ironically, those who are able to stand their ground as individuals, around whom new worlds are formed, worlds that move us forward, worlds of invention, creativity, intelligence and cure. You cannot change the status quo, by adherence to the status quo.

The issue for the artist, however, is often that they really may have no particular interest in changing the status quo or anything of the kind, only that they wish to be accepted as they are and let be to create their art in peace, and to share it in joy when they choose to. However, the “world” often instinctively fears these creative people by virtue of their very existence, regardless of whether or not they’ve actually done anything to upset the so-called “herd,” as being a threat to the established order. Societies, social structures, worship control and fear change. Because what people really fear, isn’t that someone else might be different from they are, they fear that that difference might somehow mean that they themselves are “wrong” in some way, people take it personally and think that someone being different is somehow a judgement of them. “What do you mean you’re wearing bell bottoms? Skinny jeans are what’s in! I’ve got ten pairs of them! Oh my God, who does she think she is?” Most people want affirmation and validation from others, from the “group,” they want the status quo. I think that most introverts don’t seek that same kind of validation or “approval” only to have it be “acceptable” that they prefer to be left to their own devices, to be “left alone” from that pestering. And none are then often so reviled and then revered as those who “dare to be different” or those who simply are different and cannot help it, or hide it, the people who are the first to do something or who do things first.

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made, after all, what is a sun-dial in the shade?” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Can the same be said of the truth of one’s self?

Ironically, this sometimes happens in packs of wild artists too, this fear of anything, or anyone that is maybe ” too different” or perhaps too much of a mystery, that’s out, you know? Being a “normal artist type” is in right now and being a truly introverted “different” type is out. So this sometimes happens in packs of wild artists too, where you’d think that introverts would be at least accepted as such. Thus you do not much see the novelist working quietly in the corner of a crowded bar or the painter producing warehouses full work while attending parties. Doesn’t mean that it isn’t nice to be invited, doesn’t mean that they don’t ever want to attend, it simply means they are dancing to their own tune, and that is not to disparage the tunes of others. We don’t all have the same favorite song.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”  ~ Henry David Thoreau

I wrote something yesterday about my love of thrift stores and the treasures that I often find and didn’t realize until after I wrote it that parts of it could have been perceived the wrong way, it flat-out “read wrong” in places and so it needed to be edited and that’s fine, goes with the territory. But in the interim, my feelings were hurt and perhaps to the delight of many that will make me less likely to let fly with things of a seemingly more personal nature. That is upsetting to me also because I like to just rail about things sometimes or make my trivial lists of things that I love or that I think are cool and I like to share them, not for validation but because I like to read those kinds of things when others write them and how wonderful to share a discovery or an idea that maybe someone else can get off on too, find some entertainment or enjoyment in? Say “Hey…I hadn’t thought of that! I’ll check that out!” or what a good idea! Or maybe even find some comfort in, “I’ve felt that way too.” Solace. So it’s kind of creatively stifling when that happens, I feel that sense of wanting to be left to my own devices as it were and to retreat. I’ll likely bounce back from it and let fly again at some point but with trepidation. I was reminded of the Julia Cameron quote.

I think there are two basic kinds of creative types with a variety of others within the spectrum. I think there’s the “I LOVE A PARADE” creative, performer type, who can’t wait to get on stage and hear the applause, they have no problem writing the play and starring in it, and that’s great, that’s wonderful and so good for them. I begrudge them nothing. And  I think there are those of us who want to do what we do, write, paint, and maybe aren’t ever quite as comfortable with being looked at so directly, which seems to run counter to the goal of the thing in some way. The first poetry reading that I ever participated in was the second to last because at the second poetry reading I participated in I was swarmed afterward by people wanting copies of the work and asking me questions. It was a long time ago, I was younger and really pretty which is what I tell myself accounted for most of it but the truth is that if what I’d read/written hadn’t been any good, then “pretty” wouldn’t have mattered much with that group. I thought I had “stage fright” and I did not consider myself to be an introvert, but have finally asked myself, did I like being on stage? Did I want to be on stage, was I excited about it and looking forward to it and then, just nervous? I  realized that I didn’t and don’t like being on “stage” as it were and I never have.  I’ve also realized that I have long bristled at any inference of shyness and then hurt at comments like “getting you to talk was like pulling teeth.” I don’t know that I’m all that shy. I know I’ve oft been exhausted by those who thought I should be “brought out of my shell” or fixed or corrected in my personage in some way because I kind of like spending time with…me. I have “abandoned” myself many times trying to “fit in” as it were and always with great pain, I have “abandoned” myself many times because it was conveyed to me that my introversion was deemed unacceptable. However, if you abandon yourself for long enough, to avoid the pain of that feeling, something else happens and then finally that pain becomes too great as well. You realize then also that people might not seem to know who you are, because who and where have really been? Underground? What difference does it make, if it hurts either way? Better then to find one’s own way to be, to live, as it isn’t the life of anyone else.

“And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

I can no longer abandon myself, I’m not sure what that means yet. It probably isn’t the latest fashion.

Teri Skultety

The Mysterious Duet of Green Darkness.

These are just my initial notes on this, I may have more to say about it as I research.

Where do authors get their ideas?
Solving a literary mystery.

Years ago I read a book titled “Green Darkness” by author Anya Seton. It is a historical romance with a theme of reincarnation. Towards the end of the book one of the characters references a poem and gives the author of the poem as “…somebody Phillips.”

“Twas the moment deep,
When we are conscious of the secret dawn,
Amid the darkness that we feel is green,
Thy face remembered is from other worlds,
It has been died for, though I know not when,
It has been sung of, though I know not where.”

Authors are a crafty bunch. Seton gives no other reference or credit for the poem.

The author of at least part of the poem would appear to be British poet and playwright Stephen Phillips, the son of a Reverend. One of the main characters in the story is given the name Stephen Marsdon, a chaplain. While you’d have to read the novel to get the full gist of what seems the source of Seton’s inspiration, the more you read about Phillips, his life and work, in conjunction with the novel, the more the coincidences begin to unfold and the story of the story seems to reveal itself.

 I’m feeling very much as though I’ve solved a “mystery” as I’ve long wondered as to the source of that poem. It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that Seton read the work of Phillips, as well as of his life, and set to work on her novel. Seton was born in 1904, Phillips passed away in 1915, they were from different times, different worlds, never knew one another. As the novel was published in 1972, who would be the wiser? The theme of the novel is a modern romance, for the time in which it was written, set in 1968, tormented by the past, the reincarnated souls of former lovers who could not be together in their past life. It has a “happy ending” after a fashion, such that those are. I first read the novel when I was sixteen years old and have always kept a copy.

The novel is currently being turned into a screenplay but I think the possible story of how Seton arrived at her story makes it all the more interesting.

Green Darkness
Anya Seton
Stephen Phillips
The Only Place I Could Find Any Part of That Poem

Note: I was unable to discover any further information with regard to this story.

“After such argument what can I plead?
Or what pale promise make? Yet since it is
In woman to pity rather than to aspire,
A little I will speak. I love thee then
Not only for thy body packed with sweet
Of all this world, that cup of brimming June,
That jar of violet wine set in the air,
That palest rose sweet in the night of life;
Nor for that stirring bosom all besieged
By drowsing lovers, or thy perilous hair;
Nor for that face that might indeed provoke
Invasion of old cities; no, nor all
Thy freshness stealing on me like strange sleep.
Nor for this only do I love thee, but
Because Infinity upon thee broods;
And thou art full of whispers and of shadows.
Thou meanest what the sea has striven to say
So long, and yearned up the cliffs to tell;
Thou art what all the winds have uttered not,
What the still night suggesteth to the heart.
Thy voice is like to music heard ere birth,
Some spirit lute touched on a spirit sea;
Thy face remembered is from other worlds,
It has been died for, though I know not when,
It has been sung of, though I know not where.
It has the strangeness of the luring West,
And of sad sea-horizons; beside thee
I am aware of other times and lands,
Of birth far-back, of lives in many stars.
O beauty lone and like a candle clear
In this dark country of the world! Thou art
My woe, my early light, my music dying.”
Stephen Phillips.

Is it possible that Anya Seton “borrowed” these lines:

 “Thy face remembered is from other worlds,
It has been died for, though I know not when,
It has been sung of, though I know not where.”

Adding her own lines before it to create the poem that appears in the book?

“Twas the moment deep,
When we are conscious of the secret dawn,
Amid the darkness that we feel is green,
Thy face remembered is from other worlds,
It has been died for, though I know not when,
It has been sung of, though I know not where.”

Perhaps then giving the reference to the author of the poem as being “…somebody Phillips” was Anya Seton’s way of hiding a clue, hiding a key. I bet she was smiling.
I know I am.

~T.S.