Why I Am Weary Of The Cliff Notes & Reader’s Digest Versions

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                                                                                             (  Photo Credit- Wikipedia.com)

I was on a web site looking for an online course for a child of mine. And a beautiful question popped up, grabbed my heart, yanked it and got my attention. In a bold and hip font, surrounded by stylized graphics it asked “What’s Your Story?”

And I really wanted to tell them. But who would listen and who would I tell? I had a story. I have a story.

Recently a blogger/writer asked on facebook if we, her readers, would be interested in knowing the backstory to her upcoming book. Well of course, we/I would. Who doesn’t want to hear the story? Who doesn’t long to rest on the words woven around the events, which lead to passion, which feed the dream, which launch a book.

And I  wonder why and how we arrived at a place where everyone is clamoring for the “Reader’s Digest” version of events. And what value or beauty is held in stripping something down to such an elemental level that it is now called “the Cliff Notes Version”.  And who is Cliff anyway.

Bare and barely told, the story stands stripped of its beautiful. Stripped of rich detail.

In “The Three Little Pigs” children’s tale we learn specifics about the pigs’ homes. The author chooses to delve into enough detail to tell us the building materials of their homes. Was it straw, wood and bricks? The story hinges on these details. There is no story here without them.

And Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon” is resplendant in glorious detail. We know so many of the elements and contents of the mesmerizing story that takes place in one single, richly described room.

But even now, many of you reading are skimming and scanning and wondering when I will get to the “punch line” of this prose. And you are looking for a shortcut and a way out. You want to jump ahead or exit out. You want me to “cut to the chase”. But what good is it? Who cares about the chase without first knowing the characters involved in the chase. And where they live, how they’re dressed, what lead up to the chase in the first place.

Is this where poets go? Off to the place of elaborate detail. They will tell you every detail of the spider’s web. And stay there with you for a long while as you linger.

But somewhere along the way we became too busy for the details of  story. We know someone cried, but do we know or better yet, do we care that they cried for three hours, the saline drops ran down the cheek like  raindrops on a foggy window pane. One chasing the other, racing down the face. And that the eyes were swollen shut and a headache had crept in to the crying weary soul. And that she felt so alone.

Somewhere along the way we became too darn busy to crawl into the story and sit with the writer, the poet, the friend. To hear the lines that tell of the rich detail of color, texture, emotion, song, and the surrounding scene. We don’t ask “tell me about” and then wait expectantly, patiently for the rich description of the fabric, the flowers, music and the musicians at the  June wedding. And surely we don’t want to know how the light shone through at a certain slant, pouring through the stained glass windows hovering over the bride and groom like a halo. And the bells tolled exactly at noon.

What beauty we are missing when we run rough-shod over the nuances and the fine points of the unfurling of an event. The birth of a conversation. The heavy breathing of the winded teller. And the way in which she punctuated each paragraph with fear and a trembling spirit.

Do we really know the story if we don’t read the entire story in all its glory? Give it a chance to release slowly, beautifully unfurling detail on detail.

In our deep soul places don’t we care, truly about the red balloon, the picture of the cow jumping over the moon and the green room? Because without them, its just another good night story in black and white. Dull, boring and forgettable. And we were made for lively detail. We were created to savor and delight our senses. God is in the detail and He is a God of detail. In everything. Always.

When we water down, dilute and dilate we minimize the beauty, the richness. There is no musical soundtrack bound to be a best seller on itunes. It is just a short silent film. Grainy and dark.

I know a girl named Lilly and I decided to ask her about her chickens. Because for three weeks I had watched  them from my kitchen window. As they  pecked and scratched. And the rooster crowed, these weeks in the cold of March. While in “the Village” and away from home, I starred at them daily. And I longed to know more. To know the story. Theirs and Lilly’s.

lilly and her chickens

When I asked, Lilly opened up. Out gushed wonderful detail of Lilly and her chickens. I listened as she pointed and told me each of their names. Each one unique. She and I both loved the one with the furry feet. He looked as if he wore shoes on his claws, made of fur. And there was the little one from Australia. And the ones from Tractor Supply. Lilly has one rooster but she had five. All are gone but one. They fought a lot. And I asked her how many eggs they lay a week. And I know now that her favorite candy bar is Snickers. She savored one, bite by bite as she spoke, chocolate in her cheek, chickens staring at her waiting to be fed.

The chickens and the kids

Do you have time for a Lilly in your life? Do you know one chicken is named Chick-Fila and do you know where they go when it gets cold?

Do you have time for poetry? For a rich description of both the spider and his intricate web. To linger on the details. Of this wondrous life.

Would you wait for a story to be told? Would you slow down with me to hear. To listen. And to wallow around the rich moments of this life. I never really found The Reader’s Digest that enthralling. And I always associated it with the doctor’s office.

But the green room and the red balloon. Well I could read it a thousand times and it would never grow old. One room. So much rich detail. So much vivid beauty.

Oh, you stayed till the end with me. How grateful am I? Well let me see…..how can I describe my gratitude?

Joining Laura, Jennifer and Heather today in their welcoming community of writers.

the chicken at MCVL

The Cowardly Lioness Finds Courage, The End

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Joining Lisa Jo Baker and a wonderful community of writers for her five minute friday writing prompt. Today’s word is afraid.

5_minute_friday4The Cowardly Lioness Finds Courage, The End

The beginning and middle are there
But it is the end that matters
The most
It is the end that is a beginning
Really
Starting at the place where the Courage
Was found and the fear fled
Starting over at the point where the spirit of brave
Replaced a spirit of timidity
Beginning anew life of freedom, being born free
Without the bonds of cowardice and fear weighing
Heavy on the backbone and oh the weight and
Oppression in shaking and trembling

But the end is good
And the end is worthy of celebration
And it is as if all the stars shine bright in a celestial celebration
Of new birth
They shimmer and shine
The speak with their twinkling, speaking good news
Of new and brave
Shouting courage for living, courage for flying, courage for soaring
She is born anew

And it is as if the heavens light a candle on the backdrop of ebony velveteen draping
And unveil the new creature

And her name will be

Unafraid

The Lioness who lights up the night sky.

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(And thanks for grace for a bit over the five.)
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I Know Now, A Little More About Writing And Living

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart — William Wordsworth

Writing is both mask and unveiling — E.B. White

Every day I learn a little more about writing and living and how they intertwine. Does living drive the writing. Doesn’t writing come from the living.

But writing feels like living a second time. It often feels like a second go around, a chance to grab a clearer understanding. To place the lens up again with the glass wiped clean. Out from the fog comes the changed perspective. Ever so slightly, a changed experience evolves. Or the experience changes, is evolved when the breathing is released on the page.

And so I didn’t keep my promise, of sorts to you and to myself, that I was on a bit of a blogging break. Because in some ways I was still writing at the desk in the corner of my mind. Penning phrases and re-living the days of this life.

Processing the flood of strangers at our family Thanksgiving who turned out to be lovely and wonderful. Well I only spoke to one or two of them and they were perfectly lovely. I found myself too busy visiting with family that I see less often than I’d like. Do I feel a twinge of guilt for not mixing and mingling with them. Yes, how did you know.

And sitting in a small circle of family, from two to well, over fifty two, as a little one was cheered on to let her sister pull her tooth. The one in front in that Christmas song. The one that would make her smile all wonderful and toothless. The very tooth hanging by a thread, twisting and turning like a white sail flapping in the wind, nearly untethered.

So White was right. It’s an unveiling.

It’s a re-writing in the remembering. It’s life unveiled as the fingers dance out on the backlit keypads and reframe from memory the fragments of a life, played out again in recessed corners, deep crevices of wrinkling wobbling memory.

There are some seasons where slowing down the recording, the pulsing breathing, rebreathing of events seems to snuff the very life out of the living. To leave it in a dusty corner of the mind feels like an early burying of a life. An early death of sorts. This is that very season for me.

Because if White is right, then leaving the events veiled kills the potential for sharing the very heartbeat of the writer with her readers and her God.

If unveiling is sharing, these small seemingly wondrously mundane events where you may say I know, I have lived that, felt that, I am not so alone after all, then pull back the veil. To shared humanness.

We sat in the sunlit swamp with barely walkers and ones with walkers. And the stories of lives intersected like a pile up on 1-95. But rather than life-taking it is life-giving.

It is the aunt who retires in weeks after years of working and watching her face muse and ponder her plans.

It’s hearing of new jobs and hurt knees, new joints. Of aging and birth piled up like raked leaves, a collection of color and signs of changing seasons.

And it’s watching teenagers heave back in shared laughter at the giddy free falling joy of family who are more like friends and all their favorite foods, served outside by a blue river that most days is swampy muddy brown.

But today. Today it’s blue, the sky is blue, tummies and hearts are full. And the writers can’t stop reading the moments in reverse.

Retrieving yesterday’s moments which today are fresh memory. And while they are fresh, I will write with today’s breath yesterday’s breathing. Yesterdays living. Dip down into the inkwell of yesterdays still-wet stories, and stroke out understanding with an unveiling of the seemingly mundane moments.

And hope that our shared human experience gives legs to the stories and sets them out to run free.

And maybe we will all understand a little more about writing and living.

Why There Is Always A Back Story

“Say what you need to say,then leave.”

Seth Godin’s words today on his blog intigue me. A lot. His blog is wonderful. If you haven’t discovered it you should. Great insight, wisdom, and just plain good stuff there.

My heart crosses the concept of narrative and story often. I am reading “The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons, the full title of which is “Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling.”

In it is a stirring quote from Jim Harrison, “The answer is always in the entire story, not a piece of it.”

Yesterday’s sermon focused on Isaiah 40:21-31, our story, our life’s narrative. And God, He plays a major role too. As He thankfully does. And did in the sermon. Its a good thing, right. (There is already a back story raising its not-so-ugly-head here. You may want to go to the archives of the blog to read of my love for Him and some of my Christian “story”.)

So much to gnaw on. And I love stories. I seem to learn well when story is used as a tool.

I seem to remember events when there is a story woven like silken threads through a snapshot of life. Is that what story is? Isn’t that what Jesus did when he told parables. Very brief. Very powerful. Very important.

But what of the back story? The parts thinly veiled or left untold. What of the living that lead up to the event?

Are we left to wonder, to guess, to write a narrative around the unknown parts.

“Say what you need to say, then leave.” I love the one, two bunch of the brief. The potency and power in the short. In the very  intense, undiluted telling. The concentrated strength of the brief.

Is this why I love the poetic.

Is this the beauty of poetry? Isn’t this the beauty of poetry?

Can the backstory show up in poetry in a way unique to the poetry format.

There is a beautiful backstory to these pictures, of my daughter, taken by The Patient One.

I want to tell you the story.

I think I’ll write a poem. But knowing my bent toward longer forms, maybe I’ll go write a proem, entitled “Salt” because that is why the beautiful winged-one lit on the beautiful girl-child.

It was all because of the salt.

Have I been salt to someone today?

{Will you come back tomorrow to hear more on story, the beginning the middle and the glorious endings. It’s really our life narratives. And aren’t they beautiful?

My heart is about to burst wide open to tell a beautiful one of a man I know. Its his story. It is beautiful. And I will ask permission to tell it this week. What a glorious story he is having? How is your story going.}

Counting gifts with Ann at A Holy Experience dot com.

Today as I think of writing my “Salt” poem, being brief when I write (because your lives are busy and you may not have time to ready the longer posts), and as I dream of how to tell the story of my friend which my heart bends into because it is an adoption story. I have a particular fondness for adoption stories, did you know that?

….. I am counting gifts, quietly, because you may have places to go, people to see, and a story to live.

Go live it with an extra dash of “salt”. I hope I will see you tomorrow.

Linking with Laura at Laura Boggess dot com and Michele at Michelle DeRusha dot com

And L.L. Barkatfor In On And Around Mondays