“You have quite the internet presence,” said the woman on the phone who interviewed me six months ago for a part time position. “Well, this is complicated,” she continued. “I think you are exactly what we are looking for, but I’m not sure what I think of what you write. The topics you write about, you know? Granted, it’s not fair to judge you based on your writing vs not having the same criteria for all the other applicants. It’s just I’m more comfortable hiring someone whose beliefs and ideas are unknown to me.”
I put down the phone in stunned silence. I told my hubby what happened. He said, “Well, you obviously are not getting that job.” And he was right. “Just let it go,” he said. That was six months ago.
I did think, well, if she thought the content of my blog and web sites were controversial ( I don’t see the controversy), wait till she reads my novel. They would have fired me for sure, if I’d been hired.
Yes, I do have quite the internet presence, but hey, I’m out there trying to connect, trying to make a business, trying to share my inner sanctum with others who might benefit. I think it’s altruistic, in some respects. Does it make me vulnerable to scrutiny? Yes, and I knew this when I finally got the courage to write and put it out there. So what is the problem?
The problem is… this is the first thing I have written in six months. All editing, plotting, character development, research and blog writing came to a crashing halt. You don’t want to see me when I’m not writing. It’s not pretty. This is devastating to me and I am the one who is keeping me stuck!
“Do you stand by your writing?” hubby asks on the one hundredth conversation about the same topic. Of course I do. “Then this is a no-brainer, just start writing again and don’t let anyone slow you down.” God love him, he doesn’t get it.
I walk around in this state of malaise, passing by the proof of my novel on the desk, the dust covered storyboard of the next novel in the works, and think – is this what life is all about? That’s when I know I’m in deep doo-doo, when I realize my daily writing has become a once in a six month event and I’m contemplating the meaning of life – again.
It’s easy to tell my clients to do reality checks on those insidious thoughts and hidden emotions. It’s even easier to help my expressive writing clients work through their writing blocks and put their life on the page. Oh, therapist, heal thy self. It’s not like I don’t have the skills.
This is where the nude writing comes in. I thought my problem is that I felt vulnerable and exposed as a result of that ridiculous phone call six months ago. Even though I was already willingly vulnerable and exposed, having it brought to my attention somehow changed things.
Hmm, I often tell my clients to embrace that which causes us pain instead of hiding or running. So, I’m embracing feeling vulnerable and exposed. The next step is called flooding. It’s where you find a situation where you feel really uncomfortable with what ails you and work your way through. I can’t currently think of any situation other than writing this blog naked to feel totally exposed and vulnerable. So here I am writing again!
Am I naked? Hell no! Its sixty-four degrees in this house and the heater is not on! Do you think I’m insane? Which brings me to my last point, the imagination is an amazing tool. In a world of pure imagination you can conquer just about anything – and you get to keep your clothes on.
“You cheating son of a bitch! Muriel screamed at him. .. This is the first line of my novel Death in Disguise…. It took me ten years to get that on paper to my satisfaction. Why? Not because I had writer’s block, no I actually wrote the first rough draft in several months – ten years ago. It was because no matter how many times I changed scenes, sentences, fleshed out characters, I was AFRAID it was not good enough. So it sat on a shelf.
Everyone talks about writer’s block, but not many talk about writer’s fear. Perhaps one is a sub-category of the other. It was fear of rejection that kept my story on the shelf. Not fear that some publishing house would reject me. That is part of the process and I didn’t mind that. It was fear of… this is my first attempt out the door and if it is not a proper representation of what I think I can produce, what I want to produce, I’m screwed.
Over the past ten years I’ve written profusely and have a lovely array of binders containing double spaced, red inked, drafts of novels no one has ever seen. There was a problem with this, envy. I was, still am, envious of musicians who perform, artists whose work hangs somewhere, anywhere. Basically, anyone who creates and the public, even just their friends and family, gets the opportunity to share their creations. A writer does not have such availability unless they are read somewhere. Usually, that means by being published.
Yes, there are probably thousands of people who write and have no desire to have anyone’s eyes see their final product. That’s great, but that’s not me. It took taking a series of classes called, Writing from the Heart, a class designed to decrease if not eliminate fears holding writers back, to propel me through a quagmire of my design. What was it that bound me? Perfection.
I was a performer growing up and if you have ever been a performer or athlete you know the importance of doing better than your best to stay alive. Somewhere along the line, doing better than my best became doing it perfectly. Either no one ever told me perfection was not possible or I did not listen. I believed that perfection was obtainable if I applied myself accordingly.
When I performed, if I didn’t win top award or get audience response like I thought I should, I could review what went wrong, rehearse and practice more, harder until I got the results I wanted. In writing this is not so easy. In the first couple (hundred) drafts, I was the only eyes looking at the work. There was no coach telling me the weak points, the boring points. Sure, I could have hired an editor, but I didn’t have the money. Not having extra money, in my mind, meant it better be the best it can be before a professional editor saw it.
I thought, I could get family and friends to read and just tell me what they think. Give me constructive criticism. Some said they would, but never did. Others went as far as to take a copy or download the file, but forgot they had it. It was devastating and I took it personally. Thoughts like: is that all I mean to them, they really must think I write horrible, they don’t support my passion, they don’t care. The depression that followed was sometimes unbearable. The depression was caused by ME!
It took me years to relax and say, so what. The people not wanting to read or saying they would and choosing to not read, that is something with them, not me. Most of the time I doubt there was anything malicious to their behavior. I made it malicious and I allowed it to affect my relationships and thoughts. There are many reasons a loved one or friend would choose not to be involved or read something a writer has written and I had to learn to respect that and not see it as rejection.
I got lucky when my parents asked to read one of my drafts and …. loved it. I think to their surprise. I gave them another one. By the end of the year they had read all the drafts on my shelf. I eagerly listened to their critiques and chose the stories they enjoyed the most. One of my daughters came forward and agreed to do some edits. She read the story and said, “Mom, I couldn’t put this down.”
I guess it is along the lines of what Jesus said. Something about a person needing to leave their home in order to be recognized and listened to. I’ve heard this in various ways, not just writing. Nurses telling me their families don’t listen to them because, they know them, grew up with them. How can you possibly know as much as this stranger who has the same or less experience. I digress.
What this has taught me is another lesson about myself and my desires with my writing. It was not enough for me to have others read my work. I wanted people in my intimate circle to be a part of the experience. If you don’t write you may not understand this, but writing is such a passion, such a part of the soul of the writer. Writing is like screaming in the forest at night and hoping someone hears you. “Listen to me! I want to share this with you!”
Once again, I had to reassess this. Family and friends can be supportive without reading. I came to realize they do this all the time. I could relax again and move on. I decided to publish the Indie route. Not because I didn’t think I was good enough for a large publishing house, but I wanted to have complete control over the process. It was a steep learning curve and I wanted to know it all.
I created this baby, why not be there to design the nursery and do the actual delivery? I guess by nature I am a DIY (Do it yourself) person. Expand the brain cells and learn new skills. Challenge myself and face making possible mistakes. This was a big jump from harboring in my room afraid of not being perfect.
I can still hear a certain writing mentor in my life’s journey poo pooing an x-student when their first novel was published. There was a scrunching of the nose, a wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, she could have done better.” Each step of my journey I heard those words. Ah yes, wanting to impress the mentor, the coach. Make them proud! Bull shit!
Those words spoke volumes about that mentor’s frame of mind. It was not about celebrating another writer’s victory over fear and pushing his/her self to release their creation to the world. Once I realized I didn’t have to impress anyone, I could release those words and be free to create and share.
That is where I am now. My E-book Death in Disguise by D.Hill just came out on Kindle and will be out on Amazon in paperback in 90 days. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in the 1950’s. I’m ecstatic! I think. Now I face a whole new set of demons I place in my own head. Is there ever an end? Sure, If I make it so.
If you write or want to write, my advise to you is evaluate the thoughts you tell yourself about you, your writing and your expectations about people in relation to your writing life. Then write! Just do it! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection.
Here is the back cover synopsis of Death in Disguise:
Kelly Anders is a beautiful woman with a secret that kills. When she disappears from the scene of a 1955 brutal murder everyone is stunned. Especially her boyfriend, Al Brodrick. Her disappearance spawns a gruesome spree of sexual assaults and mutilations leaving the small police force of Highgate Falls baffled and town’s people terrified. Accusations fly as Highgate Falls realizes things are not always what they seem. Al Brodrick joins forces with retired FBi agent, Ira Jonesson, and the local police to stop the predator from killing again and to find Kelly Anders – if she is alive.
We had another oddity in our household last night. Maybe it was over active imaginations or we bumped into something paranormal in the night. In this house, it could be either or both.
It is not unusual for me to get bolted awake about 2:30 – 3:00 in the morning on a regular base. Sometimes, it becomes annoying enough to stay awake past the 3:00 hour just to prevent the jolt. Tonight I’m staying awake to write this blog and straighten my office.
I think I have mentioned in the past that this house has some unusual things happening from time to time. Things that paranormal researchers would call residual haunting such as snippets of conversation in the same location between two people we can’t see.
Then there is what they call intelligent haunts. There is a woman that has whispered my name in my ear. On one occasion I was outside trimming bushes that same voice demanded I go back in the house. It startled the he—out of me. I went inside to find smoke spewing everywhere in my kitchen. Then there was the time my mother was visiting and awoke to find a woman sitting on the bottom of the bed. The woman smiled at her and vanished.
Three other oddities are seeing shadows of people darting around corners and this blue haze about four or so feet tall in a bedroom doorway. Our animals will also suddenly come to attention and studiously watch nothing (usually in the same location) and track it across the room and then resume their normal activities. We try to distract them without luck. Sometimes they growl or their hunches raise – there is nothing there. The third is that the smell of cigarette smoke will come out of nowhere (no one in the family is a smoker), linger around me, though others coming near me can smell it, and then disappear.
The last and the most prevalent thing, is what they call poltergeist activity. Things that move on their own and we can’t figure out why. The most common in this house has been closed doors opening and then slamming shut. The most bizarre to us was the night when the dining room chandelier started swinging, increasing its arc back and forth. The grandkids were seated at the dining room table quietly watching when one asked if it was going to fly off and hurt someone. Feeling ridiculous, I said, “Stop moving the chandelier.” It stopped without slowing down. Leaving two little girls asking their grandma a lot of questions she could not answer.
Last night the door that divides the downstairs from the upstairs opened. This door frequently is subject to erratic opening and shutting. We had company one night and the door quietly opened all the way. A moment or two went by and it quietly, slowly closed again. Everyone looked at me and I just said, Oh well.
We’ve tried experiments with air flow, windows open or shut and the air conditioners on or off without discovering the answer. We have learned that my cat has learned how to put her paw under this door and with persistence, pop it open so she can visit me in the office.
I bring all this craziness up because earlier that morning we were sitting in the dining room talking about the battle at Gettysburg and comparing it to the ones at Anteidem and Fredericksburg. Like typical, the talk eventually got back to the topic of ghosts, specifically ghosts and Gettysburg. Most specifically the books, TV specials and ghost tours compliments of author and researcher, Mark Nesbitt.
My one daughter tells me she is afraid to look out windows at night and almost refuses to take another ghost tour because a story Nesbitt documented on his tour. It’s called, The Story of Blue Boy. He is a phantom child who froze to death outside a dorm at Gettysburg College and continues to appear by looking in a second floor window. That’s a powerful ghost story.
I got to wondering how many fears result from experiencing the tale of the paranormal activity instead of actually having one. I started asking around and was a bit surprised at the answers. People who are afraid of mirrors, opening elevators, looking into binoculars, open closets, quija boards, cemeteries, sleeping alone, sleeping without covers, sleeping in the dark, looking out windows at night, answering the door at night, dolls, clowns and walking down the streets of Gettysburg or the battlefield at dusk or dawn to name a few. All because they heard, read or saw a reenactment of a ghost story not because they have had an experience.
What amazing power. I’ve seen people on ghost tours look increasingly uneasy as the tour progresses and I know people who have stayed awake all night with the lights on after reading a Steven King novel. Is it fear of the unknown, the out of control, potential lack of safety or the telling of a great tale?
According to the Center for Religious Studies, over 70% of Americans believe in something supernatural. Be it ghosts, angles, demons, miracles, curses, God, heaven, hell, Satan and so on. Are we taught to fear or mock and ridicule instead of embrace and explore? As quantum physics unfolds new theories of the cosmos that render credence to the ability for other dimensions and planes of existence to occur, will our fears lessen? Or as long as the story teller provides the right atmosphere and hits just the right nerve, we are forever in their grasps no matter what we believe?
Social scientists will tell you ghost stories are sweeter if the society that breeds and reads them is in a state of flux. Uncertainty in the world brings a need for understanding and demonstration of our fears of the unknown manifest in the ghost story. Or is it, the more upheaval, the more energy and the phenomenon manifests itself more readily making society more sensitive to the paranormal and the ghost story?
Wait a minute, I hear something odd. Okay, no problem, it’s just the door between the downstairs and upstairs. Damn cat. No wait, it just slammed shut. I don’t think she has that skill.
There is a rhythmic creaking of the stairs like someone heavy footed is slowly coming up the stairwell. Everyone should be asleep. Its 3:05 a.m. and even if someone is awake why would they be wearing heavy boots?
The hair on my neck tingles and I shudder at the chill in the air. It’s a nice night; there shouldn’t be a sudden chill from anywhere. My heart races and my hands sweat.
There is another creak outside my office door. I get up from my desk and reach out to take hold of the knob, but hesitate. Do I really want to know what or who is on the other side? It can’t be anything harmful, can it? I’ve never been harmed by these things before, but what if this is different? I take hold of the glass, door knob and slowly turn.
What makes a good ghost story? Is it the retelling of personal events in order to find others with similar experiences? Is it evidence in a world where we know so much, that there is so much more we don’t understand? Or is it all the above and then some?
The door opens; the air is thick and oddly sweet and my hair is still on end. I’m all alone or am I?
We hadn’t seen each other all summer. For the past two years we’d taken a writing workshop at a place called Write from the Heart run by Melissa Green. It’s designed to encourage writers to put behind the critics of the past and learn to listen to their inner, creative voices.
On a whim, I asked my friend to check out an Irish Pub in Lancaster and she agreed. We got lost, driving literally in circles for over an hour saying things like, “Didn’t we pass that pizza place before?” Yes, we have.
Out of the blue, my friend says, “You know, there is some reason we’re supposed to be going in this circle. There is something or someone in the center of this circle that’s going to become very important to us. Isn’t that exciting? I wonder what it will be.”
A day later, both of us have talked to and signed up with Melissa Green’s Write from the Heart. Her place is located smack center of the circle we forged the night before. This event is not surprising to my friend and intriguing to me.
Melissa’s studio is an hour from us and I quickly find that the conversations to and from are not only affirming but spiritually awakening. My friend and I have had near death experiences and are on the same wave-length. Together what blossoms are beyond what either of us could ever accomplish alone.
Life happened and each of us had to stop attending the workshop for various reasons. That was the beginning of the summer. Although both of us stated we felt spirit was taking us in new directions, to build on the journey we started with Write from the Heart’s wonderful experience, it was saddening.
The summer for me was plagued with death, multiple surgeries for my daughter, trying to run a new business and learning to live minus one income. Every week when time came for our normal rendezvous for class, I could feel my heart and soul ache. Yes I missed the class, my writing buddies and Melissa. But what I really missed were the conversations on the drive to and fro.
It hit me, this was ridiculous. Call the woman and get together. We don’t need to drive to Lancaster to have spiritual conversations and enlightenment. We can go someplace else and talk. Gettysburg pops into my mind but I dismiss it. I want someplace spiritual, not historical. I think The Grotto.
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine to Saint Elizabeth Seton. It’s a fabulous place to relax, pray, meditate or just enjoy the mosaic art works and mountain environment. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. This is one of the places I normally hit in times when I need to clear my head.
I gave her a call and find out she’d been experiencing the same longing. So we eagerly set a date, her house for dinner with her family then a drive to The Grotto.
Just as I’m getting in my car, a horrendous storm hits but I keep going. The main road leading from my house to my friends surges with rising flood water. Cars stall, truck-made waves wash over entire vehicles. I pull into a parking lot, pull out my cell phone and call her. There is no way I am continuing. It’s too dangerous.
She tells me she is only a couple miles ahead of me on her own way home. She is looking at blue sky. I look out into the distance and see a small patch of blue. Okay, I’ll keep coming but I tell her The Grotto is no longer an option. She says, “Let’s wait and see which way spirit takes us.” I agree and head out into the flooding street.
By the time I get to her house, the sky is blue, the rain gone and the roads just wet. We have a great chicken potpie dinner with her family and she says, “Well, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go to The Grotto,” I tell her. I’m looking out her kitchen window at the soggy ground. I don’t even know if The Grotto is open at seven o’clock on a Thursday evening. What the hell? “Let’s do it.”
We get in the car and drive the half hour to The Grotto while catching up on our summers. It’s a quick drive to the Catoctain Mountains. We climb the narrow road up the mountain and stop short. There is a gate across the road. The Grotto, situated at the top of the mountain, is closed.
“Now what do you want to do?” She asks me. “Where do you think spirit is leading us?”
Gettysburg pops back in my head. I am reluctant to say anything because I feel like I’m obsessed with Gettysburg Battlefield. But the feeling is strong enough to speak. “I keep thinking Gettysburg.”
“Oh my gosh! I’ve been thinking about Gettysburg all day! When you called I thought, Gettysburg! We need to go to Gettysburg. That is why The Grotto is closed!” This, in an odd kind of way, makes sense to me. I turn the car around and head to Gettysburg.
There are several exits into the borough and town of Gettysburg from US 15. She didn’t care which one we took. She says, “Clear your mind and head in the direction you think we are supposed to go.” I took the Taneytown exit and wound up on the battlefield.
It’s now 6:45 pm. As we enter a main thoroughfare of the National Park grounds my friend says, “Whenever I come out here, I get this feeling that says stop. There is something about that location that I’m supposed to experience.”
“Okay, well, if you get that feeling, tell me and I’ll stop.”
“Stop.” She immediately states so I pull over. We are about one hundred feet from the old Cyclorama overlooking the high water mark of Picket’s Charge. “Did you see him?” She asks me.
The park is surprisingly busy for a Thursday night in September. The series of bad storms rolling across the county would have fettered any daytime visit. It looks like a lot of out-of-town guests are taking advantage of the evening’s clear weather. Among all the cars and people wondering in and around canons sits an older man with a very large, Irish Wolfhound. Yes, I’d seen him. He and the dog were hard to miss.
We get out of the car and wander over and say hello. The dog’s name is Tanner. He stands seven foot four inches on his hind legs and weights two hundred and forty pounds. He is without a leash and his owner informs us it’s not necessary.
The name of Tanner’s owner is not reveled to us. This is okay because we are also nameless. We spend a short amount of time exchanging niceties. He lives in Gettysburg and routinely walks his dog around the battlefield looking to meet interesting people and soak in the spiritual nature of the location. Normally, he states, he sits on Little Round Top but tonight he was called to sit where we found him.
The conversation takes a turn. The man has had a near death experience that changed his life. We haven’t told him we share this trait and my friend shoots me a look of, see I knew there was a reason we were supposed to stop here. For about an hour we talk about crossing over, God, the universe, life as we know it and this place called Gettysburg. The whole time we are talking, I keep looking over at several cannons and ammunition wagons positioned where original cannonades resonated across the field.
Tanner’s owner has not experienced anything he would call paranormal on the battlefield but definitely has at his home. He sees the battlefield as alive, as spiritual and it calls him here. My friend shoots me another affirming look.
I have experienced things on the battlefield and I tell him so. This prompts him to talk about a friend of his who writes books on ghosts in Gettysburg. He’s questioning some of the stories his friend has written which I think is funny considering he just told us several personal, paranormal stories. I start telling him about my experiences with unexpected things in photos, voices and sounds I’ve heard, odd smells and apparent apparitions on or around the battlefield.
It’s nearly, completely dark. Tanner’s owner looks over at the cannons I’ve been eyeing off and on and says, “Don’t they look lonely? I often think of them as animated. They spend all day being touched, having their pictures taken with people, telling their story. But by night, they are lonely sentinels on this sacred ground.”
This hits me, really hits me and I take a photograph of with my cell phone and send myself a message that reads, lonely cannons. It’s profound in my mind, but I don’t know why.
The conversation comes to a natural conclusion and we get in my car. Tanner and his owner get in theirs. We beep goodbyes and go our separate ways never having exchanged names. We are just three people drawn to a place in time for an unexpected conversation.
My friend has never been on the battlefield after dark. It’s a profoundly sobering time to visit. There is a minimal amount of visitors. The place is quiet, shadows deep and the mind can better attempt to sink in what happened on those three horrific days in history. It’s incomprehensible. No matter how many times I visit in an attempt to understand it won’t sink in.
I deviate from the Auto-tour route to show her several of my favorite monuments and end up beside the area known as The Wheatfield. Our car windows are down. The air is different here. I’ve been here many times and I’ve never experienced this feeling. It’s a tingling on our skin like static electricity, our throats feel tight making it hard to swallow and my friend feels a bit queasy.
I have no intention of stopping the car. We round the bend and the feelings stop – for both of us. I pull the car over and we try to process what happened. It was damn odd and not pleasant. Both of us have experienced heightened energy before. Times when the air is charged where there are high magnetic fields, standing near large electrical towers or during lightening storms. That’s what this felt like.
I pull the car back onto the road and we drive through the woods and end up at Devil’s Den. To my surprise there is only one other car here. Usually, at night, I find this is the most popular place to find other visitors.
I stop the car and we get out. Using the light from my phone as a flashlight, we wander past the granite megaliths known as Devil’s Den and walk up the road around to the back of the rocks. In the not-to-far distance we hear the sound of a rumbling explosion and stop.
“Thunder?” She asks.
“Too low,” I reply and we stand quiet waiting to hear it again. We don’t and I tease, “Its cannon fire.” Then add, “Maybe there is a reenactment nearby.” We shrug it off and return to walking up the darkened hill.
At the top of the hill, directly behind Devil’s Den is a very tall, lone tree. It stands very close to the location where my hubby captured a white form of what looks like an apparition of a soldier. My friend identifies the tree as a place where she and a cousin spent several hours sitting and soaking in warm, positive energy.
Devils Den is made of granite. This entire area is granite and quartz heavy. I know both stones hold and radiate energy. That’s why we use them in computers, watches and why they don’t want you to use granite as a counter top. It emits radon. I’m not surprised she feels energy here.
I get several feet from the tree and get a sensation of disorientation. I can barely keep my balance. Before I can say anything, my friend tells me she feels odd, her stomach is turning over and she smells something metallic. I don’t smell it but I immediately think of blood. I unfortunately know very intimately the smell and taste of large amounts of spilled blood. It’s metallic. I don’t tell her this. I don’t think she’d understand but I could be wrong.
She reaches over and places her hands on the tree. I don’t want to go near the tree. Every time I get too close the equilibrium problem hits again. She says, “Take a picture here, how about here?” I do this and nothing shows up but darkness, a shot of her with the tree and one that has some fog.
I really feel like the world is spinning one way and me in another. “We need to leave,” I tell her.
We start heading down the hill and she grabs me. Both of us are having a hard time keeping balanced. I think this is nuts and tell her I want to do an experiment.
I walk away from the tree until I feel normal again. Then I turn around and walk till I start to feel ill. I do it several times. I have her do it. It makes no sense. I wish there was some meter or devise we could use to measure any static electricity or high magnetic current. Prove one way or another that what we are feeling is nothing more than being in near-darkness on uneven ground with over-active imaginations and low blood sugar. We don’t have anything like that so we head back to the car with more questions than answers.
We get in the car and head up to Little Round Top. Normally, I love to look out over LRT. The view is stunning and it‘s a favorite place for many people to lay on the large granite rocks and sunbath. Sunsets from this point are beautiful no matter what the season. This time, I slowed down but decided not to stop. Something didn’t feel right and besides, it’s dark, what was there to see?
My friend sighs and says, “I’m glad we didn’t stop, I don’t feel well.” Another oddity? I think one of us really has an over-active imagination, ESP or something. We stop at the stop sign and continue across the road.
Almost immediately, I feel like I’m going to vomit. My chest hurts like its being crushed (I actually know what this feels like) and it’s hard to breath. I get a sharp pain in my eye and a vicious headache making my eye water. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was having a physical flashback of the car accident where I was partially crushed in my car, medevaced and endured medical torture before I died of shock. The flashbacks come on that fast and are horrifically painful. Only I never damaged my eye and I have not experienced anything in the past couple minutes to suddenly throw me into a flashback.
I drive the van forward several hundred feet and slowly, the feelings subside leaving me with a mild headache, a watering eye and some mild agitation. My friend tells me her stomach is very upset and wants to leave. So do I.
The road ends up across from the old Cyclorama where we had met Tanner and his owner. I look over one more time at the lonely cannons and am glad they are not as animated as Tanner’s owner imagined. They look tragic, lost, shocked and filled with pain, fear and disbelief. They remind me of the me no one sees during the day and only a select few have seen at night. They remind me of my PTSD and my seaming lifetime of struggle to survive and thrive.
Those cannons are sentinels to the souls of thousands of men never identified, buried and forgotten, witnesses of horrific screams of agony and death. They are the watchers of a history we should never forget but continue to repeat. They are the lonely watchers of the ghosts of Gettysburg surviving through time, telling their story.
As we leave the battlefield I am reminded, there are some things that can’t be explained. Other things even if I could explain very few people would understand. But I’m not alone. Like my friend, like Tanner’s owner, we are a regiment of people having experienced something on the fringe and yearn for understanding. For this reason, we come to Gettysburg.
Go ahead and shake your head but to create is to live. It does not matter if its writing, sculpting, painting, dancing, music, drafting, engineering or finding a new way to make pot roast. We all create. Yes, even those of you saying, I don’t have any talent or a creative bone in my body. Yes, you do. It’s in your code, your DNA.
Think of what the world would be like if there was no such thing as being creative. You can’t because the world as we know it would not exist. Animals create, plants do and what’s that word… procreate.
Okay, that’s a stretch. The point is, we all do this, need this and yet so many people are under the impression that “to create” is a frivolousness activity outside productive society. They are wrong. It is the very fabric of society.
According to many studies, children who are encouraged to use their imagination, who are involved, exposed to creative endeavors score higher on tests in school and do better at seeing options in life others miss.
Creative thinking utilizes imagination, exploration of options, reflection and critical thinking skills. In an article, Art in Schools Inspires Tomorrow’s Creative Thinkers, Without the arts, education’s grade is Incomplete, by Jeffrey Schnapp, he discusses how creativity and the arts are essential to reading, writing and arithmetic. They are all interconnected like the spider’s web, the fabric of life.
Creative people ask the hard questions such as, how can I get ideas, information and communication from one person to another. What would happen if I stepped aside from the familiar and public confirmatory? What new thing or idea could I imagine and create?
Without this, there would be no internet, computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, cars, refrigerators to name thousands of others. Not to mention all the entertainment we use daily from music, television, books and games (like Candy Crush, which I am currently addicted). And don’t forget the photographs, paintings, textiles, clothing, furniture and house styles we use.
So, tell me, where don’t we use creativity, our talents and the arts? Isn’t it odd that when you look at creativity this way, how silly it seemly to take money away from the creative endeavors in schools and choosing to put kids in competitive venues and watching test scores instead. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the individual and society to have balance between the three?
According to Schnapp, Nazi Germany and the Taliban both tried going the route of eliminating creative thinking and art. I think we know the rest of their stories.
My writing coach, fiction, song writer and poet, Melissa Green, runs a non-profit organization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania called, Write from the Heart. Her goal is to inspire the creative spirit and to support those who have encountered resistance or fear when trying to express their creativity through writing. As I meet other writers under her wing, I am often amazed at hearing the insidious ways many were drilled from childhood that being creative was wrong. Being artistic was not appropriate. I, thank goodness, came from a very creative, artistically supportive environment. I can’t imagine growing up in that kind of environment.
Last evening, Melissa presented a short quote from Hugh Prather’s, I Touch the Earth, The Earth Touches Me. It is: “There were seventy five people in the lobby and only a seven year old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on a marble floor.” At first this seems absurd. But think about this. What if everyone took the time to explore and contemplate the merits of sitting on a marble floor? What if Orville and Wilbur Wright hadn’t explored the merits of travel by air?
Today, be extra creative! Even if it means putting an extra potato in your pot roast.
More information about Write from the Heart, http://www.writefromtheheart.us/
Loosen up; she says with a chuckle, you’re wrapped way too tight
With a grin, I know this but can’t stop
With extreme highs and lows I eat and sleep this
Loosen up, she says, and I hear her wisdom though she does not know
With regret and remorse my body won’t let me rest
Sisters laughing and pretending to be the fab four
A Hard Day’s Night left us screaming in the aisle
A hard day’s life when she suddenly died
Sisters at a cemetery, one of them reposed in the ground
A hard day’s night becomes a hard day’s life
Blonde on a kid’s show freezing in front of the camera
Sets that fall down and costumes that rip
Sets bright with large splashes of blinding light
Blonde kid so shy she hides in a dark world of her design
Sets up a place for an insidious void that convolutes
Universal horror monsters alive on TV late Saturday night
My first role, the fat witch on a flying machine
My attempts to memorize lines and moves
Universal applause and laughter when I fall off the stage
My parents smiling, happy, it’s all for my sis
Twirling a baton, I’m the youngest in the group
Talent and determination turns heads
Talent keeps everyone too busy to think
Twirling, is life’s temporary amnesia from blood and death
Talent, cursed or blessed, we still have Sundays at the cemetery
Learning to skate, meet Peggy Fleming, I’ve decided my path
Bruises, practice, auditions, rehearsals
Bruises, sprains, get up and do it again
Learning to tough it out, I’m the youngest in the show
Bruises, box dinners, homework and life in the car
Costume calls, pins and needles, hat is too big
Dress rehearsal is very boring
Dress is too tight, it’s the wrong size
Costume seamstress yells at me for getting taller
Dressed and made up by strangers
Homework on the run, another rehearsal, another dinner in a bag
Quick costume change, pushed out on stage
Quick roar of the crowd, flashes of light
Homework, remember how to stop skates from catching costume
Quick thinking prevents Ziegfeld Follies’ hat from toppling
Another day, another show, skate broke, costume ripped
Lead male skater is so dreamy
Lead female skater is such a bitch
Another dress rehearsal three hours too long, tempers flair
Lead me home, too achy and tired to think
End of the show, time to return back to the baton
Start at five and practice till school
Start homework on bus, practice till bed
End another day with drums pounding rhythms against my skull
Start tomorrow drum line pounding, choreography to learn
Stand before the directors, while they choose this outfit not that
Coaches for percussion, music and dance
Coaches for choreography, military baring and baton
Stand before the manager showing the upcoming schedule
Coaches not buses to carry all our crap
Run around and date actors, dancers, musicians and performers
Practice till my fingers blister and bleed
Practice till I can physically practice no more
Run around and find the most outrageous things to do to feel alive
Practice equals louder applause which equals perceived love
Awards come in a landslide of marble, gold and ribbons to many to count
Audiences bigger and applause profound, I want more
Audiences demanding greater feats, I’m willing to give
Awards for outstanding entertainer, how much higher can I go
Audiences are a fickle lover, self centered and giving
More, the press says, can we have your picture, please
Little one wants to grow up to be like me
Little one wants a hug; a group photo would be nice
More insanity, I love this but I need to find a release
Little pieces of me fly off into space, spirit catches giving me grace
Harder practices, demanding routines and radical ways to cope
Applause now an addiction, I can’t stop even if I wanted
Applause is drowning water, no longer quenching my thirst
Harder demands on my body, mind and soul, but I can give more
Applause has become the only way I feel alive and loved
Left, right, left, your positioning is not quite right, do it again
Redo the entire concepts of acceptance, love and peace
Redo the bandages on my bleeding blisters and take another pill
Left lying on the cold practice floor to fall asleep, nirvana
Redo the muscle rub while remembering the death that started it all
What do you mean you lost your step in stanza four
You call that making love to the audience
You call that a top notch performance
What’s wrong with you, we all have something at stake
You need some kind of help, something’s not right
Judges pass bribes, try to mess me up and get into my pants
Friends listen to my suicidal rants on the phone
Friends say I’m arrogant and need to pull in my ego
Judges demand more of me because I’ve been around
Friends back away, some say goodbye, they can’t relate
Dreams in dark music, applause, self hatred and death
Survival says be one with the stoned guy on the bus
Survival says join him and never look back
Dreams full of rage and remorse; I’m not good enough to last
Survival is swimming out to sea and never coming back
Ambulances are always ready at the end of my performances
Pain, strain and exhaustion, I collapse
Pain and hospitalizations, weekly events
Ambulance drivers joke, here she comes again, poor kid
Pain is having blown veins from too many IV pushes
Cemetery where my sister rests is inviting, I love to sleep there
Terror fills my soul, soon the applause will end
Terror is a free fall with no one there with a net
Cemeteries are great places to recover when in withdrawal
Terror is raging out of control and no one knows why
Rage is what I felt destroying my bedroom, leaving trophies in the wall
Traveling to Africa gave me new purpose in life
Traveling taught my internal camera how to see
Rage is what I felt about human suffering in the world
Traveling made empty audiences transform into humans in need
Begin college studying radio, television and film production
Fall into the world of anthropology and social work
Fall into finding paranormal ways to get my rush
Begin filming documentaries and stills for museums
Fall in love and make passion the new addiction
Digging in the dirt as an archaeologist assistant and living in a tent
Filming documentaries and stills is not enough
Filming and showing bizarre personal creations stirs my soul
Digging round for any evidence of my sister, the paranormal
Filming detaches me from my pain and shows others its gore
Deadlines for films, photo shows, exhibits and pass the popcorn
Give us just one more set by tomorrow
Give us a rough draft, get it right
Deadlines take the place of coaches and managers
Give me an audience to entertain, some caffeine, a pill
Drunk driver eviscerates my life, decapitates my friend
Medical torture, no time for anesthesia, you’re going to die
Medical surgery not going well, I see the monitor flat line
Drunk driver gives me a Near Death Experience and new birthday
Medical trauma fuels my rage and an addiction nothing will quench
My experience teaches me much including the delicate nature of time
Flashes of performing memories past embrace me
Flashes of my past performing show me a universal stage
My uptight nature gets in the way of spiritual awakening and growth
Flashes of my mangled body assault me and I rage again
Now I embrace, explore my surreal reality and help others find theirs
Education, degrees and life aid my helping those in emotional pain
Education, writing, photography and outreach in constant production
Now If I can only loosen up and not be so wrapped tight