Table Talk-By Carol A

Hello Again!

This past few months have been a whirlwind of change, adventure, and introspection for me. The following is inspired by Director Ava DuVernay during a talk at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, discussing the importance of female voices alongside Mindy Kaling, Greta Gerwig, and Kristin Wiig: http://youtu.be/ikeCA1O7ri0 .

“The work we do affects the way we see ourselves and the way that we are seen. It is vital work. Just by our very presence, we speak loudly.”

-Ava DuVernay, Director of Selma, 2014.

We Speak with Passion.

So Trust your voice

Strength that comes from within,

Critiquing the present

Whether surrounded by the most prolific thinkers [or the least].

We Speak Earnestly-

Raw/Fierce/Delicate.

Leave your reservations at the door;

There’s no scorn here!

We Speak Loudly.

Speak your mind,

With sincerity, imagination, Wit.

Our only contract is Respect.

Create, remain present

Look beyond pressures and confines of your Everyday.

Come away inspired, transfixed,

Saddened by the raw,

Poignant stories that manifest during each moment.

Speak.

 

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A Favorite by Carol A

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)]

By E. E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

A favorite poem of mine, always leaving me filled with warmth during the holidays.

“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage.

Laugh, Cry, & Reflect with Ted Talks by Carol Alexander

With Autumn comes the changing of leaves, shifts in weather patterns, and a cold/flu that never fails to seep within my household. Between sniffles, hot soup, and naps, I came across these two very interesting, poignant Ted Talks, and would like to share. Bundle up (or take that much-needed break), and take a gander.

 

1. Candy Chang’s Before I die I want to ___

A powerful Ted Talk on the importance of community and public space, and their beneficial elements within the human experience. I won’t spoil too much for those of you who will be watching for the first time, but would like to highlight two of my favorite passages from this piece:

On creating the blackboards:”Neglected space became a constructed one. And people made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times. It’s about knowing you’re not alone, it’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It’s about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.”

“Make better places…lead better lives…How powerful our public spaces can be if we’re given the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another.”

 

What would your blackboard message say?


2.  Sue Austin: Deep Sea Diving…in a Wheelchair

This poignant speech explores Austin’s journey of self discovery and transformation in the face of limiting preconceptions of her quality of life in a wheelchair. By choosing to create her own narrative in the face of stigmatization, she finds joy, among other fulfillment. A few highlights include:

“I was seeing myself not from my perspective, but vividly and continuously from the perspective of other people’s responses to me.”

-“By creating our own stories we learn to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do ‘official’ narratives”.–Davis 2009

“I now call the underwater wheelchair a ‘portal’, because it has literally pushed me through into a new way of being, into new dimensions, into a new level of consciousness.”

 

 

 

 

Through Blinding Light By Carol A

 

Through fear, Blinding light,

And Crossroads unnumbered,

I reach.

Lost before their time, or Stolen,

Or Wandering,

I reach for them.

For myself, for their beloved;

The people who’ve been left behind,

Waiting.

Wanting, looking, anticipating,

Wondering if We all will succumb in Darkness.

As We search,

I reach for them.

I reach for more; I reach for Tenderness, Compassion,

For something to bring back my Hope.

I reach for them.

 

Every so often, an occasion causes me to confront and reflect upon my purpose and sense of self. At a recent writers’ workshop in Los Angeles, my peers and our teenage mentees were tasked with stretching our Poet’s wings with a prompt on “reaching”. The presenters challenged us to delve into our deepest desires and fears by asking us to contemplate something we have been reaching for. After around 5 minutes, I beheld the blurb above on half a page of my journal.

Whenever I have the privilege of attending this writer’s workshop, the creative minds and voices of each individual present always empower me and leave me in awe. In a room of more than 70 female writers and professionals, the community enables room for a multitude of voices, from the raw to the delicate, an agreement between all of us. In our space, the community aims to be safe and comforting, where there is no such thing as imperfection or limitation, and the only contract being to maintain respect and remain present throughout each activity. We endeavor to create and be open to writing at least one piece during our time together. Most of all, after each portion of a workshop, we endeavor to reflect upon each other’s voices and experiences by inviting everyone to speak their minds and recite writings on a soapbox.

When I was younger, I started this program from a different vantage point, as a novice, and joined with nothing more than my imagination, acerbic wit, and a favorite ink pen in hand. At the time, the program gave me the chance to look beyond the pressures and confines of my school’s hallways and sickbed at home, a chance to discover other parts of myself that had always been present, though not quite given allowance to be developed.

Surrounded by encouragement and the support to simply be myself and trust my voice, I found a saving grace that lasts me to this day. In fact, after rejoining the program this year as creator and mentor, I still find myself feeling like that student who was invited to sit with a community of quirky, incredible strangers for the first time. I am empowered and always transfixed when given the opportunity to hear each wonderful story. Of course, each interaction with our mentees also reminds me of the struggles of my own young adulthood, which are still somewhat present in me to this day.

As I finished writing that five minute poem this past weekend, I realized that some of my desires from the past are still analogous with my current longing and hope. Although many years have passed since my initial devastation, I still long to hear the voices of people who I’ve lost, to be able to walk into a room and feel their presence at birthdays and Sunday dinners. I still long to travel the world and to be breathe in the air of ancient places while standing in the footsteps of the ‘Greats’. Most of all though, I just want to be able to walk and feel comfortable in my own skin, whether that be after long, discouraging days, or the happiest moments with the people that I love most. I want to stand on my own soapbox and have the courage, conviction, and humility to express my deepest thoughts and hopes. Without fail, I hope to come away inspired, transfixed, and saddened by the raw, poignant stories that manifest during each moment.

I reach for many things…

A place to call my own.

Laughter on my darkest days, and warmth on the most tumultuous nights.

Hugs and cuddles that nearly suffocate, and that bring peace and comfort with every moment.

A chance to breathe without feeling a horrible proverbial weight upon my upper body.

For understanding, for choice, for reason.

An imagination that interprets the world in color, lace, and fairy tales, with Gothic inspiration.

To be comfortable in my own skin.

Peace, though I don’t quite know what that means yet.

And Still I Rise-Poetry on My Mind by Carol A

Poetry first came into my life when I was 3 years-old. Amidst a motley crew of dolls, stuffed bears and dragons, a favorite green chair, and a new beloved baby brother, someone opened and read the first page of Green Eggs and Ham for me. I was hooked. As I’ve grown older, I can appreciate this story more: the first-person narrative, the attentiveness that went into using only fifty words carefully, but beautifully throughout the story, the lesson learned by Sam, even the socio-political implications of the book’s banning in some countries. Above all, the whimsical simplicity of this story truly changed my appreciation for storytelling. It was the first of many kernels which began helping to develop my own voice and imagination. Several years have passed since that page was first opened, and the scope of my love for this form of art has grown, from Poe to Baraka, from the Illiad to The Weary Blues. Of course, a few works always stand out to me, especially Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.

Countless times, Still I Rise has uplifted me through personal challenges. When I first read the poem as a teenager, I was going through a period of fear and grief. Within weeks of starting my first year in high school, my own teenage wasteland, I lost someone I loved to a harsh, debilitating illness. My life was gripped by devastation and sadness that I had never known before, and I did not know how to react. Stunned, I watched as members of my family whose strength kept our lives afloat innumerable times broke down. Throughout this, I was reminded of something a favorite teacher from my past said during a history lesson, “When someone dies, even the strongest and bravest, people cry”. I’d truly believed him, but I’d never seen or felt the depth of such distress until that day.

On the outside, I kept going through the motions of life, trying to keep a visage of calm, of a typical hard-working student/teen. However, inside my feelings and sense of self seemed to dull. Things which would have otherwise excited or bothered me beforehand became insignificant. I pushed people away, even feeling as though I couldn’t relate to some of my greatest friends in the same ways. All of this slowly began to change after an afternoon English class. Sitting in a dim classroom on a rainy day, our teacher began reciting several works of poetry, selecting a few people every so often to continue. I remember Harlem by Langston Hughes (another favorite), and a work from Shel Silverstein being read. Most of the verses seemed muffled, not quite breaking through my forlorn reverie. Then someone began reading Still I Rise.

To be honest, the first two verses went over my head at that point, until I heard my classmate’s voice strengthen and exclaim with stark clarity,

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

I’ll rise. I’ll rise. Those two words echoed in my mind. Captivated by the passion of my classmate’s voice, the honesty of the prose, I began to contemplate this compelling concept. As the reading continued, I began to feel as though Ms. Angelou was in the room, personally imparting her wisdom and experience to us. I related most to the sense of confidence and spirit throughout the work. Although not all of her words reflected my own experience, I was entranced by the ideas of moving past petty words, scorn, fear and loss:

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise.

Of course, each verse also seemed to imply another sense of turmoil—of fearing punishment, pain and danger when opening oneself to change, the unknown. In endeavoring to weave her personal identity, the depth of her pain and struggle began to transform and be overcome with self-fulfillment to a point where there could be healing.

As a grown woman, these words are ever present, ever resonating. Each time I come across this work, I revel in them, greeting them like an old friend, and with each reading, I discover something new within myself.

 

 

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

 

Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

Adventures in Autumn:Letters to Family Pt.1 By Carol A

Dear friends,

It has been more than a year since our bond began, and with our recent separation, I’ve begun to pour over photos and memories, reminiscing in awe, joy, and melancholy.

With the winds of a new autumn we were brought together, nineteen strangers searching for a purpose, open and ready to surge ahead into the unknown. As the leaves changed and the temperatures dropped, we started our year-long journey with an adventure, one of my favorite memories to this day. You all remember hiking into the hills behind campus during that concert at the Greek? Armed with the courage of our convictions and extremely ice cold water, we marched up 45° slopes, through brush that bruised hands and scratched holes through our jeans, helping each other over fallen trees along the way. I still get chills when I think about slipping off of that tree stump, catching myself before heading towards the canyon below. We found little treasures left behind by so many who came before, veering off the path several times, getting lost twice, and discovering the infamous tree swing. Nevertheless, the memories that we created once we arrived at the top of the hill were the true prize of that day.

Looking back, I realize that I was terrified beforehand. Many of you don’t know this, but a past of cold and scornful rejections from people I had once considered friends as a kid had left a dark, deep-rooted rupture in me that had not truly healed. In fact, the personal expectation of loss, embarrassment, and humiliation still festered at times, only curbed by positive insight, surroundings, and a handful of family and friends who I loved dearly.

As I walked from my house to meet everyone, some reflection of my past resentment started to well up, but this is definitely not a reflection of you. In fact, within minutes, your warm welcome and positive presence helped immensely in calming my fears. I tried as hard as I could not to fall back and put up all of my barriers. To be honest, each and every one of you have not only defied my expectations, but helped that rupture to heal more than you could ever know.

Since that day, we have had so many more adventures, moments which have left an indelible impact on my heart and sense of self. From getting stuck in a dangerous snowstorm that one night, to intricate games of Assassin on campus, and having so many incredible night adventures in the Bay, I have grown with every instant. Each day I was with you on our shared journey, you motivated me to be better, to look outside of my comfort zone, and continuously inspired and surprised me with support until my pain lessened into a dull ache. I know that we have had our disagreements, with tension and anger leaving some of us feeling as though that sense of precious friendship, of family could be lost. Still, I am grateful that we were able to forgive, to learn and grow together.

We have fought side-by-side, supported each other even when we couldn’t realize or appreciate the value in the moment, and each day continues to expand upon that sense of family despite our distance. Without you, my college experience would not have been the same. I would not be the same.

Thank you for sharing your friendship and encouragement.

Please don’t stop being your ridiculous, funny, inspiring, burrito and fried Oreo-loving selves.

 

 

Part of a series