Inspiring

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Dare

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.

Seneca

If you’ve been reading for a while then you probably know that I can be pretty quick to tears.  There is just so much out in the world that inspires awe in me, so much that is worthy of that kind of emotion: sunsets with a sliver of moon, the sight of the hubster, beautiful cars and buildings, true love, kindness… The world is a truly wondrous place and worthy of deep reverence.  I say this with the hope that you will, perhaps, see me as a genuinely sensitive person, not just some nut who cries a lot.  Though, if you do, I suppose I’ve given you plenty of ammunition.  Anyhoo, the reason for prefacing this post with all this weepy jazz is the extraordinary nature of the two films I saw this week.  They are awe inspiring tear-jerkers.  Friends, I cried, A LOT.

First is Note by Note.  It follows the construction of a single Steinway & Sons Grand Piano, mark L1037, over the course of a year, from the milling of the wood to the final tuning of a single note.  It is a meticulous and deeply human process, with the vast majority done lovingly and entirely by hand.  In our world of get-it-now-and-super-quick, this film is testament to the value of art, patience, precision, and skill, where millimeters count, and time truly makes a difference.

Equally important to this process is the individual, of which there are surprisingly many doing very specific jobs. They are caring and very passionate about their craft, most working for Steinway longer than they ever imagined (decades!). Much like the people in charge of their creation, these pianos are individuals with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies.  It was both a surprise and delight to see these exquisite combinations of wood, metal, and wire anthropomorphised into various and sundry personalities: open, bright, shy, cruel, testy, boisterous, giving both their creators and players a bit of a surprise, despite their often identical outward appearances.  So fascinating!

Last night, with Note by Note still on his mind, I suggested we watch a movie, and the hubster looked at me and said, “I don’t know how we’re going to top that last one!”  Ever confident of my queue selections, I started my search, and when I saw Blindsight, a film that follows the journey of six blind Tibetan teens and their intrepid team of explorers, I got excited.  He wasn’t convinced initially, but it didn’t take long before this group cracked both of our hearts wide open.

Dang, where to start with this one!  Sabriye Tenberken became blind at the age of twelve, but she’s never let it stop her from doing anything.  She decided to set up a school for the blind in Tibet, arrived entirely on her own, and got to work.  The school is the only one of its kind in a part of the world where the blind are treated as pariahs, working through some pretty serious karma from a past life.  They are seen as burdens, not allowed to attend school (save this one), and often hidden from the rest of society, except to beg for money, their parents embarrassed and ashamed.

Sabriye was inspired by Erik Weihenmeyer, an inspiration in his own right.  He’s the first blind man to ascend Mt. Everest (and is part of an elite group of mountaineers to reach the the Seven Summits – the highest peak on every continent).  She contacted him, and they devised a plan to take her six strongest students, along with a team of experts, on a trek to neighboring Lhakpa-Ri, which stands at a staggering 23,000 feet.

The journey is far from easy, and they encounter their fair share of obstacles, but they triumph, each in their own way.  The most important message, I think, is that they are not less than.  They can climb mountains!  More importantly, they can create a community of their own choosing and be nourished and uplifted by it.  Great for all of us to remember, really.

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Have you ever received a very fine gift, one that you really like and appreciate, yet aren’t quite sure what to do with it?  This describes the fancy paper the hubster bought for me some six (!) years ago.  It’s so beautiful that I felt it required a special occasion to write on it.  And I did, a time or two, but, in the back of my mind, I thought it had an even higher purpose, so it stayed in a drawer.

This makes me laugh!  You, Madame Paper, are so special that you get to stay in a dark drawer for six years.  How about them apples?  I am such a purger, if you didn’t know already.  I like to give things away.  If I’m not using it, I don’t want it in the house.  Yet some items get a pass, and then, often times, years later, are used, and quite well, I might add.  We made a stand for our second mason bee house with a metal pole that languished in the basement for who knows how long.  It’s now buzzing with life and testament that it can be okay to not let go.

Back to that fancy paper.  I have always liked telling people that I like (or love) them, their work, think they are smart, funny, have good skin, cute toes, great style, awesome glasses, whatever quality I happen to admire or appreciate.  Sometimes people seem frightened by this (wondering if I have an ulterior motive?), as the recipients are often strangers, and I’m this smiling crazy person bearing down on them at the supermarket (slightly hyperbolic), but mostly they like it, or at least smile and say, “Thank you.”

Then I heard about a man (John Kralik) who was going through a very difficult time in his life and decided to write a Thank You note to someone every day for a year to better appreciate what he had.  It changed his life in the most extraordinary way (365 Thank Yous).  Then I stumbled upon the Pema Chodron book at the library (that’s it in the photo, too) and the words, “Give away what you most want,” struck the deepest chord.

What do I want?  How about love, kindness, validation, sincere compliments, and being appreciated?  Pretty awesome, right?  Why not give it away?  So I’m starting my own Lettre Royale Campaign (after the paper).  I’ll write one letter a week until the pretty paper runs out.  There are about fifty sheets.  I’ll write to friends and strangers, near and far, and see what happens.  Besides, it will give me yet another reason to buy cool stamps.  I like those, too.

Well hello there friends –

I am not about to beat around the bush on this one, no way, no how.  What do you think?  Do you like it? I hope so, because I really, really do.

After all of that writing about it, I decided that if I am a Writer (notice me embracing that capital W), I better start acting like one.  Step one, business cards.  Super duper lovely and ever-so-Colleen style business cards.  Many, many thanks to Marty of Bartleby’s Letterpress Emporium (how perfect that the shop shares the name, though certainly not the demeanor of one of my favorite literary figures, too).  Ever so kind, patient (if you hadn’t noticed, I am a bit fussy), and supportive, not to mention her phenomenal talent with a letterpress brought this girl to tears, even though I promised her I wouldn’t.  Not a bad promise to break, if one must, after all.  They turned out exactly how I imagined they would:  the heavy cotton, that beautiful texture, our our humble red roofed abode (drawn by me).  They are perfect.  By the by, if you live here in Stumptown and love fine paper goods, do pay her a visit.  Her printed cards are exquisite, really.  The shop is just a charming place to wander, too.

Okay, getting to the second step now, full speed ahead.  I will also be attending the Willamette Writers Conference in August where I hope to wow someone into representing me.  So, for the next month, I will be polishing  my manuscript, honing my elevator speech, typing up dazzling query letters, and generally believing that I can do this.  You know what the wonderful part is?  I am not afraid.  I am ready.  I am worthy.  I am talented.  I am a good writer and a terrific person.  Why wouldn’t someone want to represent me?  Okay, I just ventured into Jack Handey territory, but that’s okay too.  I am among friends!

So, a start.  I hope you will join me on my journey.

Well friends, I have what is surely the last of the peony photos this year and a broken record alert!  Aren’t they pretty?  Aren’t they pretty?  Well they are, and these two smell quite lovely, too.  Yes, yes they do.  We also managed to get two dry days in a row to enjoy them, but the clouds are rolling in, and I’m pretty sure that means Mr. Rain will be up to his old tricks in no time, which is okay.  The little break of sun was enough to tide me over until next time.

I have no clever segue way to what comes next.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that I want and how to get it.  I came to a conclusion that probably should have been obvious, but wasn’t, but now that I’ve made it, I feel as though I’ve been hit over the head with a hammer in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  Yet, instead of stars, I am seeing what I do with greater clarity than ever before.

I have never called myself a writer.  I have always said, “I’ve written a book,” or “I’ write a blog.”  In some ways, I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself in the “I am not what I do” way because I feel I am so much more than a single word.  I also didn’t think I deserved the title of Writer without being published.  Yet, in this way, I believe I have been selling myself short, for who will believe I am a writer, especially one who is worthy of publication, if I don’t?  It also diminished my work, made it less important.  Well, dang it, it IS important, even if only to me.

So, a change.  A “this is it” moment:  I, Colleen Sohn, am a writer.  Gosh, I got weepy typing that last sentence.  I am a writer.  I wrote a novel that I hope to get published one day.  I write a blog.  I write poems.  I dream up worlds.  Words dance in my mind and through my finger tips.  They are alive, just like me and you.

That felt good.  Thanks for reading.  I love sharing my writing with you!

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