Yin

But what about yin. In my later years as I start to practice yoga with more determination to stretch further, I realize that I am more of a yin than a yang person. In fact, as I look over my writing I realize that this concept of yin dominates.  I recently observed to a friend of mine, “It seems like my character always ends up, alone, in a room by him or herself thinking about life”. Without fail, my introspective nature leaches into my writing. If I wanted to write poetry, this would not be a problem, however, for the past couple of years I have been working on a novel.

Traditionally speaking, novels are yang. Think about it. Take the basic plot that you learn in elementary school. You begin with an initial incident, develop setting/character and establish conflict. Hopefully, you get all of this quickly because if the reader isn’t hooked within those few pages then you’ve lost your audience. Everything in your story leads to that final scene where the protagonist battles it out to the bitter end. This scene will be fraught with action, emotion, and near death circumstances.

Joseph Campbell took that basic plot pattern a step further when he developed his theory about the heroic journey. This monomyth is an archetypal one which runs beneath the surface details of all stories and, as Joseph Campbell points out in his writing, also runs throughout our lives. Perhaps, this is why it is so powerful and why Hollywood does so well at the box office. In spite of the superficial nature of many of these movies, action adventure stories still predominate the main stream. Heroes continue to defeat the “dragon”, win the girl, gain the riches, and return home “kings”of the world. The classical hero lives.

But what about those other stories, you say? The unhappy stories. The tragedies. The antiheroic stories. The fallen hero stories. What about Trainspotting, MacBeth, Catcher in the Rye, or even Batman, the Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen. Lord of the Flies. The Walking Dead. Breaking Bad.

In many ways, these stories break out of the Monomyth pattern. Quite often, there is no happy ending. The hero does not get the girl. Nor, does the hero gain riches or return home a winner. However, if you look closely at the stories you will notice a couple of things. First of all, they do fall within the cycle even if they don’t fulfill the entire pattern. Antiheroic stories for example, exist within the “abyss”.  In this dystopic world the hero is stuck and is unable to gain his revelation which can lead to a transformation. Even though antiheroic stories end with the hero being unable to effect his own life, the people surrounding him, his government, and his world the stories generally contain a yang element because the hero tries to create change.

If Yang is the masculine principle. If it is light, active, outward and upward moving then what does that say about the literature we read today? Have we been conditioned to read from a masculine point of view? If so, what would happen if the writer were to write a story using a yin perspective? If a story was developed upon the feminine pattern? Or the goddess archetype?

According to yinyoga.com, yin describes things that are relatively dense, are heavier, lower, more hidden, more yielding, more feminine, more mysterious, and more passive. A person practicing yin yoga strives to hold a stretch for 20 minutes or longer. The goal is not to move swiftly from one pose to the next, rather the goal is to release the tension in the muscles so that you can give into the stretch. Thus, the strength of yin is to absorb the pain and move beyond it.

I have encountered stories that are yin.  At least, they dwell longer on the yielding to life, rather than the “doing” in life. Life of Pi, Griffin and Sabine, The Tattoed Map, Orlando, and The Grand Budapest Hotel come to mind. Looking at and contemplating my list, I realize they all have certain things in common. An Eastern mindset or influence. A vast landscape upon which the hero enacts his/her story. A broader sense of time. As more of these stories make it to the big screen, and capture the attention of mainstream audiences I wonder if this type of writing will gain in popularity? Have we had a surfeit of yang, and are we now looking to balance our lives with a little bit of yin?

When I consider stories like The Grand Budapest Hotel, however I appreciate the brooding mysterious nature of time that never seems to change yet, I also love the adventure. I enjoy the characters’ moral evolution in The Walking Dead , but would this exploration be as interesting without the zombie battles? In the end, Pi’s life boat makes shore and he reconnects with life, and Griffin leaves the comfort of his home to find Sabine.

Where does this leave me with my own writing? Perhaps, it is time for my characters to leave the room. As Taoists would point out Yang cannot exist without Yin, Yin cannot exist without Yang.

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Waiting for Bill at Lava Lake

“Waiting for Bill at Lava Lake”

delicate trills of bird song
cascading notes too quick for human ears to decipher
the underchirp of ravens
and the curious twitter of stellars
poplar leaves, newly budded, yet fully present
tremble on stems fragile enough yet strong
mist is a veil on the mountains though sun shines
and warms my hair
grace and grass waft in equal amounts
over the lava

in body, tired
neck cricked to the left
stiff from a Sunday’s labour of love
internal landscape quiet
with a hint of sun

capturing the moment, stretching it out
like muscles after a long day
it’s a painful kind of sweet
~ being ~

Art Journaling

Why Journal?

  • to personalize or internalize new information
  • to process ideas and feelings
  • to create stronger connections between new ideas and things we’ve already experienced or learned
  • to retain information for longer periods of time
  • to build understanding through a symbolic process

Is There a Right Way or a Wrong Way to Journal?

  • No — Because an art journal records your personal journey to enlightenment, there is no one way to journal. Check out how these Pinterest Examples use colour, objects, texture, words in different ways.
  • HOWEVER — The more that you put into an art journal, the more you will get out of it.
  • Art journals are layered – with colours, textures, media, and meanings.

The medium is the message, and the thoughts / attitudes / actions of the journalist will affect the outcome of the journal.

 

GETTING STARTED:

Ask yourself, “Why am I creating this journal?”

  • to reflect on an experience
  • to express an idea
  • to balance 2 opposing thoughts
  • to argue a position
  • to tell a story
  • to persuade
  • to explain

Ask yourself, “Who is my audience going to be?”

  • myself
  • friends / family
  • colleagues
  • anyone

The answer to this question will guide you in how personal, experimental, RADICAL you want to be with your journal.

BASIC MATERIALS:

  • Colored pencils
  • Gel pens
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Magazines or other image resources
  • Decorative papers (wrapping paper etc.)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Double-sided tape

ADVANCED MATERIALS:

  • Water color paint
  • Water color pencils
  • Acrylic paint
  • India ink
  • Acrylic inks of different colors
  • Oil pastels
  • Linseed oil
  • Chalk pastels

FOUND MATERIALS:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • salt
  • leaves, sticks, shells, stones
  • lint
  • candy wrappers

SOME ARTY THINGS TO CONSIDER:

The Elements and Principles of Art when combined can help you to express your ideas and your emotions. Over time, as you experiment, mix, and match line, shape, form, space, texture and value with pattern, rhythm, movement, proportion, scale, balance, unity and emphasis you will find yourself becoming more conscious not only of your choices but the reasons behind your choices.

You may even find yourself becoming …. an artist.

 

A local artist and ardent art journalist can be found in Terrace, BC at Green Blossom Studio. She is a published poet, and artist. Her work can be found at greenblossomstudio.wordpress, where she also writes extensively about the process of art journaling.

The Mountain Speaks

mountain pass

Through mist and shadowed hope we toil

each foot

forward

a step toward success

eyes certain

chins firm

shoulders straight

no thoughts given to the negative space

to the freefall of uncertainty

to the sure death of anticipation

just inches from our trail.

 

“Ji six-mukws n̍iin,” rumbles Sgan̍ist

~ listen carefully ~

Over our heads a boulder whistles

followed by the clatter of lesser stones.

 

The mountain speaks.

“Ji siix-mukws n̓iin”

My clearest memory of school when I was a child is the yearly project on culture. I say, yearly, because it seems like every teacher in the world thinks that they have developed the “BEST IDEA” to get kids to not only explore their personal histories, but to appreciate the cultures that they come from. I wouldn’t say that I was a cynical recipient of the ever-present “culture” project, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthusiastic either. In fact, my general thought was that my culture was pretty boring, and I’d really rather study someone else’s culture. Any culture.

Paper That Makes You Want To Do Something

Dutiful, obedient, compliant – I would trudge to the front of the room to collect the large sheet of white paper that my teacher wanted me to fill with the patterns of my cultural background. Then, there I would sit, wondering just what was my culture? As I had already done this project the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that I already knew what my mother would tell me when I asked her for help. “You are Canadian,” she would say, “just show what it means to be Canadian”. And I would sigh and stare at that big piece of white paper. Are we Scottish? Irish? English? Continue reading

The Medium and The Message

I’m pretty sure that when Marshall McLuhan said that the medium was the message, he was thinking more about social media than about poetry. However …

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve been playing around with my  ode, and observing how this is so true of writing. While experimenting with free verse structure and language, I’m noticing how much more approachable the subject appears to be. The changes really aren’t that drastic, yet they make a significant difference in the way you read the poem. In this case, the formal elements of classical poetry distances both the writer and the reader from the subject. My students also noticed this. Some were stumped by the challenge of writing within a specific framework; some found the task an inspiring challenge; and some chose to ignore the structure completely in favor of simply “getting the poem out”. While I prefer the simplicity of free verse, I enjoy the mental challenge of implementing classical structure. It teaches me more about language; keeps my vocabulary fresh; and surprises me with complex thoughts that may never have surfaced if I had written in a freer medium.

Continue reading

The Challenge

Adiantum Pedatum

We’ve just started working on poetry in my writing class, and (meanie that I am) I decided that we would start with an ode rather than with free verse. Although I love the versatility of a free verse poem, I thought it would make an interesting challenge for my students to start with more, rather than less, structure. Also, considering the sometimes moody nature of teenagers, I wanted my students to really focus on a positive subject. Finally, I figured that I would cure myself of my antipathy for rhyme.

What I remembered while writing my own ode, is that rhyme is not easy and that conforming to an iambic pentameter rhythm sets certain constraints on how you express an idea. In short, writing an ode is no easy task. It is an intellectual puzzle. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, and skill. The emotion is still there, but, is dressed in more sophisticated garb. Also, I have learned to appreciate the subtlety of rhyme.

The Glacial Ishkinish

I

Adamantine, turbulent Ishkinish

Carving granite troughs through boreal groves

Of shadowed fir, mossy pine.  Relinquish

Your leaping, swirling, foaming fandango,

And pool aloof amidst the opulent

Black-stockinged adiantum pedatum.

There, sing of pragmatic and poignant

Travels … serpentine, green and darksome.

Teal coated transient of veiled origin

Stay. Drink. Partake. Until elsewhere bidden.

II

Unspoiled, scarlet-tongued, dewy maids of spring

Growing to frilled, black-gartered madams

Of summer.  Linger long in cascading

Syllables of effervescent freedom

Then furl your pinnate fans…

Impudent coquettes.  Wayward tomboys. Dip

Your emerald skirts into depths unfathomed

And from glacial waters let earth acquit –

Oh, you red-shoed girls with faces aglow

Teasing cool Ishkinish to sweet furlough.

III

Curling round in a lazy promenade

Through sun-sweet shadow and dawn’s breaking mist

The colonial beauties his measure sought ~

All ~ to charm inscrutable Ishkinish.

Fruitful in part. The mighty river pooled

In shallow eddies on their fields of green.

Marshy maidens let down their hair – tenfold –

Then, the brackish beck, his solitary stream

Continued. . . Leaping, lunging, laughing

Into the adamantine spray…