February 15, 2011

A guest post by Wendy Hopkins

Sometimes when I get writer’s block, or whatever one chooses to call the phenomenon of wanting to write but not finding the words, I remember my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Dishman. Every Friday was creative writing day and we would be required to write a story or poem or something. We could choose a photo (usually just ads stripped out of magazines) or a starter card (a sentence written on a 3x5 card) to get us started/ for inspiration and she had binders full of photos and index card boxes full of starter sentences; enough so we could find something, anything.

I still use the photo method, it was my favorite back then too, only now I go to Flickr. It may take me a little while to find something that hits the inspiration switch in my head, but eventually I’ll either hit it, or walk away inspiration-less.

I always start at Flickr Commons, a place where institutions put their old photographs, all are in the public domain. I love the old shots and how they are artsy without trying to be; the way we all try to make our photographs artsy nowadays.

I saw this photo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/4012277816/)of two men taking photos of the grasses in Kansas in 1974. It makes no matter to me the whats and whys of this shot; the only important thing is what it reminded me of, the inspiration. (side note: the photo is from the National Archives Documerica set (http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/collections/72157620729903309/) and is some interesting stuff, especially if you were around back then).

I was an aspiring poet in my youth, not unlike many others, devouring all sorts of poetry to feed my teenage soul. When I look at this picture I am reminded of a line from a poem, “Desiderata” (means: desired things) , by Max Ehrmann:

Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Max Ehrmann was an attorney from Indiana. He didn’t start a career of writing until he was 40 years old. His writing didn’t become popular until after his death when his wife compiled several books of his poetry.

Some things are important, even if you don’t see it while you are living. Some things we do touch others in such a way that we don’t even need to be there for it to have an impact. Some things are perennial as the grass.

"Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career
however humble;
it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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1 comment:

Rob Cole said...

Thank you Wendy (and Clay). It's somewhat romantic, I suppose, how we find our inspiration for certain things. Not in the sense that most would take the word, but, just as you pointed out how the images seem "artsy" like we "try" to make them these days. I am visually charged as well, trying to see beyond the still image into the life of the subject; inanimate or not. What's its purpose? What is happening, at that exact moment... then.

Ehrmann, to me, makes a valid argument for humanity; take nothing for granted, even the simple things.. they all have meaning.

It always satisfies me to look back, to appreciate our future.

Again, thank you both!