Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Reflection as Art(ful Pastime)
Reflection as a Pastime: Strolling in nature, sitting in gardens, reposing with a cup of tea, people allowed time for entertaining their own thoughts in the nineteenth century. Reflection was almost an art form in certain circles in this era. With no television or computers, nature became a primary focus for reflection. Witness the art of Asher B. Durand where two gentlemen stand reflecting on the beauty of nature in Kindred Spirits.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 6:22:00 PMComments 0
The Nature of Reflection
Reflecting on Language: My father had a passion for words that never dimmed. My clearest memory of him is seeing him sitting on the couch, reading, various dictionaries lined up on the couch beside him. Daddy had dictionaries for different purposes and liked to use them all. I inherited his love of words and am always curious about the etymology of words I encounter. I enjoy learning when words first appeared in English and how their defintions differ or change over time.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:07:00 PMComments 0
Writing a la Mode—Reflective Writing
Were you thinking ice cream? No, that’s for summertime I’m talking about modes of writing because reflective writing is considered a mode (manner) of writing. Opinions vary on the number of modes and exactly what constitutes a mode, but general consensus recognizes narration, description, exposition, persuasion, argumentation, and expression (generally meaning creative writing, like poetry or fiction.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 9:24:00 AMComments 0
Reflection–Dynamism and Stasis
I’m caught by the notion of stasis implicit in the dynamics of reflection. When we think visually of a reflection, for example, mountains and trees reflected in a pool of water, the dynamism occurs in the act of reflection–the bending back of the light rays–but the reflection itself is static (supposing the day to be windless and the water still). I believe part of the charm of reflections is this coexistence of opposites–the stasis and the dynamism together in the same experience.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:27:00 PMComments 0
What's Your Point?
What is your point? Rude as it sounds, the question “What’s your point?” reminds writers that communication always has a purpose. We don’t write merely to put words on paper. We want to express a thought, an idea, an opinion, a feeling, even an irony, and we want someone else to understand what we’re saying. For example, the point that an image makes (whether visual or textual) must be clearly constructed. The potential irony of the two signs to the left is clear from their juxtaposition. Most handicapped persons are not going to be riding skateboards.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:25:00 PMComments 0
Voice and Vantage Point
Voice: Developing one’s voice is critical for writers if each of us wishes to standout as unique in a galaxy of other writers. But voice is an aspect of writing that is formed from many different elements—tone, style, and vantage point, to name a few. Vantage point is, arguably, the most impactful as it also helps shape tone and style.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:19:00 PMComments 0
The Hidden Structure of Writing
The word structure can evoke images of a linear arrangement of ideas, even a certain logical rigidity. Structure, however, can also be flowing and organic. The mind creates its own connections and provides its own logic if we allow our thoughts to flow and are sensitive to the relationships that emerge. Reflective writing allows us time to recognize, explore, and play with structure in our writing.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:13:00 PMComments 0
Explore Your Senses and Write
Want to write and don’t know what to write about? Explore your senses and write about the experience as fully as you can. Put a strawberry in your mouth. Let your mouth feel it before you bite into it. Take a bite. Relish the flavor. Is there more than one taste? Does it taste sweet? Wild? Slightly sour? Refreshing? Healthy? How many ways can you describe the flavor?
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:11:00 PMComments 0
Top Ten Reasons Why Writing is Transformative
Writing changes us. When we create text, the self-reflexive process of writing allows us to interact with ourselves, our minds, our feelings. The inward and outward direction of our awareness during the writing process transforms our experience our understanding, our knowledge, and our skill.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:09:00 PMComments 0
Support for Your Writing Journal
Every single day, dozens and dozens of writing ideas pass us by. Take a moment to snag some of those ideas to write about later on. I suggest using a practice similar to Oprah’s gratitude journal. Keep a Post-It tab beside your bed and each night before you go to sleep, write down three ideas that caught your attention during the day that you could write about in your journal the next morning (or whenever).
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:25:00 PMComments 0
Journaling–Sustainable Writing Practice
Journaling is a sustainable writing practice that has multiple benefits not only for the aspiring writer but also for the professional writer. Sustainability, a concept, normally applied to areas such as energy, agriculture, building construction, and more, is a useful concept for evaluating any practice, including writing.

Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:02:00 PMComments 0
Journaling across the Disciplines
Fresh from teaching this past month, I am reminded once again that daily journaling is central to loosening and energizing the creative flow in students. Every class I teach, whether literature or writing, begins with journal writing. This writing is a nonstop, free-flow of thoughts for ten minutes, sometimes called free writing. As each course begins, I observe students often starting this process of journaling with the attitude that they can’t think of anything to say. By the end of the course, they are complaining when I call time because they have more to say.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 1:00:00 PMComments 0
Road Trip Shepherdess

I may not have been herding sheep but taking even a small group of college students on a road trip can be a wandering and confusing drive. Where were those idyllic moments when I expected to be gazing at the lovely Iowa countryside or the moments when I would pull over to photograph another gorgeous barn with a quilt painted on the side?


Posted by on 11/2/2013 12:56:00 PMComments 0
Water and Rhythms: Guest Post by Nina Metzner, Part 2
Our friend’s mother has kept supper for us—a supper right out of my childhood. Boiled green beans and potatoes, chicken and rice, fresh sliced tomatoes, peach cobbler and iced tea. I am so used to eating fast food, Cheetos, and canned spaghetti, the meat makes me want to weep. Her kitchen is cluttered, every counter filled with dishes and knick-knacks. The linoleum is faded and worn in the center where there has been the most traffic. Around the edges it is still patterned, although yellowed with age. Sugar and crumbs crunch beneath our feet and some spots are sticky. The house exudes an air of productive laziness.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 12:49:00 PMComments 0
On the Road Home
The road trip I’ve repeated most often in my life runs from Iowa to North Carolina and back again. For much of my adult life I’ve lived in Iowa, but my family home was in NC, so two or three times  a year, I made the trek back and forth. I looked forward to these trips. I always feel free as soon as I take to the road, and I’ve made the trip so many times I didn’t need to worry about directions. I just took off and started driving.
Posted by on 11/2/2013 12:38:00 PMComments 0
Neil Armstrong and I
I visited Europe for the first time the summer Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, 1969. My friend Junie and I traveled with a summer-abroad program offered by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which we attended, and by nearby Guilford College, a Quaker college attended by friends. We flew to England by way of Iceland as most cheap flights did at the time, landed in Brussels where we marveled at the architecture, spent a week in Paris looking at art we’d only before studied on page or screen, and settled for the summer in London.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 11:19:00 AMComments 0
Road Trip to the Beach: Part I
I saw the ocean for the first time when I was seventeen. It was a cold, gray day but the ocean seemed infinite and I fell in love. After many other beach trips, mostly sunny and filled with play, my delight in the ocean has continued to grow. The sea and the beach always call my name.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:37:00 PMComments 0
Beach Road Trip: Part II
Before we headed on to the beach the next morning, we gassed Crawford’s Firebird up in Laurel Hill at a country store called Cash on the Barrel Head that Junie’s pop ran. In the store Walter Cronkite was always pea-green on the huge television in the store because her dad was color blind and never bothered to adjust the color. We chose sodas from the old fashioned coke case where you had to stick your arm down into a slurry of ice and freezing cold water. Somehow the cokes always tasted better from there. Junie would hug her dad and we’d be off. Sometimes we tried to time the trip so we could go to Calabash where everyone headed for seafood before we set up camp at Huntington Beach State Park, and sometimes we just headed straight to the beach.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 11:18:00 AMComments 0
Childhood Road Trips
My earliest road trip memories come from when my family traveled a couple of time a year from western North Carolina across the Smokey Mountains to visit my father’s parents on the family farm in eastern Kentucky. Interstates 40 and 75 didn’t exist then, so we usually followed U.S. 25 north across the southwestern tip of Virginia into eastern Kentucky. U.S. 25 was then a narrow two-lane road that wound and twisted through steep mountain passes and along the French Broad and Cumberland rivers. Drop-offs on the outer edge of the road plunged down steeply into valleys into what were called “The Nars,” small narrow gaps between the mountains. Sometimes we drove through the “The Nars” and other times we wound our way to the top of a steep mountains then and down again.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:41:00 PMComments 0
Mind Drift and Writing Prompts
Letting our minds drift is a good way to stir our creativity. A major pull of reflective writing is the freedom to drift, letting one idea, one image connect with another–seeing a rocking chair in a magazine ad and having it call up a memory of rocking on a screened porch in the South, sipping sweet tea and snapping green beans. Thinking about green beans brings the memory of the rows of beautiful home-canned green beans my mother put up every summer and stored on the pantry shelves, saving them for delicious meals later in the winter. That memory makes me wonder whatever happened to home canning? Do many people still home can their vegetables, or is it cheaper and easier to get them at the grocery stores?
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:43:00 PMComments 0
Epic Moment—Learning to Read
I remember the exact moment I realized I could read. I was in (hmmm . . . I think) the second grade. My family lived in a large drafty old house, and on Sunday mornings my father would get up early and light a fire in the livingroom fireplace to warm the house up. Then he read me the “funnies” from the Sunday newspaper. This time was a special ritual for me. The house was quiet. The fire was roaring. The cartoon “funnies” made me laugh.
Posted by on 10/19/2013 3:46:00 PMComments 0
Writing Our Way into Reading
Writing can help readers access a text that is challenging to read whether the text is a literary masterpiece, a piece of governmental legalize, or a novel filled with abstract concepts. If we reflect on what we already know about the topic, then it is easier to move into new material. Taking a moment to write what we know about a subject creates a framework in our awareness on which to hang new information.

Posted by on 9/21/2013 2:55:00 PMComments 0
Threading Our Way toward Wholeness by Writing
Reflective writing is a conduit for memory. One prime stimulus for eliciting memories for reflection is returning to a location where one has spent time in the past. Twice I have returned to live in an area where I lived previously. The first time, ironically, I was returning to a community just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the town that author Thomas Wolfe made famous in his novel You Can’t Go Home Again.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 10:40:00 AMComments 0
Pausing for Blueberry Reflections
Blueberries are luscious. For me, no other word is so apt to describe the taste of this fruit. Luscious. I have always loved these small, glorious berries. I discovered them in the wild when I was about eight. I lived in the mountains of North Carolina, in walking distance of my school and church if I cut through the woods behind my house. These woods were an old-growth forest of Southern stalwarts–pines, hickories, oaks, maples, and magnolias–and bushes and ferns.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 9:57:00 AMComments 0
Tracing the Blueberry Path from the Previous Blog
Directionality. Reflective writing does allow us to look inward, backward, around, and forward, feeling for connections, resonance, parallels, even incongruity among our own thoughts. These subtleties of pattern and signification are what help us develop meaning. We swallow blueberry juice from a glass and the taste carries us into the past: we remember standing in a woods, eating plump, juicy blueberries from a bush. We immediately understand the directionality of our reflections–from taste in the present to memories from the past of taste and of place. We are relating the present with the past through sensory resonance—the taste of blueberry juice and the taste of blueberries picked straight from the bush connect in our awareness. That resonance of taste creates meaning that has significance for us.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 10:39:00 AMComments 0
How Writing and Transcending Differ
In an earlier posting called “Reflective Writing and the Experience of Transcending,” I talked about some similarities between writing and transcending, namely that both processes begin with an inward turn of awareness, both processes allow the experience of moving to deeper levels of thought, and both processes result in more creative expression. In my conclusion to that posting, however, I pointed out that the parallel shouldn't be drawn too tightly. 

Posted by on 10/20/2013 9:54:00 AMComments 0
Writing and Memory
Memory plays a major role in the process of writing–from short-term memory in the prefrontal lobe that holds the current intention to write to long-term memories in the hippocampus and cortex that hold the knowledge of how to form letters, spell words, create sentences, and organize ideas. Long-term memories are later stored in the cortex and provide a wealth of background information for the writer. Memory function in the hippocampus also helps sort associations and logical patterns that we apply to organize our experience and thus shape and connect our ideas in our writing, for example, through comparison and contrast or seeing cause and effect patterns.
Posted by on 10/20/2013 9:44:00 AMComments 0
Reflective Writing and the Experience of Transcending
All writing, of course, comes from consciousness. Any ideas, thoughts, or feelings we have spring from our own consciousness. Mind is the entity that we generally give credit to for our ideas, mind usually considered some construct of the human brain that does our thinking for us. This perception of how we write leaves out, to some extent, the feeling level as well as the role that memory plays in our process of writing. The cognitive sciences can map certain stages of the thinking of writing process for us, but do not yet provide the whole picture. I feel a fuller understanding of what occurs when we write is provided by a Consciousness-based℠, approach to writing .[1] With a Consciousness-Based approach, writers not only gain an understanding of the dynamics of consciousness but also experience those dynamics for themselves through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program. 

Posted by on 10/20/2013 9:27:00 AMComments 0

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