A friend of mine and I have been exchanging a daily list of 5 things we’re grateful for via email. We’re now on our 7 month, and I hope we continue this for the rest of our lives. One time he listed “Imagination”.
Thinking about the meaning of imagination I begin to understand that imagination is a tool we all have access to only if we allow ourselves the luxury of time to practice it. It is a practice, like other forms of discipline.
Imagination allows us to to go places where we physically can’t go – the outer edges of the universe. Imagine.
With our imagination we have created other tools to give body to something we’ve imagined. For example, math and science to map the galaxies. With imagination we think about the possibilities of life on other planets other than our own. Statistically, scientists have hypothesized that the probability of life beyond the Milky Way is possible. So we endeavor to explore and build spacecrafts and probes and radars to reach out. “Hey, is there anybody out there?”
With imagination we can empathize and know what it’s like to be in someone else’s position – their joy, pain, sorrow, guilt, shame, contentment, dreams. It is effort to practice imagining a situation; it is a form of surrendering our ego to something beyond ourselves.
You’ve probably heard someone say “I can’t imagine…” after telling them a story that is either unbearable or unbelievable. Then you say, “It’s true. It really happened.” And the other person still can’t accept the story as a possibility. Later on, she may think further about it, and allow her imagination to go there and then start to believe in the possibility. And tendrils of sympathy may grow from empathy into believing.
Yes. Imagination is something to be grateful for.
How else could we have hope to get through this period of isolation and uncertainty. Just imagine it without having an imagination.
At rise, inside a 1960s apartment building. Hundred-degree days, a waning water supply and the dire need to stay in a creative space, the protagonist gathers the almost empty bottles; she pours them into one bottle, scavenges for more in bags around her home. She can make it to the day before payday if she rations herself… Inside an old purse she finds a five-dollar bill stuck between two receipts. PROTAGONIST breaks out in a victory dance, slow and off beat, dehydration is cruel.
HOT DAMN, WATER, WATER
WHAT? WHAT? WATER, WATER
I could have never imagined that the world would start to have hints of the BIRD BOX or the BOOK OF ELI real time and that in the midst of “working from home,” the competing stress factor would be water or the lack thereof. So yes, I danced around a bit then promptly left for the store to restock.
The dehydration lasted a few days longer than expected, symbolically tied to the minimal writing I have been doing. My whole self has been crying out for community… I took a webinar on grief through Hedgebrook just for that reason. The Webinar, “The Sixth Stage: Possibilities for Awe and Wonderment When Writing Grief” with Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili, and its ‘holding space’ was a profoundly refreshing experience. Hedgebrook offers a lot of webinars that can be a source of gathering during this time. This was my first one which I took on grief because I seem to be living there as of late. Grief encompasses real estate like a swarm of bees heading home to the honeycomb looking for the sweet refuge of its cavernous walls. Hovering over loss like a tornado, it’s the bitch that won’t go away easily, not without a fight, not without drawing the last bit of blood. With the death of one of my cousins and one of my dear friends, my body which has been keeping score has begun to scream, “do over, do over.” There’s no such pleasure…
What’s left is what’s left. Or, is there a way to change something – some part – of this madness?
Maybe the do over is in the expelling of the stinger and the adding of salve and alcohol. It does help when you write about it. Even when there’s so much of it that it can fill two lifetimes, writing moves it on it way.
I am missing the pieces of me frozen in the walls, my fingers and toes have started tingling, waking up, moving, they don’t know there’s no such thing as do over’s. Maybe I won’t tell them, maybe I’ll just wait and see if this leads to deep welled water… deeper than this grief. Maybe it’s flowing upward from underground just waiting for me to believe so it can burst forth…
I seem to have forgotten – stuck here like I am in the hardly bearable heat of these walls and the “go nowhere” doors from sun up to moon down. I tell myself that I am not going to faint or lose heart, that I am going to subdue this beast one hour at a time, one day at a time, by the Grace of God…
but I really want flight, I yearn for air… I want wings and I want wind to ride. I been looking for signs of movement, looking for a great big wind to come skip-to-my-lou all through this mess, dislodge some rivers for baptisms, root up healing herbs and toss some around for everybody to have.
I want to relax, I want to float like a leaf and land picturesquely on the grass showing off the beautiful colors of my whole self. I don’t want to apologize for nothing not for floating, landing or seeking air. If I push myself, I bet I can land far enough away from here so I can breathe new/fresh pockets of wind…bet I can land somewhere east of here, near appalachia, up where lavender lilies bloom, where rose of sharon sings…
I can’t breathe here no more in this heavy porous atmosphere, it’s dropped down way too low, to the little grassy piece of earth I live on and I just can’t breathe. I thought I was imagining it but it’s real – the air is thick; thick and sticky like a glob of peanut butter caught in the throat daring you to drink water, threatening to thicken regardless…
I need air and space and
God cracking the skies…
Oh, God, blow on us, shower us with rain and the latter rain, deliver us, heal this land…
Heal the land, Father… we humble ourselves and pray
We dream of riding the night winds again, of sleeping well and waking rested
send Your wind, help us fly
lift us up high enough to catch hold
let us mount up with wings as eagles — send the wind, Lord, send the Wind…
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Writers write. Right? I’m a writer but I have discovered I’m not great at writing during a plague. I’m not Shakespeare. Only Shakespeare could turn out King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra while massive numbers of people were dying just outside the door of his stucco and thatched roof house. It’s amazing the aerosols didn’t penetrate the walls and take him out. Then again, maybe he had amazing antibodies–not that anyone knew what they were. It does seem as though cycles of bubonic plague were actually helpful to Mr. Shakespeare. Between 1603 and 1613, during a time when his powers as a writer were at their height, when he wrote some of his most enduring plays, the Globe and other London playhouses were shut for a total of 78 months. That’s 60% of the time.*
In contrast, during the first 2 months of our plague, I have written one short post-apocalypse play in which Jared Kushner gets eaten, and am mired in two rewrites. One is a full-length stage play that some people claim they want to produce when and if things return to normal. The other is a full-length screenplay I was hoping to direct later this year. But with all the concerns the threat of Covid19 poses to making theatre and films–love scenes with masks and the like–I don’t count on either project happening any time soon. What happens with my writing is out of my hands. But my hands can still write.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about writing during our plague that’s good: I am able to have ideas for writing projects and write them down. I am able to write first drafts. I am able to free-write without judging. Not judging IS a writing skill and one I’m not always good at, even in the best of times. But now? I give myself and everyone else a bye. What I cannot do as well during this plague is rewrite. That’s because the hardest part of writing for me isn’t writing; it’s thinking–the kind of deep thinking which is arguably the most important part of writing, where one needs to figure out what must be added/ cut/changed, and in what order, to make the rewrite work. The plague has negatively affected my ability to think deeply and lucidly about almost everything except what needs to happen in the next election cycle. But I digress…
Neurologists and brain chemistry experts might say that during times like these our fight or flight mechanisms are on high alert. We’re looking for “news we can use” all the time, which means we’re operating on a more surface level– Where do I get a Covid test? What kind of homemade face covering will be most effective? How can I help essential workers in my small measly way, while I’m out of a job, no money’s coming in and I haven’t showered in a week?
Being in this mental state takes up a lot of brain capacity. So there’s a physical reason why I, and possibly you, are not writing like Shakespeare. But bear in mind, even Shakespeare wrote first drafts. I like to think he too, was distracted by the events outside his door, just as I am. And he wrote anyway. He wasn’t distracted by memes, TikTok and the 24-hour news cycle but he was worried about where he’d get his mutton and mead. And so, I believe, that during Shakespeare’s plague, he wrote his vomit first draft of King Lear without judging it. Then, after the plague was over and the Globe had reopened, he went deep and rewrote it. He found a way to keep writing and that’s what I’m doing too.
And I don’t know about you but I can’t live like that. Mind you, I have enough tomboy in me for two more lifetimes and one final incarnation, but I still have a soft fragile gooey inside that gets high off of helping post-rain snails who show up on my doorstep, taking long naps, and laughing with other people in very public spaces. I’m pretty gathery.
If you’ve witnessed recent road rage or more recent panic buy, you’ve probably concluded that we can’t afford to lose that balance. That would be devolving. And how much of the mess our natural world is currently in can be traced back to the hands of hunting gone awry?
I think right now Is about being smart. But not paranoid. I was there, vascillating this week between the two.
Tuesday can’t do it, I need to act normal.
Wednesday paranoid from WHO.
Thursday can’t do this, just wanna touch my eyes!
Friday the scene at Trader Joe’s Silverlake GEEEEEEEZ.
And today, I woke up to the grey (perfect timing this rain, eh?) lockdown feelings, thinking, “I can’t write like this. I can’t be creative, I can’t be productive, I can’t be present. What can I even say? Oh, great, I’m the guest this week, holding the mighty blog pen of LAFPI. What a waste this must be for them.”
And then, I realized, “Yup. It got me.” The other virus. The one that lowers my humorous system, tugs my love vibration to come crashing down, and dents my ability to be of service.
So I am choosing to acknowledge my fear, not of the virus, but of the powers who could create such things.
How evil hearted do you have to be to think it’s okay to release a bunch of disease all over people (during rainy weather.) Vulnerable people. Fry their insides w technology. Fill us with forced vaccine/gunk? Declare us the enemy while we go on about our lives making small, sometimes big differences but not once prioritizing harm to others. Who are these people and why do we constantly give them the keys to the most important kingdoms of our minds and our loyalty? Haven’t a handful of Extremely Sadistic Hunters messed all this up badly and bigly enough?
When NBA, NHL, Disneyland, Hollywood Productions, and other huge organizations in arts, sports & entertainment began to shut down Wednesday…I could feel the seriousness — of course, we worry about our individual ability to pay the bills, but the bigger suggestions were to “flatten the curve” of an easily-spread, often deadly nuisance, as a collective, and I was all for that. All for that. Like, wow, we can all actually get on the same page about something. We passed those ideas on to our own yoga studios, school and class communities, small events, clubs and show outings — mostly met with shock, heavy hearts and initial resistance. What’s the big deal? People are panicking… but everyday more of a tipping point to comprehend the urgency of containment. I mean, how can I not be upset about some of the most biggest, baddest, most conscious and beautiful gatherings that have touched my life having to PAUSE if not STOP ENTIRELY?
So. Now what? I’ve literally admitted I’m powerless over all of this. Where is my power? I need some of my power back. What can I do?
There’s two viruses at play here.
The physical one, which is about being cautious and clean. I can keep sensible regarding that virus. Do all the things, the no face-touching, no going-outing, constant hand-washing things.
And the second one, which is designed to attack our mental and emotional state. I can keep monitoring how I’m allowing myself to be run by fear and negativity and collective panic.
So after waking up to media media social media, and articles, and government actions and lots of different points of view, I felt the itch to just go out, get shit done, and live.
I needed to breathe and let go. How? Because sometimes our anxiety can’t just be breathed away, right? I’m sensitive. I understand. I got you.
I look around. (like the Calm app says)
I see the beautiful Tibetan bowl gifted to me last night from my friend, Jodi. (Get present to my immediate environment)
I play it. (Sound healing)
I light incense. (Magical smells)
I make the bed. (Routine) (Touching soft, cozy blankets)
Put on my hat that says “hat” (Nobody ever laughs at that)
Go outside. Breathe. Pick oranges off the tree. (Vitamin D, Vitamin C)
Drive to a DIFFERENT Trader Joe’s for my Indian frozens dammit, and take the scenic route. (Calm preparation)
Play either beautiful music by Tycho that brings my cells and DNA back to the best times of my life – or grounds me back to that young, innocent person that I was growing up in Houston, TX with my sister during our school years, Erasure on loop (Remember who you are)
I overzealously wave to other drivers as I pass them. With this simple act, my sense of humanity returns. In an attempt to be sane, I look totally insane. I feel like Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker dancing on the stairs after he…well, y’know. Except what I’d brutally murdered were my thoughts of paranoia and other-ness! (Reaching out)
Choose to not text back a few people because I don’t wanna talk about IT, just wanna keep my vibe high (Shielding/Protection)
After doing all these things, this article began to write itself. My thoughts relaxed as I thought about you, receiving on the other end. I realized I could use the power of words today to comfort, relate and entertain. I started to feel like me again. And the cashier AND bagger guys at Awesome, Plentiful Trader Joe’s actually acknowledged and loved HAT!
I’m gonna leave you with the best viral links I’ve seen this week that have helped me to turn the corner on my self-care. Leave your favorite ones in the comments below. We are all aching in some way, and we need to stockpile the good vibes, and safely feel one another. You’re not alone, sweet friend.
And finally, as a former step-mom and current nanny, tutor and favorite Auntie, to the parents who are stressing about what to do with your kids this week? You can tell me to shove it, but YOU DO have the exclusive privilege and an unprecedented opportunity of being on the frontlines of teaching this next generation how to not become self-absorbed assholes who balk everytime they don’t get their way or think something is being taken from them, lest they grow up to pursue a career in revenge against the entire human race. What a great week to gather ye little ones and teach them how to sit w themselves and meditate. With you. That way I don’t have to teach them when they’re 21 and they walk into my drug rehab because they never learned how to sit with themselves and their never-ending thoughts and desires. What a wonderful time to interrupt the nonsense and say, “hey this is important. I want you to come over here and sit with me because there’s bigger things going on right now than you not getting that toy” and “It’s okay to be scared, I’m scared too, let’s be scared together” and teach them there are people, places and things in the world we cannot always control but we can sure control how we react and respond.
Thanks for letting me write in this community-focused, virtual gathering space of like-minded, wonderfully artistic souls.
I’ll be over here gathering up my oranges and shiitake noodles with sprinkled bee pollen and cumin for flavor because I’m going to get reeeeallly creative with all these random foods, teaching a few healthy people yoga and deep breathing for anxiety, making myself laugh, and Trusting that I’m being taken care of.
Rasika Mathur is a writer and yogi. She is always living the dream.
Theatre Palisades just finished a run of Ruthless, The Musical, by Joel Paley (book and lyrics) and Marvin Laird (music). It’s a dark comedy about a ruthless little girl who would do anything ANYTHING to play Pippi Longstocking in the school play. And she does, of course.
Spoiler. Bodies all over the place at the end!
When I heard about
the play, I was drawn to it immediately because my daughter and I watched all
(I think all. I’d hate to think we
missed any) of the Pippi Longstocking movies.
For those deprived of that pleasure, I must tell you that Pippi is a little
Swedish girl with amazing powers. On
fact, she is the
world’s strongest girl. She can leap from the ground and into a high
tree branch just like that! She has red
hair and a gap tooth and a father who is at sea.
is no longer living and Pippi lives in her house with only her horse and her
monkey. She has two other best friends,
too, her neighbors, Tommy and Annika, and they all have many adventures
together. (Wikipedia tells me that the original Swedish language books set
Pippi’s full name as Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter!)
You can see that
it would be a thrill to play such a girl in the school play. More importantly, it is the lead in the
school play. The LEAD!
The little girl in Ruthless
is nothing like Pippi. She is much more
like the girl in The Bad Seed.
(The writers couldn’t get the rights to that and just ran with the
The music seems to come from the
heart of the writers and one of the songs, in which a third grade teacher sings
about being a third grade teacher as “something to fall back on” sent all the
show biz aspirants, in the theater, including me, into a swoon.
It started me thinking. Wouldn’t be wonderful to invent a girl
protagonist, people would fall in love with and want to follow through many
adventures? Anne of Avonlea? Ramona Quimby? Nancy Drew? Harriet, the Spy?
Where do these characters come
from? Beverly Cleary said that she heard
her neighbor calling her little girl, Ramona, and Ramona Quimby was born. Nancy Drew was a detective in a mystery
series created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, ghostwritten by a number of
authors and published under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She was the
counterpart to the Hardy Boys series.
In 1908, Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was published by a company in Boston and sold just
under 20,000 copies in under half a year.
Montgomery had made notes as a young girl about a couple who were
mistakenly sent an orphan girl instead of the boy they had requested and the
notes became the inspiration for the book.
In 1964, Louise Fitzhugh created eleven-year-old Harriet M. Welsch. Harriet is an aspiring writer who lives in
New York City. She’s precocious,
ambitious and enthusiastic about her future career. Encouraged by her nanny,
Catherine “Ole Golly,” Harriet carefully observes others and writes
her thoughts down in a notebook as practice for her future career, to which she
dedicates her life. She follows an afternoon “spy route”, during which
she observes her classmates, friends, and people who reside in her
In 1990, J.K.Rowling was on a train from
Manchester to London when the idea for Harry Potter suddenly “fell into
her head”. Rowling gives an account of the experience on her website
saying: “I had been writing almost
continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea
before. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the
details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled
boy who did not know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”
I don’t have a train to take but can invent my own
spy route. I’ll just be more observant
on my daily walks, maybe even change the route a little. Diane, the Spy. (It could work! No?)
Remember that writing is to put love in the world, not to use
against your friends. But to yourself you must tell the truth.” –Ole Golly, Harriet
the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
This week, I was experimenting with imagery and symbols to find character and story. I approached it like a dump cake or stew, tossing the random images into the pot and stirring. I did not expect the story that unfolded. I did not expect it to come out in poetry nor did I expect the poems to connect over the days. I simply wrote the images I heard or saw. I did not tame the words or dispel the ghosts.
On my journey to write fiercely, I hope I am making progress. This was an interesting week in writing for me.