An Adventure

Monday Morning Musings:

“‘I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’”

–Lewis Carroll, “The Lobster Quadrille,” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

I’ve been on an adventure since last Wednesday. Just so you’re clear, it’s a Merril Adventure, so it doesn’t involve car chases, hot air balloons, or ski slopes; no danger involving avalanches or volcanic eruptions. I’ve not been caught in a coup, nor been accused of spying. I’ve not encountered a single lion, tiger, or bear. However, I have seen ponies. (I’ll just pause here for you to say, “awwww.”)

 

It’s an adventure involving women, friendship, and writing. In fact, I’m on a writers’ retreat. It’s not an “official” retreat, that is, it’s not sponsored by a group or organization. That also means there is no pressure. I haven’t spent the last few days hiding away or feeling anxious. Instead, I’ve formed new friendships while learning about writing memoir, fine-tuning passages, and formatting blog posts. We’ve done critiques, but we’ve also eaten great food, drunk wine, shared memories and expertise, laughed, and explored the lovely Chincoteague/Assateague area—apparently the area is a magnetic center that brings people, as well as birds, from all over.

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Janet Givens  instigated this writers’ gathering, offering her lovely vacation home to almost total strangers. Susan Weidener  kindly offered to drive Marian Beaman and me from Pennsylvania. I admit, I was apprehensive about spending a week with women I’ve never met, but it has been a wonderful several days—and I now have new friends!

It’s possible I may have baked and brought my Mandelbrot (aka “Mommy Cookies”) along—because how could I go a week without chocolate goodies? Susan brought chocolate, too—so one crisis was averted. Sigh of relief. Can you imagine me going a day, much less a week without chocolate?

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Just a few left.

 

Our group expanded during the week at Janet’s. Kathy Pooler 

joined our circle from afar. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

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We were joined—in person–by Mary Gottschalk and Carol Bodensteiner  on Saturday night. Apparently on our blogs, both Mary and I are taller. Who knew blogs had such power? On Saturday night, the six of us gathered together at Janet’s, enjoyed stinky cheese (brought from Vermont), wine, and dinner—along with talk of writing and life. I’ve been among truly brilliant and interesting women who have fascinating tales to share and knowledge to impart.

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Although I’ve missed my husband and cats, it’s been a fabulous several days.

Please do click on the links to meet these women. Perhaps you may also want to buy their books. (You know you want to.)

In addition to walking and talking, listening, and eating, I did do a bit of writing. Here is an echo poem I wrote during this past week–while the weather was beautiful and warm.

 

Chincoteague Island, March 2016

Four women gathered together.

Weather?

Well, it couldn’t be better.

Sweater

off and writing going

flowing

growing with critique.

Incomplete

forms arrested,

tested

by practice and time.

Sublime

words, write, repeat,

delete–

but now it’s time to eat.

Sweet!

Laughter from we four

offshore

gazing and walking

talking of Peace Corps,

more–

Four women together

weathered

bettered.

 

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Essay XII,” Art

Have you ever been on a writers’ retreat?  Please share your experiences.

 

 

 

 

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Ringing Out the Year: Going to the Movies with the Smiths Redux

 

Those of you who follow my blog know that I enjoy going to the movies, and that I often mention movies I’ve seen.  In my WordPress 2015 Year in Blogging summary, I discovered that a February post, “Going to the Movies With the Smiths” was my most commented upon post this year. In the post, I discussed seeing Still Alice and some other “sad movies.” In one of those strange coincidences, just after I read my summary, I saw Stephen Liddell’s post about his top ten movies of the year, which reminded me of some movies I had seen and enjoyed earlier this year including The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Far From the Madding Crowd.

In the past couple months—the time of year when often the serious Oscar contenders arrive in theaters–my husband and I have seen some wonderful movies. For the most part, they were not movies with lots of action. The movies relied on well-written scripts, nuanced performances, and good editing. There were no superheroes, unless you put investigative reporters, astronauts, and those who challenge social mores in that category, which I suppose I do.

Of the recent movies I’ve seen, I would place Spotlight and Carol in a tie for best. They were totally different types of movies, but both were beautifully done. Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight series that exposed the enormous problem of sexual abuse crimes by clergy within the Catholic church, along with its systemic cover up, which involved not only church hierarchy, but also government officials and organizations. Focusing first on Boston, the movie then reveals the global scope of the problem. The movie does not ignore the suffering and trauma of the survivors of the abuse, who the reporters methodically track down.  One of the movie’s taglines was “Break the story. Break the silence.”  Directing a great cast, Tom McCarthy achieved a movie that was tense and exciting, an amazing achievement for a “newspaper movie.” The audience in the movie theater applauded at the end. I felt like we all let out a collective breath, a feeling that though just a beginning, some justice had been done.

Carol is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It is about two women who fall in love in 1950s New York.  Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara give superb performances, as they convey so much with merely a glance. Kyle Chandler as Carol’s bewildered husband also does a fine job, as does Cory Michael Smith as the nerdy, creepy “notions” salesman. It is one of those movies that envelopes the viewer in its world. The score is fantastic, too.

Brooklyn and The Danish Girl were my next favorite movies. Both were also have outstanding cinematography and boast wonderful performances by the leads and supporting cast. Brooklyn is the story of an Irish immigrant (Saorise Ronan) to 1950s Brooklyn. It explores homesickness, love, and family—as well as what it meant to emigrate at that time. The Danish Girl, which I’ve written about in another post, is about artist Einar Wegener, who had one of the first sex-change operations in the 1930s. Director Tom Hooper elicits elegant and heartbreaking performances from Eddie Redmayne as Einar/Lili and an even more compelling performance from Alicia Vikander as Einar’s wife, Gerda, also an artist.

Other movies we’ve seen recently and enjoyed include The Martian and Bridge of Spies. I still want to see Trumbo, Room, and, yes, The Hunger Games. (You weren’t expecting that one, were you?) J Well, I’m also looking forward to the new Star Trek movie next summer. See, I’m not a total movie snob, as my sister refers to me. I’m also intrigued by Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s new movie featuring puppets.

I’m a fan of old movies, too. On Christmas Eve, my husband and I watched, or perhaps I should say re-watched, It’s a Wonderful Life. It may be a bit schmaltzy, but the 1946 Frank Capra directed movie starring the perfect Jimmy Stewart is a true classic.

So what movies have you seen recently? Do you have a favorite genre?

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Thank you to all who read my blog, and especially to those who take the time to comment. It has been a true joy getting to know you. Welcome to my new readers, too!

I don’t want to end this post without acknowledging my five top commenters in 2015:

Marian Beaman Plain and Fancy Girl 

Luanne Castle, Writer Site

Rachel Carrera

Frank of A Frank Angle 

Rowena of Beyond the Flow Who keeps me up to date on all things Australian.

Do check out all of their wonderful blogs!

Happy New Year! Wishing all of you—health, happiness, good friends, the opportunity to see wonderful movies, to read fantastic books, and to enjoy the goodness of life.  And of course, let’s all wish for world peace.

See you in 2016!