If I’m looking for inspiration, I need look no further than my WordPress.com Reader for incisive reads, beautiful poetry, and hand-made art to spark my curiosity and fuel my creativity. As 2018 closes, I’m highlighting five favorite posts and I invite you to share the pieces that spoke to you this year.
“Wind” by Robert Okaji
Robert Okaji is a prolific poet who publishes his work at O at the Edges. In “Wind,” I read not only about air moving at speed and irrevocably changing everything it touches; I also sense the deep feeling and transformation of a passionate encounter. It’s a lovely poem made of many layers.
That it shudders through
and presages an untimely end,
that it transforms the night’s
body and leaves us
breathless and wanting,
petals strewn about,
messenger and message in one,
corporeal hosts entwined,
that it moves, that it blends,
that it withdraws and returns without
remorse, without forethought, that it
increases, expands, subtracts,
renders, imposes and releases
in one quick breath, saying
I cannot feel but I touch,
I cannot feel
“The Silence of Owls” by Kate Rattray
Artist Kate Rattray makes beautiful tiled artworks. In “The Silence of Owls,” I love not only the finished mosaic, but the story behind the piece — the inspiration for the design and some fun facts about owls in flight.
One fresh December morning last year I had to stop as I spotted something quite beautiful through my rear view mirror.
A trail of mist was weaving a path across the distant woods. It was very quiet, the mist absorbed the sound just like the silent flight of an owl.
The first time I became aware of this silent flight was when I was living in South Wales after leaving art college. I sat in the half light of dusk on my doorstep drinking beer and an owl flew out of the trees. It glided majestically with great wings that seemed to sweep up all the usual sounds around me.
It’s interesting to read about the science behind the owls flight, and about how the structure of their downy feathers soak up sound.
“When They Misgendered You at Your Memorial” by Sam Dylan Finch
Sometimes, almost like a miracle, you can find beauty in the depths of despair. Writer Sam Dylan Finch lost a dear friend to suicide in 2018. The post he wrote to remember them has stayed with me in the weeks since I shared it here on Discover. It’s a poignant remembrance of a beautiful human.
You are difficult to contain. A neuroscientist, a poet, a drag queen, a teacher — queerness, for you, was simply your way of being in the world, the shimmer held in every cell in your body.
You were the scientist who loved astrology. You were the poet who could seamlessly reference Grey’s Anatomy without missing a beat. You toiled in a lab with mice by day and wore eight-inch heels and glitter on a stage at night.
You moved between worlds, always chasing something — the secrets you found studying zebrafish, the catharsis in lip-synching pop songs in gay bars — and I fear that neither one was enough.
You could find the wisdom in a Kelly Clarkson song and in the DNA of a jellyfish. I remember thinking, I’ll follow this queen to the ends of the earth.
If only you had let me.
You used to tell me that no one understood trauma quite like we did, like it was a language that we spoke fluently, sometimes morbidly and always earnestly. In that way, I’ll never stop hearing your voice.
“Chicken University” by madebyfay
I agree when the artist behind madebyfay notes “you never truly see something until you draw it.” Rendering a subject in any medium requires close attention. I love not only the beautiful sketches in “Chicken University,” but also how her artistic process leads to some serendipitous chicken education.
As I worked, I began to have questions about the behavior and characteristics of the the chickens and about the different breeds. I called my friend and she was very generous in sharing some knowledge and anticdotes about her chickens. Some of the information she shared I wrote in the spaces between the sketches. I think the handwriting adds some nice texture to the sketch, and a feeling similar to chicken scratching. By the time I had finished drawing and painting, I had discovered quite a bit more than I knew previously about chickens – a sort of Chicken University quick course. It was quite interesting and enjoyable.
Living With Dolly Parton by Jessica Wilkerson
Our sister site Longreads publishes everything from personal essays and investigative journalism to reading lists on a variety of topics. I’m entranced by Dr. Jessica Wilkerson’s incisive reported essay about her complicated relationship with singing legend Dolly Parton. Jessica grew up loving Parton’s music (and still does, to this day). It was that love that spurred her to dig deeper into Dolly Parton the myth, to shed light on the realities of Parton’s business ventures, and to question Parton’s true legacy in Tennessee and in America. This essay reminds me that you can love something deeply, but still question it.
For years, I found solace in “Wildflowers,” written by Parton and performed with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on their record Trio. The song’s instrumentation is spare, with the tinny chords of the autoharp and Ronstadt and Harris’s harmonies. In a near warble, Dolly sang of a “rambling rose” who didn’t “regret the path” she chose.
I moved away from home in ways more profound than the physical leaving, and it sometimes caused me to feel the pain of committing a betrayal. My grandmother Laverne warned me: “Don’t forget where you come from.”
“Where you come from” is a call to home but can also be a way of disciplining. I heard in her words a warning: education would lead me to ask questions, and the answers would change me so that I was no longer recognizable. Where I grew up in East Tennessee, in a rural community of sporadically upwardly and downwardly mobile white folks, nobody had time or patience for questions. Questions got you in trouble or exposed problems that nobody was prepared to discuss. Questions raised doubts, too. Religion, gender hierarchy, who got what and why — these things were off-limits. As a kid I learned to keep my mouth shut and wonder about the world in my own head.
My education required a metaphysical moving away, I learned. A professor who could see me struggling through change asked me what scared me about it. I told her that I worried I would lose something, and she reassured me that I would be OK. But she is a brutally honest New Yorker, so she added, “Besides, you can’t unlearn what you now know.” Her words stung.
“Wildflowers” was the balm. Dolly Parton sang to me. She understood me and all the girls who left home.
It’s your turn! Share a link to a post that resonated with you in 2018. Bonus points for a sentence or two on why it left an impression on you.
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