They’re Marching Everywhere!

The sun is shining today, of all days, and has been since I hauled myself out of bed. It is well past dawn and on into the mid-afternoon now, and I’ve seen hope today take form in massive protests taking place all over the country. Here in Chicago almost 250,000 people joined the Women’s March today, while numbers came in around 500,000 in Washington, DC. And those were the two largest of many across our nation, and elsewhere as well. Today’s march in DC dwarfed yesterday’s inauguration attendance, and sends a clear message that the people of this nation are not content. They are sending the orange man a clear message that they are uniting to stand up for their rights, and their way of life. They will not cower under his glares and misogynistic behavior.

I’ve been watching the images scroll in from across the country on my computer, and as they have my feelings of pride in my country have been being restored. More precisely, my feelings of pride in my fellow Americans have been as I have watched this movement gain momentum, and the numbers continued to grow. Here in Chicago the organizers had to adapt and then readapt as the people continued to arrive. They were expecting around 22,000 initially, from what I’ve seen, which quickly morphed to 50,000 and some changes in rallying points. By 10:30 this morning the numbers hit 150,000 strong, then, two hours later close to 250,000 people were marching, chanting and showing their solidarity against an incoming administration that seems hell bent on destroying years of social progress, denying people of their civil rights and turning our planet into an ecological disaster zone.

This in and of itself is such a ray of sunshine at this point. Seeing that there are so many folks out there that aren’t blind to what is at stake in our country gives me a sense of hope that somehow we just might make it through this somehow. I’m not naïve; I know that it is going to be a long haul, but these are truly significant numbers of people openly aligning themselves in pushing back against the darkness that is threatening us. It gives me hope that our country isn’t up for sale to the highest bidder, and that we’re not going to go quietly into a lockstep goose-stepping future.

I’ve seen so many photos shared by my friends of the marches in their areas across the country. Smiling faces as they held their signs with their friends at the staging areas and along the march routes, hand made signs that some had obviously spent some time creating. These were people DOING something about the situation we are faces, people who care about the direction of our nation, and its policies both at home and abroad. Women from all walks of life, many there with their families, came together and made a massive statement for everyone in the world to see. Smiling faces filled with determination to do the right thing and stand for justice and all that is good here.

I’m thankful to all of them. And I’m thankful for the folks who, while they might not march, contribute to the cause in their own ways, whether it is writing letters to their representatives, volunteering in their communities or whatever they can do to help move this forward and keep hope alive in this country, particularly hope that we can continue to move forward as a diverse country, filled with a rich cultural heritage that welcomes difference while guaranteeing equality for all. I don’t want to see that wealth squandered by despots, nor do I want the principles that this country was founded upon to be lost. There is too much at stake for us to let that happen.

I’m hoping that this is a sign of things to come and that the American people will continue to stand up against corruption. We should be that shining light of freedom, equality and justice that we have dreamed to be and so many have come here to find. We are capable of so much good, so much more than the incoming administration represents. We have the ability, the strength, and the knowledge. Now, with the advent of these marches, I’m also seeing that we have the motivation to take the steps to make ourselves heard and to keep driving forward, not set the clocks back fifty or sixty years to the halcyon days of the straight white male. We are ALL Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, religious creed, gender or orientation, and every single one of us will be heard. After all, in this country the government is SUPPOSED TO WORK FOR US.

Finding A Space: Is it Really a Challenge?

Finding a space to write that works often depends on who you are. I find that as a somewhat introverted person with ADD, I need a place where I won’t be distracted. If there are people around me talking, I’ll end up listening to them talk even if I have no interest in what they’re talking about. Most of the time I can’t listen to music while writing either for much the same reason, I’ll focus on the music rather than what I’m trying to do with the written word. One exception to this is when I’m writing about the recording I’m listening to or the genre in general because then the split focus serves the purpose of the written piece. Ironically enough noise in and of itself doesn’t necessarily distract my thought process.

For the past three months the street that runs past the front of our house has been under construction with all sorts of heavy digging equipment creating a cacophony that has even shaken the house from the impacts of some of the equipment. Despite this I’ve been able to focus on my work. Granted, some of the repetitive noises, like the jackhammer, do disrupt my train of thought but for the most part I’ve been able to ignore those sounds and maintain my focus. I think part of this is due to the lack of language, whether it is actual human language, musical or otherwise. My optimal environment for writing, however, is a quiet house when I am alone. This permits me to maintain my focus and get things rolling.

As my readers know, I periodically do self-challenges where I set a daily word count target and commit to writing every day for a set number of days. In the past this has been in one-month blocks. Currently I am working through a two-month block. When I’ve done these challenges I have ended up learning and expanding upon what I find possible. For instance I never thought that I’d be able to write essays as a passenger in a car during a road trip, particularly with a kid in the car as well, however I found out that I can two years ago when we traveled from Illinois to the Black Hills of South Dakota by car when I did my first month long writing challenge. During that trip I also learned that my assumptions about my prime writing times, mornings, was really a myth; I could write just as well in the afternoons. I’d always thought that by the afternoon my ideas and thought process were too polluted by my day to be productive, but I was wrong. I also learned that I could write in the evenings as well, but there fatigue definitely plays a role that makes it much more difficult for me.

Overall I’ve found that the most difficult thing about writing is actually sitting down and doing it. Once I’m in the chair and I have committed to focusing on the task at hand I’m good. Even on a bad day I can fill the page with something that might be of use at some other time as long as I actually get myself into the chair in front of the computer and start setting my brain free. Most of the time I do fart around a bit before I get down to the nuts and bolts of it. I’ll look over my social media account, check my email, run through a mahjong board or two and then get to it. Sometimes things I see on social media boards will influence me to write something that has a definite political slant but I’ve found that doing a puzzle or two clears my head and then I can get moving with my actual purpose in sitting down to begin with.

Currently I’m sitting on a folding chair, feet propped up on another to support my laptop, in a shaded portion of the front driveway of my in-laws’ place in Palm Beach Gardens. The rest of the extended family is inside or outback, talking, eating breakfast, playing games, and catching up with each other. There was absolutely too much going on for me to focus on what I needed to do, so I had to find my “room with a view.” Who would have thought it would be tucked in a shady spot under the live oaks and palms between a big old Mercury Grand Marquis and the garage? Finding that space is something that we all do when we sit down to write and what might be distracting for me might be fertile ground for another. Some folks go to coffee shops to find their muse. It all comes down to where we can be productive.

Sources of Inspiration for Creative Lives

On a trip during the summer of 2015 to South Dakota I visited the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been under construction since 1948 and Mt. Rushmore National Monument. Gutzon Borglum’s Mt. Rushmore was financed by the Federal Government and thus had sufficient monetary backing to progress rather quickly with a large staff of workers and ample equipment to work with. Crazy Horse was commissioned by the Sioux Nations for all Native Americans, but was privately funded and still is. Work on the monument was initially started with a crew of one, the sculptor himself, Korczak Ziolkowski. The projected size of this monument dwarfs Rushmore which could fit itself in the space occupied by Crazy Horse’s head alone. Construction is ongoing and the monument, now about 70 years from its beginning, is far from finished. Crazy Horse’s face was unveiled and dedicated in 1998, fifty years after construction commenced and about 16 years after the sculptor died. Construction continues, carried out by his sons and daughters who are as dedicated to the project as their father and mother were.

Neither of these monuments has anything small about them, nor were the men behind them. The sculptors both spent their lives dedicated to their projects and neither was without an ego nor lacked self-confidence. This is the work of large egos and supreme self-confidence. It is also the work of passion and dreams. Neither of these monuments would have started without these aspects, and while they are indeed monuments to the heroes they depict, they are also monuments to dreams and the creative human spirit. They are monuments to the long game that encompasses human existence and indomitable spirit and will. The men who envisioned and then created these immense sculptures were not afraid to attempt the impossible, nor were they willing to entertain the possibility of defeat or failure. They took on the projects and gave everything of themselves to see them through. As an individual who has been involved in the creative arts through writing and music through much of my life, I find these monuments and the men behind them to be points for self-reflection and self-evaluation, as well as definitive sources for inspiration.

Most people would view an undertaking such as the one that Korczak Ziolkowski started when he commenced work on Crazy Horse as one of insanity, particularly when noting the size of what was planned and the fact that he was initially the only crew member at the start of the project. The amount of hope and self confidence this presents truly boggles my mind, but I am convinced that he wasn’t a madman, nor a megalomaniac. He was a man with vision who was fully committed to his art and his means of creative expression. He believed in dreaming and pursuing his dreams as a life long process, not simply for the short term. He was also dedicated to encouraging others to follow their dreams as well, and the bigger the dream, the better. One could find ample inspiration in Borglum’s Rushmore, but Ziolkowski went bigger and further, pushing through self-reliance into an even larger than life existence.

When I am confronted with a creative human being such as Ziolkowski, and the obstacles he faced, and his work still faces long after his death, I must take stock of my own day-to-day existence in regards to my creative work. I feel small in comparison, because in comparison it’s as if I fear dreaming, and fear pursuing the small dreams that I do latch onto. I think most of us start out our existences with huge dreams, and welcome these huge dreams. Somewhere along the way we allow these dreams to be beaten down or simply leave them along the road of our existence, losing our vision of large lives and instead opting for the lower arc for whatever reason. I know that I for one miss the passion of my younger days and dreaming on the large scale. At that point life seemed an endless source of possibilities that were only limited by how far I chose to reach. Our lives come with individual issues, roadblocks, distractions and dead ends. Mine certainly has, and I have often permitted these to derail my own personal visions for my life and in particular my creative pursuits.

The truth of the matter is that it is never too late in our creative lives to ignite passions until we have passed out of existence. Until that point we should dedicate ourselves to kindling our passions, whether they are part of our creative lives or any other aspects of our lives. We must find our purposes, our whys for existing, and dedicate ourselves to nurturing them and pursuing them to the best of our abilities. This is our responsibility and creative duty as occupants of time and space. Not all of us were meant to blast 450,000 tons of rock off the face of a mountain in search of the Presidents’ faces lurking within, but all of us were meant to do something and to dedicate ourselves to the creation and pursuit of our own particular passionate creative dreams. Individuals such as Gutzon Borglum and Korczak Ziolkowski should serve as reminders that while there are obstacles in our creative paths, as well as in every aspect of our lives, none should stop us from achieving our creative goals, and the path in pursuit of these goals is as worthy as the goal in and of itself.