Poetry Thursday: Focus

christina katz quote illustrated by alissa walker

This post is #25 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

One foot in front of the other.

This is how everything moves
from one place to the next.

From chaos to clarity.
From fear to love.
(And back. And back.)
From nothing to something.
(And back. And back.)
From empty to full,
from birth to death,
from blank to fin,
from impossible to done.

And the doubt
that pools around you
as you pause
to catch your breath

And the voices
that whisper
of hazards ahead

And the fear
that seems to color the air
a sickly shade of gray

All vanish
when you focus
on putting one foot
in front of the other.


Image inside the frame by Alissa Walker, from a photograph she took on one of the many trips she's taken doing just that. You can get it in a luxurious, desktop-sized image of inspiration with a $15 contribution to the 50-for-50 project on IndieGoGo, through September 13, 2011.

Why I Wish I Was Ella Fitzgerald

At some point during the show last night I was perched on the bar, talking to my friend, Nick (he was bartending and the bar is at ass-height when you're on stilts) when the conversation turned to guitar playing. He's just picked it up and I started earlier this year and he's into the same cowboy kind of stuff as I am, only even more so: he's a Hank kind of purist and I'm more of a Lyle/Lucinda/alt-country fan. (In fact, I'm listening to the remastered Waiting for Columbus right this second, which I purchased at extraordinary savings through the super-cool, every single-disc CD is $5.99; doppios are only $11.98, which, of course, is $5.99...x 2!!) But I digress. As usual.

You see, Nick's enthusiasm for playing got me all fired up again about playing. It also made me realize it wasn't so long ago that I was playing every day, wasting all my time on pop-up-ridden tabs sites, teaching myself new strums and chords and songs; today, when I picked up Lucia (she's from São Paulo, via a theater dumpster and a couple of generous friends) for the first time in god-knows-how long, I realized that, urp!, my hard-won callouses were gone! I was playing with virgin pads! What the hell happened?!?

Well...the show, for one. And my show, #1 & #2, for two. And this blog, of course. Oh, and a bunch of design work I couldn't say "no" to. And, and and and.

I've come to the conclusion that I always digress. Digression, or parenthetical leanings, or split focus, or whatever you want to serve it up as, has always been my bête noire. Or maybe overabundant appetite is really my bête noire and digression is my modus operandi. All I know is, there's something a little bit wrong with a chick who is cheating herself on much-needed sleep and letting the clock tick away on a friend's (Christmas!!!) design project deadline and taking up valuable gee-tar playin' time because she just has to find the key combo for the circumflex-ê glyph (option-i e on a Mac) to write a blog entry about how she no longer has the time for, you guessed it, guitar playing.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a part of my problem is a lingering addiction to perfectionism. I've let some things go (come eat off my baba ghanoush-encrusted, hair-strewn kitchen floor tonight if you don't believe me) but clearly, not enough. I mean, the bed is unmade right now and I've been out of it for a few hours, but its state of dishevelment is bothering me. (I was talking to my Scary-Movie Companion and  fellow-sufferer in Virgo Never-Enoughness, Dorie, about the whole perfectionism issue after the show last night. Two healthy bourbons each and we still didn't make a dent in the problem. So more on that in another post.)

But the other problem is I have been cursed with just enough ability and/or interest in a number of things to make them equally rewarding and cumulatively disastrous. I doubt Ella Fitzgerald had this problem. Not that she wasn't a rip-snortin' chess player or a killer in the kitchen, but come on, those gifts knew their place; they couldn't hold a candle to the pipes. So Ella didn't stay awake nights wondering how she was going to finish the patter song for her one-woman show when she really wanted to blog her feelings about the shift in the way businesses are marketing to their customers, or whether she should market herself as an artist who does PowerPoint or a former copywriter who does graphics for artists, or even how she was going to see four shows in the two free days she had left to see them. Or maybe she did, but somehow I doubt it: I've gotta believe that a super-talent on the scale of Ella Fitzgerald's voice or Vincent VanGogh's painting or Eleanora Duse's acting demands its due, period. Maybe there's room for stamp collecting or swing dancing or some other hobby, but it knows its place.

I'm not saying life as Ella or Vincent or Eleanora was all sunshine and roses; biographies on plenty of great talents show that genius and happiness, while not necessarily mutually exclusive, do not ordinarily go hand in hand.

I'm just saying there are over-booked days when I wish I could (just) act/write/sing/design the hell out of one goddam thing, and leave it at that.

And now, back to Lucia. Or the Christmas project. Or...

xxx c