Bless This Mess: A Writer Wednesday Post

November 28th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (2 Comments)

Messy Morning, photos & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012


To listen to this blogpost , please click here:Bless This Mess

A mess has a visceral effect, doesn’t it? Monday morning, I  ground my coffee, filled the paper cone, poured the water, turned on the coffeemaker, went blithely off to cook my oatmeal and returned to this unsettling sight.  The body draws back a bit as if from a startled silverfish scuttling in an empty bathtub. A mess is a little scary.

Messes have a bad reputation. We come squalling into this world making some particularly unpleasant ones we are unable to remedy ourselves. Growing up is partly about finding an increased tolerance for, ability to make and to clean up   messes.

Messes often mirror where we are internally. This is generally not in the present moment, to which the mess kindly recalls us. There’s something lively and life-affirming about a sudden domestic mess. We can’t help responding to it. There’s nothing like a mess to abrupt us into action.

Often what’s scary about messes is they can make us feel as if we have done something wrong, which makes us feel bad.

In the case of the coffee, I had done something wrong. I had been a little too generous with the grounds. (No, I do not measure, I eyeball. I would rather deal with the occasional mess than measure out my life in coffeespoons) Overfilling the filter meant that a few fellows floated up and over the paper, slid down the cone and plugged the driphole, which made everything overflow. If only I had had my coffee before attempting the operation, I would have been so much more alert…

And sometimes to clean up a mess, you must make a bigger one.  As you can see, the strainer, pitcher, and auxiliary carafe needed to strain the coffee grounds and capture the brewed coffee filled this sink.  But bad feeling subsides as we return things to order. I venture to say satisfaction hides in the heart of every mess.

We’re always thinking we should avert messes. But a mess is not a judgement Nature makes. Even a volcano, arguably a great mess-maker, simply creates another landscape, another arena of possiblility for new life forms. (see my Written in Stone blogpost this summer) Really big messes, like Hurricane Sandy, can bring out the best in people. (City Harvest is a good place to donate if you wish.)

Sometimes it’s hard to tolerate messes. But that’s a prerequisite for any creative endeavor. Mixing bread dough one day, I became conscious of this. There is a stage in making no-knead bread (a fabulous simple recipe to be found here) where flour and yeast and salt and water are ragged. You stir and stir to eliminate this as if mess and mistake were one. But they are not synonyms.  All this mess is is a stage in getting from ingredients to bread. So perhaps the messes of our lives are stages in the golden loaves we are becoming. Which go pretty well with a cup of black coffee.


Any messes for you this week?

To listen to this post please click: How Precious Is Attention 

I had already planned to offer thanks this week for you, my readers, and the gift of your attention. Today, an untoward experience gave me even deeper appreciation.

In anticipation of my forthcoming e-version of Glad To Be Human, well-meaning and helpful people have advised me to learn to use social media. No one’s writing can stand alone now, I’m told. Writers must create “platforms,” built tweet by tweet and blog by blog of comments logged, to lift our writing from the flat and populated ground, that we and our words may be more easily seen, discovered, and shared. Even if you have a publisher, as do I, writers are expected to become architects and marketers, or else cry in the wilderness.

So, to serve the words vouchsafed me, I have been dipping my toe into these public streams of consciousness ribboning through social cyberspace. Like our physical world, they flow with whimsy, creativity, outrage, persuasion, boredom, love, humor, and passion. Admittedly, from time to time, I do question the necessity of this daily bath.

This morning I opened my Twitter stream to find a sardonic headline that hit me in the solar plexus. I won’t share it–it’s not worth the electrons. Suffice it to say that it fulfilled its intention to shock. I felt alkaline in a world of acid. Peculiarly, it hurt my feelings.

Was it the end of the world? Of course not. (It was, however, the end of my following that hip, influential magazine.) And being offended is a risk we take when we move in society, virtual or otherwise.

But the intensity and physicality of my response gave me pause. People speak about the social fabric, but for me it’s flesh. It’s alive, and responds to being grabbed or caressed.

Attention is as precious as a body, and should be accorded the same respect. Like a body, we can usually choose where we place it, how we nourish it, whose energy it shares. Occasionally it gets caught in social weather.  Which makes the warming fireside of friendly regard all the more valued.

So I have decided to send my own counteracting tweet out today: Treat attention like a body tenderly. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tweets…

Cathy, Steve, Mark, Cecile: First Video Shoot
all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2012

This week I say goodbye to The Art Garden, a very beloved fireside. I continue to be grateful for your gentle attention, which I endeavor to repay in kind. Please have a joyful, attentive Thanksgiving.

“Glad To Be Human” update: Thanks for your patience! My book cover is due any day now, and I’m getting my few last cyber-ducks in a row, so that I can soon link you to my new G2BH site.  In anticipation thereof, I found myself asking “Why is it even important to be Glad To Be Human? Here’s what resulted:

To listen to this post, please click:A Question of Gladness


Pal-stroemeria, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012

Human are the only species that questions gladness. This fuschia Alstroemeria at my side is not having any second thoughts about gladly and extravagantly expressing herself.

If cells weren’t glad to be cells could they even metabolize? Could they have the little cellular barnraisings that lead to the creation of petals or peanuts or pineal glands?

If atoms were ashamed of being atoms, could they do-si-do into a cell? Heck, no.  They’d skip the dance and stay home.  No whirling around tonight, honey. I’m just not up to making a cell. Why bother anyway? I’m not that great at doing it, and after all cells only die, so why even make one?

We humans cannot comprehend the larger body we compose, though we can feel its organs in a symphony orchestra, a sports team, a school, a hospital, a movie set. There is great joy when these larger bodies function well, because functioning well is the nature of Nature. These larger selves need us to function, just as we need the beings who compose our bodies. Of course, any cell will tell you the purpose of life is not function, but joy. Just ask my pal Alstroemeira.

This coursing sense of connected well-being, or gladness, is the default setting of each living creature, and doubtless the inanimates as well. (If it’s all spinning particles,  is anything really inanimate?) The holographic fractal beauty of physical reality is that gladness is important to each, and each is important to all.


Who or what expresses gladness near you now?




Vagaries: A Writer Wednesday Post

November 7th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in News - (6 Comments)

Thanks to the vagaries of my upcoming e-launch, I must forego a more artful and reflective post this week. (as well as my sound file) Please accept these newsy little vagaries instead:


Those who know me know I am a poetical, not a political animal. But I do know how to spell relief, and am glad it has been spelled for so many of us today.


Architecture proceeds apace for the Thanksgiving launch of my e-essay, Glad To Be Human. There’s widening interest in an interactive site where people can share their own reasons, so I am at work on this even as we speak. By the time we launch you should be able to upload a word, a story or an image that makes you Glad To Be Human. As you think about it this week, I trust you will discover much to share.

I am grateful for beautiful endorsements from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed)  and the amazingly talented Janet Pierson, producer of Austin’s hot indie SXSW Film Conference & Festival. You’ll see these next week, as well as plans for a Glad To Be Human Anthology, when the new GTBH page is available here on my website.


For all who have been clamoring to know The Fate of the Quizzical Squash I present the following exceedingly brief graphic narrative:

















Did life bring you something delicious this week?

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