A Cinematic Energy

I was first introduced to the Criterion family in two very close ways. The first was through their Youtube channel, Criterion Collection, where various actors, directors etc. shimmy into the closet to pick and discuss films at short or length to the camera. Ahh. Allow me to recommend, what I feel are the greatest three;

  1. Ethan Hawke and Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Closet Picks
  2. Andre Gregory and Wallace Shaun’s DVD Picks
  3. Tim Robbins Closet Picks

Tim robbins is a complete favorite, stemming from not only Shawshank Redemption, which most are familiar with, but also the quiet storm of a film, The Secret Life of Words, directed by Isabel Coxiet, the dapper lady also responsible for directing, The Bookshop, a high ranking favorite in my collection.

Frances Marion c. 1924. Screenwriter

Around the same time, I had found Letterboxed, a social media-ish app for cinephiles to record what they’ve seen, what they want to see, leave reviews, and meet other filmys like themselves. I adore it and have had the pleasure of meeting many like-minded movie affeciondos.

And so, I’ve joined the ranks of the mass streaming service trial dwellers of Criterion Channel junkies via a 14 day trial. The app has been staring me in the face for almost a year but we like to keep our streaming service fees down. We’ve managed to limit ourselves to Disney plus and Starz. Pretty good stuff, I’d say.

Odilon Redon. Flower Clouds, c. 1903

But I had the itch, and in the throes of film awe I ventured again to browse. Did they add anything new? Like stalking down the public library , I was in awe of all that was there. Quincey Jones soundtracks. A series titled, “Split Screen”-what was this buffet of gourmet double screen? Film discussions, Scorsese, Fellini, Sydney Pollock, Sydney Poiter, Saturday Matinee–reminiscent and feeling evoking of my mother on the couch watching black and white westerns and Elvis flicks–Double Feature, Directed By, Short + Feature–oh my. And all of this with extra footage, interviews, and other exciting special features attached for a film buffs never-ending cinematic appetite.

Yes, I could no longer avoid the inevitable. I hit that 14 day free trial button like a game of Whac-W-Mole.

I was in.

And so, after filling my wish list and crunching the numbers, I think we shall make it work. At this moment I’m invested in the collection curated by Nellie Killian, Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women’s Stories, which alone, has made me grateful for the leap. The introduction’ written description leaves off with an exquisite quote by poet Adrienne Rich, as will I;

“in order to change what is, we need to give speech to what has been, to imagine together what might be.”

Source, Wikimedia, Wikicommons

When it Rains

Andō, Hiroshige, 1797-1858, artist

I had lovely intentions of typing in “writers when it rains” to my google search engine, just below the daily doodle, and being inundated with famous writers and authors, editors and journalists, handing over their wisdom and inspiration like ice cream on a stick.

They did not.

In fact, almost the entire first page was nothing but article upon article of Luke Combs’ song, “When it Rains it Pours,” and another by Kidd Rock I had never heard, but now really like. There was one article, second to last, which showed some potential; a question posted on Quora entitled, “What are creative ways to describe the rain?“. This was followed by some more Luke Combs observational criticism and then several “related searches” for waterproof notebooks.

Seems appropriate.

Some other interesting conundrums….a short story, by Ray Bradbury, “There Will Come Soft Rains“, I hadn’t read but will now, 438 Rain Quotes , a curious phenomenon called, Rain of animals, and an ultra exciting article added to my “to be read” Flipboard, The Ages of 101 Famous Writers at First Publication.

Thomas McLean, London 1835

What a  smorgasbord  of brilliant pieces found on my way down the rabbit hole! Like reading an encyclopedia, or dictionary, or phone book. Curiouser and curiouser. And while this may seem a problem to some, I must confess, it is a favorite quirk of mine. Follow the info wherever it goes. And perhaps this is why one of my favorite people has gifted us one of my favorite quotes;

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

I never did get back to my main search as it became so intriguing, all the songs, and stories, and art that creative minds do create about the lowly, or maybe not so lowly, rain. And that is quite alright with me.

Copyright stellamaudmaurer

My Father’s Place

The author’s fathers’ books and eyeglasses. Copyright stellamaudmaurer

My father was an interesting man. I’d always known it, even before my brothers and I were forced to clean out his home in the days following his death. We were much alike, dad and me. There were so many different things in this life that excited and intrigued him and so there were just as many things to be dug through.

The plants, oh the plants! I was the one of us three to take them all because I couldn’t bear to throw them out. None of us were blessed with a green thumb or rising from the dead powers like dad but by golly those plants would die at my place before they died at the brutal side of the road. And some of them have. The less hardy of the bunch have gone to the other side and decomposed into the ground. Their ceramic pots of eclectic colors and designs plucked lovingly from antique stores now stand empty and obsolete. But the others, the mass cane, the aloe, the snake plant, and all the philodendrons, are stubborn mules, carrying on as though he was still their caretaker, still the one speaking life into their veins; and perhaps the others were stubborn in a more subtle, more intricate way, and loved so hard, they just couldn’t bear to be without him.

In the days of scouring through his things, feeling intrusive and awkward at times, playing a game of, “do you want this?”, “only if you don’t”, and deciding when keeping too much was too much, there were small things that interested me about the man and made me laugh. He kept shoelaces. Without any reason or purpose to me, we would find them in all rooms, scattered like confetti or pirates treasure all over the house. Clean, always a match, and always ties in a neat, loose, knot. Perhaps a dozen pairs. White ones. Black ones.

And then there were the twisty ties. And it was the same method as his shoelaces. Found in every room, scattered in drawers, neatly placed together. Like a treasure hunt I searched for these two sacred items. An inner game that excited me whenever I found one of the two crammed in the back of a random drawer filled with every card we had ever given him, or all the eyeglasses it seemed he had ever owned.

We raided the refrigerator and pantry, all taking what the other one would not or could not; the frozen shrimp and peas and assortment of canned beans and corn all divvied up into our respective boxes. Cleaning supplies, dish towels, batteries, candles, incense sticks, matches, lighters, mechanical pencils, post it pads, notebooks, papers, magazines, books, pictures, everything in the world that was Dad, and everything material that told who he was on the outside with a glimpse of the man inside.

The Man inside whom I could speak with forever in person or by phone because his interests were so varied and vast; space, history, botany, health, architecture, computers, all accompanied by a vement passion that, if you weren’t careful, would become contagious. My love of both owning and reading the antique book was born of him, and encouraged all my life. Most of his books now reside on my shelves.

It has been almost one year since his passing. I greet him at the ocean where he lays, whenever we are there. I still find myself reaching to text him a quote or a picture of an old coin I found. I still find myself readying to email a story or article I think he would enjoy reading. And when I am feeling the sting of missing my father the most, I still listen to the interesting voice in his last message, “Happy birthday, Sweetie, I love you”.

Mad Woman

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I used to write like a mad woman, and it was grand.  At night, there was a long road to trod before sleep coaxed me in.  Thoughts  would continue to creep in and come as a steam train engine crossing the wild and untamed country.  Tracks always coming and coming and coming.  There was always a notebook and writing utensil of some sort, both easily accessible.  In the morning, I was sure to write down my dreams, in a horribly lazy, half asleep moment, sloppily written all over the page. 

Then there was school.  In the teen years, which should clarify everything.  I wrote in the back of Mr. Geography’s class, while he, the football coach, discussed the linguistic and cultural differences of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan because, we were of course, in the throes of the newly acquired War on Terror.  I was a good student, quiet, able to listen with one ear and tune the other into writing page after page in purple ink, the ramblings and ultra important ideals and  thoughts of a disillusioned  15 year old girl. 

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And then one day, all was lost.  The memories of a traumatic childhood  reared their dragon ugly head, forcing my mind into silence.  I could not write and relive any moment of my day or past of dreams or hope for the future.  I had become numb.  Years of  this nuisance led to the creation of a sluggish mind.  Years of medication and therapy and God led me to the realization that why yes, I could write, I could let it out, and that no, it was not really happing again, no matter what my body and emotions thought.    I picked up a pen.  Reimagined a writing lifestyle that might overtake the life I was currently living.  It took awhile.

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Lately, the madness has begun its volumptous return.  I once more write anywhere and everywhere and on everything and anything.  There are the scraps.  The writing and thoughts on the gas receipts, the restaurant napkins, my hand and pants.  A pen is always in my hair bun.  And I will welcome the madness all day, everyday.  And I will trust it, unquestionably. 

There is Always the Good…

I have just finished the book,  The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  It was assigned to my 9th grader and  while he loves to own books and have them in his presence, he doesn’t necessarily like to read them.  And so, we started the book together, each taking turns to read aloud the first two chapters.  He didn’t much enjoy that either.  No matter.  With the assignment done for the day, I had to keep reading.  I took his tablet, laid outside, and read.  Later that night, again, I read with vigor and finished the book with a sigh of peace and excitement all at once. 

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The main premise of the book is, of course, giving.  And at first glance, it may appear to promote giving-giving of time, self, and resources-for the sole purpose of getting.  The main characters throughout, consistently receive because they first gave. The lesson appears to be that when we want to become successful financially, we will only do so when we stop focusing on ourselves.  And so one must dig deeper.  After all this book was assigned from a Catholic school.   There were questions referencing scripture by the teacher.  And so I took it in context. 

“What you focus on is what you get”.  This validated a lifelong theory, instilled by my mother via yellow Post It notes and daily verbal reminders, that if we look for the good in people, we will surely find it, (See Pollyanna), and, inevitably, vice versa; look for the bad, and you will always find it.

There were some amazing quotes and I’d love to share them with you!  Let me know what you think!

“Ultimately, the world treats you more of less the way you expect to be treated.”

“You’d be amazed at just how much you have to do with what happens to you”

“The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.”

“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”

All of these sayings fit right into the type of thought process I was brought up and encouraged to remind myself of.  Even in trials and struggles and when the road up ahead is more potholed than you like or know.  Good can, and should, always be found. 

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“A feeling of being happy or satisfied with what you have; fulfilment” OxfordLearner’sDictionaries

     Contentment is a mindset, a feeling.  It is not based on our social or financial status, and so while we might be comfortable and content in our current placement in the world, and believe that in our owns minds we are indeed content, what of tomorrow, a week from now, a month, 10 years down the road when something unexpected and unavoidable crushes in on our existence; a job is lost, a home is lost, a spouse dies, a child dies.  What happens, when everything is lost and everything changes, are we still going to be content with the decisions that we’ve made leading up to that moment?  It is the mindset of contentment to be happy, grateful, and serene, no matter what.   The greatest success stories do not lie in cultivating millions of dollars or loosing 50 pounds, though they are amazing and inspiring.  The greatest, most perfect success stories lie in accepting what we have with a thankful heart, even while striving towards the aspirations of a new job, a full bank account, or a physically pain free life.  It is becoming homeless with a family of 4 and being thankful for good friends with couches and indoor plumbing.  It is loosing a job but appreciating the time now available to spend on a new business.  It is being stuck on the side of the road in the forest with fresh air and calm winds.  Help will come soon.  It always does, just, perhaps, not in the ways we expect.