Flashback Friday: Fall at Miniwanca

28 09 2012

One of my favorite fall excursions took place in the late 1980s (88, 89 or even 1990) when my friend, Sue and I drove from Iowa to Michigan. There we met Chris (our friend from grad school) and Shawn (their friend from summers working at camp) at the American Youth Foundation’s Camp Miniwanca in Michigan. The camp, situated on sand dunes right on Lake Michigan, was breathtaking in its fall colors.

We spent the days sightseeing and tooling around the area in Shawn’s red jeep. It was perfect sweatshirt weather.

We spent the night on the beach – literally. Blankets, not sleeping bags, directly on the sand. It would be safe to say that not a lot of actual sleep happened. But there was just no way we could bring ourselves to leave the camp fire and the moon, lighting a path across the lake, to head indoors to spend the night on musty camp cots. Needless to say, the morning was a little rough.

The weekend was one of those moments in life that stands out as unlike anything else you’ve done. This particular group of four people was only ever together that one time. We were only ever at a deserted summer camp in fall that one time. As a trip, it wasn’t meaningful or important in the way some events are – your first trip overseas, or a family reunion to celebrate a 50th anniversary, for example. It was an idea that we all acted upon, unlike so many impulses in life. The times when you think, “Wouldn’t it be fun to…” then you just stay home. For whatever reason, this time we didn’t just stay home. And that decision to act rather than not act, was completely rewarded.





Authentic Personas?

27 09 2012

I read this piece on The Living Notebook blog about artists creating personas in their work. He discusses a number of reasons artists might work with a persona – from exploring a new voice to gaining some distance from their subject matter. We all know of famous, successful, uses of personas in literature, art and music (John Berryman’s Henry in The Dream Songs, or Nicki Minaj’s Roman Zolansky). There have been a few quite public backfires: Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines? Anyone?

Reading the article made me wonder: have I ever used a persona in work I’ve created or on this blog? Since I am on a quest for authenticity in my life, one part of me says a resounding no to this idea. If I speak in the voice of a created character, how can I also be authentic?

Then another part of me remembers picking Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me” as my 50th year theme song. The reason I loved that song was that it allowed me to express a side of myself that usually doesn’t see the light of day – audacious, self-confident, desirable. I would generally not be able to express these qualities in my own voice as I would be both too self-conscious and too doubtful of their reality. But when I sang along with Flo Rida, I became the part of myself that felt those things. I wasn’t Flo (or is it Rida?) – I was me.

Just for fun, I’ve been thinking about the various personas it might be possible for me to explore while remaining authentically true to myself – not overlaying an imaginary person on my frame, but drawing forth a piece of my personality not usually expressed openly. Below, I’ve dreamed up three candidates for my own persona, along with a little of what they might have to say…

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“Cheeks”: an athletic and geared-up woman. Outdoorsy. Her enthusiasm for life results in those who listen to her speak imagining lots of exclamation points and air quotes.

Dude! I woke up to the worst leg cramps EVER! I’ve been sore before but nothing like this! My first official endurance trail race totally took everything I had and then some!!! I can only say “WOW‘! My new motto: “If something doesn’t hurt, you’re not giving it enough!” I just didn’t expect “everything” to hurt this much. I thought I understood “discipline” and “hard work” before, right?! But now I know I’m capable of so much more. Man! I have to hold myself to even more stringent standards to reach my “athletic potential”. As for actually competing – Holy crap – what a rush!!!!!

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Sasquatch: Imposingly tall and muscled, S. is clad only in long, matted hair. She makes little to no eye contact when speaking. Her voice and demeanor are both disconcertingly soft and gentle.

I am here today to share my real-life experience of being a yeti among humans.

The first thing you need to know to understand the yeti experience in common society is this: yeti’s like people, but you scare us. We will do anything to maintain the safety of our solitude and to stay separate from those around us. We hide out. We keep to the shadows. Why? Because you people have great potential to hurt us. You get close and then you blab about us, exploit our vulnerability. And yetis do not like being hurt. We strike out in response – and we are powerful enough to really hurt you in return, which frightens us immensely. Hurt or be hurt – its a terrible choice. So, for the sake of all, let’s just stay apart, keep a safe distance between us. Let’s preserve our aloneness and separateness.

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Shirley: A middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair. She speaks only after taking a sip from the cup of black coffee seemingly welded to her hand.

I know what you’re thinking. I have the same name as Jenion’s mother. Well, too bad for me – that’s life. In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t really matter what I say, I will end up being blamed for everything anyway. See? Life isn’t fair.

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Hmmm. Perhaps it takes a more skilled writer than me to actually pull off this persona thing. Jenion/Cheeks does not equal Hemingway/Nick Adams! On the other hand, as I said last week (here), we need to reclaim the parts of ourselves we’ve rejected, the parts we’ve disowned. That includes both the parts we are happy to reclaim (an idea of ourselves as capable of things we didn’t realize, a la Cheeks) and the darker parts we don’t like looking closely at (the inner yeti whose fear and shame makes us want to hide from others). Imagining these pieces of ourselves as various personas, we can learn so much about who/what they are. Who and what we are. My inner Shirley may be a bit cantankerous at times, but she is also realistic and practical – two qualities I’ve tended to shun in favor of projecting a more creative and airy self-image. Is that a trade-off I want to continue making?

Allowing these inner selves  to speak can be a very powerful means of working towards authenticity and congruence – a way of bringing the scattered parts of ourselves back together so that we see their gifts as well as whatever liabilities caused us to disown them in the first place.

For now, though, I think I’ll stick to a strictly internal dialogue with my personas!

P.S. Thanks for being a good sport, Mom!




Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

23 09 2012

Mike and I are both posting Weekly Photo Challenges over at The View from Two Cities. We’ve both posted, identifying the entries with our names in parentheses behind the post title. My entry this week can be found HERE.





The Top of Our Lungs

20 09 2012
 
 
“…We want access to the top of our lungs, where the shouts and the holy hosannahs are, the whoops and wails and hullabaloos — not just the bottom of our lungs, which is reserved for whispers and polite conversation, for things said under the breath.”–Gregg Levoy Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life
  Read the rest of this entry »




First Soup of the Fall

18 09 2012

Last week we had our first bout of cool fall weather. The kind of temps that make one think longingly of soup. As it happened, I not only had the desire for soup, I also happened to have the time to cook (not that the soup I chose to make was time consuming, its not). So, what was my first soup of the fall?

Black-eyed Pea, Kale and Ham Soup

Whether the photo immediately appeals to you or not, one thing I can say is that the soup is absolutely delicious – flavorful, filling, warming. The recipe originated in a Cooking Light specialty publication (unfortunately I don’t recall which one). It called for frozen black-eyed peas, which I couldn’t find in the grocery stores here, so I used canned. The other substitution I made was Tobasco sauce in lieu of cayenne pepper, which I had forgotten to replenish in my spice cupboard. This gave the soup a nice, light spicy kick.

One note about the kale. If you plan to use prewashed and chopped bagged kale, keep in mind that they typically don’t remove the fibrous center stalk from the kale leaves, and most cooks using fresh kale do. I didn’t mind; however, the stalks can be stringy and less palatable than the leafy potions.

I divided the soup into 1 cup portions (158 calories per serving). I froze two servings, while keeping three in the refrigerator for no-fuss meals throughout the week. Even when the days warmed again, I was content to eat this soup for dinner. I ate the soup with toast, but cornbread would have been the perfect accompaniment!





Weekly Photo Challenge: Every Day Life

16 09 2012

I’ve been posting the weekly photo challenge here, on Jenion, but I am hoping to migrate them to the blog I share with my friend, Mike Beck, over at The View From Two Cities. This week’s photograph can be found on that blog by clicking here. Thanks!





Flashback Friday: Happy Girl

14 09 2012

Last fall, I visited my brother Matt and his family in Chicago. After a busy Saturday out and about the city, we returned home to chill for a while before heading out to a party. I snapped these pictures of my niece, Zoe, as she expressed her inner butterfly exuberantly and wordlessly.