The Night Walk

There are a few things you learn during a walk in the nighttime. You learn that living among the clouds isn’t a fairytale, and you’re not a princess, and there isn’t a castle. It’s actually just fog. And it swirls around and curls your hair with the humid disappointment of just-missed desire.

Orange, usually, as the steam thwarts streetlights with thick vapor determined to undo identity. Even a known name as basic as color is too much, too nice, too today…it belongs to the sun world where shadow people sleep and bide awhile, waiting, for the fog that removes both why you walked and where you are going.

It might be different if you didn’t walk alone. But you’ll never know, because if you had a companion you wouldn’t be seeking the night walk in the first place. You wouldn’t be trying to find the point, the corner, the exact number of steps at which your missed ship becomes just another droplet in the hanging vapor, where the ship that never came in blends into the millions of molecules sent to earth for the night as punishment. Solitary confinement for clouds.

You learn to keep company with the misbehaved cumulonimbus forced to listen to gravity in the same way that you’ll never free your feet from the ground. You may fly for awhile, in a plane, or in a man’s arms, if you’re lucky, but eventually you’ll realize you won’t find the way to stay afloat. At least not now, and especially not on the night walk.

When you return, which you will have to do, you may face any number of things.  Sorrow, or someone saying sorry. And all of a sudden your resolution will be gone. You will feel the moment of resistance tantalize you for a heartbeat, maybe two, before it passes you by, on the way to rejoin its stronger-willed brothers in the march toward dawn.

An apology is like a paycheck. A dividend, a refund for wrongs, even if the crime wasn’t financial and the damage is actually a deep, deep crevice in the rock face where your spirit hides when it stops trying to climb. Sorry tumbles down the side of a cliff.

Maybe it’s the human condition, maybe it’s money. But you are conditioned to accept cash or check and you will. Even if it’s trading love for a line of bad credit, apologetic.

A walk in the nighttime doesn’t bring you what you want or what you needed. And yet some small part of your pain gets stolen by the fog.

It dissipates, just like rain.

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Drink Deep, and Don’t Stop Dreaming

There is probably little to no prior record of an all-nighter spent in a campus library producing goodwill toward anyone or anything. But this morning, as November brings a chill to even the Florida sunrise, there is hope.

Below is a list of things I have experienced that remind me what life is actually for. It’s for you, too: an exhortation to shake yourself out of your exhaustion and your disillusionment and thank today for coming to greet you.

Today, you have the chance:

To walk into the night under a foreign sky with familiar stars

To jump off a cliff head first and feel the world rush up to meet you

To know a name on every continent and “friend” in fifteen languages

To work hard and feel the realized ambition raise you up

To leave behind lovers, and friends, and family, who never really leave you at all

But surround you in the cocoon of a phone call

To sit on evening porches and talk about life and philosophy and thought and all the ideas

And dreamers who went before you

To see that we dream the same dreams and that they can still

Take you places

To laugh in the face of fear when

You don’t understand at all, what the hell is going on here

To smile and shout from a thousand feet up

To feel the pressure of the ocean when you swim deep below

To be swept away in a passion so exquisite and painful it leaves you at the precipice of

Finality and contentment

To feel the chasm of grief and loss and hang on to belief and be

Free.

To look back on your life and see that it was all poetry

And there will always be another human being, a God to understand

This elusive “me”

To jump from planes and sit in strange cafes and alleyways and see

Your soul in a painting made by a man years before you breathed

To cry in anguish into the night and then watch the sun rise

To shine like light itself when a child reaches up to your face

To know what it took to get you here

To remember and hold the universe inside your heart

To cherish every quiet shrieking resounding wavering solid yes and no

To hold and let go

To be left breathless.

Drink deep.

Inspiration from the Breadbasket

Two days ago I was privileged to take part in my first-ever Twitter chat with the lovely Kathryn Budig. Originally from my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, Kathryn has transformed her passion for yoga into a career that encompasses the world. She’s hosted yoga retreats and workshops from Florida to New Zealand, and recently put out an “Aim True” yoga DVD with giant fitness retailer Gaiam.

In partnership with ZICO coconut water (which, alas, I have never tried), Kathryn talked with fans and fellow practitioners for an hour.  Mostly I was just stoked to have an actual almost-real-life conversation with one of my idols. Kathryn, it must be said, is the rock star of the yoga world. And she’s from Kansas! KANSAS!

Throughout the chat, she answered questions ranging from technical yoga advice to the spiritual side of one’s practice. I started to realize what a fabulous marketing opportunity this was for ZICO—associating themselves with someone like Kathryn and making her accessible to thousands of fans, driving all of these potential customers to ZICO’s Twitter page—that is some serious public relations. ZICO’s brand was completely unknown to me prior to this encounter. By the end of the chat, I found myself looking up the flavors of coconut water they offered,  the nutritional content and where I could purchase the beverage. I have yet to actually try the stuff, but if Kathryn Budig likes it…

In all seriousness, it was an amazing experience to ask personal questions of someone I admire so deeply and receive instant direct responses. I have a newfound respect for Twitter as a mechanism for bringing people together, publicly and professionally, who would otherwise never have the opportunity to learn from each other and exchange information.

Kathryn really is doing some pretty cool things. If you think you might be even remotely interested in yoga, check out her website at www.kathrynbudig.com. I’ve never seen this austere and esoteric discipline made so accessible. She’s garnered quite the global following, and rightly so.

Pretty impressive for a girl from the little town of Lawrence.

Listen to the Dr.: Seuss and Public Relations

The books of Dr. Seuss seem to inspire an inordinate amount of discussion and, shall we say, derivative works (some less academic than others).

Observe:

Yet I am no exception: Seuss’ story The Lorax provides the reason and the rhyme for my major in public relations.

For those heinous individuals unfamiliar with the book, Lorax chronicles the tale of a greedy creature named the Once-ler, who begins, for all intents and purposes, destroying the earth in his quest for corporate domination. The Once-ler’s annihilation of all the “Truffula trees” in the valley summons the Lorax, who pleads with the Once-ler to stop the destruction. His words have stayed with me since my six-year-old self first happened upon them:

I am the Lorax

I speak for the trees.

As a public relations professional, I can amplify the voices that would otherwise be
swallowed up by the seething beast of today’s information-communication overload.
Because the truth is that every charity and non-profit needs help in order to help the people for whom they exist. They need promotion and publicity to remind the rest of us of what we should be doing with at least some of our time and money. Think hungry children, refugees, disabled citizens and the homeless man under the bridge.

I’m not sure if I will ultimately choose PR…I have several years to go. But if I do, I won’t be a spin doctor, a manipulative marketing fiend, or even a company pawn intent on increasing profits.

I will speak for the trees.

 

Why I Write

Far back in the forest of my childhood stands a little house. Empty now, it has been forgotten by everyone except the oak trees and me.  Image

Once upon a time, though, its ramshackle rooms formed castles.  As my prolific imagination went to work, sunlight sifting through the decrepit roof gave birth to pixies and gnomes.  I believed.  Tales of their mischievous exploits soon danced out of my fingers and onto paper. They stayed with me until adolescence began to pick at the seams of my stories with sticky, insistent fingers.

I owe that little house a lot.  Inside its tumbledown walls I became enchanted by the written immortalization of thought and experience.

Today, the stories I want to tell run along slightly different lines:  hushed-up social justice catastrophes, travel memoirs, anecdotes on the adventure of living.  Yet my love for writing remains the same.  I want to discover, remember, and find out.

As a child, I wrote because my words lent me the beauty of another world.  As a woman, I write because they unlock the splendor of this one.

20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words From Around the World

Read Me: 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world | Matador Network.

life and language

It’s been awhile, but CLASH is back in action for the spring semester. I thought we’d kick things off with an exploration of language, which is, in its purest manifestation, an expression of what it means to be human and to desire connection with one another.

I remember my first experience with new words in Spanish. As native English speakers, we’re used to one word meaning one thing, and to words that (usually) maintain quite literal meanings in context. In Spanish, language doesn’t work this way. My favorite of all Spanish words is “desahogarse.” In reality, it means to tell a friend about all your problems, to share your struggles and your triumphs with somebody else…an unburdening, if you will.

But literally? “Desahogarse” means ‘to undrown oneself.’ Because that’s really what language does. It allows us to invite other people into our existence, into the poignancy of pain and beauty that lets us know we are truly alive. When we share our stories, we start swimming toward the surface of our silent, solitary sea.

These words have been classified as untranslatable. Some are funny, some are sad. But all of them rang true for me in their emotional and situational sincerity. My guess is that they’ll ring true for you, too, regardless of where you’re from or what language you speak.

To me, that is the ultimate translation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

LEARN a new language

TRAVEL around the world

TALK to people from other countries

RESEARCH current events and crises

READ translations from other languages

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Why Dill Pickles Deserve Some Respect

When I was a kid, my parents used dill pickles as punishment.

I gave my little sister one of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Pepper, to be precise. Two tantrums and a lecture later, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring down a single pickle served to me on the bitter plate of punishment.

It was touch-and-go for awhile. But I survived, and I stand before you now as a pickle aficionado of epic proportions.
The elite among us understand the singular succulence of a fresh dill spear. But I just stumbled across (not upon) something even cooler: the Dil Pickle Club.

Far from simply extolling the virtues of the vegetable, however, it represented a countercultural wave of freethinkers “swimming upstream” in Depression-era Chicago. The Dil Pickle was known as a speakeasycabaret and theatre, highly influential during the Chicago Renaissance.

In 1914, John “Jack” Jones, a former organizer for the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)) started several weekly forums at the Radical Book Shop on North Clark Street in Chicago. The forums discussed labor issues along with social concerns of the day. Soon, in early 1915, Jones needed a new venue as the capacity was exceeded at the forum.

Jones found a decrepit barn on Tooker Alley, off of Dearborn Street in downtown Chicago that he would name the Dil Pickle Club. Jim Larkin joined Jones, along with the “hobo doctor” and anarchist Ben Reitman. Reitman would be instrumental in getting regular news coverage of the Pickle in the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Tribune.

By 1917, Jones created the Dil Pickle Artisans by officially incorporating it as a non-profit in Illinois for its promotion of arts, crafts, science and literature.

According to Jones: The Dil Pickles was founded by several groups of people who were convinced that they, nor for that matter no other person or group knew all there was to be known about art, literature, drama, music, science, social or political economy or any other problems confronting or bothering the human race. The various groups responsible for the formation had one idea in mind: the thought that there should be some center where any idea or work would be given a respectful hearing and brought before the public, which in the last analysis are the best judges of what they want.

The club’s legacy has seen several reincarnations, including the revived Chicago Dil Pickle Clubthe Dill Pickle Food Co-opDil Pickle Press, and the Dill Pickle Club of Portland, OR, “an experimental forum for critiquing contemporary culture, politics and humanities.”

Their old slogan is my favorite part: ‘Step high, stoop low, and leave your dignity outside.”

Pretty cool to think a humble pickle inspired an intellectual movement of this size and staying power.

Yes, it’s a yodeling pickle.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

EAT some pickles, for the love of God

CONSIDER what hidden potential consumer goods may be concealing

IMPROVE your sandwiches with the easy addition of dill

TRY dill pickles with weird foods and be surprised

Where Mess and Masterpiece Meet

His name is Banksy.

For years, nobody actually knew who he was. There was only his graffiti to go by, artfully profaning the buildings, streets and subway systems of Britain.

One of modern history‘s most talented and incognito insurgents, Banksy’s is a legacy of revolution and fearlessness, of upheaval and political oppression, of normativity and why we should question it.

Nobody actually knows who Banksy is. But according to the most recent and in-depth investigations, he was, by all accounts, a product of public school and middle-class suburbia.

He was probably something like you.

He was another boy in the rank-and-file of British social assent, and he left it all behind.

Celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Brad Pitt now fork over millions of dollars for his paintings. Britain itself bears the marks of his revolt against conformity and oppression.

The frenzied search goes on for concrete confirmation of Banksy’s identity.

But Banksy’s entire artistic career turns on a determination to keep his “real” identity hidden. Why, then, are we so intent on ferreting out his personal information? Why are his “real” name and his schooling and his parentage so much more important than the art itself?

The fault lies not with Banksy, but with us. Banksy sacrificed his claim to renown so that another identity might be made clear: that of a revolutionary prepared for combat with his native culture. For so many years, we have missed the point. 

Banksy took himself out of the picture so that his art might be the focus. He doesn’t need you to know his name. A name is just a name.

An identity is what you make of your life.