Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

I learned clustering years ago from Gabriele Rico’s wonderful “Writing the Natural Way” but I’ve neglected clustering until I came across past clustering and vignettes that revived my interest. Actually I started a new notebook three months ago devoted entirely to clustering. Alas, I only put six clusters / vignettes into that book until today when I clustered on the word / idea “CLUSTER.” But before I share this latest cluster here are a few ideas from the book.

Our design minds (Rico’s term for the right side of the brain) are filled with imaginative ideas and clustering is a sort of brainstorming process that frees these images and makes them visible. Clustering is a journey we begin without knowing or concerning ourselves with outcomes. Clustering only takes a few minutes. At some point during the clustering your mind will suddenly know what to write and then you shift into writing a vignette which only takes a few minutes. Now here’s my attempt at clustering “cluster” — the raw vignette / first draft.


Cluster shifts the view, a dance of messages passing the eye, attracting the eye like clouds in the sky. Pulling together or poles apart repulsed and sent away. Clustering pops ideas, floats ideas ever changing like clouds floating by transforming and dissipating, whisping away — fierce dragon to unformed tendrils waiting for the next breeze to gather together again — always different, bringing the kaleidoscope into another picture of what? The thoughts trapped in your mind. Clustering invites these wordless thoughts to come out to play, to give them voice.

I didn’t time myself as I should have but this entire process only took 5 to 10 minutes. The next thing would be to give the vignette a rest and come back later for additional work (or not).

Here’s a [It’s my turn again] vignette after clustering on TURN from Writing the Natural Way on Oct. 9, 2011.

It’s my turn again where / when I flip over and repeat but am I repeating the same things over and over? My turn is another invitation to return for another look, to see / hear / taste / feel now, to spin on the axis of the moment. Do I remember my last turn? Should I? Each turn is a new chance, an opportunity for now, the again that’s always different than last time. The again that puts last time in proper perspective into the past of has beens that can be no more. My turn is an invitation to new creativity —  now.

I wrote this one [Wonder and the Fragility of Ideas] from Writing the Natural Way, on October 11, 2012

My head bobs up and down anxious, no, eager (because we don’t like worry words and anxious is a worry word). We like words like eager, a puppy aiming to please, a child wondering about his world, living in the moment, the wonder of Now. Wonder sneaks up on me when I sit quietly. No thunder — who needs thunder? Thunder is suspect, drawing attention to itself with noise rather than substance. When I don’t know what to wonder about, wonder tells me. All I need to do is pay attention. PAY ATTENTION! ATTENTION means ATTENTION!

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I wrote this vignette [Wonder and the Fragility of Ideas] after clustering (from Writing the Natural Way, in October, 2012)

My head bobs up and down anxious, no, eager (because we don’t like worry words and anxious is a worry word). We like words like eager, a puppy aiming to please, a child wondering about his world, living in the moment, the wonder of Now.

Wonder sneaks up on me when I sit quietly. No thunder — who needs thunder? Thunder is suspect, drawing attention to itself with noise rather than substance. When I don’t know what to wonder about, wonder tells me. All I need to do is pay attention.


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road02 15 months since I rode my bicycle. I was getting ready for the 2012 summer riding season when I was forced to stop because exercise had me coughing and gasping for breath. Something was wrong and it wasn’t until Memorial Day 2012 that I found out I had colon cancer. Kind of sucks but I’m still here and itching to get back in the saddle again.

I did it today. I pumped up my tires to 85 psi yesterday. I was up way too early this morning to go for a ride (6:15 AM). I felt better after a nice two hour plus morning nap. I put on the bright red Phillies shirt given to me for my birthday by my granddaughters so I’d be uber visible. I have clipless pedals on my bicycle so I hopped into my special riding shoes with the clips. I finished off my riding wardrobe by clipping my geeky but oh so useful rear view mirror to my glasses and donned my helmet. After all this time I was ready or so I hoped. I wondered — could I manage my bicycle? Was I really ready?

Enough talk — I walked my bicycle to the end of the driveway, swung my leg over the bike and clipped my right foot in. Ready or not? I pushed off, gained momentum and clipped in with my left foot. I was flying again. I felt like a kid with the air in my face. I’m doing it and loving every second.

I rode uphill from our house to the front of the development turned around and rode back the other way, past the house all the way down the hill. Not too steep from our house down. I did the steep part first.

I rode down to the intersection and back to our house, not a long ride (maybe 1/2 mile total?). I broke my speedometer a few years ago and never replaced it. 1/4 mile? 1/2 mile? The distance doesn’t matter. I rode my bicycle again — that’s a milestone and a new beginning.

I have chemo tomorrow which means I’ll be hooked up to a portable pump until Wednesday afternoon which puts the kebash on exercise. If the weather permits, I’ll be back on the bicycle on Thursday when I’ll try two circuits. I’m hoping to build my stamina so I can go out on the road for a decent ride.

My legs are stiff after todays’ ride and even though I took it easy, I still ran short of breath. I’ll get there.

PS — I took the photo during one of my rides a few summers back.

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“Don’t expect, either in life or in art. Open yourself to discovery. Enjoy the mystery. All the good stuff is hidden in the dark corners. It’s what gives life its sense of vitality.” John Daido Loori from “The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life.”

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I took this photograph one lovely late spring day while walking in the forest, camera in my hand and no idea what I might photograph that morning. I was exploring, open to discovery when I chanced on this micro scene on the forest floor. Had I been focused on a particular goal I probably would have missed this delightful image. Later, when I published it in June, I composed this poem — no other explanation needed. Surprise and delight are enough.

Morning light
Puddles the forest floor –
Walk softly.

Kerry Leibowitz is an outstanding Landscape Photographer and a fine writer. I discovered his Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog a few weeks ago. When I received an email notification of The Moment, Kerry’s latest post, I went over to have a look. Wow! Kerry describes his trip to White Sands, New Mexico with a marriage of images and words you must see to appreciate. I’ll not spoil the experience. Click over to The Moment and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

After reading Kerry’s post (twice) I got to thinking about one of my own experiences, one that I will never forget. One morning in April, 2010 I was in Ceres Nature Preserve setting up to take a few photographs. I was surprised, delighted — so much so that I didn’t make any images of the experience. Instead I recreated my experience in words and posted Morning on Emerald Lake a few days later. I invite you to share that experience with me now.

Life is a creative journey that can be delicious, especially when you follow John Daido Loori’s advice and open yourself to discovery.

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I was all set to title this post “High Tide on the Delaware” — until I developed and scanned another roll of film today. The lead image of the pier is much better than the one I shot at high tide. So I changed my mind.

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I shot this photo yesterday. I brought my 24mm lens because I had the itch to go wide. Glad I scratched that itch. The tide was out enough to expose some nice textures on the beach, the clouds co-operated (I used an orange contrast filter), the boys hanging out on the end of the pier added interest to the photo and the reflections called out to be photographed.

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This photo was taken last week. High tide and a brisk breeze made for some interesting conditions. As many times as I’ve photographed the pier at Red Bank Battlefield Park, this was the first time I went out onto the pier. I had it to myself. I used my 75-150 zoom lens to get close to one of the old piles sticking out of the water. Can you feel the movement of the water?

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Here’s another shot of the same pile. I couldn’t make up my mind which photo I liked best so I included both. When I was standing out on the pier, I was reminded of John Daido Loori’s writing about “seeing with your ears and hearing with your eyes.” I felt the water all around me, heard the lapping of the waves on the rocks, smelled the river aromas and the wind  — it was a glorious moment.

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Turn to the north and look up — what a view. That’s the Phila. skyline on the horizon. Can you feel the water now? I used my 50mm lens for this shot and cropped from the top to raise the horizon and give the image a panoramic feel.

The first photo was taken with my Nikon F3HP and Fuji Neopan 400 rated at 640. The rest of the images were taken with my Nikon N8008s and Tri-X rated at 1250. I had loaded the N8008s with Tri-X for a party but we ended up not going. Shooting at 1/4000 sec was the only way to control the light. Who knew I’d ever need a shutter speed that fast?

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It seldom occurs to us that the older folks in our lives, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., were young once and that someday we’ll be the old fogies.

Have a look at this photograph of my grandmother and I, taken in May, 1949. Grandmom was 60 and I was 4 1/2 years old. The photo is one of my favorites and my first serious restoration effort. The inspiration? I needed a good image of my grandmother for the second edition of her cookbook that I edited and produced as an e-book in November, 2010. I used this image on the title page.

I finished the cookbook, “The Collected Recipes of Frances K. Sullivan” in plenty of time to burn the e-book to CDs and mail out to my sister and cousins in time for Christmas. Everyone else got a wrapped copy in person on Christmas Day. I used this restored image of grandmom crocheting in her favorite chair for the cover.

The first edition of the cookbook was done in November, 1987 and printed using a dot matrix printer (and more than one ribbon). Mom helped me decipher grandmom’s handwriting and put the book in order. Mom also paid for the printing and binding (spiral bound 8 1/2 X 11). And we surprised everyone in the family with a copy of the book that Christmas 23 years ago.

This time around I had far more sophisticated computer resources at my disposal. There are 20 chapters in the cookbook. It occurred to me that it might be fun to include images from grandmom’s life in the book so I inserted an image at the beginning of each chapter.

I had discovered a small suitcase filled with old snapshots in mom’s garage. The photos belonged to my late Aunt Martie Ann. As I went through these images looking for material, I saw grandmom as a young mother. I saw her growing family. I realized that these images weren’t simply old photos — they were much more. They were windows into the lives of my grandmother and her family. Real people!

The images I put into the cookbook whet my appitite for more so I published a photo book. This is the cover I created for that project. The book is 8 inches X 8 inches printed on real photo paper. It contains 46 digitally restored photos and sits on my mom’s coffee table. I gave it to her as a Mother’s day gift — she loves it.

The cover image is another of my favorites. Here’s Frances K. Sullivan (she wasn’t a grandmom then) as a young mother in her early thirties with her first three children. The building in the background is the farmhouse. Mom wasn’t born until the family moved to Phila. a few years later.

The reason the image is light and ghostly on the right is because it was double exposed. I cropped and fiddled and came up with a decent image.

The inspiration for my digital restoration journey began with the desire to include images from grandmom’s life in the new edition of the cookbook. The journey continues and takes me deeper into the lives of grandmom and her family. Just the other day I ‘finished’ and published the restored image of grandmom and uncle Harry when grandmom was 10 years old. I restored another image of her grandmother (Uncle Harry’s mother). The journey continues to expand.

I don’t know where the journey will lead but I’m certain of one thing. The images I restore digitally will preserve these precious images and bring them to life for our children, grandchildren and generations to come. And I’m enjoying every minute of the journey.

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Morning light
Puddles the forest floor —
Walk softly.


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Hop on the way back machine while I turn the clock back to June, 1970 on the day my late sister Ann graduated from high school. My gift to Ann was a photo album celebrating her special day. When I dug out and scanned the negatives the other day I found two nice reflections.

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Here’s Ann in her cap and gown out on the street in front of our house talking with a friend or neighbor in their car. The beautiful flower basket reflected in the car was from mom and dad. That’s mom in the foreground.

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Ann changed into her ‘civilian clothes’ for the party later in the evening. Here she is smiling, cake in hand enjoying that happy day so many years ago.

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My inspiration to dig out and scan Ann’s graduation photos came from this lovely portrait of Ann that I found while scanning prints from the family albums the other day. I don’t know who took the photo. It may have been me but that doesn’t matter. When? Again, I don’t remember. Ann would have been 59 in July had she not passed away ten years ago so I’m guessing this photo was probably taken about 20 years ago.

The two graduation photos were taken with Kodak Ektacolor S color negative film using my Pentax Spotmatic SLR that I had purchased new a few months before. The combination of my Epson V600 scanner and VueScan Pro scanning software gave me the tools I needed to scan and clean these precious negatives after all these years. I was surprised and pleased at how well the colors came up.

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I was searching for a photo of my grandmother that would do her justice, a photo where the real person shone through. I wanted a good image of her for the title page of the second edition of “The Collected Recipes of Frances K. Sullivan” that I (editor) finally finished this week — a full 23 years after the first edition.

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Do you believe in serendipity? Synchronicity? I do. I found this photo, the perfect image in an old suitcase in my mother’s garage. This is grandmom as I remember her. The photo was taken in May, 1949. The cute kid is me when I was a wee lad of four and a half years. Grandmom was a vital 60 year old.

As I went through the collection of old family snapshots, I found images of grandmom as a young mother, as a ‘mature’ woman with a growing family and as a grandmother. I found photos of other people I knew that were taken when they were younger. I got to thinking about how our mental images of the people around us characterize them as they are now (or how we knew and remember them), forgetting that they were young once.

I accumulated quite a collection of wonderful pictures from the past while editing the cookbook. I included 21 in the book and will publish these on The Aware Writer as a series. I’ll share my thoughts and I’ll probably write a few tutorials illustrating my adventures with my new flatbed scanner and how I was able to rejuvenate old images with PWP. Stay tuned…

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I Wonder Why?

I wonder why

raindrops wander on the glass.

I wonder why

I marvel at the sky.

I wonder why

I sigh and cry.

I wonder why

I laugh and play.

I wonder why

I wonder

and wander through

my toybox mind.

What will I play with today?

I wonder.

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