Category Archives: #Reflections / Мисли

A River of Stones, January 2019

Years ago, I followed a blog challenge, A River of Stones, where I tried to contemplate and write one small piece each day in January. Although the stream was interrupted and the original blogger discontinued the tradition, over the years, I have seen many of my poetry friends do the same every January. After the very first time, 2012, I have had many fresh new beginnings, with each New Year dawning, but I, too, discontinue very easily.

This year, I will write small stones for as many days as I find them. No promises, no tears lost. Here is the first stone in this 2019 January River:
~~
Без сняг пред портата –
поле от сивота
и сухи съчки.

~~
No snow –
the field is brown and grey.
Just windy.

Mindful Monday, or How I Scored on My New Year Resolutions

I am posting this only to share how well I did on my last New Year’s Resolutions and to formulate the new ones. To refresh your memory in detail, I can refer you to my blog post from last year.

In short, I’ll report on each of my resolutions:
1. I wanted to make the “Devastation of the Soul” chapbook. Checked. That is ready, but not submitted anywhere. I didn’t finish it by the end of February as I’d planned, but at the end of September or mid-October. – KEPT!
2. I intended to translate 13 horror stories from English to Bulgarian – one each month plus an additional one. I completely forgot about this, and never even started it. – FAILED!
3. I wanted to write a poem every day in April and November but didn’t keep my April part of the promise. Honestly, I don’t even remember this resolution. Anyway, I’m nearly ready with the November Poem-a-Day challenge. That is, all the poems are written in their first draft and need to be edited and the ones for the final chapbook selected. OK, that’s a new plan. – HALF-KEPT!

4. Regarding this project, I won an artist on my side. She thought about it, started drawing, and then, in September, forgot about it. I’ll give it a try next year, perhaps. – HALF-KEPT!
5. Yoga once a week – sometimes, I managed, other times I couldn’t. We’ll consider this as FAILED!
6. Dieting with a journal – definitely not with a journal, and not the whole year through. So, we’ll say it’s FAILED!
7. Five new theatrical pieces and 3 new operas – I saw 3 plays and 2 more for children, so this part of the resolution can be considered kept. As for operas – I saw one new musical, and that’s all. I planned to see 3 operas, I almost bought the tickets, but for one reason or another, I wasn’t able to attend. So – HALF-KEPT!
8. Blogging once a week – actually, I didn’t until August. Then, I made an editorial calendar and started preparing my blog posts earlier, so that I have time to think and polish the content. Well, since August, blogging has been quite fine. Let’s say this resolution is KEPT!

Above, I can count 2 KEPT, 3 FAILED and 3 HALF-KEPT resolutions. I’ll consider this a successful year.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Frivolous Fridays: Happy Newtonmas!

Happy Newtonmas and Reason’s Greetings!

For my last post of 2018, I was looking for a fun topic to share with you within the #FrivolousFridays tag. I’m really happy with my finding – although it’s not so new, I’ve discovered Newtonmas, the alternative Christmas. Accidentally, Newton was also born on 25 Dec, so the community of science geeks and atheists in the world introduced the celebration of scientific achievements as an alternative to the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Very curious that Sir Isaak Newton was born on that particular date! That is his old-style birthday, while the new-style date is on 4th Jan. This difference puts him in a different year, of course, but I am sure this is not that important from the perspective of the time elapsed.
To make the long story short, the Skeptics Society needed a name for its X-mas party, and in 2011, they came up with the bright idea of “Newtonmas”. Other names for the same celebration are Gravmas along with its spelling variants “Gravmass” and “Grav-mass” that derive from “gravitational mass”.

So, what do we do for this day? Or, we can make it a week-long period of festivity. It can also take all the days between the two birth dates of Sir Isaak Newton – starting on 25th Dec, we can go on celebrating by a different science-related activity each day to 4th Jan.

– Cards – Send out cards saying “Reason’s Greetings” instead of “Season’s Greetings”.
– Gifts – When choosing the special presents for the people we love, need to make sure they are science-related. Encourage children to pursue an interest in the sciences. There are plenty of children-friendly microscopes, telescopes, experiment kits and observatories. Bookshops are full of encyclopediae for the young readers with awesome visuals and catching way of presenting science.
– Games – Board games that are intellectual, such as math or word puzzles, are especially encouraged. Why not also design and build something useful or science-related? You may use scale models, too.
– Food and drinks – Oh, that is up to you. Atheists observe no dogmas regarding food, apart from their personal dietary preferences and peculiarities.

Here’s a thought – when you decorate your X-mas tree think planets and stars instead of ordinary balls and snowflakes! Think galaxies and nebulae instead of garlands and colourful bands – and you’ll have the greatest and warmest of the reason’s holidays!

Share your thoughts, I’m curious to hear them. Did you know about this special celebration?

Mindful Monday: Tao Te King 24

For today’s #MindfulMonday topic I chose to write about Chapter 24 of Tao Te King. I don’t apply any system when choosing the verse. Let’s say I picked this chapter because it’s the 24th day of the month.

Here is the text:

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

This must be one of my favourite chapters, focusing on a quality I value highly – humbleness, which is not soliciting recognition. The verse states it all – you need to focus on doing what you are supposed to do without burdening your work with any secret hopes for recognition or praise. In my view, this is one of the hardest things for a person to do. We all want to be recognised for our contribution, even if we speak differently. Frequently, we expect to receive the praise we deserve, especially when and because we keep silent about it, in an attempt to be humble.

Let’s Talk Introversion, Part 2

If you need to refresh your memory about this series, Savage Saturdays where I will write about psychology, motivation, inclusion and similar things, you can check this post about some widely-spread introvert myths. And here we go with one of the most interesting things about introverts, the “introverted hangover”.

This is a great term. Even though it’s not new, I met it this March for the first time. I recognised what it stands for immediately. How could I have not? When you have too much to drink, you can get a hangover and feel down, so down that you think you aren’t getting up soon. My very first hangover was a terrible experience, and I have no doubt yours were the same as mine. You just lie there, head spinning, at times pounding and the moment you try to lift it, that sickness in your chest and your stomach starts crawling up. Sometimes, the sickness finds its way up, of course. One of my favourite “drunk” jokes is this:

“The salad was sitting peacefully in one man’s stomach when something cold poured over it.

– What are you? – asked the salad.

– Vodka – answered the liquid.

– Who sends you? – asked the salad.

– John. And the salad quieted for a while.

Then the same thing happened again and again, when, after the third “John” answer, the salad said:

– Why don’t I just climb up there to see who this John person is?”

Fortunately, “introvert hangover” doesn’t have this particular effect on your body. Still, the physical sickness apart, you have this feeling of being wiped out. You are done for, you can’t stand on your feet, very often even literally. Another thing you can’t do is talk to people. Just like when you’re hungover, you can’t drink alcohol and you get sick by only looking at it, in the state of introvert hangover, you can’t take any more talk. After all, you’ve had too much of it already.

You get into this state as a result of too intensive socialising. The best cure is prevention, so you’ll do great to not bring this on yourself, but we don’t always have control over each minute of our daily lives. Imagine you are a teacher at a school camp, or an office coordinator, or an event manager, well, you name it. You can do this, mind you, even as an introvert. Not all people who work such jobs are extroverted. Another thing to keep in mind is, you can get introvert hangover even if you’re an ambivert.

So, let’s get back to our school camp or business event. You are in the middle of this week-long thing and a great number of people turn to you for a great number of things – from advice to simple questions of direction and agenda. You may be enjoying all these interactions – you are needed, you are useful, you see how people’s faces glow when you help. You may also have fun with all the games or entertainment. Yet, inevitably, you’ll be drained at the end and when it’s over, you will find yourself experiencing the introvert hangover.

The cure? Stay in the dark, keep away from the noise. You may read, write, draw or make music – whatever artistic preference you have. Go for a lonely walk in nature. Sit on the beach, look at the sea and breathe. Go to the forest, sit with your back against a tree, look at the greenery around you and breathe. Breathe in peace, breathe out calamity. Take in relaxation, take out soiled emotions.

Yuletide – Wednesday Wishes

Yule, Saturnalia, or just the Winter Solstice
It’s this time of the year again. The winter solstice marks the longest night and shortest day. It is the official start of the winter season and though the sun begins to come back to our days, the temperatures will get lower yet, because the real harsh cold weather is still to come. Both Yule and Saturnalia are similar to Christmas, and as you’ll see, they have influenced it a lot in different parts of the world.
Why is the winter solstice important to people? I think it’s because of nature and because of what it says about nature. Darkness is at its deepest. It seems the world will not come back to the sun, but just then, things turn and days start to get longer. It is a time for relaxation, enjoying the fruits of your work during the active seasons, giving gratitude to nature for her richness and celebrating the turn of seasons. The turn of seasons is what breathing and pulse are to the human life. All life consists of cycles. After darkness comes sunshine, after cold comes warmth. Nature, like life, will not stay in the same position forever. Evergreen trees are a natural choice for most of the rituals during Yule. They reflect the permanent character of life – even though most greenery is lost, it never goes away entirely. Besides that, the evergreen pines and firs make for a particularly cheerful view amidst the otherwise barren landscape.

If we turn to Saturnalia, we’ll see a slightly different picture. After all, ancient Rome didn’t know winter at its harshest. We can’t really speak of desolate darkness or cold, or even barrenness of the land. During these festivities, dedicated to Saturn – the god of agriculture, the highlight is on celebrating the fruits of the land, enjoying the results of the people’s work in the fields and the gratitude of the population for a good year without hunger and poverty. During the Saturnalia, which lasted for a week, the lower in status became the most honoured. Sometimes slaves would sit at the head of the table, while their masters served them. That time was by far the noisiest festival of the whole year.
Much like during the modern X-mas holidays, schools and businesses in ancient Rome would close inviting all the population to participate in the celebrations.
In all three winter-solstice-related traditions, a focus is put on giving: people would give small presents to their friends and family as well as complete strangers. The suffering of weaker members of the community is usually sought to be relieved by donations, charity or giving them a break as is the case of slaves in Rome.

When I hear strong opinions about the nature and origin of Christmas, I wonder if it is really wise to try and separate holidays and festive traditions between the various beliefs, when we know that people have been living together over all these centuries.
No matter which holiday you honour, do it according to your beliefs, eat and drink enjoying the work of your hands and hearts!

Daylight Saving Time – Time to End It

Today is time for a #ThoughtfulTuesday post. As we changed time again quite recently, I decided to write about this peculiar tradition and the idea that it will soon be discontinued.

The discussion has been on since the last time we changed to DST, a.k.a. summer time, in end-March. I strongly support the idea that we should stop switching back and fro, as the cost-efficiency of this process is not valid any longer. I doubt there’s any saving going on, and that was the main argument in favour of the switching between times. Yet, I understand that the majority of EU citizens would have the summer time stay constantly. How their vote was registered, I don’t know. I suppose there was some sort of survey which I missed. Let’s assume they represent a good enough sample to make the result valid. What does their choice show about them?

First of all, let me remind you what the DST is. It means darker mornings, lighter evenings. Or, in other words – it gets light later in the morning and it gets dark later in the evening. I have several acquaintances who support the same notion – that we should stick to summer time. Their reasoning: you have more light after work and school. You can go for walks and, generally, you will not feel so oppressed by the winter mood if that’s the case. Surely, 1 hour won’t make much of a difference. Yet, people speak of it with a lot of ardour.

Why don’t they argue for lighter mornings, when we have to get up and start our days? I feel particularly despondent if it’s still dark outside when I get up. I start my day with the feeling that getting off bed is a torture, a punishment – in general, something to loathe. And, as most of us would agree, getting up doesn’t need any more negative associations to go with. It’s pretty unpleasant as it is.

So, to go back to my original point of wondering: what their choice speaks about these people. Obviously, they care more about the time after work than about the start of the day. Perhaps they don’t get up very early, so it doesn’t matter to them if the sky is dark. They can get up a little before noon, work in the afternoon, go for a walk in the early evening, and then party until the small hours. This and repeat. What are they? Not farm workers, for sure. Not medical workers either. Neither do they work at school. I have just mentioned three of the important professional fields on whose experts we depend to a large extent during our entire lives. Excluding school, perhaps.

And before this turns into a criticising post, I’ll share my true reason to side with the standard time, a.k.a. “normal” or “winter” time. I want to stick to this time because it’s the correct one from a scientific point of view. It’s the normal time, and I deeply believe we must embrace our normalcy.

Does your country change between normal and summer time? Which time do you support?

Monday Mentions: Sojourner Truth

My #MondayMention post today is dedicated to an extraordinary lady.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
We celebrate her life and legacy on 26 November, the day of her death, only because we aren’t sure about the date of her birth. Not even about the year. No wonder, as we are speaking the 18th century.

Sojourner is not her real name, of course. She accepted is as a symbol and a message. But let me start at the beginning. She was born in slavery in the state of New York, her real name was Isabella Baumfree and her first language was Dutch. The region where she lived used to be the property of Dutch settlers, which is why that was the everyday language.

She was just 9 years old when she was sold after her owner’s death, and over the next 2 years, she changed hands twice more. Around that time, Bella started to learn the English language. In 1826, she escaped to freedom with her youngest daughter. Her master had promised to emancipate her but didn’t, so Bella ran away. She had two other children who stayed behind. That happened only a year before slavery was abolished in New York.
She learned that her 5-year son was sold in Alabama, which was illegal since he was to be emancipated in New York. Isabella had the courage to start a court suit. That case was the first one where a black woman got a victory over a white man. Then she converted to Christianity and worked as a housekeeper with two priests successively. Curiously, the latter one was accused of killing the first one in order to appropriate his fortune. Isabella Baumfree was implicated for the murder. This case also received huge public attention, and she was successful once again.

In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth by which she grew popular. She spent her life advocating abolition, women’s rights, and suffrage. Her views were radical even for her fellow-abolitionists. Sojourner Truth’s main concern was that freedom and equal rights are sought only for black men, but not women. She worried that after slavery is abolished, the movement and activists would decrease the pressure they put on political figures and law-makers and would be satisfied with the partial victory. That way, women would remain without basic rights still.
In truth, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one regulating women’s right to vote, wasn’t voted until 40 years after Sojourner Truth’s death.
Still, she set the beat, right?

The Beauty of Being Prepared

On Having a Pre-Formulated Theme for Your Future Chapbook

Today’s Writerly Wednesday post started from my speculations whether or not having a theme for my chapbook helps. From there, my thoughts went to being prepared in general. Is creativity something you can direct?

I think not. But being prepared and having a direction in mind is really useful.

This year is my 9th in poeming for the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge. It is very similar to the April Poetry Month one, mainly in that you are supposed to write at least one poem every day. The differences start from there. In NovPAD you are also expected to follow specific prompts, while for April PAD, or NaPoWriMo, you can follow yourself and poem on whatever topic you like. Why is that so? Primarily because in November the goal is to use all or most of your resulting poems in a brand new chapbook which you might publish or submit to contests. Of course, no one stops you from doing that with your April-produced poems, yet that is not the explicit objective of the Poetry Month.
In 2010, when I first joined the magnificent community at Poetic Asides, I had no idea about chapbook or contests. I went there with the pure heart and enthusiasm for taking part in something new and wonderful – writing poetry with help and support from others who thought like me. Until that moment, I had never had a supporting community. I joined a couple of so-called “Poetry Clubs” at school and then at university, but honestly, they didn’t do much in the way of support or practical help. I don’t think those clubs sucked, I believe it wasn’t the right moment for me. Plus, let’s admit it, online is much easier. You may take your time, appear whenever it’s convenient for you and choose whether to write to a prompt or not.

In 2012, I started, as usual, simply trying to follow the stream. The previous two years I was doing NaNoWriMo along with the poetry thing, so it was both easy and difficult to write every day. Easy, because you are in the writing mood anyway. Difficult, well, you’ve guessed already. In 2012, I was collecting and sorting papers and articles that would help me in writing my thesis which was due in June 2013. That was instead of a novel that year. Because I was online all the time, I was able to follow the poem-a-day challenge and around Day 7 I noticed that I consciously chose to bend every prompt into a poem about my Dad. At first, the prompts fitted naturally, but after I found the tendency, I started looking for a fit even if there wasn’t one.

Nothing happened after that. Despite some great advice I received from fellow-poets on Poetic Asides, I never got down to actually compiling the good pieces into a book. But they are there, so I may.

In February 2014, I was writing to a month-long creative challenge. I participated in it 2 years in succession. The first time I tried to be diverse, but it didn’t work well, so in 2014, I thought I’d stick to poetry, as this is my medium. I saw again that poems go one direction, and from Day 7 or so, I started leading them in the same direction on purpose. I already compiled the Devastation of the Soul chapbook. Not published yet. I haven’t made up my mind what I’d do with it. Let it rest for a while.

This November, I created my theme a long time before November even started. I even had time to forget it, so I had to look in my earlier Tweets to see how I announced it. So, here’s a take away: announce, because you are going to forget.

The advantage: I am greatly relieved when I see the daily prompt because I know where to take it. I suppose I am one for preparation. Being prepared means a lot to me. It spares me from the initial chaos of wallowing in the swamp of not knowing which way to turn. It saves me a lot of time, energy and I can hit to poeming right away.
I can see this advantage working for me in my blogging activity, too. Now that I plan my blog posts and prepare by research and schedule I am able to meet the time frame I’d set for myself. I mean, having an Editorial Calendar is good, but not enough.

Maybe you have some other tricks and means by which you help your creativity get active and efficient. Or maybe, having read this, you think you should try it. Try it and in a month come back and tell me what happened.

Wednesday Wishes – Samhain

Todays #WednesdayWishes falls on Samhain. So to say, this post comes in its own topic naturally.

Samhain, pronounced SA:WIN, closely related to Halloween, All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead, is one of the four Wiccan/Pagan holidays that mark the change of a season. It falls between autumn equinox and winter solstice, celebrates the harvest and also welcomes the beginning of the dark half of the year. It is affiliated with other holidays that are popular around the world and that share similarities. A lot of Neo-Pagans celebrate it as their New Year, though Imbolc is also an option.

Because of the lack of written documents of the ancient period, we can’t be sure how it was celebrated. Most probably, the harvest would be collected and then a feast would follow. On a spiritual level, over those days the boundary between this world and the next thins, so a lot of creatures from beyond are able to appear in our world. Priests would make large bonfires: to cleanse both the landscape from the fallen leaves, and the areas from evil spirits and influences. The tradition of disguising in costumes and impersonating evil creatures from the beyond got mixed and transferred to modern times in today’s Halloween trick-or-treating. I can safely say that all parts of the world have this dressing-up in some form. It is used to scare the evil spirits back to the beyond.

runes for divinationDivination is a ritual typical of Samhain. In it, various magical objects and rites can be employed. One simple way of doing it is by means of a Tarrot card deck. Using Runes and various types of seeds or beans is also possible. Another way is by opening the Bible on a random page and reading the first verse that your eyes fall on. Read and think what that speaks to you. I remember reading about this in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and doing it right away. I was still an impressionable young girl back then. I remember the holiday for which Tess did it wasn’t Samhain, of course. She was a devout Christian, and it must have been Michaelmas or Candlemas. I promise I’ll look into the matter sooner than later. Wink.

Autumn DecorationOut of the other ways to celebrate, I chose to mention two more: decoration and renovation. Decoration is easy – put an autumn wreath on your door and decorate your house and yard with the fruits of nature characteristic of the season, keeping to the orange and black colour. Use pumpkin, yellow and red leaves, chestnuts, twigs and dry grass, in short what you can think of. Renovation captured my attention. Choose an area of your house, or life, and think of how you can improve it. Consider what state it is in right now, and try to imagine what it could be, what you’d like it to be. Discard items you no longer need and use. Make place for new items, or just leave some empty space to enjoy.

Happy Samhain! Get rid of all things dirty and live free! Share some photos of how you celebrated whatever holiday you chose to honour this year.