Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

How Does Your Garden Grow?

In Arvada, Auntie Flat, creativity, neighborhood on May 15, 2018 at 8:14 pm

Yesterday a friend asked if I wanted some of the Basket of Gold currently taking over her front yard with their sumptuous yellow flowers. I had to tell her no.
My only outdoor space is a balcony on the north side of the building that gets no direct sunlight.
In my old life, I’d have welcomed them and invited them to take over my own hillside or parking strip.
This time of year, I’d be cutting the last of the lilacs, purple, white, and lavender and propping the vase up so the cats couldn’t eat the flowers, tip over the vase, and drink the water. Those were the days.
I was gradually digging up all the grass and replacing it with flowers. People who asked about my garden always wanted to know what kind of vegetables I grew. I didn’t. I grew flowers.
I’d go out in the early morning to cut a bouquet for that day—roses maybe, and bachelor’s buttons with a sprig or two of bleeding heart.
Ultimately, the garden is what convinced me to move to a condo. As much as I loved the flowers, I didn’t love the buying, planting, watering, fertilizing, mulching, and weeding it took to get to the blooming. When my dad got sick the garden got away from me and I never had the energy to bring it back. My neighbors deserved better.
So I moved to a garden-free zone. Every year, I consider renting a plot in the community garden until I remember the unrelenting heat and weeds of July and August. No, these days I’m an observer only.
What brought all this to mind is reading Creative Quest by Questlove. He uses gardening as a metaphor for creativity in general. “To end up with beautiful flowers and healthy plants, you have to be in regular contact with them. You have to prune. You have to tend.”
I may need to make a trip to Paulino’s or O’Toole’s or Echter’s. Just to look.


Mother is a Verb

In creativity, women on May 11, 2018 at 7:09 am

These are some women I have never met (yet!) but I honor and thank them for calling forth something good and worthwhile in the world and in me personally.

terry_gross_1000x894Terry Gross has hosted NPR’s Fresh Air since 1975 interviewing thousands of guests, from scientists to celebrities. She can and does talk to anybody and asks them things I’d like to ask too as well as things that make me cringe (but I still want to hear the answer). Just this week she has interviewed an actress, a NY Times reporter, two filmmaking brothers, and a chef. She’s our generations Studs Terkel.

Maria Popova writes the wonderfully wide-ranging blog, BrainPickings, a kind of Whole Earth Literary Catalog. Born in Bulgaria a mere 33 years ago, she calls herself a hunter-gatherer of “interestingness,” and curious mind at large. Others call her writings “an inventory of a meaningful life.” I can’t read anything she writes without ordering something from the library. A towering source of thoughtful wisdom.

Twyla Tharp is an innovative dancer and choreographer who wrote my favorite book on creativity, The Creative Habit. She has choreographed dances, movies, ballets, TV specials, Broadway shows and figure skating routines and won a Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, nineteen honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President’s Award, the National Medal of the Arts, the Jerome Robbins Prize, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. Her dances are quirky and accessible even to a lowbrow like me.

When writer Sue Grafton died earlier this year, I mourned her by grieving the loss of her alphabet mysteries and their protagonist, Kinsey Milhone. I love the story of how she started writing mysteries after a bitter divorce when she found herself fantasizing of ways to kill her ex. Been there. How is that for an origin story? Kinsey was in many ways the mother of all female detectives. I’m now working my way through the alphabet A is for Alibi through Y is for Yesterday for the fourth time. I can’t think of a better tribute to an author.

Spiritual Mothers

In Church, creativity, Learning, spirituality, women on May 9, 2018 at 10:01 am

I don’t observe Mother’s Day and not only because I am not a mother and don’t have one. If you want to know why read Anne Lamott’s piece on Why I Hate Mother’s Day. So for the next few days, I will be acknowledging and celebrating several women who have helped me grow into the woman I am for better or worse.
Today I start by thanking the women who have helped my spiritual life. By the way, although I am calling them my spiritual mothers, every one is younger than I am.

Rev. Dr. Betty Jo Bradford—my first pastor. I was delighted to find a church with a woman pastor, and in many ways, she was a perfect fit for me. She welcomed all my questions and invited more, taught me many lessons, and opened my eyes to the fact that church is a volunteer organization. As a minister, her “thing” was teaching while mine has always been learning.

Rev. Kerry Greenhill—a beautiful, creative mind, she showed me that worship comes in many forms. One of my favorite pieces she wrote was a spoken word chorus several of us performed one Mother’s Day. Always a quiet and calming presence, she writes, sings, composes music, makes crafts and shares her creativity without fanfare. She also introduced me to Facebook and Pinterest, which she may now regret.

Pastor Ashley Hawkins—a young rebel and nonconformist and a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy caucus, she shows her love of God by toiling through good times and bad with a luminous smile. She regularly makes me laugh and that’s always a good thing.

Rev. Mariah Hayden—Like Kerry, Mariah came to my church while still a student at Iliff School of Theology. A tireless crusader for social justice, she taught me that church means being in community with others and that serving God can be done in the pulpit, the front office, or even an urban farm.

Lilac Time

In Arvada, Books, Church, creativity, music on May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Spring is my favorite season and lilacs are my favorite flower. They’re blooming now and it looks like a spectacular year for lilacs. Today I’m going to share a few other favorites from this week.

Music – Willie Nelson turned 85 this week and also released his latest album, Last Man Standing, the 156th from my count. In the title song, he laments losing most of his friends. “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’” he sings, “Or wait a minute maybe I do.” I for one hope he sticks around for many more years.

Movie – Come Sunday, streaming on Netflix, tells the story of Carlton Pearson, a rising star in the evangelical world of Oral Roberts. One night he saw a television story about innocent children starving to death in Africa. Believing as he did that only born-again Christians go to heaven, he prayed to God asking why God would condemn them to hell. And God answered, “Is that what you think I do?” When he preached that he no longer believed in hell or that people had to accept Jesus to get to heaven, he lost his following and his church, but he never backed down because God had spoken to him. You can listen to an interview with him on This American Life’s episode on Heretics.

Book – author Tony Hillerman died, I mourned not only his loss but the loss of his characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Luckily, Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman took up where her father left off to bring us more Navajo mysteries. I enjoyed the first one, Spider Woman’s Daughter, but thought she stumbled badly on the second, Rock With Wings. Song of the Lion was better and now with the fourth, Cave of Bones, she’s hitting her stride. I’m happy to revisit my old friends Chee and Leaphorn and even happier to see the increased emphasis on Chee’s wife, Bernadette Manuelito.

Event – I just learned that the Arvada Center will host a Book Festival on Saturday, May 19, featuring author readings, an exhibit hall, panel discussions, hands-on activities, contests, and book-related products of all kinds. All for the $5 admission fee. Pay a little more to have brunch with an author and attend a variety of writing workshops. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to a book festival. This will be my first, and I hope to see you there.

Walking the Talk

In Books, creativity, Learning, Walking on May 3, 2018 at 10:05 am

After walking every day last week, I missed the first three days of this week. Sunday was too hot. Monday I had other commitments. Tuesday I woke up at 2:30 a.m., so later that day, instead of walking I slept. Sometimes when I don’t walk, I like to read about walking instead. This should come as no surprise.
I’ve probably checked out a dozen or more library books about walking and never read more than a page or two in most of them. Some that I did finish are A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, both about tackling very long trails. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce had the titular character taking off on a whim to walk across England. Years ago I read Louis Lamour’s Sackett books and remember one where the protagonist left someplace like Virginia to head west on foot. I won’t be doing any of those things.
Here are some of the titles I’ve tried. Bet you didn’t know there was so much to say about walking.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
Walking by Henry David Thoreau
The Wander Society by Keri Smith
Walking in the World by Julia Cameron
On Looking: Eleven Walks With Extra Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Walking in the Rain by Department Store for the Mind

You can also find books on walking in poetry, fiction, memoir, history, physical fitness, mental health, travel, equipment, and technique. Explore wilderness trails, city walking tours, hikes, spiritual paths, and walking to improve creativity.
I just ordered a library book on the literature, science, philosophy, art, and history of walking, The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson and also downloaded A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros who discusses the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, and the nature ramble.
Last year, I faithfully followed my Facebook friend Rasheed Hooda’s epic trek along the entire Route 66.
I am currently enjoying Thich Nhat Hanh’s minibook on mindful walking, How to Walk. It’s short enough that I will easily finish it. I think the only way for me to get through the longer books is to get them on audio and listen to them while I walk. Seems appropriate.

Ebb and Flow

In creativity, Learning, Walking, writing on April 30, 2018 at 6:52 am





I didn’t write last week. Maybe you noticed.
It wasn’t that I was too busy with other fascinating projects. In fact, I did very little besides read and walk and putter around the house. Someone, either Lucille Ball or Benjamin Franklin, said, “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” This week demonstrated to me that the opposite is also true: leisure expands to fit the time available.
I have been listening to Julia Cameron’s Walking in the World and reading How to Say Everything by Tom Hart and The Creative Sandbox by Melissa Dimwiddie. These all contain advice on how to jump-start creativity. Although conventional wisdom says I should write every day even if I write crap, and usually I agree with that, last week my well seemed to run dry.
A popular strategy for refilling the well is to walk. Writers and other creative types recommend both mental and physical wandering around to find inspiration. I did that more this week than I have for years, and I have the callouses to prove it. Luckily, my friend Sheila gave me some Burt’s Bees foot crème and pink Himalayan salt to soak my feet. These combined with taking a day off have worked a small miracle, so I should be able to hit the pavement again today.
Another tool from Julia Cameron that I have neglected is a weekly artist’s date—a solo one-hour visit to a gallery or museum or art supply store, anywhere to explore something interesting. I’ll be doing that this week. Feel free to suggest someplace fun for me to visit.
Meanwhile, I’ll be writing again. Rest assured that some of it will be crap, but I take comfort in Melissa Dimwiddie’s idea that we need crap to fertilize the good stuff.

Cart Wars

In Arvada, creativity, Denver on April 9, 2018 at 7:04 am

The Safeway at 26th and Federal is where I discovered small, two-tiered grocery carts. It was love at first sight. The top basket was the perfect size for the few items and small amounts that I buy, and the lower basket could hold heavier or bulkier items–two-liter bottles of Diet Coke, say, or a box of cat litter. Other people must have loved them, too, because they were usually all in use and I had to settle for the big, unwieldy old-fashioned carts with one funky wheel that might be perfectly fine for a family of four or so, but weren’t at all suitable for my one-person household. My puny supply of groceries – one chicken breast, some deli turkey, and piddling amounts of fruits and vegetables look downright lonely in the bottom of that big basket. Do they think I’ll buy more to fill it up?
The same thing happens at King Soopers, Sprouts, and Walmart. Most of the time they are out of the small carts and have rows and rows of the family sized ones. That tells me they need to get more of the small ones.
In 2016, 44% of all U.S. households, almost 36 million, were single-person households. We deserve more than ten small carts per store.
Maybe you saw the Nightline show several years ago where they asked IDEO, the product development company, to redesign a shopping cart. Some features of their finished product (swiveling wheels!) looked great, but they are still big and clunky—in fact, bigger and clunkier than the usual type. Phooey.
All I want is a cart that’s small, lightweight, clean, with four working wheels and available when I need it. Is that too much to ask? Based on experience, yes, it is.


In creativity, Learning, Resistance on April 5, 2018 at 6:59 am

I loved Roseanne the minute it debuted back in 1988 (THIRTY years ago!) right through the next-to-the-last season. Let’s face it, that last season was a turkey. Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to the reboot and dreading it at the same time. Would they ruin a good thing? Could it be updated and still remain relevant? I certainly hoped so.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the premier and started seeing some alarming (or alarmist) posts from people saying they wouldn’t watch because the character Roseanne was a Trump supporter, as is the real-life Roseanne.
I wanted to give the show the benefit of the doubt. As divided as the country is, maybe treating it with humor on both sides would help.
Then Roseanne tweeted some nonsense about giving Trump credit for freeing hundreds of child sex slaves each month. Say what? Turns out it’s a conspiracy theory from one of those whacked-out websites with no regard for the truth. Apparently, Roseanne wears a tinfoil hat whenever she’s not on camera.
Now I was really eager to see the new show. Yesterday, I finally got the chance, and I liked it. Yes, Roseanne’s character supports the orange man, and her sister Jackie stands, if a bit wobbly, in the opposite camp. The rest of the family are too busy trying to live their lives and deal with daily problems as well as unemployment, single parenthood, surrogate birth, and cross-dressing to pay much attention.
The humor, sarcasm, and family relationships have only evolved and it was very funny. While I remain pretty much unable to deal with Trump supporters in real life, maybe the fictional characters will help.
Can we separate an artist from his/her work? Yes, I think we can. Sometimes.
On the other hand, I will probably never again be able to watch a Woody Allen movie. Some things are unforgivable.

The Butterfly Effect

In creativity, Learning, spirituality on March 29, 2018 at 10:47 am

Think of it as your own personal butterfly effect. A small change in one part of your life could blossom into major changes elsewhere.
Some experts claim that committing to doing one small thing around the house, like scrubbing the sink every night or making your bed every morning will eventually lead to keeping the whole house clean. If anybody out there has tried this, let me know if it works. I have my doubts.
However, like compound interest, things do add up. Writers who write one page (about 300 words) every day will have 365 pages at the end of the year, equivalent to a whole year. Walking an extra block or climbing an extra flight of stairs every day can result in lost pounds and improved fitness pretty quickly.
One writer suggests that developing a new habit should start with the smallest possible step. For example, if you want to start flossing, commit to flossing only one tooth a day. After preparing the floss, it seems silly to stop after a single tooth, so you will likely floss them all.
The Broken Windows theory once proposed that visible effects of crime, such as broken windows, encourages further disorder as well as more serious crimes, and that targeting minor crimes prevents more serious ones. While the theory has been questioned, nobody disputes that living in a clean, well-maintained environment is more pleasant. Presenting an orderly appearance communicates that disorder will not be tolerated. In other words, take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. It’s why cities work so diligently to paint over graffiti as quickly as possible.
From my own playbook, one day last August I was bored and decided to check the comments on my blog, a small thing which I never do, and found a three-month-old message from my 1966 college boyfriend. To quote Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.”
Remember that butterflies are the final phase of life that starts will an egg and spends some time as a lowly caterpillar. Maybe that’s the real butterfly effect: that we can grow and develop and change throughout our lives.
Like a butterfly, maybe we can even learn to fly.

That’s Entertainment

In Arvada, creativity, Friends on March 23, 2018 at 7:17 am

Our remodeled and upgraded movie theater complex in Olde Town Arvada will open as the Harkins Theaters on April 26 after being closed for a whole year. I’m very excited about this even though I go to only about one or two movies a year. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be showing. Maybe something I will actually want to see. Doubtful but possible. As an adult, the movies I want to see usually come out between September and December.
Usually, I wait until a movie hits Netflix or Amazon Prime and then watch it. Or not. I may have lost interest by then, or at least I’m no longer interested in sitting still for two hours to watch it.
A few more ground rules: I don’t like animated movies. Sue me. I don’t like violence. For me, a movie must pass the Bechdel test, which asks whether it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Only about half of all movies meet this requirement.
Here are a few of my all-time favorite movies:
Wizard of Oz—Does anybody not love this movie? It’s my nomination for the best movie ever made. When I first saw it as a child (probably at the Federal Theater), that green witch scared the bejeebers out of me. She still does. Like Dorothy, I love the Scarecrow most of all.
Annie Hall—I think I saw this 25 times when it came out in 1977. I loved everything about it. I wanted to be Annie Hall, and I thought Woody Allen embodied the maxim that intelligence is sexy. Now, however, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch it again and I haven’t seen any Woody Allen movie for thirty years.
Milagro Beanfield War—based on one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Set in New Mexico, it is one of the sweetest movies ever made. It shows how people pull together to keep their lazy little town safe from evil developers, something we can all identify with these days. They do it with humor, music, pure orneriness, and a little magic.
Cannery Row—The critics hated it. I loved it—loved Nick Nolte’s Doc, loved Debra Winger’s house in an oil drum. I loved that one character was named Jesus Mary and Joseph. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the denizens of this little corner of Steinbeck country, and yet they still manage to form an ersatz family of sorts.
Looking back, I see that three of these movies deal with creating community, and they are all at least thirty years old. I wonder what that reveals about me?
I won’t be going to the next episode of Jurassic Park or Ocean’s Whatever or Mama Mia or Star Wars.
What will I choose?