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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of “The Gospel According To Gandalf.” The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

When I first learned that the service for today was on the Gospel According to Gandalf, I drew a blank. I have long prided myself on the fact that fantasy writing has nothing to do with me. But I remembered that I really enjoyed the talk on this topic last year. I also remembered that I identified with the character Frodo in that he was defiant and had no interest in power but is the hero of his own story.

Then I remembered that I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I read it as a teen.  It allowed me to enter the mystery. I loved it so much that I wrote “Everybody should read The Lord of the Rings” in large letters with a black sharpie on the white bathroom wall in a dive bar in Trenton that I hung out in when I was a teenager. My then best friend, who died young, looked at me in utter delight and exclaimed, “I knew you wrote that. I knew it!”

What can I say? It was the seventies. I was a teen and, like all my friends, then, I had a substance abuse problem. It is something that I tried to leave behind me. I wrote one novel based on this experience and closed the book. I thought I was done. But the fact is that I have had an off again, on again relationship with substances over the years. My own story of abusing substances when I was a teen – in a certain time and place – is something I felt bad about for a long time.

Of course, I regretted how this behavior may have affected others – especially my parents. But the question that I always came back to was, “Why did I do that to myself?” After many years, I concluded that I had to do something to break out of the confines of my life, and that is what I did. So, I forgave myself. After all, the past is the past.

And while I would never want to encourage anyone to use substances, my experiences weren’t all bad. There were a few moments of breaking through to something brilliant and elusive that may have laid the seeds for the talking unicorn in my head whose words I wrote down in a novel titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which will be published later this year by Adelaide Books. The novel is based on the unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters that is part of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.

 

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So, fantasy writing probably does have something to do with me – even if the talking unicorn in my head is a realist. And I may have unconsciously modeled myself on Frodo. Who knows? I do know that I have come here for a number of years – to this Unitarian Universalist church — and listened to the opening  statement that included some variation of you are welcome to bring all that you are.  It must have sunk in because here I am talking about something that I thought I was done with.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until last fall in the year that I turned sixty and embarked on a balanced plant-based diet for health reasons, that I experienced an absence of any craving – including alcohol and other products that contain sugar.  In addition to being addictive, sugar compromises the immune system – important to know during these trying times. It wasn’t just me who found that a plant-based diet eliminated cravings. At a party, I met a young woman with blue hair who had been formerly addicted to heroin but who had since gone to a plant-based diet.

We all have a past. So, I encourage you to bring all that you are here – including histories that you may not be proud of but that we can all learn from.

Remember, you are the hero of your own story.

Namaste

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I took part in the 9th Annual Food Revolution Summit this year for the first time. I was delighted to be in the company of 300,000 plus people worldwide who either are on a plant-based diet already or who are considering it.

I listened to every speaker and learned a lot. I’ve been on a totally plant-based diet since last fall when my acupuncturist suggested it for health reasons. I had surgery for a rather large kidney stone last year. I came home from the hospital with a bad bladder infection that sent me back to the hospital. It was really an ordeal.THEY Scottie

I was never much of a meat eater, so I gave up dairy and fish last fall. Within a month, I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Six months later, I have regained my energy and take an hour long walk everyday. I also do my yoga practice in the house on most days.

In this pandemic, it’s very important to be as healthy as you can. So I learned a lot of good information about food and supplements (like the importance of vitamins B and D) that I am using to tweak my diet.

One of my favorite speakers was Asha Akhtar, MD, whose interview was titled “Why Loving Animals Is Good for Your Health.” I’ve long been an animal lover — and have loved domestic companion animals and cows and pigs, in particular. Even so, the medical research on the value of having animals in your life (research that is largely ignored by the medical system) is staggering.

The interviewer mentioned that cruelty against domestic animals is illegal in most states but that cruelty against animals raised for “food” is legal.

This is certainly something to think about.

 

To read or see a YouTube video about my plant-based journey which led to my novel Cinnamon, a dairy cow’s (and her farmer’s) path to freedom,click here.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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Today, I heard from an old lesbian-feminist colleague and editor Jan Hardy. In the early 1990s, Jan edited and compiled two important anthologies that I was included in:  Wanting Women, an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry and Sister Stranger: Lesbians Loving Across the Lines (both from Sidewalk Revolution Press).

Jan picked up a copy of my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mother’s and daughters (Bella Books; 2012)  and wrote the following review for Goodreads.

“Very moving and sometimes difficult to read only because I’ve taken care of both my father and my mother as they grew older and became unable to care for themselves. Janet Mason captures so well the conflicts between caring for her mother’s daily needs and yet granting her privacy and dignity, between reminiscing about the past, providing strength for each day, and trying to face her mother’s imminent passing. Her writing is honest and clear, yet poetic and meditative. Many of her insights about working class life in Philadelphia shed light on the character of her mother, her grandmother and her father, and show how she developed as a woman and as a writer. This memoir must have been so painful to write, but it flows easily on the page and will last in my memory.”

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Hearing from Jan caused me to reflect on the past.  In many ways, it seems like I was a different person then. For one thing, I migrated from poetry to prose.  (The poems kept getting longer and there was dialogue in them.) I was a rather loud mouthed lesbian as a young adult. Well, someone had to be.  Now, there are more of us.  But really I haven’t changed that much.  For one thing, the poetry taught me a lot. There has to be rhythm and the writing has to be spare — regardless.

Jan was touched that the anthology she edited, Wanting Woman, was mentioned in Tea Leaves. I didn’t remember my exact words, but I remembered the context because well it is memoir and it actually happened. I wanted to find the actual quote in Tea Leaves and I did.I thought you might enjoy it too:

Now, as we sat in the living room talking, I looked over at the breakfront against the wall near the front door—the gold framed photographs on the top shelf, my parents on their wedding day, my high school graduation photograph and under that, on a lower shelf, the journals and anthologies where my writing was published. My mother took pride in my work, commenting on the other pieces as well as on my own, and seemed oblivious to the fact that the plumber or the next-door neighbor might come in the front door and see the purple cover of “By Word Of Mouth: Lesbians Write the Erotic,” the first anthology I published in. I had given my mother copies of the other anthologies that I had published in also, although at first I was hesitant. I was worried that she wouldn’t approve of the sexual content, not because it was lesbian but because some references were explicit. “I was afraid you might think it was dirty,” I once said to my mother a few years earlier when we were in the city shopping at Giovanni’s Room bookstore and I came across Wanting Women: an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry—a collection that included my work. My mother read the poem and, to my surprise, simply shrugged. “Who do you think taught you dirty?”

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One of the ways my partner and I have been staying connected during this time is through video chatting — with others as well as with each other. This week we met with a small group with our Unitarian church that is focused on poetry. Actually one member of the group is someone we know from way back when who was in a feminist writing group I was in. Another friend brought this poem to share. Since it has to do with writing and it talks about the sit down and be quiet method that I’ve espousing for decades, I thought I would share it with you. It was penned by Wendell Berry.

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How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  It is a joyous occasion and a heartbreaking one.  I couldn’t help noticing this as this crisis was breaking all around me. On my daily walk, I see that the flowers are erupting this year. A chorus of bird songs fills the air.  I’ve seen the photos of the planet becoming less polluted. Yet, it is very sad that the humans are suffering.

So, I take my walks everyday and do my Buddhist mantras for healing for the planet and all of her inhabitants.

Here are some of the photos I took on my walk.

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

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A friend lent me The Library Book by Susan Orlean and I have been savoring it. It reminds me of the Before Times — right before. This friend had joined my partner and me for a vegan lunch and it was one of the last times we went out.

One of the last places I thought of going was to our local library. I had reserved a book and it was waiting for me.  I never went. A day later the library closed its doors as we slid into quarantine.

So in this week that is National Library Week, I am reading The Library Book, and remembering what safe and holy places I have always found libraries to be.  As a practicing Buddhist, I am good at staying in the moment, but I have to admit I miss being able to go the library. It is an introvert’s dream, perhaps, being surrounded by silence and books.

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I learned a few things from the book that totally made sense — like the fact that libraries have a long history of being burned (the author found that the Nazis, among others, were known to burn books before they burned people). I also learned that  libraries have long been centers of refuge in various ways during a crisis.

I read in my library’s email, that there are many library services still available. You can go to your library’s website to find out what you can do online.  I use Hoopla — which is a national library service available through your local library — for ebooks, audiobooks and some movies and find it to be an excellent resource.

So this week and every week, remember that you don’t have to go to the library to use the library. Stay home, stay safe and keep your mind free.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

THEY Scottie

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