Friday, August 30, 2013

Touching the Sublime from a Boat in Jamaica Bay

I have observed Jamaica Bay from the driver’s seat of a car inching along the Belt Parkway, through a window of the A Train as it rattles over the two bridges connecting Broad Channel to the rest of Queens, and from inside a roaring passenger jet as it takes off and lands at JFK.  By far, my most cherished vantage points are while paddling my kayak or sailing my sailboat upon its waters.
One may experience the sublime anywhere, while walking The High Line, peddling a bike through Central Park, or sitting on a bench at The Cloisters as much as by attending a service at St. John the Divine or any Synagogue, Sanctuary, Mosque or Temple in the city.  Among my favorite touch points is the cockpit of a boat, be it a sailboat or a kayak.  It is then that I truly, mystically, experience the sublime as mediated through nature and the beauty and isolation that can be encountered in Jamaica Bay.
Far from the honking horns of the Belt, the rattle of the subway, the roar of a jet, and the cacophony of noise, jumble of sights, and mixture of smells that is often urban New York City, while my sailboat or kayak silently floats upon and slices through Jamaica Bay’s waters, I sometimes experience peace that is as much spiritual as psychological as I physically retreat from the mundane urban landscape.  After paddling or sailing awhile on some of the more remote parts of the bay, my soul feels refreshed and my mind and senses cleansed as if all the stress of city life has been washed away in the bay’s cleansing waters.
Be it walking or running shoes, bicycle, kayak, canoe, sailboat, or any non-motorized form of transportation that will take you into a through nature, find your own vantage point, some place and activity far removed from video games, cell phones, computers, taxis, subways and buses, far removed from the urban landscape where you too may touch the sublime.  You and our city will be better for the experience.
- - -

Last night I attended Gotham Writers Workshop free Essay & Opinion Writers Workshop in Bryant Park.  Workshop leader Melissa Petro invited those in attendance to take fifteen minutes to write an essay.  The above is an edited and revised version of what I wrote.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Creative Writing Imagination Exercise

            At Thursday evening's Gotham Writers’ Workshop free 90-minute Creative Writing 101 class in Bryant Park’s Reading Room, Alex Steele invited participants to engage in several short writing exercises, including one focusing on the imagination. Inviting those in attendance to randomly attach nouns to the word “the”, the class developed the following list to serve as writing prompts.
            The Stones (my contribution)
            The Girl
            The Statue
            The Eyesore
            The Voice
            The Google
            The Panelist

            Raising my pen above my pad of paper with list of prompts, I closed my eyes and lowered my hand, the tip of the pen coming to rest on “The Panelist”.   I then wrote, allowing my imagination to lead me.  This four paragraph vignette is the result.

            The panelist sat in his own sweat, not sure how to respond to the question from the audience.  He had been billed as a man of knowledge, an expert even, and a profound thinker, yet he had no words, no ideas, and no answer to offer in response to the query. His mind was as blank as Kant’s tabula.
            His heart pounding at a fearful rate, his fingers fidgeting with pencil in his hand, he loosened his shirt collar as he thought his moment of silence certainly betrayed his incompetence. Then it struck him, like a dream image arising from Jung’s collective unconscious. Inspiration burst forth.
            “You ask a deep and profound question” he said, “and sometimes, I think—no, I believe, that the questions we ask are far more important than any answer someone might give us. So never stop asking questions.  And do not take the bullshit answers of so called expert panelists as the last word.  The answer to your question, if there is an answer, is within you.”
            He paused.  He heard a silent gasp, then a single hand clap followed by a cacophony of hands clapping and growing exponentially into thunderous applause.  He set his pencil down, folded his hands in front of him, looking smugly at the audience in front of him.  With humble self-confidence he breathed a sigh of relief.  His reputation as a profound thinker was intact.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Creative Writing Observation Exercise

            Last night I attended a free 90-minute writing class in Bryant Park’s Reading Room.  Offered by Gotham Writers’ Workshop, the topic, presented by Alex Steele, was Creative Writing 101.  Alex had participants engage in several short writing exercises, including one focusing on observation.  Here is what I wrote.  No, I am not trying to brown-nose.

            Wearing dark tan laced oxfords, khakis, a short-sleeved plaid shirt with a pen sticking out of the chest pocket, black framed glasses, a silver banded analog watch on his left wrist, and a gold wedding band, the gray haired Alex Steele addressed the crowd more like a polished public speaker than a reclusive writer.  Only when he popped a Ricola cough drop into his mouth and drank from a bottle of store bought water would I have suspected that he was not totally in his element but “just some guy at a microphone”.