Major Life Changes – Writing with Toddlers (or not)

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Writing Albert_Anker_(1831-1910),_Schreibunterricht,_1865__Oil_on_canvasFunny how life plays these little tricks on you. When my own children were toddlers, I put my writing aspirations on hold because it was too difficult to care for them and write at the same time. I know many authors are able to do both, but I discovered I couldn’t. Not happily so, at least.

Putting my writing on hold was a sacrifice, but I felt good about my choice. I knew my little ones would not be little for long and I wanted my care for them to be free of the distractions and frustrations that trying to write would bring.

Later when they were in school, other obligations and adventures kept me away from full-time  writing. That too was a conscious choice I felt good about. My plan was to retire early and devote myself to writing then. And that was what I was doing, with great pleasures, until very recently.

That’s when life played its little trick. The saying goes: “Man makes plans, and God laughs.” Well, he seems to be laughing now. But maybe not for long.  For the time-being though, I must learn to write with toddlers playing at my side, or put my writing aside, again, for a little while at least.

My beautiful little granddaughter is living with us for a while. For how long, I’m not sure. I love having her here. She’s a joy and a delight. I feel so blessed holding her in my arms, watching her play, teaching her to swim, reading and singing songs together. But finding time to write is almost impossible while she’s awake, and when she’s asleep, I’m so exhausted that writing is the last thing I want to do. Sleep is what I crave. Mindless rest. No thought.

So my posts here may be fewer and far between for a while. I’m still working on the final copy-edits for my novel, and sending off queries to agents and publishers. That’s as much as I can manage for the moment.

If you are a writer with small children and have suggestions on how to care for both at the same time, I’d love to hear them.

Mothers & Other Lovers, Compelling Art

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Margarita Sikorskaia 1968 | St. Petersburg, Russia | TuttArt@ | Pittura * Scultura * Poesia * Musica |

Margarita Sikorskaia 1968, St. Petersburg, Russia

What makes compelling art? Why do I find this image of mother and child, and the ones below, so powerful and profound?

I’ve asked these questions since creating a new Pinterest page titled “Mother & Other Lovers.” Somehow I felt compelled to collect and preserve these images for my viewing pleasure.

I could probably write a post for each artwork in the collection, exploring the rich associations and symbolism, both personal and primal, as well as the emotional, philosophical, and spiritual subtexts and connotations. But I’ll start with these four.

One element I’m drawn to is how the depiction of mother and child is a powerful symbol, not only of love, but of unity and wholeness. It depicts two in one, and one in two. Two overlapping and enveloping identities. “Not-two” is the way a Buddhist or Taoist might put it.

The painting by Sikorskaia at the top of the post shows this beautifully. The mother’s body wraps about her breast-feeding infant and fills the whole space with the solid, four-square wholeness of her presence. Her dark head is bent, attentive, surrounded by a halo of light-colored flesh. Her arms, open hand, and bend back form another circle, encircling the first. Her feet tenderly touch each other, and with the raised and lowered legs form a triangle of unity, the base upon which the mother sits.

The dominant colors of blue and gold complement each other. She is sitting on the earth with the mountains at her back. She is grounded and centered, while the child is loose in her arms, able to move and to feed freely, but blending with the mother’s flesh, showing how closely knit they are even while separate beings. The dominant lines creating this painting are round, curved, circling each other. Mother and child are one in body and being. Two in one. One in two.

The following image by Barnet is similar. Mother and child completely fill the space and overflow it. They are facing each other, mirror reflections of each other. She sees herself in her child, the child sees itself in the mother. Her hands are wrapped around the child, but open, as is the child’s hand, reaching up toward the mother, toward its other surrounding self.

The unity here is expressed in layers of gently curving horizontal lines, the gray space between the two indeterminate. The two-ness is more distinct than in the last image we looked at, but the oneness is also clearly seen. Soft shades of grey unite them. But that bit of red fuzz  on the child’s head, as well as the vertical slant of the child’s knee and arm, sets them apart. Their eventual separation into two-ness is gently hinted here, unlike the first.

Will Barnet, Mother and Child,1993-2006, Oil on canvas, 26 x 30 inches. Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. J. William Meek III. ©2006 Will Barnet

Will Barnet, Mother and Child,1993-2006

The painting by Irwin that follows also creates the powerful feeling of oneness and unity, but without the round and horizontal lines of the first two. Here we see the indistinct features and form of mother and child surrounded by a shadowy, indistinct background. The vertical figure is centered and reaches top to bottom, nearly bisecting the page. Clearly it shows two in one, one in two. The soft, indistinct edges of the form feather into the background, soft and permeable. The Mother and Child are one with each other and one with the surrounding environment. The whole painting is a study of unity and wholeness.

Madonna & Child  by Holly Irwin

Madonna & Child by Holly Irwin

Two-ness is more evident in the next paintings.

In the first below by Harmon, mother and child again fill the space. Wholeness, oneness, is still the dominant theme. The mother’s face seems blissful, as if she is drinking up the scent of her, to savor her closeness. The sea surrounds them, symbolizing the womb, the place of birth, of oneness. But the child’s dangling legs, the soles of her feet, denote her readiness and ability to separate from her mother. The restless waves at their feet foreshadow the coming parting, when the mother puts down her child. We can imagine them walking hand-in-hand down the beach.

In The Ocean Air by Johanna Harmon

In The Ocean Air by Johanna Harmon

We see this close unity and foreshadowing of separation in the following image by Sorolla as well.

Here, the sea as backdrop both unites the figures of mother/child and introduces the element of separation in the layered waves and wayward boat. The deep shadows and strong light also denotes two-ness–the pairing of opposites. The towel flung over and around mother and child unite them, but all that takes place behind them foreshadows separation. It seems a beautiful, tender, but fleeting moment in time. Unlike the first three images which seem iconic, timeless and eternal.

Sorolla - Masterful colorist "Just Out of the Sea" 1915

Sorolla – Masterful colorist “Just Out of the Sea” 1915

This last painting by Larson is probably my favorite among these six–for so many reasons. But first and foremost because it captures that golden glow of late afternoon on the beach, when the strong light casts shadows so deep and dark. The light shimmers around them and through them, uniting them, and revealing a transparency that we see in the figure’s back-lit clothing.

Mother and child are clearly two distinct individuals now. Still, the touching heads and hands form a circle of unity and closeness. Even the shadows at their feet flowing upward through the two figures form a second circle of unity. We still have two-in-one and one-in-two, even while the separate individuals are clearly defined.

There is something nostalgic about this painting. A tender sweetness underscored by the foreshadowing of separation as the two move apart from each other and this singular moment is lost in passing time. We cannot stop passing time, but we can capture it in these sweet moments, and preserve it in our art and our memories.

"Beach Treasures" by Jeffrey T. Larson (1999)

“Beach Treasures” by Jeffrey T. Larson (1999)

And I suppose that’s why I find all these paintings so powerful and profound. They capture universal and primal experiences we all have shared at one time or another in our journey from one to two and back again.

Do these images speak to you? Which do you favor and why? Visit my Pinterest page to see more.

Sensuous Sunday: Air, an Enigma

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Cc PalojonoHills of Vietnam flickr-5224736618-original“What a mystery is the air, what an enigma to these human senses! On the one hand , the air is the most pervasive presence I can name, enveloping, embracing, and caressing me both inside and out, moving in ripples along my skin, flowing between my fingers, swirling around my arms and thighs, rolling in eddies along the roof of my mouth, slipping ceaselessly through throat and esophagus to fill the lungs, to feed my blood, my heart, my self. I cannot act, cannot speak, cannot think a single thought without the participation of this fluid element. I am immersed in its depths as surely as fish are immersed in the sea.

Yet the air, on the other hand, is the most outrageous absence known to this body. For it is utterly invisible. . . .

[T]his unseen enigma is the very mystery that enables life to live. . . . What the plants are quietly breathing out, we animals are breathing in; what we breathe out, the plants are breathing in. The air, we might say, is the soul of the visible landscape, the secret realm from whence all beings draw their nourishment. As the very mystery of the living present, it is that most intimate absence from whence the present presences, and this a key to the forgotten presence of the earth.”

From The Spell of the Sensuous, Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram

Nature and Consciousness – Seeing Things as They Are

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© Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Every time I write about nature I get deep into human consciousness. You can’t really separate the two. There is no “nature” – no way to identify, quantify, categorize, articulate, or understand it—apart from human consciousness, from how we think and talk about it.

We can’t study or explore or write about nature as something separate from ourselves, our own senses and experiences, our own thinking, perceiving, observations, experimentation. In that sense, nature is subjective, no matter how hard we try to objectify it.

This is not new, of course. Better writers and thinkers, from different disciplines, have explored this in more depth and detail that I can here.

This grand book the universe . . . is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it: without these, one wanders around in a dark labyrinth.  —Galileo, Astronomer

All my knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from my own particular point of view, or from the experience of the world . . . .  –Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenologist

We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. –Edward Sapir, Linguist

If the world exists and is not objectively solid and preexisting before I come on the scene, then what is it? The best answer seems to that the world is only a potential and not present without me or you to observe it. . . . All of the world’s many events are potentially present, able to be but not actually seen or felt until one of us sees or feels.  –Fred Allen Wolf, Physicist

Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner—what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.
-–Rainer Maria Rilke, Poet

The sun shines not on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. –John Muir, Naturalist

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the processions of the seasons. There is nothing . . . with which I am not linked.  –Carl Jung, Psychologist

See this rock over there? This rock’s me!  –Australian Aborigine

But in the ordinary play of our day, we forget this. We experience everything outside ourselves as “not me,” “alien,” “other.” Even our own bodies are commonly experienced as “not me.” We say “my stomach growled,” or “my foot fell asleep,” or “my sinuses are acting up,” because they seem to act involuntarily, with a mind of their own, without our conscious consent. As does nature, and other people, and the things we create—toasters and cars and computers.

Separating the whole of life and existence into parts is a useful way of talking and thinking about things.

But too often we fail to put everything back together and see how interdependent it all is, how embedded we are in the whole, and the whole in us. When we fail to do so we lose a vital understanding of ourselves and the universe, and we act in ways that may be harmful to the whole.

The see the ocean in a drop of water, to see ourselves in everyone we meet, is not, as some think, merely a poetic and rosy way of looking at the world. It’s to see things as they actually are.

Original posted 8-9-2012

“Looking for Bobby,” or Losing & Finding Ourselves

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Ismael_Nery_-_Nu_no_Cabide,_c__1927 Wiki CommonsMay is short story month, and in celebration I’m posting a short story I wrote years ago and published in an online journal, Bareback Lit. Unfortunately, the story can no longer be read on that site.

It’s a strange little story that plays with how we identify ourselves and each other, and how we lose and find ourselves in those identities. It’s not a story to “enjoy,” but I hope you find it interesting.

LOOKING FOR BOBBY

By Deborah J. Brasket

Bobby is bad. Just turned seventeen, he’s big and mean with hands the size of basketballs. Not that he plays basketball. He likes the clean, straight edge of a razor or knife better.

Bobby is loose. His long sharp bones seem to hang in his tight skin; and when he walks, he dances.

Now he runs. Behind him the drugstore, the cop, growing smaller and smaller. And the sun, the morning sun, soft on his back. Before him races his long, clean shadow, his sharp legs slicing through the sidewalk like knives through butter. He smiles at the image, then turns, darts down an alley. With a quick glance behind him, he spreads long, powerful hands on the top of a wall and scrambles over. Dropping lightly, he pauses, crouched and coiled. His small dark eyes sweep up and swallow the neat back yard, the little house before him. The screen door gapes open like a black hole and he springs for it, entering. He jerks the door close behind him.

“Out boys! I told you kids to stay outside for awhile!”

The house is dark and steeped with strange, myster­ious odors. Bobby hesitates, his breath big as watermelons and hard to swallow. A taste like blood. Soon his hard, dark pupils grow soft and fat with the darkness absorbed. All around him rush shapes, objects, unfamiliar. Bobby jumps.

“Greg! You hear me? I mean it now. Just git on outside!”

Slowly, stealthily, Bobby approaches the open doorway and the voice behind it. He places his hand on his hip pocket, feels the hard shaft within, and then swings forward to fill the doorway.

The room is draped against the light. Only the glow of the TV and the woman’s pale skin can be seen. She sits curled in the corner of the couch, plumped up like a big pillow, one bare leg tucked childishly beneath her. Bobby grins.

The woman glances up, annoyed. Her round eyes grow rounder as she takes him in. “Where’s Greg?”

“I dunno no Greg. You just sit quiet little mama and you won’t get hurt.”

“Me sit quiet? That’s a laugh! You’re the one making all the noise!” Her plump legs unfold and she pads toward the TV, turns the volume up. “Sorry, but I’ve been waiting all morning to watch this. Go ahead and sit down though. It won’t be long.” She smiles, curls up into a ball again on the couch.

Bobby flicks a wet tongue over his lips. Smart ass, he thinks. He strolls over to the TV and yanks the plug from its socket. Now there’s no light but hers.

“Well, that’s a fine howdy-do! Guess I do watch too much TV, though. That’s what my husband says anyway. Thinks I spend all day parked in front of the tube. As if I had the time! But those soaps. You watch them once and you’re hooked. All those lives running out every which way. And you got to ask yourself–how will it all end? You never can tell which way a life will turn, can you?”

She sits now on the edge of the couch, elbows on knees, her wide pale face caught between the palms of her hands like a moon among clouds, watching him as he stands there with the plug in his hand.

“It’s all right now. You can sit down. I won’t bite or anything.” She winks. “I can see you need to rest a spell. How ‘bout a Coke?”

Bobby flings the cord away and springs to a crouch, whipping his knife out in an instant where it lays now in his hand like a living thing.

“Who you think you talkin’ to, woman?” he says, eyes narrowed to slits. “You see this here?” He turns the blade so that it catches a stray beam of light, making it dance in his hand. “This here’s my own special baby. My very fine and lovin’ lady. She do anything for me. She like nothing better than to decorate little ladies like yourself. So you sit there real quiet-like and don’t get her riled none, hear?” Bobby’s feet move, restless, beneath him. The knife feels like a fish, cold and slippery, in his hand. And this woman like a deep, round pool.

The woman gives a startled little laugh. “My! You’re quick-like, aren’t you! You remind me of my brother. He was wild like that and all. Always springing out at a body! And look what’s come of him!”

Bobby snorts. “Lady, I may be a number of things, but I promise you this, I ain’t nowhere near like your brother!”

“Why sure you are! Look at you. You have his mouth—— corners all droopy, like his smile fell down, I use to tell him. He never did like to hear me say that. No sense of humor. You don’t want to turn out like him, though.”

“That a fact?” Bobby says. “So? Just what happened to this all-bad bro’ of yours?” he demands, curious.

“0-h-h-h, you wouldn’t want to know,” she assures him, shaking her head slowly, her round eyes grip­ping his and never leaving his face.

Bobby’s knife slips from the light as he feels the room moving back and forth beneath him. He gives his head a shake as if to free it. With an effort he lifts his knife.

“You one crazy woman, you know that? Why don’t you shut that fat face awhile. In a little bit, I’m gone, and you ain’t never gonna know I was here at all. See?”

“Oh no you don’t!” she says firmly, rising. “You can’t stay here one minute more with that knife in your hand. Heaven’s! You’re not that much like my brother! The mouth maybe, and the funny way with your feet like you’re going to fall flat on your face, and your eyes. . . maybe. But no,” she adds decisively and strides past him toward the front door. “This won’t do at all. I have two little boys to think about. Why, if they should come home now and see you here like this . . . why, I don’t know what they’d think! It’s bad enough on TV. But in their own home?”

She opens the door, holding it for him. The light on the lawn is dazzling, rising in waves of green. The sidewalk lays across it like a white-hot poker.

“Go on, now. Go home where you belong. Take a nice long nap. You’ll feel lots better.” Bobby steps out into the light and shakes himself free from the cloying darkness.

“Git, now!” she shoos him away with the back of her hand. “And for heaven’s sake, put that knife away! Remember what I told you about my brother!”

Bobby shoots away from her touch like a bullet.

The noon sun is hot and intense upon Bobby’s head as he slows to a walk. He studies his shadow laying in a fat, round puddle at his feet, fishes it for lost images of himself. That crazy broad! He tries to laugh but can’t quite manage yet, can’t quite figure out how she failed to know him. But he ima­gines how he’ll hoot when he tells the others. Tells them how this crazy fat lady mistook him for her brother, tried to sit him down and feed him hot chicken soup and cookies for lunch. They’ll get a kick out of that one! For they know him well. Even the young ones know all about ol’ Bobby and his dancing, blinking blade!

He feels better now and begins to run, his knife reaching out before him. He feels his blood pumping through his veins, pumping so fine and fast it would like to cut loose without him.

He’s almost to the corner when he hears a sound behind him.

“Freeze! Hold it right there!”

Bobby grins. At least the Man knows him. He stops and turns. The sun dancing on his knife blade seems to leap from his hand like a fish.

Slowly Bobby slips into the pool lying like a shadow at his feet. The splash is the sound of gun fire. Cool, cloy­ing arms reach up to grab him, pull him under. He breaks loose, struggling for the surface, for the light, for some forgotten image.

Lying in his own dark puddle, Bobby looks up to see the fat sun wink. And close its eye on him forever.

To Mother the World

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Painting_by_Manoj_PaturkarThe novel I am working on is about relationships between mothers and children and all the ways that is expressed, from the most fearful and destructive to the most trusting and freeing. So I’ve been thinking a lot on this topic lately.

A passage that had a huge influence on my understanding of what “mothering” is, or could be, is found in the Tao Te Ching (CHXXV):

There was something complete and nebulous

Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,

Silent, invisible

Unchanging, standing as One,

Unceasing, ever-revolving,

Able to be the Mother of the World.

This Mother of the World, of course, is Tao, the all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing. It’s the thing that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its “children,” all individual being.

A tall order for a mere human.

Yet something about that passage spoke to me as a woman and mother. It drew within me the desire to embrace my children in that spirit. And I found the mothering of my own two children improved immensely when I was able to step back and project in some way this more expansive sense of mothering that allows them to feel loved and supported without all the worries and anxieties and criticism and fear that accompany a mere human sense of mothering.

This mothering is not as personal, intense, or myopic, as the latter. It doesn’t hover, it doesn’t obsess, it doesn’t fret. It frees them “to be,” and is based on an immense sense of trust—in myself, in them, and in the universe at large. In God, or Tao, or some divine presence or higher power that embraces all of us, and gives each of us the capacity to mother each other.

This is not to say that I often meet this ideal. Far from it.

But I know that I mother my own children best and make fewer mistakes when I’m able to embrace them in that larger, more expansive way. And it feels more natural, less constricted, to mother that way.

I find this kind of mothering works best when all-inclusive. When I embrace all around me with the same mothering spirit. Not just my children, but all children, all people, all things—my home, my community, my work—even the individual objects that fill the space around me and the space outside my window.  When I’m able to actually feel and identify with that potential, to “be” the “Mother of the World.”

Mothering, I learned, is a capacity that anyone can embrace: man, woman, child. You don’t have to be a mother, or have children of your own, to mother the world. When you adopt that stance, all things become your children to nurture, cherish, support, love—to help bring to their full potential.

Here’s wishing you all a lovely day of “mothering.”

Poets on Poetry: Mark Doty, Mackerel & Metaphors

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fishes-421346_640One of the things I love most is writing about writing, unraveling the creative process, how the mind at play works.

Mark Doty’s essay Souls on Icedescribing how he came to write a particular poem, is a fascinating example of that. He put into words something I’ve long felt and toyed with–how certain images, feelings, experiences will strike me as singularly important. Somehow they seem deeply relevant to the world at large, as if I pulled hard enough and long enough at one of these loose strands I’d see how it’s all connected and, in the process, unravel one small corner of the mystery that underlies the universe.

Below are parts of the essay that spoke so eloquently to me, but I highly recommend reading the whole thing at the link above.

It begins with Doty “struck by the elegance of the mackerel in the fresh fish display” and how this sighting prompted his poem “A Display of Mackerel.”

“Our metaphors go on ahead of us, they know before we do. . . . . I can’t choose what’s going to serve as a compelling image for me. But I’ve learned to trust that part of my imagination that gropes forward, feeling its way toward what it needs; to watch for the signs of fascination, the sense of compelled attention (Look at me, something seems to say, closely) that indicates that there’s something I need to attend to. Sometimes it seems to me as if metaphor were the advance guard of the mind; something in us reaches out, into the landscape in front of us, looking for the right vessel, the right vehicle, for whatever will serve. . . .

I almost always begin with description, as a way of focusing on that compelling image, the poem’s “given.” I know that what I can see is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg; if I do my work of study and examination, and if I am lucky, the image which I’ve been intrigued by will become a metaphor, will yield depth and meaning, will lead me to insight. The goal here is inquiry, the attempt to get at what it is that’s so interesting about what’s struck me. Because it isn’t just beauty; the world is full of lovely things and that in itself wouldn’t compel me to write. There’s something else, some gravity or charge to this image that makes me need to investigate it.

Exploratory description, then; I’m a scientist trying to measure and record what’s seen.”

The poem follows. See how his plucking at one loose thread leads to the unraveling of a whole universe of ideas.

“A Display of Mackerel”

They lie in parallel rows,

on ice, head to tail,

each a foot of luminosity

 

barred with black bands,

which divide the scales’

radiant sections

 

like seams of lead

in a Tiffany window.

Iridescent, watery

 

prismatics: think abalone,

the wildly rainbowed

mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

 

think sun on gasoline.

Splendor, and splendor,

and not a one in any way

 

distinguished from the other

—nothing about them

of individuality. Instead

 

they’re all exact expressions

of the one soul,

each a perfect fulfilment

 

of heaven’s template,

mackerel essence. As if,

after a lifetime arriving

 

at this enameling, the jeweler’s

made uncountable examples,

each as intricate

 

in its oily fabulation

as the one before

Suppose we could iridesce,

 

like these, and lose ourselves

entirely in the universe

of shimmer—would you want

 

to be yourself only,

unduplicatable, doomed

to be lost? They’d prefer,

 

plainly, to be flashing participants,

multitudinous. Even now

they seem to be bolting

 

forward, heedless of stasis.

They don’t care they’re dead

and nearly frozen,

 

just as, presumably,

they didn’t care that they were living:

all, all for all,

 

the rainbowed school

and its acres of brilliant classrooms,

in which no verb is singular,

 

or every one is. How happy they seem,

even on ice, to be together, selfless,

which is the price of gleaming.

 

My Top 25 Binge-Worthy TV Series

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TV PhotoFunia_26d32

It appears to be all the rage now, binge-watching favorite TV  series. Especially with the advent of Netflix originals, where a whole season of episodes is dumped at once for our viewing pleasure. But even before that, many of us were renting complete seasons on DVD to watch in the comfort of our homes. It’s the antithesis of traditional network viewing with episodes spoon-fed to viewers once a week for short periods of time while shoveling in five-minute commercial breaks every six minutes. It’s enough to make you want to unplug network TV. And many have.

Some critics are calling this the new golden age of TV, where thoughtful, complex characters, riveting plots, solid story arcs that span the series as well as each episode, and quality production values matter. The Sopranos is frequently cited as the beginning of this golden age, and still often tops critic’s list for best all-time TV series. Breaking Bad is a new contender for the top spot, and several others are shaping up to be worthy competitors.

I’ve jumped on the binge-watching wagon, although I usually limit myself to 3 episodes per week. I like to give the shows time to percolate between viewing, and since I watch TV only on the week-ends, it gives me something to look forward to, when hubby and I can kick back and enjoy the sugar rush.

Here’s our top 25 binge-worthy TV series so far, in no particular order expect for the categories listed below. Some are highly acclaimed, some are just fun, all are addictive.

Complete Series Available

The Sopranos

Breaking Bad

Six Feet Under

Big Love

Justified

The Shield

24

Battlestar Gallactica

Dexter

The Killing

Rome

Deadwood

Torchwood

Luther

The Borgias

Boardwalk Empire

Series in Progress

Homeland

Downton Abbey

Orange Is the New Black

House of Cards

Game of Thrones

The Americans

New and Promising

Outlander

Black Sails

True Detective

I have to add a couple of other note-worthies that I didn’t include above: The PBS Horatio Hornblower series, which came out in 1981 and is only available on DVD, and The White Queen, based on the historical book series by Phillipa Gregory, which unfortunately was cancelled after one season.

What have you been watching that you can recommend? Anything included here? Anything new? I’d love to hear what you think.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy these as well:

Popcorn, Anyone? My Top 100 Movies Challenge

20 Favorite and Most Influential Books

Sexy, Smart, Sweet, & Soulful

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outlander_612x380_0Finally! I found what I was looking for when I wrote the post Speaking of Erotica, a “steamy love story that has depth and substance.” I wrote:

I am seeking something that stimulates and satisfies in a deeper way than what I’ve found so far. A story that explores, perhaps, at least to some degree, both the sensual and spiritual nature of desire, arousal, and consummation. After all, sexual and spiritual pleasure, power and transformation are parallel journeys on the road to fulfillment. Both are precipitated by strong human desires for union with the Other. Both, arguably, are what shape us as human beings.

Each journey involves deep longing for something beyond the individual self. Each requires trust and receptivity, surrender and self-sacrifice, tenderness and devotion. Each gives way to passion and delight, awe and wonder, ecstasy and bliss, love and transcendence.

Each seeks the Beloved.

Strangely enough, I read the first three chapters of the book in question and put it away, thinking it wasn’t what I was looking for. And I might never have returned to the book if it hadn’t recently been made into a cable TV series that I watched on Netflix. The film took me beyond the pages I had read and showed me what I had missed. Now I’ve finished the first book in the cult-classic series and have begun the second.

Yes, you guessed it. The book is The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, a time-traveling historical romance set in the 1940’s and 18th century Scotland.

The book isn’t as literary as I’d originally hoped and the prose sometimes dips toward purple, but it makes up for it by some truly beautiful writing and by turning the romance genre upside-down in so many interesting (and sometimes disturbing) ways. Our hearty hero, for instance, is younger than our heroine and he’s a virgin to boot. It is he who is lusted after by the villain rather than our heroine. And she, far from being an innocent is an experienced, strong, deeply intelligent woman with a fierce mind of her own, which, sadly, gets her and a lot of other people into a lot of trouble. Yet, while she puts herself into situations where she must be saved, she does an equal amount of saving herself.

Still, the characters are nuanced and complex, including the villains, and the plot turns in unexpected ways that add the depth and substance I was seeking. And the romance that blooms between Claire and Jaime is not only steamy but sweet and tender and, yes, soulful, in the way that Whitman writes with such lust and love for life in all its many intimate and erotic forms.

The Outlander series has been around for a long time and has a large, devoted following. I’m surprised I hadn’t come across it before.

How about you? Have you read the books or are you watching the Starz series? If you’ve read or watched Game of Thrones, chances are you will enjoy these as well.

Here’s a fun and sexy music video that will get you into the mood for romance.

Primary Wonder & A Bell Awakened – Two By Levertov

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DSCN0032 (2)The whole purpose of life, of this extraordinary experience in being, is to be awake to the wonder and mystery around us in all their myriad forms. These two poems speak eloquently to that need.

Primary Wonder

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.

And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Variation On A Theme By Rilke

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Both by Denise Levertov

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