Monday, April 12, 2010

Stepping up and a contest not to miss

Some journeys are daunting. The climb into the unknown can be scary. Where are you going? Do you know what you're doing? Is there an abyss ahead?
I started photographing stairs just because they were there and intrigued me, but I've been thinking there's a metaphor that fits writing.
In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote: "Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond the work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments."
What does that mean? Do our dreams precede us or overtake us? If we didn't dream, we'd have no hopes or goals. Dreams are necessary, and so is the hard work that can make them real.
A fellow writer and blogger, Sarah Wylie at Sarah With a Chance, made her dream real. Her debut novel, All These Lives, will be published by FSG/Macmillan. To celebrate, she is holding the most awesome contest. If you don't follow her, this is a chance to win a super prize and read one of the funniest, most talented bloggers around.

Back to musing. Since this is still National Poetry Month, I'm tossing a couple of haiku in this post, too.
the ancient stone steps
tell no tales, give few clues of
who ventured this way
Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland said, after she fell down the rabbit hole, that now she would think nothing of falling down the stairs.
Fear of the unknown is often worse than the actuality. If we don't create due to fear of falling, of failing, we never will go anywhere. I want to go, really I do.
I was out for a walk when I passed a house overgrown with feral grasses and dandelions. The rose bushes could barely be seen. I thought it was a shame the homeowner had neglected the garden. And then I saw him. A very old man, wearing a faded plaid flannel shirt, scraping his walker along the edge of the garden, stooping slowly to grab a weed and pull. I felt like crying then and saw his world with different eyes. With small, painful steps, he was fighting the odds.

What is stopping you? What is halting me?
twisting, timbered stairs
keep me climbing just to see
what might wait beyond

One step at a time.
Into the mystery.
(Disclaimer: No, I didn't trespass beyond the "private" sign. I'm using my poetic license, which I have around here somewhere.)


Barrie said...

I love those photos of stairs. Makes me think a blog roundup with photos like these might be fun. And, thank you for the link.

storyqueen said...

If anyone gets to have a poetic license, it's you!

I think in the movie Akeela and the Bee, Lawrence Fishburne has a great line in which he states that what holds us back isn't fear of failure, it's fear of success. It's fear of realizing how wonderful we could really be, if we just let ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the photos. I love twisty stairs that disappear into the forest. We had a set of those at an Env. Ed. Center I worked at in the Sierras.

And, I love your comment about doing the work necessary to follow our dreams. Just what I needed to hear today as I pick up on a story I'd put down a while back. Thanks!

Yat-Yee said...

The pictures of these stair give me a sense of smallness and huge possibilities all at once.

That story of the man pulling weeds made me want to cry too.

You should just collect a bunch of your blog posts and photographs and make it into a book. Seriously.

Unknown said...

What a lovely post. I enjoyed the quotes and your photography and haiku. Best of all is how thought-provoking and inspiring it is. Fear of the unknown is the worst for me, but I love imagining where those stairs go and I don't want to get left behind. Thanks for this post!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Barrie: Thanks! A blog roundup is a great idea. We could even do a series--stairs, doors, gates, any intriguing objects. That would be fun.

Shelley: Yes, fear of success is a strange one, and I do think it's true. Maybe it's fear of being found unworthy or having to live up to it.

Hi Paul! Oh, I would so follow stairs that disappear into a forest. Two of my favorite things.

Yat-Yee: I love your thoughts on smallness and huge possiblity. And thank so much!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Nisa: I'm so glad it resonated with you, too!

Bish Denham said...

You are such a beautiful and poetic writer. I love the analogies you made. It's always a pleasure to read your posts and your photographs...gorgeous.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love stairs almost as much as I love doors. Both have such beautiful, inherent imagery.

Keep the haikus coming. I love them!

Kristi said...

I adore these photos!

Anonymous said...

I have a poetic licence too, but the photo on it is terrible.

I love your photos, and your haiku, Tricia! You always make me smile.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great pictures, lovely post. And the poetry is really good, too. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Bish, thank you so much. It is always a pleasure to visit you, too. And as soon as I come back from my face-to-face (not in-you-face) crit group today, I'm dropping by. :D

Stephanie: It's fascinating how we are drawn to certain objects because of that inherent imagery, isn't it?

Hello Kristi and thank you!

Wen: Ha! You get me grinning, too!

sarahjayne: Thanks, my friend.

Julie Dao said...

You are truly a pearl among poets. I love the theme of stairs. Life is an uphill battle because we are always reaching for more, more, more, and climbing forever. But dreaming of the view from the top is what keeps me going. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and sentiments!

Paul C said...

I know people who have taken a series of pictures of front doors. What a wonderful idea to do so of stairs. They are so full of metaphorical possibilities.

My wife and I remember all the stairs we climbed in Paris several years ago. Also I remember the film The Razor's Edge, a film made from Somerset Maughm's book.

Stairs are a passage to self discovery.

cleemckenzie said...

The metaphor of the stairs is brilliant and I loved your pictures. BTW I believe some of those stairs are mine--the last image, in fact. Come on up for a visit.

Donna said...

Love the steps down into the depths, which takes me to the opposite, the ladder of success. I guess we have to step down into the first with our writing before we can climb the second.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Neat! I like to keep my poetic license handy too! Especially since it's poetry month.

I'm not sure what Steinbeck meant. Perhaps just that our ideas and plans always go beyond what we can phycially accomplish?

The theme of stairs and where they take us is cool. It's like this idea I have of capturing fencerows. Following the same theme, I suppose... a trek into the unknown. Thanks for taking me along with you today.

Yvonne Osborne said...


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Julie: I expect you to have that view from the top one day. ;) Thank you.

Thanks, Liza!

Paul: I'm also photographing gates. I just find intrigue in them, I guess. And it's fun. I climbed some serious stairs in Notre Dame, but I don't think I photographed them...

Lee: Oh, you lucky thing, I'd love to visit your stairs. :D

Donna: Interesting thought. I'm guessing you mean into the depths of our emotional selves to write.

L.T. Elliot said...

Beautiful pictures, beautiful post! I need to remember to be willing to step out beyond my fear more often.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yvonne: Fencerows! That is totally cool, and I can see you doing something with poems or 55 words and pictures.

LT: Thank you so much. Stepping beyond fear--that's a good way to put it. It reminds me of a beautiful poem by Lucille Clifton called blessing the boats. It begins:
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear

Claire Dawn said...

So artistic!

This post is beautiful!

Unknown said...

I love the idea of taking photos of stairs. Gorgeous pictures.

Thanks for the link for the contest. *runs off to check it out*

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Great post and pictures! I liked Yat-Yee's take on this, too.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Claire: Thank you so much. :D

Stina: Welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I know you'll like that contest. It's unbelievable.

Hi Michelle! Thank you. I loved what Yat-Yee wrote, as well.

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

I'm so envious of your talent, Tricia. Everything you do is so poetic. But gads, I'm so glad I saw this today. It's providential as I enter the query madness. Sometimes, those stairs can feel so steep and scary, winding into some unknown, unseen path. Right now, I feel like that all. the. time.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Ooo! You just gave me a great kick in the writerpants! I have no idea where my story is going and it's making me shy away.


Tess said...

There is something compelling about those photographs. the twisting, the uneven quality...


and, such a true analogy. thanks for bringing these thoughts to mind.

Jackee said...

Gorgeous thoughts and poetry in picture and word!

Sometimes I fear the journey--how hard it will be--but often, once I look back, I realize that was the part that I enjoyed the most.

* said...

I love your nature pics. I often feel as if I'm out, visiting some of my old haunts around San Diego when I blog stop here. And your writerly inspiration is divine.

PS: Thanks for the contest heads up. I just checked it out. What crazy cool prizes, eh?

VR Barkowski said...

As always, beautiful photos and words, Tricia.

That Steinbeck quote is magnificent:
"Man...walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments."

Thank you for sharing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Carolina: Thank you, my friend. All I can say about the scary part is it's nice to know there are so many other writers who have your back. We're with you every step of the way. Just think how cool the view from the top will be. ;)

Suzanne: That's why I have trouble finishing the two novels I've been working on for a year. I shy from the endings, worried I don't have it right. We've got to choose confidence. We've got to keep climbing.

Tess: Exactly! Writing isn't a smooth, straight path, at all. But it sure is an adventure.

Jackee: What a great insight! It's so true that we are often most proud of that things that are hardest to achieve.

Terresa: Glad to take you along on my wanderings. ;) And, yes, that's one crazy contest.

VR: Thank you. I love that quote, too. It makes me think.

Unknown said...

Cool stairs! (And cool poetic license, lol.)

An interesting quote as well. I'll have to think about that...

Sarah Laurence said...

I enjoyed your words, haikus, quotes and images of stairs. Congratulations to Sarah Wylie!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thanks, Beth! It is a quote worth ruminating on.

Sarah: Thank you so much. You know how much I enjoy your photographs.