Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa

“After, the men of earth started walking, straight toward the sun that was falling. Before, they too stayed in the same place without moving. The sun, their eye of the sky, was fixed…They were peaceable and without anger. Before the time afterwards…Then why, if they were so pure, did the men of earth begin walking? Because one day the sun started falling. They walked so that it wouldn’t fall any farther, to help it to rise. So Tasurinchi says…That, anyway, is what I have learned— (from pages 37 and 38)

The Machiguenga walked to keep the sun from falling from the sky—the story has variations, and there are many stories about the moon, death, the fireflies, floods, droughts, sickness and the little devils that cause all kinds of troubles, and there is even a Gregor-Tasurinchi metamorphosis story—what a beautiful book, it is joyful, it is sad, it is hopeful—it is a human document. I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading it, a real treat.

Storytelling, what a magical gift—I starved for stories as a child and often made up my own—I was called a liar by other kids who didn’t like it that I told stories that sounded a bit too real, so they must be a lie—and I, a liar. Sometimes, when we’re young, the imagination is a wee bit too overactive and the stories that come from that curious place where they are conceived feel real enough—it’s learning to understand the difference as the creator as well as the receiver of the stories. Ah, fiction—a precious gemstone of many facets –the truth and the lie, the mundane and the adventure, all wound tight together, a thread of thoughts, a word or two of conversation, an observation—a sky, a land, a path to follow through the trees—tree trunks, roots and branches—light and shadow—a sense of place and time, stories occupied by people and their doings.  It’s amazing how stories come together while we’re making them up. Storytelling is a very old tradition—the passing on of knowledge, the retelling of legends—the explanation for the how come of things made up on the spot by the tribal shaman and the story told and retold, built upon and told again—shared, passed on. Storytelling is the preservation of a way of life—an existence threatened by humanity’s constant progress—well, some of us progress, while others prefer to cling to old ways, taking comfort in the familiar stories, familiar rituals, familiar ways of doing things—it all served a purpose. Why must we [humans] impose ourselves on the ones we feel we must conquer? Convert. Exploit. All the profits lining the pockets of some rich bastards who never once got their hands dirty in the process of exploitation. The way of progress stinks, it’s corrupt, it is morally wrong—yet we do it, have been doing it for ages—assimilating—trying to eradicate what is not like us. It’s a sad old story, one that repeats itself time after time, after time—slowly wiping out cultures of people and the creatures great and small, spoiling land, polluting the water, destroying everything in our path like a force of nature. It is not sustainable.

Before the time afterwards…

I lament. I’m getting older now and so I lament for there are things that I hold dear that are slowly being dissolved by progress—many of us see it, but do we admit to it? Or do we just shrug and chalk it up to ‘progress’? We’ve always done it that way—why change what works (even if it’s not working for everyone)?

I want to believe that the Machiguenga of Llosa’s story are still walking—don’t let the sun fall from the sky—you’ll never get it back again once it’s gone.

That, anyway, is what I have learned—

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thoughts about Doris Lessing and the Golden Notebook...

22 October 1919 – 17 November 2013

The Golden Notebook is the kind of book that I have a special name for — it is a “human document” (I can envision Doris Lessing writing this [book] — pen to paper, head down, breathless and barely breathing, caught up in the intense flow of it, from beginning to end — for there is nothing more beautiful and wretched than the physical and mental experience of writing a novel.)

It is an important book of its time and it is just as relevant now as it was fifty years ago, its themes remain timeless. It’s more than just a story with a beginning and an end and a bunch of stuff going on in the middle — oh, my dear, it is so much more than that! This is a real book — it is loaded with energy and emotions — it is dense with carefully wrought words, its texture is raw and complex, its psychological landscape is gorgeous and ugly at the same time. The characters are uncomfortable in their own skin; they love and hate — and can be indifferent; they live with the uncertainty of free will and they acknowledge their destiny, burdened by the dogma and history of those who came before them and the expectations of others. No one simply comes into this world, pours themselves into a mold and lives life confined to those perfectly formed edges. They naturally spill out, do such wonderful things right alongside of stupid things; they fitfully cringe at their flaws, yet they will go ahead and make the same mistakes over and over and over again — it’s what people do — what we are — being perfectly human, grievously imperfect in spite of our intelligence and enlightenment, blithely muddling along one breath at a time. People are dichotomies and they struggle within themselves to achieve balance — seeking beauty, looking for love. It’s an ongoing growth that we experience from birth to death, those of us who are more self-aware, like Anna Wulf, and any of us who are creative, struggle the most — part of our “being” is this struggle — this questioning, and on occasion, letting go enough to dream or to go mad, and then come back to reality, relieved or perhaps more pissed off than ever about the way things are. We go on, influencing those around us in one way or another, always looking over our shoulder and second guessing ourselves, trying to make things right — tormenting each other with truths and lies — moving on with faith and forgiveness, living with a wealth of happiness and sadness. Life goes on, trundling forward, although burdened by the bulk of the past — there is hope. For heaven sakes, don’t take my word for it, or the word of anyone else, just read it and find out for yourself.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates

This book is for all of us who pursue phantasmagoria of personality—   

What is personality—can it be destroyed as the brain surgeon, Dr. Perrault, declared “with a tiny pin in my fingers.”—? The formation of personality according to the reciprocal determinism theory, an individual’s behavioral genetics and social environment and consequences have a direct impact on the formation of personality—and then there’s the idea that personality possesses the power of free will, personality is characterized by morality—there is more, but I’ll stop there, all of this makes my brain hurt, but I think about this stuff all the time, it fascinates me. The philosophical divides and resulting debates regarding our being human are all frustrating and wonderful—Free Will v. Determinism; Heredity v. Environment; Uniqueness v. Universality/ Active v. Reactive; Optimistic v. Pessimistic—They’re all right in their own way, yet at times a bit too certain of themselves. Goodness knows, I’m not an expert, but I can’t believe there is a rigid set of parameters that make up a personality in the “this is how it is because we say so”—you know, that sort of shit always makes me dig in and say “No fuckin’ way.” Some people just gotta have the Coke or Pepsi argument just for the sake of arguing about something—Good grief, if a little chocolate free will gets in your determinism peanut butter, let it be, it all ends up in the same place. (Trust me on this.)

Wonderland is an exploration of the personality—it is a book that I call a “human document.” The human being is such a complex character, a fascinating mystery—the first time I read Wonderland it was like riding a rocket to the moon.  I remember being told that it was a “good one” and checked it out from the library—I tried to ignore the librarian’s gentle attempt to direct me toward something more age appropriate like the latest Walter Farley since it was well known that I loved horses—but it was not long after I read Dickens and Shakespeare in school, so I knew what I was looking for—I wanted “a good one”, something real. Seriously, I had trouble enough with reality since I spent a good amount of time inside my head, and the way things were at the time, well, sometimes it did not feel real. I wanted something to feed that gnawing sense of “I want more”; I wanted to go into the deep end of the pool where I had to be bigger to touch bottom—I’m not just talking about the physical “bigger”. I might’ve been around 14 or 15 when I put the weighty tome into the basket of my bike and rode off to somewhere quiet to read it. I had a favorite tree in the woods where no one would bother me. It was a fat book (which I did not find daunting at all.) It had a bright yellow dust jacket with the crinkly protective plastic cover—it had that special library book smell that went along with summer days. The book was shocking, it was terrifying, but it was fascinating—that “adult” forbidden fruit sort of thing that I gotten myself into when I was impressionable and testing the waters of life beyond childhood. The characters were real—too real—they were nightmarish monsters and selfishly up to no good—I couldn’t trust any of them to not cause harm or to make a disaster of every moment. I held my breath a lot, grinding my teeth sometimes. Some of what was going on went over my head as I found their adult actions to be baffling—yet I accepted all of it as the author’s intention and trusted her wisdom to tell the story as she saw fit—I leaned forward and read on. After I made my way through this novel, I knew there was no turning back. Dang—after reading it, I wanted to be a writer of such arcane things as personality and have spent years picking away at words of my own. I’ve been wanting to re-read Wonderland for a very long time, but didn’t want to until I accomplished writing something that I could call mine—I also didn’t want this monumental book to become something for me to navigate by—but nevertheless, it was there, a distant lighthouse, an encouraging reminder and a stern caution. Now that I have read it with the experienced eyes of someone who has delved into the mines to unearth my own “human documents” because of their exploration of ‘being’, I was actually surprised by it—and not just surprised by how much I had forgotten.  The magic is still there, but different for me now—it still gives me the chills in a good way; it’s just as frightening and nightmarish as ever, it is timeless, and ever so interesting—exploring the phantasmagoria of personality.

Did I tell you I love this book?

photo credit: Jack Robinson