Tag Archives: Writing

Free Ukraine

I grew up not really knowing what it means to stand in the face of something that you have no choice but to fight. I could almost always pick my battles.

I’ve certainly been angry about things that have happened to me. I’ve stood my ground when I felt I had to. I’ve spoken up about things that have gone too far. I’ve even given up, retreated, saved my energy for more important fights. Or given up in the face of something that I knew I could never win against.

It was always my own interest or someone close to me that motivated my actions. But I’ve never had to stand when every fibre of my being down to my bones told me that my death would be the likely outcome. Like walking out into the street spreading my arms wide and being shot dead by an invading soldier. Was I spreading my arms in supplication to God, in my own weakness, or in welcome of a peaceful solution? The Russian soldiers in Ukraine don’t seem to care one way or the other.

Soldiers of course know this feeling well. Some felt called to the profession whether or not they learned the hard way what it was all about. Others were forced into it for other reasons. My father was in the US Army but I was never called, internally or externally, to being a soldier. I have no disrespect for those in the military, I’m simply expressing how my life went another direction.

Recently I saw a photograph of a young and beautiful Ukrainian woman, seemingly not much more than a teenager, with her entire life still ahead of her. I’m an Artist so my eyes started analysing the picture and I was confused about what she was carrying on her back. After a few seconds I realized she had a machine gun of some kind slung over her shoulder, carrying it like a backpack or purse. The juxtaposition was bizarre and jarring.

There are many places on our planet that unfortunately have military conflict ongoing. We see it reported in the news almost every day. But the conflict in Ukraine, it’s obviously a war and a savage one, has managed to bring these conflicts right to our doorsteps. Certainly the European Union has seen that. Everyone is amazed at the outright cruelty and destruction that has come from what we thought was a modern country, Russia.

I see a difference between what was in that photo and what we here in the USA think of when it comes to gun ownership. Seeing that photo of the woman with her gun slung over the shoulder now made perfect sense to me and I realized that she had every right to it.

Of course I stand with the people of Ukraine, if in nothing more than my words written here. I hope that this young woman lives a long and happy life in a free Ukraine.

Home Is Where…

This piece was originally written in March 2018 as an essay of sorts for the Arts magazine “Sea Change”, published at Cape Cod Community College in May 2018. As predicted below I did have to move on and am now living with relatives in a completely different state.

(Posted to Medium, Saturday, May 4, 2019)

Currently I’m living in a Winter rental house on the shore of a Cape Cod, Massachusetts tidal river. Across the small river is protected natural land. I can tell what the tide is doing just by looking out the glass sliding doors to see what direction the river current is going. There are ducks and gulls, raccoons and coyotes, hawks and owls and crows — not all at once of course. It is not lost on me how lucky I am to be living here. Seeing all of this on a daily basis makes my heart sing.

But a few months ago my sense of home was quite different. And a few months from now this will likely no longer be my home. In a sense I have been “home-less” since 2009. That’s not to say that I’ve been walking the streets or sleeping rough at night. I have just been always living, since then, with family members or in rental property that I could not call my own.

There is something about being unable to control your place of living that wears on the soul. “We don’t want you here anymore” are some of the most painful words anyone can hear, even if they’re not said and only felt. There are people who travel all the time and love that life. There are more and more now who live in camper vans or RV’s or trailers, even out of their cars, and prefer to live that way. And there are many moving to so-called “tiny” homes. But I am one who needs a home base, someplace I can rely on to always be there.

I had a house of my own once, before the Great Recession of 2008 and later. But I was living at the epicenter of that recession, the state of Michigan, and work was becoming harder and harder to find. I left my job in 2006 and was never able to get another job like it that paid a living wage. I went through the pain of not being able to find work, having my car repossessed, and losing my house to foreclosure. I had worked for ten years to get the house but in the end I never really owned it at all. I saved what I could of my belongings and moved on.

Recently I’ve seen a number of news documentaries about the refugee problems in the Middle East and Europe. And news reports about the deplorable conditions in Puerto Rico after the massive hurricane of 2017. The current political climate feels that we should put up impenetrable walls and kick people out to go back “where they came from”. I feel the pain of people going through these things. I’ve never had it as bad, and don’t claim so, but I have some sense of how it feels to no longer have a home to go to.

I understand now the drive and need to reduce one’s belongings, live in a smaller space, have less impact on the world around you, and be more self-reliant. More and more people are coming to that realization. It is preferable to come to that on your own and not have it thrust upon you by job loss, war, natural disaster, or fuming politicians. In the end we all still need a place to live, someplace to call home.

It seems contradictory to me that a country that claims to be the greatest country in history, the United States of America, accepts that there are people physically homeless on its streets. That we seem to do nothing about poverty or territories like Puerto Rico that have lost the basics of modern life like electricity or even running water. That we seem to somehow not understand the desires of people coming to our country simply because they want a better life than the one they’ve left behind.

For me, I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head, a place I can call home, for however long that may be. But times shouldn’t be so hard that a job isn’t able to provide enough income to pay for a place to live. If you work forty hours or more in a week you should be able to have a home to live in. If you no longer have a home because of war or natural disaster you should be able to count on other human beings to show compassion and provide help. If you are trying to find a better life in a new place then people shouldn’t stand in your way because of racist ideals and concepts.

So, yes, the repercussions of the Great Recession are still being felt today. Many never got back what they once had. You only have to see the widening gap between rich and poor in our country to see where it led.

Today, when you walk out the door of the place you live and go to work or school or go shopping try and remember that it can all be gone tomorrow. For many people in the world today losing their home has already happened, and they can never go back to what it once was. Don’t take for granted that you have a place to live. For many having a home is not just a dream but also a fond memory.

Late Night Revamp

It’s after 3:40 am and I’ve been working for a number of hours to restart this website. I’m currently using WordPress and some of it takes getting used to. I’ve also updated my companion website for my artwork at robertkfoster.com to include my recent forays into digital art using Procreate. The two sites, one for art and one for writing, are planned to be my main focus going forward. There is a lot of art and some writing that still sits on my computer that I hope to add to the sites over the coming days, weeks, and months. I’ll be adding web links over time for some of the places on the Internet that inspire me for both writing and art.

Link: The best way to learn from yourself (on Medium)

Over on Medium I came across an interesting piece on the value of journaling. The best way to learn from yourself talks about the basics of journaling and how it can help with advice that you generate yourself. If you’re unsure about journaling or how to start this article may help.

A Journal Has Always Been With Me

I’ve had a journal of one sort or another since I was a teenager, or possibly earlier. Being male, but having three sisters, I quickly learned that it was not a manly thing to have a “diary” so gradually it became my “journal.” I no longer have my early attempts at journaling but I do remember having one with an actual lock on it with a wrap around strap. Not manly at all. As far as I can remember most of my early writings were simply descriptions of what I had done that day.

My early interest in journals stemmed in part from books I read like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and others whose titles I’ve forgotten, where finding clues about some childhood mystery was the focus of the story. Writing things down in a notebook, like a junior reporter, and keeping track of clues figured prominently in many of these stories. The need for keeping a record of things happening in a person’s life became something important to me. Somehow one’s life can seem a little more interesting than it actually is when you take the time to write about it.

For me, I have always been an avid reader of books of all kinds. After being taught penmanship and writing in my various schools while growing up, and having read many books, it seemed only natural that I should also try and write myself. Early in junior high school I was even able to take a course in using the typewriter — the olde fashioned kind with ink ribbons and paper. Unfortunately that’s a clue to my age. Little did I know that one day my skill and knowledge of the typewriter would be so important in the new, digital age. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer and yet I have always written.

My journaling has been an on-again-off-again sort of thing over the years but I always seem to gravitate back to it. At times it is my therapy session, or a descriptive itinerary of an important trip that I want to remember, or a way to rant about things that I can’t talk to others about, or simply a way to talk a lot, through writing, without boring somebody else silly. And a journal was always a place to simply experiment with writing itself. Run on sentences, garbled sentences, quick attempts at poetry, you can write it all in your diary without worrying about the end result.

In my current life I have three types of journals; a pocket journal, a full size journal that goes back and forth between electronic and paper, and a sketchbook for my artwork. Sometimes they meld together and overlap but I find that paper quality and paper size are the important factors. I need a small pocket journal, roughly 3 inches by 5 inches like a Moleskine or similar, that is easy to carry so I can always have something with me to make quick notes in or even quick sketches. I need a larger journal for longhand writing when I need to write something long like a journal entry. And I need a sketchbook with unlined paper that can handle pen, pencil, markers, or water color paint. So I end up needing different volumes for different purposes.

In future I plan to post here in the blog more about the journaling, sketching, and writing life as well as any other topics that may be of interest to you, dear readers. If you have any topics or ideas to suggest please contact us through this website.

Thanks, and Happy Journaling!