The road ends, but the journey continues...

Tag: life path (Page 1 of 4)

October Poet (part three, final)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen, poet

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Here we come to the third and final part of our (he)art to (he)art interview with Khaya where she elaborates on the universal language of love (part one here, part two here).
Please read on to the end where I reveal who won the free autographed copy of her “From the Depth of Darkness”.

LBL: How many languages do you in fact speak and/or understand?

KHAYA: Hmm…let’s see! I speak and understand five of the eleven South African official languages. I also speak Finnish. I’ve also studied a bit of Swedish and basic Spanish. Out of all these, I only speak four fluently, and dream only in two; Xhosa and English.

I dream in Xhosa

LBL:  There’s a drastic difference between South Africa and Finland! And yet, you seem to have embraced your adopted home. I suspect that connection was due to falling in love with a Finn!? Care to elaborate on what brought you two together?

KHAYA: True, there’s a drastic difference between these two countries. But there’s not much difference between people; we all want the same things in life. Tell me one person, who doesn’t want to be loved! I’m not talking about romantic love now but a universal love – being seen and accepted for who we are.

What brought us together? [Laughs]…Love, of course, is what usually brings people together. It’s that same love that saw me leave my warm and sunny birth country to embrace long, dark and cold Nordic winters. Love transcends everything, doesn’t it?

But what has kept us together and happy all these years is equally important. Our backgrounds, how we were raised, and our way of thinking are quite similar, even though we were born on the opposite sides of the world. We have so many things in common. For instance, the spirit of adventure (taking risks, being open to things we don’t know and learn, embrace the unexpected) is one of the things we share.

And oh, yes! I have the best in-laws ever. They make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world! So, again, the language of love has played a huge role in embracing my adopted home and vice versa.

LBL: You make building and nurturing relationships seem so easy to do. I assume this is how you approach relationship in your writing world as well, not only with readers but fellow writers.

KHAYA: Exactly. I see the reader of my writing as someone I’m having a conversation with. That is, it’s more than just saying come look, see, I wrote a book and now I’d like you to buy it. But it’s an invitation to explore the world I present in the book with me and exchange thoughts, ideas or even letters. My hope is always for the reader to see themselves in the world I share or learn something new or be inspired to share their world, too.

The same applies to relationships with my fellow writers. I value genuine conversations. Perhaps, that’s why blogging is my favoured way of interacting with other writers and writing communities. It allows for depth; learning more about the person behind the avatar. I like learning about how other writers and creatives, at large, navigate their worlds; the sharing of challenges and victories as our words find a home or take off to delight readers, wherever they find them. So, as it’s been said over and over again, “Other writers are not your competition but a source of support.” Because who else fully understands the struggles and joys of the writing life than another writer.

So, in closing, I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to you for this meaningful conversation. I hope you and your readers will enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. Thank you so much. And here’s to October!

LBL: …and to October babies! 🙂


Khaya's chapbooks on shweshwe cloth

And the winner is…L. Marie! Congrats!

Please comment below and I’ll send on your autographed copy of “From the Depths of Darkness” via snail mail shortly.

Note: Fabrics in photo are traditional South African shweshwe cloth – sent to me by a dear SA quilter recently. I thought they added a little something to the display of Khaya’s chapbooks.


October Poet (part two)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Our (he)art to (he)art conversational interview continues, touching on the power of the written word and language as a bridge…please join us.

LBL: In reading your bio I am reminded that English is far from being your first language and yet it appears to be your language of choice for the written word. Why is that?

KHAYA: The answer is long and complex but I’ll keep it short. English is the main language, in every sphere of my life. I had no choice as history and politics of the day made sure that English and Afrikaans were the languages. So, like most South Africans, I’m multilingual. And even though for Black South Africans, English is officially classified as a second language, many of us have a native-like proficiency. Because we were (and continue to be) exposed to English from a very early age.

While I speak my mother tongue Xhosa fluently, I cannot write it with the same fluency I write English, especially now as I haven’t lived in South Africa for many years. By this I mean, I have to move slow and be diligent when writing or reading long Xhosa texts.

Finnish is another dominant language in my daily communication. Nonetheless, at home (in Finland) we speak English, except with a few relatives who don’t speak the language.

I view all these languages I speak as a set of keys to open doors that allow me entry into different worlds.

 LBL: Born into the Xhosa community of South Africa, your first language is Xhosa. I assume Xhosa is more of a spoken language so poetry, prose, stories are conveyed more along the lines of a spoken tradition? In light of that, what drew you to the written word? Expressing yourself in this manner?

KHAYA: First, I need to clarify, Xhosa is one of the South African official languages. It’s a standard language that is written, read and spoken. That is, it’s not dialect rather it has several dialects. I can think of seven Xhosa dialects off the top of my head. But you are correct about the oral tradition; the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next through stories, prose, poetry, songs, painting, etc.

I come from a tradition of oral storytelling, which means I grew up around stories. Retelling of Xhosa tales, was a pastime that lit our household with excitement in the evenings.

Anyway, what drew me to the written word? First, I’m an introvert with some elements of extroversion. I simply prefer to write rather than talk. So, letter writing was the art form I was drawn to first. At the time, though, I didn’t know or do it as an art but a pastime to share my thoughts. Second, I find power of the written word unmatched.

“Some of the important parts of life are not visible in pictures: ideas, insights, logic, reason, mathematics, intelligence. These can’t be drawn, photographed or pictured. They have to be conveyed in words…and can only be understood by those who have acquired the superpower of reading.”

Kevin Kelly

LBL: In what other languages do you write? And do you find it difficult creating poetry in languages and in context of a culture/society not native to your personal experiences/knowledge? 

KHAYA: I once mentioned on Instagram that one of the things I’m embarrassed about is that I can’t even write a poem in my mother tongue. Because I’m gradually losing my Xhosa vocabulary. A shift (or even death of a language in some cases) is the downside of being a multilingual. But the upside? I view all these languages I speak as a set of keys to open doors that allow me entry into different worlds.

As for difficulty in creating poetry in languages not native to me, I can’t say because I write mainly in English. As for difficulty in creating poetry in context of a culture/society not native to me, my poetry (even though largely inspired by nature) is influenced by cultures and societies I live in as well as diverse personal experiences/knowledge. So, the difficulty might be making art itself, but not due to a lack of perspective or material.

Dr. Solorio reading Khaya's chapbook

LBL: I asked you to sign a copy of your From the Depths of Darkness I’m giving to my middle daughter as a gift. The phrase you used in the inscription “For what is language but a bridge!” reflects on your own passion for building bridges with your own mastery of several languages. You seem to be driven by a deep desire to communicate, connect and enable community among people from all walks of life and cultures.

KHAYA: Thanks once again Laura for supporting my work. I thought a lot about what drives my deep desire to communicate and connect. I think it’s due to a number of things, such as my personality, values, worldview and so on. Or maybe it’s just a gift. And if that’s the case, then I’m grateful for it.  What I know is that I value authentic relationships with others.

However, I’m also passionate about words. I’m always interested in how they form a language, which we in turn use or respond to. How words can change within a language as we decide who to invite in or keep out. Hence, I see language as a bridge. It’s a tool we all have at our disposal and we, individually, can decide what to do with it.


to be continued…commenters will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free autographed copy of From the Depths of Darkness…winner will be announced at the end of the third and final part of this interview.

October Poet (part one)

Khaya Ronkainen

Khaya Ronkainen, poet

Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Seasons Defined and From the Depth of Darkness, published through her imprint. Some of her work has been anthologized as well as featured in various publications. She is currently at work on her third poetry collection about all things pandemic and political. To learn more or connect with her, visit her blog at www.khayaronkainen.fi


Depending upon which hemispheric season you find yourself occupying – grab a mug of hot cocoa or a tall glass of iced tea, sit back and savor the following (he)art to (he)art conversational interview.

LBL: Very early on in the perusal of your two chapbooks, I realized an intersection of yours and mine outlook on life. First and foremost, it’s the one of understanding, compassion and experience in being displaced with an even further deep desire to be the troubadour sounding the existence and needs of others in various states of being within displaced communities.

The other main intersection is that of our shared birthday month! Your poem, Summer was a real eye-opener as I think there is a natural tendency for us all to relate deeply to one’s birth month and consequent season associated with it.

What would you have me say of you?
Ours is an obscure relationship
You led me believe I was your baby
A summer baby –
Because down south, October simmers
Spring overlapping with summer

What would you have me say of you?
As if immaterial, now you tell me I am
An autumn baby –
Because up north, October teases
Skies weep fearful of winter.

excerpt from Summer by Khaya Ronkainen

I am an October Baby and my favorite season is Fall. You are an October Baby, yet your point of reference is as a Summer Baby.

That particular poem embodies what it means to be fully displaced – by choice or as refugee or for whatever reason. The seasons are a language unto itself and in this case a literal translation brings about a type of confusion!

KHAYA: In our early correspondence, I expressed my delight in learning about our intersection. But I had already suspected that we might share a similar outlook on life. This was probably from a comment you made on my blog about me being a sensitive poet. That comment made me pause because very few people, even in my family, have that perception of me.

I thought: it takes one sensitive poet to see another. 🙂

Your interpretation of displacement communicated in the Summer poem blew me away. Because I don’t know if any readers of my poetry understood or interpreted the poem as you did!

LBL: Let’s explore this a bit further. We share the same birth month and yet we were born into two different seasons. That is a new perspective for me. We are shaped somewhat by when we were born – and imagining myself as a Spring/Summer child is not only foreign to me, but honestly slightly off-putting.

You however seem to have embraced just such a dichotomy – Southern & Northern Hemisphere Seasonal Duality – fully embracing both birthrights. I can’t help but see the symbolism of this playing out in your poetry reflective of your own personal immigrant journey.

KHAYA: Oh, Laura! You made me laugh with the idea of being a Spring/Summer baby being slightly off-putting! I actually find having a claim on both seasons a beautiful contradiction. I guess because it depicts my life.

But you are correct, the dichotomy of seasonal duality is symbolic and plays a huge role in my writing. Poems in Seasons Defined, written over a number of years before being published as a collection, capture this contrast more. They were written from a place of amazement, a sense of awe, not only about love and my second home but I was also seeing my life anew under the microscope of clearly defined Finnish seasons.

I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.

Of course, we have four seasons in South Africa but they easily overlap. October, for example, is supposed to be spring but temperatures are already so high that it feels like summer. That’s why I’ve always identified as a summer baby. Then I moved to Finland and what I thought I knew was turned upside down, literally. 🙂

I’ve grown to love autumn, it’s one my favourite seasons. Yet it’s the same season that has the ability to throw me under the bus, if it finds me in a bad mental space. But yes, I’ve embraced it all. I belong to two worlds, and I am at home in both.


to be continued…commenters will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free autographed copy of From the Depths of Darkness

What in your life did COVID-19 interrupt?

That question – cum – title idea for a post has been bouncing around the caverns of my brain for most of this past year. And then a twin question surfaced this Spring as we neared rounding the corner on the Pandemic, bringing with it a glimmer of hope as a surge of people became fully vaxxed (myself included).

What in your life did COVID-19 interrupt?

What in your life did COVID-19 open up?

January 2020 – February 2020
One slice of life we were walking through in bullet points:

  • After a full year of searching, we finally found a business to buy and were in the final round of negotiations for the sale
  • We decided on an area of the country to relocate to, were about to finalize the house hunt and then begin moving – after waiting what seemed like forever to finally do this (I was already 50% packed and ready to go since the beginning of 2019!)
  • Ultimately, we were poised and ready to sign on the dotted line for each of the above
  • Meanwhile the business sale fell through – but we were still on-track with continuing the house search
  • I got sick right before our planned road trip for the final house hunt which in turn delayed that focus and entire move – but we viewed that as a mere postponing of the process
  • Then – March 2020 – COVID-19 took front & center on the world’s stage and everything came to a screeching halt

In our situation, it was more the momentum of our life that got interrupted.


…is what it opened up…

What about you?

Poetry as a Pandemic Life Line

~~~
Today, this last day in April 2021, is also the last day of National Poetry Month.
~~~

Poetry is a life line.

me, Laura Bruno Lilly

Poetry speaks to our aloneness and draws us into a community of common experiences.

Allusions illuminating the seen and unseen – the felt or unfelt.

Resonant expression. Targeting the heart. Melting into one’s soul.

Before, during and post Pandemic – Poetry is a life line.

Thoughts Thought on The Longest Night MMXX

Can a 66 year-old woman begin her own designated Hero’s Journey? Again? Is it too late? Rather, is there time left in her life to dive into yet another Path that would surely reveal itself during that Journey?

In many ways, 2020 has been the dead-end to end the multiple dead-ends I’ve hit over the past few years in my creative life. One could say it has been the ending of an unconscious Hero’s Journey.

My generation has always championed the idea of jumping over one’s shadow. Elements of a traditional “Hero’s Journey” are hardwired into my everyday life. In fact, they were supported and modeled by my folks even as my life took shape. So, facing more adventures, twisty, turny changes, and making do are all just part of the mix. Mostly, knowing that in the midst of it all, surviving & thriving are not mutually exclusive and is a precious insight.

Somewhere along my (he)artist’s way, product and validation overtook process and creation. As such, the muse all but disappeared, the gift all but withered.

The focus to finish and get my project(s) ‘out there’ became so strong it obscured seedlings of exploration, experimentation and self-expression. And in the end, with little to show for that absorbing focus.

The good part to all of this is that the stubborn ruts I’d traveled were more easily seen for what they were – not an obstacle to the Path, but proof that I’d wandered from the Path.

So I have corrected my focus. I am firmly ensconced in choosing repertoire based upon pure desire to play/perfect what I want to play – not based upon some audience type or proficiency parameter. And the composing! Instead of keeping it in check so as not to overshadow my practice time and/or exploration of tangential instruments, I am fully leaning into those juicy sessions.

Yes, I have project(s) that are screaming to be ‘out there’. Many are in fact 99.9% ready to go…but I gave myself permission to just not angst over all the odds and ends I’m clearly not knowledgeable enough to do right now to finish them*.

In other words, I gave myself permission to do what I was meant to do: create music – play around with sound – and commune with the Giver of the Gift in doing so.


Meanwhile, this year marked the entry into one of my favorite type of birthdays – one of duplicate double digits. It’s just one of my things.

The last such marker was 5-5 Revive.

Surprisingly, this year’s spontaneously spoke forth as Route 6-6.

What? Taking to the road again, in this time of lock downs, life threatening environmental obstacles and lack of connection?

Yep. Maybe not literally, but certainly in allowing the muse, my music, to lead the way…instead of my dragging it along with me. Be the conduit, serve the Gift and enjoy the process.

If I am the only one to hear or see or understand what comes forth, then so be it.

But I’m willing to bet this ‘Hero’s Journey’ change in attitude might alter that solo scenario come 2021.


*That’s the extreme down side of all this DIY stuff that goes along with being an Indie (he)artist – having to do all the business stuff, packaging, marketing, registering, licensing, publishing, etc; and finding/hiring qualified people to do the production side of things. It simply is not as easily available as one would think. Not whining, just sayin’…

Dance of Joy: Dr. Solorio

Dance of Joy – Our Michelle is now officially Dr. Solorio –

Hubby and I are crazy proud as are all her sibs along with the rest of the Family and of course her Husband (our favorite Son-In-Law)

In the celebratory spirit of myriad Ivoirian individuals who took her into their hearts and homes…this video (used with permission) of a 1st Communion Celebration she attended (notice the 1st communicant in the center of the circle) represents our own inner – Dance of Joy.

LANGUAGE WARS? LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION AND THE IVORIAN POST-CONFLICT TRANSITION
By
Michelle Lilly Solorio

A DISSERTATION

Submitted to
Michigan State University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of

 Education Policy – Doctor of Philosophy

2020
~~~

Dedicated to the parents and teachers in Côte d’Ivoire who shared their lives with me.

Vous m’avez accueilli dans votre vie, donné de votre temps et partagé votre nourriture. Vous m’avez montré le vrai sens de “akwaaba.” Je vous chérirai toujours.

 This dissertation is also dedicated to my husband, David.

Thank you for supporting me through this long endeavor. You are my partner in everything. I love you.
~~~

Re-stringing a Life

Andres Segovia & Augustine StringsA few weeks ago, I finally changed strings on the Prisloe (my classical guitar). After a couple of months trying out another brand, some Augustine Regal/Blue High Tensions as recommended by Segovia himself, I’m back to my standard Blue Pack (Savarez Alliance High Tension 540 J’s).
In addition to his pioneering role in elevating the classical guitar to the concert stage around the turn of the 20th century, Segovia partnered with Augustine Strings in the 1940s to develop a revolutionary (at the time) non-gut string option for classical guitars. For many years since, Augustine Strings were one of very few quality options out there for classical guitarists.
All told, those Augustine’s just didn’t agree with me. My style, my fingers; maybe even my guitar. That’s part of being a working musician, trying different things to see how they enhance or detract from one’s playing. When I know I don’t need to depend upon reliability in sound/tone due to a lack of gigs, or recording dates, I often slap on different strings – brands, tensions, material composition – just to test drive the newest innovations, those recommended by colleagues and/or those with the best reviews by other players.
The Augustine strings offered up a strong rich sound in the basses with less buzzes but were harder to coax out tone colors. Plus, the trebles took several days of consistent playing to settle them into a decent tone – albeit with a plastic-y feel and muddled sound. Yes, they lasted longer and handled my hard-driven playing well, but they just didn’t offer up the variety of subtle tone colors I use in my playing or feel good under my fingers.
They also were harder on my hands. Segovia had huge hands with sausage-like fingers and probably really needed the thicker, plastic-y feeling of the strings to accommodate that physical factor. And as far as the relationship between instrument and strings goes, remember: Segovia played a huge Ramirez with 664 fret scale and larger, 54 mm nut width.
For those of you not in-the-know about the great Segovia, I found a quality, yet un-retouched video of him playing sometime in the 1960s when he was actually in his sixties. I chose this one because it’s representative of his tone/style – his signature technique of finding just the right sweet spot on the fretboard for each note, delivering a rich deep vibrancy – all while showcasing his effortless command of the instrument.

The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played, compositions are created, techniques are explored, expanded and maintained. For myself as a musician, each time I re-string one of my instruments, there is a sense of expectation. A moment in time where everything seems possible, opening up a wide world of sonic possibilities, hopes, dreams and deep expressions of my (he)art flowing through my fingers into the outer realm.
And when the right strings are strung, those aural rewards inspire and invigorate…
The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played.
Life is lived.
And when the right strings are strung, life is magical.

I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10b NKJV

Giving Voice: Gaelynn Lea, Violinist

Friday, July 26th was the 29th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was also the day I first learned of a remarkable musician on the PBS Newshour – Gaelynn Lea, Violinist.

Notable quotes from her interview:

“Adaptive music is not as common (as adaptive sports) but I hope that it becomes more common.”

on playing the violin:

“I realize that you probably don’t know unless you have a disability that you spend every day modifying everything. I’m not concerned with doing it the way everyone does it, because I can’t really do anything the way other people do it. So, for me, finding a way to play violin was just a matter of time.”

The final set of lyrics to her newest release, “I Wait” written in defense of the Affordable Care Act, protecting those with preexisting conditions:

“We need a seat now at the table, so please invite us.
Or
Don’t pretend to care.”

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