With the change of seasons, I resumed working my veggie gardens. Each year I launch into transforming new planting areas. Time and again, knee- and wrist-deep in soil, breakthroughs arrive concerning a scene I’m writing. Or perhaps a warbler’s song quickens recall of buried memories—mushroom hunting with my Mom, getting lost in a Michigan woods. And up I get, half-running to the deck, peeling off muddy shoes and gloves in my rush to trap words with pencil or laptop. By the time I return to outside projects, my mind’s still pacing the shores of some distant river, or gazing into night skies a thousand miles away.
That’s the shape-shifting focus of being a writer, for me! Times I’m totally, physically engaged in messy activity, mental tumblers roll and click, with insights that won’t arrive on my terms. And I’ve turned that reality to my advantage, so I’ve never felt the pang of “writer’s block,” whatever peculiar definition that holds for others.
I spread out chipped Blue Willow china across the outdoor working surface used for mosaic constructions. The wind whipped volleys of rain just off the deck as I pieced together the image in my mind: a bluebird. The project’s not completed yet, but it appears here, as is so far.
A half-dozen memories flooded my mind, from last summer’s visit of a beloved young relative. She’d also pressed bits of broken tile and glass for her mosaic. I remembered things never recorded, so moved to my keyboard and spent a bit of time locking words into shape. Then I texted her, with a picture of my efforts, sending love. Sweet life!
April 17, 2017
A few weeks ago, I rose from my seat and walked to an open mic. It wasn’t my first time up—and, happily, I can say I don’t freeze up with public speaking. Moreover, I’d prepared not one, but two poems on-topic for the evening meeting.
Instead of launching into them, I deferred to a familiar “pause button” that registers somewhere below my ribcage. “Nope,” it said.
You know when you’re driving in an unfamiliar city, and for whatever reason you’re trusting your instincts rather than your smart phone or GPS? Anybody still brave enough to do that?
Perhaps you add basic dead reckoning to past experiences, negotiating toward a performance venue, or the downtown hotel, or the restaurant district. More times than not, such reconnoitering serves me well.
Or how about this? You’re entering a building—any public building—and experience a brief catch inside, a caution, not unlike hearing a distant whistle, or catching the scent of a struck match. You might hesitate, look around and choose to stay. If the unspoken wariness persists, you might back out and reassess.
The insanity around the mad-dog mongrel in the White House has worn away all my registers of acceptable, feasible, conscionable standards. And yet we’re subject to the fallout: personally, psychically, internally. Our own integrity as citizens has been shattered. Especially if the state where you live shows up as “red” in maps.
I first placed my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance to the yew-nited states when I was five years of age. The next year, I’d pledge my soul to the Lord My God In Heaven, followed by eight years of parochial school. Eventually I lived in Canada for awhile, returned happily and proudly to America and voted at each national election.
Now, when I hear from Canadian friends, I’m so freaking defensive, it’s possible I may actually need to apologize for my furious response to their casual, distant comments around the Clown Chief.
Back to the current time: I couldn’t share my clever, double-edged lines of poetry with the gathered roomful of people last month. I’d cobbled tight-fit, astute and true laser points of observation—the work was strong enough, for certain.
But that check inside my spirit caused me to arch my back, feel vertebrae slip back into position. With intake of breath, I wanted to let go, far from me, that witty, accurate take on the trump. Didn’t want to pick through the detritus in his wake. Don’t want to scoop up his leavings for any purpose whatever, least of all as building material for poetry.
Instead, I spoke a bit about harboring ugliness, then releasing it in ways that felt both satisfying and non-violent. And I whipped out a 4’ long paper tie I’d painted red, and cut it into shards, from the podium.
I suggested that we all watch what we allow to ignite us, and find what we need to dispel deceitful, hideous experiences. “Keep yourselves healthy, don’t get contaminated with absurd thinking, however you need to do it! And: STAY WOKE!”
There was mixed response. But a few voices in the crowd echoed, “Stay woke!”
I definitely am writing more around these insane American days, but I’ll watchdog where it’s distributed. And not harbor the level of rage that’s totally justifiable.
March 7, 2017
Mid-November 2016. The festive press of promo about the coming holiday season is not helpful. Images of a perfect turkey, puffy dinner rolls and the rest bring zero comfort.
I usually can come up with a hundred reasons to be grateful, in nearly all circumstances. Now, I struggle. Thanksgiving’s on the horizon, treasured time with family, yet I catch myself staring into space, unconsciously wiping tears from my cheeks.
The psychic eclipse hits so many people just now. Words of comfort during a call with a loved one recently came slowly. Whatever was said needed to be substantial, true and keen enough to penetrate murky realities.
“Don’t forget, the sun will reach what’s alive and growing in you,” I said. “Let the sun reach your heart.”
That followed “Hold steady,” and other handy phrases around hope. Left unsaid, unrecognized: my own knee-jerk, unconscious response to the two a.m. news broadcast on the ninth. Insomnia, walks in my surrounding woods (defying hunting season), tidying up here and there, revealed that parts of me had shut down.
There were heaped cheesy nachos for late meals. A pan of brownies sits on the kitchen counter, complete with thick mocha buttercream frosting. My coffee mug stays full.
I re-read Neil Gaiman’s “Ocean at the End of the Lane” quickly, yearning for a practical magick to undo the great American wrong. There’s a monster in a tower, with paperdoll family animated by entitlement and greed. How can that jibe with the will of the people?
Okay, that’s it. Here’s something so much better, you should try it!
Evansville Indiana, IzzipPizza, several locations. You tell ‘em what you like, they create ‘n bake on the spot. Here’s mine: basil-pesto and marinara sauce base, two cheeses, bacon, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, onions, shakes of chili pepper. Astonishing.
Feed yourself well, spirit and body!
Nov. 11, 2016
A Fresh Slice…but no pie. But do come back, this is the season made of pies: the pumpkin, the pecan, the harvested apple pies. Sweet potato, too.
For now, this blustery day without rain, the wind clears its throat in preparation for what’s coming. As Aunt Lola used to say, “All signs fail in dry weather.”
I’m thinking about the predictions and promises we hear—and make. Several deadlines cluster upon me, as if by surprise, their terse descriptions holding place in my iPhone calendar. (Yep—today’s a big anniversary, and I have two appointments later, two more tomorrow and THEN perhaps we’ll celebrate. Barring the unforeseen.)
Leaning into commitments from others we trust can be risky. In its highest form, as I see it, belief in a clear vow is, in itself, a gift. “I trust you will do as you say.” Imagine!
More commonly, people train us to weigh the potential merit of their promises. That can make for a rugged and steep learning curve. It calls for delicate balance: better to suspend belief, or suspend disbelief?
“Trust in God, but row for the shore” makes good sense. And it’s good to know who’s in the boat with us. Anything can happen, and often does.
Inside the Sturm und Drang rattling America just now, I’ll resist bitterness and guard my heart. Hope you’ll find a way to do the same.
Oct. 27, 2016
Yes, yes—peach pie!
Mmm-mmm! From Reid's Orchards, at the edge of Owensboro, KY, the season's sweet peaches have been thoroughly enjoyed in many ways. Like so much that is perfectly wonderful, the huge, luscious wonders couldn't last long, and weren't designed to do so.
Week-long visits from three distant areas were enjoyed this summer. Family from Florida, Missouri and Minnesota arrived, we worked and played, and enjoyed all we could find. Of course, celebratory pie played its part, along with craft beer and wine, swimming, music, porch and bonfire chats—and love a' la mode!
SO NOW: time for apples! Pumpkins! Paw-paws for some of us Midwesterners, too. Let them all remind us to get out there, live your sweet life!