Saturday
Dec092017

Thankful Thursday (on Saturday) 

 

Because attention attracts intention, which attracts gratitude, and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday.

This week I am thankful for: 

• lists — grocery, shopping, to do

• this passage, from this essay by Sarah Cords:

"To be grateful is to live a full life. It is to know worry and accept worry. It is to shore up the foundations even in the face of the weathering forces of tragedies and time."

• oatmeal

• my sick mother, refusing to use words of war:

"I'm not a survivor," she insists. "I am not battling." 

• persimmons - my favorite ugly delicious seasonal fruit 

• the words grumble and coo, not necessarily in tandem

• small things with history, like this family christmas ornament, circa 1930

 

It's Thankful Thursday (on Saturday, because life gets full), a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places and more. Life expands with gratitude.  What are you thankful for today?


 

Friday
Dec012017

Racked

Wrackline

An ecological bridge between land and sea;

the line of debris left on the beach by high tide, usually made up of grass, kelp, crustacean shells, feathers, bits of plastic, and scraps of litter.
 


Everything is next to something. The grass next to sand, next to beach, next to sea.

The waves roll slow and steady, somersaults of saltwater meeting beach.

The low angle light casts long shadows.

Everything lives in the shadow of the grander thing.

____


I am waiting for pies to set, a phone to ring, my mother to not die, my sister to not cry. Beyond this wrackline of broken shell and damp decay, I am waiting for the next wave.

____


Here, once or twice or for twenty years, we cross states and days to leave dull winters, shed coats and shoes and transform into people who sun and swim. Here, we are people who laugh.

Yes, I have proof. See, here, the photo, black and white and faded with time — that's us, fresh-faced from the surf, strong and sure, smiling.

____


Every morning we wake and look to the flag, listless or stiff. Today it flaps both warning and invitation, an urgent red against a sky of blue.

____


Walking the wrackline, we spot glossy rocks, thin shells, stranded jellyfish, small sandcrabs. The water, a wave machine that never ends, softens sound and muffles our voices so that our tongues go slack with the work of language.   

____


On the shore between lost and found, I can't find my notebook, pages and pages of my history, my voice, my self. I panic, hunt, give up, begin again.

Wreck and re-do share the same shadow.

____


Once, here, we drank too much and quarreled home.

____


In the distance, a woman sits on the sand, where it turns from lofty to soft to firm but not yet wet. She is alone on an empty beach watching her friend — husband? lover? son? — bobbing in the waves. She wears an unnamed sadness, I imagine, like a grief she holds but cannot carry. I watch and watch, will not turn away. This is projection, of course, a misplaced empathy. But I can’t stop watching this woman who is sitting still, her back to me, living quietly contained.

I keep looking. I keep looking to really see. 

____


Once, a sudden storm pounded our car, a torrent of water flooded the street. We huddled inside, stunned, racked with a rumble of uncertainty we’ve yet to shake.  

____


Along this line, I walk for miles, each step a decision that finally brings me home.

____


Back at the pool and free of nature’s mess, the water is chlorine clean. Slipping in, the water amplifies my breath to truth: loud, ragged, singular. The body is weightless and floating, my face turns to a wide endless sky. My heart pumps pumps pumps, gives rise to tears, salted and soundless, the one thing that seems essential and true.

 

 

Wednesday
Nov082017

Love that line!


Past the point of desperation lies inspiration.

— Priscilla Long
The Writer's Portable Mentor:
A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life 

 

This book has been setting on my desk for years (yes, years!). With the dedication of a student learning anew, I recently dug in — and have felt surprisingly energized with fresh writing prompts and ideas.

I like a good prompt and often turn to books; I have no patience in waiting for the "muse" to "inspire" me. Does a plumber wait for the right pipe to magically appear, or a surgeon wait for the stars to align before he begins to cut? No, you go out and get what you need, and then stick to your schedule.  

And so, both mood and magic have been tossed aside for the more reliable forces of effort and will. I've got my very own mentor in this get-to-it book. 

What guides your writing? A person, a book, a class . . . ? 

 

Thursday
Nov022017

Twist of fact and wish

 

Once I wrote a letter that lasted weeks. 

Once I wrote a letter that did not end.

This is the field, or a river, a wide sky expecting rain.

This is fresh paper, without blemish, without fear.

This is the letter turned to you, to god, to myself. Signed, sealed, sent to an undeliverable address. This is me hiding.  

___


He wrote a book of poems to his dead wife. I wondered if this was mastery or manipulation. But what poem isn't a twist of fact and wish? A rewrite of life as if facts were nails or hammers, something solid like a tool, or a fastener to truth that hangs useless until put to purpose.

____


Because something loosens and stirs, I keep writing, though the words make no sense, though I do not direct the message, do not even have a message. I keep the pen moving, the way my lips move in prayer, the way my mother pleads with me to keep moving, keep doing the work. 

The way even now I do not know if she said those words or I wanted her to offer the kind of encouragement we could never seem to say aloud. 

____


When nothing moves in me, my hand moves quickly across the page, with some sort of faith that life is more —and less — than now now now.

The here is the after, the after is here, on this page, in my hand, writing to you. 

____


This is why I pray with just one word, whispered, begged, again and again: please. 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct112017

Wonder, defiance, a bath


 
   Joy is an act of defiance. 
 

— Bono
The New York Times

 

1.
Because the world is too much, the outlook so grim. Because my heart hurts and my body is burden. Because there is much breaking and the mending is so slow. Because of this, joy is a struggle but also a balm. 

2.
When I meet with a friend, our time is filled with wine and laughter. It's not that I'm happy, she says, but that if I don't laugh I'll cry

We're relieved to have found an envelope of safety where laughter buffers despair.  
 
3.
At the nursing home the man sings What a Wonderful World, and Betty cries.

Real tears, full tears that she wipes away with the full of her hand, then looks around with a half-smile, embarrassed. She's not alone; a lump has gathered in my throat too.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

The singer is a one-man-band but I’m moved nonetheless. We're sitting in a dining room turned temporary concert hall, and suddenly I’m so damn sad. When I look about the room — the vacant stares and blank faces —I wonder the point: Why the charade of fun and light, of music and good times? So many of these folks are in pain, some of them out-of-mind, seemingly numb and distant.

And yet, there’s Betty with a sad smile, the music moving her to someplace deep and meaningful. And when I look closer, Helen, sitting next to her, is gazing at Betty with a sort of empathy I’d never seen. And a few wheelchairs away Rose is swaying gently in her chair.

Though we are alone and lost in ourselves, music is the powerful nudge, stirring mind and memory to tell us we are here, now, that we are loved, and that we have loved too. 

. . . and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

4.
Because of this, I run water for a bath, slip into lavender and eucalyptus, and gratefully wash the weary away. 

 

 

 * as always, names are changed.