On Ordinary


A static gloom covers the day, hours of gray. 

The day is so without event, so without emotion, I know now this is what is called ordinary. I don’t know what to do with ordinary except to call it a suspension between sad and sunny. 

I’m having a do-nothing day, I announce to another (but mostly to myself), and then stumble across this:  

“The women . . . are interesting because they’re permitted to risk being boring, which feels somehow like a luxury. It’s a relief.”

_____


“Boredom is often dismissed as a lack of imagination — this not true. Boredom is a signal that we are indeed imaginative creatures, and that the existential distress of being in a state of blah is often the mind readying itself for the epiphany," writes Nick Cave

I’m not bored exactly, but I am not moved. Is this the blah before brilliance? It’s too much to wish because this creative stupor is a gray that has hovered for what feels like forever. Ordinary turns time inside-out, both enlarging its importance and diminishing your ability. In its lack of color and light, ordinary does absolutely nothing. 

_____

 
But what if ordinary is the lull that lets light in?

It happens so often now I don’t even notice. I’m chatting with a woman and in the course of our conversation she tells me of her husband's death. Her eyes soften and we talk slower and lower and time wells between us in a way that seals us in a moment quiet and safe.  

“Intimacy is such a hushed and heartbreaking thing that I think it happens between strangers every bit as much as it does between lifelong lovers, sometimes even more so," writes Robert Vivian in The Least Cricket of Evening

_____


Lately, an elderly man and I exchange hellos and talk of the weather. Each day I learn a little more. He is quiet and proud but his eyes carry heartache. He apologizes — for emotion, for sharing, I do not know — and I will mew words that say nothing that matters. Still, each day we start again with hellos and smiles. 

And this is ordinary. These moments of exchange.

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart), wrote e.e. cummings.

And so we carry secrets and stories, aches and tears — all of it so human and heartbreaking, so beautifully gray and ordinary.  

 

 

Love that line, but . . .

 
Turning her back

on the toneless expanse,

beyond the window,

she contemplated

the room, which

was the colour of

over-cooked veal." 


— from Hotel Du Lac
    a novel by Anita Brookner

 

I love that line, but I don't love the book. 

In the same way I sometimes love a stanza but not the whole poem.

Or love a friend but not her opinion. 

I am large, I contain multitudes, wrote Whitman

And so we expand, stretching across the thorny contradiction to get to a single beautiful bloom.  

 

Thankful Thursday (everyday)

On Highway 97 in Oregon

It's Thankful Thursday. Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate people, places, things & more. 

This week I'm thankful for the small things (weather, letters, poems) that help me feel gratitude for the big things (love, learning, sincerity): 

1.
A Letter Love Story

A woman tells me she met her husband through writing letters.

The two lived in separate states, had mutual friends, and courted by mail — long, hand-written letters that offered kindness, humor, and truth (I'm fat, she wrote. I don't like bars or church, he wrote). Two months in, they were engaged, having never met or talked on the phone. A month later they married. They've been happily wed for 45 years. 

2.
Poem By Chance

The list of books I want to read is long but sometimes a chance encounter jumps to the top. At the library I was looking for a chair and found a book of poems instead: Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting. I thought it was a book of heartbreak though letters (and that combo is sure to reel me in). But this was better: a collection of powerfully restrained poems from Kevin Powers, an Iraq War veteran. Here's an excerpt from the opening poem, Customs

We passed the welcome sign
five miles ago. Another crossing 
missed. On some naked mountainside
a small signal fire is lit. I can tell you exactly 
what I mean. It is night again and endless
are the stars. I can tell you exactly
what I mean. The world has been replaced
by our ideas about the world. 

3. 
The Brilliance of Good TV 

All praises for David Simon, the writer of television tales. I've recently revisited my two favorites: The Wire, about the drug trade and its reverberations in every aspect of urban life; and Tremeexploring the emotional, physical, financial, and cultural aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. 

Both shows make complex issues real with writing and acting that is deep, honest and accurate. With each episode, I laugh, cry, and can't wait to watch another. 

4. 
Blue Sky, Yellow Leaves, Warm Sun 

For days I say the same phrase to everyone I meet: Can you believe this beautiful weather?

Crisp mornings, cool nights, warm days, blue sky, yellow leaves, day after glorious day. It's a script of happiness because sometimes there are not enough words to convey the gratitude of good weather, so I just repeat my mantra like a contented fool. 

 

Your turn:  What are you thankful for today? 

 

Fast Five with Patricia Bailey

trish+bailey+BW.jpg

“I feel better on
the days I write. Happier. Clearer. 
I’m unsettled when I’m not writing." 

 — Patricia Bailey
author of The Tragically True
Adventures of Kit Donovan

Welcome to Fast Five Interviews, where we ask five questions to
open the door to know more:

Patricia Bailey — Trish — lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a small town in southern Oregon. Her debut novel, The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan tells the story of a sharp and spunky 13-year-old girl who defies age and gender expectations to stand up for what’s right.

The young adult novel has earned numerous accolades, including 2018 Oregon Book Award for Children’s Literature, the Oregon Spirit Award from the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, and the 2018 Willy Literary Award from Women Writing the West. 

What writers or books have most strongly influenced you?  

This shifts for me almost day-to-day, depending on what I’m thinking and what I’m currently working on. That said, I think the one book that stands out for me the most is Pam Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness. I remember finding it at a bookstore when I was in college and devouring it. It was the first book I read that felt familiar. I knew these people. I’d been to these places. I had stories like this. It was the very first hint that maybe I had things to say that people would read. That my stories might actually matter too. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

I’m a slow writer, so I think the best advice I’ve gotten is to just take the time you need to get the story right. I’d love to be able to write a quick draft and go from there, but it just doesn’t work for me. Remembering that my process is my process and it takes how long it takes is helpful when I’m feeling old and overwhelmed.

Writing — and publishing — can be difficult work. In the face of challenge, what keeps you going? 

I think the act of writing does. I feel better on the days I write. Happier. Clearer. I’m unsettled when I’m not writing. So, if I can remember that the act of writing makes me happy - no matter how hard the day is – and focus on just that part, the other worries seem to shrink a bit.

Bonus Question:

I’m a word collector and keep a running list of favorite words. What are your favorite words?

Glimmer, jellyfish, moon, smarmy, moxie, shiver, loaf, and about a million more I can’t recall just know. I really should keep a list.

On Sunday: Orphans


As one week ends and another begins, what keeps you — and what will you let go?

orphans (noun):  in typography, words or phrases that do not fit; in writing, phrases and lines discarded from original text but which the writer hopes will shine in a new work.


[ 1 ]

The morning smelled of fresh laundry. 

 

[ 2 ]

these smooth suede hills

  sedge and reed

           stubble and stalk

     cheat grass and ash

soft winter wheat

 

[ 3 ]

For years it was winter. 

 

[ 4 ]

Some days, I feel so lucky.
A door opens, a smile widens, I am let into a life.

 

[ 5

Some days I wake up missing you, counting the days and dreading the markers that will make you more gone. You are here, in my mirror, in my tears, everywhere and nowhere. 

 

[ 6 ]

"Each poem is a miracle that has been invited to happen." 

— William Stafford

 

[ 7 ]

The mind is always editor: sorting, sifting, discarding. 

How much energy it takes to write and rewrite a life. 

 

 


On Sunday, driving home

 Doubletake in Rawlins, Wyoming. Photo by Andre Myron.

1.
Sometimes when you are driving you begin to know things you can’t see or touch but have always carried: the way a jaw tightens to say nothing, how eyes can dart away a shame, and birds how they form along the telephone wire, each with a secret in a long silence of miles. 

On a road for hours, you are sleepy with quiet when a hunger like longing wants the words in your throat to meet the world but knows, like a rain coming, that the feeling will fall and quickly pass. So you hold back and in the suspension the world waits and grows into something similar to illness and you remember the way a fever clarified your life.

Your map is a quilt of lines and dots, and you wear every landscape. You are numb with canyons and hills, with scrub and rock. Every terrain says try me, and so you are haybale and scorched field, broken window and rusted phone. You hold heat and storm, and keep breathing, slow and pronounced, over and over like a prayer or a plea. You are throat and lungs and fear.

Because stillness is a gift, you keep at the wheel, holding tight, holding on. 

2.
If you ask, I'll say I'm happy. But I usually add the ish, happyish, wellish, because each moment is singular and subject to change.

3.
Was I born this cramped, all blister and knots? These weeds inside me, prickle and thistle, were they planted or did I emerge from scrubby plain, growing wind-worn and hard all on my own? 

4. 
These Sunday nightsraising sadness and regret. The solitude of Sundays, the letting go and gearing up. Looking back meets going forward, a loss and weight all at once. 

5. 
On Sunday, poem as prayer:

A quality of attention has been given to you:

when you turn your head the whole world

leans forward. It waits there thirsting

after its names, and you speak it all out as it

comes to you: you go forward into forest leaves

holding out your hands, trusting all encounters,

telling every mile, "Take me home." 


— William Stafford

 
excerpt from "For People with Problems About How to Believe"
a poem that appears in An Oregon Message: Poems  

 

Thankful Thursday: Inspired By . . .

On a weeklong writing project, I lost my way.  

There was an agenda, a map, and destinations designed to inspire writing.

But the days got choked with smoke and my haze turned at first to malaise and then to rebellion: Who needs a vista! Who wants some fancy special event?! 

I made plans, rescheduled those plans, then cancelled completely. I did not take the hike, drive to the lookout, or dine with the writers. I went instead to my favorite no-pressure, all quiet, mostly clean and quiet place: the library.  

And there I wandered, losing my self on the Oregon Trail, in Walt Whitman, in snarky humor, and origami.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, mostly a jumble, but maybe a nugget hides in the rubble.

The best part was the sweet relief, realizing inspiration comes to the willing. It's all here and here and here, all within reach. I know this, I do, but often forget. 

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful, oddly, for plans that unravel and expectations unmet. In a small way, my frustration allowed another sort of writing to take foot, stumble, then, albeit wobbly, stand. 

 

How to Fold
 

Find a flat surface. 

Start with a single fold. 

Fold in half. 

 

Fold to back. 

Rotate. Flip.

Fold. Unfold. 

 

Difficulty will increase.

You may feel the chill of not knowing. 

Keep steady. Like any trick, it will 

 

take practice and a curious mind. 

From luck to wisdom to surprise 

you’ll build confidence. 

 

Peel back the petals. 

To create wings 

fold a loving heart

 

and hold the center. 

 

— a cut-up poem by Drew Myron, with lines from The Joy of Origami by Margaret Van Sicklen

  

It's Thankful Thursday.
Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise. 
Please join me in a weekly pause
to appreciate people, places & things.

What are you thankful for today?

 

 

Is This A Poem?


You have your own oceans 

Your mind is quick and sharp and strange.

You don’t have to be afraid of the oceans inside you.
Let the tides do their work. The moon grows
bright then dark, and then bright again. 
Do not dwell in too much darkness.
Do not make a home in deep caves of loss.

Tell yourself.

If there’s no way to predict the thing that comes next,
what freedom would it give you to imagine this week and next?

Your ambition doesn’t
have to be greedy to hold its own wild energy.
It doesn’t have to be noisy to change
the world around you. Embrace the messy. 
Remember to pay attention to where
sorrow lives inside you, and where in
your body you store love. 

You don’t have to think your body into clarity.
You might feel the change roaring in the distance
and the change rumbling under your feet. What urgency
has held you tight and what are the words you want to hear?
You’ve traveled a long way through a world that is not your own. 

Push your way back.

You have your own landscape, mountains and forests
and plains full of life. You have your own oceans
uncharted and blue and wild. You know the shape
of the world you move through. 

Show up and just be you.


— a mash-up by Drew Myron of horoscope lines
from Madame Clairevoyant and Holiday Mathis

 

I'm in a quandary: Is this found poetry, a cut-up poem? Is attribution enough? My mind runs and reels. To borrow, to take, to remake — is this moral, correct, kind? If assembly is required, is it art or is it theft? 

Dear Reader, is this a poem and can I call it mine? 

 

 

Love that line!

 



So, wherever you came from, whichever way you swing,

whatever is standing in your way, just remember:

You’re bigger than that. Like the man said:

You contain multitudes.


— from Lawn Boy
a novel by Jonathan Evison


This semi-autobiographical story is packed with angst, anger, and the ingredients of real life: race, class, snark and smiles.

“What I wanted was a book written by a guy who worked as a landscaper or a cannery grunt or a guy who installed heating vents," says Mike Muñoz, the 22-year-old protagonist who mows lawns and imagines his life as an author. "Something about modern class struggle in the trenches. Something plainspoken, without all the shiver-thin coverlets of snow and all the rest of that luminous prose. Something that didn’t have a pretentious quote at the beginning from some old geezer poet that gave away the whole point of the book. Something that didn’t employ the ‘fishbowl lens’ or a ‘prismatic narrative structure’ or any of that crap they teach rich kids out in the cornfields.”

Thankfully, Lawn Boy cuts a fresh tale, true to life with hints of hope. 

 

Feel Good Friday

weightlessness 

 
is to want

nothing

is to have

everything

is to hold 

a certainty 

you will 

outgrow

and forget 

you ever 

owned 

 

to want 

the weightlessness

of age 10 is

to want to crest

a hill on a bike 

alone for the 

first time on 

a road you 

don’t know

with nothing

but strong 

legs and 


fearlessness

 

— Drew Myron

 


The world is wracked and wrecked, frantic and full. It's Friday, let's finally, for a moment, set aside worry and slip into something more comfortable.

What's your Feel Good Friday? 

 


Waiting for the stewardess

I Have Good News by Tony Hoagland

1.
Just as gin is more potent at 30,000 feet, so are poems. I'm reading a book on a late flight home when every line shakes me, and the quiet man sharing our armrest senses my tears and without saying a word I think he wishes me well. 

2.
In the pool, my sister and I float, holding hands in hot summer sun, as if we always have. 

3.
The other day I could not remember if the sun rose in the west and set in the east, or rose in the east and set in the west. I know the answer, but some days I question everything I think I know and realize I know so very little.

4.
At the nursing home, I ask the quiet elderly man, “Can I get you anything?”

“No,” he replies, “I’m just waiting for the stewardess.”

 

 

Thankful Thursday: Amens

Because the world is big and our troubles too, it's time for rest and perspective. Please join me for Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for things large and small, from the puny to the profound. 

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for: 

1.
Misread as message
In reading my horoscope the other day, this is what I saw:

"Reading the amens is a specialty of yours."

This is what it actually said:

"Reading the omens . . ."

I prefer the amens. 

2.
Just for you
A friend sent me — by old fashioned mail, which is a gratitude in itself — a batch of handmade notecards. The cards are beautifully crafted, with matching, repurposed envelopes too. I'm impressed with her artful design and skill, and moved by the gift. With a single unexpected kindness, I felt a real attitude shift. 

3. 
Poems, here and gone
For more than 15 years, I've collected my favorite poems and placed them in one single, growing Word document. Kindness was in there, along with Praying, and pages of known and lesser-known poems that I stumbled across and then held close. Until last week, when I lost the 100-page file and over a decade of beloved lines — poof! gone!

I thought about reassembling the collection. But maybe not. Maybe it's time for new stock, reflecting my tastes and perspectives today. Some of the old standards will still be there but it's time now to find fresh favorites.

And you, dear reader and friend, what's in your collection? what are your favorite poems? 

 

 

Fast Five: Bette Lynch Husted

 I've been troubled

all my life

by the story

we don't tell. 
 

— Bette Lynch Husted
author of All Coyote's Children

 

Bette Lynch Husted writes with breadth and depth, carefully crafting poems, memoir and story. Her works include At This Distance (poems)Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land (memoir); Lessons from the Borderlands (memoir essays); and All Coyote’s Children (novel). 

Living in the small, eastern Oregon town of Pendleton, her work is woven with landscape, family and culture. Her latest work, and first novel, All Coyote's Children, has earned accolades from The Oregonian: "Thoughtful, superbly written and redolent with inviting characters and ideas. Husted's first novel deserves attention and prizes."

It's time for Fast Five, in which we ask five questions that open the door to know more — and give away great books!

To enter the drawing to win All Coyote's Children, simply write a comment in the Comment Section below, or send an email to: dcm@drewmyron.com. The drawing will be held on Sunday, June 17, 2018. 

1.
How did you come to writing?

I was eight and my sister was ten when we broke into print on the children’s page of The Idaho Farmer with stories we had written one summer afternoon to entertain each other (both, as I remember, titled “Mystery in the Old Barn”). But though I kept writing, isolation in small rural communities and the demands of teaching made my next publication a long time coming. What made a difference was Fishtrap and later a series of wonderful workshops at The Flight of the Mind Writing Workshops for Women [founded by Judith Barrington and ran for 17 years], where I not only learned from people like Naomi Shihab Nye, Grace Paley, and Lucille Clifton, but also realized that people could hear my voice — and that getting my work out was “important for all of us,” as Alex Kuo wrote to me. I kept that piece of blue stationery above my desk for a long time, and I try to pass on this gift to other writers.

2.
You’ve written poetry, memoir and, most recently, fiction. Your work features a distinct and vivid sense of place. How has place formed you as a writer?   

“The place,” my father called the benchland north-central Idaho homestead where he was born and where his children, too, would grow up. We were all bonded to it — by daily chores, of course, but also by the light “rolling down the mountain” each morning, the red-winged blackbirds’ return in late February just as the barnyard was beginning to thaw. The river sound of wind in the pines on the hill. “Place” showed me what it meant to be conscious, alive. It still does. Maybe it helps that I have spent my life in the rural inland Northwest where we are reminded of our relationship to the earth in ways we might not be if we were surrounded by concrete. But I can’t imagine not feeling this way. 

3.
Your novel, “All Coyote’s Children,” is a powerful story of cultural and generational connections. In it, you write, “It’s not telling stories that gets us in trouble. It’s not telling them.” What prompted you to tell this story?  

I’ve been troubled all my life by the story we don’t tell because, as one of the characters in All Coyote’s Children puts it, “it cancels all our mythologies. No wonder we can’t face it.” How do we face the fact that the indigenous peoples and cultures of North America were dehumanized, seen as savage, inferior, obstacles to be eliminated as we “tamed a continent” (a phrase used by our president in his recent Naval Academy graduation address) and then all but erased from our national consciousness? All of us who are non-Natives, even those brought by force to this continent, continue to live on stolen land. What do we do with this knowledge? And what do Native people do with their erasure from so much of “American history,” not to mention the ongoing pain of that story?

Ten years ago, the spiritual leader who married my son and his Umatilla/Cayuse and White Mountain Apache wife said, “We’re joining not just two people, but two families.” His words felt extraordinarily generous. I knew this wasn’t the complete answer to my question, yet that day healing seemed possible.

But only if we tell our own true stories and listen carefully enough to hear each other’s. In many ways, this is what draws me to writing: trying to stay open, receptive to the stories that connect us. 

4.
A character in your novel says, “Life is hard, and will get harder.” In the face of difficulty, what keeps you going? 

I’ve read that the Cheyenne People have a saying: A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is finished, not matter how brave its warriors, or how strong their weapons.

The Cheyenne may be acknowledging this truth: it takes a lot to put the hearts of women on the ground. “Survival is hard sometimes,” Leona says in All Coyote’s Children — but though she has stumbled, she’s still upright, and helping the lives of others to go on. My own mother was such a woman — able to lift her eyes to the sunset or blue-black thunderheads or Orion climbing the sky no matter the challenges she faced. (“I’d catch another bubble if I waited,” she copied on the scrap of paper that’s now pinned to my own bulletin board. “The thing was to get now and then elated.”) 

Sometimes, though, the difficulties can be overwhelming. What keeps me going is writing, feeling my way forward one word at a time. 

And I’m fortunate to belong to a wonderful poetry workshop group. We drive from various corners of Oregon to meet once a month, each of us knowing that this sharing of words (and food and wine and friendship) is a lifeline.

5.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

The late Ursula K. Le Guin was a member of that workshop group. We carry her with us always, hearing her voice in the stories she left the world and treasuring our own memories, her careful critiques, the image of her sitting in the wicker chair on Jeannette’s side porch stitching or sketching — but we miss her, we miss her. 

Last month I watched the trailer of Arwen Curry’s forthcoming documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin and heard Ursula say, “To learn to make something well can take your whole life. And it’s worth it.”

One last gift. And the best writing advice any of us could ever receive.

Bonus Question: I’m a word collector and keep a running list of favorite words. What are your favorite words?

The words that immediately come to mind are Clearwater and Kooskia (pronounced KOOS-key), words I grew up with, words that mean home. I always thought I was lucky to live near such a beautiful river, and one so beautifully and accurately named. But the place names I usually love most are the ones from Native languages, Kooskia and Umatilla, Wallowa, Walla Walla. So why would “clear water” and “Kooskia” bothspring to mind as my favorite words, I wondered? Wikipedia tells me that “the river got its name from the Niimiipuutímt naming as Koos-Koos-Kai-Kai – ‘clear water.’” That may well be a condensed version of a much deeper language connection—still, it makes me very happy.


Win this book!

Enter the drawing for All Coyote's Children. Write a comment in the Comment Section below. Feeling shy? Zip an email to dcm@drewmyron.com.

The drawing will be held on Sunday, June 17, 2018. 

 

 

 

 

Literary Confession: Discarded

Searching for symbolism is mental masturbation. I don't like dissection. I wasn't a good English major. If feeling is first, why hunt for deeper meaning? 

So I didn't lug anthologies. Or read Jane Austen. I still don't like Hemingway.

And I give up, often. Fifty pages, 100 pages. I try to be a good literary citizen. The other day I picked up a "classic" and slogged against heavy lids, inner chatter, and the call of something better. And finally gave up.

I don't want to argue intent, conceit, or what's at stake. I just want out. 

And you, my confessor, reader, friend — are you a quitter too? 

 

Thankful Thursday: 10!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

You and me.

In 2008 — 10 years ago — I started this blog. Before the world was full of Facebook, iPhone, YouTube and Twitter, Off the Page was born. Tentative and shy, I offered a "quiet place of thoughts and ideas." 

"Let’s go," I wrote. "Not with the thunder of the self-absorbed, but in the same way a single line, when spoken softly, carries great weight."

Through this long decade, we've seen fashions rise and fall: 

Blogs are hot! Social media is king! Blogs are dead! Social is over! Blogs are revived!

The trends go 'round and 'round. Blogs, though, are my bootcut jeans and cashmere sweater — here to stay. 

It's never been a one-sided experience but an exchange. I write alone and share aloud. Like a writing group, or coffee with a friend, this is a quiet place warmed with creative comfort and expression. Thank you for being here with me, for reading, thinking, feeling, responding.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for you, dear reader. You show up, and I am heard, encouraged and inspired. In this big world, thank you for finding your way to this small shelter. 

Thank you for letting me in. 

 

It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things and more. The world contracts and expands with our gratitude. What are you thankful for today? 

 

Try This: 5 Step Cut Up

1.
Sometimes, many times, I don't know what I'm feeling until I write it out. 

2.
Sometimes I stand back from myself, while in myself, wondering who is this person, writing these words, and why? 

3. 
Sometimes my head is so full and fuzzed, I can't find my own words. And so I gather others. I go to books — art books, science books, manuals and guides — and jot down words and phrases.

Some feel poetic: dotted with mist.

Others are fact-full: Later measurements show that these surface currents flow with an average velocity of three knots.

Sometimes I pluck single words:  moss   tidal   index

4.
I cut these lines into strips, spread them out, and make sense again. I go outside myself to get back in, where the real poem is forming.

5.
Yes, it is both forced and fluid. It is an exercise and it is art, the kind that stirs hand and heart —  the best kind of workout. 

 

The myth of currents

 

Before these rolling hills and furrowed fields

there was moss and bark, soggy leaves and mist

dotted with riddle. 

 

How is it I dissolved in place? 

Struggling to understand the dark wet days

I etched patterns across the terrain of veins.

 

Tidal rhythms vary but nothing drowns like despair. 

I explored the pull of sun and moon, the myth of currents

how the flow swirls, restores, carries away, the hours circling.

 

Now, there is no drenching rain or rusting salt, no

saturated gloom, no cursing gray sky. 

 

In this index of renewal, every body has its own

movement. What I’m saying is when the moon

was full and the night wide, I left the ocean

 

to save myself. 

 

— Drew Myron

 


Love this line (passage, book . . )

Arturo hands him a conference packet and looks up at him wearily; violet streaks curve beneath his eyes, and lines are grooved into his still-young brow. Less notices now that what he had taken for gleaming bits of pomade in his hair are streaks of gray.

Arturo says, “There follows, I am sad to say, a very long ride on a very slow road . . . to your final place of rest.” 

He sighs, for he has spoken the truth for all men. 

Less understands: he has been assigned a poet. 


— from Less, a novel by Andrew Greer

 

This book, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, is a delightful surprise of wit and warmth, with sharp teeth and well-placed sighs. A smart understated work, it hits all my marks: mid-life, writing, loving, losing, loathing, tenacity, humor and hope. 

 

What are you reading today?

 

Thankful Thursday: pocket, pickle, poem

It's Thankful Thursday

Because life is full and gratitude thin, please join me in a pause to express appreciation for people, places, things & more. 

1.
Poem in Your Pocket Day

All day, I've basked in the secret joy of Poem in Your Pocket Day, my favorite "holiday" and part of National Poetry Month. Until just now.

In my flurry, I realized that my favorite day of the year was actually yesterday. I had missed it! No need to fret; consider it a long holiday. I still carry this poem in my heart (and the friend who shared it with me): 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night. 

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

 — Rainer Maria Rilke
Book of Hours, I 59

2. 
A Pickle

Grace is losing her words. Long ago she lost her hearing and now her ability to speak is slipping too. Though her eyes are bright, when she talks it's murmur and mew with a round of babble.

Today, though, while "chatting" her words are suddenly clear: "You are a pickle in the mud," she tells me, "and I love you." 


3. Lilacs

Spring's sudden sign. A burst of fragrance, fleeting.
In small petals, the day blooms.

 

What are you thankful for today? 

 

 * As always, names are changed to protect privacy. 

 

 

Sharing Our Stories

They never want to write.

Oh no, they'll say, with a groan, sigh and shooing away. I'm not a writer

I cajole and convince until they relent. And then, suddenly, gathered around the table, they dive in, energized and present, uncovering memories and fears, trials and joys, writing their stories, their selves. 

We're the Columbia Basin Writers, a clutch of senior citizens connected loosely by a single thread: the nursing home where they live. We meet once a month to write and recall, to chat and share. I'm the annoyingly cheerful leader who, with help from a writer-friend-volunteer, takes us through poems, prompts and writing games.

Sometimes they forget we've met, that they've penned poems and stories and had fun doing it. 

Sometimes we take dictation as the prompt unwinds the mind and loosens the past. And then what, we ask, tell me more. We write fast every falling word.

Sometimes they write, though hands shake and arms ache. The pen moves slowly, with great effort, guided and braced.

And this, I think, is the real success: to crave expression so much that you'll work against tremors and fear, against rust and ache, fighting the body to write the words, to write your mind. This is everything. 

And then we share, and the room swells with comfort and pride. And I think this is real writing, in this small room-turned-safe place, these reluctant writers pushing against the challenges of pain, age, memory and loss. With every word they say I am here.  

Please join us — in person or in spirit — to celebrate the act of expression and the power of writing.