grown ups are like that....

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Flow

There are days when you sit in front of the computer for hours writing, editing, reading, submitting. Your butt starts to hurt so you break for tea. It grows cold, though, because your fingers are simply flying over the keyboard.  No time for sips of tea.  Your eyes strain, but you press on.  Today you have a lot to say.  You have no idea where it comes from or why, but you don't question the flow. You embrace it.

Other days you'll sit in front of that same computer and nothing comes.  You screw around on Facebook.  You read the dumbest news stores.  On-line shop. Text your friends.  These are the days you'll get mad and hate yourself and wish you decided on a different life and feel defeated.

But those days are also part of the flow. Like it or not, it is best to embrace that part of life as well.

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Today my fingers fly and so does my heart.  Tomorrow...who knows?  But no matter what I plan to simply go with the flow.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Craft

I stand in the craft store looking for wire and the little clamps that you use at the end of a beaded project to hold the whole thing together.  But I don’t have my instruction book with me. I don’t know what I’m looking for, not really. My daughter stands beside me exasperated and eager to just get out of here so we can go to the mall. But I’m determined.  I want to make prayer beads for meditation.  So far I’ve collected a pink skull bead, a rose quartz bead, a cowrie shell, an evil eye, and a small pomander ball filled with osha root.  I’m keeping my eye out for a small cross and a bumble bee.


I stare at the wall of supplies and realize that I’m totally at a loss.  Do I need those fancy jewelry pliers?  What about the cowrie?  How do I wrap it? Or do I drill a hole in it? I’m clearly confused, but I try to maintain my cool.  I’m not sure if I want to be like the other moms in there buying scrapbook supplies and puff paints or if I want to be like the cool Bohemian twenty-somethings buying steam punk beads and modge podge.  Maybe I don’t want to be like either.    

 I distract myself with candles. There is an audible sigh from the teen.

“Why do you always buy so many candles? It’s weird.” 

I ignore this comment and ask her if I should get scented or unscented white votives. 

“Unscented, of course.” 

She knows I’ll cover each in perfumed oil anyway.  She knows that the synthetic fragrances in the scented candles won’t mix with the smell of incense and sage that permeates my house.  Two of my best friends say my house smells like a hippie, but they like it.  I just secretly thank god it doesn’t smell like a dog.



I’m back at the beads. I pick up various bags of wire.  I simply have no idea what the hell I think I’m doing.  Prayer beads?  What kind of new agey jerk have I become?  I feel silly and like I’m grasping for something totally out of my reach and beyond my age and absolutely trendy. 

Screw it. I’m going to do it anyway. I grab a bag of generic “Craft Wire” in various colors and toss it in the cart with my unscented white votives, three empty bottles that I’ll later fill with Four Thieves vinegar, and a tiny purple stuffed octopus that my daughter urges me to get.



I buy my random assortment of treasures and head for the car.  My daughter puts the new octopus toy on the dash board and we name him Periwinkle. At home, I stash the wire with the beads I’ve collected. I set my candles on my table and put the vinegar jars in the cupboard.



I haven’t begun my prayer bead project yet. Sometimes I’ll take all the beads out and look at them, study their shape and size.  But I don’t do anything with them besides keep them in a pretty box my mother gave to me that I keep right next to the sage and scented oils. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolved

I am not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I usually make my big yearly changes back in October when the nights are getting longer and endings are in the air.  But this year I think I’ll make one.

I resolve to further embrace the life of a writer.

I realize that it sounds pretentious to don this label and pronounce it to the world, but it is real, from the heart, and a resolution that I intend to keep.  But what, exactly, does that even mean? What is “the life of a writer” exactly? 

To me, being a writer means. . .


. . . being at peace with the fact that I will never make the kind of money others around me do.

It means turning down jobs and opportunities that don’t feed my soul.

It means letting snide comments about liberal arts degrees and people’s jokes about maids and housekeepers slide right off my back.

It means writing every day.

Every.

Single.

Day.

It means coloring mandalas at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

It means having a house that is always slightly messy and is perfumed with incense. 

It means that I probably won’t travel as much as my wealthier peers.

 It means that it is ok to grieve over that but not to let that grief stop me from writing and push me towards work I don’t love just so that I have more cash in my hands and plane tickets in my pocket.


It means creating a safe, special, and loving place to live right here in my own small town.

It means filling my space with objects that may seem like clutter but are really inspiration—candles, and glitter, and children’s crafts, and postcards, and magazine clippings, and feathers, and herbs, and crystals, and photos, and plants, and art. . .



 It means surrounding myself with people who support my craft and actually read my work and show up when it counts.

It means letting go of people who have belittled me or been unkind.

It means failing. A lot. Some of what I write will be crap. That will have to be ok.

It means accepting that some of what I write will also be absolutely amazing.  It means knowing that without apology.


It means that I will sometimes get rejected when I submit my work.

It means that sometimes I will get accepted.

It means seeing the world with my heart and crying too much and dreaming quite a bit and never feeling bad about any of it.


It means being free.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mama


Three years old or thirteen, it doesn’t matter--you always want your mama when you’re sick in the night.

I hold her tight as she trembles.  I spoon against her slight body and realize that, actually, she’s not so slight after all.  She’s curvy and womanly and almost as tall as I am.  But right now this girl-woman is shaking with illness and fatigue. She snuggles closer and I wrap my arm around her waist.  My neck aches; her bed is too small for the two of us. I consider moving to the floor and realize that she doesn't just need me in the same room; she needs me right next to her like when she was a baby.

 Earlier in the night I heard her desperate call of, “MAMA!” from my room. Every imaginable boogie man swam in my head.  I stumbled down the hall only to find her bed empty. Instead I found her in the bathroom, sobbing over the toilet bowl. She finally let it all come up and out, and I got her back to bed where we are now.

I feel guilty as I silently pray that no one else gets sick before Christmas Eve.  I stare at the bottom of the top bunk while I whisper a mother’s incantation. . .

Let her be ok. Let her feel better.  Spare my boy this.  Spare ME this. 

I look around the room and see all that makes her my daughter: Chap Stick on the night stand, candles on the dresser, bookshelves two deep, messy journals, tie-dye socks, posters of foreign lands, sea shells, crystals.

 She sprints from the room and I race behind her. She dry heaves again over the commode.  I notice she is gripping tight to her glasses, the cute turquoise and black pair.  She is afraid they’ll fall in the bowl.  I slide them off of her face, and she empties her stomach again.  I sweep back her hair and hold back my own tears.  It makes my heart clench to see her so weak.  I cover her in towels and watch as she lays her cheek on the tile.  I remember moments when viruses or beer or heartache put me in a similar spot.  I remember that all I wanted was a clean towel and a cold tile floor and my mama. 

She decides on a shower, and I let her have her privacy though every cell in my body wants to sit on the toilet lid and make sure she is ok and that she doesn't slip in her shaky state.  But I don’t stay. I go back to her bed and nod off to sleep.  I have fitful dreams of lost babies and an absent friend.  I dream my daughter is driving a car.  I dream of an empty museum and yellow flowers with wooden stems.


At some point she comes back and I help her dress in fleece PJs and warm socks. I tuck her in and slip away, back to my own bed. At eight-o’clock my mom calls and I snuggle under the covers with the phone and pretend she is with me, keeping me warm in my big empty bed. 
1973

2011

2014


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Writer

Several months ago I handed my husband a stack of  Poets & Writers magazines and told him to get rid of them.

"Recycle them, take them to the library, leave them in the English Department.  I don't care, just get rid of them"

I had declared--rather childishly, I admit--that I was done with writing. I was no good at it, I felt, and the local writing community did not support my writing efforts or the literary reading series I host. I felt lost and ridiculous and tired of trying. I was done.

Several weeks ago I woke with a start and tears filled my eyes.  I needed to write again.  I couldn't contain the words roiling in my brain and belly and heart.

With the help of a professional writing coach and editor I began again. I've written almost every day for four weeks. I've submitted one creative non-fiction piece and have several others earmarked for either editing for future submission or inclusion in a book.

Today I found that stack of magazines hidden under a shelf.  I showed them to my husband.

"I couldn't do it.  I would just have been wrong."

This gesture was more loving than any bouquet of flowers or fancy piece of jewelry. I think I'll keep those magazines indefinitely now.  I'll look at them and remember that someone special loves me.  I will look at them and remember that I am a writer.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Ekphrasis IV: The Artist's Studio

“You have something pent up inside.  You are frustrated.  You need to create.”

For a crazy moment I think she is a bit drunk and has lost all sense of who she is talking to. But I look in her eyes and she is serious, her beer nowhere near empty. I feel shaken, like a fortune teller has just read my cards and showed me Death.  But an educated querant knows that the death card only means change, not demise, so I take a deep breath and say, “Yes.”



                                                                                                                                                           
We go to her art studio after the beer is gone.  One by one we switch on the lights to reveal nude figure drawings on every wall.  

There is a static buzzing in my brain, yet I can’t figure out where this electricity is coming from. Why does it feel like a heated spark is bouncing around inside of my skull?  I realize, crazily, that the nudes are conduits of energy, and I’m picking up a charge just being near them.  I want to feel this power all the time.  I suddenly decide I will go to art school and  immerse myself in charcoal and pencils and pastels.  But do I want to be an artist playing with shadow and light or do I want to be the nude figure, face turned to the wall, pubic hair and nipple boldly exposed? When the static calms I realize that I want neither.

 Vitruvian Man Leonardo DaVinci

We talk of discipline and education in art, of how if we want to challenge convention we first have to learn the rules.  This makes me think of my writing, and I fight back hot tears (am I sad? tired? inspired?) and hate myself for being such a crier, a personal trait that annoys me and so many others.  Keep it together, keep it together, I chant in my brain. I focus on the objects in her studio in order to calm down. They are so simple and perfect and loved. A poem in 3D. I take stock of what I see.


1. Yellow and brown paper coffee cup.
2. Rubber band, fat.  The kind that holds your broccoli stalks together.
3. Bottle of German mineral water: Gerolsteiner.
4. Pencils of all sizes. 
5. Charcoal. 
6. Stoneware mustard bottle holding paint brushes of various size, bristles up.
7. Two saints candles.
8. Reclined nude pencil drawing.  Her legs are up the wall, head and arms resting on an oversized pillow.
9. Hoosier cabinet:  light sage green with enamel-top work surface.
10. Lemon juicer:  ceramic, white and blue.
 Time to go. Walking into the cold air feels good and sobering though I've had nothing at all to drink. I'm ready to create now, give birth to what she saw pent up inside me.  I say a little prayer to the cold stars thanking them for this night.

Winter, 2012

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Coffee Talk: World Book Night 2014

When my daughter was small I’d throw her in the umbrella stroller and head down to Java Junction.  Java is a quirky-cool coffee shop in my little town in Western NY.  It is a place where you can grab a cup of coffee and a fresh baked scone and settle right in.  Kids and babies are always welcome.  So, when my, now thirteen year old, daughter was just a wee thing, I would escape to Java.

I could nurse her without being looked at sideways or being asked to leave.  I could sit for as long as I wanted while she slept peacefully in the stroller or squirmed in my arms. As she grew, she didn't just want breast milk though, I could get her a bagel or a grilled cheese and a lidded cup of juice.  I was given cookies and smiles and boxes of crayons for her active little hands. It didn't matter if she was fussy or quiet; she –and all children—were always welcome.

Fast forward a few years and my son came into the picture.  Now, I had new infant snuggled in the sling as well as a slow-shuffling toddler. The five minute walk now took what felt like twenty years.  Yet still, we went and the years passed swiftly by.  Soon, strollers and slings and wagons were abandoned and we would walk and skip and sometimes dance to our downtown destination.

We’d meet friends or have coffee with my husband. We’d have prolonged breakfasts that eased into leisurely lunches.  We’d run in for a cold drink in the summer or a cookie and hot cocoa in the winter.  Today we still go to Java, though everyone can get there on their own steam, and my girl can now go there all by herself when the urge calls to her.




The sense of home and love and family is why I chose to pass out Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City to my friends at Java Junction for the second year in a row.  There we all sat with coffee and bagels and tea and cookies.  Several of us sent our kids off to school that morning, and others came with toddlers and infants.  We passed around little baby Phin and I looked at his sweet face as he swatted Cheerios on the table.  I saw my girl and boy and every “Java Baby” in his eyes, and I knew I had chosen the right place, the right people, the right book; a book that could take us far away to the other coast to visit with Mona and Mrs. Madrigal, and Mary Ann. We could close our eyes and see a city bright with life in the not too distant past.  Each and every one of us needed an escape and a gift, and I was thrilled to be able to hand over those books to some very happy women.


The best “thank you,” though, came from Bobby, the owner of Java.  She is a business owner and baker and mom to three lovely children.  When I handed her that book, her smile was the brightest I’d ever seen, and my heart was glad.


Thanks to World Book Night 2014 for making this all possible.