Playing with poetry

It was a lovely reprieve to take part in Luther Hughes’s workshop, Reaching for Joy last week. Writing memoir has already proven to be hard, rewarding, triggering, and necessary. Luther’s workshop felt like playtime in comparison. I am not a poet, but it’s fun to try it.

The assignment guidelines: start with “it”, a time you made a choice to basically have faith and also include a food.
Some of you may recall this “story” from a blog post in the very beginning of this blog as I drove from Montana to the southern tip of Baja.

Somewhere In Mexico

It was noon
Driving slow, low shoulder, two lane highway
Potholes in the middle
Didn’t see it coming but heard the pop, felt the bump
Damn only sand
It was the only way to go
All alone as far as the eye could see.
A man came along as we tried to understand
Resigned to not panic, only to trust
He tried with his truck and chain to get me unstuck
But fuck
As if from the sky, a bus fell into sight
Angels who looked like farm workers descended and lifted my car
I witnessed a miracle
Then was on my way to the next town to get a taco

Borrowing someone else’s words

I discovered Chris La Tray a few months ago. Yes, I shared his substack link with you before. He is nearly finished with his book, Becoming Little Shell.

As I work on memoir, I find it all consuming mostly. Going back over journals, photos, emails, etc. Then putting it down on paper for my memoir coach and I to fine tune. It has broken me open. My heart is tender, trying to reconcile how all has come to be, losing my daughter and grandchildren and my part in it. Chris’s post today felt relevant as they often do.

Excerpt from his writing today, Broken Open:
“The thing about being broken open is a lot of love pours through too. Love coming in, and intense love reflected back out. It sounds overly sentimental but love can heal the world. Or at least our human place in it. It is the only thing that can! But we have to move beyond the definitions of what love is as just this airy thing and create an active love in the world. It’s like hope, it’s meaningless if one just shrugs and throws it to the universe to solve whatever problem while we just go on with our business. The business of hurling ourselves into the grinder of doing the same thing over and over until only shreds of what we began as remain. The universe does provide but it takes work. Sometimes toil. Sometimes setting aside what is easier, or what we think we want, to show love as courtesy. Love as simple kindness. Love that can be inconvenient. Love that challenges us. If we all did a little more of that, how much better would we get along? That’s what I try and teach these kids about poetry. It is what I am trying to teach myself but I’m not very good at it at all. I’m too angry all the time.”

Writing A Memoir Can Be Dangerous Work. Protect Yourself!

“Write from the scar, not the wound” is advice given to those writing memoir. However, that’s not always possible. Then you attempt to turn that wound into wisdom.
There is an art to radical vulnerability and I’m trying to learn it. Trying to take care of myself in the midst of writing memoir while getting re-triggered when looking through old journals, pictures, emails and texts.
Is this necessary, one might ask.

I believe it is.

I have been stripped of many things I love. Some things are because of my doing, my wrong doing. I don’t want to hide behind secrets, especially my own.
But I have not been stripped of writing.

I’m finding my own rituals to empower and protect me. Last night I stayed up late making play lists. One for dancing, so I move my body to get energized then dance it off after the tough stuff. Yea, songs that might motivate you in an aerobics class, corny and upbeat. Everybody Dance Now, Can’t Stop That Feeling or Love Shack. My empowering playlist includes, Lizzo’s Good As Hell, Girl by Maren Morris and Dianna Ross I’m Coming Out. U2’s Walk On continues to be my theme song.

My friend, Wendy, suggested a monster doll to sit with me. I like that idea and found a very cute one on Etsy. It’s got to be cute, not scary.  Cute felted monster.

Thanks Chris for sending me this Brevity essay by Aimee Christine.

Writing memoir can be dangerous. Protect yourself.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Aimee Christian

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started my memoir because I’d been writing personal essays and creative nonfiction for some time. It didn’t take me long to learn that I was wrong. Writing memoir meant wandering around in my past in a whole new way, and I learned that my past can be a pretty bad neighborhood to be in alone.

When I try to re-immerse myself in how it felt to be a child or a teenager, it’s nearly impossible not to feel all the feelings from those early years, which is great for the story but, as it turns out, is terrible for my marriage and my children. In revisiting my memories to write, I found myself mourning breakups, looking up old apartments on Zillow, Googling my bullies from summer camp, and spending hours rereading old journals and old yearbooks…

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Radio Silence

I might be coming out of radio silence. A little over month ago I got stopped in my tracks due to shocking news.

I have been reconciled with the fact that I likely will not have a relationship with my adult daughter in this lifetime. That acceptance has helped me to get on with my life a bit.

But I had held out hope that I might know my grandchildren who I knew for the first two and a half years of their life. It’s been four years since I have seen them. That hope was diminished at the end of January when I learned my daughter has put it her divorce papers that I am not to have contact with my grandchildren. My ex son in law was wanting me to know them again, but my daughter has made sure that will not happen. It’s heartbreaking. It has set me back. I was writing, I haven’t been writing.

I go to the store, someone asks me, “how are those grandkids of yours?” I say, “I don’t know” as my eyes start to water. This person tells me her cancer is back, her husband just beat colon cancer. She is chipper in her brightly colored clothes. My tears are still there, now for her and the gift of witnessing her strength. I tell her so.

On social media someone is showing off their new grandchild. I click away, happy for them while reminded that I do not have that privilege. I instead go searching for an island vacation.

What I know is that this feeling is temporary. I have to be gentle with myself and everyone involved. I will write again, I am writing now.

What I also know is while the family thing hasn’t worked out so well, I have some of the richest, most authentic friendships a person could ask for. I have kids in my life, a couple of them consider me their stand in grandmother. This does not go unnoticed and is not taken for granted. A therapist of mine says if you have one person you can call during your worst times you are rich in friendship. I have several of those “one” persons. I think they know I am that person for them as well.

In telecommunications, radio silence or Emissions Control is a status in which all fixed or mobile radio stations in an area are asked to stop transmitting for safety or security reasons. I believe it has been a safety issue to not be writing. It’s getting safe again.

Love you all, thanks for reading.

Carry On

You wake up early, determined you will carry on, enjoy your coffee, write, take a walk in the snow.
Something pushes you down when you suddenly remember your daughter has deemed you crazy.
You want to call your mother but she is dead.

The cat comes to sit with you, your heart begins to calm. She will want her treat soon so you can’t stay down for long.

Sleep study results, low ferritin levels

I completed a sleep study a few weeks ago due to ongoing fatigue. Even though I’ve felt I am a good sleeper, doc wanted me to do it. Results show I don’t need a CPAC machine. I did have three cycles of REM sleep. We all should have three to four per night. I’m not a big snorer. (Good to know if I ever have a partner again, but don’t really want one). However, the doc said I have a lot of limb movement. She ordered a ferritin test. The test came back very low. Ferritin is what stores iron. This indicates iron deficiency. My hemoglobin levels are fine, which can indicate anemia. From what I’m reading it’s an iron deficiency without anemia. It does explain my fatigue, brain fogginess, shortness of breath and just not on top of my game. Yesterday was a good day. Today, I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m bored though, so thought I would tell all of you about ferritin levels and the like.

I do have an appointment with a hematologist in a little over a week. The doctor mentioned they may want to do an iron transfusion. My thought was, bring it on, shoot me up, give me some energy. Of course, with most medical procedures there are side effects.

Meantime, I have been to a naturopath. She has given me lots of goodies, supplements that should address many of my symptoms. I’ll give it the good ole girl scout try. Getting iron into my diet along with Vitamin C which helps absorb it. Steak, kale, spinach, a good juicy burger, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, oranges, cream of wheat have been on the menu as of late. Milk products are not good for iron deficiency, so cutting back on cheese. Ok coffee isn’t good either, but I’m in denial about that one. It’s my greatest pleasure in the morning. Those of you who know me, know that! I’ve lost a lot the last few years, some of my greatest loves. It’s a loss that does not have a social acceptable ritual in which to grieve. It’s an isolating, lonely grief. My heart is certainly working overtime to process this grief. It must take a lot of iron to do grief.

I keep taking care of the grief too. It will never go away so I will honor it. This Thursday I begin an eight week online writing class, Love, Grief and Heartache. The instructor has contacted us and asked each of us to reply all to a few questions she asked. Already, I can tell it will be full of connection, heartache and healing.

“Sorrow helps us remember something long intuited by indigenous people across the planet: our lives are intricately commingled with one another, with animals, plants, watersheds and soil.” “Our broken hearts have the potential to open us up to a wider sense of identity, one capable of seeing through the partitions that have segregated self from the world. Through grief, we are initiated into a more inclusive conversation between our singular lives and the soul of the world.” The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller

You will hear more of this as the class progresses and writings emerge. Thanks for reading. If you didn’t know about ferritin levels now you do.

On writing, it’s magic and sharing writing

I love Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It’s the perfect size book to keep by my bed or carry in my purse for a possible wait. Eudora was born and lived in Jackson, MS, my home town. Once we were buying underwear at the same time in McRae’s department store. That’s the closest I ever got to her. I was in awe. The old Sears building in downtown Jackson eventually converted to a library, The Eudora Welty Library.

The first chapter of One Writer’s Beginnings evokes a sense of peace, looking back at simpler times, her growing up in a home where reading was like breathing. Eudora reflects, “I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of the day, was there to read in, or to be read to.” I am green with envy, wondering what would my life have been like if reading was encouraged, even a part of our everyday lives growing up. I don’t have any memories of books, of being read to. My introduction to books came in high school, from my older sisters who read Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove. We referred to her books as crotch burners. But I was reading and that got me going.

I was in heaven working at Lemuria bookstore in my late twenties, surrounded by books, overwhelmed with what to read next, meeting and talking with writers who came for readings and signings. Tom McGuane, Tom Robbins, Willie Morris, John Grisham, Jimmy Buffett, Lorri Moore, Tim O’Brien, Rick Bass, Mark Childress, Kaye Gibbons, and Jim Harrison are just some of the writer’s I was blessed to meet. My daughter was lucky to reap the benefits of my time working at Lemuria. Books were what she sleep with, not stuffed animals. I toted the boxes of children’s’ books I had acquired every where I moved to, so she would always have them and could pass them down to her own children. It was somewhat of a relief to hand off those heavy boxes once my twin grandchildren were born.

“It has been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.” Eudora Welty

This morning I read Chris LaTray’s newsletter, reflecting on the past four years of Presidential office and the new office we are entering. I find him gifted, able to put into words what I am feeling sometimes, a natural wonder. Read and find out for yourself.

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry that black lives don’t matter

That whites think they are supreme

Democracy was always fragile, if it even existed in my family system

Schedules and decisions were centered around the men, I am a woman

individuality, even if it was shopping, was kept secret

Only certain voices were heard, are heard, some are marginalized, treated as though they never existed or exist now

Human life is not important, being right, being supreme is, mammonism rules

I cry for those who no longer have a voice, whose pleas fall on the ears of those who care but have no power. Those in power say I am too emotional.

Let your voice be heard and begin our return to democracy, power to the people

Just to get it out.

When you’ve made mistakes, done things that would cause others to deem you crazy, but you own up to those mistakes, quit drinking, take full responsibly, keep soul searching, but realize others may have lost faith in you, you don’t drink, you take responsibility and cry. You miss your child, you miss your grandchildren. And since there is not an appropriate way to grieve this, there is not a funeral, I can’t post pictures of my child and grandchildren saying how much I miss them. I write a blog post, just to get it out! Sometimes that’s all there is.

Honoring Barry Lopez

Many of you know we lost the legendary Barry Lopez on Christmas Day after his struggle with terminal cancer. For lovers of language, this world and it’s people it is a great loss. My heart hurts for those close to him, his wife and daughters. They have endured much loss this sorrowful year. The Oregon fires up the McKenzie River, left their property charred and them unmoored. They received the midnight knock on the door demanding they leave within minutes. They grabbed the cat and left. The house is damaged but fixable.
On Christmas Eve, this piece was published in LitHub, An Era of Emergencies is Upon Us and We Cannot Look Away. A gift to have Barry’s viewpoint that day.
In an All Things Considered interview, March, 2019, Barry shares some of how his cancer diagnosis changed him and created more empathy, “I imagined in everybody I passed there was some story that they carried with them that would break your heart. So how could you have the temerity to approach that person and say, here’s what’s wrong with you?”
A few days ago, Literary Arts: The Archive Project re-aired an interview with Barry. It’s worth a listen, more than once, to glean all he has for us to contemplate. A grown up is someone who no longer needs supervision, “meaning they know immediately how to act in a way that harms no one and takes care of everybody in so far that is possible. We are in a time where we are desperate for grown-ups, people who have gotten over themselves, to come together and using the power of imagination that each of us has, create a landscape that no one has ever seen before.” Barry Lopez
In Barry’s honor donations may be made to McKenzie River Trust.

A note for you: If you are looking for a way to seek connection, inspiration and a consistent practice of journaling, The Isolation Journals is offering journaling prompts free for ten days beginning January 1st. Click here: https://www.theisolationjournals.com/10-day-challenge

I am off to buy black-eyed peas to cook and serve on New Year’s Day in order to bring good luck for this new year.