I spend a lot of time being angry right now. In between bits of grace are wedged, brief moments when I feel like myself, foreign to me for decades in this childhood home. Quick, unlooked for seconds in an afternoon when joy arises, five minutes before we have to leave for the vet when I stand beside the kitchen sink sipping my first hot tea of the day, and I am fully me as the hot spearmint goes down my throat. I sidestep three times, cup cradled at my chest, to stop and drink in the view, as well, the western sprawl of valley and foothills. Or awake in the middle of the night after checking to be sure my mom has not removed her splint, when I lie in bed and hear the owls talking outside the open window. Or right now, typing standing at the kitchen counter to ease my sore hip, while Frank Sinatra sings Christmas songs. “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,” he sings, and I want to believe it, this year more than ever. Maybe tonight we’ll watch Love Actually. And may all our new year’s dreams come true.
I suspect there may be a kind of science to becoming whole—to moving toward healing, through healing, toward the me I want to be more often. Just like I believe there can be a way to write an essay that is a little bit like doing math, and not in a restrictive way, but in building it by pieces, using a structure for discovery that can become a kind of scaffold we hang things on. And things come because there is a scaffold waiting for them. Sometimes for me this process, this psuedo science, is about breathing, or about beginning again and again. Sometimes I make a sound, tiny and dear, that comes from some secret core of me, and I hear the love and the tenderness the sound is sending me.
[Editor’s note: piece from our spontaneous writing group—the words we had were breathing, beginning, science and sound.]
I rest my palm against my belly and take a deep breath. I am tired of the smog but grateful to my lungs and glad I am relaxed enough to feel like I can fill them. I have always felt like I am in some smaller section of humanity, on the edge, maybe, living on the fringe, but in moments like this I am in the center of it all.
[Editor’s note: Another snippet from our writing group, one of our “Two Words, Two Minutes.” The words were “fringe” and “belly.”]
Pucker up and kiss me. Delight me. I laugh at myself in the mirror. No demon on my shoulder today telling me what is wrong with me, why I don’t fit. Only the better angels who wonder if maybe I have just found myself in the wrong places with people who are so poised I feel less than, alien. I am so not poised, I think, laughing again at my reflection, loving this familiar face I see. “You have other strengths,” the not-demon whispers in my ear, and my face softens. Yes, I think. Yes. I have other strengths.
[Another piece from our spontaneous writing group. The words drawn for us to use were: alien, demon and pucker.]
The noxious air from the fires takes its toll. I am so looking forward to the possibility of our desert having both clean air and cooler temperatures, to be able to walk fast, take big gulps of air, pleasure in full lungs. I can’t wait for rain to return to us, wash the leaves of the desert orchid trees, fill the creek bed, lick our wounds clean. I can hear it now, hard rain on my umbrella, hundreds of frogs singing, mockingbirds alive again, the cacophony a happy jazz, slap of shoes on pavement, deep breaths of clean, wet air. Like marmalade on gingerbread, like the scent of garlic cooking in butter, like nothing can compare to being able to move in our outdoor world with ease. Oh, and no virus, too, while I am dreaming up our future, no wet masks in this rain, only cool air on warm, wet lips, fogged up glasses, singing myself now as I swing my hips, lengthen my stride, move boldly beyond where life has let me go in recent times, a big grin on my face.
[This piece came from our spontaneous writing session on September 14th. The words pulled from the magic pouch were: marmalade, lick, noxious, gingerbread, jazz.)
The poet is the priest of the invisible, the one who paints pictures of the way the air holds still or the way it moves away from the woman in the red dress, walking home from the bus stop beneath the row of old oak trees. The one who orchestrates the sacrament of placing words on empty paper, lets life move through the pen, leap across streams or fly like salmon up their ladders. The priestess who tells us stories about the heart of humankind, the whisper of doubt, the musty scent of secrets uncovered, given over to the day. It is not a small or unimportant task, this working with words, this waving of incense, these footsteps placed one after the other, ink across the page.
[Editor’s note: This is a piece from our spontaneous writing group on August 17th. The prompt was this quote by Wallace Stevens from The Daily Poet book (Two Sylvias Press): “The poet is the priest of the invisible.”]
Hoping each of you are well.
I’ve been wanting to send this out to all of you since everything began, but I am only now coming up for air. Please see my current live online writing sessions via Zoom.
Sheltering in Place
Please join us for impromptu writing, solace and camaraderie on Thursday 4/16, 23 and 30 from 1 to 3pm. (Free.)
I’ve scheduled three daylong online writing retreats, 10am to 4pm on 4/18, 5/1 and 6/22. ($49)
Wishing you grace and ease and all good things!