To Thresh, a letter from my inner writer

Today is a day of integration, but first: threshing.

I’m digging through piles of notes, scribbles, letters, notebooks; all in a effort to move forward with THIS BOOK! which is now spanning a third year.

To lighten the load, I’m posting any treasures I find among the rubble so that there is no need to “save” these for later…

This one is a letter that I penned to myself; but I’m not sure that it’s from my self. At least not the lower case self.

Dear Kelly,

Hi. Thanks for spending so much time with me lately. I thought it would never come. I have so much to say–the depth of which you have only begun to tap with your beautiful bursts of attention.

Letting things come.

All aligned with that supple softness that you long to infuse your life.
It is HERE.

Like an underground sea, a depth of presence is required to access me, but once discovered, the way is easily recovered as you know more and more each day.

Yes, I know you are afraid of this bigger piece of writing that I have offered.
Apply the same principle as to the very small:

Let it come.

Find the soft suppleness in even this.

No need to rush, as you’ve finally heard me saying to you.

There is nothing that you need to do that you are not doing.

Truly, wherever you are is the way.

That deep, soulful call of the thrush that you love so much lives inside you too.
It is to be shared. By each who possesses it and the aching need to dance with it and express it.

Kelly, your people are those many who don’t suspect that they have this depth, but you know they do. You’ve always seen the beauty or at least the potential in all–which is what made you such a gifted teacher–and a writer of the people–like Diana, the people’s princess, though you like to think of yourself as a peasant, among peasants, but as one who spends much more time thinking–so that others can sew or cook or tend the gardens–all of which feeds your writing as you know.

And of course, Kelly, there’s your Queen. Your inner queen of grace, beauty and integrity.
We know her well.

She is the jewel that lights the way to our crystal waters–allowing you to be a beacon for others along the way.

And now we’re ready to listen as you have listened to us,

With Love,
Your Inner Writer

(circa: 2014)

(read what I wrote back by clicking here.)

Art as Prayer

Last spring I spent the better half of the month of May (including my wedding anniversary and the holiday weekend) on the Cape with a dog named Buster.

Upstairs, in what was meant to be the empty owner’s quarters, a feisty Venezuelan woman invited me to dinner on the patio or out into her gardens or up to her picture window to sip wine as the sun set over the bay.

I’d come to write and walk the dog along the shore but soon I’d added friendship to what was meant to be a solo sojourn.

On my last evening in the apartment beneath Lisette’s, the cherry blossoms were spent but summer had inched her way forward, sun-kissed our skin from a day at the beach, and my new friend insisted on taking me out to dinner, to a favorite of hers, a place in town called Ihaho.

She did the ordering.

She should have saved the appetizer for last.

One bite of the scallop roll and I wanted to weep or lie down in the booth across from the chef and die.

La petite mort. (Excuse my French.)

The last time I’d tasted something that exquisite was 2012 in a restaurant atop the city of Kobe. An entire table of colleagues, representing every continent around the globe, was silenced after the first bite, our eyes widened toward one another.

Would that I find my way to the kind of excellence that doesn’t make the reader want more.

Salt. Butter. Sugar.
Easy avenues of seduction.

But to write or cook or compose or dance in such a way that one can hardly take another breath, this is prayer.

First Harvest

I made a new friend on the Cape this spring who hates Mary like I hate golf. When she comes to visit this summer, she’ll find my mountain home filled–inside & out–with Mary in all Her forms–Kuan Yin, Durga, Parvati, Tara.

I did not tell my friend that Mary is also the garden she so beautifully shapes around her seaside home or the sandy earth beneath her toes or the verdant marsh upon which we watched the sun set.

Her picture window served as our silent communion with the night and it was in our time together that I came to understand that it was not the deaths of those we love that wounded us so, but the way in which they were taken.

To blame a destination–a golf match, a holy site–is one small act of indignation.

To lose a mother. (Hers.) A grandmother. (Mine.) Violently. Is a wound that can not heal. Even as it creates a kinship that flowers and soothes.

To Esther. To Lila. To Mother Mary.
Comfort us.

a single week

I arrived on the Cape just as the flowering trees came into bloom, and I walked these roads heady with their perfume, until that day when the flowers began to fall like snow as if I was floating through a painting, and the ground underneath my step was made holy in a carpet of of pink and purple and white.

At the end of a week’s time, it was all gone, as if it had never happened, much like the rising or setting sun if you sleep too late or work too long, and much like life I suppose and loved ones too.

Attention is the stuff of wonder.

Road Closed

Though in large part, I work from home, I keep my eye on the road (and weather) reports, particularly during commuting times.

Are you at school already? I’ll text my son or: Have you left work?

It’s a vigilance that began years before the accident that transformed my life at 14, at the age when I realized the horror in which some lives end.

“Avoid Route 9,” I text my husband and son, hoping that they aren’t the reason why.

Even when I’m away, I keep my eye on road reports, or especially because I am away.

I have been on the Cape for the better half of this month distilling the work of several years.

Yesterday’s goal was to outline the thread that takes place in the 24 hours around the accident.

It too closed the road for hours.

I haven’t reached my husband yet.

I chose to work with this thread first because it was the simplest. The most direct. Definitive. Easy.

My heart didn’t care about that.

Yesterday, Lissette invited me up to hear a piece of classical music. “Come when it’s dark,” she said, and I did, closing the door on the apartment underneath her home and entering at the back door through the gardens she’s tended every day of my stay while sit still at desk.

Lissette came to this country from Venezuela to study music. She is a classically trained pianist. (I kind of liked Billy Joel.)

When she turned off the lights in her living room, I sat as I would in a meditation, still, noticing my breath, observing the sensations that arose in response to the music.

When the piece finished, she turned to me, “What did you think?”

I watched silently as she stood and placed her empty glass on the mantel over the fire.

“Did you not care for it,” she asked. “It’s okay. It’s a difficult piece.”

Just then the phone rang or the timer on the oven.

Once alone in the room, I shifted in my seat. Unzipped my sweatshirt. Exhaled. Felt the urge to run.

Despite the 40-year distance and the 7-year perspective on writing in and around this tragedy, I still recoil from the details, as if, writing about it/thinking about it/feeling it will make the horror of it true.

“It was an intrusion,” I said, when Lissette returned from the kitchen, her glass crimson again. “It awakened the darkness inside me.”

My new friend and I share the trauma, the violence, the physical impact of a loved one lost in an accident. It’s a club to which we do not desire new members, but for which there are always new members. (May there not be new members today in Brattleboro.)

“Some things you must be unable to bear.”

It was line of Faulkner’s that led me to enter the darkness and spin it into light.

But no matter that I write for others, it will always be personal for me.

My son texts me from school. I still haven’t heard from his father.

A pickup truck is pinned under a tractor-trailer. That DHART has been called, I’ll take as a hopeful sign.

It was a crane that lifted the truck off of what remained of my grandmother’s car.

Productive like a peach or a field of poppies

When asked if my time on the Cape has been productive, I pause.

16 days holed up in a basement apartment with a small dog and a singular purpose.

If that doesn’t produce results, I should give up, right?

But first, let me be sure of the meaning of this word:

And second, let me consider enlarging my understanding of what it means to “achieve results.”

At the end of the first week, for instance, I described all that I’d discovered in the neighborhood:

the lila tree

At the end of the second week, I catalogued the diet of a writing retreat:

recipe for a writing retreat

And, now on the eve of my return home, I’d like to list some additional markers of this extended stay:

3 loads of laundry
3 rolls of toilet paper

2 grocery runs
3 to-go pizza dinners
5 microwave meals
a half-dozen seafood meals
2 breakfasts out
1 absurdly expensive and mediocre (but perfect) lunch on the water
several cafe’s
one trip to Boston (Museum of Fine Arts)
a day at the beach
several exploratory drives
daily walks (woods, marsh, ocean)

3 shampoos
2 leg shaves
3 vacuumings of dog hair

But writing, you ask?

Not so much.

But wait, we can’t throw our arms up in despair!
Because I didn’t actually come on this writing retreat to write.

I have thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand words already.
I am a copious producer of words!
My mouth was taped in the third grade by pretty Mrs. Campbell.
I have more blogs than my mother had children.

Let me see how many I can round up:

Oh wait, I forgot this one:

I’ve always had plenty to say.
(This is the age with the tape.)

I did not come on this journey to speak so much as to listen.

Not so much to create as to thresh.

Not so much to gather as to sort.

No so much to be productive, as to distill.

To be still.

To ask:

What is the story I am trying to tell
and how do I want to tell it?

So while I can’t say that my time has been productive, I can say, without a doubt, that it has been been fruitful

producing good or helpful results

Though I would define fruitful in more sensual terms.

Like the shape of a peach.
The round weight of it in your hand.
Its soft fuzz against your lips.
Juice dribbling down your chin.

Or like the orange poppies here dancing in the sea breeze…

Which is to say that I am writing this post as an act of self love.
As an insistence on recognition and celebration, even in the absence of productivity.
Even in the presences of bags and boxes of writing materials, many of which did not come to bear on this journey despite the careful selection and packing and hauling and unpacking and hauling and the copious amounts of time available in which to delve into them…

In times of anxiety, and particularly in transition, and especially at ending points, I am prone to hide from the immensity of my feelings (those in the present and those stirred up from the past), by deriding myself, by cataloguing all the ways  I fell short, or the situation fell short, or others fell short. (My parents were good teachers in this regard.)

But since I have recently decided to welcome any thought of a problem as an invitation, I welcome this problem of derision, and I accept the invitation to notice how much is churned up on this eve of my departure. This Sagittarius full moon culmination after a Taurus new moon beginning.

Yesterday, I walked the long stretch of sand at low tide and felt as if I had arrived at the edge of the world where the planet curves.

I walked.

And I walked.

And I walked.

Until I reached water.

And then I kept on walking…

Writing Retreat

Writing about not writing at a writing retreat…

Two Owls Calling

Hopper Hopper

It’s hard to believe it,  but after a decade and more of anticipation for the FU Fifties, it’s now less than a month away before they’re MINE. (Ready or not.)

I began this 49th year with a week by the sea to begin writing. The book which was “supposed” to be published by 50. A watershed piece born from that time: The END of Everything, and the remainder of the winter spent sobbing through the excavation of that heartbreak.

When finished, I realized that I didn’t have the memoir I wanted. There was a tender story of loss, but there was something else waiting in the wings, and I gave myself spring to discover it.

At 49 and a half, just before summer broke onto the scene, I took a long weekend at a writing retreat in  Vermont and began writing again. It was there that I conceived…

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