Sit, Walk, Write

According to Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher, the order should be “Sit, Walk, Write,” but, as is my nature, I fudge things to fit my nature. Following directions is not one of my strong suits. I improvise.

When the temperature hit 50 degrees today, I went out for a stroll (again, my nature) under a clear and sunny sky. The cool breeze brought the non-scent. of a waning winter. There is still snow on the ground. Vague puddles cross my path.

I can barely hear my footfalls, although that can be more the effect of my diminished hearing rather than the soft tread of my measured heel-to-toe pace. I doesn’t matter.

Cracks in the asphalt form telling mandalas, and I wish I had brought my camera to capture the symmetries of these unexpected partnerships between man and nature.

A young woman jogs past me and turns up a hill that I always find too strenuous for my strolls. I am not going anywhere. Have no place I have to be. It is that time of my life when strolling is the way to go. (Unless, of course the Amtrak Writers Residency project picks me to “sit, ride, write.”)

The same young woman passes me again, this time going the other way. I wait for her to pass me yet again, because three is a magical number, but she doesn’t. Is there meaning in that?

A young boy, about seven years old, walks past me on the other side of the street. He is pushing what looks like a doll’s carriage; it’s too small for a baby. When he walks toward me later, coming the other way (it seems like everyone is coming and going, but I just keep going), I stop and look through the mesh into the stroller. It’s a big orange cat. He says the cat’s name is Oliver. I look down at the logo on the stroller. It’s a pet carrier. Why not.

When I sit, it’s on the sunny front steps with my daughter and grandson. We sip our teas and chat. I need that kind of company/togetherness, and they provide it. I feel lucky.

In a moment of silence, I wonder how my son’s goats are doing. It is the year of the goat. And of goat therapy. Sometimes magic happens.

The clouds finally drift in from the west, and the breeze picks up.

Now it’s time to write. And I am.

Mag #211

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag #211

Feast in the House of Simon, 1610, El Greco

Feast in the House of Simon, 1610, El Greco

It was the custom of Simon the Zealot to invite his friends to feast at his home after the sacrificial piety of every Sabbath. Of course, that meant “men only,” for we women were not allowed to participate in those raucous discussions of politics and providence. As a female in his household, my task was to keep the wine flowing as freely as did the details of their dialogues. Just by being present in that room, I learned much about the workings of men and government – the subtleties of reasoning and ruling, ideas that never insert themselves into the conversations of women. The men rarely noticed my presence; my purpose was to serve and be silent, and I used my role to my advantage.

And so it went, until the day that Simon invited to the table the man who caused a welcome disturbance at his wedding by magically changing barrels of water into barrels of wine. While I was attending to other wedding guests when this supposed miracle took place, I cannot assert that this actually happened. However, I did taste the “miraculous” wine and have to say that I found it quite fragrant.

Now, the day that Jesus joined Simon the Zealot’s table, everything changed. While the debates still agonized over the world’s politics and providence, they became less heated and more thoughtful, as the graceful gestures and soft responses of the man, Jesus, orchestrated a calmer tone. I marveled at the way he could hold the attention of every man there without even raising his voice. And there was something about his eyes, radiating a warmth and acceptance that penetrated to even the most doubtful heart.

It was not long after that Simon the Zealot left his wife and family to follow the man, Jesus – followed him out into the world of politics and provenance, joined others who did the same, all aroused by the man’s gentle promise of a world suffused with peace and harmony, fairness and compassion.

They say that there were some women who followed him, as well, for he welcomed all who welcomed him. I never left the house of Simon the Zealot, although sometimes I would dream of solemn eyes that brushed my soul and hands that graced the rest with a merciful yearning.

Sorting Socks

I have over three dozen pairs of socks. And that’s not counting the ones without mates.

I can’t imagine how I ever accumulated such a stash, but it’s typical of my reluctance to get rid of stuff. Psychological stuff as well as physical stuff. Sometimes it works to my advantage, for example, when my grandson is rooting around for some odd and end for a project he is constructing. I usually have whatever it is he needs. That reminds me of the earlier version of this book that I bought for him when he was a toddler.

But, like my stash of socks, there is stuff I don’t need to carry around with me. The writing workshop I took yesterday brought that fact home with great clarity.

Sorting socks is not the complete answer. But it’s a start.

Now, if I can only get an Amtrak writer’s residency, that might really give me a fresh start.

Starting fresh at age 74. Hmm. I can be Amtrak’s Grandma Moses. Ya think?

[Oh bollocks! I just realized I put the wrong Facebook url in my application. That might knock me out of the running right there. Too soon old; too late smart.]

when blogging was personally new

This is something I posted during my second month of blogging back in 2001. I wrote some great stuff back then. I had posted a “best of Kalilily” for those early days, for which the links don’t work. So when I fix them, I’ll reprise the post here.

Big Picture, Little Picture
So, there are some discussions going these days on about the purpose and value of weblogs. Oddly enough, the other night at my bi-monthly group meeting, I mentioned that I had begun a weblog, and I was asked to explain what that was and why I was doing it, and why I just wasn’t keeping a journal. As I’ve said, I’ve unsuccessfully tried keeping journals before and I write so much slower than I think that I got frustrated and quit. I can type almost as fast as I think (I got used to doing that at the job from which I retired last year, which involved mostly whipping out quick documents for others to share and claim as their own.) So, it’s easier to do it on the computer. And why don’t I just keep a journal on disk, I was asked. The truth is, I admitted, is that I’m used to writing for an audience. And I like having an audience. Even my poems are usually written with an audience (sometimes of one) in mind. It’s why I ballroom dance. I’m a performer at heart. I need ways to say to the world: this is who I am. Look at me. Pay attention. It seems to me that that’s at the heart of why everyone else who keeps a blog does so. In a world where we all have to live up to expectations and assume roles for survival purposes (our own and others) — caregiver, mother, employee, citizen — it’s so satisfying to have a place where one can BE who one is. Or in some cases, where one can BE who one wants to BE. It really doesn’t matter. We can create who we want to be or be creative with who we are. Either way, one has an identity, a voice. In a way, it’s kind of a new art form — or at least it can evolve in some cases into such. How cool is that!

discovering Inner Peas

I don’t read many blogs any more. I did in the early days, when we were a seedling community, all just starting out and feeling connected by our shared fascination with exploring the reaches of this technology, with sharing love of writing and our willingness to be open about who we are. We wrote with fire and shared with ferocity.

So I’m delighted when I stumble across a personal blog that I wish I were able to write, myself. It’s good writing. It’s honest feeling.

Inner Peas.

What great name.

I never found my niche

I enjoy reading mystery novels. Even more if the main character is a female. Even more if the plot involves some kind of “headology” — that intriguing mish-mash of psychology and shamanism, magic and wishing. (Granny Weatherwax is what I consider to be the model for practicing headology, but I’ve posted about her before and that’s off the topic of this post.)

I am thinking about niches and headology (two rarely connected topics) because I just finished the novel Night Angel, which applies various kinds of headologies to the process solving a murder mystery that involves a group of former 1960 Haight-Ashbury roommates.

I never lived that hippie life except in occasional free-flowing fantasies that I knew would probably not be as satisfying if played out in reality. But that didn’t stop me from fantasizing.

In the 1960s, I was married with children and living in a rural suburbia; I believed that had I not been living the responsible life, I might have been on some Magical Mystery Tour of my own, taking the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. But I never even had a puff of pot back then. (Oh wait, yes, once, when a cousin who was married to a prison guard gave me a joint to try. Never having even learned how to smoke a cigarette, it was a failed secret experiment for me.)

If housewifery was not my niche, neither was hippiedom. Decades went by without the feeling that I had finally found where I was supposed to be in the world. I simply made the best of wherever I found myself. I guess that I am still doing that.

I look back and see myself as sort of a wife, sort of a mother, sort of a poet, sort of an activist, sort of a bureaucrat, sort of a dancer …. so many sorts, but no real niche, no place of grounding.

Maybe I found this Night Angel novel intriguing because each character seemed to have his or her own consistent niche.

My late once-husband had a very definite niche: He was a writer. He once said to me that everything else was just sawdust. He lived to write. He had found his niche.

Alongside my new La-Z-boy recliner is a box with 700+ pages of a typewritten novel of his that our son is self-publishing for him posthumously. It will be available soon to the public.

I want to read it because he often wrote with a strong sense of the power of headology, and his female characters were always forces of nature. But at the moment there is something in me that is envious of his niche — resentful, even. His niche has manifested into legacies that will go on without him.

You need a niche to leave a legacy.

I never found my niche.

Unless it’s late night blogging.

Legacies: Burdens or Bequests

On Facebook today, my daughter writes:

Having difficulty — dad died in 2008. I have a basement of things — mostly writing…must be THOUSANDS of poems, started collections, forgotten beginnings, things left undone. Bits and pieces of him, his heart, his spirit, that no one in the world will see. Here they sit. For what? He would tell me to let them go, they are just things, gone as he is. But it seems a betrayal. He’d laugh at that, I know. But still. All his work, his passion. For what? To be tossed in recycling. Doesn’t seem right.

The other day, my blogger friend Tamara posted this:

Yesterday I pitched my idea for a new book. I had been excited about it for days – felt alive and alert and looking forward to the writing of it. But, oh well – someone had just recently done a book very similar to what I was proposing. These things happen, and of course I can still write it – perhaps for a different publisher. Because, write it I will – write it I must. It feels like a legacy sort of thing and something I want to do for teachers of young children out there. And as I write this piece now, I realize that at some level I struggle with the feeling that I am entitled to leave a legacy. I mean, who am I after all? Just some teacher educator somewhere. So, where do I get off thinking my legacy is worth anything.

Over at “Time Goes By,” Ronni Bennett links to “Legacy Matters,” and offers this quote from there:

“…what you leave behind is the evidence of the life you lived,” says Jill. “I want people to live fuller, richer lives and the way to do that is to realize that we all hang by a slender thread that could be cut at any time. I believe that we all should have a legacy plan so that we leave behind the gift of good records, the gift of good directions, the gift of family stories and the gift of ourselves. This is different from your traditional estate plan or your financial plan, but, in the end, may prove far more valuable to your family.”

If you are a widely published and/or read writer, your legacy of words is an obvious one. That’s the advantage of blogging — your words and thoughts and values are out there to share with the world even after you are no longer a part of it. As long as someone pays for your domain name, of course.

Apart from this blog, which will disappear when my consciousness does, what is my legacy? My bins of yarn and fabric? My shelves of books? My box of poems, finished and unfinished? Certainly it’s not my money, because I have none left to leave.

In truth, I believe what I left as a comment to my daughter’s Facebook thoughts about her father’s legacy:

You’ve got me thinking about legacies, and what they really are. Your dad’s most important legacies are the differences he made in the lives he touched as a teacher, mentor, father, friend. Those things live on and are paid forward. The stuff that turns to dust and ashes is really not that important in the long run. Pick a few things at random to save when Lex becomes interested. Let the rest go. The best of his legacy is inside you.

And perhaps the best legacies that we can leave our families are our examples of living with passion and purpose — the behaviors and values we model each day as we “Enjoy Every Sandwich.”

on reading a friend’s short stories

While I eat lunch, I am reading an anthology of short stories written by a friend. I usually read while I eat and while I’m waiting for sleep to come. I go through several books a month. I guess that means I eat frequently or suffer from insomnia. Actually, each is true to some extent.

Even back in college, I was intimidated by this writer-friend’s erudition. “Erudition.” That really is the perfect word for just how broad and deep his learning is. And it’s reflected in the narration of many of his stories, which assumes that the reader has at least heard of the great philosophers and writers whose works populate a good liberal education. The characters in these tales, however, run the gamut — from auto mechanics and health care workers to college students and professors. They are stories that are inclusive of age, race, marital status, and economic realities. They are stories about life as experienced by a narrator (and it is not always the same one) who is attuned to the nuances of the moment.

For me, in every story, it is the voice of the narrator that catches and guides my attention.

And that is the very reason why I feel compelled to muse about reading short stories written by a friend whose path periodically keeps crossing mine. He uses names and characters that are familiar to us both, events that coincide with what I know of his life. He is the writer; but is he always the narrator?

While, as his friend, I am enticed to wonder about the origins of these details, the truth is that it doesn’t matter to me, the reader. He is writing from his own experiences, recreating and rearranging them to suit his fiction. It’s what good writers do.

Despite knowing that, I can’t help wondering which details really happened. Did his young family really get evicted out of their apartment the day before one Christmas (as happens in one of my favorite stories in his last anthology)? I guess I can always ask him, and I probably will. (I tend to think that, while the characters in the story are drawn from his life, the situation probably isn’t.) His answer will not change my enjoyment of the story, but it will satisfy my “friendly” curiosity.

Finally, his stories bring to my mind lyrics from “Circles,” one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums by now-gone Mary Travers:

There’s no straight lines make up my life,
and all my roads have bends.
There’s no clear-cut beginning,
and, so far, no dead ends.

(Just like this blog — which, I assure you — is totally non-fiction.)