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Mugs
Some days I want to drink my coffee
From a mug that reminds me of my mother.
It’s one on permanent loan from
The work kitchen of a now-defunct employer.

It’s gentle curves are like a mug my mother gave me,
A fine sheen, ivory and green, embossed with seashell art.
I lost that in the divorce, along with many things,
And drawers and cabinets full of pain and dead dreams.

My mother doesn’t know anything about that.
She died before it happened.
I often wonder
What she would think of me,
My life,
My choices,
Now.

But this curved mug
Is brown and green and embossed with trees
Like the ones my mother loved so much.

One of my favorite images is of her
Hugging a pine tree
In Rocky Mountain National Park.

So when I fill
The mug that reminds me of my mother,
With Folger’s crystals like my father used to drink,
It is as if I am having a small cup of coffee with my parents
Each morning.

That is a very fine way to start the day.

20160329_091003
Denver, Colorado. (This is my alternative mug, purchased for
me by MKL. I love it.)

Quote of the day: “I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.” – Charlotte Eriksson

Daily gratitudes:
The flat fall of Snowmaggdon
Favorite movies on a snow day
A super snuggly cat
Experimental eggs
Having a warm spot on a cold day

 

Surreality

The shadows surround each parked car,
glooming up,
swallowing hoods and fenders,
lurking in front of darkened headlights,
stealing away as my eye
catches their evil.

Innocent bunnies
bare fangs
and have a Mexican stand-off
in the middle of the street,
dashing off angrily in opposite directions
when I approach.

A dog barks deeply
the sound lingering
in my backyard,
spreading out thickly through the
cool, damp, air.

I do not have a dog.

It is snowing in May.

I tremble from exhaustion,
fumble with the light switches
curl up in a soft bed
and live inside my dreams.

Today’s guest poet – Muriel Stuart

The Wood and The Shore

The low bay melts into a ring of silver,
And slips it on the shore’s reluctant finger
Though in an hour the tide will turn, will tremble,
Forsaking her because the moon persuades him.
But the black wood that leans and sighs above her
No tide can turn, no moon can slave nor summon.
Then comes the dark: on sleepy, shell-strewn beaches,
O’er long pale leagues of sand and cold, clear water
She hears the tide go out towards the moonlight.
The wood still leans… weeping she turns to seek him,
And his black hair all night is on her bosom.

The Age of Silk

The 100 watt light on the bedside table
Shows me the truth in the fabric of my skin.

My hands.
I  look at my hands
and  I can see the crepe paper texture
of my skin
when I hold them
just so
in the glow.
And I remember my grandmother’s hands.

When did I get
my grandmother’s hands?

Age tells its tattles in little ways these days.
Most days,
I forget,
and think that I am 20,
just as I have always been.

But then I find the years
standing snickering at me behind a post in Market Street Station
as a young man asks what year I graduated
and I have to tell him that
it was
before he was born.

It is only in the nights,
the nights now when I am alone –

no shoulder for my head,
no lips to tell me in love that I look
20 –

the nights when sleep is elusive,

that I see the crushed silk of my own skin
unmasked by the eyes of time.

As you know, the Weekly Wednesday Poem is generally a piece that touches my spirit and that was written by a well-known poet.

Today’s Weekly Wednesday Poem is a departure from that protocol – it is a repost of one of a piece by one of my favorite blogging poets.   Read Between the Minds  is an amazing blog by an amazing poet and photographer, and slp never fails to stir some emotion with his words.  I was honored when he dedicated a poem to me a few months back as I was in the never-ending throes of starting my life over.  But this particular piece is simple, evocative, erotic, reminiscent and timeless for me.  I hope you’ll visit his blog, and I hope he is pleased that I chose to share this as the Weekly Wednesday Poem.  He’s in the excellent company of others who’ve had the Wednesday place of honor, and I hope one day, his words will be as famous as those authors. 

Planning

just before
their lips met
his tongue
traced the edges
of hers
as if
mapping out
their future
and then
they took
turns
breathing
for each other
deep breaths
into each other’s soul
forming
an eternal
ring
of passion

Having finished Natalie Goldberg’s first book, Writing Down the Bones, I am looking at her second book.  I say looking because that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Thumbing through, reading snippets and trying to re-mobilize my writing self.

One of the things that struck me last night that I read was an exercise she suggested about writing down what you would miss when you died.  Last night, I was thinking about the big things, like Kelsea.  I suppose in some ways I don’t think I will miss anything because once I die, I sense that I will have access to everything, just in a different way.  Though will I still be ME thinking, knowing, feeling, sensing it all?  That I of course cannot say.

So what will be missed?  Instead of thinking about my own memories, I started thinking about how the world has changed in the last fifty years.

Then I got to thinking about how people used to dress up for air travel.  I admit that I started flying very shortly after this era ended.  But back then, flying was an event, an occasion, something special, and they treated you as if it was.  Men wore suits.  Women wore suits and gloves and hats and stockings and heels.  Stewardesses wore little hats and were solicitous, giving you pillows, blankets, food, drink, whatever they could do for your comfort.  Now the message is literally stated on the PA, “Our flight attendants are here for your comfort but are PRIMARILY here for your safety.”  Meaning comfort can go down those little metal toilets as far as the flight attendants are (instructed to be) concerned.  And people show up looking like they’re ready for bed.  Literally. 

On my last flight, I was reaching for a pillow in the overhead bin next to my seat, when the flight attendant reached ahead of me and snatched it out.  “That’s not supposed to be here,” she said.  “Well, can I use it?” I asked her nicely as she held it pinioned to her chest.  “No,” she replied, “People in coach aren’t allowed to get pillows.”  I didn’t bother to reply to this, and I’m sure the pillow sat unused for the duration of the flight.  Coach.  Doesn’t it sound like a rich thing?  Royalty ride in coaches.  They should call it cattle class or steerage or peon class or mass class.  Something else.  I’ll work on it.  And then of course, there’s business class.  Excuse me?  5 inches of legroom for the business man or woman.  And that implies that the rest of us are just bums.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to rant about the airlines here – although it is a good idea for a post and will likely emerge from my fingertips someday.

What I was thinking about is how the past dies.  Think about the bombing of London by the Nazis in World War II.  Few remember it.  There are books and movies but you could literally count them.  People Kelsea’s age will never hear someone tell a story about it.  But there are those few who do remember it, who can recall the blackout drapes, the sound of the sirens or the planes, their fear, their parents responses, the smell after a bombing.

To take a less dramatic example, no one remembers what the air smelled like before cars and other pollutants started contaminating the atmosphere.  When you could drink from a stream without having to purify the water.  What the plains looked like when there were millions of buffalo roaming.  What it felt like to wear 20 pounds of dresses during a hot Georgia summer – and how you didn’t complain.

When Kelsea and I took the EAR and she wanted me to give her a tour of my life in Durham, I told her stories about school, work, growing up.  Things I might not have remembered had we not been right there.  I’m glad I did this.  Someone knows some of my stories now.  (Not that I am ever shy about telling her anything.)  She, like E-Bro (and like me, once upon a time) has the memory of an elephant, and I know she will remember.  Maybe she’ll tell her daughter my stories someday, as I have told her some of my Mother’s.  Writing them down in a way that evokes a sense of place, of time, of feeling, is a great start – and sometimes the only option.  But the verbal telling of a tale holds so much more power than the written word – your voice as you share your story imbues it with an emotion that is richer than any printed page could ever convey.

There are so many stories we have that we do not recall except in flashes and that we never share, perhaps because they would really mean nothing to someone else.  They are memories more than stories, snippets of our lives.  I think we remember everything that has ever happened to us, we just don’t have access to all those thoughts, images and memories with the x% of our brain that we actually use.  But that y% of our brain must be doing something back in there.  I choose to believe that storing all our lives (and perhaps beyond) is what it’s doing.

But no one will remember the things I do in the ways I do, even if someone else was present at the time.  That person will remember it through their own eyes.  So I suppose what I will miss when I am gone is the ability to share those memories.  Or perhaps I will miss the memories themselves.

I wonder if horses feel like this after winning a race?

I’m having a letdown day!  I’m actually quite surprised, but when I got to thinking about it, I realized that I’d been really driving myself towards the November 30 – 50,000 words – NaNoWriMo goal.  And now that I’ve achieved it, after my hyper-happiness and self-congratulatory bath last night, I’m a bit sluggish.  (And I’m cold but that has nothing to do with it.)

I don’t want to leave the house today. I just want to lie around and watch old movies.  Thank the gods there’s no chocolate in the house.  If there were, there soon wouldn’t be.

But I do have to go to work this afternoon, and I do have to go to the grocery store as there is no food in the house.  So leaving the sanctuary is inevitable.  To give you an idea of the strength of my desire to snug myself away here, I actually looked out the window today and wished for deep snow.  Yes, you read right.  ME wishing for snow and cold.  Sheer madness, I tell you.

In examining my feelings this morning, what I really want is a turkey sandwich.  No, just kidding.  What I really want is to keep working on my novel.  I’ve been happy writing it.  So, if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “OK, so?  Why not just go work on your novel?  If that’s what makes you happy, and what you want to do, go!  Who’s stopping you?  Not me!  So quit yer bitchin’ and go! GO!”  You might say it a little bit nicer than that, but you’d be right.

It’s an odd feeling when you’ve been working for a goal that was communal and not specifically self-imposed, and you have to shift to a goal that IS self-imposed.  In other words, when you have to become more self-driven, self-motivated.  As I am pondering this from the Red Couch this morning, I am realizing that self-motivation for achievements is one of those key elements in my life that many of my dreams have revolved around – and one that sits in the garden of my soul like an untended flower.  This novel, and this realization, may be just what I need to break through what I now see as a barrier that has blocked the flow of my success for most of my life.  I suspect that at its core is laziness and fear.  But I think that’s a therapy session for another day.

When I started out this morning, I was thinking that I was depressed – again.  But as I’ve been “writing it out” here, I realize that I’m not depressed.  I just need a little break.

I need to do what makes me happy and be kind to myself.  Sometimes, after you’ve worked very hard, it’s okay to take a break and watch Virginia Mayo movies for a while.  Soon, I’ll get up and go do things.

Like have a turkey sandwich.

Me!

After a grueling six hours and 8,574 words, I won my NaNoWriMo Challenge!  I finished with 50, 668 words (in 29 days, and I took a week off in the middle!)

Woo-Hoo!

Of course, the book is far, far from done.  Realistically, I’d say the first draft is half-done.  I’ll need to set my own challenges to help me finish it and not let it just pine away, neglected.

NaNoWriMo winners don’t actually win anything – and so what?

Trust me, the feeling of accomplishing this feat is a reward in itself.

Big, BIG smile!

I think I’m going to make it.  I have 3+ days and 13,000 words left to go.

I’m a little frustrated with the book though.  My main character has taken a turn towards domesticity that I find rather dull.  It’s not at all what I’d expected of her, but I assume it’s an interim step between where she was and where I want her to be. Guess we’ll just have to see.

Someone said to me that every character is somewhat autobiographical, and I suppose that’s true, though I hadn’t thought of it before I started writing.  I had thought I was simply using my imagination and a historical figure, but nope, there’s me in there.  And I can never be sure what turns life is going to throw me either.

I’m not a fiction writer.  As you may be able to tell from this blog, the stuff I write is non-fiction.  I like to write travel tales, memoir, poetry, essays.  I think if I have to pigeonhole myself into a category, I’d call myself an essayist.  It covers a lot of ground. 

I had heard about NaNoWriMo – which, if you don’t know, is National Novel Writing Month – a few years ago from Kelsea’s school.  I think there was a “junior” version which the TAG (Talented and Gifted) kids were encouraged to do.  Kelsea’s been at work on her own novel for a couple of years now, so the program wasn’t quite for her.  She’s happy with her progress, and seems to know what she’s doing.

But due to some flicker of madness that crossed my mind a few days ago, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  In NaNoWriMo, you make a committment to yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Over 165,000 people participated last year.  You start on November 1, crank it out, and upload it by November 30 to “win”.  Winning really means that you DID IT!  A lot of people say they are working on a novel – and say it for years and years – but few ever actually complete one.  This is about quantity, not quality.  The editing comes later. 

Since I don’t write fiction, this project feels like a real challenge – but I felt like challenging myself.  I’ve now got 2 ideas, both in very abridged outline format, and I have 5 days to choose one, think about my characters, and sharpen my pencils. 

It seems (now) very doable to write 1700 words a day.  We’ll see how it feels when I’m a week into it and floundering.  The NaNoWriMo people give you a few tips:

“Tell everyone what you are about to do. The more people who know what you’re up to this November, the less likely you are to slink away from victory in a rare moment of exhaustion or doubt. Friends, neighbors, family, pets, coworkers, civil servants, and strangers—tell ’em all!”  —  OK, via this blog, I’ve just told a whole bunch of people what I’m doing.

“Bargain with those around you. Suggest to your housemates that if they take care of chores during November, you’ll cover the following two months. Make sure you’re not signed up for soccer game snack-duty, volunteering in the neighborhood—any helpful or productive task that isn’t writing your novel—until November is past.”  —  This one?  I live alone.  No bargaining possible.  And I’m not missing Kelsea’s basketball games.  We’ll just have to make it work.

“Incentivize success! To reach 50,000 words in November, treats work well but the threat of awful tasks works better. Tell your neighbors that if you don’t reach your word-count goal, you’ll mow their lawns for a month. Promise your boss that you’ll work one Saturday for every thousand words you fall short of the 50,000-word mark. (For my part, I’ve already pledged to buy Chris Baty a coffee for every day that I don’t reach 1,667 words.)”  —  If you have any suggestions for negative incentives, let me know.

“Put away the time-wasters. On November’s eve, unplug the cable box and ask your roommate to hide the cord. Give World of Warcraft to your friend for the month. Lock your remote control in a safe and give away the key. You’ll thank yourself come November 30!”   —  The cable box isn’t going anywhere.  But I have committed to not going online each day until I have completed my 1700 words, since I know I’m most productive in the mornings.

More details about all things NaNoWriMo can be found at http://www.nanowrimo.org/.

There are groups all over the place in the Boulder/Denver area – people who are planning to get together to write their hearts out in one another’s presence.  I don’t think that will be me, but I will use this as an opportunity to find new places to write – coffeeshops, libraries, who knows?  I’ll find places and it will be fun!

Since I got my first rejection email the other day (which is actually a yippee – other rejections have just been silence), I feel like I need something to give me some confidence with my writing – this should help.

Wish me luck!

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