Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

out the window
and a tiredness descends like the tiredness after giving birth. And who knows, but maybe that’s an apt metaphor for what has happened?

My computer gives out on the last day, telling me it is time to stop. Just everything. Lay it aside.

So I pack Deidra’s book into my suitcase and head off to tie up the threads of a long weaving, the pattern of which I still cannot make out clearly. I keep stepping back and stepping back, trying to see the whole picture.

A week later, I return home. I unpack. Passing through the living room, I move a few things – a lamp and a table – and a room that’s seemed out-of-kilter since we moved here suddenly seems right. Everything’s in its place now. It was all there, all along.

I fall into a holy collapse.

“We are sleeping until we are ready to get up,” I tell the dog at bedtime, as if we’ve been assigned it as homework.

* * *

I return to ESL class.
I take my computer to the Genius Bar.
I have the electrician over to take care of a long list of things I’ve been procrastinating on.
I make soup.

I start listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” podcasts, which I learn about from reading the comments section at Michelle’s blog. (There are gems in comment sections.)

Thursday night, I go to group and feel I don’t belong, not because my chapter ended but because it was so short compared to most everyone else’s.

And THIS RIGHT HERE is the kind of thinking that needs to stop, the constant minimizing of my own stuff, like I’m disqualified, like I don’t belong, like I don’t have the right to speak, at least not in the face of what everyone else is going through.

* * *

I have a story to tell. It began the day I reached for that journal. But what exactly the story is, I need to discover.

And that is exactly what I am going to do.

Where the story lies, I’m going to find out. I am boarding the train and riding it, window seat, to see again the ground covered, both to tie up the loose threads in me and to learn whether I have anything worthwhile to share, anything that might help another traveler.

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Jacinda's scrollwork

Kathy O, who lived 5 doors down the street, would, when things weren’t going her way, pack up all the dresses she’d brought for dress-ups and head home, leaving the rest of us sitting there. That’s just how she was.

Why am I thinking about her today? Now?

I’ve been picturing Lewis & Clark, looking west,
about to head off to places they’ve never been,
not knowing in advance the full distance,
how long it might take,
what may be required of them.

I would have been dead weight on that expedition, what with bears and mud and weather and needing to lift boats and supplies and carry the whole shebang around waterfalls. Traveling upstream! And not speaking the language of so many they encounter.

I would not have said yes
(not that I would have been invited).

I’m forced to face this truth about myself. I would not have gone. I’d have hunkered down in my cabin, stayed put and let someone else go.

I shiver, just thinking about that journey, and I think I know why.
That same fear is close to me, not far. Not 2 centuries ago.

I, too, stand on a frontier, like most of us do at least once in our lives. We stand, and what lies ahead is a frontier to us. We don’t know what we’re heading into. We might have ideas about it. We may have heard bits and pieces from what others said they thought they saw when they were out there, or what they heard someone else say, but really we don’t know for sure what’s out there, what we’ll face.

We don’t know about it
and we don’t know about ourselves,
whether we have what it takes.

It becomes clear me, when I visit the Lewis & Clark exhibit and I feel the slug in me resisting, saying, “NO WAY I’d sign up for that” that I see where I truly am, standing on my own frontier, weighing the inconvenience of it all and leaning toward staying home by the fire with a cup of tea.

I see this about myself, that I’m all for someone else making the trip and I’ll come to a museum and learn all about it. But blaze the trail, me?
Would I be willing to be that inconvenienced and discomforted?
Am I willing now, on my own frontier?

Or will I, like Kathy O, choose to pack up my story and take it home?

And if I do, who will I be leaving out there all alone, to shiver in the cold?
I keep thinking about that father at the cookout.

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In their book “On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts,” Ann  & Charity remind me to stoke the creative fires by getting out and doing something different, something artful perhaps. Something other than writing. On purpose. I am sometimes big on theory and short on follow-through.

Frazier 1
ALL OVER TOWN, I see billboards for the Lewis & Clark exhibit at the Frazier History Museum. “Walk 7,000 miles in their shoes, without the blisters.”

“I’m definitely going to that!” I say.

I set a reminder for Sunday afternoon. “Go to the Frazier this week?” But when Sunday arrives and I hear the alert, the coming week feels too full. I change the alert to the following Sunday, to be reminded again.

The following Sunday, same thing. I move the reminder forward yet another week.

There’s always so much to do.
There’s always dinner to make, the dog to walk, a Lowe’s return, a call to make, a call to take, packing or unpacking, a letter to write, workmen due, a birthday card to buy.

I keep driving around.
I keep seeing billboards.
I keep meaning to go.
I keep resetting the reminder.

And what about the story I promised to write? Just where am I with that?
Stuck. I have no idea where I am. This is no time for wandering museums.

I go to the Frazier.
I’m not there 10 minutes on the frontier with them, facing the enormous challenge, the great distance that must be covered, the dangers that lie ahead, the work, the discomfort, the very real possibility of not surviving, or worse, turning back before reaching the end point,
than I see more clearly than ever
my own frontier,
my own fears.

Now I know where I am, a good thing to know.
But I had to go downtown to learn it.

More details in coming posts.
Frazier 3
Frazier 2

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Mary and Martha cup

Since moving to Kentucky, I’ve gotten involved with teaching English to refugees. They work hard and occasionally despair of ever learning the language well enough to make it here, and there’s no turning back.

But every so often I see a light come on in one of their faces and I know they are starting to get it. They are starting to think maybe they can learn to navigate the waters of their new circumstances.

Nothing beats seeing that light in their faces. It’s the light of hope.

I SAW THAT SAME LIGHT recently on the face of a father who’s sustained a tremendous blow he hasn’t been able to talk about. For two years now, he’s barely been able to talk about it. But then I told some of my story and something happened.

We are at a cookout.
Men stand over the grill, discussing cars.
Children play tag.
I cease playing hide-and-seek and sit on the patio, chatting. When I reference my story, the great wound sustained and my ensuing withdrawal, that father lights up. He sits upright in his chair and says, “That’s what happened to me!”

And there’s that look, the look of someone who, for the first time in a long time, is starting to think that, while there’s no turning back, there’s a lot of life ahead, and maybe, just maybe, the waters can be navigated.

Nothing beats seeing that light, that hope.
I am again reminded: Our stories, when we risk sharing them, have the power to help set captives free. This is important work in this world.

If I hadn’t stopped playing hide-and-seek, I would have missed it.

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The Story You Wish Wasn't True About You

The Story You Wish Wasn’t True About You

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from the plane window, heading west

I’M LEAVING BEHIND just-planted summer flowers,
pansies at their peak
and a freshly bathed dog
and heading to the Great Plains
to the company of fellow writers and darers,
grace-receivers and grace-givers,
to listen.

I’m packing light,
leaving expectations behind
and not stopping by Great Clips to have that snippet of hair snipped off, the one that’s sticking out sideways.

Flaws and all, I’m going.

Maybe I’ll come home fired up about an idea I need to throw myself into.

Or maybe I’ll come home relieved to be set free from thinking I need one.

Or maybe I’ll discover all I really want to do is what I’ve been doing a good long time now, writing a letter each morning before the sun rises, then going on about my day, every day for the rest of my life. Nothing more than that. And how would that sit with me? Can’t say for sure.

It’ll be a thousand letters soon, which is why I’ve not blogged much. It’s not felt like a waste of time. There’s nothing like being right smack in the middle of where I belong, doing the job I’ve been given to do and knowing it. Flaws and all.

Jumping Tandem: The Retreat

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pencils at the ready

been thinking it a while –
but is it one more step away from writing?
Or toward it?

I admitted to these very thoughts
while riding to church a few weeks ago
and wouldn’t you know it?
The morning’s passage included
immediately they left their nets.”
I like that.
(Long before Nike’s “just do it”
were the first disciples.
They were more cutting-edge than me.)

So what’s the hold-up?

I will miss the friends I’ve met in cyberspace,
not that I won’t be in cyberspace,
but I think I’ll feel only half-in.
Now that I see that in print,
I realize my thinking on that is wrong.
This hadn’t struck me before.
(This is one reason writers write, says Joan Didion,
to find out what they are thinking.)

I’ve been blogging over a decade, so it’s a hard break,
like parting with a old sweater,
too tattery to be seen in
but there are so many memories attached.
Okay, my blog isn’t that tattered.
Still, sentimentality is often the obstacle to the uncluttered life, is it not?

But mostly the hold-up
is the cry of the platform-builders,
“You must blog.”
Must I?
Did anyone actually say that
or is that how it got twisted in my mind?

I wish to say something fabulously acceptable,
such as,
I’m working on my doctorate
or going to do third-world orphanage work
or donating all my writing parts to a needy person
and so – apologies, apologies – I no longer can blog.

But I don’t have a noble cause to give as excuse.
And my faithful readers do not require it of me.

It is enough to say
I have nothing to say,
that what I have to say,
the topic closest to me right now,
the one I dedicate my peak writing time to,
which is as it should be,
doesn’t belong here,
and I belong where it is.

You are nodding. I know it.

A few times in my life I wondered how to explain to a friend a decision I made, only to discover no explanation was necessary.

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I stole this off Megan's blog because it's cool.MEGAN WILLOME, fellow-writer-I-met-in-cyberspace-and-got-to-meet-in-person-at-Laity-Lodge, devoted an entire post to her reflections on my car wash thoughts in “Poetry with Marilyn Yocum.” (It’s really weird to see your own name pop up on Feedly.) I was honored! Plus, I learned more about what I was really writing about. Sometimes someone has to point these things out.

Anyway, it’s nice for writers to know something they’ve written spurred someone else’s thoughts. We rarely hear about this. BTW, Megan is a fun person to follow on Twitter for all things tea, poetry, dogs and more.

* * *

A MAN in THE CLASS I’M TAKING on Wednesdays said, “Aren’t all writers just people who stand on the sidelines? Isn’t that why they write, because it’s the only way then can engage with the world?” Just so you know, I did not lean forward and clock him on the head.

* * *

THE POST OFFICE PEOPLE are used to me stepping up to the counter and asking what kinds of cool stamps they have. I use run-of-the-mill flag stamp for letters going to places where the stamps are removed before the envelope is delivered (AKA prison ministry). More than once I’ve taken a picture of my latest cool stamps and inserted the photo into a letter, just to inject some color.

BTW, the run-of-the-mill flag stamps have improved. They have a better look.

* * *

my cabin

I HAD A GREAT CABIN of 7th-graders at the winter retreat in January, but when I saw the photo, I couldn’t for the life of me remember when it was taken. Certainly I would not have voluntarily posed in a t-shirt, front and center. Maybe it’s a dummy somebody stuck in there, propped up by the girls. Maybe it was the IBC root beer.

About this….getting involved in ONE ministry of the church was yet another thing done intentionally this past year as a way of getting a life back.

* * *

Someone told me I have spunk. I’ve never been told that before. I’ve been living off the compliment for two weeks. :-)

I hope you are well. Drop me a line.

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