I am writing at dusk,
unusual for me,
but out my window
a dark grey cat –
almost black –
is stalking a firefly
and makes a sudden move
every time
the light blinks.

Between blinks, however,
it seems lost for what to do.

* * *

Last week
Wally used a broom
to help a baby bird
finds its way out of the garage.
It was stuck behind a screen
that was propped against a wall
and just didn’t know which way to go.
Occasional gentle nudges were needed.

* * *

I was 9
the winter day
my grandmother
went to live with her sister
in NYC.

I rode along into Manhattan
and cried when we said good-bye.
I was still crying, hard,
an hour later
back at home.

I sought solace in my room,
but finding none,
ventured forth to see what my siblings were doing,
tears the whole way.

I sought distraction
from my grief
in front of the television,
but my brothers said
“Get outta here”
when they couldn’t hear the TV
over my sobs.

I went to the kitchen
sat at the table
and kept crying and crying and crying.

My older sister,
primping for a date
in the hallway mirror,
popped her head in.

“Why don’t you write Gram a letter?
Sometimes that helps.”

I took a piece of paper
and managed 3 sentences:

“I am so sad.
I miss you.
Have a nice day.”
My first letter.

By the time I got to signing –
both first and last name,
as though she would not know
who “Marilyn,”
written in a child’s scrawl, was –
I wasn’t crying anymore.

* * *

When we are stuck….”
writes Julia Cameron,
“it is usually because we are clinging to a situation…
or we are unwilling to explore a new risk
that we sense that we really must take.*

Cameron is talking about writing, of course,
but I think it applies to so much more.

I could not entertain
the thought of my grandmother being gone
no longer available on a daily basis
to listen
to play.

I wished the pain to go away on its own.
I wished to escape from it.
But it was only in looking hard at it,
paying attention to it,
giving it voice,
that I became unstuck.

* * *
While away last week
I gave some thought
to what’s in the pipeline,
my next step
and whether I’m onboard.

While sweeping a porch
I was reminded,
it’s best to go
in the direction of the wind.

This is helpful to me
as I sweep things together,
stories strewn along interstates.

Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), 169.
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About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
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9 Responses to Sweeping

  1. laura says:

    What a precious story, Marilyn. How wise of your sister to encourage you this way. I wonder…does she know what she started? This is a beautiful piece.


  2. I really like these words,

    “looking hard at it,
    paying attention to it,
    giving it voice,”

    I enjoyed this today.


  3. L.L. Barkat says:

    I like the way you framed your path in terms of the sweeping. So often, the simple things around us are clues, if we dare pay attention.


  4. Cheryl Smith says:

    UNstuck. Whew – powerful timing today! Your post brought me to tears.

    So much to process and thankful for your willingness to share this beautiful story.


  5. Pingback: On Coffee and Caves « A Different Story

  6. deidra says:

    I always love it when you write about writing. So much wisdom here and a bit of storytelling thrown in for good measure. I understand being stuck, and unstuck. Thanks so much for letting us in. Thank you.


  7. This story is true.

    Often that’s how I get unstuck, too, by putting words on the pages in front of me. Amazing, isn’t it? Such a simple thing…


  8. I came here for a dose of beautiful writing and that’s what I found. 🙂 I loved the dark cat, almost black, who seemed stuck for what to do between blinks of the firefly–and the bird stuck behind the screen–and your big sister primping for a date–and your poor broken nine year old heart. 🙂


  9. annkroeker says:

    Writing helps me get unstuck many times–as I pour it out, the ominous and frightening events might seem less overwhelming; the heartbreak seems survivable. I love your story of the letter. It reminds me of an NPR segment I heard the other day. I’m going to try to find it. If I do, I’ll try to write something about it this weekend. Thank you for sharing the power of writing to turn a situation around, to help you see it more clearly….and fly.


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