I have a short post for today, because I want to do a little work with the novel before I head out to the day job. I spent the weekend with an amazing group of women from my church (my what? oh, right) at a retreat space at Dominican University. The retreat space was filled with peace and light, quiet, flowers, laughter, and almost more poetry than I could take. But poetry is part of what’s feeding me these days, and so I got nourished in ways I’m still discovering. Plus, there is the tremendous (tremendous is my favorite word right now) power of being welcomed by a group of women when I have spent much of my life feeling outside and along the edges of, not belonging to, women. Not welcome. Too stained and shamed to be allowed into the rooms with the laughter and the knowledge and the teachings and the vulnerability and the loss. Too broken to be welcomed into my grandmother’s hands again. Too shameful to be allowed to touch anyone else again. So this was a big deal, and I’m still taking in to my body and heartbeat all that this weekend brought to me.
We did quite a bit of writing at this retreat, some of which we got to do with Linda Spence (who teaches people how to write their personal histories). Here’s one of the prompts she gave us, which I offered last night at the first Dive Deep workshop meeting of February:
Some of what I do, I do because…
(Open your notebooks and give yourselves 10 minutes — if you’re working with fiction or with other characters, they might speak up in response to this as well. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.)
Here was my response from last night:
Some of what I do, I do because I’m hungry and ungrateful, I’m struck hard with the backside of an inkwell, I’m too run ragged to breathe. This isn’t personal, it’s ink stains on the fingers, too much distance, but the plum blossoms have lit my inside streets all pale pink with fragrance and I’m waiting for just the right breeze to petal-shower me back to that bank of the Connecticut river, on the VT side I mean, where I sat with an oversized sketchbook twenty years ago, recording the crows overhead, the melt-swollen riverflow, the new leaves, the bees pushing their fat desire into the white apple-blossoms — then I wrote about him and what he was doing and how he had to stop. How I was tired of taking his phone calls there in my college dorm room, giving him my private breath over the distance of those thousand miles, how I didn’t want him to have the inside branches of me anymore. This is the only piece of writing I have ever torn out of a notebook. I ripped the pages from the spiral binding, the thick paper leaving sprinkles of remnants as reminder. I put those pages in a box with all the jewelry he had given me — the black leather thong necklace with a silver geometric pendant, the ankle bracelet, the pearl ring — there was probably more. I said, I don’t want these anymore. I want you to let me be. Maybe I mailed, too, all the polaroids he had made me take of boyfriends, photos I didn’t want — maybe he already had those. He could take it all back. Just leave me be. I mailed it to their office. Of course he got the box and shamed me for putting him at risk: what if mom or the secretary had taken receipt and opened it? It didn’t stop then, his hands around the neck of my life, but a finger had loosened. And I have missed those pages, that writing, my first written truth telling, forever. I never took pages out of my notebook again, just copied out, rewrote, saving my own original words, my first breaths, for me.
Be as easy as you can be with you this week. Thanks for your thick honesties, the way you make space for complexity and struggle, and the ways you are learning to make space for peace and relaxation, too. Thanks for your creative urgency. Thank you for your words.