Pat Schneider says that, when you go on retreat, you have to expect to sleep for the first three days — it’s your body coming down from its usual routines. It’s 9:30 pm now, late, and my body is tired, the good kind of tired, the tired that says I have spent the day in sun and movement, spent the day in or near water. Soon enough the rhythm of the waves will be inside me. Last year I spent so much time floating in and riding the sea that I felt that metronome of earthly energy in my body back on the beach, lying down to read, sitting at the table for dinner, climbing into bed. This is what I want to be able to give you.
Today I have thought a lot about my nephew. I thought: This is the closest I will get to parenting, this relationship with him — and then I wonder if that is true. I imagine walking with him along these beaches, pointing out small shells, pointing out crabs and urchins and tiny starfish, answering what questions I can and learning from him, too.
I’ve finished one (Andrew Vachss’ ShockWave) of the 11 books in my vacation pile this year, and have discarded another from that pile after only reading about half (Augusten Burroughs’ Magical Thinking) — it takes a lot for me to decide to quit reading a book; usually I’m the sort of reader who will just keep plowing through, searching for the good part, assuming that there must be some good part in there somewhere – I mean, it got published after all.
I just recently discovered the book Beyond Survival: A Writing Journey for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse by Maureen Brady, and I’m glad to be able to add it to the Writing Ourselves Whole library.
Published in 1992, this is a collection of 52 writing exercises specifically focusing on issues around healing from sexual trauma; the idea is that you give yourself a year to explore through writing your own healing: week 2: Breaking the silence; week 15: But who am I?; week 32: Sexuality; week 49: Trust.
The exercises are much more directive than I offer in the Write Whole workshops, in that they ask the writer to specifically consider different parts of our life and struggle after experiencing sexual trauma: write what you remember about the abuse, write what you lost by keeping secrets, write what you’re afraid will happen if you trust people — each week’s exercise includes a page or so of discussion about that theme or issue. You could respond to these exercises for yourself or for your characters (if you’re working with a character who is a survivor of sexual violence, writing in response to some of these exercises could be an excellent way to learn more about them and their lives).
the description of this image says its spilled coffee, but look at the tea bag tag hanging off the side -- let's say it could very well be tea.
a lovely way to wait for the tea water to boil: wandering around the kitchen, grabbing allspice berries, clove buds, breaking off bits of Mexican cinnamon stick, cracking open cardamom pods and coriander, all to put into the tea ball for spiced green tea. Now it’s simmering next to me and smells like goodness, smells like cool mornings, smells like something clean and differentiating and sharp.
On recommendation of someone at UCSF, I’ve been reading Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.’s book, Kitchen Table Wisdom. Dr. Remen, an accomplished physician, survivor of chronic illness, and therapist, began many years ago to think about how best one might work with patients who were facing chronic illness and death.
Stories are powerful instruments — and they’re as common and consistent for us as breathing. Just as the Tales Grimm or the old Parables or the Ananzi or Coyote tales are recognizable as telling us something about how our communities think we ought to live, we have individual/familial stories that we tell ourselves and one another very consistently every minute of every day. We, as literate and verbal culture, are ever immersed in story.
What’s the definition of story? My online dictionary says it can be used as a noun or a verb. I loved multi-layered words like that. Anyway, one definition is “an account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious.” Another is “to decorate with scenes representing historical or legendary events; to tell as a story.” (Circularity is always fun — and the dictionary is fraught with it, but that’s another story!)