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allowing the places that shaped us to shift

rushing ocean waterAnd then I went on vacation and didn’t blog at all.

Good morning good morning, waking you. Where did your sleeping carry you? How does your breath meet this morning?

I’m just back from a week in a place I used to live, a week spent re-meeting a landscape I thought I’d abandoned, I thought I’d left for good. Turns out those hills and beaches, that sea spray, that quality of light through the filtering trees, that rinse of blacktop winding amid farmland and marsh, even those mosquitoes and deer flies — it all still lives in me. It wasn’t just history that rose up inside to meet that knife-sharp horizon, it wasn’t just nostalgia and memory and loss; my right-now self got to walk through the palace of yesterday and hold in its/our/my hands what I have brought forward, I mean, lay its morning fingers on that day and that place that does not, as it turns out, have to be shaped or owned or by regret– Continue reading “allowing the places that shaped us to shift”

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thoughts for a Monday

graffiti of stars painted on a brick wall; the painting also shows the silhouette of a person holding a spray can, creating the art.Something from this weekend:

Living on the edge means recognizing those places and experiences that do not offer me easy answers, those fierce edges of life where things are not as clear-cut as I hope for them to be. There is beauty in the border spaces, those places of ambiguity and mystery.

– Border Spaces, by Christine Valters Paintner

Here is another:

The Nigerian storyteller Ben Okri says that “In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted — knowingly or unknowingly — in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.”

– The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative, by Thomas King.

One more:

One time, twice, once in awhile, I get it right. Once in a while, I can make the world I know real on the page. I can make the women and men I love breathe out loud in an empty room, the dreams I dare not speak shape up in the smoky darkness of other people’s imaginations. Writing these stories is the only way I know to make sure of my ongoing decision to live, to set moment to moment a small piece of stubbornness against an ocean of ignorance and obliteration.

– Trash, Dorothy Allison

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Why are you writing this morning? Give yourself 10 minutes to start your week out with words: what are the stories that need telling from last week, from this weekend, from your dreams? You might also write from any response you have to the image above, to one or more of this morning’s quotes: follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. Begin this week with your words!

Thank you for the brilliance (sometimes quiet, sometimes loud) of your resilience and your resistance. Thank you for all the ways you grow and stretch, for your willingness to risk growing and stretching. Thank you for your words.

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letting ourselves fly

spray painted graffiti of the word "Hero"Yesterday it was skunks. Today it was a fresh new tennis ball near the courts, just waiting for a ball-loving puppy to come upon it and pounce. What a good life.

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Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as having said, Do one thing every day that scares you. There are several things on my plate right now that I’ve been putting off for years, that terrify me (book proposals, grad school, growing the workshops, building relationship with family — you know, little things). How do you step up to positive action that scares you?

You probably remember, too, that bravery is defined as acting in spite of fear; that is, feeling fear and acting anyway. Bravery, heroism, isn’t about the absence of fear — but taking steps along with feeling that fear.

This is up for me a lot these days, and for many of my friends as well: doing what’s right, what we love, what we want to do, won’t always be comfortable or feel safe or good. Sometimes doing the best next thing, taking the best next step, doesn’t feel good at all. It’s scary, it’s laden with trigger points, it looks like I’m about to step off the ledge into nothingness.

(You know the next quote I’d include here; apparently I’m in a quote-y mood this morning. Yes, of course, Richard Bach:

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you’ll find something solid to stand on
Or you’ll be taught how to fly.”)

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Sometimes radical self care is about letting myself hibernate, letting the inside selves move away from the things that scare them. Sometimes, the best thing I can do to take care of myself is to be that fierce mama and push the babies up to the edge of the nest, push them over, thrill and mourn a little as they let the air lift up under their wings. You know we all have that fierce mama inside us. The mourning is about the loss, the change, how those parts will never be babyish again, never need to be fed — they’re headed off into the world. Change is both sad and glorious sometimes. What happens when we can feel it all?

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What’s the flight that you and or your character are resisting right now? Want to take 10 minutes to write that out today? Or write about a time that you were afraid and acted anyway. Dive into either the fear or the possibilities that could manifest after you/they take the leap — or both! What happens, in your writing, if you or they feel the fear and still take flight, still take action, do it anyway? Follow your writing wherever it seems to want to go.

Thank you for the times that you are brave enough to rest, to take time out, to quit pushing, and for the times that you are brave enough to reach out and step forward into something new and unknown. You keep on inspiring me. Thank you for your words.

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the right time

graffiti of a flower, a bee hovering over, maybe a microphone in the background?Good morning! The birds are quiet today — maybe this blue-grey wakening day is subduing them.

What do things look like outside your window? (That’s a great place to begin writing, btw — if you’re just opening the notebook and wondering what to say. Start anywhere — say anything. All the starts are just opened doors that you can walk through, that your writing can walk you through, to get you where it wants you to go. So take that square of windowpane: what’s on the other side? What exactly do you see, or don’t you see? The descriptions will pull you in to the writing, the process, the flow. Let yourself get pulled, notice what associations, what words or phrases or characters start to bubble up, and let those down onto the page next, then follow them.)

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Tomorrow I head up to Sacramento for the second Reclaiming Our Erotic Story workshop! This is a day-long writing opportunity, a chance to engage in some fun, hot, risky writing with a wonderful community of folks. Light breakfast served, lunch on your own — we get to fill the library of the Sutter Hospital in Sacramento with our sexy and powerful stories! I had a great time with this workshop in January, and I’m so looking forward to returning. (There are still a few spaces available — write to John Crandall if you’d like to join us!)

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Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. -Attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; the majority of the quote was actually written by William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

(Does it matter where the words come from, if they move you? When does it matter? Why?)

I was afraid it wasn’t the right time to get a dog. And of course, it wasn’t. We have so much on our plates, our calendars, so much we are trying to do. I have three workshops, maybe four, starting next month, a day-long workshop tomorrow — remember hat June is Pride month and we want to do everything. I’ve been complaining here that an hour writing time in the morning just isn’t enough, I leave the journal frustrated, have to slink to the day job. We didn’t make a good plan. I have classes I want to sign up for, and so much work to do. How could I possibly think about adding a dog? I should have waited until I had more time, until the coast was clear, until we have a perfect plan and budget and know exactly how it’s going to go.

Of course, you know: the coast is never clear. There’s always something else. It’s never the perfect time. We did it anyway — and after a weekend of profound anxiety, it turns out, it was the right time. We’re still adjusting, opening, stretching our lives to accommodate her, like she is stretching to accommodate us — and here’s an amazing thing. So far this week, I’ve had about a half hour at the blog, and it feels like enough. I wake, do my three morning pages in the notebook, and those feel like enough, too. Then I have time with my dog, this new companion, in and around all of that necessary writing time, and the time is enough. A half-hour has expanded, moved, shifted, opened. I can’t explain it, and I’m grateful.

It’s never the right time, and then again, that might mean that it is. What’s the thing you want, that your character wants, that it’s not the right time for? Write it, ok? Give it 10 minutes this morning.

Thanks for how you let your dreams come through you into reality, how you are the body of dreams, how you live. Thanks for your resilient creative self, and for your words.

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let the body do its work

graffiti of a hand facing out toward the viewer, one finger touching a small skateboard; flowers drawn, tattoos?, at the wristGood morning — wow, is it a Monday. How’s yours going so far?

Here’s a story: Yesterday, I spent a bit of time helping my friend, Alex, get ready to move. I don’t like this part of the story, because I don’t want her to move. She’s giving away a bunch of stuff, and I snagged a small bookshelf, a mug, a bag of things from the fridge, a couple of pet carriers, a cast iron cauldron. Everything fit into the car–snug, but still–and we got it all home. I gave Alex a long hug and said See you later (not Goodbye).

When I was taking the bookshelf out of the backseat, I got a serious splinter deep in the third finger of my right hand. Upstairs, in the house, I fussed over the splinter for a long while — I squeezed at it, got out the tweezers and tried to dig out the wood; the Mr. went and got a needle and tried to pull it out, but that didn’t work either. I soaked it in warm water, then tried everything again, but it was just in too deep. So I went to bed, still with splinter, invader, in my hand. I thought about letting the body do its work.

This morning, when I woke up, the area around the splinter was red and aching; I washed it and cleaned it, then started to do my morning writing. After a bit, I squeezed the splinter, and the wood pushed–easy, slick– out of the wound. My body had already started the process of expelling this foreign object, this invasion, this unwelcome thing. I barely had to do anything, but got the tweezers anyway, and took out the wood.

This feels like a metaphor, in and around the matter-of-facts. I’m thinking about old ways of thinking, behaviors, even trigger responses that are manifestations of this exact physiological response: my body doing what it’s built to do, without any real intervention from me. What happens when I step back, let the body do her work? Trust the body to do her work?

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ETA: Katrina, in her comment to this post, shared the following fantastic quote from Ranier Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet:

“If there is anything morbid in your processes, just remember that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself of foreign matter; so one must just help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and break out with it, for that is its progress. In you, dear mr. kappus, so much is now happening; you must be patient as a sick man and confident as a convalescent; for perhaps you are both. and more: you are the doctor, too, who has to watch over himself. but there are in every illness many days when the doctor can do nothing by wait. and this it is that you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now above all do.”

Yes yes yes.

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Want to use it as a prompt? What invasions have your body, your psyche, encircled in a coating that protects you from them, and prepared to expel? What happens when you or your characters trust your/their bodies?

Take this wherever you want to; follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you thank you, on this Monday morning. Thank you for your youness, your words.