do over

graffiti of a sunflower, drawn onto red brickGood morning good morning — how is Tuesday feeling so far? Here the candles are low, flickering and sputtering hard, working hard for the last interweavings of oxygen and wax before losing all fuel.

The tea today is Moroccan mint – nettle/dandelion – cardamom – anise. Bitter with sweet undertones; a good wake-up tea.

We had a fantastic first meeting of the Fall ’11 Write Whole group last night — such powerful writers. I’m excited and grateful to be working with them! I woke up this morning and spent the first part of my writing time doing some reflective writing about the group — I’ve wanted to start a reflective practice after each workshop meeting for more than a year now, so it feels good to have begun that.

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For our second write last night, I filled the center of our writing table with images, asking each writer to choose one or two (I like it when we can notice which images seem to be choosing us) and let themselves imagine what was just about to happen in that picture, what had just happened, or to notice what the image reminded them of. We wrote for 20 minutes.

Here is my write in response — there were a number of images of older women, and older hands, and that was what I was responding to, initially:

There’s a backstory to all these women — I sat in a room yesterday and looked around at all the people smiling and thought, Every one of these women has been hurt. They were singing, all the people, we were in a circle, there was light overhead, how could they be smiling. It’s history. I wanted to know each of their stories, to hear them unfurl. I sat in a roomful of strangers and wanted to understand how it could be taht we could all sit together and be so composed when we were all fragile and braking every second, like humans do.

This writing is coming hard. When we were little we didn’t break glass or windows, we didn’t slam hammers into red Pinto or Nova hoods, we didn’t reach out or hands and scrape angry nails across other kids’ faces, what did we learn to do with our anger? How do you get trained, so successfully, to swallow, so early? How did we learn to disappear our anger?

This isn’t like that. This is another story. My mother has my grandmother’s hands now. I don’t have strong memories of my grandmother’s hands, but they were powdery, soft-skinned, bony — I want those to be tenderer words than they are. My parents are aging, hair long gone white or grey, strong and resistant bodies beginning to slow, and I am still waiting for the do over to begin. I see them and I’m startled. Wait, I think, we’re supposed to go bike riding around Holmes Lake today. We’re supposed to take a ride in the old VW bus out to  see the wild buffalo all caged up at Pioneer Park, we’re supposed to crawl around the statue of the Indian, carved out of red sandstone, stain our hands with the dust of him. When do we get to go back to the time before mom marries that man and he grabs at our hair by the roots and swings us around and unlearns us from our history? Before he shakes out the memories we let tangle on the surface of our skin, before he tells us his hands belong everywhere on us and so we learn that we belong nowhere inside us — when do we get to go back to Before him?

The horror is that I’ve been waiting these years, some awful lonely girlchild bit is sitting at her desk in a quiet classroom, finishing all her homework like a good girl is supposed to — she is from Before, and the room smells like chalk dust and night, like soft-soled teacher shoes and polyester and wood polish, and she is practicing her cursive on a big lined sheet of paper, she is doing her numbers, like her grandma would say, she is reading the part in her social studies book about the founding of America. She is there and doing her work and knows that when everything is done, when the bigger parts can feel and hear and remember everything again, then she will get to go home. She will meet her little sister at the side steps of her school and walk down the  block to the busy street that they have to wait a long time to cross and when they get home, Mommy will be making dinner and Daddy will be taking a nap on the couch. This is the time from Before — she expects to walk into that house and not find strangers there, she expects to walk into that house and have a real lifetime with her parents, she expects to walk into this skin and not find these scars layering out in front of her one-two-three. She will not be happy with what she finds. She is going to want her do over. When is that going to start?

As a prompt for today, you might let yourself get drawn to an image around you (on the front of a magazine? a piece of art in your place? a remembered image from film or tv?) and write about what’s there, or what associations you have with that image. Or you might also write about ‘do over’ — what could happen with that phrase when you copy it into your notebook and just let the associations come? Follow your writing wherever it wants to go.

Thank you for the way you gather, tenderly, all the different parts of you, and how you listen to the parts who want the impossible things. Thank you for your breath today. Thank you for your words.

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