The birds are already awake this morning before I get to the keyboard. I had a whole plan for last night — celebration at the final meeting of this fall’s Fearless Words group, hustle home, and head out to Brothers & Sisters to dance hard enough to find my gratitude, to sweat out the toxins, to touch and grab hold of my joy. But when I made it home I was just too tired to go back out into the world; several nights of not enough sleep finally caught up with me. And how could I drive through or around the protests in downtown Oakland in order to go dancing of all things. It felt like crossing a picket line. So instead I obsessively updated my twitter feed, trying to follow what was happening, and ended up crashing on the couch. Not exactly the celebratory evening I’d had in mind, but this 42 year old body doesn’t rally the way it did when I was 22, even though I don’t like dancing any less now — it’s still one of the very small handful of healing practices that have kept me going.
Today I am thinking about the complexity of gratitude. All over America, we’re supposed to be grateful today — we have a national holiday set aside to be thankful for all that we have. It’s meant to be a time for gathering with family, connecting with our beloveds — no one is supposed to be alone on family (even if they’d prefer to be). Meanwhile, we are surrounded by advertisements for so-called Black Friday sales, enticing us into believing that we do not have enough, that we need to buy more, proving the lie of this day of gratitude practice, at least culturally. On this day when we’re supposed to be jubilantly grateful for home and hearth, kith and kin, we have a nation rising up in grief and rage. Many, many people will not be safe today with the people who are supposed to be their safest havens — many of us will grieve the families we ought to have had, the safe hands and hearts we ought to have been surrounded by. This is the beginning of the most complicated time of the year for so many of us.
There’s a poem I like to hand out every November — if you’re in a workshop with me, you’ve probably seen it. It’s W.S. Merwin’s “Thanks,” written in 1927, and it goes like this: Continue reading
Good morning, good morning. The winds have picked up everything and hidden it around the lawn — the planting containers, the seed packets, the gardening gloves, the puppy’s ball. These hot winds always confuse me — I’m still getting accustomed to the Santa Anas.
We are having a sick day today here at Writing Ourselves Whole, but before I tuck myself back onto the couch with a cup of tea, I wanted to offer you a poem:
– Diana García
Today’s post got eaten up by a need to be intensely, gloriously domestic today (drive a boy to school for the first time, take a sweetheart to the doctor, run errands, get some plants in the garden, and more) — so, in light of this rain day we’re having in Oakland, I offer you this instead. May it inspire your own soaked and lovely words this weekend…
– Kazim Ali
With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.
Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.
My hands are covered with dirt, and my laptop is dusted with flour. These are good signs, I think.
A poem I love for this second Friday of WriOursWhoMo. Consider using that last line as a prompt…
Another poem today, in honor of National Poetry Month — what do you (or your characters) know about survivor’s guilt? How do you respond to the final line of the piece? Consider using this as a prompt — take twenty minutes, and follow the words wherever they seem to want you to go.
How I’ve changed may not be apparent.
(all of the intersections in and around Boston are dangerous!)
Good morning, writers! Outside my window right now, construction workers are jackhammering pavement. The birds have all gone silent, with or some other, more difficult emotion, maybe. The city is all city sounds right now.
How is WriOursWhoMo treating you so far? How are you honoring the intersections within you: the intersections of trauma and song, the intersections of longing and loss, the intersections of aftermath and resilience?
Good morning, good morning, writers.
Today I am hectic and rushing around. I want to give you something thoughtful and deep, but the puppy is calling for my attention, and the more I try to type, the more she bumps my elbow trying to get me to get up and take her out into the rain and play ball. So what I have for this second day of WriOursWhoMo is a poem and a prompt:
Good morning to you, over there. Are you warm enough? Keep that scarf on — don’t catch a chill.
I’m thinking about the people I love who are in the Northeast, who are in the middle of winter already, who have been without power, who are well under this new snow. I’m remembering why I left, and I’m nostalgic for the chill of it, the work of living there, how strong I felt, bundling up against the cold, digging out, stirring the coals in the woodstove and blazing it up each morning when I came down into the kitchen — add paper and kindling, then one log, then three, get it really going. Then I’d pour my coffee, settle at the kitchen table, write into the daybreak. No power meant no electric heat or gas, I don’t think, because those were electric-powered. Maybe the gas heaters would work, but we couldn’t use the fan to spread the warmth around (not that the fans worked all that well, anyway). Not living there anymore, I’m left with the romance of my memory, chapped cheeks, sharp and bright red, coming in to work at Stone Soup or Family Crisis, how I was bundled in a plaid barn jacket and boots, hair shorn, smiling at everyone in our shared burden of cold and ice and snow. I forget the deep depression I fell into every winter, the seasonal affect business, how the cold got into my bones and wouldn’t leave, how I felt I couldn’t get warm, not ever. That part I don’t miss, I don’t even let myself remember. I miss the deep dark of rural Maine, and, too, the way the night spread itself bright through the woods when the ground was covered with snow, how I stood at my bedroom window on full-moon nights and the backyard was as light as midday with the reflection back up from the sparkling, ice-coated white.
Be safe over there, friends. Send me some snowflakes.
Good Monday to you (morning or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are!).
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(click on the image to check out Jo Bell's other photos)
It’s the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and National Poetry Month. How are you marking this time?
Today I got up and did my morning pages, and now I’m going to go do some stretches and yoga before I have to get ready to catch the bus.