Good morning, good morning. It’s a bright day here, was already when I opened my eyes at 5:30, sun already pushed over the horizon, clouds cleared away, sky preparing to burn. The garden is happy for these bright, warm (even rainy — a miracle) days — but I’m feeling crabby. And not just because my period is several days late.
I am missing the dark these days. I need some hibernation time, a period of incubation — I’d like to write in the cave for awhile. If I wanted to wake into darkness, I’d have to set my alarm for 4:30, or even 4 — which means going to bed early, which makes these workshops that go until 9:30 or so a problem. But the workshops are winding down — and that’s bringing its own sadness.
This week was the last meeting of the most recent Meridian group, my Wednesday morning writing group. Continue reading →
Good morning, good morning. The sun outside is bright egg yolk orange, just over the Oakland hills. How is the morning finding you today?
I have been thinking a lot about success and failure these days. I’ve been caught up quite a lot in comparing myself to others who are more successful, according to our American standards: folks who have high-paying jobs, folks who own houses, folks who are able to travel wherever and whenever they want, folks who have money and access and what I assume is a kind of ease. Do you do this to yourself, too?
Here’s what came of this rumination at this week’s Meridian Writers group on Wednesday morning:
She has failed to grow up and become a successful business person. Continue reading →
Today’s post comes from the Fearless Words writing group — our prompt came from the group itself: how do we get clean?
How do you get clean? You know — inside? How do you begin to release that sense that you are dirty, soiled, smeared with someone else’s stain?
We took about 8 minutes — and this is what came for me (with only small edits):
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Today’s post is brought to you by last Saturday’s Dirty Words Sacramento writing group. For our introductory prompt, I read aloud the C.P. Cavafy poem entitled “Body, Remember,” which begins with the line, “Body, remember not only how much you were loved…”
We had ten minutes. Here’s what came for me:
Body, remember how hard it used to be? Remember the armor we wore and the disappointment? Remember the long hours spread open and aching, trying trying trying for release that wouldn’t come? Remember the tension in knees and thighs, how you hardened against the memory, against the loss? Remember how we worked together, one orgasm at a time, to untether you from your pain? Remember how you wanted something easy, how you imagined that someday sex would leave you not spent and sobbing and sorrowful but delighted and laughing and free? Remember how we thought that was impossible, remember how we thought history, the memory of old hands, unwanted touch, unasked-for experience would always be a skin we lived inside of, something we would have sex through forever? Remember. But in spite of that centering and sorrow, you didn’t quit, body. You always believed we could have something more — or maybe simply something else — sex that didn’t feel like a battleground or a crime scene, sex that instead simply (simply?) felt like connection and opening, power and joy. We are getting there, body, you and I, to a sex that can be free. We stayed on this long road for all these years and never would you let me put sex down, even when I wanted to, remember? And now — now — maybe I am beginning to understand why.
This write is from a Write Whole group last summer — this was an introductory write, designed to get our pens moving and our hands loosened up. The prompt was “Why I write,” and this is what came for me in those 8 minutes. This one took a turn midway through that surprised me, but that’s not at all uncommon during these writes:
I write to put teeth back in it — teeth and knives and nails. I write to find the shape of my fist, the smile of my backhand, I write to find a shape for the violence that has no outlet anywhere else, for the violence that contours throat and belly, for the violence that crafted the trajectory of my whole adulthood. I write to find a container for the rage, trace the edge of the blade.
This is supposed to be gentle and kind. This is supposed to be pacifist and non-violent. The editors and censors and worriers jump in quick — justify yourself, they say. Clean up that mess you’re about to make.
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Again, I’m sharing a prompt and a write from a Fearless Words group meeting. For this exercise, we first wrote for three minutes from each of the following phrases: I remember / I don’t remember / I wish I remembered / I wish I didn’t remember… then we took 8 more minutes to write about anything we wanted.
Here’s what came up for me:
I remember sitting slow on the back porch. I remember there was no back porch. I remember the concrete of the back patio, the smell of the yew hedge that separated the patio from mom’s garden, and how ugly those hedges were. I remember felling lost most of the time, and feeling broken and wanting to be really lost and not knowing how to run away. I remember when I understood I shouldn’t write anything real in my journals because he might read them —
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Another of the prompts we used during the AI writing group I offered for Sade Huron’s class was the classic poem “Where I’m from” by George Ella Lyon. I’ve used this prompt repeatedly (as have many, many other facilitators), and it never fails to bring a new spin on the introductory autobiography — rather than telling simple facts about the who/what/where/when of our histories, we get into sensory detail and metaphor.
We were doing 5-minute writes, and here’s what came up for me:
I’m from echo and hope and worry. Take home that longing. I’m from red brick dust and the smell of old cows and dice and scrub canyon and loss. I’m from cottonwood and gas lamp and Laura Ingalls Wilder, the smell I imagined my grandfather lived in when he was a little boy in a sod house, his bedroom with his parents dug deep into the ground. Stop running, stop running. I’m from cornfield and wheat grass and monarch butterflies kept tight in the moonshine, no, the moon flower, no, the marsh grass, no, the milkweed, and fluttering, hollow and cherry, on the front grill of my father’s 1972 vw bus.
For this write (the second for this week’s Fearless Words group), because we’d been talking about ways we reclaim our bodies, I invited us to write to a prompt from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Two Countries” – Skin had hope. That’s what skin does.
We took about 10 minutes. Here’s what came for me:
I have been looking back at old journals recently, reading the self I was at 29 when my ex-wife and I had just lost a child and I, only five years out of my stepfather’s abuse and control and mental manipulation, was trying to do everything right — mourn right, partner right, be an adult right, study right, show up right. The self that shows up in those old journals is hard to read — she feels self-centered, whiny, repetitive, closed. I get embarrassed for her, for me — my god, did I really sound like that? And then I pull back, remember all she was carrying, all she was grieving, all the healing she hadn’t even begun to be able to consider doing yet. And then I am grateful for that 29-year old self. For showing up, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, one word in front of the other. For continuing to have hope. For continuing to desire, even when she had every single reason in anybody’s logical world to quit desiring and just sit still and stop. She had earned the fucking right to quit, and she didn’t.
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Today’s prompt comes from last month’s Writing the Flood. I used Autumn in New York as the prompt (Ella and Louis can always get something going).
We had about 20 minutes, and this is what I wrote:
My brother-in-law does a great Louis Armstrong. At almost any opportunity, this young Italian guy from Buffalo, NY, will deepen his voice to as froggy as it gets and bets out verses from some song or another — if he were here now, listening to this prompt, he’d be singing along, voice craggy, not making fun, just channeling. But it makes my sister laugh, delighted, and so he keeps on doing it.
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This is another write from our Fearless Words group. For our prompt, we used Pat Schneider’s brief visualization, “In this one you are…” Imagine a photograph, and begin writing by describing the picture, starting with the phrase, “in this one you are…”
We had 8 minutes. This is what I wrote:
In this one you are that wild-haired girl with the square head who drapes herself over a birthday cake, sticking your tongue out, 3 or 4 years old, ready to sink your teeth into your mom’s homemade vanilla frosting and the yellow cake underneath. You were all energy and action and curiosity, such an enormous personality all through your childhood — your father could hardly recognize you when you got back in touch with him at age 21 and called yourself introverted. What? He said. You? And who knows — maybe no one could go through what you did and not land on the other side needing a lot of time a lone to sort out your own thoughts and feelings.
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