In the Presence of Writers

This fall I took a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard with the legendary, Nancy Aronie, who I have deemed a “Literary Guru”. As a writing teacher she moves fluidly, dancing gracefully through her life, sorrows, pain, and joy in such a way that it invites and inspires her writers to do the same. Nancy has the uncanny ability to create the space that allows each writer to submerge themselves in their memories, dreams, disillusionment, and prayers to evoke words, prose, and stories that made me weep, laugh, and applaud with astonishment and joy. Nancy creates a safe place for each writer to slowly shed their cocoon and emerge into the brightly beautiful butterflies we are constantly struggling to become. She allows us to become the writers we have each longed to become. Every day each person was required to write from one of Nancy’s daily prompts and no one disappointed, although collectively we bemoaned, “what would we say? Could we even write about ‘that’?” “Am I even doing this right?”.

These amazing writers showed up with their humor, their heartbreak, their tragedies and they wove a web of stories that enthralled and entranced everyone within earshot. As the rain steadily pounded the studio’s windows, these unique voices, shared their eloquent prose, poetry and purpose. They told stories that made me feel honored to have sat among the last vestiges of  fall’s, leaf-colored, canopy, in the in bleak ending of November and weep with unabashed abandonment. Tissues were quietly passed from person to person as we heard stories of suffering, and so much sadness that people have endured in their lives and have lived to tell about it. Each testimonial and written word was as individual as the writer but the collective experience of being human beings trying to navigate the morass of our own childhoods, teenage angst, and adult lives made me long to comfort them in some way. The best thing I could do was to sit silently, breathe deeply and bear witness to their incredible stories and then applaud like I was at a rock concert when they were finished.

You could hear a pin drop as each one of us were preparing to read our words, tell our stories and share our hopes and dreams and often revisit the very pain that had brought us there. Each voice was as distinctive as the writer. There was a richness, a catch in their throat honesty and the willingness to endure, that allowed us to be  swept away into their worlds and into their shared moments of dreams, triumphs, successes and sorrow. At the beginning of each class I was sure that we had heard the best writing and then I would be lulled, lead, and laden anew with fresh tears as even deeper stories emerged and these brave souls bared their spirits and shared their lives with such courage, writers who were strangers to me no more.

All writers were funny, raw, theatrical, heartsick, loving, imaginative, vulnerable and unflinchingly truth tellers who sat in a sacred circle and bared their underbellies for the rest of us to see. What I heard was a cacophony of vibrant voices, experiences, and writing styles, but these were WRITERS, true artists. No one else could have told their stories and shared them with 23 strangers with such rawness, profound honesty, honor and grace. Each voice, each piece was an expression of what that writer brought to the group and it could not be duplicated by anyone else. That is what being a writer is about, I suppose. Telling a story that only you know the intimate details of and making us see, feel, and step back into the piece with the same clarity and tangible, tactile feelings that the writer sees in their mind’s eye. It is the ability to draw other people along, to envision your steps, your views and your emotions that makes someone a talented writer and an artist.

As I sat listening, laughing, and languishing in empathy, sympathy, and pain, I realized, this is writing. Each person is responsible for telling their story, their way, with no apologies. Each writer’s words and voice lent itself to the story being told and on some days I wondered how it is that we have all survived. If you’re a writer, you put the pain, sorrow, and longing on the page and you tell your story because invariably the other people reading or listening are sharing in the triumphs and losses, just as your exquisitely chosen words intended to convey. It’s like writing music, the tempo, the melody and the visionary, inextricable placement of each word delivers the listener to another world, another layer, where you are the star and we are the audience, there unseen, unknowing, and unaware of where this beautiful song will lead.

I have been changed by this class and as my favorite quote reminds me, “When I move, Providence moves with me.” Stay tuned as I write about the other revelations that have emerged from this one simple act of stepping out on faith. It turns out, getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and standing in the presence of greatness allowed me to find a bit of my own greatness amidst the crowd of writers that I now call friends.

#writers, #gratitude #inspiring

I Won’t Grow Up!

I swore when I was a kid that I would never be like an adult or worse, like my parents. You know, all-knowing, superior, smarter than..well any kid I knew. Basically an all around, “do what I say, not what I do,” adult. Mostly, I just wanted to stay up late, eat whatever I wanted and talk on the phone with my friends, (yes the ones I saw everyday in school). It’s sad but that was my measure for becoming an adult.

As an adult, you can buy what you want, (Hey Mom, isn’t that $20.00 in your wallet? I thought you said you had no money for my new jeans, that just everyone is wearing?). I certainly was never thinking that the $20. was budgeted for something we needed, not just what I wanted. You can stay up past 11pm, (they don’t tell you that you pay for that by not being focused the next day and your boss wonders if you meant to write the word snail instead of sail). No one can tell an adult what to do. No one, (unless you count your boss, your partner, the law, your kids, your teachers and the nagging voice inside your head that never shuts up). You are free to go where you want, when you want, (except if you have kids, then just the thought of them having to go to a new school sends them into paralysis, shock, and whining about you ruining their lives). You can swear, ok, I still do that. And you don’t have to listen to your parents anymore, (except they are the voice in your head that you will never escape, and I mean NEVER).

Now I am the grownup and damned, (sorry, I had to swear here), if I am not saying at least half of what my parents said to me. I hear their words pouring out of my mouth and I find myself looking around to see if they have snuck into the room to berate or reprimand me or my perfect children. I even find myself, (stay with me now), quoting the very sayings that caused me to roll my eyes in disgust at my parents when I was a kid. Did I realize I just said, “haste makes waste?” I know because my kids are rolling their eyes at me, right now, as we speak.

I don’t blame them, truly I don’t, but I wonder when I lost my ability to throw my cares to the wind and just climb a tree, or slide across the ice, without thinking, (I can’t afford to break my ankle because I have a thousand things to do and it could lead to me walking with a permanent limp), or eating dessert before dinner…just because. Or not taking a bath because I don’t smell dirty, to me.

No, I think I have grown up to be the kind of parent that I had, all-knowing, exhausted from repeating the same thing over and over and wise, (read wise-ass if you’re a kid). I have found myself saying things like, “Your teacher is looking for you to use what you have learned so far, so please, at least capitalize states, and the beginning of sentences, to prove you learned this in second grade”. I never really used Algebra in real life so I don’t know why I am so insistent that my kids learn it now especially given they all have cell phones and Google. My 10-year-old swears that Siri knows everything and “she never lectures”. I think that’s a slam to me because I do find myself lecturing and using way more words than necessary to illustrate a point.

Yup, being a kid means you don’t need to think about the future because the future is only a week away. Essays to your teacher, well what’s the point, they read the same material you did so you don’t need to give them details about a story they already know. Staying up late and watching your favorite shows, playing your favorite games, texting your friends or lobbying for Netflix, now that’s the life of kids today. They don’t even think about climbing a tree unless we lose electricity and they are bored. We never said bored in our house because my mother would hand us the vacuum, (we never said that within ear shot of her again).

I’ve turned into my mother and father and my lectures are the same lectures I hear in my head, daily. It is those voices that my kids will hear and will no doubt relay to their own kids. They will look around and wonder just how they turned out, just like their parents. Unless, and I look around before writing this, they break the mold and live the life they dreamed about as a kid. Being a pirate, or a professional baseball player, or an artist may just be the ticket to ending that vociferous and odious voice that preaches what they should do and they go off and do what they want to do, when they want to do it, just like an adult.

#Iwon’tgrowup #not like my parents

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

I think sometimes I am so caught up in my day to day grind that I forget what is happening around me. I complain because a class is cancelled or a check didn’t arrive on time or the damn squirrels are eating all the food out of my bird feeder…and then I am sharply reminded about real pain and suffering.

When someone I love is in unbearable pain, suffering in some way, my hear shatters with and for them. Recently a friend of mine was caught in the quagmire of grief and angst and there was nothing to be done about it. It was not pain of her own choosing but someone she loves more than anything. Her sorrow and palpable grief tore my soul asunder. I could do nothing to assuage her heartbreak, nothing but sit in the shadow of her hurt and to be present and bear witness.

Like falling down the rabbit hole, everyone who loves her is swept away in the torrent of her unspeakable, unshakable, unbearable agony. Down, down we all fall, tethered to her as she tumbles further into the abyss. All that can be done, is to fall silently, supportively, and soulfully into the darkness with her so that she isn’t left alone.

I know that I can’t heal or spare her this wrenching horror. I also know that by sitting in the stillness, the injustice, and sadness, I pray I am helping. It works against my nature to not be able to offer some solace or a game plan to ease her pain. Instead it is in the steadiness and assuredness, and the uncomfortableness, that I can show her my love, my loyalty, and my faith.

I try to remember and to focus on, all I can do is show up and pray that the waters will calm and she will commence sailing on smooth waters once again. Until then, I will weep, hug, laugh, and pray with every fiber of my being that she be free from this immense misery and that there will be a profound and magically lesson learned, after this tragic storm.

#friendship #sorrow

Cabin Fever

Usually I write when things are crazy. It’s how I cope but with the endless snow and the kids being home more than in school for the month of February, I’m exhausted. As if the snow days weren’t enough, we are coming to the end of February vacation and though I love my sons and would rather spend time with them more than anyone else on the planet, I can’t wait for them to go back to school. To get back to some sort of routine; theirs, and mine.

The snow is higher than my windows and I admit, I may be suffering from cabin fever. Oh sure, I’ve been out and about and working super hard but the white, whiteness of the snow is getting to me. Everywhere my eyes can see, there are mounds and mounds of snow too tall to throw snow on top anymore. Shards of ice dangle precariously from everyone’s house, and businesses, and the lakes and oceans are coated with huge chunks of floating, frozen, frigid white ice, far and wide.

I crave colors, green grass, the smell of fresh flowers, the warmth of the sun, and the water cascading over my head as I wade out to swim in the ocean. This is beginning to sound more like a plea for help or a message in a bottle from some foreign land. I’d laugh but I’m afraid it might sound a bit maniacal.

So hopefully, March will roar in like a lion and I know everyone here on the east coast will dance with fevered merriment and joy when the temperatures hit 50 and the only sounds we hear are the drip drop of snow melting, melting, melting. And our lives return to some semblance of order. I will end by sending the final snow photos for 2015 and hope that the next thing I write will be more optimistic and this winter will be something I talk about with nostalgia and not while gritting my teeth, my white teeth. I know, I’ve gone too far.

The freezing ocean
The freezing ocean
Dock frosting
Dock frosting

IMG_5975

 

 

#endless snow #cabin fever

Blizzard of 2015!

It was a lovely Monday morning that suddenly, and with much expected, pomp and circumstance, the day had morphed into “The Blizzard of 2015!” Panic arrived at the grocery store, the Packie, (New England for liquor store), and tempers mounted at the gas stations, as hearty New Englanders jocked and braced for 2-3 feet of snow, depending on where you live. It is no surprise, I live where 3 feet of expected snow raged and fell heartily and steadily for two days and two nights.

If you live in New England, as they old saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.” It did change with the fury of 1000 winds, as snowflakes danced determinedly, gracefully, purposefully, and endlessly to the startlingly white covered ground. Even knowing the snow was coming, it arrived at an alarmingly fast pace; relentlessly, dramatically and unceasingly, until bedtime last night.

My sons declared it the “best snowfall, ever,” well at least for now. They suited up and as surely as New Englanders know the weather will change, we also know that we must also buckle up and get about the cleaning up after surviving the storm. Be it, hurricanes, wind gale seas, flooding, or snowing, we must get our outer gear on and start to shoveling, period. My sons made me proud and we tackled the Blizzard of 2015, with zeal, delight, and vigor, shoveling our way out of the storm, sort of , mostly just to the street where the plows pushed it back on the driveway. But hey, that’s still progress. We can know see the street.

What could be the reward for working so hard, you ask? Well if your 9 and 12-year-old boys; white and milk chocolate chip pancakes. Yum, and they did shovel for two hours, well what is a mother to do? I sat back, ate an omelette (just looking at the pancakes hurt my teeth). Indeed eggs and coffee may just pull me through the next few days, as school was canceled for another day. Can’t say as I blame them, it’s a blizzard out there, haven’t you heard?

Yup, the Blizzard of 2015, (so far), has come and gone. I’d say we should just continue to count our blessings for being warm, safe, fed, shoveled out, and loved. 

The door opens, snow has arrived.
The door opens, snow has arrived.
Shoveling begins at the door.
Shoveling begins at the door.
The Blizzard rages on.
The Blizzard rages on.
Neither sleet nor rain.
Neither sleet nor rain.
Marshmallow snow mounds.
Marshmallow  fluff snow mounds.
Just Rewards.
Just Rewards.