December, December…

Yes, I am on the couch trying desperately not to come down with a full-blown cold.  Yes, I could be addressing Christmas/Holiday cards.  You’ll get yours.  Keep your shirt on.  Right now, I have wreaths and a garland on the outside of my front doors.  That’s it by way of Christmas decor, so far.  Oh, wait.  I am drinking my coffee these days out of Christmas mugs, so I’ve got that going for me.

Now, maybe you’ll think it’s because I am a superb procrastinator.  Maybe you’ll think I just like taking baby steps when it comes to holiday stuff.  Maybe you think it’s just me being out of step, as usual.  You can think what you like.  I prefer to think I’m just “old school.” Do sit down, and I’ll explain.

We are currently in the season of Advent.  Advent is supposed to be a quiet time; a time of anticipation.  I thrilled on Sunday morning when, during the Children’s Sermon, the pastor asked the children to be as quiet as they could, to illustrate one of the ways we get ready for Christmas.  The whole church was still.  Everyone was silent.  I don’t even recall hearing traffic outside, or the heat kicking on, or any sound at all, until one small boy whispered, “I can’t take it anymore,” which, naturally, brought the house down. Continue reading

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Dreams and Whatnot

Hello, blogosphere.  Sorry for the extended absence.  There hasn’t been much of a response to my virtual writing workshop, but I am hopeful that some folks are just waiting to see what the final proposal will look like.  I myself am waiting to see what Diaspora will look like, so, here we are.

When last I left you, I was preparing to send my only child off to college.  She seems to be faring well – the usual adjustment bumps and bruises.  I wish I could say the same for yours truly.  Honestly, I wish I could say anything for yours truly with some degree of certainty, but I cannot.  I have managed to keep myself extremely busy, and when I’m not busy, I’m sleeping.  Uh-oh.  I expressed this whack-a-doodle state of affairs to a good friend and fellow writer yesterday, and her advice to me was, “Take some time.  Sit with this, and just let yourself feel what you feel.”  Of course!  Insert smack to the forehead here.  I confessed to her that I see the wisdom of such a course of action, and probably just needed somebody to tell me to take it!

As  poet Jennifer K. Sweeney and I explored in an interview I did of her a few years ago [Main Street Rag, Spring 2007], a poet doesn’t so much “move on” from painful things as “move through” them.*  Frankly, we often move through them when the rest of you cannot bear to do so, and we do it because you cannot bear to do so.   We hew the rough underbrush of the path, and hope that you will follow because we know you will feel better if you do.  We know so because we feel better for having cut the trail; and, we are also readers, so we also feel better when we follow a painful path that someone else mapped first.  Such knowledge of this process, however, did not help me see that I was running away from my own feelings about this personal milestone.  It took someone else articulating it to make me realize what I was (am) doing.

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Begin doing …

I just saw a quote from Walt Disney on a friend’s Facebook page: The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

So much wisdom is so simple.  Simple, but not easy.  My last post here was over 2 months ago!  That sounds so much longer than it seems to me; so much has happened in those 2 months, that chunk of past time is like a blur.  The “doing” part of my life has had very little to “do” with writing, and more to do with being a parent helping a daughter prepare for college.  Her departure is now just a little over a week away.

Not surprisingly, my focus has begun to shift back to writing, to the “plan” for achieving “the goals” I have set for myself.  Certainly, step 1 is to “begin doing.”

To that end, I am considering launching a new site, and it’s an endeavor that has been over ten years in the making.  Let me explain how a new site might help me (and you) begin doing …

I happen to live in an area that is rife with writers.  These writers are not only talented, but are generous with their time, their insights, and their knowledge.  As one of these talented writers once said to me, “None of us do this work alone.”  When I first realized what a wealth of talent and resources existed around me, I began to explore the idea of what I labeled a “Writers’ Energy Exchange.”

In my mind’s eye, it was a physical location where writers could meet informally to work and to assist one another.  Most of us have trusted groups to which we belong, and to whom we can take drafts of poems or whatever we are writing and get some good feedback.  My two poetry groups have been essential for me in my work.  However, I have always thought it would be great to have that kind of feedback on a more spontaneous basis.  “Workshopping” someone else’s stuff is such a two-way street:  when I am given the opportunity to review someone else’s work, even in draft form, invariably I am inspired to work harder and better.

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Ready or Not. Ready is Better.

I am preparing to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from high school tomorrow (read: I am a wreck).  Tensions are high.  Reflections are many.  Conversations are, well, just strange.  The destination is the tearful and sloppy “We’re proud of you … we love you … thank you” that we will experience tomorrow.  The journey is not as simple.

I was thinking this morning about how this graduation is a shared milestone; then, I realized that phrase is redundant.  All milestones are shared.  We have instinctively known and celebrated that fact since ancient times.  Rites of passage are for the individual.  Rites of passage are for the family.  Rites of passage are for the community.  With every major rite of passage, there are minor ones that are associated.  In this case, the graduate is entering a new phase of life; the parents are entering a new phase of life; the community is receiving its new members. It’s like tilling the soil between the dying of a crop and the next planting; and tilling is hard work.

One thing I have learned in my own experience is that if a rite of passage is not fully embraced and celebrated, if it is not done right, sputtering and stumbling follow.  The individual, the family and the community will embrace and celebrate the rite differently.  Somehow, I alternate between feeling prepared and feeling ambushed.  It isn’t like I didn’t know this was coming.  I am filled with the fear that I’m not doing this right. And there is the mother’s mantra.

As I type this post, Tracy Chapman sings in the background, “I’m ready. I’m ready/I’m ready to let the/ rivers wash over me.”  It’s from a playlist my daughter created.  Okay, then.  I’m ready too.  That doesn’t mean I can or will be “together” tomorrow (I am praying for at least a scintilla of dignity, however!).  It just means in the midst of our tears, there will be release and celebration. And indescribable joy.  It’s time to plant.  Or go with the flow.  Pick your analogy.  It’s time for all of us to move.  You too.

I can say I have done my best.  I can also say my best wasn’t very good all the time.  Where I have failed, she has shined.  Where I have failed, she will forgive.  Where I have failed, I have also loved.  Always. Continue reading

I Still Owe You …

I will get you your three poems that I owe you from April.  Not today, though.

I did want to take a moment and mention the reading in which I participated on Sunday at Flyleaf Books over in Chapel Hill.  What a great space and a friendly staff!  And what fun (and an honor) for me to be able to be a stand-in and read the part of The Reporter in the staging of Pat Riviere-Seel’s The Serial Killer’s Daughter.  This chapbook is the recipient of the Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

I was intrigued by this work since  I am currently working on an historical novel.  Pat’s chapbook could be described as historical poetry; it is a work of the imagination that has its roots in a true event.  I invite you to visit Pat’s website for more information.

Anyway, my fellow cast members consisted of Pat herself, who played the part of Velma Barfield (the serial killer), Terri Wolfe, who played The Daughter, and Richard Allen Taylor who played multiple male voice roles.

North Carolina residents:  If you have an opportunity to see this production (and there are more such readings planned), do go.  You won’t be sorry.