Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Space Which the Clouds At Last Uncover

Sometimes in the kitchen, when I’m procrastinating heavily by throwing myself full fledged into some new recipe and homemade muffins, I get severely frustrated that I can’t call Cynthia and ask her a cooking question or just brag about a successful new concoction.  Frustrated. That’s a strange word for the feeling of not being able to talk to someone who died two years ago this month. It seems inadequate, but also somehow correct. I’m frustrated. Not angry. Not depressed. Not even sad, really. She had suffered so much at the end that her leaving came as a relief to me in some ways, if only in that she wasn’t suffering any longer.

So, I stand in the kitchen and miss her. (This picture is one of my favorites. She loved the making, the tasting, the creating, and the pure unspoiled art of cooking.) The miss I have is a simple feeling, not convoluted as it was in the beginning after she had died—full of guilt, anger, confusion—but a very bare, clear, and stripped down missing of something that was essential to my growing up, to how I live in the world; her constant powerful presence.

Of course, I’ve written many poems about her, even some about her death, including, “Cower,” because that’s what you do if you’re a writer. We deal with our personal tragedies in the great open of the universe as if it will help. It does help. At least, it does help me. When you write about someone you miss, sometimes it feels like writing a letter, as if you’re really saying something to the person. It’s a very unique satisfaction. I suppose I’m doing that now: writing something for her sake.

So much of what I experienced around her death made me bolder, braver, and more willing to accept risk. How she would have liked to know that her painful leaving, made me seek a more joyful life. Oh death. It has to be good for something, doesn't it?


I didn’t write as many letters as I wanted this month. Though I sent eleven or so homemade Valentine’s Day cards. I think that counts for something. I wrote some little notes for poems and have almost, almost, started on my rewrite.

The running (I laugh that it’s not really running, it’s walking with a sweet steady hop) and hiking continues and my brain is doing just dandy.  I feel a sort of slow pull back into the writing world and perhaps more of a balance will come—of the physical and the intellectual—half “chair time,” half “out there” time. 

As March comes closer, I start a big reading tour with Adam Clay and Michael Robins. Look for dates here. And I also will turn one year older, one little inkling better.  And still, I clumsily work toward clarity and truth and realness and laughter and love.  What was it that Virginia Woolf said in, To the Lighthouse,
 “Something clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover—a little space of sky which sleeps beside the moon.”

Yes. Yes that. "Something clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Where All the Ladders Start

Our return to the West Coast has proven to be much-needed and all the bay laurel and oaks are shaking our hands on the hillsides. I've been running up hills and making soup and writing a few things here and there. We're looking after our favorite dogs and every day is some sort of small return toward a glorious beastie nature. Being home for me is always filled with strong emotions: a sort of powerful homesickness that makes me want to move back here full-time immediately, and another feeling of an energizing vibrancy, a sort of plugging into an old rooted power source and seeing where it might send you next. 

The novel is starting to open again to me. My feedback is coming in and, with some encouraging words from friends and readers, I am BEGINNING to get excited about heading back in to that world. I want to make this a really good book. As long as that takes: months or years. So, soon I'll start the largest of all the rewrites. Soon. Maybe this week. Maybe even today. We shall see.

Meanwhile, on the mountain, the weather turned all drizzle and cool yesterday afternoon. On a walk with the dogs, I was inspired by all the green. 

Some sneaky wild flowers are already coming up. I tried to write a poem about it yesterday. It was awful. So I made a fire, and tea, and read other people's poems instead. The green of the day made me want to make a soup the same color as the earth. 

Today, I write letters and try to finish that failed poem from yesterday. Maybe some afternoon wine tasting? Doesn't that sound like a good vacation plan? My brother has started a new wine blog which is wonderful. Check it out over here: Solo Syrah . Also, my dear girl Trish Harnetiaux has started a new project with her man Jacob Ware, over here: Steel Drum in Space. Their film, "You Should Be a Better Friend," just one a silver at the Spokane Film Festival. Also, today, you can find me over here talking about my writing space: Aggaspletch.  Also, I have a new poem coming out in Zzyzyva soon, which I'm very thrilled about.  

Tomorrow, is one of my favorite days of the year. It's also my mother's birthday. I went to her painting studio downtown and made some cards. I have yet to send them. I'm so late with my correspondence, but my heart is not late. My heart is in the right space and time. And it is sending you so much love for the year, so much love for your life. 

Now, "I must lie down where all the ladders start/in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart." Today, I will try to follow Yeats's advice and be satisfied with the heart

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Look, How February Comes

I like beginnings. I like the idea that we're starting again. New projects. New lists of things to accomplish. New. New. New. Month number two!

In my last post, I mentioned that I was doing nothing aside from cooking, cleaning, organizing, some writing, and lots of physical activity. After that post, someone on twitter was very amusing and said something to the tune of, "I wish I could do nothing #havebills." And I realized that it might seem to some that I was simply wasting my time away, while most Americans are working harder than ever to keep their jobs or find new jobs.

I do work. I freelance. So the work comes and goes. And yes, I have bills too. And student loans, and all sorts of things that can keep me up at night. There was a time that the very existence of my student loans (which I pay monthly and on time), would send me into a deep paralyzing fear that only too many drinks or too many tears could fix. For some time, I worked very hard at wonderfully intense jobs that I loved, but also stressed too much about, because I was terrified of being a starving artist. I also didn't value my time as an artist as much as I do now. 

If I spent all day writing, I could easily to say to someone at the office, "Oh it was a quiet weekend, I didn't really do much." But in reality, I was constantly honing a skill. Not a skill that will make me money, but a skill that will help me survive. That skill was learning to VALUE my own time. 

And I do. It's taken me 35 years to discover that my time spent writing, reading, researching, staring, walking, laughing with friends, cooking, all those things that bring me closer to life is very valuable time. What isn't valuable is the worrying, stressing, or complaining that I am so easily prone to, if given the right set of circumstances. 

Some of my favorite times working with magazines or ad agencies are always the times where everyone comes together and takes a moment to be at ease, and acknowledges the stress, and suddenly the energy gets very creative; creative and alive. Those moments make me love the work, make me miss the buzz of NYC, make me miss the office of great minds, oh so very much. My friend Katie and I liked to end meetings like that with "Tada!" 

Now, I have to make those moments myself. I fixed my website today. Updated my readings. Made a few changes on a draft of something. Sent some invoices. Ran the farthest I have so far. Sent a guest post to a fellow writer. And there's much more to do. But at the end of the day, I can only say, "Tada!" to myself. And so I do. TADA! 

As life slows down before our California trip next week, my friend mentioned that she was going to take on this challenge of writing letters. I think I might join her. When you're out in the boonies, sometimes you need to send papery, glittery flares up and out into the world. So, don't be surprised if you get one from me. I like the way we appreciate real mail, the time it takes, the joy of the handwritten scrawl. So, in February I will add a few more things to my list: continue to write more, value the time spent writing (even if it's only for the joy of it, even if it's only a letter), and say, "Tada!" as often as possible.