Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

saying 'goodbye' to 2015

In just a few short days, it will be 2016 and this makes me a little sad.

For 32 years, I was one to look forward. There were parties and intimate moments to ring in the New Year, there were reasons to say ‘goodbye” and times where it was nice to hold someone’s hand. And it was never really about the passing of time on a calendar, but it was about having an optimistic outlook, starting another year on a fresh foot, and setting goals that would bring out the best, possible version of yourself. It was as though by honoring the New Year’s tradition a “free pass” was granted for all the shortcomings, mistakes, and things given up on too easily. “Look forward and try to not make the same mistakes again,” was the message. All in good faith and tidings, I’m sure.

Charleston, SC 2014
However, over the last couple years I have noticed something very different about my attitude in regards to celebrations. As time has gone on, life has becomes richer and fuller to me, and it no longer feels that I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes (a series of starts and stops, turning around and going the other way), but that the narrative is in fact, seamless and interconnected and filled with purpose. My experiences are not separate incidences from my mistakes, my beliefs are not separate from my fears, and what I can offer others is not separate from any other part of me. This lesson has had such a profound impact on me, I can’t remember any other time in my life where I’ve felt so immersed in the present. 

Too many years I wanted something else for myself and in turn felt a lot of pressure in not being quite good enough. Even the years that by all accounts were successful, to me it always felt as though I could’ve done better. Not that we shouldn’t always be striving to be better people all around, what I think people do forget sometimes is to take the time to slow down and appreciate what we do have.

When I look around me, I see a home filled with love. I see a place brought to life by people who wanted to create something special. Where I am now, is a place I couldn’t have dreamed or imagined, even just a year ago. And every day, I say to myself, how could this possibly get better? If anything, I worry that someday I might lose this, and should that happen I don’t want to ever think that it was never enough—that there was a time I couldn’t wait for these years to pass… No, I will savor this year, like I hope to each and every following year. I will resume cherishing these days, until my cup runneth over.

our first garden, 2015
Reid State Park, ME christmas day stroll
photo credit: Dave Cleaveland

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

reflections.




collage.

Recently, while working with a student, I rediscovered the cathartic pleasure of collage. As a kid, I used to love cutting up old magazines and arranging people, places, and things into a narrative of my own making. Unfortunately, somewhere in adolescence I grew out of this medium, because it seemed childish and a waste of time. But sitting in on a student's art workshop just last week, brought back so many fond memories--of many quiet hours being in my own head, breathing life into some of my dreams and the complexities of the imagination. It was inspiring enough to want to make time for forgotten pastimes. So, I dug out some vintage postcards I've collected over the years and finally found a use for them. 



Sunday, December 13, 2015

If you Google the question, “What is the meaning of life?” The first query entry that comes up is an Albert Camus quote: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” 

Thanks, Google! I get it. 

Initially, I googled this question for a laugh in spite of my growing cynicism about what is happening in the world these days. Maybe, I was just looking for a dose of fortune cookie wisdom to elevate my spirits, which have been steadily deflating over the last month or so. Trying to stay focused on the positive, is all well and good, but at what point do you begin to question all ideology and life principles?

Having a “spiritual crisis” some call it, but I would say it’s more like relearning the map you were given as a child. In times like these, I can only wish to return to that unadulterated place, where my heart and gut were my best guides.

You see, a healthy child comes into the world trusting with a pure heart and curiosity, learns through experience and exposure, how to navigate and cope with life. Neurologically they develop a built-in system to respond with their natural instincts. The child, if fortunate enough not to experience any trauma during their early development years, possesses an untainted sense of themselves in the world and hopefully the confidence that they have nothing to worry about—that they are safe and all their needs will be met.

As that child grows older, they learn what we as adults refer to as, “reality”, which is really a matter of perspective, as no one’s reality is the same. Some people can relate to one another for having similar experiences, but what they choose to take away and believe in is unique to the individual. Reality is the meaning one assigns to experiences as a maturing individual and the rationalizations they use to justify the decisions they make.

Life is riddled with dilemmas and challenges. But where there are quandaries, there are also lessons. And if you aren’t asking questions every time you reach an impasse, then have you really been learning anything at all?

I’m not one to assume I have it figured out. Though, in recent weeks, my beliefs have certainly been tested, and I’ve felt a whole series of mixed emotions. What I thought might be true, has since been replaced with a giant question mark. And I wonder, where do I look for answers, now? With medical professionals? (But what if I don’t trust they have my best interest in mind?) With God? (But what if I’m unsure if I believe?) With family and friends? (But what if this is a burden I do not wish upon anyone?)

There will also, always be things beyond my understanding and a simple explanation. No matter how much I educate myself, record my findings, share my feelings, and throw myself into life, there will still be unanswered questions I must learn to live with. 

I want to have the faith and fortitude that these converging life experiences will eventually come into a clearer focus and reveal their purpose, in due time. Because when I really dig into it,  it’s just too damn, scary and sad to think there is nothing more to life than biology. 


Sunday, November 22, 2015

being thankful

A couple weeks ago, I experienced a series of health scares that had me spending more time than I would’ve liked at the hospital and in doctors’ offices. Not only were these experiences alone, very troubling, I for years have had a phobia of seeking medical attention. Quite frankly, I have a difficult time trusting medical professionals (for a laundry list of reasons).

Anyway, the long and short of this little anecdote is that after a bunch of neurological tests, I was simply told that they don’t know why my body has been acting the way it has and they would like to continue to monitor my brain’s behavior in the future. Basically, they told me, “Who the hell knows what’s going on in there.”   

On lighter occasions, I probably would’ve agreed with them, but in this particular situation I wanted answers. I also wanted solutions. Instead, I left the hospital after an emergency MRI disheartened, annoyed, and feeling a little sorry for myself. That was until I came home and saw the news.

See, at the time, when I was stuck in that claustrophobic, little tube listening to Chopin blasting intermittently between the awful, knocking sounds of the machine (it sounds like you are in a coffin and someone is forcefully hammering each nail in), there were people dying in Paris (and yes, other parts of the world). Of course, I wasn’t aware of this in the moment, but when I got home and heard the news, I immediately felt this terrible sadness come over me and my focus shifted—it was no longer about me, my pain was redirected, not just toward the victims of these heinous acts, but for humanity as a whole, my heart was breaking.

In the past, I’ve been hesitant to jump on any propaganda regarding what is happening in the world, since just thinking about the situations of others, is enough to make my head spin. It’s overwhelming to think about all the tragedy and pain others are suffering (even in our back yards) and to feel utter hopelessness. And that by having association to the “Western World”, as a middle-class, Caucasian, I am ashamed to be grouped in as an entitled American who turns “causes” into hashtags and Facebook feeds, while sitting safely and comfortably in my home, saying how terrible it is that there are people who have it worse off than we do, and that something really needs to change.

 I’ve had these questions: How do you become the change you want to see? What do you really have control over? (If personal choices, to an extent.) How can you promote peace in your community? How can you make loving your “brothers” and “sisters” from all backgrounds and walks of life, a contagious mentality? How do you foster healthy and communal relationships with your friends and family, your neighbors and acquaintances? How do you learn to trust, instead of live in fear? How do you learn to help, instead of fight? How do you learn to share and inspire, instead of take and consume?

The holiday called Thanksgiving has its own troubling history. Early-European settlers came to America and slaughtered an estimated 80-90% of the indigenous population who lived here. But when the seasons turned brutal and the settlers were having trouble getting by, it was an indigenous population who lent hands as teachers and guides, supposedly sharing survival secrets and a table with the settlers. And what did those colonizers share with the natives? Guns and disease.

When I learned the sanitized version of this story in grade school, I wanted to believe that “pilgrims” broke bread with “Indians” in the name of peace. Later, when I learned about my own native heritage, and the reality of the massacres and genocide that occurred (and still occur all over the world, today) in the name of religion, I felt this despondency toward humankind. And sadly, my view of the world became increasingly more cynical as I got older and learned more about the ways of the world.

So, why all this long-winded rant? I know, a lot of build-up to the bottom line.

I’ve decided this year, I’m going to make another small change in what I choose to believe and what I choose to practice.  Usually, I see Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on what I am thankful for, which is typically a self-serving meditation. However, this year I would like to instead thank the people in my life who have taught me something about being a better person. I would like to acknowledge those people, because they have influenced me in some shape or form, by doing something that mattered. And because I want to believe if we as a culture, a society, a world, spent more time acknowledging others and telling them they matter, and less time acquiring what we  think we “deserve”, more of the “for the better good” attitude would be inspired all around.


So, here’s a challenge for you, my reader. Take the time this week to acknowledge others. Whether it is by sending out a bunch of ‘thank you’ cards and emails, or by simply telling someone ‘thank you’. Tell them specifically why you want to thank them, or just say, “Thank you, for being you.” Show these people they matter to you. And if you are really feeling good, tell a perfect stranger they matter. 

Let’s see what happens!
by jef aerosol, www.signforpeace.org

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It’s a scary time. Mass killings, violence all over the world, hate crimes, the abuse of power, greed, discrimination. How could any human being ever feel safe in this day in age? 

And the real kicker is that we created this—this is chaos and catastrophe of our own design. Years and generations of competing for resources, “progress” and territorial rights. Warring for control disguised as “civil liberties” and “freedom”.

Join the cause, they say. Jump on board, and support the democratic vision. But turn a blind eye and ignore the fact that you are part of a system that continues to fail its people.

I fear for the future of humanity. I fear that we have no place that is sacred anymore—churches, schools, places of leisure, like parks and theaters; they are as susceptible to violence, as any.

We don’t get to choose where we are born, but there was a time when I actually subscribed to believing we had a choice when it comes to other areas of how we live our lives.  Unfortunately, I have lost that belief. 

Because no matter how conscientious a person tries be, no matter how honest and sincere they are in their actions and how they treat others, there is no absolute protection for them. Every day they walk out the door, there is a risk involved, outside their control. They can pray and put faith in a God. But whose mercy are they really at? Being so vulnerable, anywhere they choose to be in the world.


Friday, November 6, 2015

whorl.






















Sitting in the dark, listening to the trees and the deer feed,
there’s a moon out there somewhere…………..
in a place we cannot see—
past the traffic and the rain + optical lights,
the drunken lessons of the day and
the sex that makes us feel diecious
and sometimes foreign,
like pistachios and persimmons.

There’s always been smoke to soothe the
        crudely-imagined soul—
the ever-misguided,-misplaced, -misinterpreted.
Somewhere out there,
there’s a lot we just don’t know.
So, our eyes keep seeking and
        our hearts still yearn,
in that forgiving copse we call solidarity.

But what of the purest form? I want to ask,
“Is it bird prints on beaches, writing out their wills for the world
in cuneiform?”
We must listen closer, my friend,
to what we’re missing—

it whirls on like a whorl.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

how deep does it go?

“What if I opened my soul to sing to my absolute self…” – Allen Ginsburg, 1966

The problem with being a writer who balks at writing about one’s self—okay, let me rephrase that:  Why do I struggle so profoundly with writing about anything identifiable? Here I am, always agonizing over writing something true, and yet I know that I am just not that interesting.

Of course, I try to avoid obvious conventionalism, and I typically don’t subscribe to any norms or trends that could possibly threaten my individualism. Most of the time I’d say I am elusive, even to myself, and have a tendency to fall into bouts of mania and depression—with extreme highs and lows. And yet, I would never suggest that a little bit a crazy makes me interesting in any way, or at least interesting enough to write about. Many lives I have already lived, though I know I crave more and that there is more, and there will always be.

But where else does a story come from other than from within? So much of creativity is the internalized experience, translated to a person’s sense of the world in which they live. “Why don’t you just make things up?” some suggest, when I get into a funk, looking at the bigger picture. How deep would that really let me go? I wonder. And then, Would I have to live with being a fabrication, another illusion, and a coward for not getting at the heart of it all?

I don’t want to be a person who just fills up space with more nonsense, or another one spinning yarn with the superficial and the trite. And I don’t need to be read or seen as interesting, or necessarily worthy, as long as I am writing as if I really exist, and that I know I exist—feeling my way through this world like everyone else.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

that "sparkling nerve-library" that wants to speak

I find that there are reoccurring themes that pop up in my writing. This is not always intentional. Sometimes, I don’t even notice right-off when a theme has reappeared for yet another attempt at making a statement. Other times, when I do pick up on these references, I tend to become guarded, as if I have revealed something deeply personal about my perspective.  When this happens I catch myself retreating a bit in my writing, either because I don’t feel ready or able to address what lies at the root of these longstanding thoughts and feelings.

I’m still trying to come up with ways to best explore these ideas and concepts, whether it is by creating a scene in fiction, handling the abstract in poetry, or examining the ego and the id with personal essay. At least when I was writing journalism, it forced me to concentrate on the subject at hand, allowing little room for unrelated themes to sneak their way in. I recognize now, that type of work just enabled my avoidance of writing about what truly burns inside.

So, what’s the best way to tackle these patterns of thought? I wish I had an answer. I’d like to think that the most natural form will appear over time, as I explore various kinds of written expression. And it is likely I won’t even know how to write out and express those untapped corners of my mind, until I’ve hit that systemic nerve, and then there will be no turning back—that is, there is no cut and dry way or formula, but when things align in the creative process and come into focus, it is best to push on, to keep striving to create something close to that universal truth we seek out and live for.

“...there was nothing one could do when love came. It was fast, and it was strong, and if it were not good, then surely God would not have allowed it such power.” 

 "You lodge details of the world in your sparkling nerve-library that spirals through your brain and coils down your arms and legs, collects in your belly and your sex. You write, even if you can't always "write.""



― Luis Alberto Urrea

Friday, October 16, 2015

A big 'thank you' to Owen Kaelin & the Gone Lawn webjournal for publishing this piece:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

work space.
As some of you have noticed, I haven’t been as active on this blog as I was in years prior. I took a bit of a hiatus these last 12 months, a time spent settling into my new environment in Central Vermont.

Last September (2014), my partner and I began the process of renovating a two hundred year old village home, nestled in a rural valley, cut from the first branch of the White River.  

Coming from Maine to this place where we’ve landed, wasn’t an extreme transition for either of us, and didn’t take much getting used to. Living all over New England at different stages of my life, all the small towns I’ve been through, now feel somewhat similar to one another. And for my partner, who grew up in a tight-knit community on the mid-coast, this area reminded him of being back home.

So, I can’t completely blame my lack of presence on an “adjustment period”. Honestly, I never knew a place could feel so much like home, after being unsettled for as long as I had. It was just time to rest my weary self. And that ladies and gentlemen, was what took some adjusting.

When a person is accustomed to bouncing around and packing up and leaving to explore new destinations, it is a bit of a learning curve when they discover something or someone that’s worth sticking around for. Something evolves inside, something different and surprising. This change was probably desired all along, but depending on circumstances that person wasn’t capable at that point or ready to graduate to that next place.

As for my writing, it didn’t take a backseat, per se. Up until rather recently, I was turning out material for a local, weekly paper. However, during that period I found myself reassessing the ideas I’ve been wanting to put out into the world, and in some cases, going back to the drawing board with some of the ideas that I was stuck on. Let’s call it a time spent evolving in my craft and my emotional and mental capacities. The passion was still there and thriving, but I was becoming more conscientious about what I spent my time and energy on. 

Working for the paper was a good way for me to become involved in my community, and to learn the histories and stories of the people who live here. But I missed being able to write for myself, being able to write what I wanted, when I wanted to. So, I reclaimed my creative control, and now I'm here again with a nuanced focus. 

It has taken some time to get my bearings and accept that I’m not going anywhere for a while. And if anything, I now wonder what took me so long to end up here.

When you realize how valuable your time and energy is, you become more conservative, thoughtful, and efficient as a producer. Then you look at your life and want to simplify it to something honest, worthwhile and meaningful. This carries over to your art, your work, whatever that may be. Then there is of course, the influence all these things can have on your relationship(s).

I do not question whether I should be anywhere else, right now. And this very well could be sharing too much. But isn't life like writing, in that it's about having and sharing the experience? 


the river room.

Campstove hissing propane blue flame,
coffee warming, and the neighbor’s dog chewing on our freshly-planted phlox
and mercilessly digging up dahlia bulbs to bury in the leaves with the wild riverbank ramps.

They will come as a surprise
to be discovered again,
after another shift and thaw.
This season we call spring
with a wish to start anew.

Beneath my fingernails there’s soil, from a whole lotta late-day weeding,
the kind of naturally acceptable filth that 
honors working hands.

But the soul’s so clean—
so possible and full,
impenetrable,
calm and collected,
like lavender herb.

The river pushes on—
pushing melt behind the barn,
as a trio of mallards rise in flight before the rapids.

We’ve subscribed to this alternate reality that 
runs parallel,
even though two grooves in wood, eventually merge over time.
What we do know, 
is a house of rainbow-stained glass and worn floors, 
hand hewn frames holding
memories and histories,
beauty and tragedy.

What was, becomes right now, until it is
and that’s all we need,  
for this place to become so warm,
like the compression of your chest
against my cold fraught shoulders—
that loving clutch you give 
on frosty valley mornings.

Is it just another day of me pointing out that 
the tulips are up,
as you secure another piece of our home?
Is it not the vision of sunlight painted walls?

This is a life not fabricated:
the minutes we eek out, until the day recedes
and we pay reverence to each blessing
and lesson we derive 
from old ghosts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

changing with the leaves

There’s a day during the fall season when the leaves are at their most vibrant—their peak. I drive a daily commute through mountains and valleys. The breeze scatters rusts and auburns and mustards across the winding road. And just before a bend or hill, there’s a view so spectacular—colors so rich against the azure of sky, the still green pastures and the soulful purples of distant ranges.  I take a walk and relish in how even decay can be beautiful, too.  I ask myself, was today that day? I can’t be sure. Tomorrow will only tell.

It’s amazing the details that hold weight in a day and how many get overlooked. Can we truly pinpoint an exact or particular moment, and predict how significant that experience will be for us in the future? And if we blink and miss that moment, did it not still occur regardless of whether we were paying attention?

When I experience change, I tend to look back in retrospect and think about all the learning I’ve done thus far. I think about all those days and details that have added up over time. I know I can’t remember it all, but I have this drive inside that wants to account for the sum of all I am—to gather up all those details I didn’t get a chance to record, the things that have gone unexpressed or nearly forgotten. And even with new experiences and information coming at me every millisecond I’m alive (begging to be processed in that instant), I am also endlessly sorting through a backlog of history to understand what being a self-aware person really means to me. 




Thursday, October 8, 2015

my affliction: an open letter to those I hold close

To Those I Hold Close,

First off, let me apologize for choosing the path of an artist. Of all the routes I could have gone, I chose to devote my life to trying to come up with new ways of expressing the human experience. And of course, being a writer is probably one of the most selfish pursuits one could have. Therefore, I must compensate by being a better person, more compassionate and thoughtful in my actions, and by having a genuine interest in helping others.

There’s this need I have, to protect those I hold close from the burdens of my art—the anxiety of failure; the guilt of designating too much time and priority to writing and my preoccupations; the self-consciousness that comes with revealing myself in a raw and truthful way; the torment and madness of accepting complete fulfillment, as life no longer worth living; and all the other absurd, morbid, vile things that my psyche digs up.

Let me tell you what writing is to me and maybe someday you will understand that I had no other choice. Writing and creating is harder than heartache (I’m a masochist, there’s no denying it). It is not just about seeking out the divine, beautiful things—the aspects that can be translated into acceptable, easy-on-the-eyes manifestations. Writing is a gritty and arduous attempt to understand one’s reality, and for me, it is the most effective way to process my manic moods and emotions—writing, simply, is a filter for my head. Here she goes into talking about how cathartic writing is, you’re probably thinking. Sure, it’s cheaper than therapy, but unlike therapy, I wouldn’t suggest that more people need to be writers.

What I am trying to say is: a good story can transcend time, can move people, and can live on to inspire. I haven’t written that story yet, but be patient with me, I plan on living long enough to write something worthwhile.

I don’t expect others to share my same feelings about adjusting or coping, about letting go, or nurturing the things I believe in. In turn, I try to be respectful of what others hold true, to try and not judge, assume, or be resentful. This is my mantra: every day I wake, is another opportunity to be a better person—which encompasses many areas of my life, but most importantly, how I regard and interact with others. Jorge Luis Borges had a great explanation for the roles we play in each other's lives: "I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people I have met, all the women I have loved, all the cities I have visited." There is something to be said about our relationships. Could I be an artist without ever knowing love, pain, ecstasy, tension, or conflict? I highly doubt it.

It is my only hope that my affliction, in time, will lead to a keener awareness of all things. Perhaps, an unattainable goal, but just the same, writing has been my lifeline when I have had nowhere else to turn. I know nothing else, and yet writing is the key to my growth and happiness.

So, forgive this mess I’ve dragged along— this obsession, this consuming hunger for life and knowledge. I know I’ve made mistakes, given up too easily at times, and sometimes left altogether to clear my head. What I can’t change about myself, is what makes me who I am: Writer, woman, human, in no particular order.

So, you are saints for putting up with me, I couldn’t do this without your support. And I have a feeling, when the times comes, my first dedication page is going to have to be really, really long.

Respectfully yours,

Sarah

Thursday, September 24, 2015

we all have our ideals.

Art that I can live with—now that’s a challenge. There’s no shortage of affordable, decorative and eye-catching art circulating out there. Though, when it comes to making a purchase and supporting a working artist, I want to own art I will continue to look at and appreciate for years to come—art I will never tire of. I want art that is timeless, that never becomes outdated, because at its core it exists as part of the human experience.

My preference for art isn’t about whether it matches my walls or my furniture, but instead my inclinations come from an emotional place—how the art makes me feel. I don’t want a pretty picture to look at. I want art that is charged with character and soul, and is engaging to the psyche.  

As a writer, I want to attract an audience who sees and admires my writing in a similar way. I want my work to be the kind of art that endures. I also want my writing to be filled with such rich meaning that it can be revisited and contemplated, and appeal to various readers from different backgrounds.

And just as I can be content in a home with blank wall space (because I haven’t quite found the art that fits), I am also a patient writer who knows that staring at blank pages requires dedication and the wherewithal to create worthy material.

The most compelling art, for me, has layers tied up with stories and history. To think that some art is made purely for aesthetic or entertainment value—which has nothing to do with developing “taste” or providing a cultural contribution, and everything to do with making money—makes me wonder what these artifacts will suggest to future civilizations.

The literary world isn’t much different than the art world, selling flashy book jackets and indulgent content—the under-achieving stepchild of modern art. Writers are too quick to get published, worried that if they don’t act now they won’t get another opportunity. This impatience leads to writing that lacks heart, depth, and maturity of craft.

Call me a snob, but for some it’s easier to subscribe to the mainstream. God-forbid we expect something more and be disappointed, or even feel ignorant in our understanding. Society accommodates this ignorance. But for those of us who want to be challenged, to expand our minds—we must really do the leg work and search.

This carries over to other areas, too—the degradation of the film and music industries. There will never be another Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, but there are and will be others with the same spirit to create ground-breaking art.

Just as you’ll never find me writing in a particular genre, it’s just not in my nature to be a consumer who’s sold on trendy art.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am – my faith, my knowledge, my being … When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups … I want to speak to their souls.” –John Coltrane

“When I first heard music, I thought it should be very clean, very precise. Something that people could understand, something that was beautiful.” –Charlie Parker 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

my humbled state (an excerpt)

"I’d been away too long and had forgotten what summer in Vermont was like. Summers like the ones my sisters and I spent when we were young, at the farms of family friends. Summers that got wound up in my head like vaguely-familiar dirt roads, reels of drive-in movies, and the eddies of frequented swimming holes. Always with animals to observe through rough-cut fencing, ears and eyelashes flicking the flies away. Always with ferns and high fields to traipse through, and the differently-smelling shade that could be found beneath the largest oaks and maples. And oh, how wonderful it felt to not be found for hours, never waiting, just present in those days that enveloped me like the scent of fresh-cut hay against my adolescent body.  Then returning home at dark to family meals, and with so many stories to tell--all those awe-inspiring things that could happen over the course of one day.

Summer in Vermont is humid and rainy, and the valleys are steamy hot pots filled to the brim with green shoots. Here, everything gives of heat: tin roofs, car hoods, fertile pastures, farm equipment, secret ponds, well-beaten paths. People, animals, plants. Inanimate or animate, it doesn’t matter.

Invasive species like Queen Anne’s lace fill in the landscape, and become breeding grounds for garden enemies like snails and caterpillars. Orange and yellow marigolds get planted to keep the pests away from cabbages.  The bee balm and buckwheat become invitations for the honey makers.  And the grass is continually growing, despite the interference of your neighbors' constant mowing.

In the summer the rivers get low and rocky, and come with warnings when area farmers are fertilizing their fields. But on the hottest of days, the rapids feel good against your back, cascading over your shoulders, as you recline along stone slabs that have been smoothed down by centuries of traveling water.  I’ve been told, this is how marbles get made.

I can tell you I came home to be reminded of these things, or because it was where my family was and I wished to be closer. I could tell you a lot of things, since I retained that ability as kid; though my stories have become much more elaborate and conflicted over the years.

Those days of sitting on stone walls letting my mind and imagination run rampant, are far from over. Reinserting myself into this place of my past, I am seeing so clearly that this story in still developing and evolving to give me a better understanding of who I am and what I am about, and who I will be years from now. Will I still be in Vermont? Will I still be searching?

This place is a part of me, more so now than it ever was. The difference is this urgency inside that says, “Right now, this moment.” And everything else is backstory."



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Finding my way back to daily practice is like following altered river banks trying to remember the swimming holes of my youth. The bridges we jumped from without a hint of fear. The sublime melt of being weightless, as our adolescent angst washed away from us (riding bareback with the brookies that haven’t quite yet grown into their colors).  The erotic newness of being comfortable in one’s own skin. Tapping into these places and the preserving sap that makes time stand still. I can’t go back--- I’ll churn in these eddies and words until the thrill of the current returns. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

don't be afraid to admit what you see in the woodwork, burn on

 

Unpacking boxes that have been stored away during this transitional time—since relocating to Vermont and renovating a house with my partner—I stumbled across some workshop pages that had been critiqued while I was a graduate student.

Sitting in the dusty loft of our carriage house among bins and unused furniture, paint buckets and window frames, I sifted through pages of writing that seemed vaguely familiar, yet didn’t connect with me in the usual way when I claim ownership, or have an emotive response to the recollection of certain memories.

Not only did these documents strike me as foreign, but the whole sense of the writing was superficial. I saw little of myself on the page, even knowing at one time I had poured my heart and soul into making this writing work. I could see the influences of my past, and in a way the whole thing disturbed me. Who was this woman? Not just the protagonist, but the woman who created her. What was she really trying to say? Who was she trying to be?

Perhaps, I was just suffering from what is described as, First Novel Syndrome—trying to write about everything at once, and managing to write about nothing at all.

Then, I looked at the comments below. Christ! Almost too much to bear, that I had of course, blocked out too (or didn’t want to own up to).

Overly sweet. Romanticized. Peeople don’t converse this way, or really see the world that way. But you can write.

I knew the critique wasn’t meant to be insulting, but it still hurt (even years later) knowing how another writer saw my writing as an extension of me—na├»ve, incapable of understanding true tension, or anything difficult (what drives us and makes us tick), maybe even a bit entitled, with sunshine blown up my ass, so all I can see was a chaste vision through my rose-colored glasses.

Looking through my old work, almost five years later, it occurs to me what I wished to convey to that peer all along. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to take a stab at it now:  

You don’t know me, but I’m fueled by my fears. Seeing beauty in the world has been my way of dealing with all the pain and suffering I know truly exists. The hardest things I know, been exposed to and have experienced first-hand, are not the kinds of details I wish to relive for lurid minds to fetishize, to analyze, or pass on. Tapping into these places draws out old demons, and is like gutting the vulnerable underbelly of a fish. And isn’t that the sort of confessional writingtruth-telling, raw, gritty, disturbing—just another way of romanticizing human dysfunction? If I’m going to be a writer of truth, I must throw out my longings for a contrived world—fiction was once my safehouse from the illusions and terrors that really haunt me, it was my escape and place of finding forgiveness, and it was my hope for imagining something better.

Writing is my version of making love to the world. Because no matter how much pain I feel inside, words give me the means to profess my unconditional devotion to being alive.

There was a time when I couldn’t get out of my own way, or even imagine surviving until older age. I’ve been destructive and fair. For years, I lived in heat and was a fool for the moment, never wishing to record it. Now, I rack my brain for that something real that seems just out of reachthe nuances that defined those amazing or scary moments and haphazardly defined me and my view of the world. The things I’ve said and done that I can’t take back, the unrequited and aimless wanderings of my youth.

So, I say to myself, “Self, give yourself permission. Say, fuck it. Here I am. Take it, or leave it. I don’t care. I believe what it’s about, and I’m not here to prove anything.”


The time has come to admit the things I see in the woodwork, and to unreservedly embark on that soul’s journey, wielding my fear shamelessly. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pacing, Patience, and Practice

Compliments make me blush, especially when it comes to being recognized for any sort of achievement. Though, recently my alma mater came out with the most fair-handed press release about my progression as a writer. I don't think I could've asked for a more honest look at where my passion and motivation are derived. To have some of my early insecurities revealed to an audience was truly the best part of me I could offer the public. To have my peers and strangers understand that for me it isn't about recognition paired with opportunity, but it's about the every day inspiration and connection, the things I wrestle with daily (because I am human, first and foremost). And it's also about, what I choose to do with the life experiences I’ve been given—the ones I attempt to draw from for my art, and the ones I wish to share. 

Donald Hall, in his eighties, published an essay titled, “A Yeti in the District”. Which speaks volumes of his humble nature, and how out-of-place and uncomfortable he becomes when thrown into the circus of creative expectation. I would not dare to compare my achievement or experiences with such an ingenious man, or his poetic fortitude. But there’s a feeling of solidarity that comes from knowing there are others, like me, for whom the spotlight is as unnatural a position one can be put in and that sometimes words like “industry”, “published” and “awards” can come off sounding quite callous and insensitive to the person living quietly behind the artist.

After sharing his story about being awarded the National Medal of Arts, Hall writes, simply: “The next day I got back to writing. What else was there?”. While at the time, the piercing eye of the press had a field day over his disheveled appearance at the monumental event. What papers missed in their account was that the composure and composition of a man like Hall is made up entirely of character and the historic significance of his life and work. Who the hell cares if his tie was crooked! He had the kahunas and gumption to put himself out there, to trust an audience cut away from the critics and who were ready to embrace what he had to say.

How do we really measure the sum of a person’s worth? I will withhold the James Allen quotes for the time being. There is, however, a story about Chao-Chou in Zen philosophy that I keep coming across in various texts and different forms: In which, a monk draws a portrait of the master. When the portrait is finished and presented to the master, the master studies it and says, “If it’s really the true image of me, then you can kill me. But if it is not, you should burn it.”


I suspect that at the end of the day, Hall felt similarly.



You can read the press release put out by Southern New Hampshire University, here: http://markets.financialcontent.com/mi.idahostatesman/news/read/28983764/Pacing