Reminisce

Six days before she died, my sister Kathy requested that our niece from San Francisco bring Lucca Raviolis, the best sourdough in the world and a bottle of Sangiovese wine.

Five days before she died, Kathy told me in detail how this particular sourdough recipe was crafted–that is, for excellent bread, the absolute best starter is essential. And this chef, a man, has devoted his time, energy and curiosity to creating the best sourdough starter.

Two days before she died, she said “We need a buzzword.”
I replied “Do you mean a word that when I hear it, I’ll think of you.”
“Yes,” she said.
After a few lame words, we decided on the phrase “Life is but a dream.”

And then, she lapsed into the strangeness of this whole experience of preparing to die.  The questioning as she turned towards what is unfamiliar, not talked about much and unknown.  She and I tossed our questions into that void called Mystery.

Earlier, she had asked if I could find her a couple of cotton nightshirts.  With a neckline that was high enough to hide the scars on her chest.  I went to Penney’s and bought something button-up that didn’t seem quite right, but a possibility.  Returnable.  At Macy’s, I found some too-fancy-ones, with lower necklines and Christmas reindeer and the other one with stars.  I took photos and texted them to her on the smartphone.  No, the neckline was too much of a scoop.

I found a sale rack…all of the cotton/polyester nightshirts had Christmas images or words that didn’t suit the solemnity of this occasion.  “Au Revoir” felt painful to my heart.  I finally settled on “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.”  Which she loved as…there are no words really to express what is profound.

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Ours was a “divide and conquer” household with father’s rules and moods taking precedent.  Yet, sisters leave an indelible mark on your heart and being.  There is something sacred with sisters that is separate from the father’s code.  It’s in the bones, this understanding.  That even if we part and go our separate ways, we always know that there is a holding place, a heart haven where, when we meet again, we enter easily and laugh, cry, get angry and share deeply without pretense.  It’s just that way.

And there is always food involved.  Kathy’s perfectly formed, perfectly packaged and always yummy cookies.  Or something, anything Italian…can we claim garlic bread on the finest sourdough as part of Italian cuisine?  Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs or Kathy’s frittata.  And cheesecake with chocolate curls all around.  Or her recipe for San Antonio Stew.

This is not a complete romance, or maybe it is for don’t even the best-matched lovers have their quarrels.  There were times when Kathy seemed to separate from the family and her friends became more important.  We learned to accept that.  Yet, we came together again and again.  I have 8 mm movie film of her coming to the Easter or Christmas dinners in my home…her long dark cascading curls bouncing as she ran indoors from the spring or winter rain.

Permissive Poetry

An intrinsic premise of poetry is the permission and freedom to TELL THE TRUTH!

When I first began writing poetry, I was in a state of unrest.  Old inner worlds were crumbling as new ones were being born.  What I had built my life structure upon was proving false.  What was trying to form was insubstantial and unknown.

Poetry can chart the course between what is known
and what is unknown.

Do you think this statement is true?  It isn’t the route for everyone, but it certainly has been the permission-giver for me.

In those days, while I might not speak my truth to my husband or father (both of whom inspired fear), I found I could write it (finally) in my journals.  And then, poetry entered my life.  A form that could hold both emotion and unravelling beliefs and the uncertainty of what was next.  Pretty amazing.  And it could do all of this in a succinct way!

Throughout known history, poetry has been the “go to” for sensitive souls.  The minstrels were the storytellers, often in rhyme or rhythm.  The poets were the sensitive touchstones of a particular era and culture.  They could talk about what was right, wrong, intolerable both personally and in the context of the larger society.

Poets and artists are the heart of any culture or era.  They are the sensitive underbelly and resonate with deepest feeling and often, what the culture needs to embody or embrace in order to healthfully evolve.

Writing Prompt:
This is my perception of permissive poetry.  Has poetry, whether you read it or write it yourself, given you permission to tell the truth?

artinaworldinperil

Mystery

Life is mystery, even with all of the belief systems we apply to explain it.  Life remains a mystery.  We learn to live with the unknown.  Though we might be seekers, with all of the seeking, the mystery remains, winking at us from the sidelines.  The unknowable.

Like, how did this plant end up in my garden?  Then, what prompted it to take over one third of the garden with it’s shoots and tendrils that wrap around anything along the way?  I posted a photo of it on Facebook to see if someone could identify it.  I got these responses:  some sort of vegetable, citron watermelon, crossbred squash, disguised watermelon, some sort of melon, Cinnamon Girl pie pumpkin, courgette (zucchini), Cucurbita pepo (round zucchini squash).

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I like the surprise within the mystery.  At times, the clouds part and I get a bit of clarity.  But then, the veil drops, the sight is limited, the mists conceal truth.

Writing Prompt:
How do you live with mystery?

The Story of Pandora’s Box

I’m guessing you’ve read this Greek myth.

For the writer, writing has a quality of opening Pandora’s Box. When I write, I’m opening up more than my journal or notebook, I’m opening the unknown.  In the unknown, everything, all possibilities, exist.  What is going to be roused in me or you remains to be seen.  That which has remained hidden to yourself is given an opportunity to emerge. This can feel scary. Feelings can be tweaked, excavated trauma (I’ve referred to this in an earlier blog).  You decide if it’s worth bringing up again in this unearthing.

With writing (especially fiction and poetry) and art-making, there is nothing straightforward.  You don’t just sit down and write and remain unruffled.  You are taken places.  You volunteer for this journey a bit unwittingly.  “Yes, I’m a writer therefore, I write!” What you soon come to realize is that you have gone down a rabbit hole and you are being compelled as much as you have chosen the journey.

Who or what are you going to meet along the way?  White rabbits, card soldiers, tin men,  fairy queens, purple people eaters.  You don’t know.  It’s yet to be discovered.  Which Pandora’s lid is going to be opened in you?  What is going to leap out from your own inner underworlds and scare the heck out of you?  How did that get in there?  You can turn tail and run; slap your journal shut and find another interest.

Or you can continue the venture of discovery and inner sorting through the writing process.

Writing Prompt:
Consider how you manage your own writing journey.  If you are writing Non-fiction, are you less likely to encounter the unknown?  Or, in your research, do you uncover something that sends you there–into the unknown–regardless?  If you are writing fiction, do you get thrown off course when you are diverted down the rabbit hole?  What does getting back on track look like for you?  Or is the diversion where your writing really wants to go?  Is there a best way to sort the chaff from the gold and carry on?  Scan_0004

 

 

 

 

 

Opening my journal…
opening to the unknown.

Imagination and Fabrication

Imagination…

elephant

Excuse me, but is that a PURPLE ELEPHANT?

Why yes, it is.

Where in the world would you find a purple elephant?

In the realm of imagination, of course.

Artists love to paint elephants.  Some artists choose realism and create elephants that look like they have walked out of an African forest.  Other artists are inspired to paint whimsical elephants (like me).  There is room for both, of course.

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Writers of fiction are great fabricators–they take an idea for a story and let their imagination run with it.  And, if  permitted, the imagination can take you on a ride into the great unknown!  In a sense, fiction writers might begin their story with “I wonder what would happen if…”  and then take off into a flight of fancy.

When you write from the place of imagination, you typically want to have your story grounded in some “facts”.  Your reader appreciates some plausibility or credibility in order to hinge his/her mind onto something recognizable.

Years ago, I remember watching the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with the actor, Danny Kaye.  There was a remake in 2013 with Ben Stiller…I haven’t seen it yet…I think I’ll rent that one tonight.  This story is based on author James Thurber’s classic story of a daydreamer who drifts off into an imaginary world, escaping his mundane life.  He is, of course, the hero of his daydreams.

Writing Prompt:
In your writing, do you dare to enter the wild and unpredictable territory of imagination? Have you written from this place?  What story can you create out of thin air?  Even if you are a non-fiction writer, can you allow yourself the play that imagination steals one into?  Do you want to give it a try?  It might feel like you have veered off course, but why not?  Don’t new inventions rise from someone’s untethered imagination?  The questions being “How can I do this better or make this easier or what if I do this or try that, then what?”

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