Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Heartbreak #4829

The school psychologist has a voice like a child. She sounds much too young to be telling me that the classroom teacher has asked her to do an assessment of Kimani’s mouthing behaviors so that a formal plan of action can be created to discourage such things as eating the wood chips on the playground.

It never ends... the things that don’t happen for her as they are supposed to. These things, they jump out like a springing puppet in an old-fashioned jack-in-the-box. The twisted metal handle with the wooden knob is always turning, the song of simple notes is always playing... always, always, always... and then BOING! Heartbreak #4829. (But really, who's counting?)


She is not delayed. She is detoured. She will not be coming back around this way. She tromps on delicate feet into uncharted territory. Her tiny fists are balled up. If you were to pry them open, you would find the hearts of her parents, crushed, one in each hand.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reclaiming the Forest in Me

This week, one of my Artist Way tasks was to take a walk. Simple enough, eh? Oh yeah, and I am supposed to write a list of affirmations so I figured I would mulitask by saying positive things to myself as I walked. I did not choose to walk on my quiet dead-end street. Instead I suited up—to thwart the ticks—with white socks pulled over pant legs, old sneakers, and a long white tank shirt, and headed for the woods out back.
pineAs a child I played almost everyday in the woods that surrounded our home. I was an Indian who had a bent stick tied with string for a bow and skinny straight sticks bundled together for arrows. I led imaginary hunting parties all through those acres of forest and creek. We caught crayfish, snuck up on deer and squirrels, and fought encroaching white men. If I close my eyes I can still see each rise and fall of the forest carpet that lay next to the creek. Plush browned pine needles, years and years worth, made the path soft under my bare feet. I know where all the good stepping rocks are as far up and down that lazy bubbling creek as my territory goes. I know where there are skeletons of animals, trees, and even a mill from yesteryear. That forest is etched into my being... (I am a beautiful Eastern White Pine tree that sprouted in its shadow so many moons ago.)

The woods I enter today I am not known to. As long as we have lived here, I have never ventured back beyond our land line. It doesn’t look like the forest I grew up in. The trees are mainly tall oaks and the floor is wet with rain water that has nowhere to go and suffers a swampy existence beneath dead scalloped leaves and rotted acorn tops hidden deceptively under the Trillium and Fern that are rampant here. After wandering twenty yards or so beyond what’s mine, I am stymied and cannot see a clear path to follow. (I am brave and will go forward regardless of the obstacles.)

A vision of my inner self floats out over the green blanket which is also floating, a foot or so above the muck. “I am inside myself,” I think. I can see that there is a small brown knoll of pine forest across the fifty yards of skunk cabbage that indicates there is standing water out there. I have no galoshes, thus I cannot cross. Just like my writing mind... I can see the story on the other side but I am not equipped to cross the bog of my brain to get there. I am stuck creatively and I am stuck in real life at the edge of a swamp. Many great oaks have fallen here, unable to withstand the mire. (But I am a pine tree, strong and flexible.)

 berryI carry on in my efforts. Invisible and impossibly long spider web trails connect one baby oak to another, tearing and sticking to my arms and face as I pass through. One single bright red berry on the ground calls to me... an offering of hope from a tiny plant that seems barely able to hold it up. There is a long downed oak that runs far out into the expanse of giant bulging green leaves. Perhaps it can serve as a bridge. Its dark slippery bark is still soaked from days of heavy spring rains. Ten or so steps along it I realize that I do not have the balance I took for granted thirty years ago and there is no choice but to turn back. Headed toward home, I veer off to try one more way that might take me around the deeper areas. It leads to a tree that succumbed to an ice storm last winter, its roots reaching absurdly toward the sky. (I, too, will reach toward the sky.)

rootsI remember thinking when that tree fell I would take my boys on a little hike to see it after the winter passed. There could be a squirrel's nest in it—like the one I found in a fallen tree when I was a little girl—or maybe a large bird nest... that of an owl or a hawk. Today I could not even get around it’s roots without stepping in a gloppy mess, so I opted to wait for a drier period... maybe the high heat of summertime. (I am a talented writer and my time will come.)

irisThat was it. From there I headed into my neighbor’s backyard, enjoying the flowers of the season all the way home. Perhaps there should be some disappointment for not making it over to explore the other side of the woods but I don’t feel that. I simply feel a powerful urge to buy a pair of knee high water boots. (I will do what it takes to live my dream.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creative Aspirations

I like to think that I am creative and that I have some talent as a writer. (I think I am funny too, although you’d never know it from reading my blog.) For as long and as far back as my memory goes, there is an immutable urge to write something good.

For a while I worked on an adventurous tale of deception, desire, and magic set in 14th century Romania and France (though France wasn’t France back then.) The story was born on my couch just before I started grad school. After a minor surgery, I was stuck there on that couch recuperating for days. Once I ran out of magazines to read, bingo lottery scratch off tickets to scrape, and movies I’d rented... there was nothing left to do but watch t.v. Very late on one of those confinement nights, a movie started and it looked like it was going to be good... there was real potential bubbling in that cauldron and then it turned out to be The Beastmaster or something or other like that, and I was disappointed. So I asked myself, “What story would you have wanted to hear?” I scribbled the answer down in a green spiral notebook and that became my project for a time.

I never finished writing that story. Life got in the way... grad school, a husband, a bunch of kids, and then I changed. Once that happened, a magical story didn’t seem appropriate anymore.

But now that I am bored out of my mind cleaning up poop, cooking dinner, washing clothes, and reading A Mother for Chocofor the zillionth time... I find myself percolating with an itch to write. It isn’t that simple though... I mean, I can’t just sit down and do it... I feel like I need some foreplay or something.

As all this was going ‘round in my brain, I stumbled on a FB post by LL Barkat referencing an invitation to participate in a virtual book club experience where the selection is Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way. I have that book. It was a gift from my Artist Aunt. I remember really liking the idea of the book way back when but never actually doing more than one or two of the “tasks.” I ran out to the garage and dug through five or so plastic bins of books until I located it. I am ready.

Next Wednesday I will begin a journey to “recover my creativity from a variety of blocks, including limited beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.” Ok, my dear aspiring writer friends... do any of those blocks apply to you? Want to join the quest to “connect your creativity with the creative energies of the universe”? If so, check The Artist’s Way out of your local library or buy yourself a copyand meet me over at the Tweetspeak Poetry blog on May 23rd.