My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
There are ways of living that you can live with until you can't.~Molly Wizenberg (From The Fixed Stars)
We met for tea. I sat across from my friend in the small café, the hiss of the espresso machine like white noise supplying us comfort. My friend is a natural beauty, her eyes blue, like Spode china teacups, her teeth gardenia white. It was so good to see her face-to-face now that COVID is less intense--to go into a restaurant. She is writing a novella. We talked about creative things. I soaked up her feedback about the novel I'm writing. She is smart and kind, her insights spot on. Our conversation meandered away from writing, and we spoke of issues we struggle with. She said she realized her confidence had plummeted over the last year or so. She recalled an incident. "I didn't take up for myself. I didn't feel confident and just let things go. I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd stuck up for myself, been more confident. I still think about it." I responded, "The fact that you're aware now is good. You won't do it again. I've been there too. It doesn't feel good to let your voice get lost. It's a terrible feeling." She nodded.
Over the years, I've tended toward fluency in apologizing, people-pleasing a familiar behavior. Someone said to me once, "You say 'I'm sorry' a lot." It wasn't an unkind remark, really. Just honest. I'm getting more practiced in allowing my preferences to be okay. It hurts too much to be silent. Peace at any price is too expensive. And it feels so good to speak up. Resting confident.
Portagioie, the Italian word for jewelry box, is a compound of two polyvalent words. Gioia (pl. gioie) means both "joy" and "jewel." Porta, meanwhile, derives from the Latin verb portare, and belongs to a constellation of words pertaining to acts of bearing, bringing, carrying, and transporting, which in turn give rise to terms for "door," "gate," and "port." Portagioie, therefore, could also be interpreted, in Italian, not only as a box of jewels, but a container of joy, a doorway or gateway to joy, something that brings joy.~Jhumpa Lahiri (From Whereabouts)
Almost every week my husband provides me an Italian lesson. Italian is his mother tongue. He is also multi-lingual. He speaks English and Spanish too. Some French. He is amazing, really, how he can move from one language to another. It's perhaps like watching a person who's good at tennis. You can't believe how smoothly they move across the court, hardly ever missing a ball, their serves reliable, powerful, sailing over the net. Each week I struggle with my pronunciation when I practice reading out loud. I forget verb conjugations over and over again. My brief essays are filled with errors. I feel anxious before every lesson knowing that my slow learning is evident. Yet my husband is patient with me. He doesn't shame me when I "miss the ball." The tenderness he sets aside for me each week is enough for me to keep trying.
Someone is paying attention while we flit about and check our texts.~Anne Lamott (From Dusk, Night, Dawn--On Revival And Courage)
Each week I may spend more time hunting for an image to post in this space than I do in the writing. Sometimes the image comes before the writing.
I heard on a podcast that God loves to provide us images. The speaker said, "Try something. Ask God how He sees you. Don't fret about it or think too hard," he said. "Allow what comes to mind." I sat in my study, the air conditioner softly thrumming, the sun streaming through the blinds. "How do you see me, God?" The first image that came to mind was a picture of the giant oak that sat across from the house where I used to live. It was at least a hundred years old, its branches creating a wide arc. Thick roots above ground indicated an extensive root system. I often sat on my porch gazing at the oak, its beauty providing a type of ipecac, ridding me of life's toxins, its grit. I never tired to look at the oak; its presence centered me. Blue sky peering through its branches offered me solace and hope. I loved that tree.
Then today, I flipped through a notebook where I keep record of eclectic quotes, and a black and white photo taken of me in 1964 slipped from the pages. I leaned against my dad's Ford Fairlane--a chubby nine-year-old wearing Keds and anklet socks. In the background, a massive oak stood in my grandparents yard. I'd forgotten about that tree. My grandfather always tied a rope swing through its solid branches. I swung for hours and hours on that swing, the oak limb never breaking or bending, holding me fast.
"That's how I see you," He seemed to say. "Even as a child, I saw who you'd become. Now you're in the later seasons of your life, yet know that you are strong, and I renew your youth. Your roots go way down deep in my love for you."
Yet his absence weighted my heart with deep silence.~Elizabeth Gilbert (From City of Girls)
I am flattened by this news. Pressed down. I need a spatula to scrape me up. Sadness unfolds across the universe to hear that a man took his life--a loved one of my friend. The act of suicide is desperate, pain so deep and cavernous that those left behind may not even have been aware of the suffering. There is a collective flattening now. We all need spatulas as our hearts are weighted with his absence. It is not clear what to do or think or feel. It is good to ask: "Have I eaten anything today?" "Am I hydrated?" "What will I wear to the funeral? What about my hair?" (It is okay to ask these seemingly mundane questions.) Self-care is important now.
Feelings are numb. Shock prevails. We say, "Is he really gone? Just last week I saw him, read his post on Instagram." We listen over and over to the voice mail. "Can he really not be just down the road in his house with his beautiful wife? He had a good job. What happened? What happened?"
We have questions. Heartbreak.
However great our scale of injury or loss, our frailties and pains are made bearable by others. Their thoughts, their deeds, their reaching out. Their love and our endurance makes us human and complete.~Jennifer Worth
He understood. He knew that I felt anxious driving downtown, the parking a nightmare. But it was a mild evening, unseasonable, usually the god-awful heat and humidity prevailed. It would feel good to get out. He offered his unconditional positive regard to me. His love. His encouragement to expect good and not trouble. My friend who I've known now for over two decades. He coaxed me out of my comfort zone with his kindness and acceptance. And we found the parking space waiting just for us. And the restaurant that had only one table left. Just for us. At dusk, we walked over to the famous Pineapple fountain in our city, the sound of the water rinsing us from our cares. We sat at a rustic wooden table and looked out over the harbor. The wind ruffled the waters and caressed our faces. We talked of our lives. We laughed. Silences between us did not create discomfort.
My friend is a brilliant thinker. He loves to learn new things and consistently takes courses to enhance his knowledge. He loves studying the brain. He said, "I learned that there are three sounds the brain needs to hear to create peace and well-being--the sound of wind, water and song." I replied, "Perhaps this is why we are feeling so well now. There is the sound of the wind and the water in our midst." All we lacked was song. But as I thought about it, perhaps we did have melody. The gentle murmur of the people who passed by as we enjoyed our respite and the unhurried conversation between friends.