Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Intentions

"Full Moon Mandala" by SoulArteEclectica

Lately I’m finding myself paying more attention to the cycles of the year. Solstices are particularly meaningful days which mark turning points that I cannot let pass by unnoticed. For the past two years, I have participated in writing circles on the solstices, which provide an opportunity to quietly mark the significance of these days.

In the candlelight of our recent Winter Solstice circle, we wrote a simple exercise that lifted up a trio of themes. We divided a page into three columns:

1. Letting go of; 2. Celebrating; 3. Intentions.

We then had several minutes to generate lists in each column. I found myself jumping back and forth from joy to yearning, to resolve, back to yearning, and surprisingly paying more attention to joy than usual.

My lists morphed into this draft of a prayer-poem:

Solstice Prayer

Let go of darkness

Celebrate joy

Light – let it in, let it shine

through me.

Follow the joy,

let go of lack.

A new way of living, celebrating

love, friendships, family.

Let creativity flow.

Value the process of creation,

Follow the arrow from creative flow

to financial flow.

Follow the joy.

Releasing, celebrating, and setting intention; there is a satisfying combination in these categories. Too often I overlook the celebrating part. But if I think of these three as the legs of a stool, it is equally as important as the other two.

With this in mind, on the final day of this calendar year, I celebrate. I celebrate my increasing ability to hold my center through a variety of circumstances. I celebrate my increasing trust in my inner voice which is revealed to me through writing. I am feeling the growth and am so grateful for the work I’ve done, and those who have been supportive anchors. Could 2011 be a year of reaping benefit of all this work? I welcome this! I welcome my professional endeavors hitting a stride where my energy feels less dispersed. I welcome continued clarity about my desires, and a continued embrace of the (new) belief that desire is pure when it comes from a place of truth and self-love. I welcome an inpouring of abundance through known and unknown channels. I welcome my creativity, and I allow time for the pure joy of creation. I have new story ideas I wish to pursue. I have old stories that are finding their way to maturity. I am excited about what the new year holds.

If you find yourself tired of the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions, I highly recommend this simple three-column exercise. It’s fun to see where the writing takes you.

Happy New Year!

-- Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Little Brown Purse

As a rule, I avoid basements; they all seem dark, dank, cluttered and unfriendly. Truth be told I avoid the stairs leading down to basements whenever possible as well. Knowing this, my husband, Jay, kindly took on the intimidating task of excavating our basement in preparation for our move. As he sorted and packed he would set aside the things he wanted me to go through, not sure if they were things I wanted to keep or not.

I discovered one such article perched on a box, quietly awaiting its fate. Next to some Christmas decorations sat an old leather purse. Not much larger then a cigar box it was the color of butterscotch left on the burner a bit too long. The purse had smooth rectangle sides that angled in where they met at the top, creating a long-sided triangle shape for the purse. Demure black stitching lined the border of the small zippered pocket on the side and a tiny gold rooster logo was attached near the top. Two short stitched leather straps served as handles and the leather was marred with scratches and wear.

I could imagine what Jay saw as he looked at the purse; it was just an old purse I didn’t use anymore. What I saw when I looked at that purse was a long haired young girl of twenty, shopping at Ayres. The girl had recently been told by her husband of six months that he was in love with someone else and their marriage was over. She was engaged in the apparently age old custom of buying expensive things that her soon to be ex-husband will get the bills for at some later date. As she strode through the store hell bent on running up that charge card her eyes fell on a small leather purse. The price of the purse was Twenty-five Dollars, which was an absurd amount of money for a purse at the time and far more then she had ever spent on such a thing. She had never even owned a leather purse. By the time she had it in her hands and felt its smooth soft leather and saw the tiny gold rooster on its side, she had made up her mind. She bought that little leather purse.

I’m sure you have guessed, I was that young girl, many, many years, many, many lifetimes ago. It turned out that the, someone else, was in fact my slightly older sister who I had always been very close to……. but that is a story for another day. That old purse bought so long ago will be an antique soon. It amazed me that seeing it setting there among the other flotsam that it had the power to conjure the memory of that day so vividly to my mind.

While I searched through the purse looking for that hundred dollar bill we all think we have tucked away and forgotten in our old purses, I found something else. I found a very old TWA (for you young ones, Trans World Airlines) boarding pass. It was a date in November of 1976, the first time I had ever flown in an airplane. I was pregnant with my daughter Christina and was flying from Indianapolis to Denver Colorado so I could drive back home with my husband. He had been in school there for three months. I remember, I was wearing my favorite maternity top. It was a striped sweater in shades of green with a black turtleneck. I remember, the man I was seated next to was very kind to the nervous first time flyer and he helped me find my way in the Denver airport. I remember my husband’s face as we spotted each other in the airport corridor.

The people that know about these things say that the objects are not the memories and they are correct they are not. They are however the things that signal your brain to bring that memory front and center A.S.A.P.

The need to keep the stuff that prompts those memories must be inherent in all of us to some degree. We treasure the mementos of the watershed moments in our lives, the births, the deaths, the graduations. We store them in boxes that fill up our attics, closets and basements. Is this our brains way of organizing our memories, are they downloaded to these items for later retrieval like an external hard drive or offsite storage facility? It almost makes me understand the strong compulsion to hoard, almost.

We continue to pack, sort, dispose of and re-evaluate our possessions and thankfully the basement is empty. The closets upstairs, yes, there is an upstairs, await and I am sure along with the old clothes and extra blankets I will find some powerful “stuff”.

And of course, that little leather purse and its contents will be heading west.

--Diana for the Poplar Grove Muse

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Focusing in a Kaleidoscope World

Focusing in a Kaleidoscope World

Today as I sit in my chair and watch it snow I think of how hard it has been to focus the past few months.
Dad’s surgery. Mom’s broken neck. My accident. I’ve been in adrenaline mode since late July. The urgencies have eased up in the last couple of weeks; everyone is in solid recovery mode. I’m starting to breathe again. And as I breathe, I begin to notice my surroundings and enjoy the things I love. I’m learning to focus again.
This weekend as I was mulling over topics/themes to write on for the Poplar Grove Muse, I saw the past couple of days as images that came into focus as I turned the kaleidoscope of my memory.
On Friday, Casey, my son, called and as we spoke about family matters, I saw the image of him as a small boy caring for a sick robin he named Duke. And I was so proud of the caring person he’s grown up to be. Later that night, Jackie, who is like a daughter to me, came to spend the night and help facilitate Poetry Detectives on Saturday. As we sat and talked I drew into focus the picture of her as a college student working at the IDS and kicking butt as copy chief. And here she is ten years later helping make a success out of a project dear to my heart.
The next image, a flash of a face filled with excitement as enlightenment comes over a tricky line of poetry as we discuss a poem by Adrienne Rich. Later that day in an intergenerational writing workshop at the Poplar Grove School, the turned up faces of young women writers making their voices heard in the world, the serene faces of mothers happy in the presence of their daughters; the collages we all made with their colors, images and words.
Now as I sit here with a hot cup of black cherry tea, I’m watching Saturday Night Live that I recorded last night and there is Paul McCartney singing, what I’m sure is his homage to John Lennon who died 30 years ago this month, “Give Peace a Chance” and I see myself at 17, a senior in high school, in front of the TV watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember thinking how ridiculous those screaming girls in the audience were. I just wanted them to shut up so I could hear Paul, John, George and Ringo.
So what’s my point? My point is that no matter how many times we turn the kaleidoscope to move the little bits of colored glass/plastic around, the big picture doesn’t change all that much. Forty-one years after “Give Peace a Chance” was released we still don’t have peace in the world; we still argue about abortion, gay rights, health care, education and taxes. Our world comes to us in Tweets, Facebook postings, YouTube videos and sound bites, no wonder it’s so hard to focus. Can’t we all just take a deep cleansing breath and try to focus on making the world peaceful and nurturing instead of running our own agendas?

Rebekah for the Poplar Grove Muse

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Lump of Coal

My mother, Anne Lodge, is an abiding source of inspiration in…to…for my writing and my life. At a recent visit to our family farm in Ohio, she handed me a faded photocopy of something she’s kept around. This scrap, along with so many slips of paper, snips, quips, quotes, make their way, if she sees fit, into my fortunate hands. The latest was a quote from the poet William Matthews (1942-1997 ). He’s credited in the clipping with “a lucky wit” and “startling intelligence” and offers “a short but comprehensive summary” of all the subjects for lyric poetry:

1. I went out into the woods today and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.
2. We’re not getting any younger.
3. It sure is cold and lonely (a) without you, honey, or (b) with you, honey.
4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice versa, and in any case, the coin is too soon spent and on we know not what.

So, yeah, this about sums it up. What’s left out are the particulars that bring these themes to life-- startling metaphors, unique turns of phrase, specific images, the grace notes and voicings on any artful canvas or in any room that sing to us the songs of ages. While any story, song, play, dance, or piece of art might tell us the same things again and again, it’s of course how they do so in new and surprising ways that lift and lead us.

Nor does Matthew’s summary speak to the courage it takes to truly live inside his/our themes. Or to come out from underneath the bushel that hides us from ourselves and the world; that gives any of us permission to look, see and say from the deepest parts of our uncensored selves what is true of our experience in the world. I guess Matthews had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when we wrote his summary, given that he was a prolific poet and could not be diminished by his own ironic point of view. I happen to agree it’s healthy not to take ourselves too seriously about too much of anything. At the same time, if we’re intimidated, or down right bored by the so-called limited subjects available –to whatever it is any of us confronts every ordinary day, we miss a lot. It could be the risk of devastation, the toil of reconstruction, and every little death and rebirth it takes to live into a life.

I went into the woods today and fell down in the snow. My face was cold. My body warm. The sun trickled through the web of tree branches and I rose to meet it. The snowsuit-clad child who came alive inside me reached for the sky and together, we floated up . Call it what you want, but I was in no way alone. The air crackled with connection. It was, you know, sort of religious.

We’re not getting any younger. Well, I know I’m not. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window glass this morning and wondered who the silver-haired woman looking back at me was. On another day, I might grieve what’s gone. Today, the scent of my teenage daughter’s shampoo in that same silver hair confused me. I did a double-take in the window, then thought I might want to have breakfast and a nice long chat with the woman who gazed so frankly at me over her reading glasses. She intrigued me.

It sure is cold. Well, literally it is these December days. And loneliness is most often temporary. AND It is real and it hurts. I think we need to call it out when we’re feeling it. Unspoken loneliness is dangerous and the journey through is never ever easy. Let’s look out for ourselves and one another in this realm.

Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness…the coin is too soon spent. I cried suddenly and raggedly in my car on the way to pick up Dan this week with the radio news of Elizabeth Edward’s death less than 24 hours after reading in the papers about her grave condition. It was like a lightening bolt struck through me. “No, I thought…not yet!” In that moment, Elizabeth Edwards’ was the face of any number of loved ones and friends -- of me, for god’s sake! There I was driving through my beloved snow-covered town, in a menopause-fueled eruption of random grief for the passage of time, for the ways good people -- all people --die, and the circumstances of any life lived flip heads to tails with happiness and sadness in ways we cannot control. Anything any of us are able to think or feel or do to make sense of this over a lifetime is a blessing for the journey.

Below is a good poem from William Matthews for the season; for poets and writers or anyone in need of seeing something more in a lump of coal than a rocky threat. Let it keep the fires of life-force and inspiration burning year round for you. May your holidays be fueled by love, by light and warmth, wherever you are, whomever you are with.

Poem (The Lump of Coal My Parents Teased)

The lump of coal my parents teased
I'd find in my Christmas stocking
turned out each year to be an orange,
for I was their sunshine.

Now I have one C. gave me,
a dense node of sleeping fire.
I keep it where I read and write.
"You're on chummy terms with dread,"

it reminds me. "You kiss ambivalence
on both cheeks. But if you close your
heart to me ever I'll wreathe you in flames
and convert you to energy."

I don't know what C. meant me to mind
by her gift, but the sun returns
unbidden. Books get read and written.
My mother comes to visit. My father's

dead. Love needs to be set alight
again and again, and in thanks
for tending it, will do its very
best not to consume us.
--William Matthews

BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We're Looking for Bloggers

We are looking for some local writers who might like to post recent essays, poetry or fiction on this blog. If you want to test out your writing wings in blog form please contact Amy at:

Amy @ womenwritingbloomington(dot)com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Old Friend from Far Away

I am facebook friends with a man I have known since we were 15. Jim and I came to know each other first in band camp, where we two shy sophomores (in my high school sophomore year was the first year) sat across from each other each night at a picnic table in the camp mess hall--he the lone male in a rank of clarinetists, me the only xylophone player. We ate and drank kool-aid in silence. I never knew what to say to him, and I suppose he did not know what to say to me. He was cute and most of the clarinetists had crushes on him. I don’t think I did, but maybe I would have if I could have thought of something to say.

Not long after those weeks in band camp we found ourselves part of a group that hung out in the library. For some reason we drifted toward an AFS club, and we befriended the foreign exchange students. Before we knew it, we were throwing parties and hanging out at pizza places and making googly eyes at each other in marching band. He turned out to be quite popular and had a string of girlfriends that came in and out of his life. I suppose I wouldn’t have minded being one of them, but we had so much fun just hanging out together, and we had a little gang and we laughed so much I did not give it much thought.

When we went to college we visited each other. Michigan to Chicago, Chicago to Michigan. In the era before cell phones and email we sent letters and talked on the phone. He met my college friends and I met his. Summers we met up back at home--working together at the mall or ice cream stands or at a company in Cleveland that manufactured chemicals. We commuted together and went to bars after work.

Is it any surprise to the reader that my lifelong friend came out to me toward the end of our college careers? I was lucky not to have been one of a string of girlfriend relationships that never went anywhere, but a true friend. Jim has been in my life for thirty years and though we do not see each other often, as is the way of many old friends, I know he is there.

He is fortunate that he was coming out as the era of AIDs was in full force and the beginnings of understanding about transmission were emerging. By then he knew the importance of practicing safe sex. The bell curve of gay men who contracted AIDS bloomed just before he came out. I feel thankful that my generation missed the onslaught of death that faced people just a few years older than me.

Jim left Michigan for San Francisco and grad school. I left Chicago for Indiana and grad school. I have seen him throughout the years in our home town, at weddings and friendly gatherings and now on facebook.

He just posted on my FB wall: a comment about an article I posted about I-69. I posted a comment on his photos where is is working in China. When I saw his words across the years and miles I absolutely wanted to weep. There is no friend like an old friend. I treasure them, and him.