Now What

Poetry, rather writing, has framed my life as long as I can remember.

As a ten-year-old, I wandered around the neighborhood trying to “sell” my hand-scratched newspapers. Though I never kept a diary or journal regularly, I found myself turning to writing when I needed to figure out what I was thinking. Going through a divorce meant writing my way through it. And then when life became complicated and painful, I turned to poetry.

Having just completed a meaningful poetry/photography project with friend Donna Hopkins about family and aging, I find myself without a plan for my writing. That means putting pen to paper in whatever way feels good– like sketching! I’ve learned to let go of perfection- like the yellow sky in the sketch here that drips into where the water should be. Or the published poetry that should be in a different form. It’s the process, I’ve learned, that matters.

Wherever I am in my life (and whoever I am), I’ve discovered I need to create. I don’t like to cook or garden, but give me a pen and I’m content.

Czesław Miłosz once wrote:

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, 
and invisible guests come in and out at will

Update on Pair Project

Last April when my friend Donna Hopkins and I decided to try a poetry/photography project, I was excited. But I didn’t know we would still be working on it these months later.

Yet, I’ve found this project has given me focus. I’ve also changed the way I see the world, much like when children view events through their own fresh eyes. And I couldn’t be more grateful for this in my life right now.

This was Donna’s idea: to make a photo and send it to me where I would react to it in writing. “Let’s see where it goes,” she said, with a smile that drew me in.

First, I love her photographs. They capture moments in her life, moments that show what it means to be human. Also, she knows I use the photos as inspiration, so my writing is not literally about the photo but what comes to me as I study it. We found we were much aligned as we moved forward. The other discovery came when she titled the project Natural Histories, a nod to this time in our lives. What a perfect way to document what we are both going through as we transition into what I think of as the last third of our lives.

An example above shows what she sent- a photo, stark in its dark green and white sign contrast, but also empty with a sign that says nothing. At first I focused on the blank sign, but then my mind moved to what happens at the moment of death. I found my feelings stirred up around the idea of after life and my mother.

We are mid-way through the project, aiming to finish up next April, a year from when we started. The beauty for me is I can create a poem but return to it before we finalize. I’ve already added and deleted lines from earlier poems, and I plan to do a once over before we publish our book.

Sebene Selassie said, “each of us can cultivate our capacity to live in ways that honor our inherent interconnection. Through intimacy and imagination we can consciously create the world we live in together.” This feels like I am creating the world in which I want to live. We will all grow old. We will all die. How do we honor the time we are here on this earth?

To Read or Not to Read

I hope Jenna doesn’t mind me using her photo from last night here. She was amazing, as were all the other readers at the Water Street Writers open mic event.

I’d brought three poems to read, just in case. But I had a feeling I wouldn’t read, beginning a few days ago. I spent my life in front of people: teaching, talking to parent groups, and speaking at technology forums. Presenting seemed easy, natural. Then I went through some life changes that, well, changed my life. Suddenly, I experienced anxiety, gut issues, and sleep problems. I ignored them for a few years, but then realized I needed to learn how to manage them.

After two or three years, I do feel like I *can* manage (not fix) them. And one way is to honor what I am feeling. I try to say “yes” when I mean yes, and I say “no” when I mean no. I knew if I read, I would feel the flutters in my stomach turn to waves. Then I’d have gut issues that wouldn’t subside for days. And I probably wouldn’t have slept last night.

I *chose* not to read. Instead I totally enjoyed sitting outside in the freezing weather listening to my Water Street writers read. The evening was relaxing!

I have become more introverted as I age. I crave solitude. Nothing makes me happier than writing, listening to podcasts, walking on the beach, or sitting in a garden. That’s not to say I don’t love my friends. It was so good to see the writers whom I usually only see on Zoom! So many smiles, so many hugs.

The past few years have taught me to honor my feelings and do what is important for my body. I don’t always make the right choices, but they are choices. That feels right.

What I’m reading/learning:


A Simple Movement for Joy

Start Where You Are


Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

I’ve been playing around with poetry again. Now that I have given my press and type away, I feel the call to be creative in other ways. For years I participated in a writing group, which was, in my mind, a group that focused on “writing to heal.” That’s probably because I had lots of emotional healing to do, and I found that writing my way through it all helped. That wasn’t the group’s only purpose, so we also shared poetry, short stories, even writing snippets– whatever moved us that week.

I am joining the group again (thankful they kept it going all these years), and I am back to reading and writing. This morning, I saw a book mentioned online, Writing From the Heart, and I thought, “looks great!” When I clicked to order it, my kindle notes told me I had already purchased it a few years ago. Of course, I own it. It’s my kind of book!

As I began to re-read it, I was reminded how much I love to write, and how much better I feel once I do. I’ve been journaling every morning, but I want to be more intentional about it. So I’m going to be practicing some memoir/essay type writing here–

To get started, I’ve ordered Nancy Slonim Aronie’s new book: Memoir as Medicine, which will be out at the end of March. In the meantime, I’ve watched this about it and her.

If I think about this, it seems that for my whole life, whenever I need something, the gift appears. A friend, a book, a quote, a reminder….synchronicity.

Recently, I had coffee with a friend. We share interests in health, creativity, and family issues. She arrived and handed me a small book of poems, How to Love the World, Poems of Gratitude and Hope. This was before I had decided to start writing again. Somehow she knew I would love it. (Thanks, Donna!)


It reminds me to pay attention. Ask what I need to learn. Be open to the possibilities.

Figuring it all out

I haven’t.

Oh, I keep thinking I have everything under control. But then I get that rapid heart beat, the stomach rolling, and I recognize it. I am anxious again.

Once you’ve experienced it, you will know immediately.

So what to do? Well, I know I’ve taken on some extra volunteering lately. I’m on the Board of NICA, (Nopes Island Conservation Association) and on the marketing committee of Mental Health America of Fredericksburg. Both are important organizations that do so much good. I’m helping with social media and writing newsletters among other things.

I had also volunteered to print some wedding invitations for a sweet friend, and since that’s normally out of my lane, I let the whole process drive me crazy. Mistake after mistake and –rushing! When I get anxious, my thoughts start swirling and whirling, and the next thing I know, my actions follow my thoughts. I’ve been going too fast.

So, big breath today. Slow down. Stop overthinking. I need to remember the patterns I fall into, and then also remember- I can stop.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.”
—Natalie Goldberg