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?

A Headache By Any Other Name

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

I used to take two Excedrin every morning.

For years.

When I’d visit my primary care and mention it, she’d ask all the right questions, but nothing seemed to help. I finally got an MRI. Two actually. I tried Craniosacral therapy, nasal sprays for slight allergy, and deep breathing.

When I started getting secondary headaches in the late afternoon and needed tylenol or ibuprofen (no Excedrin late in the day because of the caffeine), I decided to read about rebound headaches. Ahhhh. Perhaps I was taking too much over-the-counter medication. Most people recommend no more than 15 days each month.

So I stopped cold turkey. The first few days were painful, but lots of water and deep breathing seemed to help. I kept telling my brain that there was nothing to fear, that the pain would soon subside. And it did, finally.

We will see how it goes. It seems unlikely that more than 20 years of daily headaches will be over just like that. But reading this today also supported my belief that pain can be managed.

Although I awoke in the middle of the night for other reasons, I awoke again this morning headache-free.

Now let’s continue to work on those middle of the night issues :)

Other things I’m reading:

Her poetry

I put this book on hold at the library (and look at the poetry on my friend Donna’s site while you are there/ She tells wonderful stories through her photos)

“You still have your problems but they are not on the shore” A film worth watching….

What We Know

My dad’s flannel shirt hangs in the shed
these ten years later. A musty smell
of turpentine and wood oil
has settled in the work space.

Mom’s handwritten cookbooks
clutter the cabinet, sticky
with her fingerprints, flour still seeping
from the pages years after her death.

Yet, here in this house, it’s the unfinished,
unsaid words I yearn for in the silence.
A complicated family maze of lightness
and dark lingers here .

Now, I need to ask:

Did I say enough to you?
When I am gone, will you know?
Have I filled your world with a clarity of being enough?
When you find my sweater hanging in the closet,
will you touch it with sweet memories of how much you were loved?


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.