Category Archives: February Prompts

leap

kindred_issue 6_600

Last year I started writing again. Oh. I’d written some, off and on for years, in blog posts, personal essays, retreat content, and corporate prayers to be used in worship. But last year I returned to poetry, my first love. I’d written many poems early in my young adulthood, but only a handful between ages 25 and 41. 

But there were these prompts, that would not leave me alone, found from a favorite blog.  They whispered around the edges of my days, asked me questions, teased me with depth and playfulness and curiosity in turn. They reminded me both of my younger self, and the enduring, irresistible truth that every day holds something that can be discovered, some pulsing something beneath its skin. 

I picked up my pencil, and found my way to the keyboard. Every poem is still a leap from the first line. I begin with intention, but the best moments are when the poem gets away from me, with only the whoosh of air, and I am just along for the ride. I’ll come back to it, shape the trajectory, judge the distance, but the leap is the irresistible part. 

Another leap comes when we send our work into the world, by any of the myriad ways we can now. I do that here.

And now I am more than delighted that my work will appear in Issue Six of Kindred. Kindred is a fine art literary magazine, beautifully bound and in full color, brimming with poetry, prose and photography. Issue Six explores the theme of rebirth. 

You may pre-order Kindred here. Your order will support a small press dedicated to sharing meaningful language and image, and you’l give yourself a springtime gift in your mailbox. 

 

 

I’ve been seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

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mitten strings: a thursday list of turning-point books

mitten

It is Thursday, and that means it is list time.  In the new year, when I set my sights on participating in Lists with Friends, using Amanda’s prompts linked below, I thought sooner or later I’d run into a prompt that defied the list format.  I thought I’d met my match in today’s nudge to write, “mitten strings.”

Ah, but the first thing that popped into my mind was Katrina Kenison’s marvelous book, Mitten Strings for God. And from there, a list began unfurling in my mind, of before-and-after books, books that changed me, books that read me as much as I read them. This list is not complete. I hope it is never finished.

  • In the months after I was married, on a bookstore ramble, I discovered two volumes by Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk. Both spoke to me, as a poet and a person of faith, at such a deep level.  At that point in my life, I needed a wider landscape in which to navigate my faith, a less constricted spectrum than what I’d known.  Norris, and L’Engle and Merton and Nouwen with her, gave me that.
  • More recently, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle widened and deepened my sense of what it means to love others in the light of God, what holiness looks like.
  • In terms of self-exploration, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain came immediately to mind. I think of these books as ones that helped me understand my own operating system, helped me to unpack the ways I have related with others and interacted with the world. That both are readable and relatable is a bonus.
  • Last year, when I delved back into writing, the books poemcrazy and Writing Poetry From the Inside Out pulled me up short from my free fall of expectations and nerves, and reminded me that word play can be fun, can be woven into the fabric of the day, and can, when I forget myself enough and send my loud inner critic on an errand out of town, yield up a poem.
  • Finally, as a parent, Kenison’s Mitten Strings for God and Beth Kephart’s Seeing Past Z (which I wrote about in more detail here), have been books like friends, coming along beside me, whispering to me that what I observe in our family rhythms, what I know in my heart that I want for my boys, is possible, sustainable, sane.

When I open a box with an arrow and swoosh, or lug home my stuffed canvas bag from the library, in addition to hoping for prose that stuns me with beauty or carries me out of my corner and into another world, some part of me hopes that one book will make me stop hard, turn around and realize that I know a truth I did not know before, and it has made me over, made me better.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

Joining in: Lists With Friends 2014

(one of) my favorite things

favorite-things

I’m tempted to make a whole list of my favorite things, the sources of deep comfort or the silly pleasures or the weekend indulgences, but last month I was reminded of a favorite thing of mine that is harder to describe, not precisely possible to link to.

Last month I read Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Now it is true, I treasure a book I can unabashedly love, lose myself in, praise to the skies. But perhaps even better is a book like this one.

Weeks after reading it, I can’t really boil down my feelings about it enough to say if I liked it or not. That seems beside the point. And any succinct description of what it is about falls short for me.

There are more than a few exquisite lines that I turn over in my mouth again and again:

“. . .she was so outgoing she was practically incoming.”

“When I run the world, librarians will be exempt from tragedy. Even their smallest sorrows will last only for as long as you can take out a book.”

But it is not even these gems that have me circling back to the photo I snapped of the cover, before I returned the book to the library. The questions this book raised in me, about the nature of memory and family and blame, about being and humanity and love, keep swimming up to the surface, borne on its pages.

I don’t know what reaction happened, when these words were shaken together with my life now, but I know this drives me on as a reader, searching for the next book that unsettles me in complicated and wonderful ways.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

a room of one’s own

aroomofonesown

We live in an older house, the four of us, with little closets and an unheated laundry room. We love Legos and books and warm throw blankets and the electric guitar and skateboarding and drums and photographs and our gigantic cat.

We live fully all over our house. The so-called guest room does have a twin sized bed in it, but also my whole wardrobe, drying racks for the winter time, the aforementioned electric guitar and an amp and our jumbo sized box of oatmeal from Costco. We make space, albeit in strange ways sometimes. We do schoolwork on the dining table, make art there too, create cards and pie crusts on the kitchen bar, crowd on the sofa for video games and studies and Mythbusters and books. Our bedrooms are big enough for sleeping and not much more.

So a room of my own is a place I often have to create between my ears, less bracketed by plaster and lath than by attention and increments of time. I read one more chapter or write a stanza while waiting for the bread to rise, or during independent work time for my home-schooled child. I try to breathe deeply and write in my head while my hands are busy with the warm laundry.  I roll out my yoga mat when the boys head for the woods or a Scout meeting. I iron to podcasts or Pandora. I sit quietly and just hold the cat, ten minutes of gratitude for the deep vibration of her contentment.

It is not ideal, whatever that is. And it will not always be as it is, with the noise and the mess and the joy of four people held together by midcentury architecture. I’m greedy I guess, because I want it all, with these boys and this man and their drumming on every surface and their Lego bin dumps and their schematics of skate park plans, and I want quiet and meditation and poetry too.

So every day I’m trying to make room for my room, for my window of time and space, to make what I can of this moment.  And though I’m not always successful, I try to do it without resentment of the gloriously crowded now. I pin photos of attic nooks with bright windows and a Shaker table and chair, spare and solitary, but I write from one swept corner here, with the tumble thump of the dryer for a soundtrack, and the timer counting down.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

a balm for the soul

Balmfor-the-soul

Sometimes the work of getting better, and untangling the unhealthy mental recordings, snarled like so many high school mix tapes, and breathing in mercy to breathe out grace, sometimes those very healing processes can leave me feeling a little bruised and shabby.

I want to draw up to a table, eat something nourishing, look at something lovely. I want eggs from my neighbor’s chickens with their clementine yolks, I want the blood red roses from my sweetheart, and the creak of a new spine. Cold beer and salty popcorn. Freshly washed sheets stretched drum-head tight over the mattress, pillowcase smoother than my cheek.

I know. I know the time wrestling with shadows gives depth and meaning to the light. Many of my words are mined from the dark places. And the litany above are creature comforts, but they are more than that, these pleasures. They are balm for a weary soul. They remind me of who I am and what I love.  They remind me that the good work of building a good life is worth doing.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

good fortune: a thursday list

goodfortune

After a few weeks off, I’m back with a list of my good fortune this Thursday.

  • After yesterday’s morning-penned late-winter whine, the sun came out and the temperatures soared to the low seventies. I took off my wool socks and opened the windows. Not spring yet, but promising.
  • I’m finding ways to make my seventh grader laugh, and that is music to my ears.
  • This week, after a long hiatus of read aloud time, we started The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book Four, The Interrupted Tale, and from the first chapter it looks to be as good fun as the other three books in the series.
  • I had a forty-five minute yoga practice yesterday that reminded me why I always return to the mat. I resumed my day feeling so much more at ease in my skin, open and relaxed.
  • Since the purchase of a new mattress, I am sleeping well nearly every night. This is a blessing that seemed automatic to mid-twenties Missy, but early-forties Missy is deeply grateful.
  • Tomorrow night I’ll be listening to one of my favorite singer-songwriters live, after a delicious meal with my beloveds.

Last week had the snow, but it is this week that seems a flurry of good fortune.

 

Joining in with Lists With Friends 2014

 

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM