Category Archives: January Prompts

o happy day


Some days are so good, with beauty without and loved ones within, and yet, there is some place to be filled. And then you chop and thicken and stir, and steam rises in the kitchen, and the postman comes. And then there is a full bowl, and loveliness and inspiration brimming the heart. And a sigh of contentment.

O happy day–  creamy chicken and wild rice soup and the new issue of Kindred, which glided across the icy South to my door this afternoon. 





Alert to the Sky


is grey this morning.

The pale sky is featureless,

a benevolent, gloved hand

blessing firmly my bent head.

Even the birds are quiet,

but I breathe in a thousand hopes,

the whispered snow-prayers

of schoolchildren.

Thick they ride the surface of the air,

fast and sure as sleds

remembered from storytime illustrations.

Every child a weatherman,

they scan radar, bet on percentages,

eye the thermometer warily.

This is the South

when January has bleached us out

and March is not even a green mist

on our horizon.

I am today’s grown-up,

considering black ice, empty grocery shelves

and downed power lines.

But beneath my responsible patina,

is a child with fingers crossed under mittens,

alert to the sky

to catch the first flake shaken

from our dreams.



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currently reading


“Fiction is like that, once it is released into the world: contagious, persistent. Like the contents of Pandora’s box, a story that’s freely given can’t be contained anymore. It becomes infectious, spreading from the person who created it to the person who listens, and passes it on.”  — Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller


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When I was young I thought I knew how the muse worked. She would visit and I would write. If I did not “feel” her presence, under the ideal artistic conditions, the words would not come.  She was fickle and free, and would not be mastered by mundane schedules and practices and anything that even smelled like work.

I’m so thankful that my muse is both more workaday and mysterious than I believed her to be in my teens. Now I liken partnering with the muse to the way I make bread.  There is no way around it, that if there are going to be sandwiches and toast, I have to show up with my flour and water and yeast and fat. I’ve learned the feel of the dough, when it is too wet and shaggy, or dry and tough, and what to do either way. I’ve admired the satin sheen of a plump ball, and the swell of the second rise right before I punch down and shape it. I’ve known the keen satisfaction of brown loaves on the counter and a perfumed house.

But what keeps me coming back to the bowl and board is that something in the process remains beyond me, batch after batch. I can measure with precision, proof the yeast, weigh the dough as I divide it, and no two loaves or rolls are ever the same. I know the happy surprise of a lovely, delicious outcome, and I know when to throw up my hands when a stubborn loaf refuses to be shaped, when it is an “as good as it gets” day.  I know to bake it anyway. What isn’t perfect can still teach, nourish, sustain.

In wrestling with words, there are the dependable ingredients and the learned techniques, and the skill that grows with handling and blending and weighing. And then there is the alchemy that happens somehow, the mystery beyond my flour-covered fingers. The muse is there sometimes, but not until my hands are already in the bowl.

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green light


As a legally blind non-driver, the image of a swinging traffic signal over my head does not produce the automatic, muscle-memory drive to GO! I’ve never felt the surge of an engine under an accelerating foot.

But today, deep in the cold of January, the new year wearing a bit thin, I need to dig into that secondary definition, the one to do with permission to move ahead.  I need to give a green light to:

  • knowing myself and my very introverted limitations
  • saying a respectful “no,” as needed, and being at peace with the outcome
  • moving this body more, because it feels good, not tied to visible results
  • doing my own creative work before consuming others’ efforts
  • naps as needed
  • handwork and lens-work and paper-work as well as word-work

What could you give a green light to today?



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Joining in: Lists With Friends 2014


There are the ingredients of the ground I uncurled from, appearing on the first day of spring, nearly forty-two springs ago. Red clay, Maxwell House coffee, cream gravy and dinnerplate dahlias. A pale green farmhouse in southwest Virginia, pinto beans cooked low and slow on a woodburning stove. The Carolina Upstate, land of quick rivers, mountain laurel, Wildcat Falls and Beechwood Farms UPick corn, ears by the dozen.

There’s the compost I’ve been working into that earth ever since. Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, words and more words, Indigo Girls and Carrie Newcomer, Nanci Griffith and love found young, getting older and more golden now. Boys’ shoes in a pile by the door, mud boots in the carport, squirt guns and the Happy Berry. Honey vanilla homemade ice cream, yeast bread and coffee, fajita summer evenings and pots of potato soup in January. Quilts and stories, Redwall and Little House, heights marked in Sharpie on the linen closet doorjamb. More words still.

Movement seems upward, always upward, these days. When my heart aches with all the stretching, I remember I am plunged deep into that good dark warmth beneath. I can spread my fingers to the future because of all the history under my feet.


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What if, just for today, or just in this hour, I focused on the (returning, slowly) light in my eyes, and not the extra twenty pounds? If I saw kindly the bloom in my cheek from the walk outside, and not the blemishes and lines? What if I smiled generously at the woman in the mirror, a long lost friend, and offered her something besides my continual criticism and occasional qualified, grudging respect?

How would my greeting to my own reflection change what path the day takes?


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