Thursday, April 18, 2013
Sunday, July 29, 2012
In the wee hours of the next day she decided that she needed to do something about the situation; she knew that waiting for years was not a viable option. She wrote a prayer to the Universe asking for what was needed. At first she thought that the prayer was only for herself. She soon realized that it was meant to be shared. She began by emailing it to her mentors, then to her dearest friends, then to her trusted colleagues. This eased her mind a bit but not enough. She was restless.
She rolled out the yoga mat. For the next hour she breathed and stretched. She tried to settle her mind. She reached for her Zen. It seemed unattainable.
She decided that a hike on her favorite trail would help. She arrived to find the park full of middle schoolers. She almost turned her car around to leave but decided that she wouldn't let the screeching children keep her from finding her Zen. She hiked her trail. She breathed in; she breathed out. She inhaled the fragrant late spring air. She passed sourwoods, white oaks, red maples and thirteen year olds. She smiled and said hello - to the trees and to the children. She also expressed her gratitude for no longer being a middle school teacher. Her Zen still felt out of reach.
She drove to her job. She had signed up for a mindfulness workshop that was happening that afternoon and didn't want to miss it. To her surprise she discovered that the speaker was a Zen Buddhist monk. How could she had forgotten that? She laughed at herself. She listened and nodded and smiled. Now she knew that not only had the Universe sent her Zen to her but that it would also answer her prayer. Her job was to be patient, to pay attention and to not push so hard.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Sunday, July 08, 2012
I am haulin' ass down Smothers Road completely unaware that I have company.
They put their hands in mine – two grandmothers.
Maternal on the right, paternal on the left,
looking like they did when I was a young girl in the ‘70s.
Grandma, wavy thick red hair, green-lensed cat eye glasses;
Jerona, smiling and proud with her tall teased silver bouffant.
Deep auburn locks and freckles were beautiful to me, I wanted to look like that.
I inherited the silver tresses and “big bones” instead.
I adore it now – that I look like Jerona.
I love that glitter grows out of my head.
“Oh dear ladies, how I miss you everyday. I am so happy to see you.”
They smile calmly and nod, each squeezing a hand.
“Which one of you popped me on the nose yesterday?
You stopped me in the midst of a bad decision and made me think clearly.”
They won't tell me; they just grin wisely.
They know that I know what to do.
“Thank you for the subtle reminder
and for all of your guidance and your grit,
your lovingkindness, your silliness,
the pats on my head and on my knee.
your neverending love – even from the grave.
Please join me again soon.”
I want to hug them but know that is not possible.
Then they are gone and I feel lonely and protected,
both at the same time.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
nothing to hear but the chatty birds outside
I resist my urge to turn on human made music
the last year has been difficult and I long for this quiet
a day of simple chores await me
I stretch to reach two mixing bowls from a high cabinet
the first, that belonged to Mary Agnes, is an old ceramic character
I want to hug it to me as if it was my grandmother standing with me
the other is metal, cold, dull - purchased by me, Mary Katherine,
for my first sweet college home after I left the dorm
in the boring bowl I mix wet ingredients - olive oil and soy milk
the dry ingredients go into the blue, chipped one
whole wheat flour, a little white flour, pinch of salt
and rosemary, lots and lots and lost of rosemary
it is for remembrance, after all - how appropriate
the silver bowl stuff is mixed - quick and easy
next my wooden spoon goes into the dry stuff
and I am flooded with a perfect, serene calm
I want to stir all day, nothing else today, just stirring
is this that "being present in the moment" that the Buddhists talk about?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Its continuous crashing mocks the gentle, graceful undulation of Satie’s first of Three Gnossiennes.
She piles her dual-hued hair atop her head, securing it from drenching.
Clothes puddle to the floor, eyes close with acknowledgment for this lovely evening ritual.
An involuntary sigh begins in the bottom of her belly and progresses – ever so slowly – upward,
as she’s enveloped by the cool water ,
calmed by her solitary oasis.
She lets go of this day – the tiny aggravations, that elusive verb, the endless tasks that kept her from the page, the distractions.
In their place she lists five things that pleased, five reasons for waking.
Her house filled with music,
the breeze that flittered the translucent curtains and slid across her skin,
her daily desire to sing and dance around like a mad woman,
the soulful stare of whippet eyes,
the cranky cat-bodyguard who is sprawled on the bathroom rug,
and one extra – the words that did come.
Ah, it was a beautiful day after all.
She is content. She is joy.
Now she is ready for the silk, for the high count cotton bed linens, for the pillows, for sleep,
that time when her body, mind and soul prepare themselves to do it all again tomorrow.
Life is good.
- This poem was written in July 2009. I express gratitude to John Rotan for being my first reader for this piece and to Stephen Simmons for help with dusting it off and giving it a polish.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Hiking makes me wanna write.
Sooooo, if you've been to this blog since last summer you've probably heard a lot of cricket chirping or maybe even seem some huge tumbleweeds roll by. I will do better, I promise. Today I re-establish the at-least-one-post-a-week rule.
Life has changed dramatically for me since I last wrote here. I'll be writing about that, for sure. Before I get into the details of it all I'll just talk about today and how I this blog is going to change.
This morning I am waiting for my mom to awaken so that I can make sure that she's feeling well enough to be left on her own after an evening of feeling unwell. This checking in with her to determine how my day will progress has become a daily ritual. My mom has stage 4 liver disease or cirrhosis which is a result of hepatitis b. No one knows how she contracted hep, but Mom suspects that it was from cleaning up after a sick or hurt child during her earlier teacher assistant days before school staff wore gloves when dealing with such mishaps. Be that as it may. We will never know how this all started. The point is this: my mom is sick. And we are waiting. Waiting for the day that her MELD score is high enough to get her a new liver. Waiting to see if tomorrow will be a good day or a bad day. Waiting for her to feel well again. It is unsettling. It is upsetting. It is hard. And there is nothing else I'd rather be doing right now.
As I said Mom wasn't feeling well last evening so I am staying away from her house and letting her sleep as long as she can. She's been having trouble sleeping for more than a few hours at a time lately. I decided that since I'm here - waiting - AnnietheWhippet and I would go on a short hike. Yep, I live on the family farm now so I can slip on my hiking boots, walk out the front door, pass my parents' house and be in the woods. I ALWAYS feel good when I'm in the woods. As Annie was running in front of me, following the cow trails (and sniffing the cow patties - dogs are weird) I was calm. Not that I'm not feeling calm today, I am. It's a different kind of calm, a complete calm. And with that calmness, for me, comes gratitude. That's always a good thing.
During the hike I decided that while I'm waiting and trying my best to take good care of my mother that I'll write about it. Writing is a help to me. It's never let me down thus far. If other caregivers of folks waiting for organ transplant find this blog and it somehow helps them all the better.
Wish for me that this calm and grateful waiting state will continue.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
I need to get out
I want to scream
too much to do
no time to dream
Scribbled on the same page are Greshwin Prelude 2 (not sure what that was about) as well as the beginnings of a poem about my best friend giving a piano recital. That one is too embarrassing to share. Sorry!
Now, 28 years after I began this personal record, journaling has become a daily ritual for me. I show up, first thing every morning, with an extra fine black ink roller ball pen in hand and scribble for at least three pages - no excuses. It's a wonderful centering activity and on good days, gets the creative juices flowing!
If you're interested in journaling as a way to tap into your creativity I highly recommend reading some Julia Cameron, especially The Artst's Way.
I'm going to go relive my past a little more. It's amusing.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
p.37 from Sometimes
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
p.39 from Percy (Nine)
Emerson, I am trying to live,
as you said we must, the examined life.
But there are days I wish
there was less in my head to examine,
not to speak of the busy heart. How
would it be to be Percy, I wonder, not
thinking, not weighing anything, just running forward.
(Percy is Ms. Oliver's dog. I love that she writes about him.)
p.45 Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive in the Melting Ice Floes
That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?
p.47 from Not This, Not That
or for you, oh blue sky of a summer morning,
that makes me roll in a barrel of gratitude
or for you, silliest and dearest of surprises, my
p.53 from We Should Be Well Prepared
The way somebody comes back, but only in a dream.
p.55 I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life (Ten)
Love, love, love, says Percy.
And run as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.
Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your burning heart.
p.57 from Mornings at Blackwater
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
p.67 from I don't want to live a small life
I don't want to live a small life. Open your eyes,
open your hands.
p.72 from There you were, and it was like spring
Why are we made the way we are made, that to love
is to want?
p.75 from I will try
I did not come into this world
to be comforted.
I came, like a red bird, to sing.
p.77 from Someday
I am sorry for every mistake I have made in my life.
I'm sorry that I wasn't wiser sooner.
I'm sorry I ever spoke of myself as lonely.
Do yourself a favor, read some poetry today! It only takes a couple of minutes and you'll have a spring in your step. I promise!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
She was immersed in celebration. She was surrounded by love. There was drink and food and dancing. Arms in the air, twirling bodies wrapped in tiny strapless summer dresses or covered by dark suits with crisp shirts and pastel ties, the inevitable uncomfortable shoes. And candles – glowing, flickering from every table – what lovely light. Everything draped in white fabric – graceful, flowing. This day was about two gorgeous young people who were especially dear to her. Her eyes swept to the middle of the banquet hall. Directly in front of the dance floor they sat, their entire bodies smiled, up from their toes through their eyes all the way to the tops of their heads. She silently sent them a wish that they’d always be as happy as they were in that moment.
She was full of honor and gratitude, for this newly married couple were the first people to ask her to write – to write for their wedding. They had surprised her by enlarging the love poem and placing it in a dark wooden frame. When she’d arrived at the reception she encountered it in the entry way – displayed for all the guests to see. She’d expelled a whoop of excitement and done a little dance when it caught her eye. She was thrilled.
“See,” she said inside her head, “this is indeed a day of joy. What’s this fake feeling about?” She shook her head, smiled and muttered crazy artist under her breath. She smiled again - at herself and at the couples – mostly young, but some not so young – as they filled the dance floor. The song was slow and as it moved along they became more and more intertwined. Just like in her poem. Suddenly she knew. If she were alone she would bonk herself on the forehead. It was the poem – clearly – and it was out for the world to see. The problem was not that she has ripped open her chest down to her soul and exposed her heart to the open air. She did that all the time; she walked around this world with her heart wide open. It was that, in that poem, she declared what love is. She, the poetess on high, had proclaimed what love is and shall always be, forever more. Now she felt like as ass. And a big, fat faker! She should have put an asterisk at the end of the poem with a tiny disclaimer.
*This is what I really, really, really hope love is, however; I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
The few times she’d loved like that, the man involved was all in – for a while – and then suddenly, without explanation – stopped loving her. She wanted to believe (and most days she could manage that) that she simply hadn’t found her equal yet. That the different, upturned, better, brighter was out there for her. (Wherever there is. Maybe she should invest in a gps device ) But – and here’s the fake part – sometimes, when she was in her little bungalow, late at night, she sat in the dark and worried that there was something dreadfully wrong with her. Why else would they have stopped loving her? And why couldn’t they tell her why? She smiled again, not bitterly, (she gave up being bitter many years ago) looked at the swirling couples and longed – just a little. Yes, it is out there for her. Somewhere. She refuses to give up. Damn it, her poem is right, it is rare, but she will not settle for anything less. She smiles once more, this time in hopefulness, and comes out of her reflective fog.
Her twenty-something friends, her table mates, who are now ready to bust a move return. The slow dancing was over for now. Two of them grabbed her by the hands and tugged until she agreed to join them on the dance floor. She slowly shook her head one last time as they drug her out to play with them. She’s no fake – she was completely certain that the poet inside her knew exactly what she was talking about. She only had to keep her heart open and she’d stumble across there, somewhere, whatever you wanna call it. Right then, it was time to dance with her friends who loved her, no matter what – even if there was something dreadfully wrong with her - which she never really believed anyway.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Life presents others to us.
Some bring laughter, some bring lessons.
Once - if one is fortunate - an equal appears.
Suddenly everything is different, upturned, brighter, better.
And you know.
Finally, without question.
When souls touch and long to intertwine.
When hearts meld and never want to part.
That is rare.
That is love.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Mitchell’s triangular ears are flat against his head.
He paces the perimeter of the living room, even venturing behind the purple couch.
His pink paw pads are noiseless against the hardwood floors.
I know what is about to happen.
Now I hear it too – the rumble, the squeak, the squeal,
those churning wheels begin to slow down the ones spinning in my head.
My slow and purposeful movement toward the back of the house counteracts the building momentum.
As it comes closer, closer and closer still, my heartbeat quickens.
I stand on the porch but am soon in the yard to better absorb the vibrations.
They are soaking into my body, into my being.
I stare just beyond the trees at the back of my yard until it arrives.
Rapid flashes of the wheeled boxes zoom past and I close my eyes to ward off dizziness.
I am still, I listen – I am truly present in this moment.
This has become a meditation for me – a reminder to stop and feel the grass between my toes.
I acknowledge my gratitude for: the cat who is now hiding under the bed, the whippet who stands nearby un-phased, this yard, this porch, this tiny bungalow, this space in the world, this life of my own.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I'm here tonight posting a note because I'm involved in Web 2.0 training at work. We're into Week 2 which focuses on blogging and so I'm updating. Hopefully, the creative juices will start a-flowing and you'll see some cool little poems and epiphany-induced she stories soon. Who knows, I may even do some interpretive dancing for 'ya. I'll bet this training will teach me how to do that in blog format! :)
If you're new here, cruise around and send me comments if you're so inclined. I love the comments.
hugs and kisses,
Sunday, March 09, 2008
I had a 3-month case of the yucks mostly as a result of losing faith in my judgment. I've come out of this realizing that I need a lot of things these days - to live on my own, to change my work schedule, and most importantly to trust my instincts again. When I'm underneath tough stuff I tend to shut down, cocoon and stifle my creativity. Today I happily report that I am feeling much sunnier. Here's part of the reason why.
My roommate and I were Meandering in our local Barnes and Noble this evening (yay Spring Break which equals a Sunday night free of work!) when I stumbled across Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making by John Fox. I thumbed through the first few pages and decided that the book was just what I needed to begin writing again. After arriving at the apartment I settled in with my new treasure, read the first few pages and decided to give the first exercise a try. Here's the description (pp. 5&6).
Sacred Place. Imagine or recall in detail the place or places you feel most able to let your writing emerge. It doesn't have to be just one place. This place could be in your present home - or a home that you design to support your creativity. It could be an interior place shaped by your imagination or a spiritual realm you visit. Nothing is too mundane or exotic to name as your sacred pace. Workshop students say things like: the kitchen, a coffee house or a rookery where blue herons live and feed. What kind of objects are in your place? Things from childhood? Things from nature? What common objects are in this place? What other signs of expression of life are there? What particular vegetation, animals or people thrive there? What colors, smells and textures? What is the shape of your place? What feelings exist here? What is the quality of the light and dark in this place? Turn your acute observations into a poem of place, a place that invites your poems.
I am going to share my poem with you below. I am pleased that it is longer than the poems I usually write. I experimented with rhyme because my rhyming poems, with the exception of Gratitude, are usually silly birthday poems. I wanted to try non-silly rhyming. This poem is not an example of my usual free-form style. It has a definite form - 5-part double couplet (7-6, 7-6 abab) followed by a quatrain (4,4,4,4 ccdd). I think that I like it, mostly. I'm sure to fiddle with it over the next few days. I'd be interested to hear what you think. (That is if I have any readers left.)
A Writer's Ritual
Sunbeams are eyelash dancing
creating rainbow glee.
Joyful whippet is prancing
ahead, delighting me.
Ears are flappers,
Liquid eyes, doed.
Back legs are bowed.
We have no time for stopping;
muscles are in a groove.
My ponytail keeps bopping.
We really like to move.
Wise gnarly tree
must stop to see.
Grass – fresh and new,
wet earthy dew.
Mottled tree frog on the bank
of the glittery creek,
where the great blue heron sank
to hide from those who peek.
Back home to incense burning,
cat purrs, window breezy.
Scribbles and page turning.
Time would make this easy.
From shelf above,
a sound of love.
Type before the words are lost.
Starting to feel frantic.
Sanity could be the cost
if I start to panic.
All will be well
that I can tell.
It ends the fright.
Love and light ya'll,
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
like windows in summer, their hearts were flung wide open
sweet freedom, nothing held back, no disguises
enlightenment seekers, treaders on a path of light, cultivators of silliness, artists
she felt finally understood, accepted, respected, admired and loved
he felt the same – but platonically, he gently told her
she slammed her window, yanked down the blinds and balled herself up in the darkest corner of her house
he called her back to play in the sun with him
she wanted to go - she misses him
how can she protect her heart from the brightest light she’s ever seen?
a light that shined through all her ego’s layers and took up residence inside her very essence
Sunday, November 04, 2007
four-year old beauty
hair almost comic book superhero blue in its blackness
huge inquisitive brown eyes, so dark that she appears to have no pupils
her tiny hands pull on the chipped, wooden knob
until the nightstand drawer slides out
revealing a new toy – black and shiny and heavy
so heavy that she uses both hands to pick it up and carry it into the hall
she gallops across the bedroom threshold to involve Mama in her discovery
sweaty and tired the mother stands at the end of the narrow tunnel that connects the two
bedrooms in their mobile home
sweaty and tired, she’s been scrubbing floors and at first doesn’t see her toddler
they’d watched a John Wayne movie the day before – a Sunday afternoon family ritual, Daddy loves the Duke
“Shoot Mama, bang-bang!” the child giggles.
Mama doesn’t naturally lean towards calm
instinctually - at this moment – she channels Ghandi or Mother Theresa or some other really patient person
that thing - in her baby’s hand - is no toy and she knows that there are bullets in its chamber
the too-young mother stands up straight, looks at her pint-sized unknowing life threatener, gulps, takes a tentative step forward and says, “Sweetheart, please give Mama the gun.”
“No, shoot Mama, bang-bang like John Wayne.”
Mama smiles, takes another step (this tiny hallway has never felt so long), “Darlin’ Mama really needs that gun.”
“No, no Mama. Shoot like John Wayne!”
Mama can’t contain herself much longer, she wants to scream
her legs are quaking and her breakfast is trying to escape her digestive system
slowly she takes 3 more steps toward her smiley gun-totin’ fairy child
embracing the little one with her left arm she grips the firearm with her other hand
the munchkin wiggles out of the embrace and scampers off in search of a new game
the mother melts onto the floor in terror and relief
she is overcome with sobs - she is a ball of emotion on the linoleum
the child is outside swinging around a tree and singing
that evening Daddy empties all his weapons of their ammo and places them on the highest shelves in the tiny tin-can trailer
the child has no recollection of the day she tried to be Jane Wayne
that day that could have changed everything
she does have an overly strong distaste for westerns
and a strangely physical repulsion to guns
their appearance makes her want to run and hide
Sunday, October 28, 2007
two sweet girls slumber on my pullout couch
a salad serving bowl full of roasted pumpkin seeds sits on the kitchen counter
the sink is full of pumpkin-gut covered carving utensils
mugs ringed with sticky leftovers of hot cider hang out all around the house
shoes are scattered near the front door
newspapers litter the living room floor
I went to bed at 1 am and left three lovely ladies watching Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson fall in love
their laughter made me smile in my slumber
the puppy kept watch over them all night from the big purple chair – she never came to bed
the watch-cat stared out the window scanning the shadows for mischief-makers
no one had ever been so well guarded
how wonderful that people are comfortable enough at chez moi to be overjoyed
I'm planning to read at least twice in November. If you're in the area I'd love to see you. As always, thanks for your support!
This Thursday!!! 7 pm open-mic coffee house at The Sanctuary
- 900 Sixteenth Street Greensboro, NC
Monday, November 19 7 pm Monday Night Poetry open-mic Poems of Thanksgiving at Greensboro Public Library, downtown branch
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The midnight sky all stars and black
Like darkened glass and glitter
Suggests that I go back inside
And wait for warmer weather
So here it's New Year's Eve again
And everything keeps changing
I raise my glass and toast the Gods
In charge of rearranging
All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
What's it like to be overjoyed
In spite of day-time planners higher standards
There's not a single thing that's turned out
Quite like I intended
And so you learn that holding on
Is nothing less than panic
When big things fall apart
Then hearts get that much more gigantic
All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Are you scared to be overjoyed
It used to be a race to see
Just who'd get there the fastest
But this frozen night it's only right
To consecrate the madness
All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Here's your chance to be overjoyed
photos by Cris Taylor
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
So I pretty much hate Wal-mart and I don’t use the h word lightly. I won’t get into why because I vowed to promote only positivity through this blog. Let’s just say me and Wal-mart, well we’re on very different life paths. My family and some of my friends shop there; I don’t give them a hard time. We all make our own choices and do what works for us. My family likes to tease me about it, the same way they always say we’re going out to dinner, mka you wanna go to the K&W hahahaheeheehee, aren’t we funny? Yeah, you’re hilarious!
Thursday night after my amazing experience at The Santuary I had a celebratory dinner with Sarah (thanks SBD!) and then packed up the pup and headed to Mayodan to spend the night at my old house. I still have moving work to do there and I was planning to spend some time with my dad and bro on Friday morning in celebration of Dad’s upcoming birthday on Sunday. I arrived about 11 pm, unloaded the dog (who hates – there’s that word again – riding in the car) and all my stuff. Next I checked the mail. You see, my grandmother still hasn’t forwarded her mail (I lived there for over a year…) so the box was a bit full. Smashed into the middle of the mail pile I saw a yellow card from the City of Mayodan. Uh-oh, sometime during the move I had missed a water bill – oops – and since my grandmother hasn’t been checking the box regularly the water had been turned off on Tuesday! So there I was 11:15 pm, with a weary whippet and no water! I called my dad who, like his daughter, works 2nd shift so I knew he’d be awake. The conversation went something like this.
mka: Hi Dad, sorry to call so late. I tried your cell phone first but it was turned off.
Dad: Yeah, I turn it off when I come home at night.
mka: Oh, I wish you’d leave it on until you go to bed because I hate calling the house phone because I know Mom and Big Daddy are already sleeping.
Dad: I’m sorry. I’ll start leaving it on, that’s a good idea.
Very, very sleepy and grumpy Mom picks up the other line: Why are you calling so late?
mka: I got to Mayodan and the water’s been turned off. Please tell me that there is something other than Wal-mart open.
Mom: Just come stay here.
mka: No, it’s too late. You guys are sleeping and Annie’s not gonna wanna ride again and I don’t wanna pack up the car again. I’m tired.
Dad: Honey, (laughs) I think Wal-mart is your only choice. Call me when you get back.
Alrighty then! I head out to Wal-mart, the place I never give my money to so that I can flush the toilet and brush my teeth. I was laughing my ass off and shaking my head all the way there. Never say never – how many times do I have to re-learn that lesson?
My plan was to kind of sneak in, buy a few jugs of water and slink back out to my car. Then I remembered that I was almost out of saline solution, and oh look they have those rewetting drops that I can never find, I better get two of those and I also need rubbing alcohol – if I buy that it’ll totally save me an errand tomorrow.
As I was walking to the register with my rolling basket containing 3 huge jugs of water, a bottle of saline solution, 2 boxes of contact lens re-wetting solution and a bottle of rubbing alcohol I thought I’ll pay with cash and that way there will be no evidence that I ever gave evil Wal-mart any of my money! Uh-huh. The bill came to $28 and some change and I had exactly $21 in my wallet so now there’s a debit on my bank account to prove that Ms. Liberal Environmental Organic Fair Trade You Get What You Pay For wimps out when she can’t flush the potty for one night. Sad, isn’t it?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
My week has been top-notch! I can’t hold myself back; I must tell you all about it in great detail. Indulge me…
On Wednesday of the previous week I had received an email from my good pal and Assistant Director of the Residential College (RC) at UNCG. mka, would you be willing to take part in an easy chair panel at the RC Renaming Ceremony on Saturday? My plan was to attend the ceremony but sort of melt into the background. I am the co-chair of the Alumni Steering Committee so I felt that I really should be there and I might even run into some RCers from my years, plus I adore RC. It could be fun, but mka doesn’t do public speaking. I continued reading the email. You’d be filling the chair of one of your favorite people in the entire world, the person who kindly admitted you into this glorious life-changing program after a five-minute frazzled conversation when you were an 18 year-old orientation attendee and freaking out because you didn’t have a dorm room. And his wife – the one who introduced you to some of your favorite authors and treated you with respect even when your essays really really really sucked. They have a family emergency and can’t be here. Remember what I said about not doing public speaking. Scratch that. The old mka didn’t do public speaking.
I won’t go into all my angsty moments leading up to Saturday afternoon at 4:00. I won’t tell you how I sent an email to one of my retreat groups or describe how it was peppered with phrases like I’m gonna be up there with like former deans and administrators and stuff. What in the world will I say? What if I panic and my brain stops working? No, I won’t share that with you. Nor will I detail the Saturday morning conversation in which one of my dear, dear undergraduate student supervisees attempted to convince me that I’m just as smart as any former dean or even the Chancellor (who I ended up sitting next to on the panel.) I’ll be kind and shield you from all that emotional drivel.
What I will tell you is that when it was my turn to speak I took a deep breath, stood up, explained that I was heartbroken to report that I’d never met the amazing Warren Ashby (the great gentleman who founded RC and whose name was about to become a part of the program’s title) but I knew that his influence and legacy lived on in Mary Foust Hall and would continue to for a very long time. I explained how I am involved with the Alumni Committee, that I’m in the dorm several times a year and can attest to its unchangedness. I let them know that the students are just as lovely as they’d expect – open, accepting, loving, intelligent, and super talented. I also encouraged the crowd to visit often – I assured them they’d feel right at home. Well, actually, I managed to get something along those lines out, I think. I’ve been told – in writing - that I didn’t sound anywhere near as gooberish as I felt. (Thanks Jeanne!)
After the ceremony I was invited to a dinner with all the other dignitaries (giggle). I sat next to Em, an amazing classical guitar student, RC (excuse me WARC) upperclass mentor, and incredible speaker – she closed the ceremony. Also seated near me were Tom, former RCer, current “dorm dad”, music faculty member and dissertation finisher. Rounding out the group were my pal, Jeanne, the AD and Susanne, a RC faculty member who teaches book making and book history. Of course lively conversation ensued. It was a beautiful thing. I’m glad I did it. Three cheers for (hold on while I gather myself – I want to get this right the first time) The Warren Ashby Residential College in Mary Foust Hall at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Phew! That was a mouthful.
On to Tuesday when I met, wait for it – SUE MONK KIDD! I’m not kidding you – I actually talked (kinda intelligently) to one of my favorite writers. I love her novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair, but by far my favorite of her work is the memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I had read a library copy so when I was last in Raleigh I bought my own at Quail Ridge Books and took it along to Salem College on Tuesday night. The event was billed as a Conversation with Sue Monk Kidd. A local newscaster asked the questions – some of his own, some that had been emailed from readers. Sue (maybe I should call her Ms. Kidd or Mrs. Kidd – but I feel like I know her so I’m gonna stick with Sue – I hope that’s not offensive to her)answered them eloquently and with good humor. Next she read a short piece from her newest book Firstlight which I had finished earlier that day (I’m a good student – I like to be prepared). Actually, I read my roommate’s copy – it was my Christmas gift to her last year. I took it along too. Then she took questions from the audience. Salem College has a Center for Women Writers so that were lots of young women ready with well-thought out questions. Of course one of those was what advice do you have for young/new writers. I was on the edge of my seat. I’d heard this question answered by Mary Oliver a few months ago and was high off her response for weeks afterward. Sue spoke of courage, how women especially are afraid to listen to their creative voices and to let their ideas out into the world. She urged her audience to be courageous – to just do it – to write. My soul was soaring and I had tears in my eyes. And I was grateful that I’d come alone to this event because the folks sitting near me and witnessing this rapture are people I’ll never see again so I didn’t care if they thought I was some kind of lunatic.
After the talk, I joined the book signing queue. I was so excited (not nervous – surprise, surprise) to meet Sue. I knew it would be brief and I knew exactly what I wanted to say. When I made it to the front of the line I chatted with Sandy, Sue’s lovely husband (what a sweetheart!) who was making sure that all the post-it notes had the correct names and spellings for the inscriptions. I explained that I was mk and that the other book belonged to my roommate who was hearing Van Cliburn play just down the street. Oh, Van Cliburn is in town, how wonderful! Sue, Van Cliburn is in town. Sue took my book and wrote To MK. I thanked her for what she’d said about courage and told her what I was going to do on Thursday night (see below). She stopped writing, looked intently into my eyes and said, good for you, MK, good for you! Then with a flourish befitting her southern girlishness she floated her pen across the page leaving behind Courage! Sue Monk Kidd. I smiled, thanked her and practically skipped away full of absolute and complete joy. If I just convinced Sue Monk Kidd that I’m a writer then it must really be true! DAMN!
There was no sleeping that night!! Instead I spent the wee hours preparing my reading notebook for my big premiere later in the week. I made mini vision boards for the front and back with calming images and images of the things I want most in life. I did this to help me remain present and calm when my first reaction when I’m nervous is to get stressed out, scattered and fidgety. I don’t want to go to that place anymore. I also made a photocopy of the title page of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter so that I could take Sue Monk Kidd’s courage with me wherever and whenever I bare my soul to the world.
And that’s exactly what I did on Thursday night. I read four of my pieces at an open-mic night – my first EVER! I rocked – it was awesome! I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. So sorry! I’d been thinking for the last couple of weeks about what I wanted to read and I’d narrowed it down a bit. I decided that even if I made the final choices once I got to the mic that was okay. I had all my work in the notebook and it was well organized so I could afford to be flighty about which pieces I was going to share. I was so calm and I was shocked by that. This was the first open-mic coffeehouse at The Sanctuary (very cool place, by the way – good people, good vibes) so the audience was small for which I was grateful. I had a chat with the hostess beforehand, Kristen Leigh a very hip and sweet local musician. She put me at ease right away. I signed up to be the 3rd of 4 performers. Kristen was first (she rocked!). Benji was next (yay Benji!) and then it was me. And I was not freaking out at all! I walked up there, put my notebook on the music stand, adjusted the mic and said hi you guys, I’m mk and I’m here because my friend Dalyn told me that I have to do this and she’s not here so I’m going to have a great time teasing her about not showing up (What!?! Who is this confident, at ease writer woman who has taken over my body?). I’m going to share four of my pieces with you tonight. Three of them I consider poems – my friend Barb who is a poet calls them hybrids – the other one is a prose piece. The first one is brand new so be nice. (What the hell!) The audience laughed and I launched into Maxfield Parrish in the Sky. There was nice applause at the end. Next I told a little story about my friend Barb and how she helped me get to my mantra of we’re all doing the best we can with what we have. Then I read doing the best we can with what we have. There was really nice applause after that one and I was moved so I said, you guys are sweet to which a girl in the front row replied, as if she were at a rock concert, you rock! I was floored! Next I read Cat’s Eye – a she story (my own term) about my relationship with my brother – which garnered amazing, emotionally-charged responses when I read it to my retreat group in March and caused my brother to weep when I gave him a copy for his birthday earlier this year. I ended with gratitude, a rhyming fun list of things that make me happy. I did it. I made it all the way through. I had a great time. And they loved me, they really really loved me. I have an open invitation to come back anytime! I plan to be there next month – November 1st at 7:00. I have an eye appointment that afternoon and my eyes will be dilated which I’m usually quite sensitive to so reading could be interesting. Hmmm, maybe I should change that appointment…
Love to all my readers!
Monday, October 01, 2007
July early evening commute,
the red light is an opportunity
to breathe deeply and look at the sky.
Wow – it is a Maxfield Parrish painting!
Vibrant sky in his trademark color,
Parrish blue they call it.
Thin streaks of steel gray transverse
fluffy whiteness and juicy orange.
There is a cloud on fire in the distance
as if Mother Nature were about to make a proclamation.
I bet it would be damn it people, pay attention!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
If I had an invisibility potion what would I do? Well, I’d use it that’s for sure and I think that I’d go around fixing things. I don’t think I’d rob a bank or anything like that – even though it would be nice to have lots of money. I believe in abundance so I know that there is plenty for everyone. I’d start with my grandfather and my mom. I would whisper things in my grandfather’s ear that would shift his perspective, I’d say things that would make him appreciate this life, the short time that he has on this planet – and help him to be kind to my mother and be grateful that she takes care of him. I would also do some whispering in my mom’s ear – I’d help her realize that my grandfather really isn’t intending to cause her misery – it just works out that way because he’s so miserable. I would also spend some time being the fairy of lost things. I’d find all sorts of things that people have misplaced and put them in very obvious places. That would make lots of people smile and probably scratch their heads too. Maybe that’s what was happening when my dad’s money clip ended up in my back yard. Hmmm, who was being invisible that day? What else, what else, what else would I do? I’d like to say that I’d establish world peace, get rid of poverty, ensure that anyone with the desire for higher education had the opportunity – that teachers are paid more than lawyers and doctors, that companies always played fair, that people always told the truth, that everyone everywhere was always happy and healthy and doing what they please or what their calling is, I mean. I think that would take more than one hour.