At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
Mary Oliver (At Blackwater Pond)
I’ve made a writerly time of my convalescence after my crashed foot. I’ve edited, written, spent a thousand hours researching agents (well, it felt like a thousand). Even traded ‘who do I think I am’ for ‘why not me,’ entered contests. On the cusp of National Poetry Month, sparked by an article in Spirituality & Health magazine, The Medicine of Poetry, memories of my fickle relationship with writing and poetry rose.
I went back to third grade, the open air lunch room at a school in southern California where I spent three years and never felt I belonged. The bench and dark brown table where I composed four lines on white paper with a pencil. I remember I sought rhyme, because poems rhymed. I think I remember my prompt was a student’s poem in a newsletter, an aspiration for the same, deciding a poem something I could do. I like to believe it was more primal, the birth of the lyrical style in my later works. I did love to sing, often. That same year I planned a volume of short stories, completed a table of contents and five of the tales before abandoning it like I did the poem. At eleven I won recognition for a long story, the pages displayed on a table at a school arts fair. At twelve, my teacher wrote “good in creative writing” on my report card, and I attended a Student Authors’ Tea. But at eighteen, I flunked creative writing in college. Every Friday we sat for the hour, our only assignment to write, and each week I dropped a blank sheet of paper on the professor’s desk. I turned to visual artmaking, confined my words to postcards, inconsistent journal entries, until age twenty-seven when I suffered a painful divorce. When, like angels and birds, poems flew to me unbidden. Perfectly rhymed chronicles of my heart and thoughts. For three years. Then as suddenly as they arrived, they left. My stronger heart no longer listening, I suppose. In the ensuing years I wrote academic papers, promotional copy, proposals and training manuals. And one day, in an attempt to recover my activist’s voice and a will for expression I realized I’d lost, I joined a circle of women, wrote from prompts, shared. A character showed up, and stories. A novel emerged, and a second. Three years ago big changes called the medicine of poetry once more.
This time the poetry of nature out my windows. I watched the cycles of life on the St. Johns River cross the seasons. Tracked weather, reflections, and light across the forever sky and changing water. Gazed into sky canyons on the surface. I composed short, poetic descriptions of all I observed. Now later, living in a place I feel at more at home, I recognize poetry as affirmations.
I once heard each of us has an abiding question at the heart of everything we do. That we’re always seeking the answer. Mine, “Am I Okay?” Not ‘safe’ okay, but the okay meaning acceptance as I am. Nothing puts me against my abiding question more than my writing does. Again and again it forces me to answer ‘Yes’ for myself so I can continue my craft, reach toward that immaculate creation of work and my best self I’ll never achieve. And that’s why I love it.
Tell me. . .what’s your abiding question?
What answers Yes for you?
Another journey in mindfulness. Getting to Wise.
A Writers Life.
A secret: At 41, I graduated university summa cum laude. . .on my fifth attempt to finish.
A favorite: The tumbling sound of a small creek rippling in a quiet wood
Waterlillies photo: Solitude, by Tudor Livada
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