So, How Is It?

I’m in the process of remaking myself. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost my inspiration to write or make art. What gives? I don’t know, but I’m allowing myself plenty of time to do the things that seem most important to me right now. Like taking better care of my body. During the book writing process, I let my fairly strenuous exercise routine go down the tubes. Now I ache a lot and have gotten quite lazy. The result is a very tight body that isn’t terribly flexible. Though I still do my morning walks with the dogs, I haven’t kept up with longer walks by myself. I have added a restorative yoga class to my week and still go to my regular yoga class, and pilates workout. That’s all well and good, but if I don’t practice this stuff every day and continue to walk, it doesn’t help much. So moving, straightening out the kinks, and stretching muscles I haven’t used in a while is what I tend to do these days.

I love this poem my brother, Zed, recently wrote. I resonate with it because as I get older and try to clean up some of the stuff in my life, like finishing pieces of writing or paintings, I get distracted by the littlest things. Like watching a pair of catbirds feasting on Oregon Grape berries just outside my window. Moments like that are captivating.

I don’t like rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off. It isn’t good for the soul, my connections to other people, or the natural world. I’m moving more slowly like a tortoise.  Didn’t she win out over the hare in their race even though she was very slow?

Here is Zed’s poem:

So, How is it ?

How is it ?
I have a long list
Of letters never sent?
Combing through old emails
I learn to stuff them into multitudes
Of electronic departments of this life we have.
As if this helps me learn life’s lessons.
So, how is it?
The door knocks, dog barks, phone rings,
Or siren wails through the window.
Easy distractions with important moments to reflect or forget.

Zed Zabski
To Joan, April 26, 2017

So, how is it with you?

Writing While Sick With The Flu

Woodland Phlox blooming in my garden now.

Last week I said I’d be away and wouldn’t be posting a blog today. I’m supposed to be in a quiet location about an hour from here at a five day insight dialogue meditation retreat. Unfortunately I came down with the flu the day before I was supposed to leave and have been in bed ever since. I don’t do flu shots, but this dance with this nasty bug has me wondering if I should get one next fall when they are once again offered.

Except for a nasty cold after the first of the year, a UTI several weeks ago on a Saturday that took me to the ER, I’ve had a healthy winter. The hospital has a new system where you if you need to go to the ER you log in on line before you leave your home. They will tell you when to be there. I called at 3 PM and was told to be there at 5:30.  I expected immediate treatment, but sat in the waiting room until 9:30, filled with folks, young and old with the flu and the very nasty Norovirus.   I know that is where both Bill and I picked up this bug that has had both of us in bed for days.

While Bill is feeling much better and has slipped out for groceries, he still finds a need to take care of himself and not overdo. I was told of someone who had this bug for 3 weeks, because he went back out into the world too early and got sick again. I was told I’d be welcome at the retreat even a few days late, but though I am feeling somewhat better, I’ll take no chances and just stay put for the next few days. The retreat is over on Wednesday. No way am I going to make it.

For me it’s been five days of misery, yet despite my fight with a fever, a constant barking cough, a burning sore throat, and extreme dizziness, my head has been filled to the brim with writing ideas.  On Saturday, I decided to put two nonfiction books aside that I’ve been reading. The first was, Dreamland: The true Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, by Sam Quinones, which is hard enough to read when you’re feeling well. I’m not at all sure that I will ever finish it. It’s just too damned depressing. The second one that I truly love and will absolutely finish is, The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World, by Nancy Collier. Who needs nonfiction when you can’t stand up straight, walk across a room without weaving back and forth like a drunk, and can’t breathe?

Both of those books are about addiction and though I don’t and never will take opiates, being addicted to the internet and the iPhone is something I admit to and resonate with.  You’ll hear more about this in future posts. I find America’s addiction to all things technical an alarming addiction and a difficult one to break.

After putting those two books aside, I picked up Christina Baker Kline’s, new novel, A Piece Of The World. I loved her book, Orphan Train, and heard her talk at the Virginia Festival of the Book just a few short weeks ago. Her use of language, descriptive passages, and narrative based on hours of research into Andrew Wyeth’s relationship with Christina Olson, the woman in his most admired painting, Christina’s World is phenomenal. I’ve only just begun this book and my eyes get tired easily, so I read for short stretches. But her beautiful words tumble through my mind as I cat nap between putting the book down and picking it up again.

Yesterday, feeling better than I have in a few days, but still a bit fuzzy headed, I picked up, Natasha Trethewey’s book of poems, Native Guard. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007. I heard her talk about her work and poetry at a journaling conference I attended last May. The child of a racially mixed marriage, her poems “confront the racial legacy of her native Deep South.” Like Kline’s words, Trethewey’s verse is beautifully written, phenomenally descriptive of both place and emotion, leaving no doubt as to where you are and exactly what is happening.

With those two books tucked under the covers with me, I became inspired. It was the first time in a long while that I felt that I absolutely had to write something right then and there,  as often happens when I read the words of exquisite writers, like these to women.

And realizing that April is National Poetry Month, I got it in my head to write a poem a day for the rest of the month. I missed April Fool’s day, because I was so sick, but maybe I can write two poems another day to make up for missing the first day of this new month. I immediately wrote the following poem.

Abed With The Flu

Four days in my sick bed
I sleep and read the time away
Sun wakes  falls asleep again
The half-moon lends light to the dark
Fever comes and goes
First I’m cold then sweaty
The world stumbles along
Outside my door

My cough sounding dog-like
Brings flem to the surface
Encouraging my own song
Like these words
Stories I will tell again another day

 

Have you ever had the urge to write when you were sick or otherwise engaged?

Spring Is Here!

The first day of spring arrived yesterday and here in C’ville the temperatures are pleasant. The gardens are way ahead of schedule and many of the more tender blooms were killed by last week’s cold spell with night time temperatures below freezing and a wind chill on top of that. All of my plants seemed to survived but most of the fruit trees in the area lost their gorgeous blooms and there will be less than an average crop of fruit this coming year. I got to wear the down coat I bought on sale in early December. I’ve only had a few chances to use it and love the cozy warmth it provides on frigid days when the wind is whipping about.

The big concern now is a lack of moisture. We’ve had next to no snow this winter. Maybe two inches in early January and a dusting of sleet last week. And rain has been minimal as well. We’re in the early stages of drought and unless the weather patterns change in the near future, I’m afraid the farmers in this area will suffer. I’m really tired of winter vegetables at this point and have been looking forward to the opening of our local farmer’s market next month. But will there be the usual bounty of fresh produce that this farm to table community relies on?

Many of the restaurants in the area serve food that is raised locally, including grass fed meats, fresh eggs, mushrooms, and beautiful vegetables and fruit by the bushel. I feel very lucky to be living in a community that takes it’s locally grown food so seriously. And I love cooking best when I can use produce that has been tenderly cared for by people I know.

I wrote the following poem back in 2002 when we were living on the banks of the South Fork Rivanna River and were beset with a horrendous drought. I’m praying and crossing my fingers that will not be the case this coming summer.

Waiting for Rain

Mid August
the river shrinks
exposing rocks stumps
relics from another world
grass burned brown
crunches under foot
yellowed leaves spiral
to the ground
as if it’s October

I sprinkle wilted hydrangeas
a treasured viburnum
with water saved
from washing dishes
delight in a feather-worn cardinal
a brazen titmouse
preening in the birdbath
I keep refilling
just for them

I mourn as lime
moss and bottle green leaves
recede into memory
like the clatter of rain
on windows
the way thunder showers
puddle on the street
splashing as I drive
through a favorite place
to sail a tiny ship

jzr
8/27/02

HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE!!!

Coming Back To Life

Spring is here a whole month early. Like many other locations it’s been a warm winter. Some one told me they found a tick on their dog yesterday. We’ve had several near 80 degree days, but mostly the warmest have been in the low 70’s.

Forsythia and magnolias are blooming, along with pears and cherry trees. The last two nights have been well below freezing and there was an article in the paper about how this freeze may effect the peach harvest here in Virginia. Local growers are using fans to keep the air moving around their orchards, but they admit there’s little they can do except pray since climate change is here to stay. I can’t imagine a summer without the sweet juice of peaches running down my arms as I consume them nonstop. Peaches are the best thing about the warmest months and I look forward to them all winter long.

My hellebores are blooming spectacularly this spring. On these frosty mornings they sometimes keel over looking like they’re dead, but once the sun is up and warms the air a bit, they stand taller than ever. They are one of my favorites because they bring color to the garden in February when I need a sign that winter is almost over. At this time of year I do a quick garden tour every day to see which plants are slowly rising above the thick layer of mulch that was put down last month. Orange breasted male robins are fighting over females and on my early morning walks the air is filled with birdsong that brings me joy. Tis the season of rebirth.

On my afternoon walk yesterday afternoon I noticed that someone in the neighborhood had tapped one of their maple trees hoping to gather enough sap to boil down for maple syrup. My brother Reid, now deceased, used to tap a grove of maples in New Hampshire every year when the days warmed above freezing and the nights brought freezing temperatures. He boiled the sap down in large pans over an open fire, coming indoors at the end of the day smelling of fresh air and wood smoke. My pantry was always filled with mason jars of his maple syrup. One year he supplied me with so much that I put it in the freezer thinking it would last longer that way. This past fall I used the last of the pint jars of his amber gold and when it got down to the last quarter of a cup, I wanted to tuck it back in the freezer as a way to keep him near me. Reid has been gone now for seven years. I felt that if I used the last of his gift up, he would be gone for good. But then I made a batch of buckwheat pancakes and used it up, knowing that if I carry him in my heart he’d be with me forever. Those last few drops were a celebration of his life.

Along with the plants, I’m coming to life again too. My burn out is easing and I’m longing to be out in the garden every day. I found myself writing a poem last week for the first time in years. I’m thrilled to be at it again, adding to my series of poems about Mrs. Heartwell, who is part me and every other woman in the world. She’s vulnerable, brave, strong, sensitive, and filled with love. I plan on working on this collection about her that I started almost twelve years ago and make it into a chapbook some day. I may start sharing a few from time to time but for now am sending out some of the series to see if I can get them published in a literary journal or two. Although I enjoyed writing my memoir and using well constructed sentences, I absolutely adore using words sparingly to paint short writings that are free of garble, yet full of power.

Do you find yourself coming back to life at this time of year?

Arguing With Myself

Like tiny gnats darting around my head, life can get annoying. I lash out trying to swat irksome obstacles away. But like those minuscule beings, vexing issues keep buzzing until I can’t stand it anymore.

When life gets difficult I tend to complain and try to fix things I have no business fixing. I get stressed and rather than take care of myself I leap into matters that are way over my head.

Here is a conversation I have with myself on a regular basis.

I’m sick and tired of ….

Release it!

Yes, but I ….

Let it go!

But who will ….?

It doesn’t matter!

Well, somebody has to ….

Release it!

I can’t!

Then live with the consequences!

But, you see if I don’t, then ….

I can’t hear you!

Yes, you can! You just responded!

I can’t see you!

Well, what if I ….?

See ya!

Wait! Where did you go?

jzr
9/23/06

Do you have arguments with yourself? See if you can get one down on paper. It’s fun!