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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

writing, reflecting, old & new friends

the author's

the author’s

I just spent the BEST weekend: writing poetry, visiting w/ one of my most beloved writing communities.
This is one of my very favourite weekends of my writing year. I get to immerse myself in talking about writing. I write; I read; I coach; I laugh & cry & do it all again. All weekend. And yes, it’s absolutely exhausting (I will sleep for HOURS tomorrow!). It’s also soooo enriching, so spiritually replenishing, just wonderful.

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The Abbey at Conception is a big part of that. While I’m not a Christian, I have the utmost love & respect for places of sacred conversation. At Conception Abbey? You can almost feel the prayers rising — centuries of prayers float through the air like motes of light. Serenity — even during one of the many spring storms — is tangible: as thick as the Stella d’Oro daylilies spilling from weeded bed after bed.

In the peaceful embrace of Conception, and the enthusiastic love of friends I’ve been seeing (most of them) for 11 years, I blossom like one of those reliable daylilies. But not for only one day. No, I will carry the afterglow of limerick contests (really) and teasing and sharing and trusting for weeks.

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via google

Each year I worry it can’t possibly be as magical as I remember. Each year it surpasses my expectations. Some years — like this one — I make new friends I know will last. All years I revisit ones I’ve become closer to each summer.

Writing communities are rare. Rarer still are ones that have weathered more than a decade. There are women — not only me — who have attended for the past 11 years that I have. That itself is part of the magic: continuity.

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But the real magic, for this beginner’s heart, is the obvious love & respect of every woman (and the few brave men!) for every other writer in this group. From the youngest participant (a 1st year teacher) to the 70-year-old college professor, each is valued. Each is necessary. As are their very different words, poems, stories.

Here’s to a world like my writing community at the Abbey: loving, trusting, diverse, and strong in the ways of good words.

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time passes, and then there’s change

One of my favourite musical groups is Playing for Change, a social action movement w/ music as its platform. When I’m blue — not infrequently these days, as I cull tangible memories (‘stuff’ to the uninitiated) — I listen to their ’round’the’world hit Stand by Me, in which musicians from Santa Monica from Amsterdam from South Africa, the Congo, & the Zuni Tribe, all come together to remind us: we gonna need somebody, to stand by us.

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Today was a day like that for me. Today was not a good day — beset by doubts, second-guessing all decisions — even the very minor. I was as raw as the oozing chigger bites of childhood, and about as scratchy. And then, folks stood by me: a note from my younger son, reassurance from my beloved. A fat cat on my desk, and music. Not to mention a brilliant sunny sky and a piece of chocolate!

It’s hard to remember that change is forever — it will never NOT happen. Which means that these stormy itchy grey days will pass. Still, it’s nice to have someone standing by to remind you.

So here’s my reminder to you, if your day (or week, or — heavens forfend — your MONTH!) is blueing to grey: don’t worry; be happy. It’s another of Playing for Change’s songs, and so appropriate today. Listen, and smile ~

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what’s on your bulletin board?

the author's

the author’s

While I was sitting at my desk thinking about what to write about, I found myself staring at my bulletin board. Realising that it’s a kind of window into what I value. It took a long time for me to put up a bulletin board; I had to find one that was both functional & æsthetically pleasing. This one is both.

On it is are pieces of my distant past, who I am today, friends & family, my passions and my predilections. My magazines & journals: Friends (the Quaker journal);  tricycle (a Buddhist journal), Poets & Writers (self-explanatory!).  There are the washi tapes I love to use on notes, cards, & letters: birds (for Portland — put a bird on it); bees, music, crows, foreign stamps & more. A handmade card from my BFF, w/ a cup of tea or coffee steaming. The graduation photo of my ersatz niece, eldest daughter of the closest thing I have to a brother, and his wonderful wife. There is a photo from a long-ago trip to Oxford, England, a couple of quotes, bee magnets a niece bought me, a woodcut a friend made of one of my tanka… more.

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the author's

the author’s

Below the board I have photos — my grandson, my younger son, a wind-up bee someone gave me. My father’s & mother’s ivory chops (made long before we knew what damage ivory trading does to the world…). My grandmother’s glass tray, holding a stamp w/ my name & address (and another bee!).

So what you see is me, really: poetry, contemplation, bees, my family & my journey. What’s on your bulletin board? And if you don’t have a real one, what do you see in your head (and heart) when you think of putting one up? I didn’t choose these objects to reflect my values, but they do — in ways I never could have predicted. And I reinforce that daily, looking at them. Think about it: what would you put on your bulletin board — literal 0r figurative — and why?

 

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way closes, way opens

via google

via google

Today, despite my many gifts, blessings, my happy life, et al., I was feeling a tad sorry for myself. Nothing major, I assure you. Just moving blues.

I’ve spent years establishing myself in my hometown as a writer, a credible writing resource. Someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but who works to publish, who reads the research, a ‘real’ writer.

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And now I’m leaving.

Here, I work with the board of the oldest continuously published literary journal in the country: Nimrod Journal. I’ve been part of the Nimrod family for decades (really). Here, I’ve worked w/ our state Humanities Council — some of the nicest, most passionate humanities advocates you could ask for. Here, I’m part of the state Arts Institute writing advisory panel, helping select the writers who offer workshops each summer to 9-12 students, and in the fall to teachers.

It’s hard to leave that, and realistically? I can’t duplicate it elsewhere.

Will I still be involved with writing, the arts, the humanities? I imagine so — in fact, I can’t imagine these  passions NOT being part of my life. But it will be different, and as I clear my summer to ready for this big move, I’m receiving farewells from people I admire, respect, and who are often dear friends.

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via wikimedia

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NOT easy. And yes, I know I’m gaining proximity to my beloved grandson, time w/ my wonderful son & DIL, and a new adventure. It’s still a door closing.

The Quakers have a saying: way closes, way opens. It’s aversion of the Christian saying God never closes a door but he opens a window. I like the poetics of the Quaker saying better — it’s succinct, yet hopeful. I like the haiku quality of it, as well ~ the promise of a new way through/ to/ even away.

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And sure ’nuff: as I sat here feeling a little sad for the closing of this incredibly wonderful chapter of writing, teaching, words & friends, a way opened.

Last year I signed up — on a whim — for a ‘poetry marathon.’ Confession: I only did the half-marathon, 12 poems in 12 hours. The hard-core did the entire marathon: 24 poems in 24 hours!! But the marathon left me with not only 12 new poems (1/3 of which were actually pretty good!): it also introduced me to the people behind the marathon, and several new friends who did the marathon at the same time.

This year? They asked me to help out! And I can’t tell you how glad I am! In case you’re interested, you have TODAY ONLY (June 6th) to sign up: The Poetry Marathon website will give you all the info you need. Like me, you may not have a life where you can commit 24 hours (or — also like me! — you may not want to sacrifice a night of sleep!). So go for the half-marathon!

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via pixabay

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The point to this is that my beginner’s heart is comforted by knowing that nothing is more certain than the uncertainty of change. No, I will not teach my adored workshop in the continuing education program of my alma mater this fall. And I won’t go to the board meeting for the Humanities Council, or hear what the Holocaust Education Committee is doing. When the fall workshops for Nimrod roll around, I won’t be here to help w/ transportation. I won’t even be here to attend!

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But there will be new opportunities, and I actually believe that now. Because today? There was. And who really knows what will happen tomorrow? If you do only what’s safe — what’s known — you’ll never have adventures, right? And surely the unease of not knowing what’s next is offset by the happy surprise of what turns up! Juuuust beyond that open way…

 

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