Nudge, nudge and a gentle push

deweyI’m on the board of a small library whose mission is to preserve and excite the literary passions of our community. It’s a pretty kick-ass little library, and it runs on the dedication of a part time librarian, an even more part time communications person, a board, and a slew of volunteers. The things we are able to accomplish together are pretty amazing. And while it can be SO MUCH WORK, it is so very worth it, even when I’m complaining and grumbling about it.

After a meeting the other night I was chatting with another board member about our writing program, and mentioned that her co-chair on the writers committee was one of my professors in college. And it all came tumbling out that I had been a professional writing major as an undergrad, and had learned from four or five of the writers she works with today. And this board member, co-chair of the writers committee, also happens to be a New York Times best selling author. We had begun our conversation talking about a potential author speaking at an event over the summer, but finished the conversation with her bright eyes blazing into mine and saying “And you? What of your writing?” And she is so kind and lovely and well meaning, and I explained that I’d turned into a librarian and reader and supporter of writing and authors and lover of all things literary, but hadn’t thought about writing in ages. I mean, I have a bright orange poster of the Dewey Decimal system hanging in my office.

But her words got under my skin, so here I am. I’m going to start here, and I’ll see what happens. Because maybe I don’t want to be a writer with a capital ‘W’. But I used to write. And I used to love it. So maybe this next version of me is a librarian, reader, supporter of writers and authors, lover of all thing literary, who sometimes writes. And maybe once in a while it’ll actually be good. And maybe then I can turn to this board member after a meeting and say “Hey, I’ve got something to share with you.”

Before the cabin

There is a cabin
Hillside winding river to open blue sky lake
Creaking pine amber waters damp moss wood smoke
Worn down by love and family and generations
Children now adults and their children, soon adults
Tilting into the mountainside undeterred by working summers
New screens, jack the foundation
Tin roof rain songs at night

But before the cabin, the bridge
Before the cramped car ride ends
Let me out to cross the footbridge
Spanning the river slicing town in two
I’ll walk the rest of the way please

White paint taught silver cables old smooth wood
Step lightly breathe deeply hear the river below
Lean over the rail watch the river flotsam and foam
Think Poohsticks and feel the sway of suspension, the long drive slides away
All of the years, all the of songs and bike rides, flat tires, skinned knees
Glorious slivers of bridge just under the skin, sunburned shoulders and dirty feet
Canoe under, look up, marvel at the magic
All of the bridge’s time in one flash

These are the thoughts in the depths of winter and long school days
The bridge, the cabin, the sweetest days
Across the highways, up the mountains, around the lakes and
Over the bridge

All of the feelings

Note: I wrote this post a while back and didn’t publish it because of safety concerns. I now feel that I can share this. I’d also like to add that there are many organizations that can help women in need of safety. I have since signed up to raise money for a local organization that does this. Be safe, be well, and be kind. 

I’m having a bit of a moment over here. The moment seems to have started yesterday morning, and shows no sign of letting up. And I’m feeling all of the feelings: sadness, anger, anxiety, despair, hopefulness, and right back into sadness and despair and anger. For once though, they’re not for myself.

I’m feeling these feelings because someone I know, an acquaintance, is having a shit time. And she had no one else to ask for help. And we are doing all we can to help while keeping ourselves safe, but I cannot stop feeling. Because she never should have been driven to ask almost strangers for help. Because the services provided to women in need should have been enough. But there needs to be more. Because she knew she needed to be somewhere else, and was strong enough to make that happen. Because in helping, we are now in the middle of a shit situation.

And I cannot not help. I don’t have it in me. I am smart. I am wary. I am kind. I am hopelessly giving. I will do everything I can without endangering myself and those I love. But it’s been pointed out to me that every action, even in helping, has a consequence. But the consequences of not helping are far worse. Right?

We need to be better. The world can be such a terrible place, but it would be so much worse if we didn’t help. I need to find a way to do more. So much more.


Are you still there?

I’m still here, crawling out of winter. It is Easter weekend. Passover begins tonight. Tomorrow there is a full moon. A time of renewal, of coming through. It makes me think of some lines of poetry by Carolyn Kizer. It is the imagery that has been stuck in my mind for years, that I come back to again and again. From The Great Blue Heron:

As I wandered on the beach
I saw the heron standing
Sunk in the tattered wings
He wore as a hunchback’s coat.
Shadow without a shadow,
Hung on invisible wires
From the top of a canvas day,
What scissors cut him out?

Bring me the beach. Bring me the birds. Let’s begin anew.

More a reader than a writer

Over the holidays I was chatting with a writer at a party. She asked if I was a writer too, and I told her I used to write a lot, but that I’d become more of a reader. And then she asked me a question I’ve been rolling around in my mind ever since. “What do you do with what you read?” I stumbled then, and said something about internalizing the stories and escaping in them. What do I do with the stories I read? Why do I read them and why at such a voracious pace? And again, what do I do with the stories I read?

At the moment, between listening to an audio book on my commute to and from work, and reading print and e-books, I’m averaging two to three books a week. I haven’t always been a reader. As a child I pretty much refused to learn how to read and didn’t really, truly become a reader until middle school. I read some phenomenal things, and I read some things that I could have passed by. But even when wrapped in a story that isn’t what I was looking for, oh the joy. Even a mediocre tale can give me joy and sadness and every emotion in between. For a time, I’m somewhere else. And I guess that’s the why – I love to be engrossed in a story that isn’t mine. It’s my form of escapism.

But the what. I’d like to think that if I’d chosen a different path I could have been some sort of professional reader, to do something bigger with my reading. Alas, I’m here. I do use what I read to help me as a librarian, but in my current job not as much as I’d like. For now, I’ll have to answer this question with hope. What I do with what I read happens entirely in my mind and soul. I hope that I learn and grow from the people between the thousands of pages I consume. I hope that my mind expands and becomes more open to the variances of life. I hope that reading helps me to be a better person.

So. What do you do with what you read?


stampsTwo weeks ago today I had a most graceful moment with a flight of metal steps. The result is that I’ve been stuck at home in an enormous air cast ever since. No work, minimal time on my feet. I thought I’d be so much better with my time at home, but really I’ve done so very little. Probably because I can’t get around very well, but honestly. I’ve watched so much TV. So much. And I’ve read a few books. I thought I’d write more, but I spent a lot of time thinking about writing, not actually writing. And I realized how I first started writing. It was that form of communication, long since set aside. Letter writing. I had a pen pal. And then I remembered one of my favorite poems.

As a little girl I spent summers in the Adirondacks. Because I spent so much time there, I made friends with some kids that lived there year round. But it started with one girl. She was funny and energetic and had long, thick blond hair. I thought she was the best thing ever (she still is). I don’t remember if it was that first summer, or some summer after, but we began writing letters. My mom took me to the card store and let me pick out two packs of stationery, just for my letters, not anyone else’s. It was hot pink, I think, sort of in the Lisa Frank style. Who knows, it very well may have been Lisa Frank stationery, which would have made it that much more exciting. And we wrote letters for years. Even when we became teenage aliens and our parents had to limit our phone time to monthly calls because of long distance charges, we still wrote letters. At some point they petered out, but we still manage to keep in touch, mostly due to Facebook. But part of me wishes we still wrote letters.

There is something about a letter that is magical. The anticipation, the surprise, the unknown. And the contents of letters, this language that we use to convey emotion and thoughts and desires. Several years ago I got to meet my grandparents as young loves and sweethearts through their letters. As the last of 13 grandchildren, my grandparents were already in their later years when I spent the most time with them. I have wonderful memories, but they weren’t the same grandparents my cousins had. Meeting them at a young age through letters was heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. It gave me a whole knew frame for who they were. And I wonder, if the letters to my childhood friend in the Adirondacks survived time and moving and life, what would they reveal about us?

Even with email, and texts, and social networks, I’m still terrible about keeping in touch with people who aren’t a part of my daily life. I am guilty of not making the time. I have entire conversations with people in my mind as I wind down at the end of the day. But I can’t tell you the last time those thoughts reached the person they were meant for. Perhaps I should take out a pen and some paper when that happens. Would it be strange to start sending letters again in this digital time? Maybe if I start writing letters again, I’ll be moved to really write again. Maybe not though. But it can’t hurt to try.

If you’re interested, find a copy of Carolyn Kizer’s The Way We Write Letters. “But don’t go home tomorrow. Write me instead from the meadow. Turn on the poem & the light.”

Over a year


Photo by Amsterdam Museum

It’s been over a year since I’ve last posted. And so much has changed, and so much has stayed the same. The words have begun to back up, so here goes.

I started a new book today (TransAtlantic, Colum McCann) that begins with a quote that really got me thinking. It’s been stuck in my mind all day. “No history is mute. No matter how much they own it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is,” Eduardo Galeano. There are so many things happening, big things that will shift our future and rise up in our past for examination, that can be looked at through the filter of these words.

“The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.” A short list: gay marriage, climate change, economic recovery (or non-recovery depending on your outlook), unemployment, women’s rights, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, Syria, Egypt, healthcare, immigration, and the list goes on. I don’t particularly care what side of the issue(s) you land on right now. But look up at that quote again, and then look at this list. We are fighting the same fights over and over again. Some of these issues have existed since man first began to organize communities. Many people are very upset at the state of our nation, and by extension, the human condition. And rightly so. There is anger and despondency to name a few, and I suppose what I’m aiming at is a little bit of hope for those feeling this way. Keep believing, and keep working towards whatever goal you have. Help your friends, family, neighbors, and total strangers when you can. In the long run, wherever we end up, history will refuse to shut its mouth. Perhaps I’m naive, but the thought gives me hope.