A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Questions

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I posted this picture over the weekend, and I realized the power of visual images to spark conversation. Mari’s husband asked me why I had posted it, and after I clarified that it was Potamus (and not somehow a picture of me), I was struck with the thought that I often put things out into the world (writing, photos, words) that have a definite meaning to me, but may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. Or maybe there’s room for both my interpretation and someone else’s experience of my image to both be true and right at the same time.

It made me think of poetry, and how I loved the college classes where I had to buckle down and analyze a few lines of poetry, trying to figure out the word choice and how it intersected with history and the author’s life. And yet, when I write my own poetry, I am hardly so careful as to make sure I choose the word eggshell vs. white in describing that lady’s shirt. Though sometimes I am that careful, but how does the reader/listener know my intention fully when they bring their own thougths, life experience, emotions to the table?

The conversation about my child’s image, which I had taken in a moment of pure love, noticing that tiny little mole that dotted his neck (in contrast to the many moles that are all over Boof), my mind wandered to the thought that this is how I one day could identify his body if he were to die tragically. Maybe it was morbid, or practical, we argued a bit about it, but the exchange clearly showed different perspectives, neither right or wrong. I looked at that “morbid” detail of identifying a body by a little birthmark from a future-nostalgic motherhood place, the remembrance of his less-baby-more-little-man stillness as he sat on my lap in the sunshine watching TV and I stroked his little curls that look like mine did at that age. I don’t know what prompted him to comment on this particular picture (of the thousands I’ve posted), but I’m glad he did, because the dialogue and thought process made me take a tiny moment and examine it in light of all the things I do online (or in person, too).

It makes me wonder about every picture I post or text and the story that’s being told on the receiving end, or the intercepting end, or when you turn to your neighbor and say “hey look at this.” Maybe it’s my arrogance, or self absorbed way of living, but I often think that the way I intend a picture to be interpreted will be how it’s interpreted. But like the lines of poetry that I analyzed in college, we bring our own biases toward it, and meaning may be lost or changed or questioned, and it’s really a neat process if you think about it.

After college I took a communication class that detailed how miscommunications can form, and as she diagrammed Speaker A putting words into the universe, and Speaker/Listener B hearing and interpreting the word, it struck me that it’s really a miracle any of us can communicate effectively. Even recently in conversations with Boof, I said a word, that to me has a ‘standard definition,’ and we clearly were talking about different things, from different perspectives based on our gender, age, life experience, etc. It’s a really remarkable process to sit and sift and be vulnerable to get to the point where understanding occured.

That one image sparked a thousand words, a thousand questions. I might have posted it and forgotten about it, like I’ve done with the thousands of other images. But the dialogue brought me back, and almost like a meditation drishti point, I will think of that moment I thought how beautiful my child was, and how sad I would be to have to identify his body by that tiny little mole.

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Zen Pen Invitation

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Last year I had the privilege of meeting in the home of Courtney Putnam, my wonderful massage therapist/reiki practitioner. Not only is she an amazing, healing, bodyworker (is that even a word?), but she is also an amazing artist and writer (and blogger!). All last summer she hosted a weekly “Zen Pen” group, where we met and wrote together. She has this amazing way of guiding, creating prompts, and giving opportunity for writers to get outside of their ‘head’ and write from their body. She says:

What’s different about ZenPen is that it is body-based. What that means is that during the writing process, we will tap into the wisdom of our bodies. Our minds can only get us so far — and sometimes our minds play tricks on us or lead us down roads of self-criticism or limitation. The body holds all the information, wisdom, and experiences we’ve had in our lives. It plays no tricks. It tells us the truth.

And this year Zen Pen is being offered as an e-course! I am excited to being (August 5th) her 6 week series, and am planning on sharing, here, some of the body writing that I create. But, since I love you all dearly, I am inviting you to participate as well! For only $59 for the 6 week Zen Pen E-Course, how could you resist? So, if you’ve been looking for some inspiration in your writing process, and want to get away from that critical voice, then join me in ushering in the fall with a little Zen Pen! Head on over to the e-course description to get a better understanding of what is being offered!!

I have to be honest, I’m both excited and nervous about the discoveries I’ll have in this 6 week course. Last summer I learned so much about myself, my hopes, dreams, and really solidified some truths that I hadn’t been able to grasp with my anxious mind. Can’t wait to start, and hopefully see a bunch of YOU all over on the secret FB group or here in blog-land 🙂

Found Poetry Challenge

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I’ve been struggling and haven’t had the ability to get the words in my head out. So, while sipping coffee this morning, I picked up the random Edna St. Vincent Millay collected works poetry book sitting on the shelf of the cafe. And the urge to write hit me…not my words, but hers. It’s a technique I learned in my high school English class, an exercise where you use ONLY words that already exist, or, in this case, first lines or titles of poems that already exist. You can’t change the lines or titles but you, the author, gets to put them into an order you want, to make a new poem. It’s similar to the Hindu idea of shruti, which is the belief that sacred text is simply just writing down the words (usually a rough translation) of the words that already exist in the Universe somewhere.

So, with an inability to write my own words, here are the re- The Collected Works of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Autumn Chant
-found poem from The Collected Works of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Some Things Are Dark,
look how the bittersweet
Wild Swans
Lament.
Intense and terrible I think, must be the loneliness.
Sky-coloured bird.
This should be simple; if one’s power were great.
This is mine, and I can hold it.
How innocent we lie.
Ashes of Life.

 

So, if you’re at a loss for works, or want to write poetry but are unsure of where to begin, try this exercise:

1) find a book of poetry (anthology or collected works) either in person or online
2) write down the titles or first lines (usually those are listed in the back) that speak to you. DON’T think about what you want the poem to say, just pick titles that you like or sound cool to you. Make sure to copy the lines exactly as you see them.
3) Once you have a list of titles (or first lines), start organizing them into an order that speaks to you. You are allowed to add commas/punctuation or words like a/an/the to string the lines together to make them work with each other.

4) Re-arrange any of the lines as necessary.

5) Marvel at your work! Make sure when you title it, to give credit that you ‘found’ this poem within a larger body of work!

Care to take the Found Poetry challenge? Link me with your poems, or leave them in the comments!

Adoption Poetry

In high school I read an article in National Geographic about Whooping Cranes, and how they were becoming endangered, and researchers, rather than using the old method of hand raising the cranes using Whooping Crane Puppets (google it, a real thing!) they began placing these Whooping Crane eggs in the nests of Sandhill Cranes, a close relative of the Whooping Crane. This article has inspired a few pieces of writing, but this poem was written for my poetry portfolio in my senior year of college.  

Imprinting

 Long slender wading birds
flying with straight necks across the horizon.

 He and she met in Child Psychology class
got married on the hottest day of the year
and couldn’t wait to start a family.

 Crane hatchlings become attached
to their first caregiver. This is called imprinting.

 Infertility.
Their only hope was to wait
for a call from the adoption agency.

Option one for survival:
Endangered whooping cranes
raised by crane hand puppets,
humans dressed in crane costumes
and recorded crane calls
will grow to survive on their own
living to care for another generation.

Twenty-four hours after receiving the call,
and a cyclone of activity
they had their very own baby girl,
who fit snugly in the spot between her daddy’s elbow and wrist. 

Option two for survival:
whooping crane eggs placed
gently in the nests
of the smaller sandhill cranes,
to be raised as a sandhill.

No one questions her
about belonging
except when she stands next to her parents
and people ask “where did you get your height?”

Insomnia, Inspiration, and The Moons: A Review of Poetry

I wake up from half-sleep
haunted
by images of closet-starved idea children,
beaten by electrical cords and made
to sleep in cramped corners
on cots
or coats
if they’re lucky.
When were they exiled?
Did it happen one by one?
And why do I wait, anxiously
for the sleepy pied piper to come and lull away
the rat-child-poems,
so that I can dream easily
and forget
that I drifted
or strayed
or fell
so far from the Source
of inspiration.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity: 3pm on a Sunday. To reconnect with a few classmates from high school and the English teacher that prompted me to graduate from high school with the equivalent of 6 years worth of English classes AND THEN go on to be an English Lit major in college before realizing that I DIDN’T want to teach…before realizing that I did.

If any of that makes sense.

The amazing part was the re-connection, the re-inspiration toward all things written and being able to see myself even more infusing my class with purposeful writing that will aid in their college transition. One high school classmate lives locally, with a son, and is in social work. We instantly connected again, and I was happy that while we had been loose friends in high school, there just lacked the emotional drama of one of the innermost circle of friends might have had.

And the poet.

Powerful.

The imagery in The Moons spoke volumes, and there’s something magical about hearing the words spoken aloud by the writer creator. Almost like bearing witness when God spoke the world into existence.

And afterward, the poet, the re-acquaintance and a few others, ran between fat Seattle raindrops to a local coffee shop to indulge in their velvet foam lattes. We talked about being mothers, being working moms and trying to find balance (as I explained to one, non-mom, why I was at the reading minus Potamus, even though it was the weekend). We talked about education, for the poet’s day job is the high school version of mine. The social worker and I made loose plans for happy hour sometime in the next few weeks.

We didn’t talk about writing.

Clearly I know the poet writes, and don’t know if the Social Worker does.

What I do know, is that I do not. Not pen-to-paper soul writing like I used to.

My feelings about it are complex.

In one vein, I long to spend those hours, or scrape together seconds to jot something down (even unsafely, like, while driving down the freeway) so that the words can create something true. I wish to be less distracted by shiny blue/white screens that flash instant distraction and updates. I want to keep record, somehow, of my life both inside and outside of motherhood. And even on the way home from the reading, an entire book idea came, fully formed (in big thought) into my mind, and the “simple” act would be to somehow get it from brain to paper.

The other part of me is scared.

Because writing and mental illness are blood-brothers, and I have been trying to live a quiet, simple type life.