MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

Ekphrastic Mama

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A Discontented Tree

Have you ever seen one? I try to imagine what it might look like. Thirsty, parched, in need of water is the best I can do. Maybe a Yucca in Death Valley. Certainly not the trees lining the Columbia Gorge where I live. We walk under their canopies daily, looking up, breathing in the oxygen-rich air they provide, thankful to be here, sharing life. No sign of discontent anywhere nearby. “I never saw a discontented tree,” said John Muir. He might’ve been in or around Yosemite where he spent much of his time. He soaked in the satisfaction of the trees, of a simple life breathing fresh outdoor air. Trees have stories. They connect and communicate through their root systems. Go for a walk today and ask a tree, What sort of story have you for me? Or write a tree into a scene, along with the word discontented. Enjoy…

When Writing Disappears

That happens from time to time, right? You forget to hit save like I did yesterday after starting today’s post… At least I think I wrote a post. I’ve been writing a lot lately and dreaming, both day and night, so I realize it’s possible I only dreamed I wrote a post. At any rate, it has not reappeared in my drafts folder where I thought, or dreamed, I wrote it. What I love is how comical this seems to me, when before, maybe last year, it might’ve caused stress or anxiety, like a bee swarm before I knew much about bees. When I’m writing a lot, I know I can just write some more. When I’m not writing much, every word feels precious, no matter how bad it might be. And when I’m writing a lot the writing seems better somehow, like I’m hitting more of the right notes,…

Embracing Chaos

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” -Nietzsche There’s nothing like a swarm of bees to remind you of the joys of embracing chaos. Today the bees (from yesterday’s swarm, see post) are happily building a cozy comb while the rain pelts the outside of their log hive and we are all pressing on with our work. I’m finally getting comfortable with the chaos of life, the pandemic, and writing, all swirled together. I’ve spent much of life pushing chaos toward order; who doesn’t love order more than chaos? But I’m learning to appreciate chaos as inevitable, and a good sign when it comes to creativity. I’m finding inspiration in the bees. When bees swarm it looks chaotic and makes people nervous. But if they’ve learned about bees they know it is the least dangerous time, after the bees have…

Secrets of the Writer Bees

Late afternoon on Sunday, a day that began with a hike to several waterfalls in a forest nearby where we live in the Columbia Gorge, I got a text about a swarm of bees nearby. They were congregating at the Moose Lodge in Camas. Sunday afternoons are lazy, dinner over early, and lots of outdoor time if weather permits, but also reading, writing, relaxing. Having already been on a 45-minute hike that turned into a two-hour slosh through mud, but an adventure nonetheless, we were well spent. But the weather was lovely, so once we had brunch and revived we pulled blackberry vines and stinging nettle from the bank in our backyard forest. And now it was evening, time to relax. The hub did not want to add a bee venture to the end of this day, so I said the thing that will usually rouse him. “I’ll go by…

A Year of Going Nowhere

Were you planning on traveling this year? We were going to Chicago in June, meet up with our oldest son’s family, head down to the Henry County fair and watch the harness races for posterity and writing research; my grandfather owned the world champion harness racing horse in 1926 and I’d like to write him into a story. Last year I visited cousins in Geneseo, where my grandmother is from, a re-connection brought about by my mother’s death. In July, we planned to head to Germany through Amsterdam with a stop to see the van Gogh exhibit. Now travel plans appear precarious, if not impossible. I love to travel, but it’s difficult to imagine a relaxing experience, even if and when places open again, at least this year. And that’s okay. Lately, through reading and research I’ve been revisiting Arles, Paris, and Auvers with van Gogh through his letters and…

Collage Words into Your Writing

What are your reading? Let it bleed a bit into your writing.When you run across a phrase or word you love, write it down. Then when you get stuck in your own writing, try collaging in a random phrase or word. I keep some of the beat poets handy for this. But I also find echoes to play with in books on writing or painting. Novels too. And non-fiction. Everything.You’ll be surprised how much fun this is. It can take your story, essay, or memoir in whole new directions.That’s the fun of it. Experimenting and exploring.Try it. I dare you.

Paper doll Mom

Have you ever imagined a character you’re writing, or your mother, as something you might play with, some relic from your past? I’m going through my dead mother’s artifacts when I find a youthful head shot of her, colored and cutout, like the bust of a paper doll. Back before color photography, my mother painted her sepia photos with a set of Marshall’s photo-oils, bringing a rosy glow to her cheeks, shading her lips to set off her straight white teeth, dotting her eyes deep blue, and adding a touch of auburn to her hair. In the 50s, my mother was starlet pretty, a once-upon-a-time model, so the tinted head shot of her, taken before she stood next to the wrong man, is easy to imagine as an iconic paper doll I’d dress with my youngest daughter, the last one left at home. She’s 11, on the cusp of adolescence,…

Writing as a Team

The Power of Writing with Others collage by L.Lyn Greenstone Not so long ago, we used to meet at the local library, six writers and myself. I introduced a prompt and we got right to work, a short session of only five minutes, plus a minute to wrap it up. Each writer had the option to read or pass. The first reading was read aloud- optional- but no feedback given. The reading acts as an introduction; this is who we are as writers- this is what we write. Beyond this, it was an opportunity for the writer to hear how the words she’s put together fell upon the ear and heart. Years ago when I was at UCSD, Eudora Welty came into our Honors Writing class to chat with 10 of us for an hour. “My own words, when I’m at work on a story reach me through the reader-voice,…

Comfort and Challenge

In making my list of 10 elements for a great day (yesterday’s post) I found myself contemplating the balance between comfort and challenge. A good day possesses them both, in unequal measure, as one bleeds into the other. Writing, for example, is both challenging and comforting. I begin with the easy flow of words in a journal, just writing whatever comes to mind, which I find comforting, seeing my thoughts materialize on the page, the abstract inner workings of a mind translated into black and white, or in my case, purple, my ink gel color of choice. Purple both soothes and excites my soul. From the space of colorful freewriting, I find it easier to move into the work of writing, developing stories and putting words together that others might make sense out of, or be moved by- more challenging, and sometimes unexplainably exhausting. And yet, at the end of…

Top 10 for a Great Day?

Do you ever wonder why some days end on a high and others end in defeat? Today was a great day, but why? What makes for a great day? In an attempt to quantify it I made a list of my top ten elements. All are actions I can take to push my day in the right direction. If my actions are good then every day can conceivably be good, if not downright great, right? Before you look at my list you might want to jot down your own. In no particular order- Drinking enough water; 6-8 glasses at least Doing Yoga, ideally 30-45 minutes, but 10 is okWriting. And more writing.Accomplishing something on a project I want to finishNot overeating or drinking/numbing emotions with food or drinkGetting outdoors for 30+ min. strenuous exercise, or at least a walkBeing kind, and showing it with a smileNot getting carried away by…

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