MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

writing

Ending May: 31 Days of Writing

Today is the last day of May- what a month. I focused on words, writing a lot of words, a redemptive story. I got distracted and sometimes felt disheartened, probably a lot like you. But we press on. We realize it is a privilege to be able to press on, to breathe clean air (at least where I live), to write in peace. I spoke with my middle son today. He’s a reporter for the Seattle Times and was downtown last evening doing his job. He got sprayed with tear gas and said he feels “shaken.” He’s never seen anything like this. Who has? None of us have lived through riots in the face of a pandemic. Meanwhile, I’m still writing, still believing the story I’m working on matters. Some days it’s difficult to believe, especially when I look around. But art elevates us all out of the mire, dusting…

In the Midst of Chaos, a Sacred Moment

I was out walking on a trail near our house this morning, putting one foot in front of the other, when I looked up and saw four sets of big eyes looking back at me. A small herd of young bucks stood less than 20 feet away. I came to a slow stop and said a hushed hello. They stared, alert. I stared, in awe. Below and behind them the Columbia River flowed to the sea. Above us a hawk circled. My step count stayed where it was for over ten minutes while I watched them watching me, their short sets of antlers looking fuzzy and harmless. Earlier, a former co-worker’s post on Facebook convinced me that I should watch the footage of George Floyd’s death. I couldn’t get past the first time he said he couldn’t breathe. I know he calls out for his mother, and as a mother…

Of Rats & Bees (no mice,no men)

The bees seem to have settled into the hive. I can’t say for sure unless I open the hive and I’m not going to do that, so for now I cross the stream at the bottom of our backyard and gaze over at the log hive, which has a healthy amount of bees enjoying the sunshine and buzzing around it. I believe I can see them going in and out of the opening, a crack in the log. Meanwhile, Arielle, 13, is still vying for rats. To that end, she wrote a paper on rat responsibilities as she imagines them, given her research. Her first paper was a how-to written in the second person-all you need to know to care for a pet rat. She presented it to us last night. Part of our sequester entertainment and education is presenting ideas to each other. I found it informative, but lacking…

From Bees to Rats

The bees of yesterday are still outside the hive we put them in-deciding whether they want to move in, or cleaning out the hive and repainting for the Queen? We don’t know. We watch and wait. Such diversion. Meanwhile, I write, some. Not a lot. I often think, “This is going to be a writing day- get lots done! I’m not going to do much else…” But then life happens. Today, our youngest daughter is making inroads toward getting another pet. We have a Maine Coon, but he is not a very affectionate male cat. He mostly tolerates us, and we are amused by him, but Ari is pining for a small pet. She’s been trying to trap a mouse with a friendly trap, to no avail. Being quarantined or sequestered can be lonely for a 13-year-old, so I find my “no more pets” stance softening. I don’t want to…

When Bees(&Words) Die

The bee swarm we “rescued” last week off the curb at the corner of a main thoroughfare didn’t make it. And I don’t know why, although I have some theories. And as writers, not all the words we write are going to make it out into the world. It doesn’t stop us from trying, from stringing words together into sentences born of observations and ideas, some cohesive and some less so, knowing that many written words will be left behind, or left off the final stories. As a writer you just have to be okay with that, right? And as you get better at it you may be able to save more original words, but writing that first draft will always be an act of exploration and discovery. That’s part of the fun. It was fun, and a bit inconvenient to go get bees. Stop what you are doing and…

Seurat and Social Distancing

In Seurat’s pointillist painting, La Grande Jatte, notice how everyone is arranged in small groups with some distance between them? I never saw it quite like this before, but living through a pandemic changes your view on just about everything. Is there a piece of art that represents how life has changed for you since the onset of the pandemic? A painting might inspire a story or poem, or vivid imagery in a poem or story might inspire a painting or sculpture (reverse ekphrasis). Using art as a starting point, describing what you see until the story or idea behind the objects or scene reveals itself. That’s ekphrastic writing and it can bring new layers of meaning, along with new ways of seeing, to your work. Give it a try. And stay safe this Memorial Day Weekend. Writing, generally done alone, is a fairly safe activity.

First Drafts

The process of writing first drafts is a lot like climbing a mountain for the first time according to C.C. Humphreys, an author who spoke to Willamette Writers recently. He’s written eleven novels with more to come and he speaks with that charming British accent, easy listening. I heard the Nietzsche quote (post from two days earlier) from him, but he said it like this: You must have chaos within who gives birth to a dancing star. I have chaos within and without, so I felt rather encouraged, how you want to feel when you are writing a first draft and listening to one who has gone before you several times. This is not my first draft. But it is one of the first I am close to finishing, or so I hope. The thing about calling a first draft finished is, how do you know it is finished? It…

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…

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