MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

Ekphrastic Mama

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A New Thought for Today

I have lots of old thoughts that circulate regularly so when a new thought flits by I notice it and see if it’s one I want to keep. Today’s thought, early on this Sunday morning Mother’s Day, was about privilege, a hot topic and one I’ve been entertaining in new ways. This new thought took me by surprise, as new thoughts often do, being new. It was a privilege to be my mother’s daughter. Many of you might think things like this quite often; I haven’t had a lot of thoughts like this, but the thought seemed beautiful to me. I decided it could stay, that I would like to think this way more. It is a thought that serves me well. After it came another I liked equally well, maybe even better: It’s a privilege to be a mother of my three daughters (three sons too, but today, as…

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…

More Bees, Less Words

Today a friend said she had two swarms of bees at her house and I could come get one if I wanted. But it was about 20 feet up in a tree. I like a challenge. The hub was reluctant, in the middle of a project… but he’s a game guy. This time our 13 year-old daughter came too, all three of us suited up in our bee suits. Bee girl It was a huge swarm. Actually, the two swarms merged into one. We went back and forth with ideas of how best to get it down, if it was even possible. The professionals from our bee club said it was too high; they’d just leave it. Huge swarm up high But we figured out a plan. The hub climbed up a ladder tethered to his truck, lassoed the branch with a rope and shook this huge swarm into a…

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…

I Am a Tree

Picture yourself as a tree. All day I’ve seen myself re-cast as a tree and it has been my best new thought, drawing me toward the sky, a seeker transforming the air we breathe. I love trees. Last week I posted this quote from John Muir: I have never seen a discontented tree. Muir’s words speak to two of my deepest places: a love for trees, and a desire to be satisfied. I’ve pondered contentment much of my life, coaching myself toward it, sometimes thinking I’ve arrived. But I haven’t entirely whipped it. I know this because I’m often restless. My restlessness takes the form of wanting to consume things I don’t need, or even really enjoy all that much after the initial dopamine hit. Dark chocolate or some other “healthy” treat is usually my consumable of choice. Sometimes wine or beer, but not on a daily basis, and usually…

Mother’s Only Brother

He went off to the Korean War and never came back When her only brother went off to the Korean War as a medic, my mother was a junior in high school. They lived in the small town of Geneseo, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, near Davenport, Iowa. Born late in the lives of my grandparents, my mother’s older brother was also her only brother. Not until my mother’s recent death have I thought more deeply on how this loss affected her young life. She only talked about her brother in brief outbursts, then tears overtook her, as if she were experiencing his death all over again. This mystified me. It was so long ago. How could it still ache like such a fresh wound? As a child of 10, I remember awakening one night to the cacophony of her playing both the piano and the organ at the same time.…

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.

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