Poem of the Day

Inspired by your 2012 project poem of the day, and your post on Power Bursts, which is totally the only way I can write these days, I share with you some of my poems of the day. Written with a call response form from my friend, Melissa, and inspired by her relationship with her children as well I give you...

Coloring and Art work by Liam call me William

Request of a friend: "There's a poem to be written about crayons...their divine capacity to both transform paper and be an inspired tool of creators....as well as their cursed presence littering floors and demanding organizational attention...Who will write this poem for me?"

Coloring and Art work by Finn
My response to a friend: "Crayons crayons crayons, waxed and papered, prim and pointed. Belaying my child's inner world brought forth on crisp white snow of paper, on walls, in their mouths so that they speak their color. Oozing reds and yellows, wax indented molars, littered crayons, with scattered peeled paper traipsing my floors, missing my trash. They scamper like mice when I graze my unassuming toe upon their forgotten presence. Evidence of a masterpiece."



Total hiccups. Damn hiccups. Interrupting speech, thoughts, dreams. Hiccups total intrusion. Upside down water glass, peanut butter, surprise scares, prayers. Hiccups damn hiccups. Holding breath holding hope hiccups. Damn hiccups be gone!


Sacred space, when analog time holds no meaning,
life suspends itself like a hammock between two rooted trees swaying in the breeze between here and there,          
between before and after,
swaying into that intimate space of the present.
When all you can do is breathe, deep breaths, shallow breaths, breaths…because no one can prepare you for the threshold you are crossing over,
they can only silently, reverently, hold your hand,
offer a gaze,
provide a subtle gesture to let you know that you do not walk alone;
the oils you were baptized with, blessed with, live in that garden of your body’s memory.
The hands that laid upon your own still lay there caressing you.
No, no one can do what your life asks of you.
They can just lay down on the tall grass next to you and sigh,
watching with you as the clouds overhead pass,
and notice as that ant climbs that blade of grass near your face, and that tall strand curves under its presence;
much like the arc of God’s arms cradles our weight in his embrace-- as we too strive to climb nearer to his heart.
And when we rise together from the summer’s green grass
and look back at the matted imprints our body’s left behind
we know we were there
in that sacred space of raw, real life that brings us to our knees
only to know what it is like to rise rooted again.
(Poem, prayer inspired by the Kiemde family written in July.)


Power Bursts

I only have a few minutes to dash off a post, my first on the Nest in ages. This is fitting, considering that I want to write about writing in short bursts, ten minutes, even five minutes. I like to think of it as a kind of interval training for creativity: Any writing time is good time.

I've always suspected that I write better under pressure but didn't fully test the theory until earlier this summer. For three weeks at Stony Lake in July, I was a solo parent while Steve was back at home in Santa Fe tending to our gardens and his clients'. I enlisted the help of a part-time babysitter several times a week and relied on my mother and sister to steal snippets of time for myself, a few minutes here and there. But other than that, I was in the thick of mothering on an island in Ontario: feeding, lifeguarding, bathing in the lake, boating to swim dates, bedtime, story time, middle-of-the-night potty breaks—all the summertime tasks of childrearing fell to me. 

This is how it had been the past four summers ever since Pippa was a newborn. The challenges of trying to manage one tiny baby—let alone two—in motorboats, around open water 24/7, were so great that it required a monumental effort just to get off the island. Needless to say, my writing took a hit. I was so worked at the end of the day, I barely had time or energy to change out of my bathing suit and comb my damp, tangled hair, let alone write any lines in my notebook. So I was expecting more of the same when we arrived at the landing on the second day of July and were ferried across to our cottage by my 12-year-old nephew Andrew. 

But, oh, how things had changed. The girls, 4 and 2, were bigger now. Maisy, who had learned to walk/teeter at the cottage last summer, was steady on her feet and—like her sister and mother, grandmother and aunt—went everywhere without shoes, hopping over the island's smooth granite rocks like her feet held their memory. She could sit unassisted in the boat now, so I didn't have to hold her on my lap or put her in her infant car seat while I drove. Pippa had learned to swim, so I could sit on the dock and watch her without having to be in the water myself—just like my mother had done for my sister and me when we were little. I knew we had to keep our eyes on her at all times around water, but it was such a relief to realize that if she fell in, she wouldn't sink to the bottom—extra energy I could put into writing, not worrying. 

I had fewer hassles, more help, and more time. I was also fresh off a silent writing retreat in France with the teacher, Natalie Goldberg, who championed 10-minute writing practice in her bestselling book, Writing Down the Bones. I knew from studying with Natalie that good writing didn't require heaps of time, just discipline and a little structure. I also knew from experience that when presented with eight hours in which to write, I will almost certainly squander half of that out of fear, procrastination, and doing useless things like shopping for cardigans online. 

So things got simpler. I settled into a routine. I put the girls to bed, and in the half an hour while I was making sure they had settled, I sat at my little green wooden writing table overlooking the lake and wrote in my notebook. Writing practice, writing my Outside blog, or writing about my day, it didn’t matter.  I wrote. If Pippa got up, I took her back to her room, and kept writing. It was writing interrupted, but it was writing. I wrote about summers I’d known and the summer that was happening right out the screen window, the summer I was living, we were all living, that minute, with loons shrilling out the window and the sun setting over Juniper Island. Later, after dinner with my parents, I’d write some more, but not on my computer. That was my rule: Powering down by 9 PM helped me sleep better. Later still, I’d climb into bed with a cup of chamomile tea and write my poem for the day. I'd read a few pages from Richard Ford’s novel, Canada, and then fall asleep to the sound of water sloshing under the dock. 

In the morning, I woke early in the bright, curtainless room above the boat house and wrote some more, before the girls woke up. My writing space consisted of a rickety table and a single bed and no doors for privacy. I wrote surrounded by the girls and their books, toys, clothes and lifejackets strewn about, and a stuffed white christening bear that sang "Jesus Loves Me" when you pushed his paw. Just like time, less space, the less stuff you have for writing, can turn out to be more.  

I carved out shards of time here and there and took them rather than bemoaning how little of it I had.  The results were obvious: I was writing much more in less time. And because of this, it was easier to  appreciate being with my girls, as they flung themselves off the front dock, raced to the store to buy penny candy after swim lessons, or sat at the old out-of-tune piano pounding the keys.

Now I suspect that this is how I write best: in pieces, snippets, found moments at the computer before bed or early in the morning before the girls wake up, or when they are just waking up, sleepy and content to sit on their beds and look at picture books. By making do with what you have, you suddenly have more of it. It’s a shift in logistics, but mostly attitude. Maybe some day I'll have more time to write my novel, but for now I'll take the time when I can get it. Who cares if it’s only 10 minutes and you think you need 100 days or 10 years to write a masterpiece? Short power intervals strengthen your creative muscles. Take the ten minutes, take the three minutes. Stop making excuses and start writing. Just write.