Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"She Dressed in a Hurry" for Lady Di and "Marilyn" poems at Salome Magazine (this week, next)

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a safety net of helpers to hold a writer in place long enough to snag a poem. For the last six years, my father has taken my children on Fridays so I can write (for a good number of those years, joined by his wife Robyn). Each Friday, when I hear their car approaching up the drive, my youngest son and I waiting on the front steps under the redwoods, I feel such gratitude for the writer’s life I get to indulge in while raising children.

I wrote “She dressed in a hurry” (for Lady Di; up currently at http://www.salomemagazine.com/) during a week my father was out of town. I’d realized how vital Fridays were to my sanity and cooked up a childcare trade with my mom friend Maureen. I took my two year old, my writing folder, and a lukewarm cup of tea over to her house. That rainy morning the farthest my son allowed me to go was the bedroom, door ajar, where he could hold a boxcar in his fist and keep en eye trained on me. Maureen gave up on convincing me to escape to one of the cabins on her property, moved aside the stack of papers for her non-profit work on the small desk at the foot of her bed, and cheerily went about making apple sauce with our two sons.

Maureen’s husband—just like mine would have done--drifted into the bedroom once or twice, apologizing profusely, looking for a raincoat, a hat, and yet the poem held on, more or less down on the page by the end of the two hours, born amidst the sounds of living, as so much of a mother’s writing is....laptop in the kitchen, steam from the lentils on the stove wreathing the ceiling, the steady corrugated roll of scooters and tricycles on the deck outside. Thank you Dad and Robyn. Thank you Maureen and Faik for the room that morning, for your love for the children.

I’m thrilled to have found Salome Magazine (I believe the tip-off came via Ethel Rohan—a pithy, engaging writer I met at a women's writing conference last year. Her website: http://www.straightfromtheheartinmyhip.blogspot.com/.)

A quote from Salome Magazine’s site, under the “covenant” link reads (of course worth reading it in its entirety):

Mostly, I wanted to take a look at what has become of The New Woman's evil twin -- the post-feminist woman. Today our familiar friend wakes up at age 35 only to realize that she has put her education and career first and is frantically trying to outrace menopause. She has finally acquired the husband, the house, the golden retriever, and the sports utility vehicle, and she's ready to start a family. But on the domestic side of life, she has some catching up to do. Does she cook, clean, sew, or iron? Of course not. Her life is way too busy for that. She eats take-out six nights a week, tips her cleaning woman, drops her clothes off at the dry cleaner and is running all the time. Is she happy? Has she really fulfilled her dreams? What solutions are there for finding balance in our lives? This is the crux of Salome Magazine.

Salome as a mythological character ties into these goals of reinvention as a revolutionary figure. As women we are still objects of sexual desire. We are participating in this "dance" as a matter of course, but we are also preparing our demands and revisiting our desires. My vision for this website is to create an safe online sanctuary where intelligent women may read weekly submissions, consider them, and provide thoughtful and respectful feedback on the issues and opinions discussed herein. Let us forge a community and come to our own individual and communal understanding about our authentic and rich veritable experiences as modern women.

I hope you’ll consider submitting work to Salome Magazine--or joining the conversation in their “chamber.”

Friday, September 25, 2009


...is a nonfiction essay of mine live at Empire Report( http://empirereport.org/reports/20090928-lifeguard-by-tania-pryputniewicz) paired with photographs by Robyn Beattie (like the one pictured here); view her portfolio at http://www.robynbeattie.com/.

Empire Report, a North Bay community journalism organization, is currently looking for contributors--writers, journalists, photographers, etc., to submit. A quote from the site sums up the grassroots approach (fostering local responsibility/involvement/inspiration/opportunity): "Why not have a website that lets you report the news yourself?" http://www.empirereport.org/

Friday, September 18, 2009

Perspective: Body Surfing, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tenar and Sleeping Beauty

Remember nursing in a wetsuit? Trying to peel back one shoulder and noodle one arm free to the smell of salty rubber, wasted milk dribbling down your stomach....grabbing a towel, trying not to fling sand into the baby’s eyes...

Haven’t had a nurser for nearly a year now, so I’m back in the wetsuit, ten feet offshore beside my husband on a boogie board, losing, in the briny cold, some of the hypervigilant concern I tend to habitually train on my three children (wether they need it or not). Their drip castles spiral skyward—they’re oblivious to us, the parent animal, riding out the undulations, finally bearing down on them atop a breaking wave...I could get addicted to this...body of water, its gift of lift, wave after wave obliterating the grumpy pall of navigating the day’s transitions. And how odd, to be so separate, yet so close, to my children. They look so tiny, their physical frames no match for the proportion of space they occupy in my heart and mind.

Later, my daughter trades places with my husband, and she and I ride the white froth up the shoreline, laughing. We’ve needed to laugh, something we can do side by side without interruption or another voice calling my attention from her, she with the familiar intense grip of the firstborn. We share the birth placement, but in the tiredness of raising her brothers, I can’t always haul up the focus to give her what she wants in the moment. But I know she’ll find her way to what she needs, as I did.

By night, Ursula K. Le Guin does for my writer’s mind what the ocean did for my body, those billion ions in the air above the wave taking me up and out of my tiny, worried world. I came across Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea Trilogy as a child—I think on the brink of adolescence. I read A Wizard of Earthsea first, pouring my girl self into the spirit of the main character, a young boy finding his way to his source of power (and ultimately, true wizardhood).

But reading the second book, The Tombs of Atuan proved far more powerful. For I remember that delicate cusp when I was in love with fairytales, but unable to ignore the books my mother had on the back of the toilet: My Mother, Myself, and Colette Dowling’s The Cinderella Complex. Disenchanted, I guess, or armed for disenchantment with the “happily ever after” fairytale version of life, but still having no clue how to proceed. You are not supposed to want a prince, ok. You are supposed to be able to do all the things men do, ok. But how?

Le Guin’s Tenar (protagonist of The Tombs of Atuan) is a child taken from her family to be raised as a priestess, a “chosen one”, who will need the help of the wizard to find her true self...Bless Le Guin, for the wizard comes to Arha, not as rescuer, but as a three dimensional human being--a broken helpmate of sorts. He ultimately helps her escape, but not before he’s been her prisoner, and the book ends with her sitting at the prow of a ship, returning to her native land, walking up the street beside him. Though she’s faced down her own inner demons to arrive here, she’ll now have to remake herself in the present. Le Guin leaves her heroine here.

Tenar’s journey laid down alternate paths of possibility, forging tiny deer trails in my adolescent brain when I was lost, trying to follow or run from the stag, depending on the direction of the flow of hormones that day. And here in my 40s, Tenar continues to speak quietly to me of possibility, of the ever-present possibility of starting over, remaking oneself, after examining what you formerly were lead to believe or erroneously lead yourself to believe (about life, love, men, women, children, you name it).

Le Guin charts her own discovery of the power of shifted perspective in her essay: “The Wilderness Within: The Sleeping Beauty and “The Poacher” and a PS about Sylvia Townsend Warner” (from the Le Guin’s wave in the mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination). She speaks of a poem by Warner that changed how she thought about “Sleeping Beauty” forever. Two of Warner’s lines read: “Woe’s me! Must one kiss / Revoke the silent house, the birdsong wilderness?”

And Le Guin writes “I think the story is about that still center: ‘the silent house, the birdsong wilderness’” p. 116. The rest of Le Guin’s essay is a prose poem itself (I think) so I hope you’ll read it in its entirety...she writes, “There she is alone (Sleeping Beauty), all by herself, content and nobody knows her. She is thinking: Don’t wake me. Don’t know me. Let me be...
At the same time she is probably shouting out of the windows of other corners of her being, Here I am, do come, oh do hurry up and come! (p. 111)”

And so I watch my daughter approaching the end of her years of “birdsong stillness” and breathe a little deeper for the fairytales, and the writers forging the next layer of path-work based on those fairytales...and pray they provide the solace she’ll need to proceed safely, on her own, when she’s no longer topping off a drip castle or shooting past me on her boogie board.

Books by Ursula K. Le Guin: The Earthsea Trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore (the 1977 Tombs of Atuan volume in my home features beautiful chapter-head illustrations by Gail Garrety--I love especially the images for the chapters The Anger of the Dark and Light Under the Hill); the wave in the mind: and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination; City of Illusions; The Left Hand of Darkness, The Lathe of Heaven...to name a few of my favorites.

Friday, September 11, 2009


...we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice...
(Wislawa Szymborska, from Nothing Twice)

Sleeping long into the morning in the furred oblivion of pregnancy—fifth month, first child.

Waking and shuffling over to the answering machine: 12 messages. The first from my husband, who’d risen to run with his best friend, and three more from him, “Wake up, baby...” Followed by my mother, my aunt across town offering that I come be with them. My best friend. The husband again. My mother-in-law....

Then, years of wondering why I was allowed this life, this turn at driving with my infant children in the car, a selfish gratitude.

Still no answer, as there never is with the senseless taking of lives.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Feral Wife: Two Chainsaws, the Ocean and an Untended Husband

So last year my husband found a weekend job perfect for an adrenaline junky: removing a100 foot tree trunk off a jetty (with instructions not to obstruct the shipping channel in the process). He took off for “work” that morning with his wetsuit, two Husqvarna chainsaws and on his bicep, a brand new black Razor phone (the latest and hottest at the time). The communication, my idea...honey, how about you get some walkie talkies since you’ll be working alone...One thing lead to another at the gadget store, and he walked out a couple hundred dollars later with the Razor (and a sleek strap to cinch it to his arm). He promised to call every four hours.

He drove to the bluff above the jetty and hiked his chainsaws in. Meet me for lunch, he said, right on time with his first phone call. I want the kids to see this...and so I parked at the beach down below—where, a tiny figure eventually appeared—head and shoulders—gradually looming larger: Aqua-man floating a pair of severed tree rounds on the water’s surface along the coastline to the cove we occupied, plodding out carefully with his fins toes to the sky, hefting each 40 pound wood frisbee against his chest and onto the sand.

My mother-in-law showed up with her camera. The kids crowed appropriately as their father advanced out of the waves, but lost interest when they realized he wouldn’t be stopping long enough to surf with them. They amused themselves with the tide pools, but the next day, we opted to stay home.

And that’s the day my husband ran into trouble. At the tip of the tree trunk he found the rounds manageable, but as he progressed towards the base and roots, they grew in diameter. So he decided to cut the remaining trunk in half, not anticipating the resultant pinch the weight of the two halves would put on the blade, lodging it firmly. He took the second chainsaw to cut the other out. It too ground to a halt deep in the tree. With the tide rising and dusk on its way, he didn’t stop long enough to consider calling. He still had the quarter mile hike up the bluffs to get to his truck.

He muscled the first chainsaw out. Then he began to see-saw the second chainsaw vigorously back and forth. On his third yank, the blade freed itself suddenly and the top half of my husband’s body shot up into the air. He had a split second to regain his footing, but he stepped onto a rock covered in wet kelp. He and the chainsaw went over backwards into the ocean.

And so did the Razor.

As always, he emerged from the escapade unscathed (and, he wanted me to add, with the mission accomplished). The guys at the Husqvarna shop helped him take apart and de-salt his chainsaw, shaking their heads. And the employee my husband bought the phone from the day before at Best Buy felt so sorry for him he went out to the parking lot, fished around under the front seat and handed over his ex-girlfriend’s old Nokia (apologizing for the flower stickers). My husband walked in to our kitchen at 8 o’clock that night lamenting the death of his Razor, but stopped short when he saw the look on my face...