Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Transformative Blogging

Just a note to say I still have room for participants in my Transformative Blogging class, open to those hesitant bloggers-to-be wishing for a roadmap to help them proceed, or for those already blogging, this course promises to help set intentions and recalibrate blogging focus.
The course is offered through Story Circle Network. Outline and full details can be read here: Transformative Blogging.

Come out, come out and play...we have a beautiful group assembling already.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

AROHO Speaks, Writer to Writer: Interview with Maura MacNeil

Maura McNeil
 I'm proud to cross-post this interview with Summer 2011 AROHO Retreat writer Maura MacNeil (conducted by Barbara Ann Yoder). I decided to jump in and give you a quick glance mid-interview. I continue to be moved by the tremendous strength and resilience of the women gathered for the retreat; it seems many of us crossed intense barriers (emotional, spiritual, physical) in order to perservere and attend the conference.

Is there one specific moment or event at the retreat that sparked an insight or shift in how you perceive either your work or yourself as a writer?

During the retreat I recognized that the fear I carried with me as a woman writer in the context of tackling difficult subject matter, or fearing judgment from others—all that baggage that we tend to carry around as writers that keeps us from writing what we are meant to write—is part of what Marilynne Robinson spoke of as a categorical way we are taught to think. While I listened to her words I suddenly understood that I had the power to break that spell. The “deeper experience hidden from the categorical ways we are taught to think” that Marilynne spoke to was a space I suddenly felt the courage to enter because I was surrounded by women who understood those words just as I did.

I arrived at the retreat having just lost my husband who died quite suddenly in June, so I was raw with grief. But at the same time I was in an emotional space where I was completely open to the authentic creative energy of AROHO women and to the possibility that I might be able to frame a new perspective on my writing life in this foreign land of widowhood where all that was “familiar” was suddenly erased.

Over the past decade or so, even though I was writing and publishing and editing, I felt as though my life had become increasingly compartmentalized into my “life as writer” and my “other life” that was filled with obligations that constantly tugged me away from being present in my creative life. I was increasingly distracted. When Marilynne told us that we should make ourselves into someone we might enjoy being with, that we should give ourselves a creative life that as writers we want to live, her words were like an alarm going off, and I knew that something very important was happening to my sense of myself as a woman writer.
More here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Towards Mapping Female Geographies

Photo by Robyn Beattie
 I am pleased to announce a short-short up on-line at In Her Place, titled, "Reverie for The Girl at Gabe’s Bar, downtown Iowa City , where the accordian player belts out, in Anglo-Spanish, his love song,"

This fictive rumination of mine sought to answer the following question posed by In Her Place editor-in-chief Marci Daniels and co-conspirator Jessica Erica Hahn in their call for submissions:

In what ways does being female affect one’s sense of place, placement, and/or (dis)location?

A rich, viable question, worth I think, a life-time's scrutiny.

Robyn's images can be viewed on her site:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Deciphering the Siren: Premature Gifts, Luminaries, and Transformative Blogging

Detail from Mermaid, Howard Pyle
Jung’s wife, Emma, wrote that as a symbol, the mermaid wants to "entangle" us in "real relationships." She drags the man underwater not always to drown him, but sometimes to bathe him in the waters of life. Mermaids: Nymphs of the Sea, Aurum Press,  Text by Theodore Gachot, Photography by Leah Demchick

I crept away early on Sunday, needing time away.

Startling, the pain of leaving my youngest child behind, his sweet, sweat-tufted hair, as he lay in his comforter. Last night as we fell asleep, he said he wanted to make me an early birthday present (months away), could I guess what letter it started with…You don’t have to tell me, I said, but stopped, overcome by his absolute need to cinch the giving in case something were to eclipse it…He blurts, it starts with f…no…I mean r…Roses!

I kiss his cheek as I’d promised, whisper, I’m going, but not loud enough to wake him, I know better. I climb the ladder to my daughter’s loft bed, her kitten batting at my ankles in a plea for wet food since I’m the feeder of all creatures under our roof. This kiss elicits a sleepy, bye mom. Last, the big bed, where husband, middle child, and the Husky snore, paws and shins churned in the electric blanket. I linger with a fraction of regret, listening to the familiar sheen of breathing I so love, a shield for my childhood’s fear of the dark.

I’m only driving an hour away to meet a friend to talk poetry over coffee—yet I hesitate again...wish to burrow down, drift back to sleep, rise late in the morning and walk the dog, leashed, so she doesn’t trigger the ferals up the trunks of the redwoods as will be their fate when my husband leaves the door ajar for the dog to come and go. To stay, grind the coffee beans, compose slow emails between scrambling eggs…But if I don’t get away, the other half of me suffers.

Under the supernaturally gorgeous 7 am skies full of gunmetal clouds, the black pavement of the road sparkles, slick, split by the yellow divider line mimicking the tangerine gold of the leaves as the muted grey of a mottled pair of white horses in the mist and the dark tributaries of the oaks fringed with velvet moss hurtle past. A slight rain descends; I’m near tears, confused by an ancient fear of losing children mingled with the urge to stop, get out, and ride one of the horses into the hills.

Likely the grief’s more triggered by this brilliance of nature and the fact that I’m a two-step away from summer’s cornucopia of nested stress. Events in my thirteen year-old marriage took most of my attention, though, the degree to which I’ve been devastated by implied actions on my husband’s part--the responsibility for my reaction--rests solely with me. A state of truce graces me for now, thanks to the net of helpers mirroring back to me ways I might better appreciate what I have, strive to place things in context, become a better person.

The need for privacy, though, extinguished any desire to write here with my usual candor. In the meantime, I’ve taken a fiendish delight in deciphering the siren: reading about mermaids, mermen, Emma Jung, in my attempts to explore the volatile/vulnerable conditions the bound circle marriage attempts to make of our desires and attractions. How we transform when we run out of air and storm the sea’s surface, claim our stake in the living, forced by circumstance to choose to be here. Through such trials comes the gift of incarnating more deeply, or at least that’s what I decided.

But let me also acknowledge the luminaries…like the dear couple, both Taiko drummers, inviting my family to a gathering the very day after my husband and I had it out (unbeknownst to them, of course). We left our house, the air heavy with the prior nights’ accusations and revelations, to drive out into the country to a home high on a hill overlooking Mt. Tamalpais. Legs planted in the vibrant green grass, our friends, married as long as my husband and I, took their position on either side of an oblong drum.

She with her long black red tinged hair, arms windmilling in gentle but powerful circles, knees turning in tandem as she poised to strike the drum. Her husband, with legs in warrior stance, connecting in slow, fierce strikes on the opposite side, the deep amber of his voice matching her softer but equally firm arc of song. In the background, our sons circled the lawn, hunting geckos in the stones rimming the hill, my daughter sprawled between my husband and I on the damp grass.

Though unable to set aside its sense of broken trust, the other half of my heart blossomed with possibility. Here, I translated, pure, from our friends, is what a couple in love is capable of creating. In the wake of their secure and fearless drumming, I took refuge from my worst fears about our marriage.

As we drove home, my thoughts ranged over the events of the last couple of years, coming to rest on the time, when, like my younger son, I couldn’t wait to give a gift. Late November, still concerned about my husband’s ability to recover from heart surgery, I’d painted him a mug: purple trident on one side, a crown and a heart in its middle, the first initial of his name along the handle, waves curling the cup’s rim, a second, secret heart at the bottom of the cup on the inside. Three weeks before Christmas, I gave it to him, here, I said, I just wanted you to have this now…and he took it…I didn’t say in case you die before Christmas….but I thought it, in fear.

In the rearview mirror, I see my youngest son drifting to sleep, his head resting on my daughter's shoulder. I wonder aloud to my husband, how many a wife, entering marriage, hasn’t felt a bit like the little mermaid, trading her voice for legs? He’s adjusting his sunglasses, the other hand resting on my thigh. I say it more to myself than him, and don’t expect him to answer.

The rest goes on in my head. Mermaid turned land girl or not, as women we continue to plumb the watery, emotional, psychic depth of human possibility. I think backing away from that gift and not voicing its truths would be a great loss in any marriage. Maybe it takes nearly half a century to find one’s voice (my plight anyway, but better late than never). And though the little Mermaid evaporates in the morning to join her sisters in the air, I don’t think the prince has it any easier. Every man, like every woman, has his dark hours to survive.

Detail of Book Cover, Author Theodore Gachot
Image: C.E. Boutibonne, Sirenes, EDIMEDIA
  Which leads me to close on this final meditation, also from the book my husband got for me in our first year of marriage, Mermaids, Nymphs of the Sea: “In tales of human-mermaid romance, the need to return to the water became an emblem of the distance between the sexes that could be bridged only through the cultivation of empathy—the relationship of two disparate parts working as a whole (Theodore Gachot)." May we mutually, male and female, “bathe one another in the waters of life” and fulfill our truer nature as luminaries, all.

One last note:

I’ll be teaching a 4 week course for Story Circle Network in January. I'm indebted to both Barbara Yoder and Marlene Samuels, members of the AROHO Speaks Interview Team, for inspiring me to apply to give on-line teaching a try, and Marlene again, for recommending Story Circle Network. (Here's a slice of their mission statement: "The Story Circle Network is dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives and to raising public awareness of the importance of women's personal histories").

This marks a much anticipated next step in my plan to create for myself the teaching life I so desire. I would love it if you joined me, or passed this link on to friends, those cautious but curious about blogging as well as those veteran bloggers who want to pause, take stock, recalibrate. Read a detailed course description for Transformative Blogging.