(Do not)open until . . .

Last May, I packed all my writing in a tall moving box.  It is taped up and buried behind all our luggage in the closet in my office/guest room.

The closet is stuffed with plastic-packed toilet paper rolls, outdated over the counter drugs,  random Band Aids, all the family towels (even all the beach ones shoved in a giant blue Ikea bag), a clothes steamer I’ve never used, which my mother gave me, the ironing board, a scale we bought for our German exchange student last year to weigh his luggage.  There is every manual to every appliance we own (except for the washer and drier, which I searched for last week, without any luck).  On the shelf, there is an unrolled sleeping bag and Katie’s old comforter, Mike’s hard hat and bright-blue safety suit for when he strolling through refineries. The closet also has (temporarily) all the Christmas presents I’ve bought, and have yet to wrap, stacked up against the luggage and the toilet paper packages.

This is no place for my best work.

31016274_s

In response to the second prompt for Week 4 of Quest 2016

Theme:  Doing your best work, Not Someone Else’s
Visionary:  Charlie Gilkey
Prompt:  “Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?”

On January 1, 2016, I reveal The Story Box.

I rescue my writing.  I set out short imperfect, fragmented pieces, one by one, in no particular order, for readers who are guided to them.

(At least in the light,  there is some chance of growing.)

In doing so (in my being brave):

  • I risk opening my own Pandora’s Box
  • I risk being truly seen
  • I let go of the Story that’s haunted me for more than a decade
  • I protect my family from the horrifying task of “what should we do with your mother’s writing?” should I delay any further

This writing is my best work (not someone else’s), and it is my responsibility alone to release it, amplifying its rise out into the open, into the light . . .

“p.s.  You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.”

[Thank you, for that PS, Charlie Gilkey.]

***

Charlie is a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants – talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. He’s the brain and heart behindProductive Flourishing, best-selling author of The Small Business Life Cycle (JETLAUNCH 2014), Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, and a former Army Logistics Officer. He’s driven to figure out how to help Creative Giants be their best selves in the world.

 

Sometimes I write

 

37953358_s

Sometimes I write because my heart is too full and the desire to set beauty on the page feels like a song rising up, unrehearsed.

Gratitude.

Last night, I stood among faces I knew from long ago, the ones that filled my high school classrooms, sifted through halls, this colorful blur of velour and Jordache jeans, standing tall, yet awkward, spinning combination locks right-left-right, hip-checking grey/green lockers closed, arms laden with textbooks, covered in brown paper, scribbled with hearts.

I remember you. You touched my life, whether or not you knew you did.

We were tumbled together like this haphazard mix of pretty aquarium stones – not because we chose one other, but because we lived in the same small town, for the same 4 years – the town with the pretty white church on the long triangle of lawn, where each June, all would gather to eat strawberries, this annual Festival marking the close of one school year and  the beginning of summer –  something delicious to mark time passing – so sweetly, juicily, stickily.

Yet, our town seemed split across by railway tracks, this jagged old scar, littered and gravelly, overgrown.  On one side, there were these white Quaker stones sitting low, almost invisible in the block-wide field where the town clock once stood and the giant Sycamore, shedding its papery brown/white bark.

These remembered lives.  This litter of Life passing.

It is gratitude I feel for having grown beside you  – during years I was not yet the woman I am now (and still becoming), but the seed of her, I’m guessing.

Thank you for nurturing me while also toughening and strengthening me, through times marked by struggle, mostly the hidden kind.  I didn’t know then, what I know now.  That none of us felt like we fit in.  Even the cheerleaders, even those who lived in wedding-cake mansions on Chester Avenue, even football players who scared us with big bellowing voices, even the field hockey beauties, in their black and gold skirts, and pony tails swinging – no one felt at ease, as though she belonged.

How I wish I knew that back then.  How I wish I did.

Yet, perhaps that is the way it must be.  Perhaps we aren’t to know those things, when we are young and not yet fully-grown. Perhaps the discomfort is necessary and crucial for our lives’ unfolding.

Honestly, I don’t know.

Yet tonight, having returned safely to my home, here in Chicago, my heart full – to have been welcomed back, embraced again, by those I knew growing up – to have danced and laughed and eaten cake with them – all that remains is gratitude – this overwhelming gratitude that unlocks my voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do what makes you happy

Day 8 - do what makes you happy
Yum!

There is a lightness to having packed the Stories.

Upon completing this task  (one which I wondered about doing for a week), I felt giddy and childlike to the point that my husband may have wondered just who he married.

Last night, we went to Dairy Queen and I ordered a chocolate-dipped cone (I always get a peanut-butter-cup Blizzard or Buster Bars).  I haven’t enjoyed one of those cones since I was little and my best friend Bernadette and I would sneak deep into the woods that backed to our houses in New Jersey and follow the path that led all the way to the shopping center with the Thrift Drug (oh Bonnie Bell Kissing Stick strawberry lip gloss!), Woolworth (always smelled like popcorn), a pizzeria that sold by-the-slice, and the Dairy Queen.  The journey meant disobeying our parents and also trekking across 2 quick moving creeks that had mossy-slick shopping carts and shipping pallets cast across them. We’d  creek-walk both ways, my sneakers and jeans usually wet from falling in, though my mother, who forbid me to go that far in the woods, never seemed to notice them.  I guess I was only a rule-follower to a point.  I think we paid for our cones in carefully-counted change – not sure where we got that change as 8-year-olds (selling lemonade at the golf course, I’m thinking), but we had it.

This weekend Mike & I biked, despite Weather Center’s  “dire storm warnings” and danced in the kitchen (well, just I danced in the kitchen) as we were cleaning up from a stir fry dinner.  We went to the movies (“wasting the day” my mom’s voice in my head), ordered a medium (not small) popcorn, and experienced Mad Max, in 3-D, a film Mike thought I’d hate, but I didn’t.  (A classic Distopian quest story, what’s not to like?)

Do what makes you happy. Good and wise advice I received today from Reader/Friend, Andy Hampton.  This ones for you . . .

I am doing what makes me happy, how about you?

Oh the adventure of what lies ahead!
Oh the adventure of what lies ahead!

With bright shiny faces

I awoke this morning (for a 6 am conference call) with a song from my kindergarten class in my head.

“Good morning to you!
Good morning to you!
We’re all in our places with bright shiny faces,
and this is the way we start each new day.”

I grabbed Mike before he left for the train and sang it to him (I think he thinks I’m nuts,  but it did make him smile, which is a wonderful sight, like a sun glint caught in the trees)

Then I spot this one wild violet child grinning at me, from its naughty spot, between the bricks of our patio.  Such fortitude this little one, that and its brazen unconventional boldness!  

May the path of your day today catch you by surprise and leave you smiling.

Morning smiles
Morning smiles on Day 3

Moon Bear Dancing with Breeze – a legend

A long, long, day ago, there lived a girl and her name was Breeze.

Her hair had been of longest deepest black, though strangely marked with a lightening streak of white, which was especially strange for one so young. Her hair frightened those in the village and they laughed and shunned her, shaming her family and the girl herself.

One sad day, Breeze ran to the stream that raced with silver fish and she made a fatal wish.  She wished herself to be the same as everyone else, so that her family would not suffer the shame of her striking difference.  She cupped the water in her hands, drinking its mystery and hoping the spirits could hear her plea.

But instead the stream’s water had been poison, and the girl now slept in a room painted scarlet, smokey with scent of burnt hickory and sage.  Thin, tinny music was playing from a harp that lay on the lap of her mother’s only sister, who worried and rocked in her chair, while the girl’s mother wailed in sorrow.

Breeze was feverish. Her arms pale as tusks of elephant, yet limp and frail.  Her black hair was damp and brushed back from her forehead, it streak of whiteness hidden by a wet cloth, which an old woman, whom the family did not know, had placed there.  The damp cloth smelled of lemons, which made Breeze smile in her dreams, which were often

The old woman held a cup of steaming tea up to the girl’s mouth  and the girl’s father lifted her body up so that the tea could be swallowed.  The tea tasted like fish and cucumber peels in the garden, and rocks and rain.  Yet the girl drank the tea and the old woman left, her slippers rushing softly across the floor like a scratchy dance,

The girl slipped back into dreams and in her dreams, she traveled above oceans and mountains and lands she’d never seen until she stood before a wood with a shadowy path that led to a stone building painted white, where she could hear sad and scary sounds, cries of something she feared to look at.

Yet her heart carried her toward the place and she walked inside bravely.
The cages were black iron, as black as Breeze’s hair, and so small that the creatures inside them, with their great paws and claws like thorns could not turn to see her.  Yet, she could see there were many of these cages, all filled with fur, lined up in rows that seemed to stretch further than her sight could reach.

There was no one watching.  There was no one listening.

Breeze wondered what it was she could do, a sickly girl, with shameful hair.  And she could think of nothing so she turned away, looking downward, in shame, at the dirt floor. She kicked the dry dirt, angrily, so it made clouds as she walked.. Yet her shoe touched something hard and bright – a silver key hidden shallowly beneath the gravelly dust.   She picked up the key and tried the lock on the first cage.  It opened, yet the creature inside did not stir.

Breeze stepped back and waited and hoped.  And slowly, fearfully, the creature made its way out of the cage, onto the floor and crawled out on all four paws to the door.  The great creature turned, its brown eyes questioning and looking right at Breeze, beckoning her to follow.

Breeze could see now that the creature was a black bear  and even though everything inside her said, “do not follow”, she followed.

The bear led her forward, pulling her through shadowy woods, and toward a great and silvery stream, one that reminded her of the stream at home, the one in which she’d made her fatal wish.  She watched the bear lumber into the water and stand up, dipping his paws into troves of fish, that danced like rainbows, yet, none of the fish were hurt, despite the bear’s claws which looked to the girl like black thorns.

The bear having finished his play shakes dry and begins a long walk by the stream of racing fish, alongside trees as tall as mountains.  He walks for many days and the girl follows.

At last, they come to a thicket of young trees with berries, that sheltered a space littered with dry leaves, stones, and felled logs. There is snow in places too, even though the girl is not cold.  She sits on a rock and waits.  Bear after bear emerge from shadows,  They seem to dance all around her, first on all fours, then tall on just two,  Their fur is as black and soft as midnight, with creases of white, like fingernail moons or sometimes hearts.  It was as though the gods themselves had painted the bears that way, so that Breeze would recognize them as her own and call them beautiful.

After much time passes, the bear that had led her all this way stands giant before her, yet, Breeze is unafraid.  He crouches down and lays his head upon her tiny lap, which also does not frighten her,  Instead she cradles the bear’s mighty head, stroking its fur, and sings a lullaby from some long ago and forgotten time.

Together they sleep – Breeze and her Moon Bear – dreaming each other’s dreams without fear,without suffering.

===============================================================================================

Author’s note:  With deepest gratitude to Jeffrey Davis & Tracking Wonder (http://trackingwonder.com), #Quest2015, and most of all, to Shaman Lora Jansen (http://www.onetribeonly.com/).  The plight of Moon Bears and the farming of their bile in Asia has haunted me since reading a reflection piece, which Lora published recently.  I offer this imperfect piece of writing to those who are working to heal Moon Bears, and to change the economic conditions that continue to make this practice profitable.  To learn more, see https://www.animalsasia.org/us/our-work/end-bear-bile-farming/

In addition, I dedicate this piece to the family of Breeze.  Breeze was a beloved Bearded Collie, with whom Lora worked with as a shaman – in the end, she guided his spirit as he passed in December 2014.  My heart sees Breeze’s spirit still dancing, still shepherding, guiding those who are frightened, gently to safety.   May all be healed,