Written words can be meaningless, worn out like mismatched socks that stay in the back a dresser drawer; or stale like a loaf of old bread growing moldy in the breadbox. Words used so many times before are not adequate to express what needs to be articulated or communicated. Sometimes my pen collects dust on the desk along with the empty pad of paper or the computer screen stares back at me with its blank screen. Why try? I say to myself. There is no point in this. Who cares what I have to say? What can be expressed that hasn’t been said before?
I would have to spend every minute of my life writing to complete my opus. As it is my existence with all its distractions keeps knocking me off task. On the other hand if it wasn’t for daily life what would there be to express? I’ve often thought that the creative process is much like being pregnant; from the conception of an idea, through the labor of writing to the birth of the finished work. I am also protective of my “babies” before I send them out into the world, whether they are poems, essays to contests, or blog posts.
What I am realizing, is that not everyone gets as excited as I do about reading and writing. I have emailed posts or links to my blogs to friends or family, expecting an immediate response or reflection. What I get is, “I haven’t had time to read your email”, or “I saved your post to read another time. I am really busy.” I have come to terms with that, and so I continue, writing every day, on whatever the muse brings forth, and she can be elusive or demanding at any given moment. The point is to make myself available.
The discovery of my family history on the maternal side of my family has been inspiring and has taught me the value of the personal story. So many stories are lost when left untold and I am grateful to my dad who wrote his stories and articles about his childhood and experience during WWII. He also became the historian of our hometown of Palouse, as did his father before him. My dad passed away recently but he left this precious legacy and I feel his spirit encouraging me onward. There has been no one to date that has written about Mom’s side of the family so I feel inspired to do so and have interviewed my mother and my aunt, the last two of their generation of our clan so that I can record some of their life experiences.
I have read that memoirs, like all stories, mine included need to have focus; a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is my biggest challenge, this focus. I imagine there are those who are curious about what it was like living in a religious cult or how I recovered from years of domestic violence as a battered woman. My personal story has taken on a life of its own and now that I have perspective and hopefully some wisdom, perhaps I will bring it to completion. Perhaps my story will inspire or give encouragement to another and I hope my words will make a difference is someone’s life.
There is always the question; fact or fiction? Maybe it isn’t a memoir that I should be writing, but a work of fiction; changing the names to protect the innocent. These are thoughts to consider as I open my mind to the muse. No matter, it’s all about the journey and I continue to write because words can give hope, healing and voice the universal. I write because I must. Writing is like breathing. Writing has a purpose that is larger than my individual life. This is my calling.
Awakening to Unconditional Love
Within her a pregnant woman carries sacred life and the love a mother has for her children dwells deep in her heart. Mother and child are one, generation after generation. Giving birth to each of my children filled me in a way I never thought possible, but when I became a grandmother for the first time the experience was a circumcision of my heart. The night before she gave birth to her first child my daughter had a dream that God was rocking her in His arms. I was with her at the hospital when, at noon the next day she gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. The breath of life was not within him, but he was a real part our lives; this tiny little being whose presence in that moment changed us forever.
I can still picture my little grandson, so still, cradled in my daughter’s arms, a portrait of mother and child, of perfect innocence and pure love. I remember this experience with clarity, even after seventeen years have passed. Having to greet this little being and say good bye to him in the same moment awoke in me an understanding of a true and deep love for life.
We left the hospital that day with empty arms but we were blessed by this angel, which became his name, for indeed he brought a message and a blessing by his very being. What came into my heart was “be still and know that I am God” and God is love. There was no conversation as my son in law drove us home, but we were bonded by the silent tears we all shared. It was on that ride I understood that there is a reason for every being created and grief is part of love; it deepens us so we can experience life fully and accept a greater power than ourselves. In the years since Angel’s birth I have realized that life is a journey and that unconditional love is the single most power of all.
Firstborn, nameless, your birth was not what I expected,
but I felt your spirit profoundly
as you lay so still, a newborn babe
cradled in your mothers arms,
a miracle to fill the soul with meaning.
I caressed your downy softness
and perceived Divine Love.
The Breath of Life was not within you
yet you brought a message
so deeply and gently delivered
“Be still and know that I am God.”
It was then I received the courage
to love you completely and to let you go,
in an eternal moment to acknowledge,
“Hello, Little Angel and farewell.
Unbidden tears, bittersweet pierce, yet soothe my heart,
I feel you now a part of me
and recognize the angel in myself.
You blessed me with mercy and goodness;
I am at peace, thankful for your guidance
through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
and I fear no evil.
Weaving the Thread of History
On a whim, curious about my maternal side of the family, I decided to do some online research to see what I could find out about my great grandmother. During this process a synchronicity occurred that showed me I was on the right path. I discovered a website called Find a Grave on which I found my great grandmother’s name, and my grandmother’s. I noticed a couple of discrepancies and emailed address of the person that was maintaining that part of the website. This person turned out to be my 2nd cousin once removed, who also just happened to be into family history and genealogy. Not only that he is a photographer and an expert at scanning photos. He was as excited to “meet” me as I was him and we have been emailing and working together ever since. I feel the thread of life weaving me to my ancestors, and I especially like what I have learned about my grandmothers and my great great grandmothers; all strong women, pioneer women that crossed the prairie in wagon trains to settle in Oregon and Washington.
My mother’s sister was kind enough to visit Mom’s while I was visiting there recently and the three of us sorted photos and stories. I took as many notes as I could. Mom and my aunt are the only remaining two of their generation of my maternal side of the family so I am thankful I got as many stories and photos as I did, and I hope I can do them justice.
My dad’s recent death has also re inspired me and to preserve old photos and papers that I found in my mother’s attic. Otherwise what is going to happen to this part of the family history? Who is going to tell the story? If I don’t take on this as a project there is a story that won’t be written and part of my family will be lost. I feel Dad’s spirit guiding me. He, as his father before him, did a good job with his side of the family. Now I want to do the same for my mother.
My personal story is enriched by the knowledge of my lineage and through the process of finding the threads of my past I understand myself in a deeper way and with a newer, wiser perspective on life.
The power of words is undeniable. The origin of all poetry was magical invocation of the goddess..and when the Muse visits, she brings with Her a magical feeling of channeling.
“Though they are only breath
Words that I command
Natalie Goldberg writes: “Writing can teach you many things. To learn the art of writing is to obtain magical powers. They are a secret. No one can give them to you. You must work at them yourself. And do not abuse it”
Another woman writer that I admire is Anais Nin:
“To write without feeling is to miss the one element which animates every line with life” or “writing itself is often a waking dream”
THOSE GENTLE GRAY EYES
When one is good.
Those eyes, so terrible,
When one deserves it.
Those eyes that pierce the night,
Following me when I run away,
Those dark eyes that pierce
Those tempting eyes that
I sometimes run from
Because they are too sweet,
Alas, where can I hide?
If I do wrong, they are so angry!
If I do right, so good, so sweet
that my heart melts.
Those eyes, an illusion, perhaps,
They are the eyes of the conscience
Of my soul.