I’m taking a short course with Georgia Heard on poetic forms. Last night we talked about forms of poetry that are created by borrowing words from other writers. Some in the class said they felt like they were cheating by borrowing, but I found it really fun and stimulating. T.S. Eliot said, “Good writers borrow; great writers steal.” I didn’t know that he borrowed heavily from other writers when he wrote “The Wasteland.”
For my practice, I turned to one of my new favorite books, WORLD OF WONDERS, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Her writing about natural phenomena is gorgeous. I was sure I would find words to borrow there.
Here is my FOUND POEM after “Firefly” in WORLD OF WONDERS:
The first glimmer-pop of firefly light, electric dress, a small flame sputtering erratic flashes of light through the navy blue pause just moments after twilight.
Such a degree of tenderness the quiet reassurance their light rhythm recalibrates sending out their love-light signals a lime glow to the summer night air.
Tonight, I am tired. My children are all grown with children of their own, yet my mothering is not yet finished. I don’t want it to ever be finished. In the last 24 hours, I have had conversations with each of my children and my husband. I am no expert on any of the topics below, but I found it interesting when I stopped to consider the content of our conversations. It’s no wonder I’m tired.
Topics discussed in no particular order:
Zillow listings for purchase of a house. Zestimates. Is it a bad idea to finance a down payment? The Landlord called. Rent increase because of 13% HOA increase. A baby’s projectile vomiting. Kindergarten interview for admission to a private school. Summer jobs for teens. Receiving tenure as a professor. Gallbladder attack and acute cholecystitis. Recommendation of a surgeon. Pandemic weariness. Misinformation and mask controversies. Spring break with stepchildren. What’s for dinner? Medical records for taxes. A1C numbers. Anti-inflammatory diets. Gauge swatches for knitting. What’s for dinner? Again.
Today was the day to resume regular routines after my trip to visit my daughter and grandchildren. Before I retired, I often stayed up too late on Sunday evening getting my ducks in a row for Monday morning. Last night, I found myself doing the same thing. It was well after midnight before I slept. Did I really need to do that much preparation? Why do Mondays still feel like first days after so many years? I’ll figure that out another day.
Alice signed on to Zoom and we picked up where we left off. She had been struggling with rhyming, but today, she nailed it. Yes! We moved on to the other parts of the lesson. Again, she was strong! Yahooo! Then we re-read a book from 10 days ago. She read beautifully with expression.
“Alice, did you practice this book while I was gone?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t really read much. Sorry, Grandma!”
“Well, you are doing great today! Let’s pick another book!”
She beamed. We picked another, because there are always more books.
In Jon Acuff’s book FINISH: GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF DONE, he addresses the many ways perfectionism and its accompanying reflection, procrastination, can influence our productivity and sense of well-being. He says that the most important day is the day after you have messed up or broken a streak in a habit you want to create.
The habit I’m working to improve is daily writing. For the last seven years, I have had 100% days of writing and posting a slice of life during the month of March. This is the first year in my eight years of the March SOLSC that I have neglected to write on a day in March. This year, I have already not written three times. I have to pause and ask, “Why did I let that day go by without writing?” Being away from home, playing with grandchildren, and evening fatigue all contributed to my not writing. But I think there was more.
Maybe I didn’t write because I let myself believe I didn’t have anything to say. Maybe I didn’t write because writing can bring up feelings that I’m too afraid to put in print. Maybe I didn’t write because I couldn’t be as clever, as interesting, or as spot on as my fellow slicers.
I used to think that I was the only one who ever felt this way. Now I know that all writers face these questions and challenges at some point in their writing process. What matters is how we respond.
I’m getting back up on the horse today. I’m giving myself the gift of Done and recognizing that no one is asking that I be perfect. No one is requiring that I write like Wallace Stegner or Robert Frost. It’s okay to put words on the page each day, even if they are not amazing words, because someone, somewhere may be needing my words today. Even if it’s only me that needs to write and read them.
Visiting Texas, I’m very aware of the difference in land and plants from my home in Virginia. We hiked today through Mother Neff State Park. I wondered who Mother Neff was and how the park got its name. Perhaps I’ll research that another time. However, since it is late, here is a six-word-memoir for today.
Maggie loves to draw, paint, and color just like many Kindergarteners do. I wanted to encourage her so I brought her a sketchbook when I came to visit. This morning, she had her sketchbook and pencil all ready for our outing to the zoo. This was totally her decision. I thought, “I wonder if she will really use it today.”
I was delighted when she stopped to draw the cougar, the monkey with the baby on its back, and the turtle swimming in the aquarium. She was serious and working hard to draw what she saw. I hope that she will not lose confidence in her drawing and will continue to work at observing and noticing.
Tonight I told her about my friend who started keeping notebooks at a young age and now has 89 notebooks. Maggie’s eyes got big. Perhaps she’s starting to identify with being someone who writes and draws in a notebook. I couldn’t be more pleased.
My love affair with my granddaughter, Maggie, who is almost 6, is real and unexplainable. Maybe it is that she is the first baby of my last baby. Maybe it’s that I adore the name, Maggie. Maybe it’s that she is exuberant about life and makes me laugh. Maybe it’s that she talks so fast she can barely breathe and can always think of a fun game to play. Or maybe it’s that we have grown our relationship this past year with talking bitmojis, FaceTime, cards, and letters.
Those of you who know me, know that I am not a morning person. However, today I got up at 4:30 a.m. so I could be on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Texas to see Maggie, Johnny, and their new baby sister, Molly. (Are you also thinking of the e.e. cummings poem “maggie and milly and molly and may?” For your enjoyment, you can read it here.)
After a quick lunch at the local “Whataburger,” we drove to the Whistle Stop playground in Temple, Texas and played hide-and-seek. I pushed the kids on the swings until I thought my arms would fall off. It was a glorious, sunshiny day to be outside. A really, really long train rumbled past which gave some credence to the name of the park.
May I tell you how Maggie won my heart today? Well, there are a number of ways. She is starting to read. She knew th is called a digraph. She gave up her room for me to sleep in and left a love note on my pillow. And so sweetly, during the blessing on the food at dinner, she gently rested her head on my arm. What more could a grandma ask for?
She opened her red and white striped canvas tote. Gently, she lifted a bright array of colors, prints, rickrack, and ribbons. It was a riot of color and joy. You see, my sister has always loved to sew. It is her love language, I believe. She expresses herself in fabric, the way others might on an instrument or page. She touches fabric the way a mother strokes her baby. She can envision what it might become.
Evelyn had made 3 little sundresses for my new granddaughter, Molly. I’m leaving to visit them tomorrow, and Evelyn wanted me to bring her gift with me. I could cry when I think about the time she spent, the creativity she unleashed, and the pure delight these summer dresses will bring. They are perfect for hot summer days in Waco, Texas. She even gave me extra ribbon for Maggie, Molly’s older sister, to wear in her hair.
Tomorrow, I’ll be writing from Texas, which just might feel like heaven.
I’ve been reading Kristin Hannah’s new book The Four Winds. It is set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years in the Texas panhandle. The main character, Elsa Martinelli, is a strong, determined woman who labors fiercely in order to provide for her children. A bleak landscape and lack of employment cause great suffering. It makes me realize that while we have faced our own hardships with COVID19, my family has been fortunate to have food, clothing, employment, and the things we need. I am grateful indeed.
Inspired by the tireless work ethic of Elsa Martinelli, I decided to attack my kitchen floor as if the Dust Bowl had been through town. The “lick and a promise” I have afforded that floor in recent months would make my mother turn over in her grave. I confess it has been a while since I cared much about housework. No one is coming over, right?
As I gathered my supplies, a memory kept flashing across my mind of my mother on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. Back then, a good scrubbing was followed with a coat of wax. My mom knelt on a folded bathmat to protect her knees. I saw myself as I used to see her. I wondered why I never offered to help or do it for her. (She probably wouldn’t have let me.) I remember her saying that if you wanted the floor to really be clean, you had to get down on all fours.
So with Mr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, a bucket, a brush, a sponge, and several cloths, I got down on my hands and knees and started scrubbing. First, I put extra soap and water all along the grimy edges where the floor met the wood moldings. I let that sit for a few minutes. Then I began the attack. I scoured that seam with a vengeance. An old toothbrush helped. Then I scrubbed a row of tiles with the sponge, followed by a wipe down with clean water and a wet cloth. Then I dried the floor with another clean cloth. I repeated this process for the next hour as I moved the trashcan, chairs, and recycling bin out of the way taking care not to bump my head under the table. Man, I worked up a sweat!
Somehow, when it was all done, I felt my mother closer. Maybe she was even a little bit proud.