Being mindful of mindfulness

This year, instead of  making New Year’s resolutions, which mostly become dissolutions by January 5th, I happened upon this site: oneword365.
And, that’s it for the year…one word.

 I chose MINDFULNESS. Which, ironically, does not mean having a mind full of stuff, but rather a mind full of now. It’s defined on the Mindful website as:

the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

with thanks to Francois at Sketches in Stillness

So many times, I’m just not present in the present. My body is physically there, but my brain is scurrying around like a squirrel looking for nuts I buried in the past and hiding nuts for the future.

And, also weirdly enough, I find myself having to remind me to be mindful. But, I’m getting there…like I’m fully present writing this blog post. A victory, right?!

I tripped across this poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.    Her poetry washes over my soul, and as goopy as that may sound, it’s the best explanation I have for her incredible talent. So, I thought I’d share it with you:

 

Mindful by Mary Oliver
Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Connecting the dots…

Last night we ate one of my pedestrian suppers of spaghetti and meat sauce. Cooking the meat sauce required cutting an onion. Cleaning up after supper (trust me, I promise this is going somewhere), I started carefully jamming the onion skins into the black rubbery mouth of the scary garbage disposal monster.

As I’m listening to the grinding, hoping the grinding I’m hearing is not one of my rings or a spoon or a finger, I heard my father, who died over fifteen years ago, reminding me about the dangers of onions in the garbage disposal. Then I remembered, no, he didn’t mean white onions; he meant green onions. His voice faded and an image of my first apartment fluttered through my brain. I was a newlywed, cooking one of my first dinners. I plunged my hand in a sink full of soapy water and came up with a bloody thumb, my bloody thumb. Drops of blood plopped through the frothy bubbles.

Then, I saw myself in a picture taken in that same apartment the night my father surprised my mother with her first (and only) mink stole. Almost forty years ago. She was the last in her trio of friends to own a mink. It was, to her, a luxurious article she thought she would never own.

My father was wearing a suit. They were going out to dinner. My mother, so astonished, she’s actually covering her open mouth with both hands. Even though she has been dead now for twenty years, I heard the echo of her saying, “Oh, Johnny. You shouldn’t have.” The unspoken “…but I am so thrilled you did” conveyed by the lilt in her voice and the delight in her eyes.

I flicked the disposal off. With its stopping, so did the swish of memories, like Ezra Pound’s, “In a Station at the Metro”: The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet black bough.

Who knew sending onions down a garbage disposal would bring me to my parents? It was a moment; their petal faces on the wet black bough of memory. And my first thought, as I hurriedly dried my hands, was to look for a pen and my notebook. To capture what I could remember; to not lose my parents and this unexpected gift of them in the ordinary drudgery of dishwasher loading and towel folding.

This, I believe, is why I write. It’s what leads me to the keyboard, to the journal, to the notebook.

It’s what makes me grateful to be a writer.

 

Featured Image Photo attribution:http://opencage.info/pics.e/large_1773.asp

Where does an idea go when there’s no brain to catch it?

This post originally appeared on Girlfriends Book Club, a blog written by a gumbo of about twenty-seven-ish women, who share their agonies and ecstasies about writing, for authors and for readers. Funny, smart, talented women. And me.

A few nights ago, I took my customary running leap into bed (we have one of those old, four-posters…and, yes, I know there are stools for beds, but they look too much like church kneelers, which I find disturbing next to my bed. But that’s another story). Just as my cheek met the cool pillow, an idea charged through my sleepy stupor into my brain.

A brilliant idea. Brilliant, I tell you. Nothing less than brilliant. Enough to hip-shove The Hunger Games into Twilight. Enough to make Brad Pitt want my phone number to ask if he could play the male lead. Enough to tell Emma Stone she couldn’t bribe me for the female lead.

Only, I can’t tell you the idea.

Why? Because I can’t remember it. Because I didn’t drag my brilliant butt out of bed to write it down. Because I didn’t lean over and risk a head injury to find the paper and pen I store in my nightstand to scribble the idea.

I should know better. Well, I do know better. As soon as I hear my brain whisper, “Oh, this one is so A-MAZING, you won’t forget it,” I need to make one of those Bella Swan Cullen new-vampire dashes to write it.  Unfortunately, unlike Stephenie Meyer, I do not wake up from a dream with a four-book series in my head.

So, where do my ideas originate?

In the most boring of circumstances.  Like one day, after retrieving mail from my mailbox, I wondered, “What if a woman went out to get her mail and never returned? Or what if she walked out in one year, but when she walked back into her house, twenty years had passed?”  (BTW…if I want to watch my adult children practice synchronized eye rolling, all I have to do is mention this idea.)
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Those two words, “what if?” can launch me into writer orbit. But I have to be willing to turn ideas inside out and upside down. I have to muzzle the editor in my brain who says, “Go you…you’ve just thought of the dumbest premise in the known universe.”

Years and years ago, I attended a conference and delighted in listening to Georgia Heard talk about her recent book, For the Good of the Earth and Sun:Teaching Poetry. What I most remember is her talking about poetry constantly surrounding us, that it’s everywhere…from the worn steps outside your grandmother’s house to drinking coffee with a friend.

And while those may not be ideas that carry a novel into hundreds of pages, they’re a beginning. Even poems marinate in my brain. When I read “Patterns” by Amy Lowell or “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins, I just know a story is there waiting to happen.

If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s this: whatever the idea, however ridiculous and goofy it may seem at the time, I must write it down.

It’s a gift. And it doesn’t always keep on giving.

I once was found, but now I’m lost…

If this blog was a baby, I would have been reported to Child Protective Services by now. It’s time for me to step-up and parent.

So, by way of catching you up on my life as I know it, I’m sharing this post. 

 

Once Upon a Time, I Had a Writing Groove…then the music changed. 
A post made possible by the fact that my husband doesn’t read anything I write…except checks.

Four years ago, I retired after teaching high school English for twenty-five years and grooved myself right into being a full-time writer.

I basked in my writerly world for six months until my husband announced he was starting his own business, and he needed—guess who—to work for him. The groove became the rut my writing fell into and out of my reach. But he assured me I’d be able to take my laptop to work and write…between answering the phone, filing, and clients that barked, growled, pooped and peed. Did writing happen? Well, I took notes because how can you not when a man arrives with his snake in a cardboard box and tells you it has a cold, and he’s sure of it because the snake’s been sneezing. My journal/morning pages became my refuge, and I comforted myself with the knowledge that I was at least still capable of forming coherent sentences.

The full post can be found on Writers in the Storm.