Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happiness Is …. (another) collective list

This Happiness List was created on the evening of April 19, at the very end of a workshop held at Buffalo Street Books. We spent most of our time writing poems and prose, using the Paint Chip Poetry Game as our inspiration. But then, in the last five minutes, we shared our happiness with one another.

Happiness is the scent of garlic as it sautées . . . mingling with rosemary, cherry tomatoes, and salt

Happiness is finding that sock that got lost in the wash last week

Happiness is having just enough coffee beans to make a pot of coffee on Sunday morning

Happiness is remembering how violets used to smell and then discovering them growing in my garden

Happiness is when my mosquito bites stop itching

Happiness is when the buds lengthen and I know the tree I planted for her lived through its first winter

Happiness is a day with a doable but challenging project

Happiness is taking pleasure in my family – my daughter, son, grandson — and feeling grateful for all that I have

Happiness is a life full of cats

Happiness is having good friends, who get me

Happiness is the set of wild dreams that dance along my peripheral vision in the waking light

Happiness is looking at a friend and knowing that they already see what I feel

Happiness is a smile passed from one soul to another

Happiness is the feeling in the air on a warm summer’s day

Happiness is the glow in your eyes when you think no one is watching

Happiness is wandering, exploring, being upside down, having my worldview changed

Happiness is panna cotta

Happiness is all those Amish Romance Novels, read and forgotten

Happiness is brown paper packages tied up in string

Happiness is bourbon

Happiness is all the little ladybug “tents” in my apartment: learning how incredibly delicate and intricate they are, and how to pick them up and how to move them

Happiness is fresh coffee, a soft blanket, and a close friend

Happiness is driving in the rain thinking of baptism

Happiness is waking up with something new to try

Happiness is seeing the eyes of the person you love soften, as they heal

Happiness is my child, breathing, being

Happiness is reading on the porch

Happiness is the sound of green leaves rustling in a warm breeze

Happiness is finding both of my gloves in the pocket when I need them

Happiness is going to the mall to see a live broadcast of a Met opera

Happiness is having a bird study me with great concentration and curiosity

Happiness is blundering into a writing group and finding my place among the others

Happiness is seeing the very book I most want to read now, right there on a bookstore shelf, and hooray, it’s already available in paperback

Happiness is cuddling with a cat guru

Happiness is smiling because it’s good to be alive

Happiness is using a pen until all the ink is gone


Thank you to all these wonderful contributors:

Susan I
Susan K

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Happiness Is . . . . (a collective list)

This Happiness List was created during the week of April 9, in 4 different writing groups led by Zee Zahava (in the Tompkins County Public Library, The CAP ArtSpace, and in the Painted Parrot Writing Studio). Perhaps YOU will be inspired to write your own list of statements declaring what makes YOU happy!

Happiness is a big muscular hug and sloppy kiss on the cheek, unexpected, as I take out the compost

Happiness is the vibration in my body generated by a heavy purring of a cat on my chest

Happiness is the first swim in the sea in the early summer

Happiness is a room full of people dancing to my daughter’s fiddle playing

Happiness is using my last bit of energy to crest the hill on my bicycle in anticipation of coasting for miles

Happiness is watching my husband “trade hats” with the hat vendor on the street

Happiness is when the last guest leaves with marvelous memories

Happiness is a fully blossoming forsythia, the fragrance of lilacs, the delicacy of wild violets, and the blowsy, lazy beauty of peonies

Happiness is chocolate slowly melting down to the crunch of a surprise almond

Happiness is the front door opening at 5 p.m. as my beloved comes home

Happiness is the color and sweet taste of Cara Cara oranges

Happiness is when I don’t need to set my alarm clock before I go to sleep

Happiness is seeing a perfectly camouflaged squirrel only because it moved before it froze and disappeared again

Happiness is listening to a Schubert Symphony while I drive around the lake

Happiness is the smell of a clean dog

Happiness is the sight of daffodils over my dog, Minnie’s, grave — like she is still with me, saying hello

Happiness is baking a cake, without using a recipe, and it works

Happiness is finding an excellent movie to borrow from the public library

Happiness is taking off my muddy boots after a long walk

Happiness is saying “I love you”

Happiness is opening the mailbox and seeing a fat envelope from my sister

Happiness is seeing my tarragon plants sprouting through the snow that covered their pot

Happiness is having time in the morning to sit in my rocker, drink my coffee, and read a book

Happiness is feeling as though all the words I am looking for are flowing out of my pen

Happiness is getting the email notifying me that the books I requested are waiting for me at the library

Happiness is my closet full of black clothing that I imagine I’ll look stunning in (and yes, I am consumed by my appearance lately)

Happiness is being alone in my apartment, sitting on the love-seat, and talking to a trusted friend

Happiness is helping that friend through a difficult time in her life and knowing that I have done well

Happiness is when I get a surprise hug from someone I have admired and didn’t know they even knew I existed

Happiness is when I create a really delicious meal out of what I find in the fridge and the cupboards

Happiness is when I’m alone in the car and a beautiful orchestral piece comes on the radio and I can sing the parts I love best — at the top of my lungs

Happiness is an early morning email from my mother and all she sends is a string of purple heart emojis

Happiness is when I open the fridge and see so many excellent choices for dinner — all prepared by other people who cook much better than I do

Happiness is reading a murder mystery with just one really good murder in it

Happiness is the smell of fresh bread, and then the bite into a crusty loaf

Happiness is a library that used to be a Woolworths

Happiness is a modest ideal

Happiness is discovering that even burnt morning coffee can taste good

Happiness is wandering around with my camera and taking risks

Happiness is receiving a postcard, or a real letter, in the mailbox (that is otherwise full of bills)

Happiness is finally discovering what my cat was trying to tell me

Happiness is when a person asks me how I’ve been and I say, with a smile, “I’ve been great”

Happiness is having my dog rest his head in my lap

Happiness is having an argument with my lover that is so ridiculous that it ends in laughter

Happiness is a library card

Happiness is wood-stove heat in a snow storm

Happiness is waking up in a tent somewhere wild

Happiness is fresh figs

Happiness is having my love beside me when the day is done

Happiness is listening to other people tell (or read) their stories

Happiness is when you realize you’re almost finished with a job that seems to be endless

Happiness is the first spoonful of Irish Cream ice cream eaten out of the tub

Happiness is watching Cedar Waxwings get tipsy eating fermenting fruit still clinging to winter-bare branches

Happiness is feeling the smoothness of a round stone that I keep in my pocket

Happiness is waking up in a warm bed in a warm house with a roof over my head

Happiness is a group of kind and generous writers, sharing

Happiness is the first aconite blooming yellow on a dull winter hill

Happiness is people on a beach, assisting the release of rescued young seals

Happiness is kids and patience; love and compassion

Happiness is helping another human being on their journey

Happiness is kindness

Happiness is that feeling of relief when a knot in my stomach unties itself

Happiness is hugging a tree

Happiness is a heart-against-heart hug

Happiness is a shared laugh

Happiness is growing a beard

Happiness is the satisfaction of a job well done — self approval and self satisfaction

Happiness is falling into my bed and hearing my goodbye breathing

Happiness is singing with kids when they’re really into it (and grown-ups, too)

Happiness is waking up to breath

Happiness is texting old photographs to my kids, from their 7th grade album, and they both text back “cute”

Happiness is climbing into bed with something to read, after a day of much activity

Happiness is the hot wall of a sauna against my back when it is dank and chilly outside

Happiness is the endless possibilities of a week at the beach and four months to plan, and dream, and smile

Happiness is the sound of laughter from people I love, even if I don’t get the joke

Happiness is reading books to my grandchildren, one child tucked under each arm

Happiness is watching the trapped bird, now released, take flight into the evening sun

Happiness is finding a way to put it out of my mind

Happiness is stretching my legs after a long day of sitting

Happiness is the first whiff of lilacs in the spring

Happiness is being underwater and looking up at the sky

Happiness is sitting in a circle of rhythm and sound, words and harmonies, resonating souls

Happiness is the early bird songs of spring, offering promise of color and warmth to come

Happiness is walking, walking, walking, looking around, never stopping

Happiness is going away somewhere so different and exotic and then coming home

Happiness is looking forward to the next meal

Happiness is reading “Eloise” to a two-year-old and watching her concentrate so hard on the pictures

Happiness is when my favorite character survives

Happiness is when a chickadee visits the bird feeder while I’m filling it

Happiness is realizing that the great book I’m reading is part of a trilogy

Happiness is startling the woodchuck, so I can laugh at her wobbly run

Happiness is a quiet conversation with an old friend — comfortable as an old chair

Happiness is hearing a series of words put together in a fresh way, a phrase that has never before been written or spoken out loud

Happiness is taking a few minutes to be self-indulgent and self-pitying — some moments to wallow in the murky depths of bad memories and victimhood, and a sense of being put-upon — and then I snap out of it

Happiness is hearing a particularly delightful and sparkly laugh that I haven’t heard in a very long time


Thanks to all these wonderful contributors:

Barb Harrison
Barbara Anger
Barbara Kane Lewis
Christine Stockwell
Ellie Rogers
Edna Brown
Gabrielle Vehar
Heather Boob
Jean Wittman
Jerelynn Smith
Keyturah Moore
Larry Roberts
Leigh Stock
Linda Keeler
Martha Frommelt
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Matthew McDonald
Nancy Osborn
Richie Holtz
Rob Sullivan
Ross Haarstad
Sara Robbins
Saskya van Nouhuys
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Susan Currie
Susan Ikenze
Susan Lesser 
Susanna Drbal
Yvonne Fisher

Monday, April 9, 2018

“I” — a collective poem

This group list-poem was written on Monday, April 9, as part of the “Poetry for the People” workshop that was held at the Tompkins County Public Library. We spent our first five minutes writing individual “I poems,” and then shared 3 statements from each of our lists. Here is a collective list-poem representing the group-consciousness of that particular time and place.

I am nervous
I am holding my pen, what do I do with it?
I am curious
I have a new friend that I share my writing with
I see a new confidence in myself recently
I feel capable of creating friendships more than ever before
I love photography — exploring, experiencing, seeing anew
I want to use my skills to make change happen
I love to “philosophically joust”
I am a mother
I am a writer
I am, I have, I live, I learn
I was not supposed to live
I was supposed to be someone else
I was a false Picasso
I sing with the birds in spring
I remember my mother in April
I am an in-progress type of person
I come from people with little, who valued education
I come from Southern Baptists — showing up every time the doors were open, memorizing the alto line to every single hymn
I come from no back-talking; no disrespect; no breaking curfew; no sex, drugs, alcohol, and very little rock ’n roll
I am embracing this time of transition and not resisting anything
I bought a new sun-hat but I think it might be too big and then it will fly away in the first strong wind
I find that I have to take a nap almost every afternoon, which I never had to do before, but . . .  okay
I sing to hidden folks
I listen to coyote beneath my window
I remember my childhood
I disappear into tangles of the self
I write poetry, poetry writes me
I feel, and push against feeling
I never stop myself from dancing when I want to
I never got a strike when bowling
I never pass up a chance to read about plane crashes on Wikipedia
I like to cook
I don’t always have time to cook
I sometimes put cooking on the back burner

Thank you to all these contributors:

Barbara Harrison, Barbara Kane Lewis, Edna Brown, Keyturah Moore, Larry Roberts, Lucy, Martha Frommelt, Matthew McDonald, Richie Holtz, Ross Haarstad, Susan Ikenze, Zee Zahava

Thursday, April 5, 2018

“Odes,” by some members of the Tuesday and Thursday writing circles

On April 3 and 5, during the last few minutes of the Tuesday & Thursday Morning Writing Circles, I gave the suggestion to create an “ode” (of sorts) — simply words of praise to anything that came to mind.

Perhaps you will also be inspired to take 5 minutes and think of something, or someone, to praise. Go right ahead . . . . write it down! Share your “ode” with others if you are moved to do so.

Ode to Many Things, by Barbara Anger

Ode to the space between us.
Ode to the bottle of pills that when I shake it it says “take me, you have a headache.”
Ode to wool socks holding warm toes.
Ode to the holes in my underwear that no one sees.
Ode to the pain I keep trying to ignore.
Ode to the colors sprouting in my backyard.
Ode to the blueberries I picked last summer, the ones I stored in my freezer, the ones I eat each morning, still some left way in the back behind the frozen bread.
Ode to the cracks in the earth that hide secrets.

Ode to the Color Black, by Gabrielle Vehar

Are you wondering if this is possible? Well, of course it is. Black is chic for the house and yard, as my best friend in Cleveland says. Black is slimming. Black is elegant. Black is simple, classic, sexy. Black is what's in my closet. All black. All the time. Black hair bands, barrettes, bracelets, watches, necklaces, rings, earrings, and shoes a go-go. Black is where it's at. Black is mysterious. Black is easy to match. Black, black, black. I cannot get enough. I buy at least one black thing a week. Really. I just want to live and die in black. After all, it's appropriate for both.

Ode to Coffee, by Heather Boob

Rise up — morning —
freshly ground
deep dark brown.
Some like it black
or blond
or in between.
Drip — press — or
The song of morning
is the gurgle of
a silver pot on
the stovetop.
My heavy eyelids daydreaming of
a second cup.

Ode To Candy Necklaces, by Heidi deCoo

You live baked onto a string of such gray-white stretchiness that I fear to put you in my mouth. Your pastel rings of . . . what . . . old sugar and newsprint dust? In you go for a long suck. Then spring back out to dry on my sticky fingers.

Ode to My Bicycles, by Linda Keeler

The clunky Royce Union
That carried me slowly around Skaneateles Lake
So many years ago —
You gave me hope and inspiration.
And you, sleek black Fuji
Who wandered with me over hill and dale
Over Rocky Mountains and Swiss Alps.
The Trek, so strong and stable
Whizzed along desert paths, dirt roads, and through the bayous.
We say goodbye, with happy memories that ride with us
As we begin the new season with new bikes.
Lightweight and strong
These Giants will keep us young!

Ode to Joy, by Mary Louise Church

Joy springs forth when the day is sunny and bright
Joy bubbles up when I’m surprised by a hug from a special person I haven't see for months
Joy gushes in and covers everything else when I find I have three unclaimed days this week
Joy simmers while I prepare the delightful dish I thought of and purchased all the ingredients on my way home
Joy breaks into a grin when my youngest great-grandson, Caleb, says, "See me Ganma!"
Joy peacefully rocks me to sleep when I prayerfully count my blessings
Joy seems to be a major part of my life . . .
    And I smile frequently

Ode/Oda, by Nancy Osborn

Wow. I just realized that a piece of music I heard in Barcelona was called "Ode." "Oda" in Spanish. The piece, written and performed on an accordion by a young musician, was one of the most amazing pieces of music I've ever heard in my life. This musician could make sounds emerge from his accordion that I didn't even know an accordion could make, as the fingers of both his right and left hands flew over the buttons. At times the music sounded like a human voice, expressing some deep grief or longing. At other times the music perhaps hinted at Spanish folk music. We were the only non-Spanish people in the audience so we had no idea what the musician was explaining or saying before he started playing. If he was explaining what this ode was about we were ignorant of the meaning. But really, there was no need for words. The music had its own voice and that's all we needed to listen to. 

Ode to a Can Opener, by Rob Sullivan

As a child I knew I had arrived, when our neighbor asked me to look in on her two cats while she was away. Thoughts of ineptitude quickly evaporated as the sharp metal edge of the blue-handled can opener pierced the top of the Mixed Seafood Tasty Treat container.

Ode to Self-Pity, by Stacey Murphy

O self pity,
No one likes to claim to know you,
And certainly too much of you
Becomes cloying like a dessert that contains
Chocolate and peanut butter and caramel and marshmallow.
But just enough of you
In small doses
Numbs a heart for some moments,
Soothes like cool air on a foot reaching out from under hot bedclothes.
Says, “there, there” —
Perhaps turns us inward
Allowing some tears to finally soften
A lump in the throat
A clot of hard dry clay
Back into a heart
That can bend
And open and feel again.

Ode to Silence, by Susan Currie

This is an ode to silence which is really much rarer than it appears.
One can sit quietly and be silent in oneself, but there is always the inevitable creak of the old house settling,
or a car horn far away,
or birds singing their hearts out each spring.
Even in the middle of the darkest night, there is always some distant sound.
The deepest silence I have ever known was during a heavy snowstorm one night in winter.
The whisper of my snowshoes was momentary and when I stopped, there was, for a brief moment
Complete silence.


Ode to an Onion, Susan Lesser

The onion, a globular orb, rests without fear on the cutting board
Knowing its destiny, accepting its own sacrifice for my well-being.
As I strip off its papery brown habit the pure white flesh reveals itself.
The knife bears down, splitting the worthy onion into a pair of hemispheres.
Resting on the flat face of the half,
my knife pierces, revealing concentric semi-circles.
I needed this, my worthy vegetable.
Nothing focuses the mind better than
wielding a sharp knife, pushing it into your heart.
O onion!
(Hoping to protect my fingers along the way.)
And knowing dinner is happening.

Ode to Melancholy, by Susanna Drbal

I like the word melancholy,
Perhaps because I like the word
Bittersweet even more.
I am, these days,
dropped into a well of melancholy
whenever activity
I think I like the word
better than feeling it.
Right now it is more
Bitter than sweet.
The days past are now
crystalizing into
“the past”
instead of appearing
as a path of
footsteps in the snow
leading to now.
It’s like the footsteps
ended, a few feet back
and I am standing,
peering backwards.
There are no spaces
between here and there
to fit my feet into
and return. I am surrounded by
an expanse
of undisturbed white.
I am disconnected,
and I am yearning.
I am yearning for a
past that’s gone
and a future
never to be.
And that is bittersweet.

Ode to Hazel, by Yvonne Fisher

She is two. She just visited. She stayed at my house. How we all danced together. How she was waving her arms. How she explained to me that she was going to the Sciencenter. How she pretended that she knew what that was. How she told me after that the Sciencenter had a lot of toys that she played with. How she sat through the short, progressive version of the Haggadah at Passover. How she ate a little bit of everything. How she said after that she wished she was still eating the seder. How we danced to Jesus Christ Superstar on TV. How she sang the songs from Mr. Rogers. How she took my hand coming down the stairs. How she allowed me to catch her at the bottom of the slide in the playground. How she loved the Toddler Room in the library. How she asked “why?” all the time. How she looked up at us and listened deeply when we talked. How she hugged Goldie the dog. Oh how I miss her so much.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Playing the "Paint Chip Poetry Game," by some members of the Tuesday Morning Writing Circle

I was recently introduced to the Paint Chip Poetry Game, created by Lea Redmond — a collection of writing prompts (general phrases) as well as “color chips” that combine words and color. We’ve been experimenting with this game in the writing circles, often during the final few minutes of a session. We don’t follow any rules. Writers simply choose random cards/chips to use as a spark, then integrate those words into a short-short piece. Below you’ll see what came up on Tuesday morning, March 27, when we played the Paint Chip Poetry game for a few minutes. Some writers were inspired by many words, some by just one; each writer took off in her own creative direction.

Note: you might enjoy doing this yourself (or with friends). The game is available to buy locally, at Buffalo Street Books. It is beautifully packaged and very colorful!


It was good while it lasted, I thought, as I looked out my window for my favorite dragon. He was usually just out my nursery window in the open meadow. How many times I had to tell him to be careful of each inchworm now that spring was finally here. I was green with envy at the thought that he got to roam free under the clear skies, while I was stuck in my brushed aluminum room. Oh, it was good while it lasted, my friend.
    - Gabrielle Vehar, using these words and phrases: good while it lasted, dragon, nursery, meadow, inchworm, green with envy, clear skies, brushed aluminum 

I wish my hometown had been Ithaca.
Now we are here and this is how it will all end.
Except that my new hometown is changing, growing so quickly that it took us half an hour to drive a bit more than a mile.
And when we got past the congestion, every one of us sped up angrily.
Very un-Ithacanian.
    - Heidi DeCoo, using: I wish, my hometown, this is how it will end

I hear “I love . . .” often.
I see the heart on Facebook
   a response that seems to connote love.
The word “love” seems to be tossed around
      in a variety of places
And seems to have
      a variety of meanings.
But True Love —
      bringing peace into a hot, dry situation
      bringing life into desolation —
An olive branch in the Sahara.
    - Mary Louise Church, using true love, olive branch, Sahara

The key to happiness.
I'm sorry I heard this phrase when I was younger.
It set me on a path of looking for this key.
I kept expecting someone might pass it along to me in a confidential manner.
But alas, that never happened.
And it made me wonder.
If there is a key to happiness, what would it unlock?
The secret of how to overcome grief?
The door to the road I was meant to follow in life?
A box of treasures beyond all imagining that would provide financial security forever?
    - Nancy Osborn, using the phrase “the key to happiness”

I’ve always been a daydreamer. I can get lost in my own head remembering the past. Sunflowers send me back to British Columbia when I was 20 years old, living on a hippie homestead for American draft dodgers. One small cabin was surrounded by tall blooming sunflowers and that sight went right into my soul. Whenever I see sunflowers, I remember that adventure and smile.
    - Sara Robbins, using sunflower, daydream

High summer.
The combine moves across the field, knocking over the scarecrow,
cutting the hay, bailing it, and dropping the bails,
like turds,
behind it.
    - Saskya van Nouhuys, using scarecrow

When I was little, night was a comforting time, with the full moon illuminating my room.
When I was little, night was a scary time, with the slow waving bare branches of the sycamore making finger-like shadows on my wall.
    - Sue Norvell, using when I was little, night

Listen carefully on nights when there is a full moon.
Are there more sounds than usual or is it my imagination?
There is the long, slow growling howl of a cat fight, the muffled barking of a dog left home alone.
The bus sounds louder late at night with screeching brakes and the wind in the tall trees whooshing mysteriously.
Sometimes I think I hear voices but perhaps it is only birds waking sleepily for a moment, questioning the night.
    - Susan Currie, using listen carefully, full moon

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I Remember: The Early Years (Under 20)

This collective list was created on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, by people who dropped by Sunny Days of Ithaca, between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, to participate in an event in the Shore Yourself Up Workshop Series. Thanks to Deirdre Kurzweil for making this all happen!

Below you will find excerpts from written Memory Lists, as well as some extended memories that were shared orally.

I remember . . . .

standing in front of the mirror wearing rubber eyeballs; locking my bike outside my daycare, using my new pink lock; watching snow fall in April; sliding a note under the door for the new cats, rather than coming out myself; making peanut butter cookies (because why not?)

    The cats were named Antonio and Panther. They fought with each other. I hated that. So I locked myself in my bedroom. Mom asked “Want to come out?” I slid a note under the door: “NO!”

I remember . . . .

collecting leaves to place in my father’s casket; singing for my whole tribe; timidly attending my first political rally; eating tabouleh with no context whatsoever; an orange-lit concrete stairway on a cold night

    It was my first job, the summer after my father died. I was helping one of my teachers build a house. He offered me tabouleh for lunch and I ate it, though it seemed like such a strange thing to call “food.”

I remember . . . .

a stillness in the air, unlike anything I felt before or since

    The sky turned green, the air was still, and then it came: a tornado. It whipped up the fence and carried it away.

I remember . . . .

my first pair of eyeglasses, with red and white striped candy-cane frames — mother said I looked adorable — which was the last thing I wanted to be; having trouble telling the difference between pink and yellow; walking along the beach collecting seashells, thinking someone must have come along earlier to paint them

    It might be a cliche but when I put my new glasses on I could see the leaves on the trees, and it was a bit disorienting for a minute.

I remember . . . .

stepping on snails in the summer when we spent time at Unity House (a “labor resort” operated by the Ladies Garment Workers’ Union); thinking my mother was the nicest mother (to other people, not always to me); the snow fort created by city snow plows, at the corner of Rodney and Barringer Streets in Philadelphia; the time our dog, Cookie, tried to bite a neighbor, and tore his pants; the tension in the neighborhood, because so many of the men were angry with each other and they expressed their rage openly; playing Hide-and-Go-Seek late into the summer nights, until it got dark — 50 kids or more; the constant stream of kittens scampering down from the cemetery

    We weren’t allowed to play with the kittens, our parents thought they were diseased because they didn’t have shots. But one of the mothers took some kittens to get shots and then my mother let me keep one. Later she said no, I couldn’t keep it. I threw the kitten at Risa G. This could be a dream, but it has stuck in my memory.

I remember . . . .

jumping up and down on the bed, with my sister, the night The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show; feeling safe every time I walked into the school library, which was always empty except for me and the librarian; that time my father took my sister and me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, and he fell asleep at the table, and we had to walk back to school by ourselves

    My dad ordered shrimp in lobster sauce, spare ribs, pork fried rice, chicken chow mein. My sister and I ordered egg rolls. We didn’t eat the vegetables that were stuffed inside the rolls, we only ate the outside of the rolls. We loved anything that was fried.

I remember . . . .

blanket saddles, clothesline stirrups, jump rope reins — we rode off on our porch-rail horses, for many exciting adventures; the divine scent of Grandma’s homemade bread; my momma’s tears when I cut off both of my front ringlets; taking long walks across the three knolls to find wild flowers in the woods — then the wild dash home to get them into water before they wilted

    I had to stand still for such a long time while my mother fussed over me and pinned my hair into corkscrew curls. I was mortified by those sissy corkscrews. I wanted two thick braids like my sister had. So I cut off the front two curls. But then I was mortified that I made my mother cry because of what I had done.

I remember . . . .

living all my years, under the age of 20, in the same house I was born in; having a horse named Horse, and a dog named Pup, and all the cats who didn’t get stepped on by Horse were named Kitty

I remember . . . .

the old British couple who lived next door to us when we vacationed in Maine, and the ocean was our backyard

    Every day at 3 o’clock they served gin & tonic. Then they had clams and lobster for dinner.

I remember . . . .

collecting bottle-caps, coins, baseball cards; dancing to “Boy Bands” alone in my room; knowing my own Little League baseball statistics; going to see NSYNC in concert, in Hershey, Pennsylvania; figuring things out for myself

I remember . . . .

raindrops hitting my face through the open window as my mother drove us to Bolton’s Donut Shop; a mecca full of books, chosen for color and myth, hand-picked by D. G. at the Corner Bookstore; listening to stories while sitting inside the colorful castle, in our public library at Titus Flats

I remember . . . .

waking up very early and going outside to watch the sun rise; the pleasure of having alone time with my mother (I was one of 5 kids); the peaceful times spent in the cool basement when it was hot hot hot above ground; coming home from school one day and seeing my mother watching TV while she ironed — it was the Army-McCarthy Hearings; my kindergarten teacher also taught all my siblings . . . and my father!

    I was given a special gift after I had my tonsils taken out: a Ginny doll. My mother made doll clothes for Ginny, out of ribbons.

    My godmother did laundry for a living. It was an honor when she asked me to help her iron handkerchiefs: precision was very important.

I remember . . . .

my mother passed away when I was 16 years old; there were little kids and big kids on our block — I was a little kid until one day I was a big kid; we had a willow tree in our front yard, my mother climbed up once, and another time my brother fell out of the tree and broke his arm; we played kickball in the street, with my ball, and I would take it home if people fought; visiting my grandparents for Monday night dinners and always bringing home a big box of leftovers for the week

I remember . . . .

my mother always said there were no calories in a broken cookie, so she’d throw bags of cookies on the floor and stomp on them

THANK YOU to all these contributors:

Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Regenspan
Carolyn Clark
Clara Weber
Deirdre Kurzweil
Jules Hojnowski
Mary Louise Church
Matthew McDonald
Patti Meyers
Susan Koon
Timothy Weber
Zee Zahava

Sunday, December 31, 2017

"What We Are Looking Forward to in 2018"

A few days ago I asked some people I know to share their Hopes and Dreams for the new year. Here are some of their responses. Perhaps you'll feel inspired to ask yourself the question: what are YOU looking forward to in 2018?

adapting to new surroundings, by downsizing physically and expanding mentally; expressing myself in new, more focused ways, that are yet to be discovered; seeing the second full moon of January, and thus a Blue Moon, on the 31st; reading the works of Proust for the first time; sitting quietly for hours, just thinking, and watching my cold lava lamp ever so slowly warm its globular way to acrobatic fluidity; saying a pleasant hello to that recurrent spider on the wall and, instead of trying to squish it, thanking it for eating all those invisible mites

being kind to myself (and to others too, of course); learning about winged creatures, like butterflies, dragonflies, and even dragons; completing the second full year of my new job at the university; working even harder to get out of debt; seeing what size our Westie-Labrador puppy will wind up by the time she turns 1; planning a real life get-together for my online mama friends in the spring; welcoming seasons as they once were before this weather scrambling; dreaming lucidly of those I miss and those I missed

entering retirement with clarity and grace, with energy and peace; continuing to call out my demons for a wrestle, and if they don't come, gaily running off; writing from the undergrowth, the hip, the head, and the soft heart; loving well and having that good love returned; speaking the truth as I can, even among the many falsehoods; heading out to sea, with the wind in my hair, hoping to catch sight of migrating whales; having a book published; living a healthy lifestyle; spending a week at a writers' colony; purchasing a new laptop computer

rock climbing outdoors for the first time; summiting my first Adirondack Mountains peak (and dreaming of becoming a 46er); eating last summer’s pesto from the freezer; buying more during the dime-a-book days at the Friends of the Library Book Sale; seeing my daughter choose the colleges she wants to apply to; playing Scrabble online with my dad; planting a new apricot tree in the yard; eating a ripe papaya; baking bread with dill from my garden

traveling to Italy with my girlfriend, to attend a Pearl Jam concert; feeling the space between fingers when I hold hands with another person; feeling the sun on my face and seeing the moon rise; living in a world without war; making cheesy videos; holding my breath and letting it go; walking, walking, walking; speaking truth to power; speaking to a cousin I never knew I had until two weeks ago; swimming in the lake; breaking free; creating more art; learning the basics of playing the recorder and/or the harmonica; walking and/or biking every day

spending more time in parks, and by waterfalls; laughing more often; incorporating more music into my life; being a little braver about trying new things; listening more, talking less; doing more, thinking less; sharing time with people who understand me; doodling on old school paper with my sister’s fountain pen; finally making good on the overlooked promise to clean my room; skiing down the slope of the yard, my breath a foggy ribbon; finding white strawberries beneath decomposing leaves; ice skating with real skates, not rain boots;

my first day of college — looking around, breathing it all in, repeat; the steady click and clack of the old computer keyboard; the twelfth day of the second month when I will really be twenty; bravely going for that short-short haircut; being myself, for myself, by myself; filling page after page with scribbles called words; letting my heart speak out loud; connecting with my Pisces spirit and learning to swim laps; trying something new once a week: a way to work, the food I eat, the way I spend an evening; hosting more dinner parties; being sillier

finishing my novel and being happy with it — perhaps even getting it published; releasing stress, especially regarding family issues, and finding ways to say "so what" more often; deepening my connection with the tarot; singing more often, and louder, even if I don't sound like Billie Holiday; tracing my family tree & learning about my ancestors; camping in the wild — sleeping under the stars, finding secret streams, and climbing mysteries of mountains; exploring the river in a kayak, perhaps meeting a sea lion; seeing a dolphin in the wild; creating a beautiful herb garden for the butterflies, and  building a water lily pond for the dragonflies & frogs

retiring from the job I've held for 32 years and discovering who I am without it; watching light return to the morning and green return to the hills; resisting, persisting, and rising up; painting what my heart sees when I close my eyes; closing my eyes and seeing the otherworld; cooking more creative things than omelets, jacket potatoes, or fried-up leftovers; writing a story that's been in my mind for a while, about Tommy and the Bear; spending more time in the woods and on the beach, discovering cool stuff

practicing radical self-care; learning to speak Spanish again; traveling to Guatemala; finally learning at least 10 chords on my ukelele; falling in love; getting rid of all the unwanted, unnecessary things that bring my energy down; leaving the Christmas tree, and lights, up through February; walking to work; reading more poetry; finishing my novel; hiking in sparkling snow; sitting by the fireplace; coming home to soup for dinner; bicycling along the Erie Canal; hanging a hammock

going on more local adventures; finding a small library with a perfect room where I can sit and write; preparing for retirement by leaving work earlier every day, and investing my time in activities that bring me joy; sketching in many of the gorgeous parks nearby; being more active; noticing something that makes me laugh, every single day; appreciating winter for its quiet glory, spring for the first blossoms, summer for abundant gardens, and autumn for extravagant color

wearing less black; making friends with my aging face and body; playing the piano, occasionally for others, without nervousness or embarrassment; riding a boat to the Farmers Market; throwing five good pots; finding my voice, and using it; moving to a warmer climate; taking daily walks and letting nature be my guide; writing two pages every day; practicing haiku as a way of life; going on at least one silent retreat; meeting lots of new friends who have similar interests; getting together with old friends.

becoming certified to teach Tai Chi; finding the true rhythm of my days; writing and receiving real letters in the mail; finding new, beautiful, fun, and/or quirky stamps at the post office; working on my book about women and dolls; folding and putting away last year's clean laundry; finding new places for my teetering stacks of books; organizing my cluttered study; seeing lots of fabulous art; gathering with women friends; discovering a new writer whose many books I can't wait to read; compiling a new poetry manuscript called "The Long Habit of Bowing"

catching up with myself; finishing everything I have started; taking a short trip to Japan and visiting Portugal again; walking in the woods with a dear haiku friend; spending more time with my tai chi and yoga practices; cycling on the old familiar roads, as well as exploring new routes in new places; picking up a paint brush and playing with colors on a canvas; encouraging my sisters to join with me in writing memoir pieces, so we can reminisce together and laugh and maybe cry a little; discovering new things about the natural world

slowing down enough to be able to see beauty in small things; going out into the bush to walk among the trees; never having to have radiotherapy ever again; becoming the queen of the carnival ball; going to Kyoto and seeing the cherry blossoms; writing a perfect haiku; spending more time with some friends whom I've not made the effort to see in quite a while; visiting a couple of countries I haven't seen yet; going through my mother's papers and "stuff" that is stored in a big box under my book shelf; mending a few relational fences

having a healthier approach to life — physically, mentally, and spiritually; coming home to myself again and again; remembering that there is a happiness within that isn't dependent on outside circumstances; maintaining boundaries that allow love and connection to come in, and keep harm and self-doubt out; cherishing the beauty and wonder of this precious human life; finishing construction and detail work on the new guesthouse in time to host my daughter and her family this spring; relishing each impeccable moment of virtual and/or actual solitude

finally playing bass runs and clear barred chords on the guitar that I’ve been hauling around for the past fifty years;  exploring the island of Sumatra, and discovering amazing new tropical fruits; allowing myself to cry when I need to; becoming more accepting when people leave my life because of the limitations imposed upon me by my illness; seeing signs of significant improvement with my back, after earlier fractures; being able to walk without my transport chair

the warmth of my flannel sheets; our Japanese New Year's meal — oden; binge watching "The Crown" on Netflix; spending time on the beach in Costa Rica; a big February dance party I'm planning with a friend; marching in Seneca Falls and in New York City; working on becoming more peaceful and calm; a good long cross country ski adventure; finally doing a chin-up; turning 50; finding a blue house with white window boxes and a yellow door

taking a hot-air balloon ride with my husband and, after coming down, savoring a champagne brunch; learning ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs so when I finally get to the pyramids I can read what's on the walls; digging out my old pastels to paint a sunset; pampering my African violets, then enjoying their delicate blue, pink, and violet blooms; reading some big fat novels in long sessions while curled up in bed; visiting the local observatory to catch a glimpse of Saturn's rings and Jupiter's spangly moon, Callisto

leisurely afternoon walks through the arboretum's butterfly house as gossamer wings brush past my head and alight on my shoulders; more ripe tomatoes; the first bloom of the hot cocoa rose; the morning the blue dragonflies return; living on the high desert plateau in a town with no name; trusting my intuition and tuning in to the wisdom of my inner guide(s); reading at least one novel a week; using the public library more

buying a house after years of barely getting by; planning for a third child; publishing my own chapbook; watching my husband flourish as an actor; making a snowman with my children and their grandfather; taking my toddler to the beach for the first time; celebrating my grandmother’s 100th birthday; hearing my baby speak her first simple sentences; carving a pumpkin for the first time with my children; developing a deeper relationship with my sister now that we have reconnected

laughter creeping up unannounced, but welcomed; my heart breaking a little wider to allow more love to come in; witnessing wisdom and compassion outstripping ignorance and hate; seeing love extinguishing the embers of fear; eating lots of glorious locally-grown food; keeping gratitude as my loyal and constant companion; rediscovering my wardrobe; rekindling contact with friends and family;
writing with my esteemed sister and brother wordsmiths

slowing down and being intentional; listening, really listening, to those around me; visits with far-flung family and hugs that last; laughter that makes my stomach hurt; the weight of a new pen on crisp paper as a story unfurls from infancy to maturity; solving problems that make my mind ache in the process; cooking with my family and enjoying our creations; singing and sewing and swimming; completing the year’s circle with a satisfying hum

I am looking forward to my next breath

THANK YOU to all these contributors:

Agnes Eva Savich
Alan Bern
Alison Coluccio
Anni Johnson
Barbara Anger
Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Tate
Blue Waters
Brenda Ross
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Caroline Skanne
Catherine Shipos
Cheryl Adams
Christina Martin
Edna Brown
Jean Wittman
Jennifer Groff
Jennifer VanAlstine
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Judith Sornberger
Kath Abela Wilson
Linda Keeler
Marietta McGregor
Marta Chocilowska
Mary Louise Church
MaryJo Cobb
Mimi Foyle
MJ Richmond
Pris Campbell
Rob Sullivan
Simon Hanson
Stacey Murphy
Theresa A. Cancro
Tia Haynes
Tricia Knoll
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava