Big Bay, Michigan August 16, 2015
I often write inspired by other writing. I have learned to stand on the shoulders of other writers. I use phrases or words as diving platforms, or rocks to jump off of in to my own writing. The short piece below was written in response to Jane Piirto’s fine poem, Here, which I found in a collection of writing by women about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I use poems in this way in my writing workshops. Often, our pens need a little coaxing, something to grease the way for our own words to flow forth. So, today, I share with you Jane’s poem and urge you to find this collection of writing at your library or bookstore. And I offer you my small piece of writing, a bit raw and immediate, but real, which is what I am after.
by Jane Piirto
Where is the wanderer’s home?
-Runo 24, Kalevala
at our grandmother’s birthplace,
in her very front yard,
here, my mother, sisters, and I
walk the very path.
Here, very here, this very river
in Vimpeli, Finland,
here this yellow round church,
here, this brown swift river.
Did she swim in it?
Here we, her American children
come to see, to feel, to touch.
No, the river runs fast and deep.
Here, the very view she saw here
her whole young life.
Part of her myth is
she was a very good swimmer.
Here, this very old church steeple,
the one in the old photograph.
Here, these new green reeds.
She would swim out to the middle of the lake.
She would float for hours out there
at camp in the Upper Peninsula.
Here, we are in her dream time.
After she left at 19, she never returned.
- ed. Ron Riekki Michigan State University Press
this poem appears on Laundry Line Divine by permission of the author
and my response:
Here, very here, sand on my ankles and black flies nipping, more aggravation. Here, very here, a steady wind off the bay since early when I lifted out of our dark nest to close the windows because it felt like rain.
Here, very here, just down the road through a channel of filtered light, a honeycomb of shade that we walk slowly through to nibble small raspberries, reddening despite the drought, sandy leaves, sand again and pink dirt.
Part of my myth is over across the bay above Squaw Beach in a buxomly porched clapboard house in the woods, down a stifling hallway to a curtained doorway where my 16 year old self decides to part my thighs for a boy who tells me this will hurt but it will be worth it. Part of my myth is I don’t remember pain, nor do I recall pleasure, not even do I recall a concern about birth control.
I lived part of my life on cliffs above this rolling surf, above clear waves, leviathan basalt boulders and thimble berry paths through old woods, birch, fir, oak. Do I, can I, will I ever recall, what I did just afterward? Or why I am remembering this today? Here, very here, because where else is there, really? I parted my thighs. I walked in shade, and I return to swim in these waters, among the slumbering beasts in my memory who quake and shift at my return. The trees part for my entry, welcome me with green cascades, clear waters and a Pileated woodpecker. Here, is very here.
Tomorrow I dive in to my events at the Escanaba Public Library and the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. Then, after that, I strike off on a week of hiking with my husband and our German family. I don’t know if I will be able to post, but here are some good posts from the Laundry Line archive to stay you until I return.
In September, my new offering Sacred Refuge Sundays will begin. And I will perform in the cast of Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. I am clearing my desk for more writing time, on my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, and blog posts here. My daughter will enter her senior year in high school and I will be making what I can from the balance of the plum harvest, from my ripening quince and whatever else the garden yields.
I send you all my love for this fine August day.
Eat berries, hug your people, and dive deep.