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Independence Approach #8: Praise Song and more fireflies

Today is the last day of this writing conference.
I will share some photos with you, just because I am rather speechless…not wordless…but considering it all, listening to Barbra Streisand and Tom Waits, eating popcorn in my empty dorm room, the windows open to the rain…just sitting here.

Praise Song by Suzi Banks Baum after Barbara Crooker June 25, 2012

Praise lumps of clay pinched in to breasts and dimpled thighs.
Praise teeth and the yielding fuzz of peach.
Praise all dogs for I love them not, but praise them anyway because others do.
Praise the praying mantis, dervish, scribe and washerwoman.
Praise all bricklayers and meiofauna.
Praise grit and grime and grease.
Praise me for getting myself here and listening for what I love.
Praise Jonathan for doing all he does in our attic to make it better for us at home.
Praise the pallid death mask of my mother, hidden in my files, reminding me of a life I’d rather not repeat.
Praise every tower, every tree, every stick and the boys on the other ends of them for even they can be turned round to peace.
Praise the shaky ground of understanding between us but the gathering anyway, bless polar bears on shrinking ice and bromeliads rare in crotches of towering ecosystems I will never glimpse.
Praise dirt.
Praise you for leaning over to look me in the eye and say yes. Yes, I will.
Praise Lake Superior for coasting all that ice and laden canoes and northern light.
Praise violet, red, purple and pink, praise labia and flushing skin blushed with lust.
Praise instinct and Obama, Michelle and Barack.
Praise and praise again and my brain will illuminate like a Ferris wheel.
Praise IWWG and the women in it.
Praise all who hold the vision of what it was.
Praise all who hold the vision of what it could be.
Praise all who, like me, arrived only recently and quite love it just like this.
Praise all with far seeing gazes and for the microscopic ones.
Praise me for just showing up to play, really play full out with each of my beloved teachers- Judy Adourian, Eunice Scarfe, Jan Phillips, June Gould, Susan Tiberghien, Lynne Barrett, Zita Christian and Myra Shapiro.
Praise Marj Hahne because I love her so.
Praise Sandy for pinching me every time we heard something that resonated. I have a bruise on my arm from her.
Praise be all the women who donned their name-tags and crossed the quad, the four directions, and the four walls of their entanglements to be here, this weekend at Yale.
Praise the Beinecke Library, right there down the street with marble plates in the walls to protect those books, protecting those live things.
Praise the huge trees, and Alethea’s Copper Beech for sheltering me from the rain and the sun and offering us each the perspective of time and long growth and the goodness of branching out.
Praise and praise again.
Though darkness gathers I reach my strong arms, praising fireflies and dragonflies and zippers, and step in to this river of living.

There is the sense here of the Wizard of Oz and Glinda.
These teachers are each Glinda in her magnificent glowy gown, tipping her head and pointing with her wand indicating the place for us to set our feet upon the yellow brick road of our creative expression, in this case, writing and begin.
Really. It happens like that.
There is so much writing to support the act of beginning and carrying on with it. Eunice kept pressing us to use the resources at our fingertips to learn from those who have gone before us. From her and June and Jan, I have a syllabus of reading for the whole next year. I will share with you some of what they suggested.

So, I leave you with Louise Erdrich and her poem. Jan read this to us at the end of our session with her. Then we took these photos.

Advice to Myself

By Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.

Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.

Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.

Except one word to another.
Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.

Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator.

Accept new forms of life and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.

Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

~From: “Original Fire: New and Selected Poems”,2003, by Louise Erdrich, page 149

I do ask you, what can you begin today, that you have put off for so long?
Tell me here.
And do please subscribe to this site.
I’d love to know we could stay in touch.
Thank you,

Independence Approach #7 Fire Fly Sessions: On lighting the way for each other.

It is Sunday evening now and my fingers are itching to make art.
This is the last night of open readings at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference at Yale.
All evening I listened to women spend three minutes each, revealing their souls.
Poems about dead husbands, blind dogs and champagne corks captivated.
Tears ran over the tale of a newly christened Mariner catching costly fish.
Tears ran again and again in joy and solidarity, in sisterhood for courage.
There are women here who think because they haven’t published anything, they are not writers.

Thank you to Charles Dedic my junior year English teacher at Escanaba Area Public High School, for I have written daily since 16 years of age and diligently. But, I too only shyly have added the moniker of writer and now blogger to my title.
Claiming my voice has made all the difference.

I am about to share something I wrote with you today in the class of my cherished colleague, Jan Phillips, who told me last year, well she told the whole class, but I always feel she is talking directly to me-

‘Our lives are our art work’.

Today after viewing Jan’s newest video Women, Wisdom and World Change about evolutionary thought, which features interviews with my long time She-ro Dr. Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard and with Jan, we had a span of quiet time to write.

This is what came to me.

I write. I make art. I am raising myself as I raise my children to know that caress of the sun, to fell the press of moss on foot, to sniff the baking apple and to tell the story from inside a decision to make joyous.
This is no small task.
No one believes that what is joyful can sell.
I do.
No one believes that the ordinary is extraordinary.
I do.
My prayer, the way I live my life, is to create and live the vibrancy of the first breath of morning and the glow of Orion’s belt at night.
My prayer, the decides to all day long, to put my attention here here here back in to the lap of this mother, this person who feels pressed to express.
I live so I will not be forgotten, if only by two people who laid their heads down on sun dried pillowcases each night to dream in a house not rattled by anger or want. Because I know in raising them as citizens of this home, they become citizens of the world.
They will see pain and know that confidence of moving towards love.
This I write.
This I invite.

Good night.
I am off to get gluey.

Independence Approach #6: P.K.Page, poetry of today

It is late again here in my austere, sort of grubby room on the campus of Silliman College of Yale University.

I am buzzing with the poetry of today, a long day spent with other women writers.
I was introduced to this poem at 11:10 a.m., which when you read it, you will know why I woke up today and chose to spend the second session with Eunice Scarfe.

Planet Earth by P.K. Page

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.

—– “In Praise of Ironing”, Pablo Neruda
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.

The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness.

and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an 0! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.

It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.

© 1994 P.K. Page

Then, this evening, at the Open Reading session of the IWWG Summer Conference session here at Yale, I heard Leslie Hall Pinder read from here work. Here is a trailer for her latest book. I was stopped in my tracks by her live reading and I am sure her writing is equally compelling.

This whole day has been spent with women who love the written word. I have opened several doors I did not know existed here within me. I have met and had good conversations with two literary agents, and I have strolled the dark streets of New Haven, digesting the harvest of today, serenaded by one of my newest musical discoveries, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

G’night all.

I leave you with this, from Jan Phillips:

Creativity is joyful release.

Xo S

Independence Approach #5 At Spectacle Pond and beyond


I am sending you love from the International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference.

This is a week of independence for me, off on a bit of “summer camp for mom”.

The quote of the evening, from Jan Phillips:

you are a “thought leaning toward radiance”

You are.
Send me a thought.
Independently speaking,

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