From Inside the Silence of a Snowy Day

f4361853b79df161ddc87ed2f4f89da1It’s Wednesday. It’s quiet. So quiet I can hear the clock ticking. Occasional heaps of snow falling to the ground from heavy pine branches. There is something about being home mid-week that always feels special, different from time home on the weekends. The timing of this first winter storm comes as a gift — certainly not to those traveling or attempting to travel today, but to me, here, the gift of being able to stay home. I did go out earlier, to buy a pair of winter boots. And it’s lucky we went when we did, because two hours later the roads were barely passable, the slight incline of the driveway impossible to ascend.

Aviva is at her cousins’ house for the night, and Pearl is having a blast with her friends. It just kind of happened, plans that did not need planning, the best kind. And so I am here, inside, homemade hot chocolate to my left and Mani working to my right.

It’s the kind of quiet that almost feels blasphemous to interrupt with words, even ones on the screen that make noise only in my head and through my fingers tapping quickly against the keyboard. And still, I come here to write, though I do not know what I have to say. Sometimes it’s like this, the outer quiet–a train passing by now, not a mile from here–mirrors a kind of inner quiet. The world outside my windows slowly being covered up by snow.

I was going to write. A blog post, or a poem.

And then the quiet overtook me. I read some poems, instead. About snow. Many of them about the quiet, too. For I am not the first to note the way a steady snowfall mutes the world. And I have nothing new to say about it now. So to sit here, propped up against pillows that will later cushion my fall into sleep, is all. A plowtruck pushing ice. Dusk setting in, already, not yet 4:00pm, grey on white. Even the white board where she writes quotes or intentions most mornings has been wiped clean, hangs blankly against the yellow wall.

Several people who have asked about the upcoming writing group have asked me variations on the question, “What if I have nothing to say?”

I have no answer. Sometimes, it’s as simple as, “Then, say nothing.” Sometimes, “Write anyway, and see what happens.” For me, today, I am writing anyway. With, and in, and within, the silence of the snowy day. Not about deer, or persimmon seeds, or permission slips, or walking the dog; not about slipping or the way even the water becomes still beneath the layers of ice; not about the world and how history keeps coming up from under us as reality; not about gratitude even, or heartbreak or hurt or injustice or beauty. I have nothing to add. And this, this is the practice. Of showing up anyway, not to parade something pretty or prove something worthy. Not to produce something share-able or win friends or followers. Just to say, it is quiet. I am here. You are there, reading. In that way, in this silence, there is a connection between us we may not even know exists, and yet we do, we both know. For a moment, this is true. And then it is covered again, by the next thing, the snow still falling, the phone rings, the ticking clock, the unplanned plans.

And it is something, this. Comes and goes. Like the quiet will go, and the snow, too, will melt and then fall again and be new and pristine and then dirty and then one with the trees and then water in the earth and then ice and flood and eventually, spring.

Image: Raceytay Photography

Hung Out to Dry Never Looked So Lovely

IMG_20141123_135233Before we got married, our rabbi asked me and Mani each to write some words about each other and our relationship to share with him, from which he would pluck some gems to share with the friends and family who would be witness to our commitment.

One of the things Mani wrote was that she would always have my back–and my front, and my sides. It was and is beautiful-sounding.

I promised to love her unconditionally and accept and support her exactly as she is. Also beautiful-sounding, the stuff we all love to get behind (and in front of, and next to).

Saying things out loud–stating our intentions–is a sacred part of creating and enacting what we want and need. But where these things really matter is in how they show up in our actions. If we mean it but can’t, won’t, or just don’t show our beloved, or anyone to whom we make a promise–do we really mean it?

Any relationship is grounds for continual reflection. Sometimes, I catch discrepancies in the things I say: I love you unconditionally, but why don’t you just… or I’ve got your back, but I’m still going to go ahead and say yes to something I know makes you uncomfortable or unhappy.

Maybe it all comes down to the “but.”

That one little word has a lot of power, essentially to negate everything that came before it. Like most things, I think it’s a matter of degree; none of is perfect–nor should that ever be an excuse for forgetting or neglecting what we signed up for.

Accepting others fully as they are is impossible if we don’t accept ourselves fully as we are. Ask Jung or Buddha or your favorite rabbi. Better yet, just ask yourself, every time someone makes you feel impatient or irritated. Mirror, mirror, indeed.

She has my back, my sides, my front. She shows me this everyday, in so many ways. I love her unconditionally, and never, ever want her to feel hung out to dry, second to anyone or anything.

I took a walk today, down to the farm about a half mile from our place. The flowers drying upside-down were the only evidence I could find of the place not being closed up for winter, that and a chalkboard announcing the price of chestnuts. I sat down next to a towering weeping willow and played around with some photos, listening to the birds, some music pounding from the frat house up the hill, a leaf-blower in the distance. I felt overcome with love for the day, and for the woman who every step of the way led me to. I sent her a picture of some dried flowers, and told her I want to give her so many beautiful things. You do, she replied.

I want to treat my imperfection with gentleness. To meet every stumble as a brand-new chance to stop on my way out of out bedroom to read our ketubah, the contract we wrote and signed on September 27, where we lay it all out–the intentions, the visions, the vows we got to say and now get to embody, exhibit, and inhabit.

Hung out to dry never looked so lovely.

That’s what came to mind when I saw the flowers in that little shed. I knew what the first four words of that expression meant, but looked it up anyway. It was as if I was seeking confirmation for the worst-case scenario so as to be more aware of choosing the best one. There is so much beauty, I thought, in this life of mine, of ours. Sometimes it makes me feel euphoric, like my heart will burst with tenderness. Sometimes it makes me sad, because I don’t want to miss it.

And then I look around myself–she is sitting there next to me, Pearlie just emerged from singing in the shower, and Aviva is wearing the “Dance Mama” jacket from the Buffalo Arts Academy that my mom’s fellow teachers gave her as a gift in 1978 when I was four. My dad just inscribed Sam Hamill’s new collected poems, Habitation, for us, and I can’t wait to dive into it.

How best to thank life for never once hanging me out to dry? How best to not hang my own vows out to dry?

By treating the people I love most in the world as lovingly and loyally as humanly possible–a thought as simple and obvious as it seems. No “but” needed.

After making love, we are like
rivers come down from mountain summits.

We are still, we are moving,
calm in the depths of danger–

two rivers entering the sea
slowly, as if nothing matters:

quietly, but with great power,
merging in deepening waters.

—Sam Hamill, “Mountains and Rivers Without End”

**

There is still time to register for the December 1-12 Online Writing Group! If you’re short on time and strapped for cash, but still want some structure and inspiration for your practice, the Self-Paced Writing Class option was designed just for you.

Self-Paced Writing Class

THE FORESTBegin or Deepen Your Writing Practice–At Your Own Pace

Whether you’re a lifelong journaler, a published author, hell–even a Pulitzer-prize winner, like all writers, a little jumpstart now and then can be just the thing to expand or deepen your writing practice.

I recently announced an online writing group, consisting of daily emails and a closed Facebook group, where participants can come to share and connect. (You can still register here.)

Then it dawned on me. The obvious, that is. The holidays are around the corner. Most of us are short on time, money, or both. And it’s dark at 4:45pm 4:20pm. This may, in fact, be the hardest time of year to make time for and spend money on ourselves.

So I decided to make all of the material available to those of you who crave some structure and support for beginning or continuing a writing practice but don’t have much time or money to spare.

Crazy busy? No Problem.

For ten days, beginning on your day of choice, a lovely email from me will magically appear in your inbox at the crack of dawn. Other than the time you take reading, you’ll devote just ten minutes a day to your writing practice. (Of course, if you’re on a roll, you can keep going!)

Each email will offer you a gorgeous image, quotes from fantastic poets and writers, and a prompt or series of prompts. You’ll also get some suggestions for working with the day’s material and links to related readings.

1. In the Beginning
2. Tell It Slant
3. Paradise Over the Hill
4. “Let’s”
5. You Belong
6. The Elephant in the Room
7. Mix It Up
8. Wide Open Sky
9. Dreams
10. Where We Are Now

You’ll write on your own time and at your own pace.

Crazy Strapped? No Problem.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but there have been many, many periods of my life where I’ve spent $18 a week on lattes. With two packets of Splenda, which is even more embarrassing. At the same time, I’d claim–believe, even–I didn’t have any money to spend on myself.

A writing practice has this effect, though–it makes us a little braver, a little more willing and able to be honest with ourselves and perhaps the people we interact with at home and at work. So there you have it, one of my guilty pleasures.

That is why the Self-Paced Writing Class costs $18.00. I wanted to make it affordable to a broader audience, and that means most of the people I know.

There you have it. Ten Days. Ten Minutes.

Ready to Start?

Just use the PayPal button below to pay, then email me your desired start date.

Your writing is a practice. Your life is a practice. Your practice is to show up. And to remember, always always: Be good to yourself. 

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some alternatives to keeping up

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stop

for a moment or a few moments

walk

to the forest
that is waning or filling up
depending on your eyes

feel

the warm air on your face

trust

that this stillness is the embryo
of all movement

if you are longing for a dance
partner

reach

with your arms and move your legs
through space
in the direction of a room

with wood floors and big speakers
broadcasting silence
or rhythm

sway

like a bare branch

fall

like the leaves that just yesterday
glowed

don’t be too careful with your wishes
or wait for the eyelash
the star
the copper penny in a fountain

toss

them freely to the still-there sky
then let them come back
as rain or some unforeseen blessing

watch

the light come uncaged

remember

how lucky it is to be free
in a the ways you are already free

when it feels good
to be happy

count

to twenty

stay

with that bounty
be it bottomless or boundaried

smile

no matter the current conditions

let

labor begin when it will

pause

before you punish yourself
for some ancient deed

plant

seeds in the darkening days

work

while you wait to see what grows
beneath your worn boots
and expert heart

lift

a handful of dried leaves
to your face

bury

yourself in the gifts of this time

emerge

once again to the next thing
and the next

remember

how holy it is that you’re even alive

**

What If You Knew, a two-week online writing group, starts December 1. You will be warmly encouraged to show up, not keep up. Read more and sign up

What If You Knew? A Two-Week Online Writing Group

IMG_20141110_181736Somehow, someone finally needs to encourage us to be inquisitive about this unknown territory and about the unanswerable question of what’s going to happen next. - Pema Chödrön, from “When Things Fall Apart”

What:
* A warm, supportive opportunity to begin or deepen your writing practice.
* Pressure and judgement-free.
* Daily writing prompts Monday-Friday.
* Access to an optional, private Facebook group–for sharing, feedback, support, reflection, and connection.
* Permission “to write the worst junk in America.” (Thank you, Natalie Goldberg!)

When:
Monday, December 1 – Friday, December 12

Cost:
$59

Registration Deadline Extended!
Contact me by Friday, November 28
* Send your payment via PayPal below

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Short on time and strapped for cash, but still want to practice? Try the Self-Paced Writing Class instead!


What If You Knew

What if you knew
that everything was going to be okay,
that something was in motion
beyond your field of vision,
beyond even the periphery
of your knowing?

What if you knew
that everything you want,
everything you’ve been seeking,
trying to figure out, missing,
is right here, already whole
in your hands, in your life?

What if taking in what is 
could satisfy your longing?
What if you could rest your frantic, racing, busy mind
and rest your neglected, tired body,
put your head down in someone’s lap
to have your hair stroked,
like a cat, or a child?

What if you didn’t need to understand
how it works,
but could enjoy the magic
of how love shows itself
in the most unexpected, simplest of gestures?
What if everything is just as it should be?

What if nothing had to be better,
bigger, different, or other?

What would you do then?
Who would you be?

(December 2008)