Like Julie and Julia. (2009 Nora Ephron). Sort of. You know, the movie, where the girl took a year and made it her mission to recreate each one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Julie Powell actually started the Julie/Julia project on her blog and garnered the attention of quite a few followers, including those who offered her a book deal at Little, Brown and Company. Julia Child was reportedly unimpressed and said as much, although I think that was a little hoity-toity of her. The book led to the movie and the rest, as they say, is history.
But get to the point Carol. Your idea?
One of my first poet loves was Emily Dickinson and the very first poem I memorized was:
“I’m nobody, who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us- don’t tell!
They’d banish us you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog .
To tell your name the lifelong day
To an admiring bog!”
At 10, just as now, this particular poem seemed perfectly suited for my introverted self.
Being an admirer of Emily’s work, I thought an interesting project would be to attempt a Carol/Emily project, wherein I take the title of each of her poems and write my own, on small pieces of paper and used envelopes, just as she did. And then I remembered that Emily herself titled only a few of her 1775 poems, the others were added posthumously by editors. So much for that idea.
But what about first lines? That could be quite a challenge, given the formality of language during the 1800s, not to mention the colloquialisms of her time. But could it be a thing? I mean Dickinson on Apple TV is certainly a huge thing. I’ve binged both seasons and am suffering in wait for more.
So here we go. I mean, here I go.
New year, new challenge and all that. 1775 poems. Stay tuned. I’m sure some of it will be less than spectacular, but who knows until I try.
Emily herself said,
“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear, of victory,
As he, defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.”
Stay tuned and wish me luck.
Peace and Love
Update* – 37 poems down- 1738 to go, more updates to follow.
A silver-haired old man naps peacefully in his weathered beach chair, mouth wide open, sun-hat blown off and hanging by its cord on his back. It’s almost 80 degrees and the January sun is warming away the winter in our bones, hell, in our souls, with what we’ve all been going through since March of last year.
A flock of Royal Terns have taken a break from their sea foraging to rest together on the white sugar sand. In the distance, an adventurous young girl flaps her arms frenetically and squeals deliriously as she sits in the water and lets the icy winter waves send shocks through her spine.
The old man’s wife marks her place with a bookmark and places her book in her bag, then nudges him awake and hands him a sandwich from their cooler. Two Ring Billed Gulls cower hopefully nearby, staring intently, engaging in a silent solicitation for food donations that never come.
Nearby, a father and his young son play chase. A few minutes in, he allows the tot to catch him, and dramatically falls and begins rolling across the hard packed sand. The little one takes a running leap and jumps on his father’s belly as both of them erupt in ecstatic laughter.
Meanwhile, the waves carry on, roaring rhythmically, white caps creating white noise as the tide kisses the sand and retreats, ever untamable. I’m reminded of an untamable hazel eyed girl, who 46 years ago romped along this very same beach in a teeny white bikini, carefree and clueless, living her best life in every moment, as if each were eternity.
There is so much I wish I could have told that girl, yet there’s so much she reminds me of now. Like how this present moment is all we really have. Like we’re not promised a next, but when it comes, it should always be celebrated. Like how to taste all the bits of beauty and joy we’re lucky enough to come across. Like how she still lives in me and wants me to smile and laugh and play and remain untamable.
Peace and Love
One of my favorite poets died two years ago today. I’ve never failed to find beauty and so much that I wasn’t even aware that I was looking for in her words, whether it be solace, joy, a sense of marvel or just the reminder I need. Today, I’m sharing the two poems that I woke up to. They served as a kind of PSA ( Public Service Announcement) to me and perhaps they will to you, on this 45th morning of the month of Panjanuary 202021.
Now, in the words of Mary Oliver and the sea, “Excuse me, I have work to do.”
Peace and Love
Reflections on Not Losing Hope
Through countless window glasses
from fires still burning across our land
and I awoke to the images of the crocus
and the Luna moth,
isolated yet filled,
each with their own brand of hope,
propelling them towards the unknown,
towards the light they know not,
yet will reign in the brilliance of.
So, I rise
and squinting my eyes
as these days require,
to be not overwhelmed
by the dark chaos
but to focus on the phosphorescence
I remember exists
all around us,
as it did in my daughter’s eyes
as she sat long ago
between rows of strawberries,
tiny bucket between her chunky toddler legs,
savoring the ruby sweetness
she eagerly shoved
into her tiny rose mouth,
one by one, uncaring
as their sticky nectar dripped
down her angelic chin
and her smile, as forever
was my sun.
I alone am not able
to quiet the raging storms,
I will delight in strawberries
For it is in doing so
that we lead the way
for others to pleasure,
not in havoc and hatred
but in the harmony
and phosphorescent honey of life.
When my daughter and son were little, their bedtime routines included a nightly request of “tell me a story, momma”. This would be after reading two, three, or eight books and just prior to the final tuck in (when Mom was likely falling asleep herself). I’d conjure up an off-the-cuff story in which they each starred, and would inevitably begin it with the words “once upon a time”. The story lines might include an event that occurred in their lives that day or an exciting imaginary adventure in which incredible feats were achieved or magical powers were revealed. Sometimes the tales had an underlying purpose or message, (you are strong, smart, brave, kind) and other times they were utterly nonsensical, inciting one of the purest and sweetest sounds on Earth, a child’s laughter.
One of life’s universal truths is that whether as a child or an adult, when living moments like those, we have no idea of the nostalgia we will one day feel, looking back at our own “once upon a times”. The phrase itself is most often associated with fairy tales but when I made up those simple stories for my children, aside from entertainment and parent/child bonding, my inherent purpose was to instill the concept of tangible and endless possibilities in their impressionable little minds. Years later I found myself doing the same thing in a different way. When my young granddaughter wanted to give up and quit because she was losing a board game we were playing, I’d encourage her to stick with it and not end the game by assuring her that “anything can happen”. She grew to realize that the game could indeed turn in her favor, if only she’d keep going. Now “anything can happen” is the answer to the question “What does Mimi always say?” At 13 years old, she realizes that the phrase is applicable to many of the life situations she encounters.
As an adult reviewing my own life, I’ve found it useful to do so in terms of past events occurring “once upon a time”. All of the things that happened were chapters in my ongoing autobiography. Some of the stories I’ve lived are worthy of sharing with folks. Others I’ve made peace with and assigned them their rightful home in the trash. Some of my once upon a times had rainbow colored happy ever after endings and some were dark and difficult lessons learned. The latter have served their purpose and don’t need to be dealt with anymore. Just as we don’t need to keep the owner’s manual on broken appliances, we don’t need to retain the stories about ourselves that no longer work to our benefit, especially if they were written by others.
On this 6th day of a new year, the air is filled with change, hope and the possibility of regaining some of what’s been lost in a myriad of areas. The opportunity to create new “once upon a times” in our own lives, in the lives of others, in our communities and our country is presenting itself, just as it does every single day. Cheers to learning from those stories that contained tough, painful lessons and good riddance to the ones written by others that never served us. My wish for the new year is that regardless of the rain that will necessarily and assuredly fall upon all of us, that our hours be awash with creating more rainbow colored, joyous laughter filled “once upon a times”, both in our personal lives and globally.
Peace and Love
Today is our oldest granddaughter’s 13th birthday. We’ve never missed a single one of her celebrations, until this __________ year. (insert your personal choice of expletive or adjective). We’re planning to FaceTime with her this afternoon and are extremely thankful for that ability. But this year!! All the things and people we’ve missed! Geeze Louise!
One of my writer’s groups asked its members to post their one word for 2020 and their one word for 2021. Well, they asked! For 2020 mine is FUCK! and for 2021, HOPE. Not totally Zen or spiritual, I know. FUCK! is the exclamation I’ve uttered, screamed and cried on a fairly consistent and frequent basis during the last 10 months. In my mind it has been THE most appropriate (albeit not child friendly) response to at least 1000 different scenarios we all have either personally experienced or been party to as both citizens of this country (USA) and as human beings on this planet.
Thank whoever/whatever it is you normally thank, that there was also life sustaining light amidst the exponential surplus of darkness. John Krasinski brought us SGN (Some Good News) and warmed our hearts and made us smile on the weekly. And then there was adorable Leslie Jordan who gave us a daily “well shit y’all, what are ya doing?” visit that made us momentarily forget our quarantine/ confinement/social distancing sadness for a while. And of course they weren’t the only ones. A hell of a lot of kindness has come out of this year. A lot of understanding/reassessing the true value of people in professions that many of us have taken for granted for far too long.
And that’s where the hope comes in for 2021 and moving forward. I hope we don’t forget. I hope we’ve all been awakened to how much we desperately need each other and how we must rally as one or die alone. ( As far too many have during this pandemic.) I hope we can all see that real and palpable hope is just beginning to dawn on multiple fronts. Taking form in the vaccines, politics, civil and equal rights reforms, strangers helping strangers and neighbors helping neighbors, we’re seeing little glimmers that have the potential to become massive illuminations, benefitting not just some of us, but all of us. There’s no need to hoard it like some did toilet paper. There really is enough light and hope and goodness to share.
Whatever the amount of melanin in our skin, whatever our gender, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation or political leaning, 2020 has taught us that we’re in this together. I hope we don’t ever forget.
Peace and Love
This is one of the first photos I posted on IG 9 years ago. My beautiful big hearted grand girl, who like most children, have the ability to see the beauty in everything. Able to pick up a broken shell, declare its remaining virtues and find purpose along its jagged lines, making art with it. To be in the present always, making it and her precious gifts to others. She’ll turn 13 in two months, in a year that’s been a rough one for all of us, and she’s done a lot of hard things. She’s quarantined, learned virtually, adapted to the new normal, missed friends and family and still managed to make honor roll, progress in soccer and flute playing skills, participate in community outreach efforts and smile behind her mask. But none of those things matter today.
Today, in a half hour or so, after a night of crying herself to sleep, she’ll awake with an actual ache of sorrow in her young heart. She’ll wonder whether there’s any way she can rise out of bed and go to school.
You see, yesterday she witnessed her June, her beloved Great Pyrenees have what appeared to be a stroke. She witnessed the next door neighbor valiantly administering CPR to no avail. She witnessed the hand of death take someone she has loved for most of her life, for the first time.
Today and in those to come, she’ll need tender care. Today she’ll surely reflect on how wrong she was believing that 2020 could not suck any more. She’ll declare that growing up and understanding mortality is highly overrated. Today she’ll be right.
As we move through our own day, let’s send love and care to her and the multitude of souls who are aching. Love is a verb. It’s the most powerful energy we carry inside of us and it’s what she and our world need a flood of today.
Peace and Love
The Land of Somnambulists
Once upon a time in a land that was touted as “the greatest country in the world” there were people stricken with an endemic disorder known as “somnambulism” or sleepwalking. So focused on the smaller picture of their everyday personal circle and turned off or completely disenchanted with the business of politics and other contentious subjects that seemed to have no actual bearing on their local lives, they gradually and unconsciously succumbed to it.
In previous eras this disorder usually occurred at nighttime, but with the increased stresses of their overworked, technology stoked, superstar worshipping, keeping up with The Jones’s, or just simply exhausted trying to survive and stay alive lifestyles, something had to give. That something was paying attention to what was happening past the length of their noses. Once that decision was made, the human bodies as human bodies do over time, began to adapt by altering the amount of GABA being released during the daytime hours in a large portion of the population. GABA is a neurotransmitter and one of the primary chemicals involved in preventing sleepwalking.
While awake, they no longer got overly excited about anything happening in that faraway city called the District of Something or in those boring national and state congresses where auctions were held. If it didn’t affect them or their paycheck personally, or it didn’t involve the utterly ridiculous idea of a woman’s right to control her own body, they didn’t care to think about it. A large portion of the land’s people simply started sleepwalking through their lives.
Sure there were still harmless manifestations like ice cream containers left out overnight to melt all over the the kitchen and people waking with dirt filled fingernails and blackened feet from midnight gardening escapades outside, but the greater displays of nationwide daylight somnambulism were far more lethal.
There had always been “shysters” among them, but they most often worked very hard to remain under the radar and reach their goals in the most inconspicuous ways. However, there came a day in this land when all this changed. The self proclaimed greatest amongst them blatantly declared with vigor and vim that he could do anything he wanted, even shoot someone in the middle of a famous street, without recrimination. People laughed at the utter ridiculousness of it and went on with their microscopic lives. There was a status quo to keep, and all of those things that really didn’t affect them could only be ignored by sleepwalking 24/7.
The ground had been prepared and the assault on liberty, logic, and civility began without much notice. The shysters and the somnambulists formed a very successful partnership to which only one group of them was actually privy or in the position to reap any tangible benefits from.
The land began to cry. People began to die. The shysters started mini wars all across the nation. But not enough people died for most of its citizens to concern themselves. Until. Until it became time for the contest. This land was known for loving a good contest.
Those stricken with somnambulism remained as they were, but the others, those who’d been struggling to sleep for years, became even more awake, or “more woke”. They began using every waking moment to alert others to the literal and figurative fires that were being set and raging throughout the land. Millions registered to participate in the contest in hopes of saving the people, even the ones sleepwalking, from the perils they’d become numb to in recent years.
And it worked.
The shysters were imprisoned and or exiled for their contemptible crimes against humanity.
A majority of the people slowly recovered from the trauma and painful assaults on decency and dignity they’d become accustomed to. It wasn’t perfect, and there was still much work to do, but it was much, much better. Although some still chose the comfort of somnambulism and some still railed on about that ridiculous notion that a woman’s body and her decisions about it are her own, the country rose from the darkness of those days and the ashes left behind left behind by he whom future historians will describe as the greatest circus ringmaster, the preeminent, most despicable, misogynistic, pig of a con man that ever lived.
The End ( but not the end of me causing “good trouble”)