There is only now

I swim at an outdoor community pool.  The pool is open year round. I know winter is coming because the water temperature has dropped to 76 degrees and I know it is going to be cold when I hit the water.  This week as I stand at the edge of the pool ready to dive in and begin my laps, I’ve had to give myself a pep talk to  leap into the bracing water.

Yesterday, as I hesitated at the edge of the pool, I prevaricated. It was 7:33 AM.  The pool had just opened. No one was in the water, and the surface was glassy smooth.  I was going to have the privilege of being the first person in the pool.  I knew it was going to be chilly and that it was going to feel so much better once I started swimming.  I finally just told myself, “You’re going to do this anyway, so you might just as well get to it.”

A lot of life is like this.  I know I’m going to do something– make my bed, take out the trash, write those reports, make that phone call, write that email–so I might as well just get to it and get the job done.  This is where I find a to-do list helpful.  I make a list of all the things I need and want to do and then I prioritize.  Somethings get put off for a more convenient time.  For instance, if I need to drive into town to get an item taken care of, (drop books at the library, mail a package, pick up drugs at the drugstore, get a haircut, buy groceries, etc.) it works best to lump several things into one trip.

Somethings for my to-do list are just too big, and I need to figure out how to break the task into smaller pieces. (Do I need to find some help complete a task?)  I do this so I can make some progress, but also so that instead of putting a project off, I can at least begin. It is like the swimming.  The hardest part is getting into the pool. For me the hardest part is getting items on to the to-do list.

Once I dive in and start swimming, I feel great.  I love the feel of stretching my body out and having the water support me as I stroke to the other end of the pool.  I enjoy the feel and my amazement at how far my body can travel in the water with each swing of my arm and the kicking of my feet. It does feel good.  And anyway, while I’m swimming I can think about all those things I need to add to my to-do list.

There is a similarity between how I feel when I’m done swimming my laps and the joy and satisfaction I get from checking an item off my to-do list.  Now, I must get to it.

How are you spending your now?

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Toastmasters

This last weekend I attended Area Directors training for Toastmasters District 49, part of Toastmasters International. The meeting took place at the University of Phoenix in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.

This was quite an adventure for me because in the three years I have lived on Kauai, I have never taken a day-trip to visit another island.

It seems a different mind-set to me to think of flying to another island to meet with people.  I guess it isn’t too different from driving from Tucson to Phoenix, or Los Angeles to San Diego  for the day, but I’d never done it before by plane, and of course, one can’t just drive from one island to the next.

I think I’m the most blessed person on my island because when I emailed the person putting together the meeting with questions about how to get from the airport (distance, possible cab or bus fares, and car pooling opportunities,)  John Coleman offered to pick me up and shuttle me back to the airport when the meeting was over.  How good is that?  I had the ear of the Program Quality Director for the ride to the meeting.  I could ask him all the (what I thought were probably stupid) questions about the meeting and the people I would meet for the first time.  John is such a calm, steady person; my nerves and fears were quickly dispelled.  And, oh was he good at introducing me to all the folks helping him to organize the meeting.

About half-way through the morning, I had to smile.  It felt good.  I remembered teaching poetry workshops to 4th through 6th graders at a summer day camp for young writers.  Each summer I’d see kids blossom and thrill to be with their friends who spoke the same language.  Who understood what it is like to be a little bit nerdy.  Those kids felt welcomed–like they had found their tribe.

I looked around the training room.  I was impressed with the people I met.  They were effective speakers and effective leaders providing a valuable service to others.

I felt like I had found my tribe, a place where I can grow, learn new skills and be of service to others.

Stay tuned, while I try to keep up with all the things I’m learning and doing.

 

Meanderings

It is three o’clock in the afternoon and heavy, dark clouds are blowing in from the eastern shore.  I’m watching the cows in the pasture out my studio window and I see them slowly meander back down the hill toward the shelter of the trees and the barn.  Every morning I watch the cows go up the hill and then in the afternoon they mosey back.  The egrets hop along in the long grass with them, or some hitch a ride on the back of the cows.  It is all a very pastoral scene.  I think how much richer my life is for these cows.  Their daily routine has me pondering my own routines and how I’m constantly putting myself out there and then coming back to my place of security.  What routines do you have, if any?  What have you done recently to put yourself out there?  What is your place of safety and comfort?

It is spring a time of renewal, what will you be doing to renew yourself?

Whatever it is, enjoy and read some poetry.

It Doesn’t Work

I recently read a blog post that suggested if you needed to remember your creative ideas that come in the night while you are sleeping, just make up a song about the idea and since song lyrics are stored in a different part of the brain, your idea will stay safely stored there until morning when you can get back to you writing.  This sounded like a great idea.  The next time I’m having trouble sleeping because in my head I’m working out the next plot device, I can just start writing a little song, a sonetta, or a ditty.  It certainly sounds easy enough.  I love the idea of all my creative thoughts packing up their suitcase to move to a new and different part of my brain.  Just like finding a clean and relaxing hotel room.

BUT, wait!  I’m a children’s poet.  I’ve tried writing poems at night in bed while I’m trying to sleep.  Wouldn’t my creative projects be stored in the same place as that song?  Wouldn’t the rhythm of the song be the same as the rhythm of my poem? I already know this doesn’t work.  There are thousands of nights when I’ve had an idea for a poem and spent time in my dream state working out the rhyme and meter–a strong marching cadence.  I’ve even congratulated myself on the elegant rhymes, the excellent word choice, the stunning verbs, the fantastic images I’ve been able to pack into a few short lines.  I chuckle at the funny twist I’ve been able to roll into the last line.  I feel so good about what I’ve been able to accomplish in the tight little verse, that I’m able to lull myself back to sleep.  When I awake, I remember the good time I had putting together my children’s poem.  I might even remember what the topic of the poem was, but I’m usually not able to retrieve my end rhymes, or the funny twist at the end.  This drives me crazy.  In fact, in the light of day, my little poem doesn’t sound so funny at all and the twelve lines I had in my sleep, now only comes out as four or eight.

This is why I have a handy little device by my bed–a note pad with a built in pen.  The pad lights up when I remove the pen.  This lets me jot down my ideas in the night.  It doesn’t make my rhymes better, but it does store the thought until I can get up and work on the verses.  It gives me peace of mind so I can go back to sleep until I’m ready to get up and play with the words and poetic lines.  Of course this might be part of the reason my best working time is between 3 and 5 in the middle of the night.  When the words want to come out to play, I want to be there to party with them.

Ah, the life of a children’s poet is a very strange lot.

Sounds of Life

It is 3 AM and I’m awake again.  This time the noise that woke me was the garden cart blowing away from the house.  At first I thought someone was trying to steal the cart from all the racket the wheels made rolling over the concrete patio.  But when I turned on a light in the garden and saw the cart in the flower bed, I knew the culprit for all the noise must be the wind.

There has been the constant tingy music from the wind chime and I remember the weather announcer saying we were having 17 mile-an-hour winds for the next three days–trade winds.  Or did he predict the wind in knots?  No, it must have been miles.  The ocean waves surrounding this island have been cresting in white foam.

My mind is wandering, as minds will late at night.  All of the sudden it seems very important to remember the sound of the creek that ran, burbled behind the house I lived in in Chapel Hill.  I can picture it.  The sunlight glistening off the ripples, like diamonds tossed in the current.  I can remember the green of the moss that grew on the wet rocks and the way I’d leap from boulder to boulder as I tried to cross the creek following the old path the deer have tromped out for centuries.

Yes, I can see the creek clearly in my mind’s eye.  I can feel the cooling chill of its wet water. I remember it all so well.  So why can my ear hear that burble of the water tumbling over the rocks?  Why can’t I hear that sound, the white noise which will lull me back to sleep?

I trust…

I recently received a weekly post from Poets & Writers.  It included a poetry prompt and a book recommendation.

It also included this:

WRITERS RECOMMEND
 

If you’re looking for more inspiration, visit Writers Recommend, our online feature in which writers reveal the habits that keep them writing. This week’s installment comes from Bao Phi, author of Thousand Star Hotel (Coffee House Press, 2017).

“That blank page is there waiting for me to jump in, to sink or swim. I end up flailing about and not knowing what I’m doing. But I trust it’s all part of the process. I trust that…”
It was that repetition of “I trust,” that got me to thinking, do I really trust my writing?
What do I trust about it?
Do I trust when I sit down with a blank page and begin to write that something interesting is going to happen?  Do I trust that my words are going to be significant?  That they will be worth the time or in a little way important?  The only thing I trust is that whatever I write, it will need re-writing, revision,and a great lot of editing.
These days, I can’t even trust that the pen I pick up to write with is going to work.
I guess you could say I have trust issues because when I sit down to write, I never know where I’m going to end up. I never know where my writing is going to take me.  That is where the fun resides for me.
My writing is goulash, a mesh-mash of flavors and textures.  It requires a lot of refining to achieve something edible or sustainable.  My only hope is that with practice, I will get better.
What about you?  Do you have trust issues too?

YOU’RE OK

I do believe in karma, fate, and serendipity. Recently I had a book jump off of my too crowded bookshelf begging to be re-read. A convenient sized little paperback, “Zen and the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury. ©1999.

It has been so long since I first read this book, it is like a whole new adventure and coming home at the same time. The first two words of the book are “Zest. Gusto.” Who doesn’t need a little more of that in their life? In their writing?

In his essay on How to Keep and Feed a Muse, Bradbury advises, “Read poetry every day of your life.” As a children’s poet, how can I not love a man with such understanding of the benefits of poetry?

In the essay Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle, Bradbury talks about a fan letter he received at 33 years of age. “I had my way of seeing, writing and living approved of by a man who became a second father to me.

I needed that approval. We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we are not crazy after all, that what we are doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!” (p. 54)

Reading those words, it hit me. Yes, there was and there still are many times in my life when I need someone to tell me, it’s OK. I’m doing all right.

Looking back, I think the first time I heard those words, they came from Bee Cullinan at one of the Chautauqua Summer Writers Workshops. She encouraged me to write children’s poetry. Then, every workshop I have attended since, I have had other voices of encouragement. (David Harrison, Eileen Spinelli, Alice Schertle) That is what the Highlights writers workshops are all about–offering encouragement to one another.

Each time I come home from a Highlights event, I fall crazy, madly in love, all over again with the act of writing poetry for children. For me, life doesn’t get much better.

Who are the people in your life who tell you it is all right, you’re doing fine? Who makes you feel you’re OK?