answers to the: 11 questions to ask while shaping a memoir

Holly Sierra
Holly Sierra
  1. Why am I writing this story?

    Because it asked to be written. 

  2. Why am I compelled to share it?

    Because I saw a gold-leafed binding.
    Because I like to be helpful.
    Because I want to alleviate suffering. 
     

  3. What is the message in the telling?

    Life transcends story. Life is steeped in story.
    The story is both personal and divine play. 

  4. What shapes the story?

    My personal loss. Our common heart. 

  5. Who are the readers?

    Those interested in the story and the transcendence of it. 

  6. How does this work align with my life purpose?

    To explore, speak, shape & celebrate the truth in the story and beyond it. 

  7. How does this work transcend any measure of outer success?

    Damn it. I don’t like this question.
    Truth serves truth, I suppose.
     

  8. What is rare about this offering?

    It is my singular dance with all that is. 

  9. What justifies the amount of time I have devoted to the work?

    I don’t like this question either.
    Truth, art, expression–the dance. 

  10. Who am I in this story?

    A seeker. A child of God. A motherless child. A princess. A queen. A woman.
    Myself. In communion with the Divine Feminine.
     

  11.  Where will you begin and end?

    With the Divine Feminine:
    At the moment of my deepest loss (at 14);
    and in the moment of my deepest self-compassion/revelation (on the eve of 50.)

 

~The Yoga of Lila

11 questions to ask while shaping a memoir

  1. Holly Sierra
    Holly Sierra

    Why am I writing this story?

  2. Why am I compelled to share it?
  3. What is the message in the telling?
  4. What shapes the story?
  5. Who are the readers?
  6. How does this work align with my life purpose?
  7. How does this work transcend any measure of outer success?
  8. What is rare about this offering?
  9. What justifies the amount of time I have devoted to the work?
  10. Who am I in this story?
  11. (What questions do you ask yourself?)

old men in cafes

Winging-It-Text

For years, the women whittle away perfectly productive days in parks and cafes and street corners
with little ones at their knees
Grasping for food or love or the toy that has fallen
While they attempt to finish/speak/have a complete thought

And now they are all gone…

Replaced by aged men
Who fritter away entire mornings
Engaged in the ritual of companionship and conversation

While their female counterparts
similarly aged,
Practice yoga or Pilates
or run a campaign
or build a community center

Each balancing
what was lost
in the heat
of living

notes from the sea

Marblehead Harbor; Kelly Salasin, 2014; all rights reserved

the ten thousand things
a divination
of attention
~
all burdens made
light
by the sea
~
she captured attention
not with her beauty
which was great
but with her presence
which was full
of grace
~
dutch travelers ask how it is that their flag
hangs
in front of every shop
in the USA
with one word:
OPEN

Summer reeling

I cannot tell if the day is ending, or the world, or if the secret of secrets is inside me again. ― Anna Akhmatova

IMG_0020

I want to tell you about something, but I’m not sure how.

It’s about summer’s passing.

It’s about the sun setting.

It’s about walking away from the beach, across the field, leaving summer behind.

It’s about feeling like summer is under my feet, reeling backward, faster and faster, with each step I take.

It’s about seeing my youth dragged along underneath it.

It’s about the sudden knowing that summer’s ending echoes my own.

Ripening still

I want to tug only on those things that are truly ripe.
I want to let everything else take its sweet time.
(Virgo New Moon, Wise Harvest,  )

My youngest brother & sister, 1994
My youngest brother & sister, 1994 at the farmhouse we rented when we first moved to Vermont

As an adult, I’ve never been an author of fiction, and yet I remember delighting in it on Thursday mornings in the 4th grade where each of us got to put her hand into a packet of prompts: one for characters, one for setting, and one for plot–and then get to imagining!

I loved the surprise of it. Not knowing what strips I would get. Not knowing what story would unfold.

It’s the same with the writing I do now; even though I harvest the strips from my own life: this quote about the Virgo New Moon at the top of the page for instance, and this vision that has been rippling in my mind’s eye of my mother on the front steps of my first house in Vermont, 20 years ago.

I’m not sure how or if they go together or what may come of either, but they beckon and I follow…

My mother disliked Virgos. My father was one. She cautioned me about my choice in a husband, scolding me that it was only a matter of time before his easy nature revealed a truer self–one with a critical need for perfection.

She was right and she was wrong. (My father and husband must have different risings.)

My mother loved astrology. The tarot. The runes. Transcendental texts. All things beyond.

Me too. Only I came to it slower, and then sprinted–when my mother was taken from me too soon.

In the years before her death, before we knew she would be dying, I left my hometown by the sea for a little house in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Though my mother was 50 at the time, she still had little ones at home–my youngest brother and sister, twenty years my junior–and I brought them up to enjoy a week in the country while my mother enjoyed a rare week to herself.

When my mother arrived to fetch them the following weekend, they were covered in bug bites and bruises and they had so much to tell her.  That next morning, while the children were still sleeping, I was surprised to see mother out on the steps that led up from the field to our front lawn.

She sat there on the stones in the warming sun of a cool, summer morning, with a steaming mug in her hand, embraced by the mountains.

I was struck by the depth of her presence. Of her stillness. Of the stark contrast to her lifetime of doing. And I paused in my busyness in witness of her.

It’s where I find myself now. At the same age. In the same season. The sleeping children–my own. The house–the one my husband later built–the home my mother never met. And the stone steps? Brand new.

For ten years, I’ve had to leap out the French doors to place myself on the front lawn.

But with the ripening of August and age, I am invited to step down.

To sit.

To be still.

To receive the embrace of mountains.

And the warmth of the early morning sun on stone.

With the added delight of an unexpected communion, across time.

~
(more on stillness: The Still Ones)