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 where we lived for 7 years when we first moved to Vermont. Medburyville. With “Mayor” Lenny Chapman.

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–after she 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 her 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, with my mother, at the same age as I am now.

(more on stillness: The Still Ones)

Writing Retreat


It’s hard to believe it,  but after a decade and more of anticipation for the FU Fifties, it’s now less than a month away before they’re MINE. (Ready or not.)

I began this 49th year with a week by the sea to begin writing. The book which was “supposed” to be published by 50. A watershed piece born from that time: The END of Everything, and the remainder of the winter spent sobbing through the excavation of that heartbreak.

When finished, I realized that I didn’t have the memoir I wanted. There was a tender story of loss, but there was something else waiting in the wings, and I gave myself spring to discover it.

At 49 and a half, just before summer broke onto the scene, I took a long weekend at a writing retreat in  Vermont and began writing again. It was there that I conceived of my story in three parts, including a strand that is still (and may always be) revealing itself.

An excerpt from my time away reveals my nature–full of doubt, vision, questioning, distraction and clarity. I share it now as a testimony to my process, “the” process of creating something new.

Rochester, Vermont
June 6, 2013
Soon to Rain

I have no faith in my story. In myself. Why am I here?

This is a familiar feeling so I stay with it. I find it in my stomach. Doubt. Fear. Not good enough. I decide to write my way into it to see what comes.

“Let things come,” was once my mantra for an entire year. I found it on a tea bag.

I feel sick with fear that I have nothing to write. That this work will amount to nothing. At first I wrote “my work” but I’ve been trying to enlarge the context of perception–replacing “my” with “the.”  I wonder if I might drop every “my” from my vocabulary.

What if that was my mantra.

The mantra.

I think it’s mildewy here. I thought it was the bathroom, but I still smell it now from the bed, and the sliding door to the tiny bathroom is closed.

It could be laundry detergent, specifically softener, which tends to bother my sense of smell and my eyes.

I breathe into that too.

I’m hungry. Dinner is not for another….

I’m not sure how long away dinner is because I’ve been writing in topless mode; that is, no desktop. Except for the photo of Kaoru’s sky. The one she took in the salt flats of Belize. The silhouettes of her friends are on my page. The page itself is surrounded by clouds. Earth & sky indistinguishable except for the people who must be walking on solid ground. (Mucking it is more like it)

I used one “my” in that paragraph.

Diana, of guest services, is in the kitchen, cooking our dinner, while listening to jazz. “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

Something might be crawling up my leg. I hope it’s not bed bugs.

I might take a nap.

The china here is Lila’s. The kitchen ware, Mom’s. Meissen & Pfaltzgraf. That pretty much sums up the two women in my dad’s life.

I feel a bit better after writing some. My eyes itch. My room is on the road which is disconcerting for a rural dweller like me. Of course, it’s a dirt road, and the inn is more rurally situated then my own 8 acres, but I’m not accustomed to cars driving by my bed.

Each time the heater or the water heater fires up, I think it’s thunder.

I was upgraded to this roadside room, and at first, I thought, I’ll take the lesser room to be more private. The lesser rooms are at the back of the house, next to the offices, with a shared bath. Awkward.

The “other” upstairs has rooms too. They also share a bath. Mine is the only one with its own bath besides the one in the back of the house on the ground floor which is a suite. It has a deck, and a larger bathroom, and a bigger bed, and a lot of space with a nice desk.  Neither of us was offered that room. Katherine or Catherine was given an upstairs room. She and I will be served a 4 course dinner tonight after appetizers and cocktails (the latter we have to buy.) We’ll be joined by Steve and John. Steve is the owner, while John is the writing coach, I think. Robin, another writer, arrives the day after that. (Robin is my sister’s name.)

I hope we don’t have to make small talk about writing and books.

I’m beginning to wheeze from the fabric softener.

The official chef isn’t here until tomorrow morning which is why Diana is preparing tonight’s meal.

This writing retreat isn’t going too well so far…

Paper Moon is playing now. It’s only a paper moon. This writing is only paper, and virtual paper at that.


psst… have a moment or two? YOUR insight needed here: Favor?