Last year, during a series of poetry workshops I facilitated at Magnolia Clubhouse, one of the writers, Anna, discovered a pansy that had rooted itself and sprung up against all odds in a tiny crack between some bricks next to the building. She photographed it, wrote about it, and shared with the group how she’d taken to watering it, and had swaddled it in moss to help protect it from the elements. Anna and her pansy made a great metaphor come alive for all of us: whether our origins were nurturing or challenging, whether the conditions we are confronted with each day support us or test us, we are here, and we all contain the possibility of living out our great beauty. And yes, a little water and warmth can go a long way.
I have found, both as a writer and as a facilitator of writing, that this is one very important concept to cultivate. Having lost my mother to acute leukemia when I was 12, I entered my adolescence as a pretty fragile flower. And even with the kind care of those around me, I struggled mightily, having no one to share my deepest questions and my intense, hormone-heavy experiences with. My journal became my best confidante, and poetry, my refuge. So my writing has always been about my life experiences, written from wherever I happened to be “planted” and growing at the time to help me figure things out.
Quiet, Quiet, Lyrical Miracle
It’s drizzling this morning on my new plaid dress. The rain makes it smell like bug spray, and I’m worried he’ll smell it. Yesterday in Family Living, which we all know means Sex Education, the nurse said, “remember “vagina” by thinking “Virginia.” He breathed into my hair, “that’s my aunt’s name…I hope I don’t get mixed up.” When I look up, his bus is already here and then he’s walking so close by I see the freckles on his neck, the soft white hair on the tops of his ears. And that’s when it happens. Right near my hip bones, but deeper in my body, I feel two “pings” like guitar strings being plucked—just where my ovaries are—I saw it on the Family Living chart. At first I’m scared and worry it made noise, but no one’s looking. So I think that maybe I ovulated for the first time ever, and I marvel at the power of my love for Joe Edwards, that it could turn me into a woman while I stand here in the rain.
Well, no, it didn’t come out this way in my journal when I first wrote it. This is the prose poem it became when I reexamined this early experience in light of my greater journey of becoming a woman whose life, whose ways of being, have been informed by the early loss of her mother. This summer, a chapbook of poems I wrote with this in mind will be released by Finishing Line Press. If I’d written about anything other than my own experiences and my unique reflections of what calls to me in the world, this book would not be.
Cindy and Donna with Bee Tara
Here I am with the amazing artist, Donna Drozda, standing in front of a painting she made in response to my poem, “The End of Bees.” I wrote it when I first read about the dire condition of our world’s honeybee population as a way to move through my own grief and to sound the alarm in my own community in the best way I knew. Donna created the Bee Tara—spiritual protector and healer of bees—out of her connection and response to the bee’s plight. I’m so happy to report that Bee Tara will be the cover illustration for my chapbook, Sings the Body (of course without the two of us in the foreground)!
So the gift goes on. There are certainly many, many valid ways to write, to make art, many valid topics to pursue. There will never be a shortage. For me, writing from my own center and from my own experiences is most satisfying. And connecting with others via what comes from their lives, their own deep interiors, is equally satisfying.
Think about this today. What is important to you? What memories keep floating up to the surface of your pond? What is your particular take on things that trouble or elate you in the world at large or around your own dinner table? Take out a pen and paper or start tapping your keyboard. After all, it’s spring—it’s time to bloom.