Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elements of lost light...

I went to the desert repenting--
in the quiet I remembered the sound of the ocean;
listened to the sound of open spaces
with a rock pressed against my ear.
I wanted to be lost;
to be found because there was little else to see.

I found a patch of cool grass,
a mirage or a miracle, I couldn't tell,
but I lay on the blades
grateful for the cool relief.
The light was different, filtering through the trees
laying messages on the ground
speaking like someone dead
speaking like someone living.

I whispered the story of my mother, my sister, my best friend--
the women I knew changed to leaves
light filtering through the green
a pattern on the grass
a pattern on my cheek and hands.
They were the wisdom I checked myself by;
the ones I forgot when I became selfish.


I dreamed of painting:
my hands in the dark paint
my elbows red like open wounds
a dark orange crust under my fingernails
blue on my knuckles
a stark navy smudge on one cheek.
I felt water pooling beneath my back;
I wanted to paint the sky.

I picked up needles and a ball of different fibers.
I made a carpet
a blanket
a shawl
a cap
four pairs of mittens
seven socks.
I knitted the world
and put it into my bag.

I carried things on my back:
blue stockings and regret.
I wrote the words I couldn't say--
all the lies that belonged to someone else
all the lies I heard and told.

I carried bricks so I could remember pain
stones for guilt
iron hanks for things I said but didn't mean
stakes for things I said and meant.
I put in feathers for all the things I am proud of.

My back grew strong,
but still couldn't bear one memory.
I carried it my hands, so it wouldn't be forgotten.
My hands blistered around it;
I couldn't forget.


I looked at the world and tried to write it.
I listened to the world and sang its new and ancient song.
I wrote and painted and stitched and knit.
I stretched my back.
I carried it all.
I told the truth as often as I could.
I lied when the truth was too heavy on my tongue.

I remembered the women who shared their wisdom--
who lay beside me on the grass
who held my hands
who told me time would pass as it would.

I forgot the desert,
the ocean,

Then, I was found.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What these words say about you...

I believe everyone should have a poem: some piece of writing that says something true and deliberate about who they really are. This one is mine.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

--Mary Oliver

Friday, August 21, 2009

A lesson learned...again...

My favorite professor in college told me that genius comes to us in the shower. It a strange paradox...that you would come up with genius ideas when you have no paper, no pen, and your hands are too wet to write it down. Still, there was a great lesson in his simple statement. What he really meant was that genius comes to us when we least expect it; when are minds are allowed to wander to where they will; when we are unbound from our inhibitions and commitments. For a long time I took this advice to heart and carried a little notebook in my purse, just in case some genius came to me. When I was prepared, I had the most amazing thoughts, and I was able to record them before they turned to gold and became dust. As time moved on, I got out of the habit of carrying a notebook. I still had moments of pure genius, but I was unprepared to capture them. They moved away from me and on to someone else. They were lost to me and now have become inconsequential because they were unused, unwritten.

Last week I had a glimpse of genius. I was sitting at a stop light. It was dusk and I was watching the sunset. I had in that moment the best idea for a story. Its characters and scene practically unfolded in the colors of the sky. I knew how to start and the line of plot seemed real and obvious. We're talking Pulitzer Prize winning idea. Unfortunately, I had nothing to write on. I was sure I would remember, but when I got home I was immediately over taken with other parts of life. The evening passed before I remembered there was something I was supposed to remember. By then it was midnight and the idea at the stop light had long since passed on its way.

I wonder how many ideas have been lost because they weren't written down. My own number is depressingly large. When I think about what I could have written, what I have missed, I am filled with a deep sense of regret. I must carry a notebook...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keeping up with the Jones...

This post is for Amber. As one of my faithful blog followers, and BFF, I felt she needed a entry just for her. Admittedly, I have alterior motives for writing this post. The only other blog Amber reads is authored by her sister in law who is wildly witty and very entertaining. I am openly threatened by this as I like to fancy myself both witty and funny. I know... I know! I shouldn't care. I shouldn't care that Amber laughs heartily in her cubicle as she reads Bryttin's blog and then shares it with everyone as being hilarious. I shouldn't care that she doesn't laugh when she reads my blog, but instead just smiles and says, "Well that was well written." When she says such things, I feel like someone has taken a large red marker and written all over my blog horrible comments like "great idea" and "you're getting there." I am transported to my high school writing days when no one recognized or appreciated my genius. I am hurt...just a little.

So, now I feel like I have to write a blog post that rivals Bryttin's. One that will make Amber laugh outloud and call people to her cube to read. I am handicapped by the fact I do not have an adorable toddler walking around saying charming things. I don't have crazy neighbors who perform crazy acts in their backyards. I have no anectdotes about plumbers or electricians or roofers coming to my house to deliver their tradesman antics. I have no husband to unknowingly provide me with winning blogging material, while he innocently eats his pork chop. I have no pearls or orange cream colored pumps. I have no idea how to make Lime Sublime Suprise. I am convinced that the absence of these things is why Amber does not laugh at my blog. I am caught up in the game of keeping up the Joneses and suddenly have nothing clever or witty to say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A history told by water...

My family vacations at the same spot every year. It is a tradition that started with my grandparents, passed to my parents, and continues with my brothers and me. My grandparents chose Redfish Lake largely because of location. Being Idaho farmers, they needed to be close enough to the farm to return quickly. They couldn't be separated from the land for more than a few days. My grandpa would deep flood the potato fields, over water the hay, and then pack his wife and kids in the pickup and go. They would follow the Lost River up through Mackey and Challis to where it met the Salmon. Following the Salmon would take them up the canyon to Redfish.

The first night was often spent on the beach near the point. Grandpa would lay a tarp down, the kids would lay down their sleeping bags, and then grandpa would pull another tarp across the top. He and grandma slept in the truck at the campground gates. In the time before reservations, the key to getting the camping spot of your choice required planning. It was first come, first serve and my grandpa was always there first--parking Sunday night, bedding his kids on the beach, ready for the Monday morning opening.

Redfish Lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was named by explorers becuase when they found it, the lake was teeming with Sockeye Salmon, their crimson scales flashing in the water tinting it red. Maybe I am sentimental, maybe my family history with lake makes it more than it is, but it is also a truly amazing place. It is calm and uncrowded. In the mornings and the evenings, the lake spreads out like a sheet of glass; its surface unbroken and clear blue. Light falls from the East or West and reflects off the water. There is little sound except for water on the shore, the day break or evening call of birds, the occasional jump of a fish. On all sides their are mountains of trees and the head is shadowed by Mount Heyburn. It is balm for the self, balm for the soul.

Since my dad died, my love for the lake has deepened. I can feel him there. I believe a person's spirit revisits the places they loved in the mortal realm. They are still drawn to the landscape and feeling of a place. They still love what they loved. I like to think about my dad visiting Redfish even though I can't see him. I like to imagine him sitting on the shore in the soft morning light, looking out across the water, and breathing deeply before the beginning of the day. I see him in the strange of light of evening, silhouetted against the sun, pulling in the moor lines, anchoring the boat, and standing knee deep in the blue. I feel him in the water, on the shore, against the skyline, waiting and watching.

When I die I want to be taken to Redfish. I want my ashes sprinkled at the head waters and the outlet stream. I want to be part of the water and the trees and the sand. I want to be carried by a fish to the sea. If the heart has home outside of its landscapse, then Redfish is mine. It holds years of traditions, and memories, and family. It is our history. It is my history. It is my family's story told by water.