A slowly sipped coffee

I have a routine. I rise before the sun. I sit and sip my coffee slowly until it’s lukewarm while I tell time by listening to the traffic change on our street. A quiet time in a family of night owls. Gracie the cat stares at me until I set her breakfast down and then she pretends she didn’t even want it. I catch up on Twitter and Facebook.

Then I let my mind wander. Small blessings come into focus like annoyed-joy I felt when my husband and son woke me up with loud laughter last night. Or the gratitude I feel that I have taught my son to reflect on challenges and find the gift within. Or how much I am enjoying reorganizing my home and getting rid of what I no longer want or need.

My organization is more than striving towards a clutter-free life. It’s about unlocking my soul.

I am building spaces for creativity. My drawing and painting supplies are all together now. Gorgeous beads and fabrics are reminding me that I once made a living beautifying the world. I have moved the binder of first draft of a novel and handwritten notes out of a bin in the basement and placed it by my computer.

I think about my life.

Once I was a chemist who ran away to be an artist.

I sit with those words and know that is not quite the truth.

Once an artist became a chemist. Her parents insisted that she needed to do something practical to pay the bills. She could alway have her hobbies, they said.

She was a dutiful daughter. She locked the magic of her soul in a beautiful box. She forgot about it. Then one day, she found it and opened it. The thought of closing it up was unbearable and so she ran away to a beautiful crystal city 3000 miles away.

They were wrong. Words and beads and pencil lines turned into rent and food and clothes.

I’m not sure how it happened but as time passed, I reframed life in San Francisco as prolonged youthful escapades. I told myself that I was grown up and ready to settle down. Slowly, I fell into an old pattern. Art last. Writing last.

Once an artist became an executive.

Then she rediscovered herself and the cycle begins again.

I have reached the last air-chilled drop of my morning coffee. It’s colder than usual and the traffic is louder. More time has passed than I planned. I must go. I have a short story to revise.

The Rising Tides

The tides here swell and spill into the roads, more often now. Houses cling to shore. Most pretend that this is normal because to say goodbye is too hard. But I say goodbye every day as I walk and drive past the waters that I love.

I study the topographic maps. “This Portland neighborhood will be the new peaks island,” I think, as though the change will be gentle. But the sea is a not gentle. Storms will batter the coast and tides will pull the ground from beneath our feet.

We let the low tides trick us. “See,” we say as we kayak out on the waters “the sands are here as they have always been.” And in a far away place, an ice sheet crumbles.

Finalist entry for personal climate stories, 350 Madison’s 2020 #givingtuesday event.

New anthology by Maine Writers

I am honored to have a new flash fiction piece included in an imperative press anthology to document the pandemic and raise money for the United way of Eastern Maine’s Covid-19 relief fund.

My work was inspired by the incidental meetings of neighbors as we tried to break the isolation of social distancing.

I hope you will consider purchasing this anthology to help Maine nonprofits weather the impact of this pandemic.

Visit Imperative Press to find out more about Paul Bunyan Wears a Face Mask.

Hoping publishing will alway make my heart sing!

I just had a new work accepted in an anthology. My heart skipped a beat when I found out. This is my second piece that will be published.

I am a long way from being jaded or bored with people reading my work. I can barely contain my eagerness when I ask family, friends and other writers to give me their feedback.

“Have you read it yet?” I text with the persistence of a child on a long ride who wants to know are we there yet.

I hope two things: that I keep publishing and that I feel a thrill every time. I will write more about the new piece as more information on the anthology becomes available but this has me thinking about the first story I ever published.

In April of 2018, my short story, The Closing, was published by The Esthetic Apostle. It’s a lovely publication featuring poetry, prose, artwork and photography. They were a new publication when I sent them my work.

Cover photo of esthetic apostle magazine.

Last night, I spent some quiet hours surfing around past issue reading poetry and prose and loving the artwork and photographs.

Their archive is worth exploring.

Getting un-lost

The world is reminding me of my life in San Francisco in the 1990s. Along with that has come a longing for the creative life I once led. A time of writing, painting, and drawing.

So I am sprinkling seeds for the future all over the place. I don’t know what will take root or when.

Today I was walking and ran into an acquaintance. She shared that she was a writer and editor. And boom. It hit me. When coincidence presents itself, reach out with vulnerability and gratitude. Life if too short not to welcome the gifts.

So in a very San Francisco-like drizzle, I shared my love of writing and my desire to get back to it, to make connections in the writing world and, most importantly, craft compelling stories that make my heart soar.

If this was a Hollywood film, that little encounter would have kicked off a series of events that ended in a book deal.

Turns out my wonderful neighbor was a retired science and non fiction writer. The gift wasn’t a professional contact, it was the feeling of joy I experienced talking about the process of writing. How I take an issue and create a person who lives in different circumstances and watch them interact with the issue. The way I listen to character the for days while they tell me their story and find their meaning. The passion I have for writing.

It’s good to find my way back home.

A Deeper Gratitude

This morning, I stumbled upon an NPR interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast. I wonder how in all my years, I just found him today. Like many I admire, he has a religious practice but also a spiritual practice. He is a mystic, a philosopher, a psychologist, a scholar and a teacher. He studies, connects and see the value in other religious and spiritual traditions. He practices mindfulness. He had published many books and articles. I read and listen to other teachers in his circle. He has a ted talk! And yet, I just found his teachings today.

Many of his talks focus on gratefulness. Like many, I have been keeping a gratitude journal for years. I have paper journals, notebooks and several apps for my iphone. Sometimes I am dedicated and do daily journaling, sometimes months will go by with nothing. During easy times, gratitude is a brilliant sun warming myself and those around me. During rough times, gratitude has helped me find stars of hopefulness in the wide expanse of challenges.

But what if the stars of hope seem to be light years away? There are times when expressing gratitude at those moments feel false.

I have discovered that those are the moments when I have practiced gratitude in a superficial way. In our most challenging times, a quick look for gratitude may leave us feeling empty because we are looking for a happy moment outside of the pain, disappointment or grief.

But what if we seek to discover gratitude within the challenge? In that case we are looking for something different. We can find authentic gratitude through deep silence. Out of the silence will arise our insight to the opportunities inherent in challenging times.

Mindfulness is one process that will help you clear a contemplative space for deep exploration. In the interview, Steindl-Rast suggested visualizing the problems floating down one by one to the bottom of a lake. Once you gain some distance from the concerns, you clear a space to contemplate. This visualization makes me remember the peace of floating while holding your breath, your eyes and ears in a different world.

Now you wait.

Look for opportunities. Look for surprises. You will be able to touch the pain and still find the gratitude in the opportunities that will arise. This gratitude will feel authentic.

Sometimes the real gratitude will come quickly. Sometimes slowly.

Today we are faced with a devastating pandemic. Some have resources to weather the social isolation well; others do not. Some people have contracted the disease. Some have lost loved ones. Others are experiencing hunger and financial ruin. The pause of our economic engine hurts many. The earth is taking a deep breath.

Everything has been churned up.

The future is uncertain, but we know that we will be changed by the experience. We will have much to mourn from the impact of coronavirus. We can and should reach out to help each other.

We can look for the surprising outcomes and we can be grateful for the opportunities that will surely arise.

Be well.

Click to find more about Brother David Steindal-Rast.

Gratitude and inequality in corona times

Everyday my family talks about the coronavirus.

We are fortunate. We have food and my job is the kind of job that lets me easily work from home. Some people are working in hospitals treating people who are sick. Some people are losing their jobs.

We are fortunate. We have a yard with baseball rebounders and hockey nets. We can walk to fields and play in the sun and stay safe and separate, greeting neighbors from distances more than six feet. Some people are stuck inside more than we are.

We are fortunate. We have the resources to weather this challenge and find little joys every day. A few Instagram worthy meals. A yard needing the satisfying work of spring cleanup. Snowdrops and crocuses pushing their way up reminding us of renewal.

The pain of this crisis falls disproportionately on our most vulnerable citizens. Nationwide hourly workers are losing their jobs and they likely have no cushion.

Single parents have an unimaginable workload as they try to balance parenting, educating their children, paying bills when the outlook is uncertain.

Parents of children with special needs fine their safety net ripped to shreds as providers are no longer able to support them all the while their children have fear and need more.

Elderly and people with significant health issues must self isolate to avoid serous complications and death. They count on all of us to reduce the exposure and transmission.

Last week, our society was reshaped by coronavirus. Planning and preparing for our new reality was time consuming. Anxiety was high. Gratitude was important first step. My gratitude highlighted inequalities that are important to work to address.

This week, I will work on addressing the inequities. There are representatives and senators to call. There are nonprofits to donate to. There are isolated friends to reach out to.

Be well. We can weather this if we keep our hearts connected while our bodies stay separate