Friday, August 31, 2007


The cool foggy morning suits the children well, as they quickly settle into weaving friendship bracelets while still in pajamas. The cat begs, the chores wait—it’s the quiet that matters.

I stretch a stiff foot on my left, crane my neck and roll my shoulders—when I scratch my head, sand sifts to the floor. How many trips did I make through the waves yesterday? Thirty? Forty? Washing to shore laughing, my children astonished to find me at the foot of their growing sandcastle, rolling off the sandy board and into the surf. Brendan would stop long enough to applaud and point to the next swell growing on the horizon. Our teenage friend Sasha is built for this kind of play, her face alight as she shouts “Did you see? Oh my gosh! Am I drowned? There’s the next one… GO!”

My friend Diane wanted only to sit quietly in the sun at the shore, watching her threesome play “tsunami,” children running screaming from each translucent blue-green wave, sparkling eyes reminding that the screams are for drama, only.

Was it an hour? Two? Flopping exhausted on the warm blanket, shaking water from ears.

“What have I done?” I groaned to Diane. “Remind me to be in better shape next summer.”

“Was that as fun as it looked?” she asked.

“More. I’d keep going if there were more easy waves to ride, but the waves have shifted a bit. How’s Sasha?”

“Happy. She’s still out swimming. I’ll watch. Everyone’s good. Lotta good food here. Want a grape?” She tells me stories of her years sailing on the South Pacific, stories of living on Hawaii. This water is too cold for her, but the sun is hot. It’s too cold for me, too, but I remind myself of friends who’d love to ride waves today, no matter the temperature. We congratulate ourselves one more time for our genius, being at the beach for this beautiful day at the end of summer.

“Nothing gold can stay,” writes Whitman, and perhaps parents know this better than anyone.

An hour later I’d stayed too long, savoring the goodness past all common sense, and there’s no need to describe the hell of packing a van, of driving with a howling seven-year-old, even in the company of Sasha, who goes stoic in moments of familial distress.

Brendan thought he could take his promised time-out in the bathtub with bubbles, a brilliant idea I need to consider more often. Madeleine set up an appetizer picnic for Sasha. I grabbed an icy beer in a moment of weak judgement, and edged towards sleep instead of dinner preparation. It worked well in the end, with Scott arriving to slice vegetables and form hamburgers for the grill. I can stand and flip burgers, even in my sleep. Guest dads came by for child pickups, with warm conversations and time to catch up, staying long for burgers and grilled sweet potatoes.

Scott offered to take the kids to the last street concert of summer, leaving me asleep in my clothes and dreaming of waves. I wake feeling rested for the first time in weeks, surrounded by sand sketches on my pillow and hair smelling of salt, ocean and summer. The fog will suit us well today, as we look at the list of chores to address before school next week. The stiffness, too, reminds me Poseidon is good for a visit now and then, but I’d best stick to earthly concerns at least for today, and change the sandy sheets and shower the ocean from my hair until next time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

quick hello

Forgive my quiet! I've been on the road with my family, plus reading while waiting for the circus, writing while waiting for jury "impanelment," reading while listening to a bad cover of Tom Petty (but putting down the book for good covers of Van Morrison-- I'm not that callous!)

1600 miles on the Jetta, green green hills of Pennsylvania, friends in unexpected places, a coffee drink called The Italian Car Bomb (brewed coffee with an extra doubleshot of espresso, for the coffee-starved traveler.) Aunt Peggy and Uncle Irish, two of my favorite people on earth. Tooth fairy requirements while traveling, and a lovely Japanese tune called Sakura, which my children play on their recorders as we turn north off the highway to drive to their PopPop's house. Soon-to-be newlyweds, blessings. Margeritas.

My first Virginia Woolf (Where have I been?) A story swap.

I'll write again soon-- just getting my legs under me with the coming school year. Soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

view from the treehouse condo

Sunrise from the living room window.

Our neighbors' roofs below us, and the sky and the water across the way... This is an older photo, as the camera batteries are waning today. The view is much more charming than the photo shows, and the breeze is magical on these August days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

fiddlehead adornment

The comb, crafted by Leslie Wind, displayed on my handspun yarn.


Now how likely is that? Whose head? My head? Who, me, fiddle?

My grandmother's name is Fern...

I wear it every day. Thank you, Leslie.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I'm home-- very long day, not worth discussing details of more waiting on more runways to be more late. Good thing I have my knitting. Photos soon-- one side is finished to the shoulder.

I got the movie greeting, though, like I've never gotten before-- small people jumping up and down with bouquets of flowers, with Scott writing notes about his ropes course day tomorrow, right behind them. A funny detail: they brought me a favorite bean and cheese burrito, when I'm coming home from New Mexico... Many hands carried my tremendous pile of luggage.

There are many pieces of abstract art constructed from sea glass and glue, and sticks and scraps, covering the table.

And many blonde-haired dark-eyed kisses, though it's too humid to be too close for too long.

Wish me sleep. I think I finished my reflection paper on The Four Quartets, or at least the draft, on the plane. One down and eleven to go this quarter.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

my interviewer

My husband Scott has the gift of asking good questions, and he wrote me a little interview. Though it's not sharp writing at all, still I'm interested in painting out "what it's like," and I thought I'd let you peek into our conversation about The Writing Residency, on my hill here in Santa Fe.

1) I'm wondering in what ways do you find yourself learning best these days
(e.g., reading others' work, having conversations, getting input on your
writing, wondering around...)?

First, (and this is why I'm here) I learn best when I can concentrate, when there is quiet interspersed with rich reading material. Thus far, I've learned most by giving a "close read," in a small group, of great pieces of writing, analysing what works and how the writer organizes her thoughts into a specific pattern. Having said that, I learn much also while wandering, letting the landscape work on me-- tears feel close to the surface, watching light on the distant hills.

I'm also inspired by the possibility of friendships, the goodwill and affection shown to me, though I chatter too much and feel more than ever that my narcissism (writerly stumbling block) is so visible. My hair seems to be it's own show, with my new classmates walking up to sproing a curl here and there, and yesterday two happily-married fellas were joking that they wanted to sit near me just to be near my curls. An older woman also asked if she could tug on a curl, just to see it spring back. (It's all good payback for the years in which my hair seemed an uncontrollable mass. And it's an antidote to feeling lame and out of shape.) For all the hair-talk, the curl-sproingers are parents and bread-winners, and I continue to dig deep with them, to interview how they manage responsibilities while pursuing the writing craft.

2) Is your learning as a student/professional any different from other
times in your life - as an RD? as a campus minister? as an Intercultural
Relations student?

In the past, being a student has been its own end, and the assignment was its own end. It's a different beast to learn "in order to" do something, in order to write better. My focus in the past was on the material I was learning. Not so, here.

I'm stunned by what an emotional experience it is to share writing with others, what a half-panic. Education has not "laid me bare" before. It's no longer about the books alone: it's about steering the gift of writing.

Like being a college student, I'm impressed by how many assignments I can outright forget, and by how infrequently I write things down. Oddly, I am unmotivated to read, which is new. When I open the page, though, I find myself happy in the act of reading and delighted to look for "how" the author did that, and why.

It's good to note, also, that I've needed to protect my time and my talkative self, here, to focus on investing myself in a few people, on leaving dinner early in order to get things done or to find enough quiet to keep going.

3) What have been some of your most serendipitous moments?

I found myself waiting in the hot sun for a bus that never came, in Santa Fe, and turned to walk back uphill to campus though my injured foot was throbbing. I literally stepped in dog poop just to reiterate the low of my day, and while scraping my shoes I looked up to find T.J. Pendergast and his wife Brianna asking how my day had been, telling me they were driving back to campus. T.J. stroked his long white mustache and said he'd been asked to write prose about a course on servant leadership. "But I'm a poet. I don't know anything about creative non-fiction. How do you suggest I start?"

Now how funny is that? Throughout the week, I run into T.J. and Brianna when we have moments to talk.

4) Is your experience helping you clarify your personal
desires/expectations for yourself in this program?

Hmmmm. I'm revising an earlier post: the thing "caught" in all this is the vision of what it means to put stories on paper, how powerful the written word can be, how big a project this is. And that's terrifying at times, to take writing seriously.

This program's emphasis is not on publication, at all, so I shift to examine my own desire to see my name in print, to have people hunger for my writing. Shockingly, I don't believe any of my classmates have been published in Image, the journal which this MFA program grew out of. Brian, my physician classmate, was published in Image before he began the MFA. So I think I've needed to remind myself, the degree is not a magic bullet. I've needed to remind myself, it's about improving my writing.

What I learn about myself? I'm surprisingly ambitious-- it's a new thing to me, having always been content with things somewhat within reach of me.

I'm also learning about the work of writing, versus merely the play of writing-- I don't think the work of it will kill off the play, but it's good to hold a sense of caution about that.

5) Will you want to/be able to connect w/ classmates between sessions to
support one another?

I feel sure of that! Every three weeks, we'll be sending stuff to our faculty mentor and I assume to one another. (I'll check on that.) Email! Hooray for email!

Four days left-- which is a lot, and I'm sinking myself into the experience. Two papers to write, books to study, sun to enjoy.