Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer!

This morning, the dog, cat, and I all woke early to a room flooded with light. We looked at each other. I said, "I hope it's not 5 a.m." I turned to look at the clock. It was 5 a.m. Abbe got up and shook herself, jumped off the bed, and nosed open the door.

It's the longest day of the year today, so I thought, why not?, and followed her lead. I got up to experience this day from beginning to end. I ate my breakfast, then sat on my front porch to read.

My front porch faces east. It also faces the street where children go by on their way to school. Two teenagers floated by on their skateboards. They must have been about 14, with the lanky bodies of boys free from their parents, their houses, in that blessed in-between time from home to school. They kicked and glided their way past my driveway, not noticing me at all. They called to an unseen friend in the distance: "Hey, who is that? Who are you?" Who are you, indeed.

I walked with Abbe to meet a good friend for Second breakfast (I would make a very good hobbit), where we sat outside in the still-early sun. Then Abbe and I walked home. I read some more on the porch, wrote a letter recommending a colleague for tenure and promotion. I sent out one of my own essays. I ate lunch. I went shopping for a new sofa, then took Abbe for a walk in Hovander park.

Then I went to Yin Yoga, where my favorite teacher Michal was back from maternity leave. I actually fell asleep while doing sun salutation because we did it so slowly (a first!) Came home, ate dinner, read the paper, and it's STILL Daylight.

In my email, there was this message from the site Everyday Creative:
"Summer Solstice was thought to be a magical time when evil spirits would disappear."

So I'm not a big proponent of "evil" anything, but if we were to replace "evil spirits" with "inner problem-child spirits", and...

... if you believed that today could result in just ONE of your inner problem-child spirits disappearing, even if for just an experimental leave of absence, which one would you exorcise in the magic of the Solstice?

 What if we all picked one tantrumy spirit child, and practiced acting as if he/she was away at summer camp.

I have this Judgmental/Critical set of problem-child twins who are going to a camp far, far away.

I thought about it. And I decided I would send my work-aholic, always-needing-approval child to Club Med!

Where would you send your problem child?

It's been a LONG day, and a happy one (problem children and all). Wishing you a happy summer solstice evening, and a fruitful summer ahead.

P.S.: Drew Myron, over at Off The Page, has an interview up today with me and Holly Hughes about The Pen and the Bell. You can check it out here (and see a goofy picture of us).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Somber Heart

Photo: Todd Doherty
Well, I won't lie: it's been a tough week. Not just for me, but for all of us in the English Department at WWU.

We received word last week that our future colleague, Genevieve Critel, died in her sleep last weekend. She was only 32 years old. We had hired her for a tenure-track position in Writing Studies, and she was our unanimous first choice (something that NEVER happens!) We were all so happy when she chose us, and she was so happy we had chosen her. We didn't really know Gen, but we felt her so strongly as already a part of our community. Her death left us breathless.

Then a former colleague's husband, also fairly young, died a few days later of cancer. And then over the weekend, the entire WWU community heard of the death of a student--a young man, an English major--by suicide.

In the midst of all this, a gunman kills five people in a cafe in Seattle.

What does one do in the face of this suffering?

I found myself burrowing deep inside, and yet at the same time, hungry for connection. Wanting just to touch people, see their faces, pat their heads to remind me they're still here. And yet I wanted to be very alone. To breathe. To sit with the knowledge that all our clocks are ticking down.

The origin of the word somber means "to cast a shadow." Somber is not a word I have occasion to use very often, but it's the word that kept ringing in my head all weekend. Somber. Like a gong. The reverberations shook me. I felt shadowed.

Then, yesterday, I started coming out of it. I could feel it, literally, in my body: a lightening. I'd like to think it's because I wrote most of the weekend. Or because I gave a reading as part of a benefit concert where I heard all kinds of women singing their hearts out. Because I understood, then, art as a deep kind of solace.

But it might not have been any of those things. It might have been just the natural progression of grief.

Sorry for the morose letter to you today. But where else can I be my authentic self than here, with you? Dear reader, what do you do when faced with emotions you can't really name? How do you live within them?