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Archive for January, 2012

Practicing Lotus

I went to yoga that morning feeling weak.  I was second guessing my plans for the day.  Should I go to the morning class or should I wait until the afternoon?  Should I get out and hike instead?  Do I just want to lie on the couch all day?  The answer to the last question was a big ‘yes’ and for this reason, I forced myself to go to yoga.

                The teacher was one that I had never had before and I was hoping that I didn’t make the wrong decision by coming to this class— I’m picky about my yoga instructors.  She started the class by saying that we would work our way to the Lotus pose.  Then she started telling us the story behind the lotus.  It grows from mud and murk and seeking light, it breaks through the dark to the surface to become a beautiful flower.  The flower can only do this because it has a strong root and seeks to bloom from the negative into the sunshine. 

                “I get it!” I thought to myself.  “That’s what I am trying to do!”

                In yoga, you set your intention at the beginning of class.  To yourself, you whisper what you want to accomplish with that hour of practice.  Then you bring your hands to your heart space and seal that intention.  That day, my intention was to appreciate my body for what it could do, instead of cast negative opinions towards the poses that I couldn’t quite get.  Positive not negative.

                I glided through my practice feeling strong and able and beautiful.  When most of the class went into a headstand, I hung out with my feet on the ground, recognizing that my body was not quite able to do that.  But my Triangle pose was awesome with the help of a small block, and my Flipped Dog was powerful.  And then when it came time to do Lotus, I found myself easily getting into the position, one of the only successful yogis in the class to do so.  

As I sat there, legs twisted like a pretzel, feet facing up to the sky, ready to receive, I gave thanks to my roots and promised to let them bloom.

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Sleep Come Easily

Sleep come easily

I am not prepared to fight you tonight

And the fears I hold inside might go out dancing with you

And wake up beside me tomorrow

Sleep come peacefully

And give me candy apple dreams that will wake me with a smile

Instead I have this dream

I am sitting at the bar with the man I love

There is a stranger behind us, wearing a cowboy hat, smoking Malboro Reds, writing something in a notebook

And I dreamed that he was writing

“Sleep come easily

I am not prepared to fight you tonight

and all the insecurities that I have

Will do the tango with you and awaken my lover”

So my candy apple dreams have delivered these words to misconstrue

Sleep come easily

Lord knows I need some sleep

And this coffee is driving me insane.

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I was having a bad day on Tuesday and then I got some news….Let me backtrack a little.  My friend is on the board of Create Huntington, which is an organization that works on improving this city and highlighting the good parts in public campaigns.  She asked me to write an article for their newsletter, from the perspective of someone who has been gone for quite a while and then returned.  The newsletter probably has a small circulation but sometimes it includes essays from residents stating what they love about this city.

I gladly accepted the task and sent my friend the completed essay in an e-mail.  The next day, on Tuesday, she sent me a message, letting me know that the rest of the board loved the piece.  In fact, they loved it so much that they were submitting it to the local paper for publication.

So, today, on a rainy day in Huntington, my name is in print in the Herald Dispatch.  Not as a decorated student, or in a wedding announcement, or, thankfully, not in the police blotter…..but as a writer.  I am not getting paid and in the realm of things, it’s small beans.  But this are my beans and the start of something….page 1 in my portfolio.

 Unfortunately there is not a link that I can find on the website.  So, here it is, in it’s entirety, my first piece of published work:

When I was in Huntington visiting last July, I told an employee in a local store that I grew up here, that I went to the original Huntington High.

                “Oh my gosh.  Are you old?” she asked me.

                I took it as a compliment that my looks were still youthful.  But it’s true.  When I last lived in Huntington, one went for a drive down Cruise Avenue, walked down a pedestrian 9th Street Plaza and went to Blizzard games at the Civic Center.  I moved away at the age of 18 to attend college at the beach and ended up staying there for a while.  Then I traded that resort town for a colder one and moved to Aspen.  Over the years, I always loved coming back to Huntington to visit friends and family and relished the positive changes that I saw in the city.

                In the past few years, it hasn’t even been necessary for me to travel back to West Virginia to see the leaps and bounds that Huntington is making.  I was the only person in a sparse theater in Colorado weeping at the first two minutes of We Are Marshall on premiere night.  I marked my weekly calendar for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to see the sights of my hometown on network television.  I voted with a vengeance this past summer to help my beloved Ritter Park win the dog park contest.  Huntington was on the world stage and I found myself proudly telling everybody I knew that it was my home, that I grew up there, that I was FROM this place.

                This past summer, I found myself back in Huntington for a week and something began to shift in my mind.  I started to see this place as an adult, rather than the adolescent who was always anxious to leave.  I went shopping at Pullman Square and bought fresh baked bread and wine at Heritage Village. I spent a good hour nosing around at a specialty running store and ate Thai food from a new restaurant.  Huntington was not only the place that provided me a wonderful childhood and a nurturing framework for my adulthood; it was a really cool place.  Period.

                When I decided to move back here for a while, it seemed like the most obvious choice.  It was a place that felt comfortable, yet new in many respects.  I was anxious to see what things could be revealed to me from a town that I always called home.  Now that I’m back here I find an energy that I never saw before and it’s inspiring and encouraging.   They say that you can never go home again and I suppose they say that because things and places are always changing.  But I’ve grown and so has this city and somehow we fit together just fine, even after all these years.

 

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I was born with music running through my veins.  My father is a record collector, amassing volumes and volumes of vinyls that fill our basement.  He does it out of pleasure, not out of monetary gain, and the look on his face when he hears a song that he loves speaks of pure contentment and respect.  My mom’s side of the family was musical not only in appreciation but in talent.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are sitting in cold houses in the mountains of West Virginia warmed by the notes of guitar and dulcimer that hang in the air. 

                All of the appreciation has been passed down to me, in a show of genetics that is not surprising.  Sadly, the talent has gone to other bloodlines.   

                A good song can bring tears to my eyes and at the right time, it can speak to me like a friend with just the right advice.  I’ve seen songwriters like Aimee Mann and Patty Griffin and Josh Ritter in concert, at a small venue in Aspen, and listening to them sing the words that have gotten me through tough times is like a reaffirmation of myself. 

                I can’t imagine my world without music and people that don’t listen to it, really LISTEN to it, truly baffle me.  I don’t expect everyone to share my tastes (my favorite song to run to is by Miley Cyrus so I certainly don’t claim perfection) but it’s all about the appreciation.

                My favorite artists are the ones that have incredible lyrics that float along within the symphony of the instruments.  I believe it’s a fine form of poetry and, as a writer, I appreciate the heck out of that.  All of this is to say that you shouldn’t be surprised if I post lyrics often on this blog.  Have you ever heard a song and just wondered how that singer knew exactly how you felt?  It’s almost like they read your journal and produced this song that put your words more eloquently than you could ever hope.

                I have been a fan of the Avett Brothers for a while but last month, listening to Pandora, I heard a song of theirs that I had never heard before.  It stopped me in my tracks and after it was over, I purchased it for my own collection and listened to it over and over, committing all the lyrics to memory.

                “The weight of lies will bring you down

                And follow you to every town ‘cause

                Nothing happens here that doesn’t happen there

                So when you run make sure you run

                To something and not away from ‘cause

                Lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere”

                May you hear a song today that makes you think or makes you dance.  May you listen to words that give you comfort or hope.  May you sing along at the top of your lungs.

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Discovering My Italy

The first time I heard of the book was when I was running with a friend.  We were just getting to know each other really and I was telling her that I was a writer.  She told me the title of a book I should read, a memoir, and the title slipped out of my mind by the time I got back home to stretch.  Then, a couple weeks later, another friend sent me an e-mail from a vacation in Puerto Rico.  “You must read this,” she wrote.  “It will be enlightening.”

                She included a link to a book called “This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness” by Laura Munson.  It turns out that it was the same book that the running friend had recommended to me.  These were two women who I really felt a connection with and they both were telling me that I must read this book.  I had the best intentions of buying it but another week went by.  I had a coffee date with my friend, back from Puerto Rico, and she sent me a text asking if I’d bought the book yet.  When I said no, she showed up at the coffee shop with a bag from the local bookseller and pressed the book into my hands.

                Sometimes revelations come quietly and sometimes they come up behind you and whack you on the head.  This book was one of the whacking upon the head type of things.  I started reading it the next day; it was a memoir of a woman who lives in the mountains of Montana and who is a writer.  The story covers a particularly tough time in her life and she had to draw upon all of her strengths at once to get through it.  It was a time when she had lots of questions and had to rely on her belief that she knew what was best for herself, even it was a belief buried deep inside somewhere, a belief that she couldn’t help but to question every now and again.

                I related to the book for many reasons; related to this woman who seemed to live a similar life to mine and who I could look up to, not because she was perfect but because she was brave enough to admit her imperfections and to turn them into a beautiful story.  In one part of the book, she talks about how she had always dreamed of going back to Italy, where she had studied abroad for a year in college.  She had kept making excuses for why she couldn’t do it and realized that she was denying herself something that would truly make her happy.  Reading about her Italy, my breath caught in my throat; because she makes it clear that Italy is not Italy; it’s anything that we’ve longed for desperately and not felt worthy of.

                “If we deprive ourselves of our greatest dreams, how are we setting ourselves up to be treated by our husbands? Our loved ones?  Everyone around us?  If we neglect our own souls, how are others to react to us?  What are we creating?  More neglect?” writes Laura.

                I read the book in two days, much like my two friends who had recommended it to me.  I couldn’t wait to see what the ending was.  But that’s the funny thing about memoirs; they are not truly over on the last page because the writer is still living.  But yet, in a good memoir, I believe, the writer can make enough sense of a life still being lived so that others can gain comfort in the retelling.

                And, for me, I walked away thinking about my Italy and knowing that I was denying myself something.  But I didn’t quite have a finger on what it was.  And perhaps that is part of my journey in itself.  To discover my Italy.

 

I would recommend Laura’s book to everyone.  Her website is www.lauramunson.com  Not only is she a wonderful writer but she’s also just a very cool person.  If anyone wants to give me a scholarship to go on a writing retreat in Mexico with her this spring, I’d go I guess….

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The Storm

I fancy myself a poet at times.  A lot of the material that I will be posting here is from years ago.  This is for two reasons.  1)  I wrote a lot more poetry in high school and college; and 2)  It’s still my most raw form of writing and I’m not quite brave enough to share the recent material quite yet. 

For today, happy Friday to everyone.  Here’s a poem I wrote in high school called The Storm.  It’s still my personal favorite.

 

The Storm

In spite of longing, she chooses not to leave

Instead of recovering, she chooses to grieve

She wants so bad to believe

That one day the rain will stop

The pain will make puddles in which she can dance

Jumping up and down, head tilted back, catching every little emotion

Her mind says “This isn’t good for you”

Her heart says “This is gonna hurt”

But somewhere between those insane yet vital organs, something tells her he would love her

He would love her if only he knew

He would give her everything if he had a clue

That her heart sang songs of gold and her body could be a gift

Her thoughts could lift them both above this rainy day

Until then, she gathers a bucket of emotions, only slightly rusty after all these storms and sifts through them

Discards truth and tucks forgiveness under her arm

This storm she can survive, with or without him

Closure after closure

She stumbles back in the wet shoes, her toes squish together in the sole

Falter too often, blindly in the rain

Because of the comfort of his warm hold, she stays

Never thinking “How did he get to be so good at this?”

And “Is he so good that he forgot how perfectly my chin fit on his shoulder?”

and why can’t she forget?

Jumping up and down, trying to shake it off

And knowing that the itch is in a place she can’t reach

It’s the small of her back and it’s only ticklish when he puts his hand there

In spite of this smile that lights up her life, she chooses to leave

Instead of hurting, she chooses to be free

So she gathers up a bucket, getting rustier with every storm

Faith is slipping through a small hole that’s been weathered away in the bottom

She discards hurt and tucks forgiveness under her arm

She’ll need it for the next rainy day

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Waves in the Winter

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the beach in the summer.  I love the way that the smell of sunscreen pervades the air.  I love the way the hot sun feels on my skin, pushing me to a point where I finally must get up from my towel and run across burning sand to reach the ocean.  Then, I love that the water is such a perfect temperature that I can bob along in the waves until my fingers get all wrinkled and the taste of salt is caked on my lips.

                But the beach in the winter….there’s nothing like it.  Gone are all the people and the noises and the traffic and I’m left alone to carry on my love affair with the crashing waves.  One day last December, I strolled along the sand for an hour and never saw another human being.  It was just close to 50 degrees, with a bitter wind kicking in from the Atlantic and clouds covering the sky.  Granted, it wasn’t the most picturesque time to be out there.  But I was.  And nobody else.   Therefore, the brown pelicans that flew in a straight line over the surf break were putting on a show for me alone. 

 

                When I went to college in a beach town, I knew plenty of people who lived a mere ten minutes away from the ocean and would go months without driving to see it.  It baffled me.  My love for the beach in the winter started during my freshman year.  At least once a week, I would close the books that I had been studying, grab my car keys and head down to the ocean, stopping only for coffee.

                Then, I would sit in the sand and listen to the crash and roar of the waves, drinking my coffee and pondering whatever issues had been distracting me from my studying—boy troubles (more often than not), homesickness, stress about my classes.  And without fail, that half hour would sooth out the wrinkles in my thoughts.

                And so now, during the winter, when the beach is mine alone, it’s like getting quality time with an old friend.  It’s just me and waves, churning, rolling and crashing through life, unaware of the beauty that all that motion is creating.

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