The gift of the gathering

We’re all familiar with the interview question, “If you could spend a day with a famous person, living or dead, who would it be?” As I thought about the question, I decided if I did this, I would choose a woman. Then I realized I couldn’t decide on just one famous woman. What if I chose ten? It might be exciting to bring a group together for a conversation or a gathering or a retreat. And how would I choose? Long story short, I used a not so very scientific method. I narrowed the field by choosing women with birthdays in July. What kind of group might that commonality produce?

by Francoise Colander

painting by Francoise Collandre

Then the question became, who would I invite? After researching several lists of women with July birthdays, I chose Malala Yousafzai, Angela Merkel, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rose Kennedy, Amelia Earhart, Estee Lauder, J.K. Rowling, Ann Landers, Diahann Carroll, and Princess Diana. I’m curious as to what drives them today or what drove them during the society of their day. I’m curious as to their joys, their fears, their dreams. What are they like inside? Would I bond with some more than others? Would the group experience a moment of oneness, a lifting of hearts and spirits?

"Tapestry" by R. C. Gorman

“Tapestry” by R. C. Gorman

Why these choices? I chose Malala for her bravery and dedication to education for girls, Angela for achieving leadership of a world power, Emmeline for courage and perseverance in the fight for women’s suffrage, Rose for being the matron of a power family, Amelia for being a forward thinker and pioneer, Estee for her business acumen, J.K. Rowling for her literary success, Ann for her homespun advice, Diahann for the breakthroughs she forged, Diana for her struggle for identity. I think they would bring many roles, many ideas, and many gifts.

The Gift of the Gathering

together we gather
joyous
worried, contemplative
optimistic, stoic, sad
our world view guides our thought
our life experience bonds us
women … searching and strong

mothers they call us
bearers of children
nurturers of body and soul
family guide in crisis and joy

daughters they call us
our mothers’ students
learning daily life
peeking beyond its boundaries

wives they call us
joined in ceremony
partners through life’s
trials and uncertainties

sisters they call us
first playmates
safe havens for secrets
confidants and rivals

girlfriends they call us
coffee meets and
shopping treats
pillars for each other

teachers they call us
bearers of society’s values
its art, music, manners
culture, the written word

grandmothers they call us
keepers of the family story
of man, his traditions
protectors of keepsakes

trailblazers they call us
changing laws
changing institutions
opening doors and breaking ceilings

talents they call us
heroes for growing girls
making our marks
in everyday life and in the world

but mostly they call us women
governors of our own destiny
strong, constant,
ever emerging
finding strength in each other
in times of sadness
finding strength in each other
in times of great happiness
finding strength in ourselves
in spiritual silence

finding ways to go on
always

"The Group" by Itzchak Tarkay

“The Group” by Itzchak Tarkay

Posted in Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What the Attack in Orlando Taught Me

Life has a way of offering lessons. And Orlando, Florida, offered some of the starkest and, in contrast, some of the most beautiful, touching the depths of compassion in all of us. Forty-nine lives were taken on June 12, 2016. And, in domino style, lives of survivors changed. Families changed. A city changed. I wonder, did a nation? And what did I learn? I learned I could weep for victims, for survivors, and for a city. Again.

I learned Pulse Nightclub, the scene of the attack, was more than a club where people gathered to have fun. I had missed the bigger picture of its role in the LGBT community. It was a home, especially, if in your own home, people do not accept you for who you are or don’t know who you are because you haven’t “come out” to them. It was a safe haven from elements of a society who you know from experience aren’t always tolerant or understanding or nonviolent toward you. It was a community where you were free to be yourself, and you supported each other like friends do. It was a viable part of a city’s economic community, providing employment, paying taxes, dealing in commerce. I didn’t realize its depth and breadth. I apologize. Again.

I learned there’s a difference between a legal civilian version Sig Sauer MCX  and a military one. One is semi-automatic, the other fully automatic. However, the results are the same. Again.

I learned of the intensity of an ideology. I’m reminded of the song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” from the musical South Pacific. Although the song addresses racial intolerance, the words ring true to the teaching of hate in any form. The three lines of lyrics I’ve placed in italics strike at the core of something we know. However, it often seems some have never seen or heard the idea before. Again.

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I learned compassion comes in many forms and hope stays alive. For Orlando this feeling arrived in unique ways. A 49 foot lei called the Lei of Aloha arrived from Maui. It was composed of “flowers, tea leaves and 49 shells from the island with each victim’s name written on the shells,” made by Polynesians of Maui. Compassion arrived when Boston Marathon bombing survivors visited the hospitalized victims being treated at the Orlando Medical Health Center. It arrived with vigils being held in cities across many countries. It arrived in the form of 49 wooden crosses set up on the campus of the Medical Center.  The crosses were made by Greg Zanis of Aurora, Illinois, who said when interviewed, “Love your neighbor. Don’t judge.” People know this, but have trouble putting it into practice. Again.

I learned communities can unite, not only in Orlando, but across the nation. Again.

I learned that our society has individuals and groups with mental issues and hostile ideologies who can easily buy guns. Again.

I learned Isis inspired warfare is insidious, that attacks on soft targets are cowardly. Again.

I’ve always believed in change and new experiences and new vistas. In exploring ideas, new and old. I’ve always believed change is possible. Carl Alaska, Ph.D., in Psychology Today in an article titled “Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life,” states:

On the individual level, real change can happen only when you recognize that it’s your responsibility to feel, think and act differently. The same is true for the wider society. The reason it’s so difficult to make meaningful social or political change is because a large bloc of people believe it’s neither possible nor desirable … until we simply decide, “I’m going to initiate a new set of beliefs.”

A country’s laws may begin the process, but individuals have to commit to change, to believe change is possible and/or believe coexistence is possible, whether dealing with religious, social or political values.

Orlando, your lessons are difficult and heartfelt. We have to keep trying. Yet again.

Posted in Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cut Off the Label

You know, when I wear a blouse and the label sewn into the collar or neckline bothers me or irritates my skin, I cut the damn label out. And, currently, in this political season, labels being sewn on people and groups are not only irritating my skin, but they are getting under my skin.

I’m tired of the labels and the labelers – the media, the candidates, the exit pollers, the political parties themselves. Let’s get rid of them, the labels that is. Instead of slicing and dicing the voting public and people by color, ethnicity, economic status, level of education, religion, and gender, let’s simply call the American people “voters.” And let’s debate the issues. Let’s offer solutions.

courtesy of geekalicious.co.uk

courtesy of geekalicious.co.uk

There’s constant talk of unification – unifying the nation, unifying “the parties,” – yet we keep using terms that separate us. Watching the coverage of a recent political rally, I saw a peaceful protester in one camp shoved by a not so peaceful protester from the other camp respond with, “But I’m an American, I’m an American.” Yes, she is, we are.

As a nation of immigrants, we all have roots in other countries. We all bear these roots proudly. And we’re curious about our past. Look at the number of people going to a site like Ancestry.com to find their roots and buy a DNA test. While we each enjoy our uniqueness, we are also team players on the American team.

We can’t ignore poverty, crime, gun violence, health care needs, shortfalls in education, economic differences, world crises, terrorism,  or turn a blind eye to segments of our society in need. We can’t view the world through rose tinted Ray-Bans. But why can’t we use, at least in the case of the upcoming election, inclusive terms like residents, constituents, and voters?

Certainly, labels have purpose and use. According to an article in Psychology Today called,Why It’s Dangerous to Label People” by Adam Alter:

Labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and it’s often very useful. It would be impossible to catalogue the information we process during our lives without the aid of labels like “friendly,” “deceitful,” “tasty,” and “harmful.” But it’s important to recognize that the people we label as “black,” “white,” “rich,” poor,” smart,” and “simple,” seem blacker, whiter, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we’ve labeled them so.

Labels have a way of sticking to people. The old adage of a “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes into play causing some to think, I’m labeled that way, I might as well behave that way.

Let’s realize what people labeling does. It affects our actions and beliefs.

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Can we, for the remaining political season and general election process, retire the divisive labels? I’m campaigning for the use of terms like voter, American people, and team. Thanks for “listening.”

Posted in Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

For Your Tomorrow

Our news is filled with daily coverage of wars taking place in various areas of the world. And through history to modern time, destructive events such as these have motivated people, military and civilian alike, to write about their deep visceral feelings and their life changing experiences. They write of their sadness, joy, and fear. They write of death and survival.

I thought of America’s war history and became curious about how we as a people have expressed our emotions and recorded our experiences in writing. This led me to look at America’s war poetry. I wish I hadn’t found so much from which to choose for inclusion in this post. But choose I did.

Some poems are by famous writers, some by individuals who were there, some have well-known lines. Styles and perspectives have changed. The poet’s voice may be distant or lofty, the poet’s voice may be close. But the inner cries of loss and questioning haven’t changed.

The pieces I collected from America’s war poetry begin with the Revolution and a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. (My father’s middle name was Emerson for RWE.) For the Civil War, I chose “The Blue and the Gray” to honor both sides. These are followed by poems of World War I, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. See what you think.

*** The Revolution

National Guard Heritage Painting

National Guard Heritage Painting

Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

*** The Civil War

"Hancock at Gettysburg" by Thure de Thulstrup

“Hancock at Gettysburg” by Thure de Thulstrup

The Blue And The Gray by Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgement-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue,
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment -day,
Wet with the rain, the Blue
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod adn the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.

*** World War I

Over the Top by John Nash

Over the Top by John Nash

Rendezvous by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air –
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath ­
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear …
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

*** World War II

Military Artworks - Band of Brothers

Military Artworks – Band of Brothers

The Sonnet-Ballad by Gwendolyn Brooks

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover’s tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won’t be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate–and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, “Yes.”
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

*** The Korean War

We Remember by M. Garvey

Those we left there in the cold
We remember, we remember
Have no fears of growing old
Oh do we remember

Those who fell in prison yards
We remember, we remember
Savage weather savage guards
Oh do we remember

Those who died face down in mud
We remember, we remember
Asian soil Yankee blood
Oh do we remember

Those whose names we can’t forget
We remember, we remember
Comrade spirits with us yet
Oh do we remember

Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill
We remember, we remember
If we don’t honor them who will
Oh do we remember

Those who died when far too young
We remember, we remember
It is for them this song is sung
Oh do we remember

*** The Vietnam War

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial In Washington, D.C.: Memorial Sculptures Of The Three Soldiers

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – In Washington, D.C., Memorial Sculptures of The Three Soldiers

Nam Night by Pete “Doc” Fraser

God, how I hate the night.
Twilight creeping in graying out the green,
turning the jungle black.
Fear grows inside like the winding of a clock.
Under the black cover of darkness,
the hunter becomes the hunted
and Charlie owns the night.
The fear is as real as the night
and grips us all in its unrelenting hold.
Through the sleepless hours the fatigue builds
sapping both mind and body.
In the tense haze of early morning,
you lie on the jungle floor
while waiting for the morning sun
to take away the night’s hiding blanket of darkness.
It is in the morning,
as the sun paints the jungle from black to green
that you begin to relax the night’s vigil
and you take the countryside back from Charlie.

***Iraq

Courtesy of blogfromamerica.wordpress.com

Courtesy of blogfromamerica.wordpress.com

Ashbah by Brian Turner

The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulfull call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.

*** Hope

Courtesy of news.discovery.com

Courtesy of news.discovery.com

Terra’s Land by Carol Mann

The woman knows
the ruins of war,
her heart pierced by
despondency and loss.

She clasps
an injured child
to her breast.
Where is his family?

With gentle touch,
she wraps him
in her warmth.
Will he survive?

The fragile child,
the hallowed homeland
upon which she stands,
give her strength.

She pushes aside the
seeds of chaos,
clears the debris of hate.
unearths her resolve.

Her land and people
are survivors,
indomitable,
children of the universe.

***

The lust for power, political beliefs, and religious beliefs can lure reasonable men to pursue destructive ways. Respect, tolerance, the universality of our wants and needs, and the safety of the world for our children become buried in baser instincts. But hope isn’t easily extinguished. May our leaders, negotiators, and strategists continue pushing forward toward co-existence and humane actions.

Thanks for taking this journey through history with me. Memorial Day is everyday.

“For your Tomorrow, we gave our Today.” John Maxwell Edmunds 1916.

Posted in Authors, Creativity, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Public Reading of Another’s Work

Doing a public reading of another author’s work is an honor and a responsibility, and definitely feels different from doing a reading of your own stuff.  With your own, you’re protective and vulnerable. Nervous. (See my post from 10/15/15 called “What is it about a literary reading?”) When reading another’s work, you want to do the piece justice and be true to the author’s intent, much as a director, when mounting a play, wants to be true to the intent of the playwright.

12144778_10153290940717989_8491273880996658625_n

Reading your own work

Sharing your own work makes for a high sense of risk. These are your words, ideas, thoughts, and feelings. You wonder if people are liking what they hear. You wonder if it’s bombing like an Off-Broadway flop. Feelings of euphoria or defeat are close at hand. But let’s face it, as writers we want to be read and heard. Hopefully, those hearing your work will want to read more and buy your books.

IMG_3444

Program

Reading someone else’s story at a literary event has a different feel. I recently was the reader for the first place short story in a local writing contest. I felt a big responsibility even though I didn’t know who the author was. The author’s name was announced by the emcee after the reading.

In preparing for the reading, I did my homework. I made sure I understood the story and its intent. What was the author saying about the characters, about life? I looked at the structure to see what the writer was doing craft wise to help me understand the highs, the lows, and the rhythm. I noted where the author was close to his characters and when he was in exposition.

And as a reader I had to be sure of word pronunciations. In this particular story, the author used Hawaiian words and several sentences in Hawaiian which were integral to the story and couldn’t be skipped over or just immediately given in translation. My prep involved a call to the University of Hawaii at Manoa on Oahu. I spoke with an Hawaiian woman who patiently took me through the words and sentences (which I wrote in my own phonetic code), told me which syllables to accent, and gave me the cadence.

You may love the piece you’re sharing with the audience, like it, or be apathetic. But your opinion really doesn’t matter. The judges have chosen. A reader’s responsibility to another author’s work is to be as true to the piece as possible and do that author’s work justice. You’re holding someone else’s baby. It’s delicate and important and deserving of care. What happens when the words hit the airwaves is in fate’s hands. Of course, you hope the audience enjoys the piece.

Nuts and bolts

Nuts and bolts

Then there’s the nuts and bolts. If the reading is not from a book, I print out the story, double-spaced, in a larger font than the traditional 12 point. I put the “script” in a notebook and fold up the bottom right corner on each page. This prevents turning two pages at once which would really put the story in a spin or standing there trying to peel two pages apart. I add any cues about pacing or pronunciation or volume or anything else I’ve discovered during practice sessions.

Time is the biggest factor in prep. It gives a reader the opportunity to understand the piece, catch the nuances, subtleties, and subtext. Time allows for practice runs. Sometimes, a reader has to change a word or two or eliminate or add one to help with the flow. Whatever the circumstance, you give the piece your best shot. You’ve been given temporary custody of another’s work. Honor the trust. And enjoy.

And the story belongs to ...

And the story belongs to …

Posted in Authors, fiction writing, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What is it about a lighthouse?

Watercolour of the Lighthouse by J.M.W. Turner 1819 (enwikipedia.org)

Watercolour of the Lighthouse by J.M.W. Turner 1819 (courtesy enwikipedia.org)

What is it about a lighthouse and lighthouses in general? They seem to trigger tales of adventure or danger or disaster. They attract artists and photographers who want to capture their majesty and stalwart strength against nature. Writers such as Edgar Allan Poe with his unfinished “The Light-House” and Virginia Woolf with her novel To the Lighthouse were lured by them. Lighthouses can make us think of the lonely life of the watchman, the saga of an endangered ship. Specialized memorabilia collectors enjoy anything lighthouse related, from books to small model replicas to plates. Tourists make sure to visit them, many of which are recognized landmarks.

Poets are not to be outdone. “The Lighthouse” by famed American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow catches the might of the lighthouse and ends with these four verses:

The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.

“Sail on!” it says: “sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man.

I tried a poem about a lighthouse using the ghazal form, which I learned about in a poetry workshop. A ghazal has a series of couplets, each line having the same number of syllables.  The second line ends with the same word or group of words, preceded by a rhyme. (Only in the first couplet do both lines end with the same word or group of words.) “Whirling mist and sea,” is the group of words I used. The rhyme preceding it is a single word – “light,” “bright,” etc. The last couplet traditionally includes the poet’s name and a grander thought.

“The Beacon” 

A beacon stands through day and night by the whirling mist and sea,
in foggy darkness flashes bright by the whirling mist and sea.

Constant is its gaze on crashing waves, ruthless, dark, forbidding.
Sailors espy the beam’s great might by the whirling mist and sea.

Lantern room windows fog with mist, cleaned by the faithful keeper,
who daily tends the lantern light by the whirling mist and sea.

Storm hangs heavy in ominous air, gloomy and unfriendly,
as shipmen trust the pillar white by the whirling mist and sea.

Its foghorn blast warns mariners brave of waves and rocky shores,
to guide their ship exact and tight by the whirling mist and sea.

A stately lighthouse, steady and true, does Carol long to see,
strong in a world striving for right by the whirling mist and sea.

courtesy o www.publicdomain pictures.net

courtesy of http://www.publicdomain pictures.net

A lighthouse with all its possibilities and lore might be the key into your next short story or poem. Or try your hand at a ghazal! And what is it about lighthouses? Aside from Turner’s romanticized painting and Longfellow’s idealism, to me, they have a noble tradition and history. And a mystique that invites a story.

Posted in Creativity, fiction writing, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Summit

Mt. Whitney, 14,495 ft.

Mt. Whitney, 14,495 ft.

We all have experiences in our lives that are unforgettable, that are destined to become life memories. I’m talking about events that made a great impression, gave a sense of accomplishment, filled you with joy, filled you with gratitude, stayed with you forever, left a bad taste forever, taught a great lesson. Things like a good choice, a bad choice, a first date, a first child, a first marriage (whoops – that’s for another post). You have the idea.

As writers, our experiences are ready sources to mine. In a recent personal essay, I drew on a hike into the Grand Canyon. In a past short story, I joined my theatre experience with my father’s contracting business. (A strange combo.) A story in progress is drawing on a person I met at Muscle Beach in Venice, California. We all dig into our life material like this. As writers, our subjects surround us, leading us to ideas that drop into our minds  and later into our writing files.

One of my life memories is my first hike up Mt. Whitney, highest point in the continental United States. The second time I made the ascent was exciting but nothing like the feelings and recollections of the first. I still can feel my aching legs, marvel at the Australian jogging by me with a 40 lb. pack on his back, take my first bite of apple as my companion gifts my arm with an attack of altitude sickness, sense the power of the landscape, the challenge of the unknown, the rugged beauty. These memories are as alive as yesterday.

I guess we’re writing all the time, even when we don’t know it. Something from the past can suddenly knock on the door of the present demanding to be written. The first ascent of Mt. Whitney manifested into a piece written a number of years later as I tried to capture the feel of what happened to me, relive a life memory that can best be described as spiritual. By going outward and upward, I went inward to feel both pain and joy, appreciation and peace.

The Summit

I leave base camp, 8,500 feet.
Sun beats through pines, tall
keepers of the mountainside,
holding soil to earth.
Soft breezes whisper white
noise against blue jay’s banter.
Squirrels scamper, shy companions.

A trail, rocky, uneven, unfolds
to slash the mountain’s side,
a crisscross of switchbacks,
repetition upon repetition,
higher and higher.
Untainted air fills my lungs.

Against the trail’s wall
I rest. Vistas of the Sierra,
John Muir’s cherished land,
surround and enfold while
towering above looms
the crest, the prize.

The trail narrows, a sheer
drop on either side, as sun
slips away and night nears.
Bundled against deep cold,
I camp, cocooned in sleeping bag,
swathed by insignificance.

Sunrise brings more trail,
thinner air, shallow breath,
a final press to the summit.
From the highest peak
sweeps the great valley below.
I fill with the expanse of life,
joyous at my life.

Grateful.

Our experiences are gemstones, waiting to be mined, skillfully cut, polished. Wow, I didn’t realize how rich I was, how rich we are as writers. Happy writing.

The Summit

The Summit

Posted in Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, memoir, poetry, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments