Thursday, September 2, 2010
My first post here: A rambling history of why this Blog
In October 2009, I happened to attend a Saturday morning workshop called a Morning of Writing with Amy Vanderwater. She is a poet, teacher and mother and is a master at combining these traits, which only describe a small part of her that make up her whole being, into a worthwhile lecture and workshop. I remember having trouble deciding whether to attend this workshop, did I want to give up my Saturday morning and get out of bed? Could I actually manage to get up and drive across the county to an elementary school I’d never been to? What about my husband, would he grudgingly support my decision to go, willing to deal with our daughter for a big chunk of the day? Despite of, or maybe in spite of all my perceived obstacles, I got myself there, and sighed with relief that I’d found the school and parking and was able to sink into an old school auditorium seat with a few of my co-workers. As I struggled to organize myself, travel coffee mug, purse, folder (given by the workshop organizers), notebook, pen and tried to find a comfortable way to sit, in the old velveteen seats, I began to focus on the speaker. Amy opened her mouth and started talking to us in an engaging and frank way about how to teach kids to write poetry, not my favorite thing to teach or to do on my own. I used to fancy myself as a poet and fan of poetry, but after one failed attempt to get published in my middle school newspaper and several failed attempts to wrap my imagination around the words of ancient poems in a compilation book I saw another friend reading and bought to look “cool” in college, I hadn’t really though seriously about poetry at all.
After the introductions, and Amy’s initial introduction to the topic, I was annoyed that she wanted us, at this early weekend hour, to start a poem then and there. But she did mention a poet I had heard of and felt akin to, Byrd Baylor. So in my cramped seat, trying not to spill what was left of my coffee, I attempted to write a poem about the morning. I followed her lead and listed some adjectives along the edge of a page in my notebook and wrote about what I noticed about the fall morning on my drive over. I recovered my sense of humor and positive attitude after that and focused on the structures and methods she presented to us.
Then Amy LV posed a question for us to think about while composing our next, workshop-demanded-poem, one that we were writing at her command: “What is rolling around in your mind? Just write about that, start a poem with something you’ve been thinking about but haven’t really done anything with.” Rolling in my mind??? At first I thought, “Oh cool, I can do this, focus on me a second, a good reason to get up on a Saturday, self introspection!” But then my mind really did it to me, I started thinking about my father. And this is what I wrote:
Small changes in his face
New crinkles around his blue eyes
Noticing more gray in his mustache
A different sparkle in his eyes.
His face, his sparkle, his sadness, a mirror of my own…
Our eyes have been darting from each other,like water striders on the surface of a stream, close together, apart close again, apart, afraid to stay still and locked together too long, for the true emotion to be unloosed.
He seems scattered, a small rock being tossed by the current, rolling one way and then another, his anchor gone… I, too, am a pebble, rolling in a current, not knowing how to take control. but somehow we are, both of us, sharing our grief but separately we have lost our anchor.
He a wife and best friend, a companion and confidant. Me a mother and best friend, someone to guide me and support me no matter what. She is gone, but we are left…left to find solace in one another, left to find our anchor and guide, left to get to know each other without her…
OK so that’s not exactly what I wrote, but the first six lines or so are, the rest sprouted off of that just now. Then, as now, nearly a year later, I cried. I sat in that auditorium trapped in the middle of a cramped row, crying my eyes out. I am not one of those lucky criers who can hide it, pretty little tears that don't ruin make-up and aren't noticed by others. I turn red and my nose runs and my skin gets all blotchy. Tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t stop them, they were uncontrollable. (Ironically in the comfort of my own house, I am not crying this way, but in an auditorium full of co-workers, and strangers, I was crying without ceasing.) I felt like everyone must think I was a freak, losing my mind! In truth, I think only my co-workers who knew about my mother’s illness and death over the previous summer and who had supported me through that tough time noticed, and could probably guess why my emotions were shaky. I am sure Amy could see my red teary face as she looked out at her audience and I am sure the other teachers in the row saw it and were puzzled too. It seemed an eternity until we had a break. I found my way to an empty girls’ bathroom down the hall, avoiding the crowded, nearest one so I could be alone and cry it out and get myself back together. One of my co-workers happened to find the same deserted bathroom and kindly checked on me, and more kindly left me alone to see if I could get through the rest of the morning of writing, not crying!!
Later, I rejoined the group perusing the latest teaching material and research books on sale in the foyer. Shopping is a great way to regain composure! A long drink of water and some sympathetic looks and back pats and I was ready to re-join the group tear-free. I learned a lot that morning about writing poems, teaching writing and about how dangerous it is to explore what is “rolling around in your mind” publicly!
Later in the morning, I escaped my uncomfortable seat for one that was in an empty row where I could fidget and stretch without disturbing others. Amy, taking a minute to step back and join the audience as someone else was speaking, sat in my empty row. I assumed she was probably trying to figure out if I was sane or not! I smiled apologetically at her, hopefully conveying the thought that I was ok, and that she shouldn’t feel bad for suggesting that we should explore our thoughts as a catalyst for a poem. I felt a kindred spirit in her, somehow knowing I would learn more from her another time.
That “other” time came just a few weeks ago at a two-day summer workshop in my home district. One that everyone signed up for as soon as the registration time allowed. I know that I was anxious to get in and had marked it on my calendar.
I once was lucky enough to hear and learn from Amy about writing and teaching and spent those two days riveted by her way of teaching and making us write. At this workshop I did the opposite of the last, I found myself laughing as uncontrollably as I was crying in the fall. Once again exploring all too publicly what was rolling around in my mind!
Amy referenced her “poem-a day-for a year-blog” several times throughout her workshop, inspiring one of my friends to get started on her own blog and reminding me that I had created a blog space to keep in touch with family far away and to (I’ll embrace it--) brag about my growing daughter and her accomplishments. I hadn’t posted anything on that blog since my mother died and I paid her tribute.
I could see now that it was time to explore more of what a blog could do for me, and I decided that like Amy’s Poem Farm and Lori’s blog of “little things” that I, too, have things rolling in my mind that I want to share.
Hopefully it won’t be too uncomfortably personal, only enough to be heard and to force myself to explore those things that I don’t ever give myself enough time to think about. And so this blog is born, a place where I will ramble on about what is rolling in mind. You can choose to read it or not and comment at will, this is a blog for me by me. Sometimes I might explore level 3 and 4 ideas that maybe should stay locked in a diary, but also 1 and 2 things that more people can relate to. And if you’ve gotten through this LONG introduction, maybe you’ll be interested to read my thoughts in shorter installments for a longer time period, if that makes sense to you.
My thanks to teachers and speakers like Amy who keep my attention for two long summer days and friends and co-workers like Lori who are brave enough and confident enough to share their own thoughts in writing with the assurance that kindred spirits and like minded folk will learn from and relate to their own thoughts rolling through their minds.