The Earth Without the Moon

I am a writer.

I am also a mother.

Sometimes these two soulful, vast and difficult trades I have chosen for myself seem to be symbiotic; one job perfectly complements the other, lending strength and metaphorical beauty to each experience.

Other times, not so much.

The constant struggle for time, the slow, painful growing of patience, monotony’s strain on creativity, the constant fight to finish tasks and reach goals (i.e. finding self realization) seems to pit one purpose against the other almost indefinitely, and I am left wondering why on Earth any human would ever choose to be both.

And then one night, having driven myself crazy, and (literally….. I drove myself literally) far away from both of these trades, I figured out why.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

No, never mind, I don’t have time to go back to the beginning, I’m a mother. Let me summarize.

As a mother, there are certain days when it seems everything points to the fact that you just aren’t enough. You’re falling short. Not stacking up. You can’t be what anyone needs. Between your children’s constantly growing, changing list of needs and your own exhausted, (though well-intended) inability to possibly meet them all, sometimes a mother asks herself, inevitably:

“What is the point?”

This phenomenon is not unlike being a writer in many ways, but I’m going to leave it to you to draw your own parallels there. Let’s just say for all intents and purposes, I was having one of those days, in both regards. Whenever I have a day like that, whether it’s parenting-related, crazy-writer self-talk or both, I tend to naturally want to give myself some distance from the situation; an instinctive need for Perspective.

So I got in my car and I just drove. I passed the outlying farms and suburban communities, I passed the adjacent towns. I kept driving. I passed the further towns and suburbs and cities. I nearly took an exit, but I still didn’t really have answers or peace of mind, so I kept driving. Eventually I ended up nearly 50 miles from home, in the city. I took an exit and simply followed the path of least resistance, which led me up to a mountainside community of quaint, historic homes. It seemed to me like I had driven a thousand miles; the quiet neighborhoods a different realm.

I was beckoned to exist inside of it. I wanted to live there, if only for a couple hours. I pulled into a church parking lot and took out walking.

The annoying voice in my head was confused.

Why? You should be home tucking your kids into bed or folding laundry. You should be cranking out that new scene, or finishing up that review, or submitting that article. What do you think you’re doing, walking around in the city at night, so far away from your chosen responsibilities? 

I kept walking. The luminescent yellow glow of kitchen lights and living room lamps cast a lovely peach-colored light out onto the sidewalk, and a bone-colored Gibbous moon hung like a rounded spotlight in the early evening sky.

The moon.

I sat down on a patch of grass in a common area to consider it.

A hummingbird buzzed across my peripheral, pausing in mid-air to consider me.

hummingbirdA few weeks ago my daughters and I, faced with the long weeks of summer vacation ahead, decided to pick four subjects to learn about, every other week over the course of June and July. It gave us something to do together, some things to gather and plan, and a few activities and outings to look forward to. For our first subject, we chose to learn about the moon. In the days leading up to my strange excursion, we had learned together about the moon’s surface, how it was (theoretically) formed, its phases, and how it affects the ocean tides.

As I sat there gazing at it through a clearing in the tall trees lining the street, somewhere in the confines of my writerly, motherly heart, a strange connection was made.

I was the moon.

Mothers, everywhere are the moon.

We are quiet, radiating forces orbiting around these strange and precious spheres of life, we are transformations of other forces from long ago, held there by a strange gravitational pull. (Did you know scientists recently discovered both ice and evidence of volcanic activity on the moon? Yes, we did in fact exist as other forces before we were mothers.)

We have our influences over these strange slightly off-spinning entities. We illuminate their darkest nights. We bring forth life onto their shores and then quietly recede. We are a powerful, glowing force for our strange, beautiful, violent and perfect little globes.

The moon brings to Earth a quiet, powerful presence that the sun simply cannot.

And yet, we are limited in our affects on that which we orbit. Other things come into their atmospheres over which we have no control. For certain events, we can only hang stationary in their peripheral and offer our light when the darkness comes.

We are often frustrated because we can simply not meet all of our children’s needs.

But you see, sometimes, we simply aren’t meant to.

Thanks once again to my weirdly innate metaphorical thinking, I began to feel slightly better about my mothering ability. And then I thought about my other job. Why was I given (cursed with?) the strange, gravitational pull to write?

Earlier that week, before my feeling inadequate, before my literal drive for perspective, I knew there was something I wanted us to learn: What would the Earth be like without the moon?

Here’s what I found:

The moon helps keep the Earth balanced in a stable rotation. Without it, our axis would vary tremendously, sometimes wobbling in instability.

The ocean tides would rise and fall less than half of what they currently do. Much of tidepool life would likely cease to exist.

Days would be shorter.

Nights would be longer.

The sky would be darker.

Technically, one could exist without the other. But at what cost?

I could stay in this strange neighborhood and begin living out another life entirely. My children would survive, evolve even, without me in their orbit. But who would hold them steady in their axis? Who would bring strange and beauty onto their shores? Who would cast a soft light into their darkest nights?

I could also abandon writing for motherhood.

But then, what strange symbiotic presence would lead me back home on my darkest nights?

What other outside force would make me stop to consider my purpose, To ask of me what I can bring into my children’s world, simply by being what I am?

What gravitational pull would keep their orbit (and mine) in balance?

 

Earth and MoonThe Earth without the Moon. A strange and fascinating premise.

But I think I’ll keep them both.

 

Till next time,

-C

All the Things I Couldn’t See – Part Two

After my friend moved away I was forced to move on and grow up. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, from being around him, I was changed. I had developed a new openness toward accepting others, and my sense of humor had been tinged with his particular brand of sarcasm that people were drawn to.

I became more confident in myself, made new friends (including my best friend and co-founder of this group Lori,) stayed out too late as teenagers do, and even started hanging out with a boy, (that boy I was pining for way back at the beginning of this story) that I had always been afraid to talk to.

Lori is my best friend and closest confidante to this day. I eventually married the boy I was afraid to talk to.And my friend from the beginning of the story took his own life.

The same afternoon I tossed my high-school memories into the sky with my graduation cap, I heard the words that have never stopped resonating.

“He’s gone. They think it was suicide.”

I remember that second, in hearing those words, I didn’t know how to speak. I had to think how to keep breathing past the pain swelling up in my throat. The why and how and where of what happened were details unknown, things that I grasped at for any possible explanation. I didn’t find them.

What I did find were ghosts disguised as memories, shadows of conversations between my friend and I. When I thought about the things we talked about when we were together, I could think of maybe a thousand times he’d spoke of this very thing, and my thinking surely he hadn’t meant that. Or he had meant it, and I had chosen not to hear. Those ghosts of words ripped at me like claws shredding through a silk sheet.

I cried through my entire graduation, on through the graduation party in the gym and everyone thought it was because I was sad and sentimental over my high-school years. I never told anyone the real reason for my tears that day until I typed this sentence just now.

In the weeks following a trickle of information made its way back to me. I learned that my friend had lost his scholarship and moved to northern California, where he became involved with a group of squatters, gay drifters who were synonymous with break-ins and drug abuse. A few weeks later I heard that my friend had overdosed on a combination of cocaine and barbiturates. When they found him he was so unrecognizable it took them three days to figure out who he was.  He died strung out, alone and unknown.

It felt like a bad dream. It wasn’t possible. The person I knew was loved and beloved, he was light and confident and intelligent and funny and happy. I tried to imagine the events that had led him to his end, and I found I just didn’t want to.

I hated myself for not forgiving him, for not answering his letter. I hated him for taking his own life. I hated a world full of judgement that forces people into hiding from their true selves and God for knowing and allowing it all to happen.

My friend lived and died in a time and place where tolerance for different lifestyles was virtually non-existent. I listened quietly as people’s words floated around me about his choices, about it being inevitable because he was left to his own devices. My stomach churned as they shook their heads, condescending thoughts dripping out of their mouths. He should have never… His parents should have…It’s really no surprise…

I hated those words and those people with my whole, young heart. And yet, outwardly I agreed with them. I clung to the beliefs of the people inside my very narrow world who were piously confident and shrewd about what happened. In my heart I wanted to scream out that no-one had the right to judge someone they had never even considered worthy of knowing. But instead I forced myself into believing the lies. It was the only coping mechanism I knew, and it was the virtual turning out of a light.

Not long after I turned out that light, I closed a door. I tossed the notebook with the book I had half-written into the trash.

Yes, it is possible to forget another person.  You can force someone out of human consciousness. But they are never actually gone.

For nearly twenty-five years I was living with shattered pieces, shards of him and love and hate inside my heart. I did forget my friend. I thought it was the only way for me to exist. But he wasn’t really gone. He just showed up in other ways, other places I couldn’t see.

When I came together with this little group of friends to start writing again, all the things he gave me, all the things I couldn’t see before came trickling slowly into awareness. Around my 36th birthday, I started writing fiction for the first time in over 20 years. It was a revelation. It felt like truth, reincarnated. I, for the life of me couldn’t figure out why I had ever stopped doing it.

One day I wrote something off the cuff and it was about him, only I didn’t know it.  It was completely random and unintentional, so much so that I didn’t even recognize it was anything other than a piece of fiction. It took someone who knew nothing about me or him or anything that had happened in the past to see a distinct pain between the lines.

A light turned on.Once it was brought to my attention, the realization that it was him and why I wrote it came to me in small, quiet happenings, like a series of opening doors. I found traces of him in the most random of places:

In my odd, eclectic taste in music.

In the nicknames I’ve given the people I adore the most.

In my ability to use sarcasm as a healing device, to mask disappointment and pain.

In my innate desire to reject anything that the majority considers quality, trustable, popular, or truth.

In passages I’ve written that seem to have come from a voice inside my own head that wasn’t my own.

In the way that new ideas spill out into my dreams, urging me to use them for some Greater Purpose.

To be perfectly honest, once the memory came back into my peripheral, once I realized I had never actually moved on, it hurt like hell. I had uncovered a well of love and hate and guilt and regret so deep, I felt haunted by it. I felt consumed.

Last summer I ripped out my heart time and again as I relived and tried to capture all the memories of him- good and bad- in writing. I typed out scenes with my eyes closed and then deleted them. I slammed my laptop closed. I laughed and I smiled and I sighed and I cried.

I started to question everything, all my likes and dislikes, all the decisions I’d made, everything I thought I was defined by before. It’s a funny thing, bringing up a repressed memory. It forces you to question things you had never considered about yourself, to evaluate your worth.

I had never let myself experience that kind of pain, and something I couldn’t fully explain. It was searing and deep and it ached in my heart even as I went on about my normal life. But at the same time it brought a quiet clarity; the slow demolition of ancient brick walls. One, solid brick at a time, I pushed the old beliefs away, and slowly I began to see the truth.

What happened between us, the hate and the pain and the love that caused me to force him out of my heart had nothing to do with the way he chose to live his life. Not when he was alive and we were friends, not the day I hated him for leaving, not the day I found out about his death. I was young and sensitive and naïve, and I pushed him out of my heart for nothing but self-preservation.

Nothing that happened between us, love or hate or pain or regret, would ever be more important than the gifts he gave me.

It was obvious I had lived with a half-closed-heart for way too long.

I had no choice but to forgive both of us.

***

At the point I started writing this post, though I knew I wanted to put it out into the blogosphere as a sort of virtual release, I was unsure how to conclude it. This morning I was talking with Lori via text. She was telling me about a physical therapy appointment for the back pain she’d been enduring for months. I said:

“I’m praying it works for you. Being in constant pain can definitely siphon one’s ability to stay in the light.”

I read my own words and the realization hit me like a brick. Pain has its place, it has merit in the way we move through our lives, it brings understanding and sympathy. It even empowers us to act with new motivation. But at some point we have to let it go and move into the light.

Today I’m officially letting go.

This has been a long road, and this post has been a long story, and for that I both apologize and thank you for staying with me. Every word written here is for one purpose: To urge you (and me) to take all the chances we’re afraid to take.

Please, if you are reading now and there is something on your mind and your heart that you know, you KNOW you need to do, to change, or to start, or to stop, or forgive, or to say:

Stop reading now, this second, walk away and go do it.

 Life is too short to live confined by pain and regret.

Today, start being the you the world has asked you to be.

Till Next Time,

~C

To My Wonderwall,

I am grateful every single day for the light you helped me to find, and the way it continues to shine.

 I’m sorry I never said goodbye the way you deserved. I accepted you for you, always and completely. I’m sorry I never said those words out loud. I’m sorry with every ounce of my being for the way I tried to forget you.

 I forgive you for leaving the way you did.  And I forgive myself for all the things I couldn’t see.

~C

Beltane

bonfire

This has been a long time in coming. We’ve promised, several times, to let you know what it was that we have learned this summer. We’ve all been so busy applying what we’ve learned that we haven’t actually had time to write about it on the blog. (Although, there has been PLENTY of writing about it.)

Our lessons came in a few, somewhat insane, highly symbolic, events.

By the end of winter, all of us had become aware of significant doubt, pain, and regrets that we each felt within our hearts. It was a difficult winter for each of us in different ways. Our desolation and heartache were keeping us from becoming who we needed to be. We had lost ourselves somewhere in the past. All of us could see it in the others, but somehow missed it in ourselves.

Natalie came to us with the notion of Beltane (Pronounced: BEY-al-TIN-ah). It’s a Celtic holiday which celebrates the coming of summer and new growth. We didn’t need the growth of crops, however, we needed to expand our souls. We needed to let the things from the past fall away, and to encourage our spirits to move on to the next part of who we were to become.

We formed a plan. In the weeks leading up to Beltane, we each thought about what we wanted most in life. We were to gather pictures of the things we wanted most and put them in a vision board, the desires of our inner selves made manifest in photos.

Our vision boards became a topic of discussion every time we were together. It wasn’t unusual to hear, “Ooo! I want to put that on mine!” Nor, was it unusual for us to stalk people, houses, and things, snap pictures, and find a place for it on our vision board. The beauty of this exercise was that we were limited only by our imaginations. (With a group of writers, imagination is abundant.)

Traditionally, there would be a bonfire at a Beltane. We decided that we would write down those things which we needed to let go, past injuries, regrets, unhealthy desires and we would throw the list into the fire. We wanted to begin letting go of the negativity in our lives by watching it go up in smoke – literally.

It was all wonderfully planned.

However, something was missing.

We needed to do something symbolic to remind ourselves to let our dreams grow, to pay attention to the whisperings of our souls. My Aunt, who is in tune with our little group even though she lives in Wales, suggested that we plant our vision board in a pot and let it nourish a plant. Our dreams would feed the plant just as they feed us. As we tended to the life of the plant, we would be reminded to tend to our dreams, keeping them alive as well.

The day of our celebration came.

We lit a small fire and watched the flames ripple upward. We sat is silence. Each of us took a moment to reflect and release the sadness and suffering that had been plaguing us for decades. When we were ready, we tossed our list of troubles into the fire, watching the light catch hold of the the list. The paper blazed brightly, then turned to black ash, the fire easily dissolving our problems in its power.

Something similar happened in our souls as we watched them burn. It was as if a fire was rekindled in our own hearts. One that could envelope and destroy agony, defeat, and sorrow and empower us to LIVE.

It’s strange how one action, when done in the right moment, with the right people, can instil you with ancient knowledge, knowledge that has always been there waiting for you to see it.

We sat in silence for a few moments, lost in the freedom of purging such darkness from within ourselves.

One of us asked whether the others wanted to share our dreams. A discussion, which has never quite ended, began that night. We discussed our desires, and the things we felt that we were supposed to accomplish in this life. There were tears, encouragement and beauty as we began to realize all that we wanted lay at our fingertips. We came to understand that we were born to succeed.

The light began to die down and it came time to plant young, fresh, lavender with our vision boards. The soil seemed to clean our hearts as we gently tucked our vision in among the roots.

We departed in the enchantment that only comes in a May evening.

In the months since, we have continued to believe in ourselves. Something happened that night, an openness that was not there before. We know where we are going, we have faith in each other and in ourselves.

This was the beginning of the Summer of Magic. We have had to renew our commitment to our dreams. Occasionally had to readjust our lives to get back in line with what we want. But that night, among fire, soil and the beauty that is May, we gave ourselves over to what we could become.

There is power in letting go.

There is magic.

There is freedom.

There is love.

There is completeness.

MagicColor4

Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.

Moxie Monday: Boundaries

boundaries

I remember my first introduction to the word boundaries. I was in Kindergarten and there were boundaries to the playground, an invisible line I wasn’t supposed to cross. It was meant to keep us safe, to guide us toward where we needed to be. I quickly learned to follow the rules.

When my husband was in the Navy, boundaries were only crossed with a card which I was required to carry. There were checkpoints, rules and regulations. I got used to these types of boundaries as well.

But there is one type of boundaries which I never got used to, those which I put in place myself. Personal boundaries. For reasons which we don’t discuss I never did create personal boundaries. I allowed myself to be walked on by just about everyone I knew. I ignored myself and I allowed myself to be ignored. My feelings, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and needs were put second to everyone and everything else. I was not safe; there were no checkpoints.

As I’ve become acquainted with other creative types, I have noticed that many people discount, what should be, their personal boundaries. They become people pleasers; they change their life to fit around the lives of those around them. That doesn’t work for ANYONE. It makes us depressed. It stifles the growth of others. We BECOME a lie. We do NOT fulfill our purpose. We are stunted.

My advice is this week’s writing exercise.

Make a list of your personal boundaries. Decide now what type of life you want to live.

Let me give you a start:

1. I deserve to be spoken to with respect.

2. I deserve to have my voice heard.

3. My feelings and opinions are valid.

4. I can trust myself to form my own opinions, and find truth.

5. I am worth self-care.

These are just a few, but it’s a start.

How about you? Have you set your boundaries? Where will you start?

What is Magic?

Happy Midweek Firefans.

I’m going to be honest. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to post, and so I think I just won’t. It’s that moment of succumbing that inspiration strikes, and I end up writing something that I really love.

That’s what happened today. I woke up thinking about the terrible tragedy that happened 12 years ago to the day, combined with the little miracles that happen in the bounty of our time on Earth. And this came out. Whether it’s good or not is really subjective, and beside the point. These words felt meaningful, passing through the shadows of my mind and out of my feeble fingertips.

So it speaks something to me…

I decided to treat it like poetry and leave it largely unedited, so forgive me for errors. Also- if you’re musically inclined- I was listening to this song as I wrote.

Hope you enjoy and find some Magic in the rest of your day.

~C

Magic is art, it is color. It is words.

It is purpose.

Magic is finding secrets in song lyrics, hope in half-written poems.

It’s the luminescent warmth of light in a newborn baby’s eyes.  It is the pure and shrill song of a young girl singing of snowflakes in July.

It is the voice of an angel that whispers me awake, both summoned and disguised by the quiet rustling of leaves outside my window.

Magic is being kissed into consciousness. It is falling asleep in the solace of the arms of one who loves without condition.  It is sitting next to another and knowing Love without words.

Magic is a child learning to read.

Magic is the quiet knowledge gained in watching the eruption of sparks in the soul of a bonfire.

It lives inside the heart of the wanderlust dreamer who believes that men should fly, and then makes it so.

It is humans that dive into the sea and breathe inside of water, and fish that use their fins to push themselves onto the barrier of sand and sea.

It is the witnessing of Earth’s evolution in the bud of a new oak leaf. It is proof of God’s great Love in the burning colors of Autumn descending across a mountain slope.

It is knowing and not knowing.

It is the mysterious solace in winter’s first snow.

Magic is ideas.

Magic is exquisite hope.

Magic is love.

 ****

Without Magic, life is bleak. It is tragic. It is gray.

 It is hindered by thick, suffocating clouds of indifference.

 It is decay.

It is shards of broken mirror in a dirty gutter. It is freeways that snake through polluted cities, haunted by greed.

Life without Magic is paraplegic forests with thirsty skin and veins that run dry. It is mountainside wastelands disfigured from careless fire.

It is scars left by silence, wounds made from words.

It is a child too young to have experienced life and yet certain there is no reason to live it.

It is blood-stained and bruised and afraid.

It is a woman covering her cheeks in layers of counterfeit color to hide her own private war. It is her child sitting alone on the cold, concrete porch steps. It is despair.

Life without Magic is a young man in his prime, crushed by the belief that he has no right to claim Love.

It is prejudice. It is children weeping at the feet of their ancestors because the world has denied their existence.

It is Nazi Germany. It is refugees killed in crossfire.

It is ignorance. It is fury.

It is men driven by hate who steer planes into towers of innocent people. It is the putrid black smoke that arises from those towers, streaming pennants of malice and destruction.

Without magic we are stagnant. We are sterile.

We are lost.

***

Magic is the human condition;

We must pursue it and claim it.

We must live and breathe and love inside of it.

Without Magic, we will cease to exist.

Guest Post- Poetry by April Stromberg

One of our loyal readers and friends experienced a painful and sudden loss in her life about a year ago. Though she hadn’t thought much about writing before, she turned to guest-postingwriting to help work through some powerful feelings about what happened.

Many times, writing is a tool to help us express words we can’t say, shed light on true emotions and set our hearts free. We here at Writing the Fire feel a kinship with those who are led to writing this way. We are honored to share April’s beautiful expression of love and loss and growth in her poems. We hope you enjoy them too.

***

The Last Time

Cold, only your face showing.
The last time I hugged you,
You weren’t alive.

Hard, speaking in short sentences.
The last time I saw you,
You were alive.

Aprils guest post

Warm, your voice was inviting.
The last time we spoke,
You were alive.

Soft, your ashes on my fingers.
The last time I touched you,
You weren’t alive.

The End

What have I learned?
Life is really too short.
Love doesn’t always last.
No one’s opinion matters.
I survived this.  I am strong.

About April Stromberg

April - Copy (2)I grew up the 5th child in a family with 7 kids, in Northern California.  After meeting my husband and dating for only 5 months, I moved to Salt Lake City and married him.  Three apartments, two houses, several jobs, two kids, one dog, several fish, and thirteen years later, I’m finally finding myself.

I never gave writing a thought until last year when my older brother died by suicide.  Not always wanting to burden my family with extra sadness, I took a pen and let the emotions flow.  It has become my therapy.  I’m allowed to say what I want without worrying about what other people think.  Most of them are sad because, well, grief is sad. 

I love to read like it’s nobody’s business.  I bake like a madwoman.  I eat until I’m full and love every bite.

I listen to happy music when I’m happy.  Sad music when I’m sad.  Melancholy music when I’m in a funk that I can’t get out of and dance music when I feel like dancing.

Only a Glimpse…

“Sweet dreams,” I said kissing the wisps of blonde hair on my four-year-old’s head.  I padded barefoot out of her room, quietly closed the door and leaned against it with a sigh. It had been one long day, week, month…summer. I was in some kind of foggy murk and had been for more than a week. I just wanted to collapse into my bed and, like every other day that week, forget that the day existed.

But my husband was waiting outside with the telescope. So I trudged downstairs.

Actually, it was my idea. Earlier that night I heard the words come out of my mouth, heard my own ask him to set it up, because it was the first clear night we’d had in awhile. They were my words,  but sounded so far away and unfamiliar, nearly unrecognizable to the weary soul inside. My husband was kind enough to take heed and trust them. And so I had no choice but to trust them too.

night skyI poured myself a glass of red wine and left the tepid warmth of the kitchen, stepped out on the deck into the night. It was warm, but a soft breeze was stirring the branches. The coolness of it lifted the heat away from the warm wooden planks of the deck floor. Rhythmic chirps of a hundred crickets sent a pulse into the night like a summer heartbeat. My husband, sitting at the telescope, looked up and smiled at me I closed the door.

“You…” He said, grinning, “are going to love this. Come on.”

I sat next to him on the chair he’d pulled over, squinted one eye and pressed the other softly against the lens. A faint blur of golden light streaked upwards, then disappeared.

“I don’t see anything,” I said, lifting my head. “There was some light, but it faded.”

“It moves fast.”

“What? What is it?”

“You’ll know when you see it. Here, let me find it again.” We traded places and he peered in, barely moving the lens around. “Here. Here it is.”

I sat again in the chair, moving slowly as not to bump the telescope out of place. This time when I squinted and looked into the lens, A reddish-orange circle appeared at the bottom corner. I moved my hand up carefully, turning the focus knob to sharpen the image. The circle became redder and clearer, and the outer edge was surrounded by two, rust-colored ghostlike rings, only they were circling the shape vertically instead of horizontally.

Saturn.Saturn

I held my breath. It was only in my vision for a half second before it rose to the top of the lens and out of sight. I sat up. My husband was sitting next to me, watching and waiting for my expression. We smiled at each other like we’d just uncovered some kind of ancient secret. We traded and he found it again, and eventually I figured out how to move the telescope so I could follow it myself. We took turns taking half-glimpses of it like little kids peeking through a doorway at Santa Claus. After a short while, it sunk below the trees on the horizon and we could no longer bring it into view. So we sat silent in the soft, late-summer night, thinking about our discovery.

We, ourselves had caught sight of something we’d only heard of since we were young children. We’d seen photographs of it in books, watched documentaries about planets on PBS, but now, with a hundred-dollar telescope we had seen it for ourselves. The events of the night had changed my perspective, and the murk I had been maneuvering through cleared, if only slightly.

In my desire to become my best possible self, to find purpose and Grace and enlightenment, I see Saturn too. I get short, vivid surges of knowing what I am born to do, and it’s so powerful I feel like an unstoppable force moving toward it. There is no question. There is proof. It simply is. For a half-instant, I am all powerful. And then it moves out of my peripheral and I am sent searching through darkness again.

Sometimes, I can’t find it on my own, and I am blessed enough to have people in my life like my loving husband to help me catch sight of it again. And sometimes I find it myself, without even trying. It is there, a constant, even when the murk of life prevents me from seeing it.

The vision of what we are meant to be is Saturn in the telescope. We chance upon the vision sometimes and for a few fleeting moments, what is within us is clear and true. But because we are human, easily distracted and set off course, it moves away from us. We must keep searching, sometimes led only by blind faith in possibility.  But it is there… we know it in our hearts, and every time we catch a glimpse of it that knowing becomes just a little stronger.dreams27f-1-web

If we hold a desire in our heart to one day, reach out and touch those lovely rings of light, i.e. live the dream we’ve been dreaming, we must keep searching. We must surround ourselves with the people and things that will help us reach our truest selves. And most importantly,we should never give up believing in things we can’t necessarily see.

They are not only possible, they are certain.

So keep searching. I will if you will.

-Till next time

~C

PS: This song goes with this post beautifully, if you’re inclined to read to music like our group. We like to connect songs to stories, of all kinds. 😉

Top Ten Finally

Top Ten Tuesday…er…Thursday.

Okay, Fate, you piece of $#!%, I’m going to post this one way or another!

(Ahem)

Top Ten Saturday.

The Top Ten Lies That Keep Us From Writing

(And yes, I see the exquisite hypocrisy in posting this specific post late.)

liesEvery writer knows that there is an anti-writing demon that possesses a part of their soul. From the moment you discover that your calling is to be a writer, something sinister awakens and attaches to your spirit. It begins to send messages to specifically interfere with your pursuit of writing. Some writers fail to realize the message they hear is a lie. I myself just barely escaped. Today we will explore the Top Ten ways we allow this anti-writing fiend to keep us from accomplishing our goals.

10. The Lie: You can do it all! – There are only 24 hours in a day, and they must be used wisely. There are many activities that we want to do, many that we should do, and many that we need to do.

The Solution – Where does writing fit for you? Is it something that you NEED to do so that you can find release and peace in your life? If so, schedule it as a need and don’t let less important things interrupt you.

(You’ll find that this is a theme running throughout this post. Make time for you to write every single day. Schedule it!)atlas3

9. The Lie: You need to “be there” for every person in your life – Most writers and artists are sensitive, kind, loving and generous; and that is wonderful. There comes a point in all the giving when you have to realize what people really need vs. what they think they need. Some people will drain you dry in every way possible. They will take up your time, your money and your compassion.

The Solution – If you have someone draining you in your life, set some boundaries! Decide now, before they ask, what you are willing to do for them and stick to the plan.

8. The Lie: You don’t have time to write because of your work (or school) responsibilities. – Yes, I know we all have responsibilities. And yes, I believe that you should have a job, and you should do that job to the best of your abilities. However, I know that some of us will use work or school as an excuse to NOT write. “If I didn’t have this paper to write, I’d be able to work on my book.” I think I have said those EXACT words. Or “I’m swamped at work. I don’t have time to write.”

The real reason I didn’t want to write will be discussed in number 1.

The Solution – No excuses!

7. The Lie: I don’t have time to write because of my family. – I know that you’re surprised that “the fam” would be at number seven and not at number one. Listen, the family will continue to thrive if you take up the pen again. Moms, it’s okay if you step away to work on something for yourself for a few minutes a day. The same goes for you Dads.

The Solution – Defend your time to write. Unless someone is bleeding profusely, you are not to be disturbed.

6. The Lie: You must begin to write every story that pops into your head. – This one too-many-ideasmight seem counter intuitive. It happens like this: You start working on a story and, for whatever reason, you stop. It might be stopping to grab a sandwich. It might be that you stop for a few days to let the story solidify in your mind. Whatever it is, you let your mind take a break and new ideas start to tap on your shoulder and introduce themselves. “Hello. I know you’re busy but…” and they begin to explain themselves in excited tones. You, as a writer, LOVE new ideas, and so you, in turn, get excited and open a new document and begin to develop this new idea until you need a sandwich or for that story to solidify…and the process goes on and on and on.

The Solution – Jot down your new ideas, but keep plugging away at your current project.

5. The Lie: Your work is not as good as (insert name here.) – Comparing your work to comparingthat of your peers serves no one. Each of us are different with different skills mastered at different times in our writing career. Each of us has a different story to tell, in a different style, with different characters.

(This group is guilty of this. One day I said, “I feel like I’m the weakest link.” Then, Cindy, the wise one, said, “We all are…for different reasons. But we’re also the strongest links too.” Since then, we’ve moved beyond comparing, it doesn’t work and just makes us all feel bad.)

The Solution – Accept yourself and your work as it is now. If you want to improve, then do it! But don’t try to improve by comparing your writing to someone else.

4. The Lie: You must make your current project perfect before moving on. – This is one of my very, very WORST habits. I participated in NaNoWriMo one year and spent almost the whole month editing the first chapter of my book. I wanted it to be perfect. At one point (on November 29th) I realized that I had to move on or the rest of the story would never be told.

The Solution – Make sure to set aside time during your “writing time” to edit and leave the editing to ONLY that specific time.

3. The Lie: Something important is happening on Facebook/Twitter/Email. – This does not need any explanation. It’s so easy to fall into the web of…well…The Web.

The Solution – Take time to write before you open your browser. Set a timer and write for 30 minutes.

2. The Lie: Others know what you are capable of better than you do. – When I was young, someone told me that desiring to become a writer was a silly idea. He would rip into my work and criticize nearly every single word. (This is not an exaggeration.) It was a person who loved me and so I trusted that they had my best interest at heart. As an adult, I know that he was merely voicing fears about his own discarded dreams.

The Solution – Examine your beliefs about your dreams. If it is from anyone else, let it go. You do not need other people’s fears holding you back.

1. The Lie: You can’t do it! – This is the biggest lie of all. It is the most personal and the hardest lie to dispel. Thoughts begin to run through our mind, “You are wasting so much time.” “Why do you even do this?” “This is just crap. You’re writing crap.” “What makes you think anyone is going to want to read this?” “People are going to read this and laugh at it. It is so ridiculous.”

The Solution – The best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to let go and do three extraordinarily frightening things:

1. Allow someone to read your work and ask for their feedback. Share it! It doesn’t matter if you think it’s ready; email it to someone you trust. Just attach it and hit the send button. You can explain it later. The important thing is to share it and ask for feedback.

2. Introduce yourself as a writer. For the first little while, you will flinch when you say it. You will berate yourself and internally call yourself a liar and a poser. That’s okay! The discomfort means growth. Pretty soon, it won’t feel like a lie. Something will change within your heart and you will realize that you already are that thing which you most want to be.

3. WRITE! Make time for yourself to hone your craft. Make it an important part of your life. We all have responsibilities and sitting behind a computer does not, from the outside, look like a productive use of time. But, if you don’t tell your stories, who will? You have ideas, dreams, visions, and thoughts to share through the written word. To do that effectively, you must make time to practice.purpose

I believe that each human being, has a rich purpose in this life. We all have something to share with the rest of our fellow persons. There is nothing as sad as witnessing someone who has a purpose and desire ignore it because they doubt their ability to do it.

Don’t be one of those people.

You be the kind of person that ignores all the lies and fulfills your purpose.

After all, what else is there?