My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
His fingernails appeared ravaged, bitten down to the quick, like he'd seen a decade of panic. I stood at the counter while the man pecked on his keyboard, typing up the service bill for my car. I was only about a foot from those terrible-looking nails, and there was part of me that wanted to reach out and grasp his hand and ask him what was so bad in his life. "What happened, sir?" Yet we don't do those kinds of things. Maybe we should. And, I'm ashamed to admit, my compassion for him began to evaporate when he tried to sell me services my car did not need. Maybe therein contains the anxiety. All that hard sell. He was a nice man. Why should he have to do that for his job? Couldn't he just be real and say, "I think an oil change is all you need." And so it goes...life churning and moving, with all its dailiness and ever-changing cultural fears that surface for everyone.
My boss sat in our weekly meeting and looked around the table--the nurse practitioners, the counselors, the peer support specialists, the social workers. "You guys look tapped out. Let's end the meeting. Go do some self-care." Surely we'd all had a rough week at the clinic, more and more patients homeless, overdosing, almost dying. Helping people reduce harm and getting support had taken its toll, like the man and his chewed-up nails. We were weary, like a spigot with a scant stream, the water supply almost dry.
The most casual turn, an innocent encounter--with a person, a book, a painting, a piece of unexpected news--or a mere thought passing through one's head can leave one ever so slightly altered. And somehow we know, as the minutes pass, that we are being quietly made and that there is nothing we can do to stop it, because when it comes to the present, we are susceptible and enthralled. By comparison the past is more easily locatable, or at least we have concocted the illusion that it is, and the future, no matter how uncertain, always seems distant. It is the guest who is forever not quite yet here.~Hisham Matar (From A Month In Siena)
I felt immediately jealous as I read the description of the book on the inside flap of the cover. Throughout his life, the author was fascinated with artworks of the Sienese School of painting. He traveled to Italy to spend a month looking at the paintings he so cherished. Days and days to spend slowly gazing at the art, at his pace, without hurrying through. I thought, "Oh, to be able to do that."
Clue: the next right thing is tiny, nonthreatening, and right in front of you. Do that thing.~From It's Never Too Late To Begin Again by Julia Cameron
I'll never forgot who taught me the expression, "The Next Right Thing." The woman sat in my office, a colleague, and said, "I'm not sure what to do about taking the job in California. It's a great opportunity, and I'm scared to leave Charleston. My family is here, my recovery community is here. Overall, I like my job." She paused, her forehead wrinkling, lips pressed together. She placed her hands on the chair cushion, elbows locked, and leaned forward. She smiled. "Guess I'll just do the next right thing."
The slogan made sense, and I borrowed it from that lovely woman who eventually made it to California by following the stepping stones of "the next right thing."
I used the phrase this weekend when I awakened feeling pressured to get things done. Be productive. "It won't be so overwhelming if you just take the next step, Priscilla. The next right thing. What's next?"
The tiny heartbreaking commonplace, yes indeed.~Patti Callahan from Becoming Mrs. Lewis, The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
Sometimes I feel the weight of my history. Time stacked up, rising upward. Day by day. Hour after hour. Time moving, coursing so rapidly that even if I wanted to slow it, I couldn't. It is more beneficial to focus on the present rather than placing my hand on my brow, shielding my eyes and looking up at that accumulated mound of time. When Joy Davidman died, her husband, C.S. Lewis, wrote in A Grief Observed, "I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace." Yes, these are the things I want as well. So let me focus on them while they still exist.
I open the cupboard to fetch a cup for my coffee. On the top shelf sits a jar of instant coffee that Giovanni and I resort to during the hurricanes here in South Carolina. When we have no power and can't make a hot cup of Hazelnut or French Vanilla. Giovanni heats the water on the side burner of the gas grill, and we pour boiling water over the brown crystals. We welcome the surge of caffiene, the taste bitter, even with massive amounts of sugar and cream kept cold in a cooler with the last of the ice. Daily, I see that jar with the yellow label that states, "Every Morning Essentials." I have a secret wish that we never have need of its contents again. But its presence is a reminder, too, that we have survived multiple storms over the years in this extravagant and peculiar coastal territory, sitting in the dark, the candles burning, drinking that hot, acrid brew. Safe together.
Remember the sky that you were born under, know each of the star's stories. Remember the moon, know who she is. Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the strongest point of time. Remember sundown and the giving away to night. Remember your birth, how your mother struggled to give form and breath. You are evidence of her life, and her mother's and hers.~ From Remember by Joy Harjo
I suppose we might have been relegated to the category of the "have-nots" by just looking at us. We rented a speck of a house in the land of movie stars and swaying palms amidst the hills of southern California. We always just made it to the end of the month with a few dollars left in our checking account, buying our shoes from Pay-Less and our clothes from Goodwill. My girls were little blonde innocents who liked to play in the minuscule backyard fitted out with a skimpy swing set.
Beauty abounded, though, as we had a wall of vibrant bougainvillia and birds of paradise grew tall with all their orange wildness in one corner of the yard. We could sit on a blanket under the shade of an avocado tree. Mushrooms popped up regularly from the black soil around the edges of the fence. I invented stories about The Mushroom People who lived under the brown caps of our mushrooms. The Mushroom clan was strong and brave, resilient in their adventures to avoid the big people who couldn't see them and inadvertnently could destroy their mushroom village in one giant step.