Tiny Update, March Edition (In Thirteen Easy Steps)

  1. The first session of writing group wrapped up successfully back in December. Folks were excited about starting again in late February.
  2. My health took a turn for the worse just before Christmas. As a result, the writing group will not reconvene until this summer at the earliest.
  3. My 40th birthday turned out quite differently than I planned it.
  4. That may have been for the best.
  5. I started writing a post all about living with a chronic illness back in February but put it away until I could complete it without crying.
  6. Two months is the longest I’ve ever been out of work on medical disability.
  7. While self-employed I spent many moons desperately ill, but without the luxury of disability insurance.
  8. I returned to work the day before Valentine’s Day — in a snow storm.
  9. Ben Gibbard was right. The gift of memory’s an awful curse. In my case, because I remember being younger, stronger, faster, better. Oh wait, now I’m quoting Daft Punk.
  10. The only way out is through.
  11. In addition to the indignities and frustrations of diminished capacity, I find myself in serious financial straits as a result of prolonged illness and the reduced income it brings.
  12. In spite of all these difficulties, I continue to have flashes of gratitude and humble acceptance.
  13. I look forward to being able to stride across a hillside without danger of slipping on the ice. Some day, the snow will melt. Until then, I have a sturdy walking stick and snow shoes.

Poetry to Get You Through the Holidays – in Boston, Anyway

First Night Ice Sculpture -- Boston Customs House
Last year’s First Night sculpture is still relevant for a few weeks or so

Here’s the latest list from my informant at MIT. Please comment or contact me if you’d like information on how to be added to his mailing list.

I’m a member of two workshops (three if you count Toni Amato”s Write Here Write Now in Somerville — I’m not often able to make the Wednesday workshops but Toni is one of my mentors and the two of us meet regularly). One of them I run. In the other, I have the luxury of being a student. And in that second one, the “host poem” of our closing session for this term was by Gary Whited, who headlines this Friday (tomorrow!) at the Chapter and Verse series in Jamaica Plain. I’ve never met the man but appreciate his work. Word on the street is that he incorporates poetry into his day job as a psychotherapist.

If you’ve already got plans on Friday, Mr. Whited makes an appearance at the Brookline Public Library’s monthly open mic in January — details below.

I’m also calling out the Small Animal Project, a regular reading series held in a space that’s near and dear to me. Until the mid 2000s, it was the back room of the New Words Bookstore and home to a feminist/queer monthly open mic. Perhaps someone in Camberville can tell me if Small Animal Project does justice to New Words’ legacy.

Friday, December 13, 7:30 pm
Gary Whited and Mary Bonina
Chapter and Verse Series
Loring-Greenough House
12 South St.
Jamaica Plain

Sunday, December 15, 2 – 4 pm
Afaa Michael Weaver and Larissa Pienkowski
Brookline Poetry Series
Brookline Public Library
Main Branch in Hunneman Hall
Brookline
Open mike sign-up: 1:45 pm

Monday, December 16, 8 pm
Tamiko Beyer, Jenny Browne, and Kate Greenstreet
Small Animal Project
Outpost 186
186 1/2 Hampshire St
Cambridge

Sunday, January 19, 2-4 pm
Susan Becker and Gary Whited
Brookline Poetry Series
Brookline Public Library
Main Branch in Hunneman Hall
Brookline
Open mike sign-up: 1:45 pm

February 13, 6 pm
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Katzenberg Center, 3rd Floor
871 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston University

Sunday, February 16, 2-4 pm
Elaine Terranova and Justen Ahren
Brookline Poetry Series
Brookline Public Library
Main Branch in Hunneman Hall
Brookline
Open mike sign-up: 1:45 pm

Gratitude List

  • warm floors in the morning (radiant heat on the second floor of our townhouse)
  • a cat who comes when called
  • a cat who’s always willing to purr for you
  • that most intimate of moments when you are half-asleep next to your partner of years while the dim winter morning light filters in through the window
  • the discomfort that comes from trying new things
  • friends to call when winter blues set in
  • austere winter landscapes, with bare tree branches and empty skies
  • winter sunlight
  • walking into a heated building from a wind so cold you have to take off your glasses

Tiny Gratitudes

  • Sunflowers painted on the ceiling of an ultrasound exam room
  • Getting to an appointment 10 minutes early so I can sit in the car and stop rushing
  • Living in a place where the trees are taller than the buildings
  • Mentholated cough drops: bits of eucalyptus trees born thousands of miles away, soothing my throat and my lungs
  • A tiny white pill that keeps me from breaking into tears every 15 minutes
  • Miracle cures that ease cold symptoms, even if they do need to be taken again and again again
  • The rain washing down the windshield of the car, softening edges and smearing lights
  • The Fort Point Post Office, open 24/7/365, even at 7pm on the Sunday before Christmas
  • Working in an industry where skills matter as much as connections

Gratitude Day 15: Moment in the Sun

This morning on my daily walk, the woods were bare, barren, still in disarray after Sandy. Branches and whole trees strewn across the trails, the trails themselves obscured under a carpet of rust-colored oak and beech leaves. I’m fortunate enough to live next to not one but two different pieces of conservation land. On the opposite end of our townhouse complex, past a grove of eastern hemlock, is a circuit through a wetlands, boardwalk in spots, bare earth, rock, and mud in others. Closer to our house are the woods. Maintained by a different municipality, they’re the local stomping grounds of all the discontented youth in the area. We regularly come across the vestiges of bonfires and parties: carcasses of beer cases, crushed and empty cans, glass sparkling among the mica on the granite outcroppings. Once, an entire couch, or rather what remained after most of it was consumed by flame.

This morning, the woods were fully Novembered, bare branches and trunks rising over that russet-brown carpet, and the sky above marshallowed with clouds. The cold nipped along the edges of my fleece and I was glad I’d thought to bring gloves. Underneath though, legs swinging through the empty crunch of the bare woods, I felt myself opening, enlivening, made vital in the way that only the cold air can make one vital. Sweat ran down my stomach, cooled when I stopped to stretch against a boulder at the top of the hill, drove me on to greater exertion to bring my body temperature up again.

On the way back, I picked around the edges of a red oak, its entire crown fallen over a pathway as wide as a street. Someone had already visited the swamp’s pathway, taken a chainsaw to the trunks that had fallen. Who will come to tidy these woods, one small island of wildness in the city of Boston?

Later today, I drove from an off-site meeting to my office under skies still glowering and chill, skies that seemed to promise snow. Instead, at 11:00am, just as I pulled up to parking spot, the sun came slanting through my sun roof. I opened it, and basked for a moment in the November sun.

30 Days of Thanks Starts on Day Nine

Forget April. November is the cruelest month for me, mashing rust-colored leaves in the raw days of no-sun clouds. A good month for a long slog, and long slogs are always easier in the company of others.

This year, I’ll be slogging on the gratitude train, with 30 days of thanks. Which starts on Day Nine for me, apparently, since this is the first I’ve heard of it. I’ll spare you the story of what I was doing for the first eight days of the month.

Gratitude opens new holes in the swiss-cheese brain of possibility. So here’s some gratitude for today:

  1. Star moss peeking out from beneath snow-patches, over rust-colored leaves
  2. The prodigal sun returns from in absentia
  3. Tom Robbins’s books led me enchanted through jungles of wordplay when I was 15 years old
  4. How extra glad I am to be the protagonist in my own novel, and not one written by Tom Robbins
  5. My thumbs work
  6. It is Friday.

30 Days of Thanks

Two February Haiku: Sunlight, Startled Deer

afternoon sun slants
shows the marsh in a new light
witch hazel, hemlock

three deer in the trees
bound away with startled tails
tiny wild island

The Move: After

Wednesday 12/21/2011

Solstice. The Longest Night. The shortest day. We wake at 6:00 a.m. or thereabouts, with the windows outside still black. Day dawns rainy, chilly, but not freezing cold; it’s in the 50s on the solstice. Still, we know that January and February — the real bitch-winter months — have yet to come.

I’m hurrying to get through these pages because M has already left and the movers are coming to his house at 9:00 a.m. They were late, so very, very late, when they came to my house on the 17th. Five hours late. By the time they were done unloading the truck, it was 10:00 p.m. And I tipped them anyway.

Stop for a moment and be still. Know that the Goddess is with me always, the door as close at my own heart. Invite Her to walk with me today, to travel with me.

And with the invitation comes gratitude for M, my life’s partner, my heart’s desire. The first man in this lifetime I’ve trusted enough to intertwine with like this. Gentle soul, sensitive and real — and still a man, unaware of his privilege and its effect on me, as unaware as I must have seemed to Quick, as a white woman partnered with a Puerto Rican.

Echoes of Quick, echoes of April, all the myriad mistakes I made in the past and learned from — and learned from. All the bumps and stumbles in the dark we made in our marriages, because lesbians have always known what the state denies: that marriage begins when you rent the U-Haul and put two sets of china in the same cabinet, not when you rent a church and put two sets of relatives in the same function hall.

All the bittersweet lessons I learned from my lovers, and all the savory friendships and sisterhoods I’ve been blessed with since.

Anaphase and I, two bright minds burning in the darkness. Lucy’s gentle soul, pregnant and fulfilled, endless source of love and compassion. Two things I’d never expected to have in this lifetime: straight women as my good, good friends.

The Goddess in all her guises, made manifest around me.

What joy and passion to be alive, in this place, at this time. Oh brave new world, that has such wonders in it!