"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Willard

Willard Asylum - Lisa Gordon

The walls sweat
like my doctor's brow.
I long to touch dry bark,
rasp my cheek along the flank of a willow,
rest a hip against the oak
at the back of the lane.

They tell me it will make me feel better.
I swallow and nod and try
to get along.
But the walls waver and sweat

like my doctor's brow.
I can tell you how that tastes.
I want the sandy lane under my feet,
sand I can brush off and leave behind.


I wrote this poem for an artistic interpretation challenge from Margaret at the Imaginary Garden. This photo of the Willard Asylum in the Finger Lakes Region of New York was taken by Lisa Gordon when she toured the facility and photographed it. The asylum opened in 1869 and was closed in 1995. During the time it was operational, 50,000 patients called it home. Six thousand died there. Also of interest to me is Margaret's link to an ongoing project by photographer Jon Crispin called "The Willard Suitcases". He is photographing the contents of suitcases left behind by patients of the Willard Insane Asylum.

There are more photos of the asylum on Lisa Gordon's website here, including this one of a patient's grave, marked only by a number plate set in the ground.


Willard Grave Marker - Lisa Gordon

Friday, April 11, 2014

Keeper Of The Light

Boat In The Moonlight - Odilon Redon

No one knows how he lost his way
on the familiar run from
the mouth of the river
to his room on the quay.
The moon was out
when he ran aground
and the boat was found
but not the old man.
Only the keeper knows
what happened that night
how he fell asleep
whilst tending the light.



April is poetry month, and the challenge today at The Imaginary Garden was to write an ekphrasis poem based on the work of French symbolist painter and illustrator, Odilon Redon. Ekphrasis is a literary description of a piece of art.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TheTurtle




I walked around the pond in search of life.
The center is swirled in snowbanks
but the thaw has begun.
No floating fish-the feared winter kill-off, 
only leaves and corn husks float 
in the debris of spring.
Yet under the dock, air bubbles surface
and I imagined the turtle stirring
with dreams of a dragonfly’s spin.
But for now he sleeps. It’s only April.


The challenge here was to give our best and worst of April in 66 words. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Memoir/Memory

Memory is like a foggy morning: as the fog lifts, things take shape. A foggy morning pleases my writer's heart, like nature and seclusion. Upon awaking to fog, I want to light candles and brew coffee. I want it to stay like this: still and quiet.

Nothing except in things. 

So, I've decided to write a memoir, triggered by a contest notice. I'd never thought I had a life others would want to read about, but as I thought this over, I decided that wasn't true and began to dig around in my head for the childhood events that stand out like signposts. As one was unveiled and examined another emerged, like trees in a fogbank.

Do you ever wonder what made you the person you are today? How you got to where you are, why some things matter to you and other don't? What your career choices have been and the people you are attracted to and the ones who repel?  Writing a memoir is to take an untraveled road of discovery. And I've had the strangest, most vivid dreams of places and things and people I've not thought about in a long time. Do you wonder at the mother-lode of memory buried in our brains, waiting to be brought to light and shared?

I'm an environmentalist because my father is and my grandfather was, as was his and so on. Though they didn't call themselves that, any farmer who farms the land in a sustainable way and raises grazing animals while adhering to the time-honored practice of husbandry, is essentially an environmentalist. On road trips, Dad was constantly pointing out things of interest, from a herd of cattle to a hawk to the setting sun. He never let nature go unnoticed and while we might have been prone to day-dreaming in the backseat or squabbling about who was touching who, he drew our attention out the window to the vista in front of us or the one behind.

So that is one signpost in the road I've traveled to become the person I am today. But there are things I'm afraid to write about too, as sure as the fog will lift and the noise intrude. It takes a lot of courage to write a memoir and I commend the masters of this genre, namely Jeannette Walls who wrote The Glass Castle. And while I never led that nomadic of a life, it hasn't been one without interest and intrigue.

I've always found the idea of a "residency" intriguing. This farm might serve as my residency, except family obligations and chores always interfere. Life intrudes. That's the beauty of a true residency. Nothing intrudes between you and the writing. Dare I apply for a residency? Could I be gone for two weeks to participate in an endeavor that society places little value on? Many would see it as selfish and self-absorbed. I would see it as the gift and opportunity of a lifetime.

The closest I've ever come to a residency was a friend's summer house on a wake-free lake in Gladwin. I stayed there by myself for three days, nothing but loons, lily pads, jumping pike and grazing cattle in a field on the other side. I loved every single solitary minute. I wasn't afraid. I spread my manuscript out around the living room (itself, a luxury) and let it absorb every waking moment, stopping only to eat and sleep. In three days I edited fifty pages, wrote a poem and penned two or three sentences of another idea. Think what could be done with two weeks!