The Better to Write With You, My Dear

nepoThe day began with a package on the side porch from Amazon. I carried it upstairs and called to Mani to ask her if she’d ordered something for me — we have both had Hanukkah gifts for each other and the kids trickling in, so opening packages without asking is a no-no. She didn’t think so, so I went for it, slicing a knife through the tape and ripping open the cardboard.

Inside, I found two hardcovers, both by Mark Nepo. One of them, The Way Under the Way, contains three books of poems. The second is called The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart. A gift slip sat atop them, from a beloved writer, client, and friend on the west coast, thanking me “for everything.” What she doesn’t  know — or maybe she does — is that it is she who has given me everything, from livelihood to the gift of watching another person come into greater gentleness with herself and confidence with her voice, in writing and in the world.

I’m surprising Mani with a few nights away–the first, second, and third nights of Hanukkah, to be exact. The kids will be with their dad and his family in Vermont for Christmas after a big family dinner tomorrow night, and I’ve been imagining for months now taking this last week of December “off.” Not having paid vacation is one of the things that can easily cancel out the much-heralded and truly fabulous flexibility of self-employment; it’s easy to *never* take time off, since no work means no money.

I’m at a place with all of it — life, work, money, love — where to live in fear or scarcity would be like spitting in the face of all that is holy and good in this world. And since how we do one thing is how we do everything, I’m deliberately choosing to take some rest — the better to write with you, my dear, in the coming new year. 

I’ll be bringing these new books, along with the memoir I started a month ago and have been “reading” at a painstakingly slow pace. I’ll be packing a journal, and making time to find out what my heart knows. And of course, we’ll be packing the air purifier, pots and pans, coffee and French press, and all of the other home accouterments we’re accustomed to bringing with us when we hit the road these days — not yet to where we can travel all-the-way freely (i.e. eating out, etc), but so grateful that we can get out of dodge at all.

January will bring the 10th anniversary of this blog, the new book, my birthday, a brand-new Dive Into Poetry, and who knows what other surprises. As I said to Mani last night — I need more sleeves, for all the things I keep up them.

Who knows? Maybe next week will even bring some new writing. I’m not making any plans beyond having no plans. And I’m trusting that not only is some down time good for me, but that what’s good for me is good, ultimately, for business.

In the meantime, in lieu of sending every single one of you a holiday card, I’m wishing you moments of presence and beauty in these coming winter days, no matter your tradition. I refuse to succumb to despair for this world, though there’s plenty of reason for it, and will keep doing everything I can to keep it real, connect deeply, and encourage you to use your words in 2017.

5 Gifts Under $50 (for You & the Writers You Love)

blessingIf you’re anything like some people I know and love, you’ve left some of your holiday shopping for the last minute — or (gasp) neglected to get something special for your own beautiful self!

I’ve assembled this quick and dirty list of writing-related gifts for you and/or the writer(s) you love, in case you’re looking for something but didn’t quite know what it was until you did.

Please note: If you are purchasing any of the items below as gifts, be sure to contact me with the recipient’s information. From my home to yours: Happy Merry. 

30-minute coaching session $50

13558921_10209162731121933_2635687224181490059_oWrestling with a piece of writing? Having trouble getting out of your head? So beaten up by the state of the world that you just can’t even? Time to get back in the ring, my friend. A 30-minute call completely devoted to your creative juices. Purchase + contact me to schedule.  

Dive Into Poetry + Jena’s new book, “Why I Was Late for Our Meeting” $49

Roar-Sessions-First-BirthdayHave your cake and eat it, too! Spend a month *playing* with poetry AND pre-order a personally inscribed and signed copy of Jena’s newest collection of poems to read at your leisure. Purchase.

10 Self-Paced Writing Prompts $36

10-daysEvery day for 10 days — on the start date and time of day of your choosing — receive a beautiful and original prompt in your inbox. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and start writing. That’s all there is to igniting or deepening your practice — at your own pace. Purchase.

Dive Into Poetry – January 2017 $31

diveA month-long online poetry party, for the people, by the people, and of the people. (Hint: You are the people!) No experience or prerequisites — this group is low stakes, super supportive, and loads of fun. Register.

“Don’t Miss This” and “The Inside of Out” $19.90 each

dont-miss-thisJena’s first book, “Don’t Miss This,” traces a fierce 15-year journey through marriage, motherhood, and coming out — when she risked everything she knew in order to claim what she had denied for so long: herself. Purchase.

inside-of-outBlending poetry and prose, the personal and political, and the ordinary with a 30,000-foot view, “The Inside of Out” is an intimate look at what happens over the course of a year, after life falls apart and reconfigures again. A beautiful gift for anyone who has ever wished love could be easy. Purchase.

“Why I Was Late for Our Meeting” $18

coverJena’s new collection of 50 poems caps off a year of darkness with these words: “The sun’s up there somewhere.” This book is equal parts invitation, prayer, protest, and love song to the pain and beauty of humanity and everyday life. Inscribed and signed for you or the beloved recipient of your choice. Purchase.

The Light We Throw

jp5rutrnaes-mark-rabeDriving south on 116, determined
not to miss the bus like yesterday,
my daughter chooses the soundtrack
of this wet morning, a precipitous mix
of snow and rain and angsty lyrics.
She mentions how much better
her outfit would look with Doc Martens,
hinting at the Hanukkah gift she knows
I know she knows awaits her.
She assures me she doesn’t, like, need
anything, but offers updated wish lists
like the cuddles and kisses I still covet.
I say “I love you” to my wife and youngest
before we leave, scolding myself gently
for the morbid flashes of black ice
and no return. We sit in the parking lot
waiting for the bus, a prosaic moment
I will insist on turning into poetry later.
We are incorrigible, the whole lot
of us, stubborn in being who we are.
And in these shortest of days, I find
that my heart will twist in any direction
to get a glimpse of the light we throw
off when the others aren’t looking.

The Dream of the Silver Spoons

Silver-Spoon
I woke up this morning shortly before the alarm to a barrage of dream fragments; they ranged, as usual, from vivid to blurry, and with varying degrees of accompanying narrative. One image did stand out from the others as I poured my coffee, though I forgot to tell Mani about it.

Often, I’ll “review” my dreams before fully waking up; sometimes dreams go *poof* in the instant I open my eyes, and still other days the nights will linger like a dark screen. Anyone who has known me for any amount of time can tell you that it verges on ridiculous, the amount of dreaming that goes on. From apocalyptic to pedantic and everything between, my dreams are steadfast companions that travel with me no matter how far I venture or how close I stay to home.

So that one image that stood out this morning — it was of my father giving me a collection, his collection, of silver spoons. They were all different sizes, and I think there were four or five all told. One was small, as you’d use to feed a child. Each had a story. They may even have been from different countries or generations. In the dream, I’d decided to get a tattoo of the spoons spooning each other, largest to smallest, on my upper right arm. I held them up to my arm to gauge the length of the tattoo.

It didn’t even occur to me that my dad might have a real-life spoon collection.

Then the day happened. I helped Pearlie finish packing for her much-anticipated week in Acadia, Maine with my sister’s family, alternating between practical things like a quick trip to CVS to pick up toothpaste and bug spray (and an iced doubleshot latte for me) and more emotional ones, like orchestrating a speaker-phone meeting of the minds with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, to reassure Pearl that it would be a fun week despite her fears of not being with either of her parents.

Tears were shed, hugs were had, and thankfully, we checked off the last item on her sweet little packing list in time for me to greet 40 participants in Dive Into Poetry, which began today (registration is open till Sunday, by the way!). Amazingly, when the phone rang at 10:00, I’d just placed my own bowl of steaming oatmeal on the table and was ready to settle in to an hour with a fabulous coaching client discussing consciousness and curiosity and clear seeing.

My sister came by our place to pick Pearl up a little after 11:00; miraculously, she only forgot one thing. We said goodbye and I blew her a kiss, which I saw that she caught in her hand (though she’d hate that I’m telling you that detail, I bet). By this time, my dreams from last night had fully receded with low tide, leaving only the light of an exposed day in full swing. A 20-minute emergency nap. Another coaching hour, this one raising the question of how we teach what we have to learn, culminating with a gorgeous, living list of ways to gauge EASE. Ah, ease.

Then I made lunch for Mani and wrote Monday’s prompt for The Story Sisterhood, by which time it was almost 3:30pm. Time to go to her dentist appointment (she hasn’t driven in well over a year due to the neuropathy in her feet, which is healing). During Mani’s appointment, I greeted and welcomed newcomers in the Poetry group, and also played a few rounds of Candy Crush on my phone. When she came back into the waiting room, I was relieved to hear that she doesn’t need any major dental work beyond a couple of fillings that need to be replaced (we had both been nervous about this, due to potential mast cell complications).

On the way home, we decided to stop by my parents’ house to welcome them back from a trip. We took a little tour of some freshly painted rooms, received lovely gifts from their recent time abroad, and then chatted in the kitchen about this and that before saying goodbye.

But it was a Jewish goodbye, meaning Mani sat in the car with her door open while my parents stood on a porch step and I lingered somewhere in the middle, our conversation still meandering here and there. And that was when I remembered the dream. The image I’d woken up with this morning, so vividly, but not spoken of and thus — I thought — forgotten all about. The spoons. My father.

“Oh! Wait! I just remembered a dream from last night!” Surely neither Mani nor my parents could’ve been surprised by these exclamations. I went on. “Dad gave me silver spoons, maybe four of them, all different sizes.”

My mom said, “Your father has a whole collection of them! He brings a new one home every time we travel!”

He did? He does? Who knew?

She hadn’t even finished her sentence before he’d gone into the kitchen; I saw him through the window as he open the silverware drawer. A moment later, he came back outside with three silver spoons in his hand, each a different size and style. One was from China; the other two of unknown origin. He handed them to me, as if reenacting my dream.

“No tattoos!” My mom admonished. (I assured her I plan on getting a hawk feather on my right arm, not spoons. I’m not sure she found this assuring.)

Shaking my head in disbelief as I walked around to the driver’s side, I called back to my dad — who is also a Freudian scholar — “Hey, what do spoons in dreams mean?”

“There’s no universal symbolism,” he said emphatically.

“Don’t ever think you and your father aren’t connected!” said my mom.

“May the Schwartz be with you,” I joked, looking him in the eye. I like sharing a name with him again.

But naturally, me being me, I looked it up later, after making dinner for Mani and then dinner for myself, after washing the dishes and getting caught up with all of my writing peeps. Spoons can mean nourishment — both offering and receiving. They can indicate prosperity and wealth.

And in this case, since they were a gift from my father to me, it occurs to me that they were a kind of blessing on my home, on my work. Perhaps a dream come true, quite literally. A symbol of approval, even, the kind you can spend your whole damn life chasing down.

What a mystery. What a gift. Thanks, Dad.