Sunday, February 23, 2014

i am a mutt

It seems that self-discovery tests are all the rage on Facebook lately. I don't usually play games or take quizzes, but I was snowed in for almost two weeks (our 1/2 mile driveway turned to solid ice) so I had a few minutes to spare. So far I've discovered that if I were a dog, I'd be a Mutt--but then, I already knew that. I found out that I should be living in Massachusetts. Close enough--but I really should be living in Vermont, with New Hampshire a close second. If I were a disciple of Jesus I would be St. Phillip--quiet and nature loving. Right on!

But this is the one I liked the most: Which side of your brain is dominant?
You can take the quiz here .
Haha! I scored 66% right brained, implying that I enjoy the gifts of creativity, curiosity, and intuition as opposed those of you who are left brain dominant--rational, logical, and hung up on rules. This suggests that I may have spent thirty years working in the wrong field...and that I have finally found my niche.

This might explain why I retired from the practice of medicine prematurely. The new rules were a poor fit for me. The insistence that doctors see more patients faster defeated me. My brain wasn't wired for the electronic medical record. Jumping through hoops to satisfy the auditors and attorneys and financial officers didn't make sense to me.
 So now I write. I love it here in the right side of my brain. It's such fun!

Are you right-brain or left-brain dominant? Do you think it matters?
In honor of this weekend's thaw, here is a snippet I jotted down at a conference I attended where I struggled with all the other writing prompts. The prompt for this exercise was to write whatever we wanted:
"Not everyone loves winter in the woods with its grays and whites
and the stark black shadows of the trees. 
But then, not many people have a stream behind their house
where the snow falls soft and deep and still.
Where the ice freezes hard around the stones,
curls up into ripples and wrinkles and glitters in the sunlight
beneath their feet." 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

how to kill a butterfly

I started reading a new book this weekend and before I reached page 25 I came across a passage that sucked the breath out of me. You know what I mean...the kind of writing that makes you wish you had thought of that. The book is "This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage" by Ann Patchett, a collection of her writings on work, art, friendship, and love.

Bear with me while I share this with you. She is describing how, even if you have an idea for a great story--something you believe in and love--the process of translating your thoughts into words on a page can feel like killing a butterfly.

    She writes:

    "For me it's like this. I make up a novel in my head...the happiest time in my writing process. The book is my invisible friend, omnipresent, evolving, thrilling. During the months (or years) it takes me to put my ideas together, I don't take notes or make outlines; I'm figuring things out, and all the while the book makes a breeze around my head like an over-sized butterfly whose wings were cut from the rose window in Notre Dame. This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life...and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see.

    And so I do. When I can't think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air...I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It's not that I want to kill it, but it's the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing--all the color, the light and movement--is gone. What I'm left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That's my book."

    This rings true to me as I start a new project that I'm having trouble pinning to the page. Still, I hate to just let it go...

    Rumor has it that a thaw is on its way. Except for a trip to the grocery store with my husband driving the plow, I've been stuck at home for nine non-stop days, alone except for the dogs.

    Thank God for the dogs!

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

    winter is for writing

     This week was notable for its perfect winter weather--subfreezing temperatures, snow, and ice.

    This, of course, is the set up for another edition of "The Joys of Country Living" which, along with feeding the birds this week, meant spooking a couple of deer in the woods, treeing a raccoon one night, and an encounter with a red fox. It meant a nocturnal exploit with a chain saw to take out a tree that fell across the driveway. And, sufficient solitude to get some major writing done...which I'd like to share with you. This is a snippet from my new, non-fiction WIP, titled "Beyond Belief":
    "Not far from the hospital where I worked for so many years was a popular outdoor café. Along the sidewalk outside, five or six small cast iron tables with matching chairs and colorful umbrellas shielded patrons from the sun and even rain if it were just a sprinkle.Weather permitting, patrons arrived at daybreak for coffee and croissants, gourmet omelets and crepes. By midday, business men and their clients met for lunch.  All day long women gathered there, three or four of them at a time, for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. 

    For years I passed them day after day. And I resented them for it, the fact that they had time to fritter away with mindless chatter while I battled city traffic on my way to work. That they were entitled to a life of leisure and self-indulgence while the rest of us had to earn our living. I consoled myself with the notion that their lives must empty if they had nothing better to do while I labored, day in and day out, to serve mankind.
    But I know better now. I understand why women gather like that, at a sidewalk café for a midday martini, or around a campfire to toast marshmallows, or around the kitchen table for a cup of tea.

    You can't tell by looking at them whose daughter committed suicide for reasons no one could fathom. She was so popular, and she was doing so well in school, and she'd never given them any trouble at all. But you know who was there for her--who held her up at the funeral, fed her for months, and covered for her at work so she wouldn't lose her job. Who took care of the laundry and kept up her house. You know because, even though it might have happened years ago, they still meet like this.

    Nor can you tell which one will go home to an alcoholic husband. After all, he holds down a good job, and you can't see the bruises on her arms.

    Nor can you tell by looking at them which one has had a mastectomy. Maybe they all have and that’s why they get together like this. Before it’s too late.

    The point is that we encounter wounded souls wherever we go. In the checkout line at the grocery store. On the treadmill next to us at the gym. Around our own kitchen table. The problem is that we don’t always recognize them. You can’t always tell by looking at a person that divorce is in the air, or that your boss’s biopsy came back bad because, in spite of it, she says “good morning” with a smile on her face every day. You can’t always tell when a friend is contemplating suicide. They may not want anyone to know so they try not to let it show."
    I wouldn't object to another major winter storm this week. What about you? 

    How is your winter writing coming along?

    Sunday, February 2, 2014

    what is your story?

    Do you have a story to tell?
    Something bottled up inside? A story too painful for words? So sad it brings tears to your eyes?

    What have you lost? Your job? Your home? Your faith?

    Who do you miss? Your mother?  Your father? Your child? Your friend?

    What is it that scares you? The chemo? The pain? The end?

    Where are you broken?

    How will you heal?

    What is your story? Who will you tell?

    Is it a story without words? Something stuck in your throat?

    Something you can draw for us?

    Watercolor by Toni Cincotta

    Something you can put to music?
    Paul Winter

    Or tell us in dance?
      Or shout out on a  drum?

      The Kripalu drummers

      Even if your story is locked up tight, your fingers are frozen and your feet are like lead, someone may need to hear read it, or see it, or feel it as it's told, before they can tell their own. If you can't tell it, find someone who can. Remember:
    This post is dedicated with deep gratitude to my  friends who, this week, agreed to share their stories with that I can share them with you. You know who you are...