Tag Archives: being encouraged

LitFest

Three years ago, Telluride presented its first Literary Arts Festival (“LitFest”), and I wanted to go, but I had very recently spent time there, and couldn’t afford another visit, so soon. Last year, I decided, instead, to visit my mom on Mothers Day, which I likely might have done this year, had Mom not passed away, earlier this year. So this go-around, I booked my hotel early, and began dreaming and waiting.

Of course, reality wasn’t much like any of my dreams; but its quality was at least as high as my dreams’. I met one author and one poet, each of whom I only knew by name and photos. And, I got to see nearly all the Telluridians I already knew.

One of the most popular events of LitFest, is its Literary Burlesque, which is both a metaphoric and literal disrobing of its featured poetesses. I wish I could show pictures from it, due to the costuming and such, but alas and go figure, pictures were not allowed. This was also the only event that you had to pay for. It also had sold-out, the previous two years. Thanks to my knowing one of the co-owners of the bookstore where tickets were being sold, I was able to call and get one, while they were still available.

As these thing often happen with writing type festivals and such, I didn’t get much writing done. Well, it’s not the festival that’s to blame—it’s my addiction to YouTube videos. (I’m seriously wondering whether getting wi-fi for my apartment is a good idea.) However, I’m leaving feeling more solid and grounded in being a writer; more thoroughly a member of the tribe.

Meanwhile, back in Salida, Wednesday is to be the last day for our current kitchen manager and dietician. I’ve struggled mightily giving my writing precedence over my paying job. With the upcoming change of management, it seems a good time to make such a change. However, that’s entirely another sack of worms for perhaps another time.

In a few hours, give or take, I’ll get in the van and head back home. My next scheduled visit, here, won’t be until late October, an entire summer and two-thirds of an autumn away. Maybe I’ll squeeze in at least one visit before then. We’ll see. It’s hard to stay away too long from views like these.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

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So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

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Not What I Think

Yesterday evening, I took a walk a little too late in the day. The sun was already setting when I left, and on the way back it was growing pretty dark. As I neared the lights and buildings of downtown, which is actually on the edge of town, I felt I was returning to a place I knew, a place where I’d spent a significant amount of time, a place I new well; but oddly, it didn’t feel like where I was returning was home. There was a distance, a separation between this place and myself.

I’ve lived here for over a fifth of my life, longer than anywhere else. I am known by name, by face, and by both, here. Yet, last night, it wasn’t to home that I was returning.

There’s five and six and a half years separating me from my older sister and brother. My birth was unexpected. I grew up knowing I was at least partially responsible for Dad not finishing college: “I ran out of money. I ran out of smart sauce. And I had him.” Dad was a wildlife biologist, a facts and science guy. This son of his, however, was a dreamer, a taker of long walks, a talker to himself, a keeper of his own company. Mom becoming pregnant with me was just the first of my surprises.

Midway through fourth grade, Dad was transferred to another city, and I lost all of my friends in the move. Subsequently, I also lost the only remaining people with whom I belonged. I’ve felt a full-on outsider, ever since.

At fifty years of age, I still struggle with being liked, with being admired, being worthy, and with having value. I strongly doubt that anyone could ever really become attached to me. That my being alive in this world could have any positive meaning. (Another lesson learned from childhood was to stay out of the way, not to be a bother to other people.) At the foundation of it all, I do not believe people when they tell me that I matter, that what I’ve written and done has meant something to them. I want to believe, but I’m unable to fully do so. I am forever the odd man out.

Earlier this year, I received a Facebook message from a woman whom I’ve known for a few years. She lives four hours away with her family, and we’ve seen each other six or seven times. She is both wise and perceptive, and what she has to say is taken with high regard by lots of many people. Here’s a pivotal sentence from her message: You bring so much to the world, such generosity of spirit, such clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance), such kindness.

“…[S]uch clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance)…” It stabbed me in the heart when I read it. With such precision, I’d been seen and called by name. My self-deprecating bs was also called by name, called onto the carpet. She is far from alone in seeing me, thus. In fact, I might be pretty much alone in thinking I don’t matter, am a bother to people, not both a joy and blessing—that I don’t belong.

One of the locals, here, is wheelchair-bound. A bumper sticker on his wheelchair says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Seems to me that the crux of my difficulties in becoming a writer, in believing that I might have something to offer, is this same inability to believe in the worth of my writing. To believe in the worth of my ownself.

Perhaps I should stop believing what I think about myself.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island, Sorting It Out

Telluride: Day Five

Well, after Sunday’s “day of rest,” yesterday was a more productive one.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer had agreed to meet with me at 2:30, before she picked up her kiddo from school. I was able to get a hike in along one of the trails she’d suggested, before our meeting.

I seem to have come to Telluride at the right time. The leaves are still turning, making the stunning box canyon valley even moreso stunning. Amy Levek mentioned several times during our own hike together, that it was hard to not be happy amid such scenery. It’s also hard not to be inspired.

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My time with Rosemerry was brief, but wonderful. As it turned out, it was the first time I’ve been with her when there hasn’t been some poetry-related thing going on. Even so, it didn’t take us long to get into deeper conversation. I mentioned my persistence in questioning the value and worth of my writing, and myself as a writer; and she said she still occasionally struggles herself with those same questions. To hear that a poet and writer of her caliber doesn’t have it settled and squared away, still has those existentially pestering moments, is something of a relief. If Rosemerry is still dealing with these issues, then my own dealings are certainly not proof against my own writing.

This evening, I’ll get to see Rosemerry again. The first Tuesday of every month is Talking Gourds, the monthly gathering of poets, here, hosted by Rosemerry and Art Goodtimes. There’s a visiting poet who does a reading and maybe a discussion, followed by the rest of the poets reading poems written to a theme selected at the previous month’s meeting. I intentionally scheduled my time here to include attending Talking Gourds. And I’ll still have one more full day here before returning home to Salida.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Sorting It Out, Staying With the Writing

Not Alone

Well, a good bit has happened since my last blogpost. As some of you know, I received a number of hits for this particular post and its link on Facebook. When I posted, I was already turning back toward the light, and that’s been continuing, since. Each of you who reached out, whether through prayers, thoughts, bright blessings sent my way, coming up to me to see how I’m doing and to let me know your door’s always open, and commenting on the blogpost and/or its FB link, or whatever other way, has been a significant element of continued improvement. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

To be sure, I still have miles to go. But I’m not traveling alone. And thank you, again, for that.

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I’m a member of a local poetry group that meets once a month. Each meeting, we’re given an assignment for the next month’s meeting. We’ll be meeting tomorrow, and our assignment will be to have written a letter to poet regarding one of their poems that we’ve spent time with, looking it over and seeing what holds it together. The four poem/poets we were to chose from were: “Thanks,” by WS Merwin; “French Horn,” by Jane Hirshfield; “Scars,” by William Stafford; and “I Might Not Have Believed,” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Me, being who I am, wrote to each poet. (Well, to Kim Stafford, who is literary executor for his father, who died in 1993, re: “Scars.”)

Friday, August 1st, I received a postcard from Kim, thanking me, saying his father would have enjoyed my letter. I was stunned when I realized the postcard was from him. (I’d also recently written a dear friend whose tendency is to send me postcards from her travels; so when I saw I’d received a postcard, I thought it was from her. When I got around to reading it, I quickly realized otherwise.) Yesterday’s mail brought another postcard; this one from Jane Hirshfield. I’m still shaking my head in bewonderment.

Perhaps I’m not alone as a writer, wondering whether my words have mattered, whether they’ve made their intended mark upon a reader. It was a stretching out my hand, writing to each of these four poets and writers. I hoped to hear something back, but I wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t gonna whimper if it never happened. The simple act of mailing a letter was, itself, already such a strong connecting action. To have heard back from two of them, and with such gracious and thankful words, and so quickly…? Well, seems my word do matter, do make their marks.

Perhaps, just maybe, even poets as successful, as esteemed, as these four aren’t so different from me, newbie that I am. Perhaps wondering whether ones words are doing good things, now that they’ve been set out on their own into the world, isn’t something that success and esteem keeps from happening. Just maybe, there’s a same quickening thrill when they receive a letter expressing thanks for what they’ve written, that shows someone has spent time with their poem, deepening their understanding and appreciation of it. Maybe the best way they can deal with their exploding-with-gratitude heart is to grab a postcard, write their gratitude on it, and put it into the mail, pronto. After all, being “a name” in whatever circle doesn’t make you less vulnerable. Make your desire to make a difference diminish any.

It might amaze you, the hands reaching out, waiting for your own hand to do the same.

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(Since it’s not on-line, anywhere, below is Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poem:)

 

I Might Not Have Believed

(Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

 

Because it is our work to love

I give you precedence.

Before the bills, before the making

of the bed, I set my list aside

that I might hold you first.

 

It is intricate, this loving.

I might wish it to be like origami,

a swan, perhaps.

Perfect tucks. Tiny folds.

 

It’s more newspaper hat,

crooked creases, crinkled,

never quite fitting the head.

 

I learn to bow to the clutter,

kiss what is rumpled,

kneel in the muddle and laugh.

 

Whatever this ache, I thank it,

how it keeps your scent

the axis of my dizziness.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island

Being Woven

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On the first morning of this month, I was in Telluride for a workshop led by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. I’ve known of Rosemerry for a good nine or ten years, but it’s only been within the past year I’ve begun getting to know her. One of the results of my having finally reached out to her was my being included in a Facebook poetry group.

I’m not much of an out-reachy sorta person—blame it on my being a powerful introvert. (Which may explain some of why I waited so long before contacting RWT, via a FB Friend request.) Too, I see myself as a teensy fish in the wide expansive pond that is Colorado writers.  (And an even teensier fish, still, when it comes to poetry.) So it was with something of surprise and delight when some members of the FB poetry group sent Friend requests to me. Fortunately, I was wise enough not to turn down such acts of wonderful grace. Two of these poets, Michelle Haynes and Amy Levek, live in Telluride, so while I was in town, I e-contacted each asking if they’d be available to meet. Amy was out of state, but Michelle agreed to meet me at her favorite hangout, and after having just gotten home from working all day(!)

Michelle had recently returned from having met another member of the poetry group, Debbi Kapp Brody, in her hometown of Santa Fe. As these things happen, Debbi had already contacted me, saying she’d be in Salida during the 4th of July weekend, and wanted to meet. Michelle’s words of high regard for Debbi confirmed my suspicions of the woman. And, sure enough, July 6th, I got to join Debbi and her husband, and also two local poets who knew Debbi already: Laurie James and Lynda La Rocca.

Within the same calendar week, I’d gone to a poetry workshop, met and gotten to know two other poets, and spent time with two other poets whom I already knew—three already-known poets, if you count the wisps of time I had with Rosemerry. Writing, as any creative art, can be isolating and insular. Add “powerful” introversion into the mix, and the need to connect with others, especially with those of your tribe, becomes essential. And for me, to be still more fully woven into the tapestry of other local poets made it seem more legitimate and true that I am a poet, never mind a writer also.

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Why Bother

I was brought up to not bother anybody. During the passing years, this has been transformed into a quiet, behind-the-scenes modus operandi. This is okay and good for dealing with people, especially at work, but it’s not such a good tendency for someone wishing to be a writer, to get their stuff “out there.” Case in point: Susan Tweit had to urge me repeatedly to check with High Country News regarding my essay they’d accepted eight or nine months before, to see where it was in their queue. When I did finally ask, after more than a month of Susan’s persistence, a whirlwind of activity ensued around my essay, which led to it being published not long after my query.

Further, when the local land trust organization recently held a reading at the local independent bookstore, I put off contacting anyone to find out whether I could be added, reading that same HCN essay. Once again, when I finally did ask, just one day before the reading, I was quickly added and included. As it turned out, I was last to read, and was told that my reading gave the event a proper ending.

It’s such a short distance between being brought up not to bother others and seeing yourself as being not worth the bother. In my last blogpost, I showed how this spilled into my perceptions of myself as a writer, and especially with seeing myself as a poet. In both of the mentioned circumstances regarding my High Country News essay, it was only after “bothering” somebody that my writing was finally able to fulfill its intent: to inform and serve.

Of course, this question of, Why bother, also applies at the beginning stages of writing, when envisioning and crafting each piece—even and especially the pieces of writing that never get beyond being just parts and pieces, never becoming wholly completed works. We bother doing the writing, and bother others about our writing, because in each case it turns out to be no bother at all.

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