TEN YEARS AGO TODAY . . .
. . . I was beginning the third day of the first week of a four-week (one week per season) silent intensive writing retreat led by Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (see above photo) in Taos, New Mexico. For two days, we had been writing constantly and my arthritic writing hand had had enough. I needed help and passed a note to a participant who had led us in several yoga exercises. "My writing hand is cramping. Do you know of any exercises I could do so it doesn't hurt so much when I write?" Here is the note I got back:
That's where and how I met my beloved Beth. I recorded our meeting in my journal:
"I told her [Beth] that 'changing pens is like changing horses.' She is so sweet. I told her that she had the most healing voice. But that doesn't matter. Keep writing. Does this pen work here [in my journal]?
[Notes from Natalie follow:] Why would people read you if you don't read them? Whenever you commit yourself, you encounter your resistances. You are sticking up for yourself, you will be confronted. Your childhood will be within you always. No prescription.
[Quoting Jack Kerouac: "Be submissive to everything. Open listening."
An excerpt from my first writing exercise with the new pen:
When my mother was the age I am now, nearly 53, she had five adult daughters ranging in age from 29 to 24. She had a dog named Gypsy and a husband of 30 years. She had a home; china, crystal and silver; several sets of dinnerware; a basement freezer; gardens that were the envy of the neighborhood; Christmas decorations; baking stuff; cookie cutters, spatulas, mixer, blender, a recipe box of tried-and-true recipes. She was the picture of a successful homemaker. Her cookies were the talk of the neighborhood. Bread, rosettes; a legacy of creativity, really, to pass down. What I have of hers is her sea shells; her unbearable sense of control; her fear of death and her creative spirit. I have no children, no recipe box, no 3,000 square-foot home, no den, no basement freezer -- I couldn't be more different from her using these criteria, but I couldn't be more alike in ways that defy decay. She has passed onto me a legacy that is singular and admittedly robust. I have made more money from exercising my creative spirit than she ever did -- I've made more in a year than she in a lifetime, but I have also shelled out more money in therapy, creativity courses, alcohol and books, CDs -- whatever to understand and/or forget what she imprinted on me. I have often thought that if I had not had her as a mother, the money I invested in therapy could have been invested in a larger home in a wealthier, safer neighborhood. Now I have all this art and and art storage facility that I call my home . . . .
MY BELOVEDS FROM THAT WRITING INTENSIVE . . .
This photograph was taken in the zendo where we gathered every day.
I am third from the left in the top row. Beth is to my left.
At the end of that row, on the far left, is Denise
who died in a tragic car accident during the summer of 2006.
(We never got a chance to really know her.}
To Beth's left is our beloved Bob, who died in July 2013.
Natalie is third from the right in the top row.
To Natalie's left at the end of the row is our beloved Neola.
Our beloved Gwendolyn, third from the left in the front row,
died in June 2011.
HERE, OR ON THE OTHER SIDE . . . WE'RE STILL OPEN LISTENING.