Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Small Starts

Good morning! Look at this: 

Pretty, huh.

Yesterday, I participated (online) in a workshop from the North American Association for Environmental Education, entitled "Nature as Inspiration and Transformation: An Intro to Nature Poetry."

I got to spend an hour with Aimee Nezhukamatathil, author of World of Wonders, to be published by Milkweed (one of my favourite publishers) in August.

Here's more:

Interesting, though possibly less "traditionally pretty."

The workshop, though: it was wonderful! Especially because I'm generally intimidated by poetry, both reading it and writing it. And I have an appreciation of others' scientific expertise, which I emphatically do NOT have.

And yesterday, I was reminded that all writing starts somewhere, and a sense of wonder--both in the sense of "awe" and in the sense of "curiosity"--is a great starting point.

Also: the power of starting small. Of keeping journals where you record (in writing and sketching!) observations of the world and sky. Of leaning into the things that make you mad or you don't like.

Maybe those observations grow into something more and maybe they don't.

It was lovely to participate as Aimee encouraged all of us to relax the pressure we might feel--from others, from ourselves--to "be productive" or "create."

Those who follow me on Instagram (where I'm marionagnew) know that fairly often I go over to the beach in front of our small camp on Lake Superior.

I pick up what our family calls "driftglass" and others call "seaglass." And I take pictures of it before I put it into a glass jar, where I enjoy looking at it.

I also write about these bits of glass, which you might have read if you've read my book, Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's. Spoiler alert: they made me think of my mother! And also sheets.

In any case, that's what's on my mind these days: small starts, wonder (awe and curiosity), and, as always, this beautiful place in which we live (and parents and sheets).
Wednesday, May 13, 2020


So. Remember when I fell on the ice? And my wrists weren't hurt badly and were getting better?

Those were the days.

During the ensuring eight or so weeks, my wrists have actually improved. I have gradually returned to reading, then editing and revising, a bit. Even some writing.

I have also attended a LOT (a lot) of Zoom meetings.

And here's what I saw during those meetings.

The photo above shows the view through the upstairs window where we set up the laptop with the functioning camera. 

Above: a closer shot to better show that thing out there. Yep. It's hanging at the end of rope, twisting in the breeze coming off Lake Superior (from left to right), and knocking gently against the exterior chimney (to the right). 

And yep, a gust from the right/wrong direction could send it right into the window glass! Which probably would have been neither a hassle nor at all expensive to replace! 

Throughout those past eight/nine/ten months years? weeks, I have lived with a sense of impending doom, as illustrated by this view. 

Last week I had another wakeful night in which I decided that although I cannot control all the stressful things in life, surely I could do something about a couple of them.

So I signed up for a grocery pickup service. And I phoned my family doctor because the healing in my wrists had plateaued and I was tired of thinking about them.

So this is the thing that was hanging from the rope on the roof. (I can't explain what it is, because I don't know. It's metal. What role did it play in weighting a string along the roofline, in a Roy-engineered contraption to keep gulls and ravens from sitting on the roof? Couldn't really say, but there's a broken partial hockey stick on another slope of the roof. And to finish the story, said contraption did emphatically NOT keep birds off the roof, but it did make for interesting whining during winter winds.)

The rope finally failed and this metal thing came crashing down onto the ground a couple of weeks ago. Whew. The window is relatively safe.

And so am I. Because I have ventured into our healthcare system and have an appointment Friday to determine whatever we shall do about these fractured wrists (!!!) of mine.

I anticipate casts and a general rewind of my ability to use my hands. I can only accept it in the service of healing. 

I'd been thinking of the metal thing as the Sword of Damocles, except that when I finally looked up that analogy the point of the story seems to be that power brings peril, which doesn't really fit either the literal situation with the window or my own, with the wrists.

For one thing, I would hardly call myself powerful, and for another, my peril came from my own carelessness, not the Winds of Fate. Well, I suppose falling was loosely related to the Power of Considering Oneself Younger And More Balanced Than One Is While Walking On Snow Over A Freaking Ice Rink That Is The Driveway, Not That I'm Bitter.

King James translated it better: Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18).

I would say, "At least I'll be able to go outdoors and enjoy the spring sunshine," except that we had snow last week, and it's still May, so snow isn't out of the question.

But there exist such things as coats and mugs of coffee, and I can still read, so, to quote the woman we know as Julian of Norwich, all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. 
Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Special Days

Early May is always a bit of a sensitive time around here.

My mother's birthday was May 3 (she would have been 103 this year), and her death anniversary falls near the midnight separating May 7 from 8.

And Mother's Day, of course, is always the second Sunday of May.

This year is especially poignant. It's the 20th anniversary of her death. And the first year my book about her--about her, and me, and our family, and all of us--is out.

Also, this year I didn't get to see my family--that was one of my ghost events.

Most days, I wouldn't trade any element of the way my life has gone. After all, I've landed here, in a life that was better than I ever dreamed.

Other days, I find myself wanting to tell my mother the nice thing someone said about her and the book. So I take a walk.

I see this.

And this.

The poignancy becomes mixed with gratitude, and with spring. And all is well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Trudging and Rewatching

Today would have been my first morning to wake up here at home after my vacation, in a non-COVID universe.

It's the last of THAT ghost event. May will bring more ghosts.

I'm noticing many other ghost events, ongoing. Sports reports "reports" continue to be all about events that won't be happening. And meanwhile, let's all watch this sports event from a previous year that was SO GOOD.

No shade on rewatching. I mean, it's what I do with books. And when hasn't a Jane Austen adaptation been a good insomnia companion?

Rewatching is also what I do with seasons. Every year.

So, yes, I adore living here. And although I'm sorry to miss seeing family (and let's be real, wearing flipflops), there's no place I'd rather be than here.

But some days--let's just say I'm not walking lightly on the landscape. I'm not stomping-mad. Just trudging through days. Checking things off my (greatly reduced) list. Going outdoors.

Remembering "gentle." Or trying. 

Here are some more things I've seen, as I've rewatched Spring arrive.

Stay home, stay safe, keep trudging.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy 50th Birthday, Earth Day!

How am I celebrating? By noticing, mostly. And attempting not to judge: no "I'm so over this" or "whyyyyyy isn't it warmer?" or "where are the flowerrrrrrrssss?"

Here's what I saw.

And although I'm still not into advice and answers, if you're looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day, too, I humbly share "noticing" as a consideration.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


Did anyone else who keeps a physical, analog calendar write CANCELLED across all of April and May?

I secretly held out some hope for May, but from the first (and very welcome) announcement of closures, I knew April was toast.

And now we're at the point in April where, because we're isolating and distancing, I'm more aware of ghosts.

Or, more properly, the ghost of the life I'd set into motion for April. *

I'd planned a trip to the US, for various reasons. One of my siblings had a birthday that ends in zero, which is as good a reason as any for us to gather. Also, April is usually the month in which my stores of "being a good sport about fickle weather" are extra-low, so I plan a trip to Tucson, which is almost always sunny and warm. (Comparatively, for sure.) So the five of us were set to rendezvous to say "hi." And probably other things.

But of course we're not doing it, although the events linger on my calendar under the ballpoint pen line crossing them out. Presumably, they also linger in the multiverse in which the world was better-prepared for novel coronaviruses. 

I'm sorry to miss this trip, and the other events I had looked forward to in May (because, let's be real, those that aren't already cancelled will be). Of course I'm sad. Wistful.

I wonder if that other version of me in that other multiverse is enjoying the trip and the anticipation of the other events. I wonder what events she's anticipating that won't come to pass.

I still don't have Big Conclusions--still taking a pass on Big Meaning.

But, because I'm "stuck" here in this lovely place with its fickle, dithery spring weather, I'm fortunate to have a front-row seat to its indecision. The skiffs of snow, the ice re-forming in roadside ditches. 

The returning ducks and geese. The breakup of the ice across the bay. 

And the sunrises. All worth staying for--safe at home.

* Today, April 15, is also the date income tax is normally due in the U.S. It's also the date my father died, back in 2007, speaking of ghosts. It tickles me that a man who valued thoroughness and diligence over efficiency accomplished both inevitabilities, death and taxes, on the same day. He was a lovely, complicated soul, which we five siblings would have talked about--and will, when next we gather. A gathering that, itself, would have given him so much pleasure.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Some people have Things to Say.

Sometimes always, sometimes "now more than ever," they have a Need to Share "this wonderful thing I do."

Which is great. Writers. Artists. Cool.

Sometimes I read Things People Say.

I especially enjoy people's varied artistic practices, especially those practices that look at things. Like Shawna Lemay's, at Transactions with Beauty. Love love love her series of still lifes. (I entertain myself by using "stills life" as the plural.)

I appreciate those who curate (oh that word) words for us. Like Kerry Clare, who shares her Gleanings.

But sometimes I'm kind of, I don't know, done? I want to say, "Shhh."

So I tell myself that. It helps to go outdoors.


You don't have to tiptoe, but learn from me: do be careful on ice.

Sometimes, you can look up, or over, or out.