It’s something of a wake-up call when you think in the morning: today I’m going to shower and brush my hair. How deep I’ve settled into that familiar groove. The familiar always brings with it a kind of comfort. No matter how dark.

No run this morning because of the strained achilles. So the blue sky I see from the porch while the dog is peeing this morning, doesn’t quite do the trick it usually can. The plants in my yoga room are all dead, so I can’t bring myself to roll out my mat there.

I’d like something to grab me by two corners and snap me like a sheet. I want to hear that sound of straightening things out. And then I want to get on a plane and go somewhere where I sweat just sitting on the beach doing nothing.

And that is not going to happen. The school year limps to a close and then summer lies there like a damp cloth. There is a joy in hiking in soft rain, in hazy mornings. But something in me needs heat this year. Heat to burn off this restlessness. To get me to kick off this weighted blanket.

Every morning I write a single poem – quick and dirty – as part of my writing practice. The idea is to let go of the idea that my writing is too precious, and my ideas too few to squander on an online blog. I suppose it has something to do with the pop psychology model of the scarcity vs abundance mindset. At any rate, this morning I wrote about a late childhood summer memory. The twitter-sized poem touched off a cascade of memories. And I’ve been trying to suss out why they came up now and how I feel about them.

Ambivalence is the first word that came to mind, but that isn’t true. I don’t have good memories of the Kentucky river with its stigmatizing impetigo (white trash rash), the drunken men in their flipping dune buggies with their near-misses, recklessly chewing up the riverbanks. My mother too stoned to care that my 6-year-old brother was on a minibike and split his skull open on the tailpipe of a parked car, while I fussed in a kind of vertical rut, like a hopping, cartoon drama queen. Making “too big a deal of it.”

But I swam across the river once. And back. Despite my fear of snapping turtles, water moccasins, fish in general, and step-fathers in the specific. Death. Despite my fear of drowning like my cousin had been drowned in a bathtub.

I swam over the dark cushion of fear that was almost like a buoy, like a propelling presence.

I’ve been wondering if this is really facing one’s fear at all. I suppose it is – but then, I don’t feel like I conquered it. It was more like a battle and a retreat. All these years of battle and retreat.

And if I were to conquer my fears, to puncture the cushion? What then? What’s going to buoy me and propel me through the world?

these dark shapes that stack
one on one like bones to hold
a body upright

I am certain that I have written on this topic before. Certain because I have had the same exact prompt for exploration of the subject again and again.

And again someone offers advice that to make myself more visible as a poet I should teach workshops on this or that (sometimes the suggestion doesn’t even involve teaching poetry). It is interesting. And it is unintentionally demoralizing. I already have a job that isn’t writing.

There seems to be this idea that if people like you personally, they will like your poetry. “They just need to get to know you.” That seems odd to me. I don’t know writers whose work I admire. And in some instances, I dislike writers whose work I admire. And I wonder if the genre writing “community” is as similar to a cult-of-personality?

I asked my Canadian publisher which of her titles sold best. She didn’t take a beat: those who are very visible on social media.

It is interesting. And perplexing. I have a full-time job. I write daily, hand-bind books and make broadsides from handmade paper. I’m writing the newest manuscript, keep two Instagram accounts, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page (I spent weeks setting up a shop there, which has yielded 1 view). I have even begun to delve into Etsy and Pinterest. I have a dog, a husband and – despite Covid – friends. The last two things I mention require me to shower, too.

Where do people find the time to do more? I am impressed!

“Serve the Community”. It’s common advice to writers – and to visual artists. The marketing advice is almost identical to the advice offered to people selling workshops about marketing. To people selling pilfered quotes on t-shirts and coffee mugs.

The word “ingratiate” keeps coming to mind. I am not saying people who are popular ingratiate themselves, but any conscious attempt to become popular on my part would be.

I have never been someone who (successfully) vies for attention. Four people in a room, and I will press myself against the wall to watch. I think it’s why I am a writer. And a writer who has on occasion had much more to drink than was wise at conferences, just to be able to make small talk.

I am naturally more of an (amateur) social scientist, watching discreetly from the corner of the room noting observations about the fascinating gaps between spoken language and body language, than I am someone who dances on the table. I can control a classroom, but when all the teachers are in the room at the same time, the only thing that tells me apart from the students is my gray hair and drooping skin.

Literally, I have been an alien for nearly 30 years. Figuratively for much longer. I tried very hard to fit in in high school. And gave up entirely my junior year. All that contorting was very painful. And I never could figure out what I would win from it. Is it possible for life to still be like a bad teen rom-com when you are over 50?

I’m not going to win any popularity contests. And I am going to be okay with that.

In 7th grade, I did win a dance contest. The hustle was on the way out, but disco was still in. All the boys were named Steve or Greg. All the girls were Rebeccas and Pams. I do remember some things. A Halloween party and I tripped and got an ironic nickname for my performance. The nickname meant I belonged – for about four months. Then moved again. To start over in another town. You can’t bring nicknames with you. Especially when they’re ironic.

It’s weird I remember that nickname. Those people.

I’ve been thinking about how I have carried on a pattern of starting over throughout my life – even when it wasn’t necessary. Sometimes I circle back. And even though I get distracted, “Ooo – wouldn’t that be fun to do!”, I do think I am moving in an ever-tightening circle. Sort of zeroing in on a kind of contentment that isn’t dependent on other people’s responses. Not there yet. But closer.

I have a tattoo on the base of my neck. It is one of those Eastern-inspired Western designs that are about life’s path. I asked my (then) teen son to design it for me. It has a strange hard turn in one of the concentric circles. I’ve never asked him what it was. I assumed it was the divorce in his mind, though it was something else to me. Or maybe: AND it was something else for me. So when the tattoo artist assumed it was a mistake and asked me if I wanted him to “fix” the design. I said no.

My older son keeps reminding me to stay true to my joy. He doesn’t use those words – I have no idea whose words those are, actually. He says, only do the marketing as long as it is fun.

I haven’t submitted work to journals in over 5 years. I want to have my head together before I do. I want to have my personal guidelines clear before I even look at the calls.

Writing is my practice. It is not my livelihood. I’m going to try to dance, not hustle.

what feels like a hard
turn – decisive and brutal
will turn back again
in time imperceptibly
softening in the distance

I know people who write a poem-a-day no matter what. People who do things like “running streaks” (not to be confused with streaking). But I think I have a rebellious nature that throws blocks in the road when I become conscious that I have been holding to a pattern. I don’t think of it as self-sabotage, as much as a kind of reassurance of personal agency. Though to be honest, it is probably a bit of both.

I’ve stopped considering my life as a state of “normal” that is interrupted with periods of exception. That is an illusion. I can break my own timeline of experience into chapters, into periods of shifting themes – and there are leitmotifs that surface often. But there is no normal.

We’ve started running again and there is a huge temptation to describe it as “getting back to normal”. But that would mean someday I won’t be able to do that – and then what? I will never be my “normal” self again?

This “I”. whatever it is. likes running now. Misses it. But there may well come a day when “I” don’t enjoy it anymore. And there is a part of me that fears that I will lose myself, my very identity, instead of losing a habit or an affinity. I find this fascinating since I have often accepted the idea that our habits shape “who we are”.

Who are we? For the most part I don’t feel like the same person, the same “I” I was as a kid, or even as a 25-year-old. I barely remember those lives, separated and entirely discrete in terms of personal and (sub)cultural ties, even languages. I never claim her (or her) as a part of my current identity now. Even when I do bring up experiences of my childhood as explanations for personality quirks or foibles, it is more of a rationalization. An intellectual exercise in storytelling according to the rules of twentieth-century cause-and-effect psychology’s narrative templates. I have no idea if they are true.

It makes a good story. Often one that lets me off the hook for harm I’ve done to myself or to others. I was that person, then. But I’ve changed and I am this person now. And every time thinking that this person now is the authentic version of me.

At any rate, something new is beginning. But this time, instead of picking up and moving to start fresh, I am digging deep into the ground here and blooming. I am changing in a way that will rub hard against how other people see me. And that is okay. I’m going to be hard/giving like a rubber mallet. I’m going to walk a perimeter, put down stakes, and cage the overly-enthusiastic oxpeckers who claim to be doing me favors by keeping me in check – doing what they think is their duty to keep me humble. Realistic.

I am sick of realistic. It’s nothing more than a common story.

I am literally moving into the attic this week. E.’s oldest daughter has moved out and I am moving my studio space up to the loft space. My old, huge dining room table is the mono-printing/painting/charcoal area, my old desk space is dedicated to sewing signatures, and the kitchenette space is for paper-making. I couldn’t be more excited.

I find myself thinking how spoiled I am. And I am lucky – privileged – in so very many ways. I’ve never even dreamt of this kind of life. And yet I have also worked hard for years to make this happen.

I even have one of those five-year plans now.

We’ll see how well I can stick to that with my rebellious nature. Or maybe that nature is just something that used to define me?

Sunday ritual –
her back to the bathroom mirror
Grandma holds a small
hand mirror to see her own back
– reflections bounce forever

Or – What Writing Isn’t to Me


My ex-husband used to call my writing a hobby. I had a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, and five traditionally published books at the time. I’d been vetted to become a member of the Norwegian Authors’ Union. I read my work at international festivals and translated and collaborated with great writers*.

But it didn’t pay the bills. So: Hobby, he said.

Last year I decided that I am not even going to try to write to pay the bills. I made that decision at the same time I decided to focus much more of my energy on writing and bookmaking.

But yeah, still feeling caustic when I hear someone talk about my “hobby”.

I’m not the kind of person comfortable with saying things like: I write because it is who I am. I honestly believe writing is a doing thing, not a being thing. It’s a very metaphysical argument, so no worries, I’m not out to convince anyone to see it my way. It’s just what I believe.

And I would not die if I didn’t write. I have more than a passing acquaintance with mental disorders and I take that phrase quite seriously: I would die. I seriously doubt I would die. I’ve other ways to express myself if that’s the crux of this expression. I can shout a lot of curse words. Or at least a choice few over and over.

And I giggle.

I know that writing can make things better, and it can also make things much worse. The reformist and orator Dorothea Lynde Dix wrote in her diary rather cryptically that she knew she shouldn’t write poetry because it would be the end of her. I am paraphrasing wildly here, but you get the gist. As a mature woman, she limited herself to letter-writing and to the genre she helped establish: oration.

I may be projecting, but I believe I recognize Dix’s fear. Poetry can be like alcohol. Like an opiate. So, yeah, I get it: I would die. But, no. Poetry, and writing in general, is a tool I can utilize — with great care — for my mental health. But it is not a cure.

When I think of a hobby, I think of something that soothes you, something that takes you out of your difficult life. Like recess for grown-ups. I have hobbies. Drawing. Running. Photography. And maybe if I were a storyteller, I could embrace writing as a hobby. Might even have ambitions to become a professional. But I’m not that kind of writer.

Writing every day is a practice for me, the same way that some people practice their faith. Like prayer. It’s like the way I practice meditation. Yoga.

These daily activities differ from my routine morning run in their focus. It’s not inward at all. And it’s not a diversion.

It’s not as much about personal growth as it is about transgressing the boundaries of my person. It’s about trying to accept the world. To really see it — and my place in it — on its own terms.

It’s evening as I type this, and that may be why this missive is not an example of my practice, not a piece of literary prose. This is navel-gazing, at best.

But it’s also a bit of sharing, for anyone else out there bristling at the word “hobby” when it’s used to describe their practice.

I don’t know. Actually, now that I have the word for it in my own vocabulary, I don’t feel quite as bristly about it. It’s all practice, isn’t it?

perspective does not
shift with a clearer perception
the same ham-fisted 
man adjusting the TV’s
rabbit ears for reception.


*Someone on Twitter informed me that bragging “isn’t a good look” for a middle-aged white woman. Well, I can’t win for losing either, so I blocked him. I considered getting off Twitter. But I’m still there.

It would make more sense to me to begin a new year with a solstice or an equinox. Even a full moon would have been nice this year.

And with that sentence: my first resolution of the year is to stop fantasizing that things could be different from what they are in any given moment. I find myself using a bizarre amount of energy on things that aren’t even important to me. An odd kind of diversion and procrastination – that is also a practice in dissatisfaction. I have no need to practice this. I’m already much better at it than I want to be.

It’s not likely I will change the things I can change if my focus is on irrelevant details. When I choose to begin again is irrelevant. I just need to choose. To live consciously.

Camus said it is our human condition, and what is worthwhile. Imagine Sisyphus happy knowing there is no winning. Imagine Sisyphus content.

Hell, even choosing not to choose is living consciously when you acknowledge what you’re doing. I figure, even if it is all one big illusion, it’s the illusion that makes us human.

Get on with the adventure.


On our annual January 1st beach run, E. and I watched the sunset, red sinking into the sea. It was a promise of at least a day or two of clear skies, and it has been clear. And cold. Yesterday the edges of the lake were frozen, and this morning, walking Leonard at 4 am, I loved the way each step across the grass was cushioned. The ice-covered blades giving in slowly. Letting me down easy – which seemed considerate considering the early hour.

Leonard must have eaten something he shouldn’t have yesterday. He’s resting now on the sofa with a stomach full of chicken and rice. I hear E. using the coffee grinder in the kitchen. And here I sit with my fingers on the keyboard whose M,N,L, S and V keys are completely without lettering.

This morning I am grateful my mother made me take touch-typing in high school: “data entry” they called it by then. She made me believe I had no choice in the matter.

Dinner is cooking, work looms, body parts ache, I’m a little sleep-deprived, and no doubt Leonard with scramble off the couch any minute, in a whining rush for the door.

And all is right with the world.
There’s time for poetry.

Everywhere joy in relation and nowhere grasping;

world in abundance and earth enough.

Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Joanna Macy & Anita Borrows)
from “I Lift My Eyes”