Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God Speaks in Compound Sentences

It's been more than one month since we've moved and we're still alive. The lights in our house run only on solar and summer's over--we've lost the sun.

I wake up and my eyes squint through the gray like a vole, like I live under the earth rather than on top of it. I want to write and I do not. It's as if I cannot see, and it's as if I can only feel my way through the day, through the dripping gray sky, through the dishes and the tugging of my children at my leg. I want to write about what this all feels like, but I do not.

This is the unedited product of a writing exercise from Priscilla Long's workshop "The Virtuoso Sentence" at the Skagit Valley Writer's League Conference last Saturday. Instructions: Take a subject you're working on and write about it using only compound sentences. That's two independent sentences joined by and, or, but. Three minutes. Go.

I found it quite difficult to flow within those constraints and felt quite pleased with myself. Until it was my turn to read it aloud and I got six words into my reading when she interrupted me. "That's a dependent clause," says Priscilla. Yes, "since we moved" is a dependent clause. (whaaaaa!?) Okay. Keep reading. Third sentence. Interrupted by, "That's a dependent clause." ("like"... "as if"). Okay, so, by definition, compound sentences can't have dependent clauses? Okay, so, apparently I use a lot of dependent clauses. Is that bad? Is it like having food hanging from your chin, like an extra appendage? Time to study craft - time to study sentence structures of the masters. Ach! I loved this 90 minute class of hers. I want more.

Here's a really cool fact: across all religions, god, in whatever form he/she/it/them manifests, speaks quite often in compound sentences. According to Priscilla this is because compound sentences carry a lot of authority. Who knew.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goodbye, Bright City, Goodbye

I keep thinking of everything I will miss.

As I wish the city goodnight, as I draw the curtains, I think: How I will miss the city lights reflected in the rain on my window.

I pause, look out our bedroom window with Katherine against my hip. We peer down onto the street, the same visual fragment of street I've seen from that window for six years. The slick pavement, all the lives moving below. How I will miss the hubbub. Long clear beads of rain smashed against the glass - refract the red green orange gold lights of the city into a shiny melted crystal crayon mess all over the window.

Time to go draw a new picture in the woods. Bring lots of black crayon. It's dark in them there trees. But the stars are bright, almost as bright as the shiny clean air in my lungs.


In the woods, night presses thick as fur against our house. Night feels liquid as the cat that curls its body around your bones. Darkness becomes a Thing that pushes against you,a Thing that you push against, like a gale force wind - a Thing that you close doors and windows to in case it leaks through, in case it seeps out your candlelight - yes, it presses its liquid breath against the glass until, maybe one time, you throw your front door open to it. Break the seal. Relief. Pause, breathe. Now night is a cool hand on your cheek, a lover you can't see only feel, a friend you forgot about until now.

Dive out your door, look up through the trees holding the sky in place. Swim through the cool black, maybe through the quiet, over the bridge, maybe to the neighbors for a visit. The embryonic darkness, you don't realize it overtook you until you tumble into their house, into chatter, golden light, the living. It does feel good to break through the black, to lose yourself in it. Night is such a different story in the forest.

I feel like Mary Poppins - walking in to a painting, but I will stay for a while and it will become real.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lionhead: Water Earth Fire

"I just love how I can hear Lionhead at night," my cousin Laura says to my mother.

"I know," she replies, "isn't it nice? I can hear the creek too."

I butt in. "What? What do you mean, 'You can hear Lionhead.'?"

Laura turns her head to me from her chair on th sandy white beach. My toes dig in to the cool sand of the evening. "I can hear Lionhead Creek rushing at night. When it's all quiet and everyone's gone to sleep."

Laura's head turns to look up the lake and farther, up to the distant mountain that peeks between the purple hills above the shore. Lionhead. The "Mountain" part goes unsaid. Its shaggy rock-striped face goes without saying. It needs no introduction as a mountain.

Funny thing is, I wake up tonight at 3:39 am, have to pee, leave both kids in the camper a bit unsurely - I keep looking back at Katherine as I stand at the door of the camper, my hand on the knob, turning slowly, that screen door that no matter how slowly you open it releases with a loud Clack.

Turn, turn, slowly, looking back. She often wakes up within a minute or two of my body absent from her side - and now she's in the upper bunk alone -- Clack -- She scootches like an earthworm, wriggling, face scrunching. Her body releases and she lets out a wheeze like a sigh. I slide out the camper door.

And there it is. In the quiet, now that everyone's asleep, I hear it. Unmistakable. A roar like the black whooshing of the universe, sliding down that mountain, rushing past the pelt of trees, skimming the air above the water to fill my ears like a shell with the volume turned up to 10.

How could I never have heard this sound before? Lionhead Creek in the darkness. Whooshing down Lionhead Mountain. The head waters that carried the ashes of my ancestors. Grandma Bessie and Grandpa John.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Half-started vs. Whole-Hearted: A Blog Theme Emerges, and I Fight It, Still

I don't want this blog to be a mommy blog. Really, I don't.

Half-started posts linger on my Drafts page. Blogg-ish thoughts lurk, un-inked, in my mind. Thoughts on yoga. On our transition to rural life in the Skagit Valley. On living with my feet in two worlds, urban Capitol Hill and rural Skagit. On excercise. On the TV show Hoarders. Yes, I said it -- lately I'm inspired to write about Hoarders. Ties into my fascination with thrifting and how our culture manages their "stuff." I have many thoughts On Writing. On Not writing. On ego. On clinging -- to a strong body, to a non-wrinkled skin surface, on clinging to ideas about what is and is not okay to write about on a blog.

And yet. Somehow. The blog posts I end up whipping out and clicking "Publish Post" -- end up being musings on my children, on motherhood, on moments in time as a mom.

And dang it, I end up sounding like someone who thinks parenting blogs are less-than. It's not that. It's that I think I'm less than, if I am presenting myself to the world and all I have to talk about is my kids. It's just so dang cliche.

And if you know me in the slightest, you'll know that I hate to be put in a box.

Box or no box, the fact remains -- my heart explodes for my children, my head aches with the growth that's in it for me. Year by year, I know -- the complexities will only magnify. So I'll probably keep writing about what it's like... And so, I just have to go with it.

I like to write about the sweetness of life. I like to write from my insides, the blood-thumping red rimmed pulsing insides of our selves. I can blather on about brilliant thoughts of mine. Insights. Theories. Observations. But little of it feels connected to my heart. So I let those thoughts linger on my Drafts dashboard. Try as I may to impress, to impose a representation of my different selves into this new-fangled way of showing my self to the world, the fact remains. I write from my core and my core right now revolves around tasting life as a mother.