Spa Day for the Weary Writer’s Soul

author
stately noble
fussily editing
slowly
accurately
wearing tweed
male

writer
flowing dreaming
on a tear
sassily
barefoot
wearing silk
female

When writers write and share their words, the words circle above them like fairies who fly to awaken the Ancient Greek gods and goddesses. Then the deities, grand and small, gather, as if around a beach campfire, to send the red crackling words into the air.

It is the author or writer’s task to grab the words before they dim. Words like fireflies who once roamed the land, begin to fade, come Autumn.

another poem – a haiku

central park green lawn
sunbathers, frisbees, babies
grass, a blanket from below

below the earth, worms
tunnel, aerate, make new homes
with roots, turning soil

central park green play
sunny day leads to starry
Shakespeare night, above

These words emerged from last weekend’s writing retreat with J. Ann Craig — so good. We wrote prayers, songs, and erotic poetry.

I sort of organized the day. (I wanted to say ‘helped organize,’ but honestly, I did most everything: found the place, procured the leadership, encouraged attendance, ordered and set out the food.) But it was Rutgers Presbyterian Church who hosted the day at the House of the Redeemer. More than a dozen of us, beautiful women, writers and artists of life, gathered to set the world right.

Do not doubt for a minute that writing has the potential to heal the world. In this fractured time in our country, there is something necessary about writing down our truths — in our revealing, there is revelation. The authentic self emerges and writers’ words are free to bind the brokenness in our hearts and in the hearts of our communities.

Here is the room where we wrote. I did not snap any pictures on the day of the retreat, because I wanted to immerse myself in the here and now. I chose not to get tugged away from the day — as my instagram feed, at times, pulls me away from feeling fully present.

Why Write?

I write to make sense of the world. I write because I am on the hunt to find meaning.

I write because I worry and need to reassure myself.

I write to make lists and tell myself to do tasks.

Sometimes I wonder if a woman should write as much as I do. I wonder if someone took away my keyboard — Would they tell me to get out there and get living? For me, living is writing. And writing is living. Writing is as essential as breathing. As dreaming.

Our dreams are our brains telling us stories. We need stories. We — I — write through the night.

The other night, I had a dream that I was on my phone, texting or scrolling. Scrolling or texting. I woke, feeling like I’d been cheated — you should not be on the phone when you are dreaming or writing.

Although my one writing friend is working on / writing a novel on his phone. I don’t know how the project’s going. He was swallowed into his phone and no one’s seen him for months. Maybe he will come back in a dream. Or in my writing. Like now.

When I ask myself, Why write? It is so that I, Ishmael, do not become swallowed into the big belly of the beast.

I write to find my way out of the whale.

I write my way in and my way out.

I wrote this Why I Write on 750words.com I don’t write every day, but I like looking back at what I’ve written. I like checking the boxes.

Light

We had an assignment to write about light. 

speed of light.
an owl lit out from the barnyard squawking.
a mouse flitted from the pasture to the tall green stalks of corn.
Did not know her days were numbered.
the bitty mouse.
She will be bit as mice will bite.
and no one

This dream.  Poetry is a dream. why do we dream?
why do i dream? Anxiety dreams?

that i am late for school/work.

that i will forget my lines.

i cannot stop dreaming
i must let go of my anxiety dreams. Before I fall asleep, I tell myself, have a happy sleep, no more worries…

I started this blog post on the Mariandale Retreat in Westchester – a break from my mad dash
cycling, cycling to get to my next big thing,
to my next place

How can I have ease? i would like to know
i know i am only responsible for myself. i know this intellectually, but i also feel i am responsible for all of you. that your happiness depends on me.
who is this YOU? any passerbys, i offer a smile. any family member, i will rent a car and drive you. any friend, i will make a date and meet you. any bank clerk, i will greet you with kindness.

and i feel a tension in my shoulders. i retreated because i needed to remember this:
’tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free.
and this:

every single person needs to keep beauty on their map
because there is more to this life than bread and water
we need to play, to immerse ourselves in nature, to have strength
we need to dive in to beauty as if into a pool.

lose ourselves. To find ourselves.

every single day, at the retreat and now at home, i set out to walk for an hour. I heard a neurologist at the Rockefeller University say we need this. this is the secret to happiness – walk an hour a day. but i usually walk for 40 minutes.

And i try to make art every day.

i wanted to light out like the owl from the barn.
i wanted to take flight and swoop down to carry the mouse back to the nest. the hungry tots. but there is also the owl that loves to fly farther and farther
and swoop into the currents of the air stream
the stream in the air
diving and dipping
when the lights dwindle and the stars poke through like mice. a little twinkle, a little glimmer, a little field of effervescence. And there it is:
the ineffableness of you
the secret of you
the only you
the way to find the most of you.

you
i was tired and lay down
and i lay by the river and i drifted to a deeper sleep and no one ever came to wake me.
and some day i will sleep, but until then I will fly.

A Poem for History and Heritage Day

Who was the nomad?
Was it you?
Did you use a walking stick?
A talking stick?
Did you find — as you journeyed — a sense of home?
Why did you leave?

Were you told to honor your father and mother?
But left any way
And now you are being left.

The natural right loneliness of the child, your child,
who fills his backpack, walks away and never looks back. Not once.
I don’t begrudge my children growing up.
I just didn’t know what you went through.
Until it happened to me.
It explains why everything fell apart.

Ancestors before me, have compassion. Forgive me.
I get to thinking it all began — I began —
when my grandparents and great grandparents came on a big ship
From Ireland and from Denmark and Norway.
Separate big ships. In the turbulent Atlantic sea.
Colliding in me.
Making my brothers and sisters too.
But mostly me.
I was born on three big ships crossing the Atlantic.

But I go back to fields and plains and caves.
Nomads.
Just like you.
We were all of us. Walking.
Walking with sticks.
Singing and laughing and arguing
And wondering who our children would be.

And now we set out, as nomads, again.

Where is your journey?
I hope you will find — as your journey — your way home.

Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya
Walking with a bag on a stick in Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wrote this and am reading this poem for History and Heritage Day, an alternative celebration to Columbus Day today at the Interchurch Center, NYC.  

It Must Be October

On an autumn walk, these wildflowers said, "Hello. We are still beautiful."
On an autumn walk, these wildflowers said, “Hello. We are still beautiful.”

I feel old.

It must be October.

It must be the pumpkin-flavored everything.

I am no longer pumpkin-flavored.

I am nutmeg. Nutty.

I see my reflection in the subway window.

I think,

“I need Botox.”

The train travels through Cornwall on the trestle. Sunset.
The train travels through Cornwall on the trestle. Sunset.

I am becoming

invisible – like all the New York belles, wrinkled, made up,

inevitable.

I don’t care – and then

I start singing –

“I don’t care. I love it.”

I am silly, happy. humming to myself on the subway.

I am not yet that creeping cold November.

I am still this playful hot October.

In the beginning of the autumn month.

I am still jumping in a pile of leaves, singing songs to and of myself.

It must be October.

I don’t care.

I love it.

Mary Beth Coudal
I am in October.

United Methodist Retreat House
This is where we (bootcamp4writers.com) had our beautiful fall retreat.

Poem in a Pocket

This morning I stood between the twin beds in the twin’s room and read them Dorothy Parker’s poetry. Other mornings I’ve woken them by singing — Rise and Shine or Good Morning from Singin’ in the Rain or Beautiful Day from U2.

But poetry’s as good as singing for waking the kids.

And Dorothy Parker cracks me up. Waking the kids is an onerous activity and Chris is rarely up for the early-morning wake-up festivities. So I might as well please myself. And Parker pleases me.

I read them Parker’s The False Friends. It ends:

Who flings me silly talk of May shall meet a bitter soul; For June was nearly spent away Before my heart was whole.

I love her smart aleck, wise gal humor.

I was reminded of the power of poetry last night. The girls and I had gone for a swim and shower at the JCC. Where we primped in front of the mirror I noticed someone had left a small button. On the button were the words, “Is that a poem in your pocket?”

That reminded me to carry poetry in my pocket. The idea of a poem in my pocket made me incredibly happy. Or maybe I was happy because I’d been swimming or hanging out with my daughters at the health club after a long workday.

And so I woke up happy. I put a Parker poem in my pocket and I woke my daughters with poetry.

Write Away

I have OD’ed on blogging. I have seven blogs. Four are on wordpress, one is one TravelPod, one for work at UMCommunities and one on parenting at hubpages. This is not counting the Notes section of Facebook where I sometimes repeat one of my favorite blogs to 603 of my best friends.

How much Mary Beth (or Starr) Coudal does the internet really need?

It’d be one thing if the world clamored for more Mary Beth after I launched one simple blog. If web surfers everywhere emailed me, “Dear Blogger, great to hear about your trip to France. Write more. Start a new blog.”

The only time anyone has ever really immediately asked for more of my writing was after a poetry reading in the East Village. I had read a surreal poem. A young man handed me a slip of paper, which I think I still have. I unfolded it. “More Dada-ist poems please!” That was 15 years ago. But the next day, I was bored of my Dada-ist period, even though I had one real-life fan.

Having so many blogs keeps me from getting bored.

http://RunningAground.wordpress.com/ I am trying to run a 5K but I keep stopping to smell the flowers or take pictures of the George Washington Bridge.

http://GettingMyEssaysPublished.wordpress.com/ is kinda self-explanatory. It’s also a place to put my version of my essays before they get edited. My brother, who is the king of graphic design blogs, told me to call this one Screw My Editor, This One’s Better. But he didn’t actually say Screw and I don’t want to antagonize the potential good will of editors.

http://MyBeautifulNewYork.wordpress.com/ Here are my beautiful Manhattan peeps and places. It’s also a place to chronicle how I frequently get parking tickets.

http://MBCoudal.wordpress.com/ My spiritual journey and my 7 rules for living, especially with regard to my actor husband who has Parkinson’s Disease.

www.umcommunities.org As Mary Beth, the staff writer of a Methodist missionary agency, I share stories that relate to international and national stories.

www.hubpages.com Under the name Starr Coudal, I write mostly about parenting my three brilliant, spoiled rotten kids.

Which blog have I forgotten? Oh, never mind, I’m bored already. Let me change topics.

When I post a blog, say, about any thing – about taking French Class at the Alliance Francaise – the world barely blinks. When I blog a new post, and even spruce it up with a picture, a video, a link to a podcast, I get nada. Nothin’. When my post, like a rock, hits the water of the web? Barely a ripple.

But ya know what? I don’t care. I personally am fascinated by what I have to say. “Mary Beth, I wonder, how is the grammar going in your French Class?” I’m listening to myself. I write away.

I also find myself infinitely amusing. Who cares that Mary Beth delights in beating her kids at the card game, Apples to Apples? Or that she can’t get enough bacon on a Sunday morning? Me! Me! Me! I cannot get enough Mary Beth.

I am thinking of rolling all seven blogs into one unwieldy blog. In which case, I could post on it everyday, instead of like once a week per blog. But then where would people find my Dada-ist poems? Oh, that’s right, I don’t write that way any more. I don’t write for the coffee house open mic. That was before the internet, long ago, when I actually wrote poems instead of blogging about poems that I used to write.