End of Seasons

photo.JPGSeasonsEnd

End of Seasons

By: Heather Nanni

She asked so sweetly

if summer would come back.

And I thought of you.

About how you would soon pass

and not return for another season.

 

The finality of it

so profound.

You have almost fully departed

disappearing as you breathe.

 

As the crickets quietly sing

as the leaves turn

as the season changes

and they and you fall.

 

And as the past no longer exists

nor will you.

But in the present

you will always dwell in my heart.

And there I will carry the piece of you

that I knew

that was ours

through the seasons

until I too pass.

A Sketch of the Mountain

photo.JPGMountainTrees 

A Sketch of the Mountain

By: Heather Nanni

 

In this place of solitude

where the birds sing in gratitude

for peace

we wander to the mountain

and she embraces us with her powerful grace.

 

In her majestic presence

there is no misinterpretation.

We reveal ourselves without hesitation

and still our virtue she sees.

 

She knows how precariously we stand

on ledges of mountains grand

and she sees our frailty beneath our strength

like the slender birches rooted in rock

that sway with the gentlest of breezes. 

 

It is here in this place

that she knows our goodness

and lets us be.

Her gift-setting us free.

Finding Freedom in Writing Fiction

This morning, like most mornings, I awoke short of breath, with a tight chest, a sick feeling in my stomach and the unsettling sensation that something wasn’t quite right.  If you also suffer from anxiety, you know exactly what I’m talking about-that inexplicable feeling that something is wrong, yet you just can’t figure out what-aside from the terrible, sickening nervous feeling that has risen from the pit of your gut and up towards your chest-it is. To combat my anxiety, and in lieu of Zoloft, I have taken to walking, and, surprisingly, it has worked.  The terrain around my home is very hilly, and, as I begin to pump up my first hill of the morning, I actually feel the anxiety begin to dissipate.  My breathing becomes deep and steady, my thoughts settle and I find a bit of peace.  Up until quite recently, this forty-five minute morning ritual has relaxed me enough so that I can get through my days without any major anxiety.  But, a few weeks ago, things changed.  Ginger, my four-legged walking companion, was attacked by a German Shepard who busted through his electric fence.  A week later she was bit again on the neck by another savage mongrel, who was left to wander loose on his front lawn because, according to his owner, their electric fence wasn’t working properly. On each of these occasions, both Ginger and I were fortunate enough that the owners, once they heard my screams, scurried out of their homes and to our rescue. Unfortunately, my walks no longer have the calming effect they once did; rather, they have become angst inducing. 

What I want is rather simple.  I want to be able to take a walk without dodging, and rerouting and worrying about being attacked by neighborhood dogs.   I want the freedom to just pick a direction and go.  This walk situation has me feeling rather fenced in, literally and figuratively speaking.  So often we are deterred and forced to shift directions because of outside forces and influences.  So often we are told we can’t.  So often we are told we can only go so far.  I look at my own life and am appalled by how often I am blocked, not only by outside influences, situations and people, but also by myself.  I have plans and dreams and ideas, but I allow fear and the nagging voices of others as well as myself to stop me from following through with what I truly want to do.  I want to travel, but I don’t because I am afraid to fly.  I want to contribute to conversations, but sometimes I don’t because I am afraid that others will disagree.  I want to move away to a place with more land and fewer people, but I am afraid to break the hearts of those family members who would be left behind.   Actually, I want the freedom to make lots of decisions and head in lots of metaphorical directions without feeling fenced in or forced to revise my original plans. 

I started to think, “How can a writer have so many inhibitions?”  As a primarily non-fiction writer, so much of what I have to say is drawn from personal experience, yet, because I don’t want to hurt or offend or steal the history of others by weaving their experiences into my greater narrative, my stories never get told. I am not at a loss for words or ideas;  I just don’t feel free to say what it is I want to say.  And I think that for this reason, I have begun to find fiction writing so liberating. I am in no way implying that fiction writing is merely “fictionalizing” real people and events by changing names, dates and settings to present true stories as a creative works.  No.  Fiction writers use their accute awareness of the human condition to craft artistic works. The beauty of ficton writing is that  writers can face their fears of flying and dogs by having their characters confront that which frightens them (the writers).  Fiction writers can, through their characters, confront pompous asses, narcissists and psychotics who loosely resemble the pompous asses, narcissists and psychotics we must contend with in the real world.  Fiction writing allows the writer to face worse case scenarios and realize the possibility that for every situation there are options and alternate solutions.  Even better, fiction writers can create characters that speak the words, do the things and travel to the places we are too afraid to go.  In fiction we can find freedom.

Dance of the Dryads

photo.JPGForest Tree

Dance of the Dryads

By: Heather Nanni

I feel the leaves beneath my feet.

I hear the sound of the branches snap.

I am lost and this wood is dark.

From this place I cannot retreat.

 

Mighty Artemis protect me.

Please treat me as that sacred stag.

Do not hunt me through this forest.

But for the trees I cannot see.

 

So now I spy the dryads dance.

Unlucky wanderer I am!

To understand this life I live,

I now fear I may lose my chance.

 

Enchanted, I watch each nymph move.

I am mesmerized by their grace.

As a chorus they do not play.

Each one, her own talent to prove

 

I, their captive audience, spins.

Trying to catch a glimpse of each

Hoping one will show me the way

out of this place before fear wins

 

But I have lost my chance.

I cannot see my way out.

They have linked arms and skip around me.

I am a prisoner of the dryads’ dance.

 

 

Etude in Words

Two years ago to the month I was in the throes of a terrible bout of anxiety.  Worry had essentially taken over my life, and I spent every spare moment ruminating over and researching those matters that caused me angst. At some point during July of 2012 someone asked me, “Heather, when you are done spending all your time worrying, what are you going to do?”  I responded, “I’d like to write.” 

Another year passed and in July of 2013 I launched this blog, quirknjive.com.  Despite having an undergraduate degree in English and writing academic pieces and copy as part of my profession, it had been years since I wrote anything creative or deeply personal.  Quite frankly, despite feeling compelled to do it, the idea of harnessing my thoughts and ideas and organizing them into any sort of narrative was frightening.  In my twenties I had worked as a dancer, and receiving a  harsh criticism of a performance was never as painful as receiving negative feedback from one of my college professors on a piece of writing I had submitted.  Never are you more vulnerable than when you write.  If you write with your authentic voice, everything is exposed: your creative ability, your technique and, perhaps most frightening, your intelligence.  Even which direction your moral compass points can be gleaned through your writing. When I shared my fears about writing with my brother Sean, a writer himself, he reminded me of this famous quote by Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”  So I opened my blog and began writing, but I wasn’t ready to bleed…not yet. 

I had conceptualized quirknjive.com as a sort of “mommy blog” about a domestically challenged homemaker who never seemed to be able to get her shit together enough to keep up with the other suburban housewives.  I saw myself as being a Morticia Addams in a sea of June Cleavers and Donna Stones.  My plan was to have a sometimes silly, sometimes bittersweet, yet always insightful blog about my efforts to get through my days despite a variety of challenges, most of those being my own personal inadequacies. So I came up with my tagline, “living life slightly outside of the box,”  and began blogging.  And it was fun at first. 

As I continued to blog, however, I began to struggle to keep to the intended theme. It became a chore to make every post an exercise in self-deprecation.  An old familiar voice began to emerge, and I found myself sometimes venturing into topics that really didn’t quite fit with my site. In March my writing shifted.  I began working with poetry and writing essays that could no longer fit within the confines of my “mom blog.”

So, as I have grown as a writer, quirknjive.com has grown as a blog. My goal now is not to play the role of the self-deprecating homemaker but to focus on the craft of writing itself, to use writing to find meaning when so much in life seems meaningless, and to create.  Of course I will write about my children; we are inextricably linked, and so many of my thoughts are centered on them. Limiting yourself as a writer, however, to a role, topic or theme is like taking a walk in the forest and forcing yourself to only look at the flowers while ignoring the majesty of the trees, the splendor of the sun filtering through the forest’s umbrella, the melody of the birds chirping and the gentle whoosh of leaves blowing in the breeze.   Moving forward, I will use this space not only as a mother’s place to write, but as a writer’s place to be free.

“La Vita e’ Triste” Redux

“La Vita e’ Triste” Redux

By: Heather Nanni

photo.JPG Winter

You think all is well, all is fine.

But this life is sad by design.

Comedy needs the tragic thread.

Humor is born when we have bled.

When peace abounds, winged Eris waits.

A golden apple holds your fate.

In due time discord will arrive.

Only the strongest can survive.

But Thanatos takes even those.

He whisks all to death’s darkest throes.

 

All joy shall pass.

All sorrow shall pass.

We shall pass.

In this knowledge sadness resides.

Only time is eternal.

 

Time leaves us in its wake.

As our bodies crumble to dust

As our memory fades to ash

Thine self this life does take.

La Vita e’ Triste

photo.JPG JackAnna

Over the past week I have caught myself repeatedly muttering, “La vita e’ triste.” You see, my Roman mother-in-law Anna is visiting for the month of June. Over the years, despite Anna’s broken English and my inability to speak Italian, the two of us have forged a means of communication that works.  Sometimes we speak through silence.  Most times I lean on Anna to translate whatever she wants to say into English, and, on rare occasions, I shamelessly attempt to articulate complete thoughts in Italian.

Despite Anna’s joy over seeing us, there is always an undertone of sadness to her visits.  Her son and her grandchildren live in the United States; she lives in Italy.  Piergiorgio left Italy almost twenty years ago and has not returned home.  He will likely never return to Italy, at least not permanently.  He is American now.  His children are American.  And, while I am blessed to have him, his mother has suffered greatly.  Piergiorgio’s mother and father (who we lost far too early) were wonderful parents.  They gave him and his brother beautiful childhoods.  They were good and loving parents who placed their children above all else, and yet that was not enough to keep my husband with them.  Piergiorgio’s is an adventurous spirit.  There was something that called him here.  Unfortunately, with my happiness, came Anna’s sufferance. Where there is great joy there is also great pain.  Such is life.  La vita e’ triste.

I am so puzzled by life.  Recently my son inquired, “Mommy, why is God a bully?”  He continued, “You know Mommy.  Why does he let us love people and then take them away?  Why?”  I have noticed that Jack has been preoccupied with aging. My father, who will turn seventy within the next couple of weeks, is Jack’s best friend.  He and my mother also suffer from Parkinson’s disease.  This weighs heavily upon my son.  Jack knows that we do not live forever.  He cannot reconcile himself with the fact that, while we were gifted with the capacity for incredible love, those we love will be taken from us.  Why?  I was caught off guard.  How do you answer that? How was I to answer that?  I responded, “Don’t worry Jack, we are all reunited in Heaven with those we love.”  But Jack does worry.  I worry.  What is the point?  Why would a benevolent God allow, nay…create, such a painful life? We are born; we love, we rejoice; we suffer; we lose; we die.  La vita e’ triste. 

Of course, there is great, unbearable, catastrophic sufferance, and then there is the gentle sadness of living.  I wouldn’t dare to even venture into the topic of the former.  That I cannot even begin to comprehend.  I am talking about the small things we all suffer as part of the natural course of life. As young children, we are forced to ride the tides of life.  We change schools and say farewell; we move to new homes and say farewell;  we lose grandparents and say farewell.  As young adults we move away from family and say farewell.  As parents, we devote our lives to our beloved children and then release them into the world, only to be left empty and alone.  We continue to say farewell.  As elderly, we say farewell to friends and spouses.  We witness ourselves become obsolete even as we continue to live and breathe.  La vita e’ triste.

And all the while, despite all this sadness, we rejoice.  Babies are born; friendships are formed; lovers are wed; beautiful music is created, delicious food is consumed.  We laugh heartily.  We enjoy sunrises and sunsets. We cradle our infants and cuddle our children.  We sing.  We dance.  We enjoy this beautiful life.  So how is it that life can be so, so sad?  This is the great paradox of living.

I think of one of my favorite pieces of music,  Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa.  It is a work full of silences, silences which fill the listener with anticipation and excitement.  These silences are followed by the intensely beautiful and melancholy strains of the violin.  The violins pulse like metronomes, speaking the language of love and passion as they count down time.  Everything is finite.  All must end. The music tells us so.   The end of the first movement of Tabula Rasa, entitled “Ludus,” is so dark and forbidding that I almost cannot bear to listen.  And then, like angels whispering from the heavens, the second movement, “Silentium” begins.  And it is peaceful and sad.  As I listen, I picture a lover cradling his dead beloved, all the while, angels sing the sad song of finality and eternity. 

After listening to Tabula Rosa, I feel more human, happier, sadder, more complete and more understanding.  Perhaps that is the point.   To understand this life, with all of its joy and sufferance, we must view it and listen to it, as we view and listen to a work of art.  We must be detached, apart from, yet fully emerged.  We must understand and embrace life’s intrinsic sadness.  We grow old.  We love.  We lose.  We laugh.  We cry.  We live.  This is life.  Such is life.  In our final act, we die and others lose and suffer.  La vita e’ triste.

Yet, there is beauty in our delicate frailty.  Joy, sadness and loss is part of our human condition. In order to appreciate this life we must observe it, as if lying supine under the surface of water, and watch life unfold above, knowing we are hopeless as the currents move us in directions beyond our control.  In our hopelessness, we relinquish control and cherish all of it.  Life is wondrous.  Life is beautiful.  Life is sad.  La vita e’ triste.

On Knowing

On Knowing

By: Heather Nanni

Imbeciles speak certainty

What a gift

To speak as if to know

To know nothing and yet speak

Profess

Extol the virtues of a fool

And believe

And others believe your earnest folly

What hubris

Oh how I envy your lack of modesty, your lack of shame

I would trade fortunes if only to share in your gift

To know

I would know

so I would sing

 

Lie with me

in the night                                                                                             

 

Look at the stars  

without fear 

without fright

 

Know all is well   

Don’t question   

Do not doubt

 

The stars will not fall

and burn your dreams out

 

But I am too tired

so tired

I will leave night to my dreams

Perhaps tomorrow I will know

On Words to the Truth

On Words to the Truth

By: Heather Nanni

When we can no longer                                                                       

dance and play      

we are left with words                                                                             

Only words to say                                                                                  

Truth

 

Words and truth    

Oh what folly!

 

Intellect                                                                                                   

arsenic                                                                                                  

Add it to the wine                                                                                      

So we drink and dine                                                                           

We feast on lies                                                                                    

and we think

 

Of honest days                                                                                 

when we danced and played                                                               

and now 

 

round and round and round we go                                                        

the truth, the truth                                                                             

words cannot tell

 

So we twist and bend                                                                            

we turn and convolute                                                                            

and say and say                                                                              

nothing                                                                                                        

No truth

 

Just words upon words                                                                         

we feast                                                                                                

And we think, we deceive                                                                     

And we search                                                                                     

For what?                                                                                             

For what?                                                                                         

What?

 

We do not know                                                                                   

For left with only words                                                                          

the self cannot show                                                                          

itself                                                                                                          

its truth

 

 

 

Tale of the Child’s Night

CYMERA_20140503_211804.jpg Chilld's Night

Tale of the Child’s Night

By: Heather Nanni

“May we look at the stars Mommy?”                                                  

“Yes Love”                                                                                           

Eyes Up

 

We were three                                                                                       

All the delights                                                                                       

two could see

 

The moon showed us                                                                        

the silver platter and said,                                                                      

“Come, come to me.                                                                           

Oh how happy you will be.”

 

But one poor soul                                                                                

The moon swallowed him whole

 

Some skip on stars                                                                          

over night’s great river

 

But for others                                                                                        

that cannot be                                                                                         

They get caught by the Hunter                                                            

and carried out to the sea