The Season of Death and Dreams

I originally posted this a few years back. In writing this piece, I came to understand why I feel such a deep emotional connection to the season.

Quirk N Jive

AutumnDeath&Dreams

It astonishes me how one season can be both profoundly beautiful and profoundly sad.  When I was ten years old my family moved from a small industrial city to prison housing in a rural farming community.  At the time, my father was the assistant warden of a maximum security prison, and high level staff and their families were expected to live on the grounds.  Although we made the move in late August, for me, my seven years there are frozen in autumn.  Our home, one of four, was set upon a hill.  In back of our house-forest. In front of our house-fields. And if you looked past those fields, you could see a medium security prison looming on the horizon.  It was an isolating and lonely existence, and, no matter how beautiful the landscape was, for a child used to a neighborhood and city kids, it was, well, sad.  In my memory…

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Contrasts

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Dark, Light

Cruel, Kind

The juxtaposition of the golden maple with this gray November sky-

the leaves illuminated, not by light

not by anything other than the contrast between her and the ashen curtain in front of which she stands.

Like this long ride through the country to see you.

The fear of what lies ahead.

The sadness of what is.

Perhaps it is the contrast between what I see

and what I feel

that makes this landscape so beautiful

that makes these trees so magical

that brings the awareness that in the darkness

there is light.

 

 

Autumn Writing

There is something about the season of fall that lends itself to writing.  I can think of many reasons why this is, but, for me, it is the quiet.

Summer with her symphony of fireworks and lawn mowers has ended, and now we are left with the gentle whispers of  crickets as they pass from this place to another. We are now left in the stillness of a season that comes between the summer’s obligatory happiness and the winter holidays’ forced merriment.

Autumn seems to grant the writer permission to feel deeply and express the broad range of emotions that we sometimes subconsciously suppress. It allows us to be present amidst the great beauty of amber and gold leaves as they fall to the ground, to sense the nervous excitement of the animals as they rush to gather the food required for survival during the long winter and to feel the sadness that comes from the loss of life that once thrived  in the warmth and light of summer.

I hope that this fall yields you a bountiful harvest of writing-poems, stories, songs, posts, articles.  For me, throughout this month of November I will be posting new and older pieces inspired by the season.

Happy writing!

An October Morning

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Fear finds you at night.

It rushes under your skin

and makes its way towards your heart

where it constricts,

slowly strengthening its grip

like a thread tied around a finger-

pulling, making it ache

until the finger pulsates.

The tip, increasing in size,

turns purple.

So the heart

caught in fear

pounds upon the door of sleep

and awakens you, the dreamer

who, finding yourself cold and wet,

must now decide whether or not to rise.

You must decide

whether you should try to rest in a dream where fear waits outside the gates of sleep

or awake to a nightmare

or, perhaps, awake to life.

You get up-coffee, face, teeth, dress.

You walk outside into a gray October morning,

quiet-but for the crickets chirping, singing their desperate song,

hoping that if their voices continue so too will they

or, if the song is beautiful enough, at least the memory of them will remain.

You see that the trees are losing their leaves

and you catch sight of one golden maple leaf

floating to the ground,

the curtain closing upon its final act.

You listen and -in the silence of the early morning-

you hear it land.

You feel the closure

that comes from hearing a last breath,

that comes from bearing witness to one reach his final resting place.

And you feel strong.

You are alive.

Still alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Years

Two years have taken away ten

and I wonder if we can get those back again.

 

So much lost in two year’s time

a life, a mind…

All that was

now left behind

stored away in a memory box

left in a dark corner gathering dust

 

And like the rivers that cut canyons,

tears have worn creases into once fresh skin

carving a story of a difficult season

that stole away hope and youth

 

But as winter turns to spring

we are left to wonder

how much, if anything, can be restored?

 

 

 

 

The Footman’s Intent

She saw the footman

standing next to the house

to its right

bearing a lantern

to guide the traveler at night.

I don’t like it,

she told me as I laid her to bed.

I wondered what went on

in my six-year old’s head.

Why be frightened, my dear?

What is it that causes this fear

of an object so innocent,

so mundane?

Why did dark thoughts

dance through her brain?

I drove past that statue again

one night alone

and I saw what she saw

under the light of the full moon-

a lurking thing beside that home

a thing of the past, a relic

left in the weeds to roam,

its body bent forwards

ready to creep towards the house.

To do what?

To sneak in

silent, like a mouse?

So small and quiet

in a place where it did not belong.

I thought-that thing, if possessed, would be strong.

Yes, now I understood

what my child’s eyes had seen.

In the light of the moon

from that statue did gleam

something wicked

with a sinister intent

standing silently beside the house

ready and bent.

 

 

#FullMoonSocial Tonight! — Translations from the English

Big full harvest moon tonight. Let’s celebrate with another #fullmoonsocial! Any time after the moon rises (7:30 pm in my neck of the woods in Virginia) compose and post a poem and tag it #fullmoonsocial on WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I’ll try to keep up and re-post all the tagged poems I can find […]

via #FullMoonSocial Tonight! — Translations from the English

3 Things You Should Never Say to a Chef

There are three things you should never say to a chef. I know because I’m married to one…a very good one.

Let me give you a little backstory about my husband. He was born and raised in Rome, Italy and moved to New York City when he was twenty-one to train under the tutelage of his uncle, a well renowned chef and restaurateur who owned upscale restaurants in Manhattan. He then moved to France where he received his formal training at le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Upon graduating with honors he worked at many upscale restaurants throughout Europe before returning to NYC to work as an executive chef. Over the years he has won numerous awards and been featured in many magazines.

My husband and I met in early 2000, the dawn of the celebrity chef, the era of Iron Chef and Bobby Flay jumping on cutting boards.

Chefs were it. Everyone wanted to date a chef. I on the other hand could give a shit less. As a former ballet dancer, I was highly skilled in the art of not eating and contentedly subsisted on cigarettes, coffee and martinis.

I think the fact that I was not a “foodie” is partly what attracted him to me. He was constantly pestered by chef groupies. With me however, it was never about food.

The whole chef scene was not and has never been for him. He is quiet and dignified. Forget the recent MarketWatch story claiming that personal chefs, a gig he also had for a while, are some of the most arrogant people out there. My husband is humble. Make no mistake though. He is a highly skilled artist.

We have been together for sixteen years now, and the way people speak to my husband never ceases to shock, irritate and amuse me. Over these years I have learned that people take a very different approach when speaking with chefs about their work than they do with other professionals.   First of all, there seems to be an assumption that chefs want to constantly talk about their work and that anyone is free to approach them at any time to talk food. There also seems to be the notion that everyone can do what chefs do. I cannot tell you how often my husband gets cornered at the grocery store, the beach, on the sidewalk by people who want to talk food or, better yet, talk at him about food.

Of course my husband is very polite. He smiles. He nods. He gives up his time. But let’s be clear. He does not enjoy these conversations.

If you do want to talk to a chef about his work, here are three things you should never say:

You should watch insert name of Food Network star here.                                                                   Really? Why? Would you recommend to your psychiatrist that she watch Dr. Phil? The thing about celebrity chefs, with the exception of few, is that they cannot do what real, working chefs do. Yes, they can whip a nice beurre blanc on television, but can they serve 250 dinners, perfect dinners, in two hours? Can they ensure that the temperature on each filet mignon is correct? That the rare order comes out rare and not medium rare? That the medium is not served medium well? Most probably cannot. Can they make art while managing the kitchen staff? Can they handle the business end…budget, ordering, inventory? What can the celebrity chef teach the chef of over twenty years? New techniques? Trends? Truly expert chefs do that already. They continue to read, study, eat out, travel and learn. They do not need a television star to teach them.

I make the best insert name of dish here.                                                                                     Really? What then are you implying? If your veal roast is the best, then what about the chef’s? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think that yours is the best; in fact, I think my buttered popcorn is far superior to my husband’s. However, I don’t feel the need to tell him.

You must come to my house for dinner, so you can try my insert name of the dish that you implied is better than the chef’s.                                                                                                            This happens. My husband has sat in homes and dined on many of the “best” dishes in the world. And guess what? He tells his lovely hosts and hostess that their dishes are, in fact, the best. Don’t delude yourselves. Your dishes are not the best. I have never heard my husband to claim that his dishes are the best. Your arrogance does not become you.

So before engaging in small talk with a chef, think for a moment. Ask yourself, “do I want to talk about my job right now?” Would I assume my attorney, my doctor or my child’s teacher would want to talk about work when she is on vacation? Please, this is not to say that chefs are antisocial. Speaking for my husband, I can say that he’d love to chat with you…about anything other than work. And please, do not hesitate to invite him over to your house for dinner, as long as what you’re serving is not the “best.” I can assure that it’s not… and that he would prefer to eat an overcooked burger and chips and enjoy honest conversation, as long as it’s not about food.

 

 

Can you blog and still be a decent person?

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Lately, I have not posted much on my blog-not because of a lack of ideas or motivation.  I am not blocked.  I have written plenty of pieces.  It’s just that much of what I write is about the people I know-my daughter’s teacher, people I meet at the park where I take my children, family members, friends… My draft folder is full of pieces, some of which are not fully flattering representations of the people in my life.  I am afraid to share this work because I don’t want to hurt anyone.  Well, that’s partly true.  The other part of it is that I also don’t want to face the consequences of calling people out. So what happens is that I write and never publish.

As a writer I am feeling the burden of self-censorship.  When I hold back, the work is not true, not authentic.  When I let go and write without restraint, I feel uneasy, guilty and fearful that I have been hurtful and cruel.

This brings to mind a novel I read over the summer-Elizabth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton.” There is a moment in the story when Sarah Payne, a writer and teacher tells the title character, “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write a piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”  If this is true, which I suspect it is, how do you write and remain a decent person?

Do you sacrifice feelings and relationships at the altar of good writing?  Is telling your story worth it? 

Blogging is a particularly tricky business because it is so personal. Usually, family and friends follow you. They read your posts and know who you are writing about.   Yes, I suppose that you can change the names of the people and places to protect their identities.  Really though, if I write about a teacher who gives too much homework but am careful to change her name, people who know me, who know my children, will be able to figure out who I am talking about or, given that I have two children, will be able to at least narrow it down to one of two people.

And while we’re on the subject…How do I write about my children and not steal their stories?  Of course our lives are inextricably linked, but aren’t their stories theirs to tell?  How much right do I have to discuss their lives, their struggles, their mistakes?   I do not feel that just because I am their mother, that I am in any way entitled to use their lives to further my writing. At what point am I stealing what is theirs?  The internet is full of mommy bloggers.  Sometimes I read what is out there and I wonder what their children will think when they grow up and read the stories their mothers posted about them.

Can we as writers find a balance between speaking truthfully and protecting others?  Should we?  Or should we just tell our stories, the truth as we see it?  Should we release ourselves from the shackles of censorship? If we do, can we still write and be decent people?

 

Weeds

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You were so beautiful once.

Both delicate and strong.

No storm

be it wind nor snow

could harm you.

No drought nor torrent

could quell your spirit.

Nothing could destroy you

until the weeds slowly encroached upon your ground

and invaded your place

your peace.

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They sprouted up

taking root

upon your roots

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and weaved themselves

around you

through you

above you

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and strangled you

like thoughts

dark and fearful.

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Thoughts as real as weeds

strangling the rose bush.