The Places I’ve Walked, walking a brick labyrinth, Martinez, Georgia, June 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved
It’s New Year’s Eve (almost a whole New Year, ybonesy!). I’m working on the black-eyed peas and rice post. And I’ve got to say the orangutan’s butt is a pretty hard act to follow! But I’m going to risk it and post an ABC meme morph of my practice and Gratitude List for 2007.
I met with friends a few nights ago for poetry, music, and silence. We did timed writings. I chose to make a Gratitude List. It was 99 items long. I admit, I was slowing down a bit near the end, but I think I could have gone longer. My scattered, discursive thoughts turned a corner into this giant web of connection.
When I got stuck, I’d think of the places I walked over the last year. Where did my feet hit solid ground? From there, the strong, silky tendrils spun out across the room, connecting one detail to another.
Each place held its own blessings. I was an unreluctant traveler. There is some sadness in looking back. But through the lens of gratitude, it’s mostly Joy.
Some things I learned along the way:
- Looking back with gratitude, provides clear vision for the future. After we reflected and wrote about 2007, we shared. Then we visioned about 2008. Not resolutions – Visions. I took the web of gratitude and laid out a detailed visual map of 2008. In the cluster map, everything seemed clear.
- The Vision for 2008 is in place. Creating a workable structure and learning how to prioritize my time (balancing internal with external) are paramount to making the Vision reality. Balancing writing, work, art, relationships, and care of the self are my challenges: (1) Setting up a structure detailing where I spend my time and sticking to it. (2) Limiting the things that seem most addictive or time wasting. I find that I can easily get lost in frittering away time. I know exactly how long it takes to get a task done. I am good at planning. I need a yearly structure that honors and balances internal time with outer action.
- Time alone is a must for me. Taking action out in the world will be the hardest part of realizing my Visions. Setting intention. Following through. A friend said how she needs creative space every day, time to just sit and stare at a wall. Most extroverts don’t understand the act of wall-staring, but I’m in full agreement! I get my energy from going within, not from other people (true definition of an introvert). I love connecting with people. I have good social skills. But my creative energy, my refilling of the well, comes from reflection, internal musings, silence.
Practice. Structure. Community. Intention. Follow through. Action. Many of these connections came from sharing my writing practices in community. My original gratitude practice was a free form list. I revisited the list and boiled everything down into general categories, the ABC’s.
May your New Year be filled with peace and gratitude, as close to balance as humans can get, and some semblance of what we homo sapiens like to call happiness.
A – APPRECIATION – appreciation for what has passed. People, places, and spaces – I want to preserve and write about them. Places contain our roots. People are memories. History, I don’t want to repeat it or make the same mistakes. I have to know the past for a clear future. The ability to deeply feel leads me to empathy and compassion.
B – BUZZING AROUND ON THE MOTORCYCLES – our little purple Honda Rebel 250 (Ramona) and Suzuki Savage 650 (Suzi) floating by the Mississippi River in summer. Can’t ya smell that smell.
C – COFFEE & CATS – Colombian or French Roast every morning. We make one pot and split it. That’s it for the day. Hmmmm. Don’t forget to take a good long whiff. And then there are the 3 Musketeers: Mr. StripeyPants who made it through a near-death experience in the last few months (a miracle); the elegant mistress of the house, Kiev; and nervous but sleek, Chaco (after the canyon).
D – DULUTH – going up to Lake Superior at Duluth once a year for our weekend getaway. I look so forward to that. Lake Superior is like the Womb of the Earth. It feels like I could be anywhere in the world.
E – EXPLORATION – outside of my comfort zone. In many ways, it was a hard year for me. I was challenged to push myself through situations that were not comfortable but were good for my growth. Sometimes I failed and went back to the drawing board. It was a hard year financially. But I didn’t give up. Looking at 2008, I feel willing to do more exploration. I’m hoping all the structures I put into place this year will bear fruit. Both financially and spiritually.
F – FRIENDS & FAMILY – many communities. I only have a few very close, intimate friends (I’ve known my friend, Gail, since 1980). My blogging partner, ybonesy. And ever-widening circles of communities like red Ravine, Flickr, Taos writers and people at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, recovery communities, all people I’ve met by showing up and stretching myself beyond my comfort zone. Family and extended family – at least one person in my blood/extended family supports me and my writing in some small or large way, every single day.
G – GRANDMOTHERS, GHOSTS, & GENERATIONAL HEALING – the Grandmothers that guide me, not only the Ancestors, but Elise and Ada who come to visit me often. The ghost of Mabel Dodge visited in Taos and I often feel her when I’m there. Her creative vision was admirable. And I wonder if she feels how writers and artists are still convening under her roof. I believe these Spirits guide us in healing the wounds of the past. In letting go between generations. I saw this on every trip I took home this year.
H – HOMETOWN – Minneapolis, living in the most literate, clean, and green city in the U.S. We’ve got the Walker, the Loft, the Guthrie, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN Book Arts, Talking Volumes, Minnesota Public Radio, the Fitzgerald (oh, that’s Saint Paul!), all the warehouse district artists and writers, and on and on and on.
I – INDRIA – the white cottage on the gently sloping hill, new gutters, freshly painted deck, small flower gardens, cardinals, flickers, downys, nuthatches, bluejays, view of the sunset, changing of the seasons, I love living just outside the city proper. It’s silent, quiet, peaceful.
J – JOY – the pure joy of doing art and writing every day. Journaling, blogging, business, lists, practices, poetry. Photography, papermaking, painting, printmaking, sketching, mapping. Any of it. All of it. These creative endeavors bring me JOY.
K – KINDRED SPIRITS – those who walk parallel paths. The faces change from time to time. Some walk hand in hand for a while, then drop away. So many different reasons. But I’m grateful for the time I walked with them. And now I’m grateful for those who are new to me and have come into my life at just the right time.
L – LIZ – her belief in me, her love, acceptance, gratitude, giving nature, smile, giggle, support of my writing, huge and open heart. When she’s in the mood, she also loves to cook, bake, and do laundry. 8)
M – MENTORS – Natalie Goldberg, books, writers that came before me, great literature, my business partners and clients of every nature. What about all the writers and artists I saw this year in the Twin Cities: Ann Patchett, Galway Kinnell, Mary Oliver, Josephine Dickinson, Steve Almond, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Riane Eisler, Mirabai Starr (oh, that was Taos), Ani DiFranco, Nancy Crampton, Diane Arbus (retrospective). All the art profs who mentored me in school.
N – NO REGRETS – I’m never bored. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I haven’t always made the best choices. But I’ve learned from them. I’m learning to forgive myself.
O – OPPORTUNITIES – so many presented themselves this year. Teaching with and assisting Natalie twice, helping others to write and structure their time, the writing Intensive at Taos, unexpectedly traveling home for Mom’s 70th, cheap flights to New Mexico (twice) and Pennsylvania (twice), road trips to New Mexico and Georgia, quality time at Mabel Dodge Luhan House, time spent in my childhood homes, researching, taping, discovering personal histories of the past.
P – PROMISES & PROSPERITY – the Promises of Recovery hooked me on letting go of self-destructive behaviors. It works if you work it. And you’re worth it. I’m lucky to be able to (almost) make a living doing something I love. I’ve also got a part-time job that is flexible, supportive, and allows me independence in my writing. I’m getting there. I believe.
Q – QUALITY TIME – with myself, with the people I love. The most important thing to me is connecting with those close to me. And learning how to keep the well full so I still have something to give back. I’m especially thankful for all the extra time I had with my mother this year. To walk along the Susquehanna and Savannah rivers, to meditate together, to travel to Georgia, to work on the family tree, to spread mud masks on our faces, to excavate memories, to eat homecooked meals, to be with family.
R – RECONNECTING & RED RAVINE – Mrs. Juarez (after 39 years), Aunt Annette (after 50 years), Aunt Emmalyne (after 41 years), my step-dad (after 41 years), my immediate family, siblings, and Mom and I are the closest we’ve ever been. Launching red Ravine has reconnected me to writers and creative people I’ve met in Taos, to extended family and friends, to other writers all over the world. Through writing and comments I learn new things about people I’ve known all my life. And old things about people I only just met.
S – SILENCE & SNOW – the golden sound of silence, meditation, practice, slow walking the labyrinths of the world. The silence of snow and winter. Winter Solstice by the fire. The exercise from shoveling the driveway with every muscle in my body. Strength in the vulnerability of silence.
T – TAOS MOUNTAIN – for sitting there century after century, just being the mountain.
U – UNDISCOVERED DREAMS – an openness and willingness to go where no QM has gone before!
V – VINTAGE – I’m into what’s old, not what’s new, borrowed or blue. Studying vintage items (books, music, stereos, lawnmowers, tools, historic places, etc.) how they work, the place they once held in the world, fascinates me.
W – WARM COATS, HATS, MITTENS – And don’t forget all my hooded sweatshirts that keep my body thermometer (the neck) warm. I’m grateful for the warmth every day. Your survival here depends on knowing how to dress and being prepared for anything in winter. There are some who only have the clothes on their backs.
X – X-RAY VISION – No, just kidding. I’m more thankful for my Wonderwoman wrist cuffs and strange powers of getting people to tell the truth.
Y – YOU – whoever is reading this at this moment. I’m grateful for you.
Z – piZZaZZ – I lived 2007 with courage, bravery, and pizzazz. I haven’t been perfect. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve made bad choices, hard choices, but I tried to do the right thing for the moment. I ran myself ragged early in the year. I rested in December. But life keeps me on my toes. I’ve got gratitude for pizzazz.