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   Winter Leaf In Pink Ice, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Winter Leaf In Pink Ice II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

  Winter Leaf In Pink Ice I & II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan
  House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
  All rights reserved.

  

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. Wasted time. Wasted space. I never seem to follow through. Why project promises into the future, I’m not likely to keep? I’d rather head over to a friend’s house tomorrow night, sit in community with others, reflect on the year, and make a Gratitude List.

What’s a Gratitude List? Some call it counting your blessings. If you’re in recovery, gratitude and service work are a big part of the way to freedom from the chains of regret (past), self-pity (present), and longing (future). The idea is not to dwell on scarcity and the people, places, and things you don’t have – but to focus on what you do.


Winter Leaf In Pink Ice, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’ve been making a Gratitude List for the last 2 or 3 years. At the end of December, I sit down and list all the good, positive things that have happened to me over the last year.

I’m not talking about monumental occurrences, although they can surely be included. I mean the small stuff:

  • the way I feel when I see Mr. StripeyPants at the end of my work day and want to eat him alive
  • the sound of “Love you, Honey!” or “Hi, it’s Mom” from the electronic bowels of the answering machine
  • the smell of Rocks baking in our kitchen
  • the trickling flakes before the scarlet Moon on Christmas Eve
  • big round Bear hugs from you know who

                 

I was right in there with ybonesy about how the space between Christmas and New Year’s can be challenging. And to tell you the truth, I was doing great yesterday. This morning I woke up to go to work feeling disoriented and lost. Thick-headed. I wanted to run ahead, far away from the present, and long jump into the New Year, both feet stretching forward.

But what’s the rush? Why not stop for a moment and write down the Good Stuff. Have you really slowed down long enough to look closely at the snowy down of a thistle? Or a leaf captured in the icy claws of Winter? This year I feel lucky to be able to make my list in community with others who will bear witness to the process.

                 

Winter Leaf In Pink Ice II, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I received this lovely email from my friend reminding us of tomorrow’s gathering. I don’t think she will mind if I post part of it:

I am looking forward to having you come on Saturday to write, reflect, and commune. Remember to come with notebook, pen, and any beverage you need outside of water and peppermint & chamomile tea.

Please plan to arrive between 6:45 & 7 p.m. I’d like to begin at 7, so if you get here 5 or 10 minutes early, we’ll have time to socialize and get settled.

We’ll begin with a bit of silence & poetry (Hey, I didn’t study with Natalie Goldberg for nothing!), so if you’re running late call me because we’ll be waiting to start until everyone is here.

Two, February 2007, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

What are *you* grateful for? If you are so moved, you can add your Gratitude List to the Comments.

If you want to get creative, use an ABC meme. Or do a Writing Practice that begins, “I am grateful for…”


It doesn’t matter how you do it. But write everything down. It’s amazing the power that words have. And a community to bear witness.

I guarantee you’ll feel better when you’re done. Your Holiday blues will turn a corner, and warm to a crimson shade of frosty pale.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, December 28th, 2007

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Sleep, the Temptress and the tempted. She doesn’t come easily for me these days. There were times when sleep was a blessing, refuge of the depressed. Then there are dreams. I don’t always remember them. But lately, they’ve been restless and disturbed. The things in which I’ve put my trust are rocky and double-edged.

Last night, I woke up at 1:30am, restless and worried. The cats were tossing and turning, too. Kiev and Chaco had been to the vet, Dr. Tiffany, in the late afternoon before supper, hot vegetable soup. Kiev was a doll. Chaco, with his oily black coat, howled the way Siamese do, lashed out, hissed, and threatened to bite. But he is harmless, a survivor of abusive previous owners.

The fairy thin vet assistant grabbed him by the scruff, then tied on the black muzzle with pink shoestring laces that Chaco ripped off with a single paw in two seconds flat.

Domestic animals may not remember short-term inconsistencies or the emotional ups and downs of their owners. But they remember long-term abuse. It’s stored in their bodies. And as much as Liz tried to comfort Chaco, he sat through Kiev’s temperature check and yearly shots, then dove into old anxiety, emerald eyes splayed wide, as she placed him on the cold stainless steel table.

Mr. Stripeypants had gone to the vet earlier this year. So he stayed at home. Waited, nostrils to the windowpane. And when Kiev and Chaco returned, he sniffed and smelled and growled at them. The scent of squirty needles and alcohol and oozing medicine.

And that ties in with the book I am almost finished with, Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty. She races through the latter chapters of her friend Lucy’s addicted and chaotic frenzy. And I think of the ways that addictions plague artists and writers. Recovery offers hope. Addiction cycles around again. It’s inevitable.

Writers go to places that others don’t want to go. They are willing to look at the good, the bad, the ugly of human existence and write about it, so the details of our living history are not forgotten. And I wonder why it is I can’t sleep.

I dream of reams of money floating down from the sky and read how Ann and Lucy had more than enough money with New York parties and scholarly literature awards. A temporary balm, it didn’t matter in the end.

Writing will not make you happy. Or save you from anything. It only offers the comfort of a moment of captured truth – your truth. But back to sleep. How did I stray so far off track? I don’t count sheep.

Kiev and Chaco finally got to sleep and I rocked the bed, boing, boing, turning over and over, leaning up softly against the warm back and hands that sheltered and slowed the spinning in my head. Finally, I grabbed a warm finger, turned over on my side, crawled into a fetal position, and leapt into the next dream.

I was standing in front of a classroom, talking to a group of students about how writing will not save you; I was rattled, a skewed version of art imitating life.

And then, buzzzzzzzzzzzzz, the alarm with the microchip that connects to a satellite clock somewhere in the snowy mountains of Colorado beeped through my brain. And I rose to the dark Fall Minnesota morning.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

-from Topic post, Writing Topic – Counting Sheep

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by Elizabeth Statmore

Writing this book is the loneliest journey I have ever been on.
Nothing even compares — not divorce, not mental illness, not
abandonment, not the murder of my best friend from high school. Not
therapy. Not meditation.

The other day I told Natalie how hard I am finding this last stretch.
She agreed sympathetically and compared it to giving birth. “At the
end, you really have to push.”

A thought occurred to me. “So is there an epidural when you get to
this part?”

She laughed. “No painkillers. Just screaming.”

Some days I wonder if this is how the deeply delusional feel in
psychiatric hospitals. I shuffle around the house in my socks and a
dark blue sweatshirt, muttering to myself. Just me and my characters.
I hear their voices. They argue and negotiate on the pages of my
spiral notebook. I plug cartridge after cartridge into my Waterman
fountain pen. Black ink only. I can’t bear to see colors these days.

The other night my dharma teacher said, “Intention precedes action.”
I wrote this on a small yellow Post-It and placed it next to the
altar on the far left corner of my desk. On the wall just above it is
a companion Post-It with a recovery saying on it. The saying was
given to me by a fellow writing practice writer. It says, “Motivation
follows action.”

This captures how I am feeling these days. Intention precedes action
and motivation follows it. And I am suspended in the action in the
middle, groundless and beyond grasping, hovering over the edge of the
cliff like the great dharma teacher Wile E. Coyote. I blink into the
camera and feel myself gulp before the fall.



Abandoned Is… is a writing practice written from the Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – “ABANDONED.”


About writing, Elizabeth says:  I love the way writing practice lets me crawl through the window of a dream into the spirit world, where wild time is woven together with ordinary time to bind our souls to joy. I began writing practice in 1988, when I discovered Writing Down The Bones at my favorite bookstore, and I began formal study with Natalie Goldberg soon thereafter. Day by day, this practice has taught me to accept my whole mind and to work my way through life one word at a time.

Revisiting my old spiral notebooks reminds me how hard I worked in the learning but more importantly, how hard I had to try. They remind me how I learned to step forward with my own voice and declare, “The only one who limits me is me.” Year in, year out, they remind me how this practice has given me who I am.

 

In addition to the novel she is writing, Elizabeth is a frequent contributor to KQED-FM’s Perspectives series. If you would like to read more about Elizabeth, visit her website, Elizabeth Statmore. To listen to her work on Perspectives, click on the link, radio.

 

 

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 13th, 2007

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I read the edge in ybonesy’s piece, Who Stole My Saint? What I like is that she didn’t shy away from what she wanted to say. She spoke her truth.

Writing breaks us open, wears us out. Most good things do both. Shadow. Dark. Light off the dent in a muddy golf ball. I liked her edge.

No one wants to talk about the hard stuff; they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing. Politically correct stops us from talking. PC sugarcoats the glaring truth. We need to talk.

I’m reminded of a recovery meeting a few years ago. Someone made a reference to race when they spoke on one of the Steps. I nearly fell off my chair. I fidgeted and looked around. I was noticeably uncomfortable. What were racial comments doing in a recovery meeting?

After the meeting, I was walking out to my car with an African American woman I had connected with in small group. She had been honest and warm. I felt an opening. So I took a risk and asked if she had been offended at the speaker’s reference. I swallowed hard, waiting for her answer, and squelched a sudden obtrusive thought to apologize for the whole white race.

We talked in the parking lot for only 10 minutes. But those 10 minutes really counted. Good, direct conversation. She said she’d reacted to the comment. But then stopped for a moment and looked at the speaker’s intention. She knew they were trying to use a powerful analogy to get their point across about recovery. But what hurt was the fact that there was no follow through. The speaker threw the comment out there and left it hanging in the room.

There is no cross talk in recovery when someone speaks. And little back and forth conversation. Unless you are well-versed in the 12 Traditions, it’s hard to know what to say in an awkward moment.

As we started to wrap up the conversation and head to our cars, I told her I grew up in the South and had to do a lot of personal work to unlearn what I’d been taught as a child. We talked about experiences with racism in the South. But especially in the North, in self-declared liberal climates, where prejudice is more underground, dangerous, and silent.

I knew that was true. A few summers ago, two baseball cap wearing punks in a Ford pickup pulled up next to Liz’s Saturn on Highway 55, rolled down their windows, spit at us, and yelled, “Get off the road, fuckin’ dykes!” All we were doing was talking and laughing in the front seat. No “L” was tattooed on our foreheads. We weren’t kissing or wearing purple. We didn’t have Human Rights Campaign or rainbow stickers on the rear bumper. We were just talking. And laughing.

There’s a lot of hate out there. Plenty to go around. We need to start talking if we’re ever going to heal the past.

There have been many conquests in this country, too many to count. No one is above it all. No one culture. No one race. I spent a long time early in my life blaming it on the whites. Blaming it on men. Blaming it on my family. Blaming it on me. But I’ve learned – change happens at the individual level. You can’t cover things up with blanket blame. Talking things out might have made a difference. But I know from experience, I was angry and that’s all I could see.

When people are angry, it’s hard to have a conversation. It’s hard to change things. Even if you want to. It’s hard to forgive others. First, we have to suck it up and forgive ourselves. When other people hate us so fiercely, after a time, we start to hate ourselves. We have to forgive ourselves for that hate.

I started a conversation with the woman in recovery. Ybonesy started a conversation in the blog. That’s what needs to happen. If we’ve got some edge, good. But we will have to deal with responses from our families. And our friends. It could get touchy. Better to get it over with now, rather than when my first book comes out.

What I want to say to ybonesy is that I was one of those New Agers that stormed New Mexico. I went with my partner in 1987 during the Harmonic Convergence. It was a big deal. Many Native Americans participated that summer. They told us it was written in some of their history that a new age would come; a time when they’d have to teach whites how not to destroy the earth – and every being on it.

The New Age movement changed me. It gave me a place to find my anchor. It was a white movement. Whites trying to find ground. I never related to Christian religion. It had no place for gays and lesbians. But with some indigenous cultures, people who were different were sometimes the most revered. And nature was integrated into day to day living.

I am Pagan mostly. Wicca based. Female goddess based. It’s rooted in nature, the turn of a season. But I believe in a Higher Power, a Greater Universe, Jung’s collective unconscious. I believe Jesus was one of the prophets, just like Buddha. I pray in Recovery. I subscribe to the basic tenets of Buddhism. I sit, I write, I practice. I don’t fit into mainstream religion. But I’m a spiritual being.

We are all spiritual beings. And that’s what a mystic like Saint Teresa would tell you if she were standing here today.

What *did* I get out of the New Age? A lot. I learned about every culture and how each worked with nature and Spirit. I looked for common ground in my own roots. I learned compassion. I forgave myself. I brought what I learned back home.

I tried not to trounce on anyone else along the way. I was curious. I wanted to know other cultures. I’m not as romantic anymore. I know that a lion in the desert is going to attack and eat a wildebeest. Something has to die. In order for something new to be born.

There was a New Age way before the 1980’s. It involved Mabel Dodge, D. H. Lawrence, Dorothy Brett, Georgia O’Keeffe, Willa Cather, and all the whites that came to New Mexico in the 1920’s. It was going on in Europe at the same time – Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, countless artists and writers. It was a great time to be gay or lesbian in France. There was a freedom there. Baldwin knew it. He moved to Europe.

Psychology came out of that time, relating the way we think and live to our spiritual lives. People like William James and Carl Jung were mystical pioneers who changed the face of psychology, forerunners of therapy as we know it. James and Jung consulted for Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill’s wife, Lois, the founders of AA and Al-Anon that have gone on to help thousands of people. The connections weren’t accidents.

Whole cultures changed because people were hungry. They opened up and talked to each other. They went to smoky bars and restaurants in Paris, met in drawing rooms next to the fire at Mabel’s, and lived on high desert ranches like Kiowa and Ghost Ranch. They shared knowledge, fought about ideas, weren’t afraid to paint forbidden paintings, and have the hard conversations that bust things open. They also spent a lot of time alone.

The 80’s wasn’t the first new age. It won’t be the last. It’s only been 20 years. It’s too soon for us to know what we learned from it. Maybe it was whacked out and crazy, the way 60’s counterculture was whacked out and crazy. Some took it to the extreme, were offensive to other cultures, profited from it. Frauds. Unauthentic warriors. Crystal eaters.

But we needed something to break open. Because white culture as a whole needed to wake up. We needed to understand as a country where we came from. And take a good hard look at where we were going. Countries are born, mature, age, and have a spiritual life, the same way people do. And America is just a babe.

The New Age is over. Or middle-aged at best. Like ybonesy said, plugging into Catholic saints – it might be a leftover New Age thing. But Catholicism came from Judaism, didn’t it?  Many of the mystics broke off with their own brand of religion. Their own New Age. Agree or disagree, we are all connected. Whether we want to be or not.

Being a writer is not so much about comfort. As it is about truth. We can each only write our own truths. Different cultures have different truths, different histories. And a straight woman is never going to know what it was like to grow up lesbian. Or a straight man know what it’s like to grow up gay.  But shouldn’t we still ask the hard questions? To hide those things in our writing would be a sin.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

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Lawrence’s Firebird, February 8th, 2007

Phoenix, Lawrence Firebird, photo by QuoinMonkey, February 8th, 2007, all rights reservedI remember the chair.

And you there sketching on the porch. The day was clear, my 2 year anniversary date, and you could hear the wind through the Ponderosa pines. Water dripped off of corrugated tin roofs. And we walked up the hill to the memorial in silence.

 

Remember last October? When we each did 1 minute timed writing practices in the D. H. Lawrence guest book, sun peering through the spoked sunflower window painted by Dorothy Brett.

 

 

Giant’s Chair resize, detail, photo of QuoinMonkey, February 8th, 2007, all rights reserved

 

 

 

I

remember.

 

 

 

detail of Giant’s chair, February 8th, 2007


-inspired by the post, Giants Sat Here

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