Posts Tagged ‘What are your obsessions?’

Reading old journals opens up the past revealing details of thoughts and memories long forgotten. When digging through writing notebooks, I ran across this 20-minute Writing Practice from June 16, 2013. It relates to redRavine and lessons that travel with me. In 2019 I still write about the places I have lived, loved, and have yet to travel.


Loving A Place – 20min

Second cup of French Roast. Kiev sleeps in the window on a fuzzy white cat bed piled on top of blankets. I go over to the desk, organize the pile of envelopes, advertisements, and receipts into separate categories. Then over to the table in front of the couch, an object I love, a painted table that Liz picked up at an auction many years ago. There are painted squares of eggplant, mustard, and turquoise, edged with swipes of paintbrush black. I like surrounding myself with art objects I love. She did good on this purchase.

Next, I gather piles of books from around the living room, most recent purchases, some from a few months ago. I notice that I am halfway through a couple of books, have not even started two more. There is Mni Sota Makoce, The Great Journey, She Had Some Horses, Dragonfly Dance, Twelve Owls. There is The Round House, Hawk Ridge, First Words, and Dewy, The Library Cat. A copy of Refuge that I’ve had for over a decade sits next to the Canon wireless printer. I dug it off a book shelf when Liz, Teri, and I went to see Terry Tempest Williams earlier this year.

I organize the books by size. The heavy photography books like Lightroom 3, Digital Photography, Sony Nex, Black & White Photography are placed on the solid piano bench next to the Room & Board recliner. Liz and I both still buy good reference books; though I am sure many now look online for similar information, there is nothing like a good hardcover book with illustrations. I open the window next to me, feel the light summer wind blow past my face. The cottonwood is just about done dropping her seeds. The cranberry that Liz has named Snowball is fully mature and is blooming with umbrella-shaped pods of white on the tips of her branches.

I feel like I need grounding. I remember something my writing teacher wrote to me after I told her that I was sad she no longer toured or taught in Minnesota. She said she thought I would find Minnesota in her writing. I pick up The True Secret of Writing and thumb through the book, taking notice of the chapter headings that are laced across the top of each page. Loving A Place jumped out at me. I started to read about a layover in Minnesota on the way to Bismarck, North Dakota. This looks good, I think. North Dakota for Liz; Minnesota for me. I settle in to read.

She is staying with a friend who lives near Lake Calhoun. It’s the dead of winter in Minnesota, below zero, at temperatures where ice refuses to be melted by salt.

Two women jog past me, then later a man with a dog on a leash; otherwise, I have the place to myself. I pick up my pace feeling the tips of my fingers freezing. I can’t believe how much love I feel for this place with no logic to it. Sure I met my great Zen teacher here and lived a few blocks away from him for six years and, yes, I learned a lot about writing here, teaching in poet-in-the-schools and then resident writer for two years in a multiracial, multiethnic elementary school and then finally winning a big in-state fellowship that brought me to Israel and that recognized me as a writer. But stopping by a hackberry and staring across the flat white surface of the lake as cars at my back sped by, I understand love has no reason, makes no sense.

Finally I didn’t belong here, just as some of my best loves were not practical to live with or marry, but spoke to a part of me that yearned to be met. And as the years go by I remember them with all the unsheltered love I couldn’t manage to tame. Even though no one would call Minneapolis a wild place, besides its winters, for me, a second-generation Jewish girl from Brooklyn, it was my American frontier. I met people who grew up on Iowa farms, close to that sprawling wide American river, the Mississippi. I watched as people dug holes in the ice and fished and went to summer cabins in the north of their state. I come back to Minneapolis as a seminal home where I have no family and no roots, like a stranger in a strange place.

I’ve written about Minnesota a lot, struggling to escape what I thought was a weird attachment. Most Minnesotans think I hate their state. They are wrong. When I write about a place at all, even if I make fun of it, it’s because it’s stuck to my heart.

My friend Miriam says I have a jones for place. Some people love cars, old houses, the cut and line of clothes. What does our obsession tell us about ourselves?

-from The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, Part Three: Elaborations, Loving A Place, p. 110 by Natalie Goldberg

She was right. There was Minnesota. At the end of the chapter, she completed her journey into North Dakota, teaching students, then taking a trip to Theo Roosevelt National Park where the horses run wild. I see that wild in Liz, for generations back, connected to harsh winters, unforgiving wind, broad-stroked skies. Loving a place means learning to love the people who live in that place. Because the place has shaped the people they have become. Some of us are products of many places, depending on where our lives have taken us. To live in a place is not always to love a place; we come to love places where we have not lived.


NOTE: The name of the Minneapolis lake mentioned in this Writing Practice (Lake Calhoun) was changed in 2017 to Mde Maka Ska. The Dakota originally called the lake Mde Maka Ska (modern spelling Bdé Makhá Ská meaning Lake White Earth.
Related to the topic:  WRITING TOPIC – A PLACE TO STAND

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Dance by the light of the moon. Which moon? September, the Harvest Moon, the Yellow Leaf Moon. But if you are Haida, near the cool waters of Alaska and British Columbia, it might be the Ice Moon. For the Ojibwe, the Rice Moon. Cherokee, the Black Butterfly Moon. Climate changes the way the moon clings to the sky.

No matter the temperature, September is a transitional month. Warm one day, cool the next. Nights start to dip. On the last day of September, our heat kicked on for the first time. We opened the windows to let the “burnt dust” smell flow out into the wind. Then bundled up on the couch. It’s sweatshirt season. The time to dress in layers is upon us.

The Harvest Moon always looks bigger to me. The full moon was dramatic, a red smear across the sky. You could barely make it out behind the mist off the lake. I start to go inside in the Fall. I am internal. It’s a good time to write. And rest. I would miss the seasons so, if I lived in a climate that did not shift with the turning Earth.

I once thought I wanted to study the stars. That was before I saw how much math was involved. The exacting part of the Heavens is fascinating. But the mystery is what holds me. Not knowing is more exciting than knowing. I still believe in Santa Claus. Fairies are alive and well with the Hobbits in the forest. Trolls and gnomes dot the darkness of Sleepy Hollow. I’ll take the mystery over the facts any day.

That doesn’t work in real life. You can drown in what you don’t know. There’s a fine balance between being informed and obsessed. But I remember writing practices on — What are your obsessions? Because they hold a lot of juice. What are my obsessions?

I watch the Moon, the Sun, the Stars. I want to know what makes the Earth tick. I’m obsessed with understanding love and forgiveness. The breakdowns, the shattered dreams, the loss of control, the forgetfulness of the last broken heart, the wild abandon that makes a person fall in love.

I am obsessed with wind and trees. A single burnt umber leaf against a cerulean sky (I like to say the word cerulean). I want to understand what makes a family tick, the ghostlike qualities of memories, how we come to love the people we love, why people stick, then fade into the sunset, or drop off entirely, the clean hatchet cleave. Sharp. Close. Far away. Serrated. Here. Gone. I’m obsessed with photography, mandalas, finding my way in spite of the erratic, misleading compass needle. Where is True North? I want to know where I fit in.

I’m obsessed with community, with the good work of everyday teaching, with the smell of wood smoke and the sound of the Downy woodpecker snapping away on a turning ash branch. Have you ever noticed the erratic way a woodpecker flies? They look like giant hummingbirds, darting, rising, falling, but always landing on their feet. Sideways, clinging to the side of a rough barked tree. I’m obsessed with what connects and what separates. And why humans can’t seem to grasp — there is no difference between the two.

The 9th Full Moon has passed. Farmers plow bulging fields by the light of the moon. Two years out of three, the Harvest Moon falls in September. Corn, rice, beans, and wild rice reach their full potential. Under the Maize Moon, where the deer paw the earth, why can’t we?

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 9th, 2008

-related to posts: Against The Grain (August Moon), The Many Moons Of July (Digging Deeper), winter haiku trilogy, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min

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