Seeking coolness in the presence of hot temperatures of August

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I just came back from a visit with family in California. The temperatures were in the 90s during the day, which is a bit hotter than we’re used to in my part of the country. Thankfully, temperature-wise, we went into San Francisco for a day and toured the SF Modern Museum of Modern Art, where we saw a lovely and stimulating series of exhibitions on American Abstractionist art, on various periods in Andy Worhol’s art (have you ever seen his early commercial art? It’s amazing), some fun Alexander Calder mobile and stabile art (Seattle has his “Eagle” piece on exhibit in the Waterfront Sculpture Park), and a really intriguing “living wall” of plants – ferns and other wall-based greenery.

Speaking of temperature, the past couple of days we have had cooler temperatures and even some RAIN here in Seattle, which makes me smile. At least for the past two years I don’t think we’ve had a drop of rain in August, so my yard and myself are very delighted with a bit of precipitation. I am delighted.

What I’m working on

About my writing, I am happy to report that things are starting to move forward. The main rule I’m reminding myself of is, “Be gentle with oneself. Be generous, be kind.” I don’t think I can have too much kindness toward my own creative self, and if you are as self-critical as I am, you’ll know what I mean. I know, of course, once I have a draft of a project on paper and complete, I can bring in those wonderful critical voices to help fine-tune the project. But for now I’m keeping my critical voices outside my drafting space – in the “green room,” as it I’m imagining it – where they are sequestered from making negative judging remarks on my artistic work, until they are needed.

I have two novel projects I’m alternating between, one is about sixty pages long at the moment, a realistic novel about a marriage falling apart, and the other still in infancy stages at thirty-five pages, an ensemble novel about a group of people living in a 1920s historic apartment building who interact with each other and form a community.

Here is a haiku I wrote for a project on the topic “Shenanigans.” I was thinking of last year’s lunar eclipse!

Photo credit: Theresa Barker.


Fickle moon you haunt me.
Be yourself and drop your silvery shenanigans,
disappearing behind the sun-golden mask.

Happy writing!

Regarding small things of pleasure

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As we round the corner of the last weekend in July and head straight into early days of August, one thing I notice is how much sunlight we get this time of year. In my neighborhood the days start early with songbirds greeting the light, and the golden quality of the light makes me think ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Soon enough we’ll be having shorter-shorter-shorter days and then there will be darkness at five pm. Then it will be time to curl up with a hot drink and a warm book and read!

Which is its own small pleasure.

Here’s a short poem from my recent work. I hope you’ll find something to enjoy in it!

The thing you notice last

The thing you notice last
are the hands.
Thick fingers but not ungraceful.
The hands of a fisherman
must be adept to the tasks of fishing,
the tying of lines both large and small,
the propelling of oar through water with
or against the current.
The deft handling of a slip-muscled fish
not wishing to be caught.
Hands, whose fingers mimic
the sharp talons of the river bird – eagle, hawk, osprey –
gripping and prying.
Winding line and fileting flesh.

When you ask what’s the best way to catch river fish,
in your young person’s untried voice,
the answer comes:
Don’t be afraid to go into the deep. The shallows are no good.

Away you go, and only later
you understand this as a commentary on life.

Happy writing!

The fog may be lifting

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your lovely and encouraging comments over the past few weeks as I’ve been struggling to find my way back.

I have been feeling like this:

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

When I have wanted to feel like this:

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

And even though I’m not yet entirely to that place of balance and creative energy that I’ve been hoping for, I am finding new energy and creative interest in small projects again. Slowly, slowly, step after step. Thank you for your generosity and grace in responding to me.

What I’m working on now

I have still been doing a poem effort almost every day, along with exercises from The Artist’s Way creative recovery book. And a little more writing here and there. Here is a poem I wrote last week:

Credit: Theresa Barker

Poem of Invitation

It is not far to my place
you can come after lunch
bring along the cat and all of the dogs
the turtles in their shells

The sun rises late tomorrow
and the feet play their games

Just come when you can
The table is set the cutlery is out
there will be butter on the table
next to the soft rolls
and the hot muffins.

Would there ever be another like you?
I don’t think so.

And the fog will descend around us
the cats will stalk back one by one
the dogs fall asleep on the front porch
the turtles, the turtles, the turtles
will bring in their bubbled heads
the soft rolls will be cut
and smeared with butter
and eaten – whole –
because they are so good.

And you will tell me a story
after the one I tell you.

Happy writing!

“Margaret was wearing ballet shoes”

When we attempt something new, we often look for models or examples of how it is done. In “Eleven Stories,” my weekly writing program for 2018, we have been asked to write a 55-word story by the end of January.
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In Eleven Stories the instructors are also providing a number of 55-word-story exercises to practice the form. One of the suggestions has been to use concrete details to convey a theme in our very short, short story, as in this example: “Old Loafers,” by poet Joseph Bednarik:

Old Loafers
Joseph Badnarik

Epiphany was wearing simple shoes when she fell in love. Rather than mere falling she kicked off those old loafers and somersaulted through lilac-scented sky, trusting warm arms – or a daisy chain safety net – would catch her. The right shoe landed in a murky puddle. The left was never found. Let’s remember her suspended, ecstatic.

Okay, now our turn!  Here were the instructions:

Write a 55-word story which, like “Old Loafers,” has the abstract focus of “joy” as its main element.

Hmm.  Well, at first I was a bit stumped.  In the end, I decided to do something very similar.  Here is “Margaret was wearing ballet shoes”:
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Margaret was wearing ballet shoes when she fell in love. The ribbons floated up, up, up, until they met the knees of her beloved, who kissed her face with the touch of butterfly wings.

“How did you know?” she asked, breathing deeply into the sweet scent of her lover’s neck.

“It was easy. Your eyes.”

How about you?  Do you ever use others’ work as inspiration for your work? Do you like to see examples when you are learning something new, or do you like to try it on your own?  Thanks for visiting!


The things he took – after Salmon Rushdie

Last week I sat down with a writing friend to study a small piece of literature.  We met at a nearby coffee house.  Sitting across the table from each other, books open in front of us, surrounded by the high whine of the espresso machine, the peppered staccato of other patrons’ conversations, and the brace of our own thoughts and imaginings on the world of other people’s writing, we read over the first part of a recent Salmon Rushdie novel and talked about what we did, and did not, understand in his work.

Then we wrote.

This is what came out of my pen, and it was so strange and yet oddly fascinating, that I thought it would be fun to share with you.


“. . .  So she slipped out of history, he took it with him when he left.” – Salmon Rushdie, “Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights”

The things he took

the empty mayonnaise jar of receipts
a poem from her porch
the treasure of loneliness
his history dig
chocolate cake (he left her a slice)
the formality of loneliness
the good fortune in a Chinese coin
– that went bad after he carried it away
mercy to others
the parallel life of a transient philosopher
gambling addiction
pharmacy postcards
immaculate linen she saved for her wedding night
olive oil to make pesto
the paralysis of over-analyzed love
attraction to miracles
the safety of warm skin
imaginary ills in a pillowcase
forgotten birthdays
the red-orange of a setting sun
eternal sloth
paranoia, just enough to sour a life
wine she never cared for
his resumé and business cards
the last taste of summer.

She slipped out of the way and he left with no dust in his tracks
no unfinished meals
no canceled dentist appointments
no strangled crabgrass
no sparks on the 4th of July

and when he was gone she swept the floor with his ashes
and put out the garbage for the trash man to pick up
on Monday.

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It’s a little sad in places, sorry!  The original work was something of a lament for the character, a female jinn, who is abruptly left by a philosopher-historian when his career is reinstated … I thought about changing what I wrote to make it more cheerful, but I decided to include an explanation instead.

My favorite line might be “a poem from her porch.”  Such an interesting image!

Do you ever write down stream-of-consciousness thoughts?  Do you use stream-of-consciousness as fuel for your own writing?  Thanks for reading!