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the teary good-byes.

If I’ve learned anything as a mama, it’s that things are always changing. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on your people, yourself, and your world around you, everything scrambles itself up for you to puzzle out again. Creative life is like that too.

In these early years, we parents have to constantly pick and choose where and what we will give ourselves to. Often in stingier amounts than we’d like. It’s in this crunch of time that I find things ready to scramble themselves again. For me this means turning my focus back to more secluded writing projects, and readjusting to my family’s growing needs. (No, there is no new baby-just a recently mobilized one dropping naps.)

Sense of Story has been an amazing space for me over the past year and change. It has been an opportunity to make myself accountable to writing and to let go of some of the fear in creating and sharing. It has taught me to reside a little more comfortably in vulnerability.

In this project I’ve gained a great little writing circle in my co-authors and the faith of a community in our readers. I am so grateful for the experience, the stretching and the support.

My deepest thanks for sharing this space with us, It has been a gift.

Xo
Gwynyth

***

I echo all of Gwynyth’s sentiments.  And I would like to say thanks to you – our faithful and supportive readers, Brooke and Gwynyth- my cohorts in this venture, and for this space that has allowed me to explore this very general and individual thing called creativity.

Conclusions and ends of chapters are all a part of the grand narrative.  They are spaces to give you a moment to pause and to take in.  For me, I had no idea where this particular ride would take me.  All I expected was to write and have accountability for my writing.  The discoveries, insights, and connections that allowed me to actually hear my voice for the first time, something I could hear distinctly above the fray, were all unexpected.  I also found the courage to be vulnerable and realized that this is what gives me strength to keeping telling my story.

Thanks for the amazing adventure.  While I am sad at the end of this beautiful journey, I think it is also a welcome to new beginnings.

-R

***

Enjoy our last slew of posts today below…and thank you for joining us.

 

 

jenny wren.

wren

When Jenny leaves off her twittering

 

Beads her glassy eye

 

To you and  yours

 

It’s that time of year again.
Beak full of scraps,

 

Threads of fable

 

To weave her nest

 

Packed with mud.

 
A place to lay her eggs

 

Swilled with the ink of winter.

 

Ready to be unleashed

 

On the teeming wood.

 

 

words by brooke scott

art by debbie qalballah (c)

blue jay study.

blue jay

 

A beauty to behold and

A terror to witness
You would guess his mother didn’t love him enough

Even if we all know otherwise
Robin throws a look of disgust as he

Muscles chickadees aside.
Kicking up a ruckus his thrill

And daily demise.
Lonely, he turns his back to the wind

Catching the night whispers home.

 

words by brooke scott

artwork by debbie qalballah (c)

arrivals and departures.

“Arrival is the culmination of the sequence of events, the last in the list, the terminal station, the end of the line.  And the idea of arrival begets questions about the journey and how long it took.” – Rebecca Solnit, Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

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Today I am going to write from the very emotional centre of my heart, trusting Marianne Williamson’s words: “vulnerability will make me invulnerable.”

Over the course of the last month, I have encountered the subject of conclusion on many levels – a loss of someone I barely knew but who meant a great deal to someone very close to me, celebrating and honouring a transition into another stage in life, and saying goodbye to Sense of Story.

Lately, just when I feel like I have arrived at an answer or at a comfort level or at my expected destination, I have to leave.  After planting that flag on the mountain peak and taking a couple of photos for posterity, I am faced with the descent.

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I felt this deeply on our recent month-long trip to Costa Rica.  By the third week, I had grown accustomed to the mating lizards on my bedroom wall. My family had just picked up surfing.  Connections with people we had met were just beginning to become a little deeper.  And I actually enjoyed the one yoga class that I had put off until the end.  But then it was time to leave.  It took three weeks to “arrive” and now it was time to say goodbye.

Parenting does that to me too.  As soon as I baby proofed the house for a crawler, they pulled themselves up to walk.  And now that I am just getting the hang of adolescence, and have surrendered to the uncertainty of it all by simply enjoying the young person right in front of me, I am faced with a pending physical departure.  I don’t even have time to catch my breath before I find myself having to move on.

Sometimes you get to a place and you don’t even know how you got there.  This amazing journey here on Sense of Story has fuelled projects and personal insights beyond what I could have ever imagined.  A year and a half has brought so many gifts and connections in my life, partly because of my explorations here in this space.  It has been both a point of a departure, a jumping off point; and a place that felt like home, a respite from a weary journey within.

How do we recognize all of life’s unending arrivals and departures? We give baby showers, have weddings, and attend funerals.  We throw going-away parties.  But what about everything in between?

That expression, the “in between,” makes me cringe sometimes.  The “tween” is the new term for preadolescence.  I wonder how that must feel to be named something that is more like a space between a departure and an arrival; straddling two worlds, one foot in childhood and one foot in adolescence.  You are in between, hovering in some strange place.  Just get on with it and everything will be fine.

Can we celebrate transitions without rushing through phases, trying to just get on with it?  Can we return to making rites of passage? How about we name the change and call it out? What if we, as a village, came together to help this child/adolescent/adult transition?  Because childhood ends. Do you remember when your childhood ended?  Do you remember when adolescence ended?  Do you remember the moment adulthood began?  Where is the going-away/welcome home party into these significant arrivals and preparation for the next stage?  There is more to life than the first inhale and the last exhale.

Imagine being taken by the hand by someone in a stage ahead and they say, “Things will change.  Here is what is ahead of you. It’s ok to grieve the stage you are leaving.  But it’s time to go. We’ve all been there.  Now take my hand and I’ll tell you a story…”

As I try to create these rites of passage for my children in conscious ways, there is still a gap.  There is no recognition for my own departure into another parenting stage.  Who will hold my hand as my children walk into another stage, a stage that requires me to stay behind and say goodbye?  Where is the place for me to sit and grieve the passage of time?  I don’t want to hurry through and tell myself that it’s just the way it is, that children leave home and I need to just accept it and push away the emotions that accompany loss.  How can we honour this stage, the bittersweet time of empty nesting, this next “tween” stage?

No one tells you how to let go gracefully.  It has been a bit of an awkward slow dance: slowly allowing more independence; listening more; sharing bits of wisdom through stories of mishap and failure; watching the torturous decision-making process and trying to telepathically tell them the right choice.  Both parties test the strength of the connection sometimes hanging by a single thread.  But just as we realize that the strength of the thread is as strong as the silk of a spider, it is time to unwind, to unravel the spool to a place beyond my reach.

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At this moment, I watch my grandfather sleep.  He is 96 years old and is sleeping on the couch right in front of me.  He has said far more goodbyes than I can count.  My aunt remarked, “He’s not speaking very well anymore. When did he get like that?”  He can no longer eat solid foods because he begins to choke.  Only six months ago, he was still making sarcastic retorts.  This is something that none of us talk about, this slow departure that none of us are quite ready for but we all can see.

As I get older, I am trying not to let all the moments blend too much.  As I stay in this fleetingly precarious moment, the present, I always find myself on the cusp of an ending or a beginning. And maybe that’s all there is, the gift of seeing it.  The gift of seeing life as an endless journey of peaks and valleys. And instead of feeling discouraged that there is another ascent or descent on the horizon or focus on how complex terrain we have yet to traverse, we can feel grateful to have each other and to surrender. Surrender to the moment on top, the moment at the bottom, and to surrender to the most beautiful and life-changing moments that can only be found in between.

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sense of conclusion.

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”
– Graham Green, The End of the Affair

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The out breath of Spring for me has always signalled a sense of ending, of wrapping things up. In our next theme we will be exploring the sense of conclusion.

Along with it being a new theme, it will also be our last theme. For over a year now we three have been working on this collaborative project and now it is time for us to wrap up the loose ends moving forward with other projects. For myself this has been a wonderful gift: motivation, comradery and exploration of what I would like to focus on.

A big thank you to Gwynyth and Rozanne!

We will be taking next week off to put together a digest of our new work, posting on May 3.

mama maintenance 15/52

Brooke…..

 

My maintenance these last weeks which has finally found a foothold is writing every day. Maybe it’s spring, the sunshine, the constellations but it has found a rhythm.

 

me and my feet of clay.

me and my feet of clay.

 

Rozanne…

Continuing last week’s mama maintenance theme: the return of…

beachdays2015

 

This week I enjoying the outdoors and ramping up my exercise routine plus going a little out of my comfort zone by incorporating some yoga into the mix and going for long walks by myself, resisting the need to take care of dangling to-do’s or finding a quiet place to write.  An early morning yoga class set a peaceful tone for a day that included driving, hotel check-ins, and massive crowds.  I am getting reacquainted with our porch sofa- reading as the late afternoon sun streams down while the kids play up, down, and all around me.

***

Gwynyth…

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This week has been all about spring cleaning:
clean space + green juice + long walks in the sunshine= happy mama!

what we’re reading.

Brooke

 

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This winter has been a slow reading season for me. I would guess in most part because of a one year old and because I inherited a hip high pile of Waldorf teacher digests stretching from the late 1970’s till 2008 which have captivated me.

Last month I  reread Flannery O’Conner’s, Everything That Rises Must Converge finding a fun old bookmark from my earlier life (Greyhound schedule from Boston to NYC, scratched out because they ran different times every day if my experience was to tell). I am a huge short stories fan. I find American Lit at it’s best there. I also reread Grace Paley’s, The Little Disturbances of Man. A short story collection of perfection. There is an obnoxious blurb by Phillip Roth on the back that I had forgotten about. Aren’t we all lucky he could tell us that this author wasn’t like all those other females?

Like everyone else I am slowly reading Mary Oliver. My current favorite poem is from her Rain collection, At the Edge of the Ocean….

I have heard this music before,

saith the body.

 

This week I hope to work my way through Milan Kundera’s, Encounter (a translation) a collection of essays in the defense of art.

***

Gwynyth

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I too have been eating up short fiction. Not only because It offers such a powerful punch of story and character, but also because they are such digestible, satisfying portions when life with a baby turns one’s attention span short. They are also amazing little teachers, getting to the heart of what makes this writing craft work, every story imbedded with a strong subtext of how to. The latest collection at my bedside is ‘ The Tenth of December’ by George Saunders. Next up on my short fiction list: ‘The collected stories of Amy Hempel’ and ‘This Cake is For The Party’ by Sarah Selecky.

In the kids department, we are reading the last in what has been a really funny and enthralling series: ‘Poppy’s Return’ by Avi. Part of the Poppy series. Its been great for my six and nine year olds. I think Ereth the porcupine will always live in this family.

***

Rozanne

bookphoto_april

I have a compulsive tendency.

If I particularly enjoy one book, I feel compelled to read every book by that same author.

Currently, I am obsessed with Rebecca Solnit.

I recently finished The Faraway Nearby – a collection of essays that explore storytelling through her personal life experiences.  Hmmmm….I wonder why I gravitated to that.  Her exploration of an art installation, a labyrinth in Iceland, was particularly interesting:

“A maze is a conversation; a labyrinth is an incantation or perhaps a prayer. In a labyrinth you’re lost in that you don’t know the twists and turns, but if you follow them you get there; and then you reverse your course.”

I am almost finished the Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.  While her essays touch on political and environmental crises, there is always an element of hope that can be picked out, like an almost invisible thread of a silver lining.  She unravels the thread slowly and before you even realize, there it is – that sigh of relief.  Everything might just be okay.

Next on my list are Men Explain Things to Me, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

And for as for my break of dawn morning reading, I am chewing up bits of Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life.  (This book and Meditations: A New Translation by Marcus Aurelius have held my headspace while finishing up a Rome block with my daughter.)

***

We’d love to hear what you are reading too.  Post a photo on Instagram of those pile of books on your bedside table with #senseofstory or leave a comment here with a list of recent read books or what you are devouring right now….

mama maintenance 14/52

brooke……

image

 

this week my maintenance has been contributing to the mama tribe by borrowing a pump from one friend to contribute milk for another friend. in this child raising business i sometimes feel tapped out with my hands tied, unable to contribute in real ways so it felt nice. and boy, newborns. are they the cutest or what?

rozanne…

 

I was whisked away to Jamaica without the children. Enough said.

***

gwynyth…

Image 1

This week, my mama maintenance was the magical gift of day time babysitting:

An hour of writing completely alone. Then coffee and leisurely bookstore perusing with my cuddly napping babe.

I really know how to live it up right?

your turn

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In last week’s post Mother May I, My grandmother Dorothy packs up her life and moves on to a new one. In that spirit, my prompt for you today is:

Write a scene that begins with the sentence: That’s one way to say goodbye.

Incorporate the photo above or not.

Remember prompts are for practice, not perfection!

We’d love to read your practice in the comments below, or leave a link to your blog.

Happy writing!

 

 

 

Mother May I

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She warned me, my mother in law. She saw right through our puppy love and straight into our imploded future. She said, “Dorothy, I like you, I do. But you and Cam are just so different. You’re so outgoing and he’s, well, he’s not.”

I must have known deep down in the pit of my stomach that she was right. But I didn’t want to believe it. We’d already spent some time apart over our differences-he claimed he wanted seven children. Seven! His own mother had raised five with an effective trinity of grace, warm heart and firm stance.

I’d agree to two. Thats all. My own lovely mother had devoted herself to the six of us, in a tiny house full to the brim. She rubbed the meagre two pennies dad worked so hard for together, and spun riches of homegrown chickens, vegetables, and preserves. And she did it all with a joy and love so ferocious it would be impossible to fake.

But I didn’t want to wash diapers year after year as our mother’s had, knitting and quilting and cooking all the live long day. Not me. No thanks.

But he’d come back on my terms. Or so I thought.
And now here I am bored out of my mind. Sneaking out for a bit of fun. “It’s only a party!” I’d say to him, and he’d forbid me to go. As if he had the right!

My mother and his would find another way to appease their rage — separate bedrooms, serving terrible meals. I suppose I could do those things. Stay in this charged state of rage between us. Like that would be better for the girls than divorce. His mother will say as much to me. If she says anything to me at all.

If my own mother was still alive she may not like it either, but she always believed in love, and that the happiness of the children depends on the happiness of the mother. I think she’d understand. My father won’t. I run the risk of being disowned like poor Georgie, but I don’t think so. I am, in his mind anyway, the baby. The favourite.

I’ve made my mind up. The movers will come while he’s at work. The girls and I will go. We’ll get by. I’ll make it work. This is 1967 for heaven’s sake, and it’s my life!

Sometimes, you have to be brave.

***

The women in my family were made of a hardy stock. The ropes of my foremothers coiled together, eventually split, but were not frayed. Rather, they have woven themselves into new threads and family lines. Mini matriarchs built up from the powerful vantage point of toilet scrubbers. Dinner cookers. Laundry folders.

The spunky and independent Dorothy made her life, at every turn, bright and uncompromising. She still does. You won’t find her knitting baby booties or putting up preserves, but she’s a champion bowler and an Elvis crooner.

She paved the way for her two daughters to seek out lives that filled them, and instilled in them the courage to shed what didn’t.

Those daughters went on to have their own kids who learned to find their own ways too. I am one of them, and the relentless sunny side attitude and work ethic of my Mothers before me, quickly slap me out of any whinging, the sky is falling moods.

My own life has grown to resemble a soup of these three generations of women, but circles back close to my great-grandmother’s with large broods, their work in their homes; scrubbing, cooking, taming the chaos. But unlike their generation I have choices in almost every direction I look. Choices that don’t rankle the masses quite like my grandmother’s did.

I have a supportive, helpful husband, a life on the side of my family, more than one passion to peruse. I don’t know what my great-grandmother’s secret passions were, or if they had any. Did they long for something more than what was offered them? Or were they satisfied by their lot in life?

I only have scraps-like the small squares of fabric that made up the quilts they pieced together. Memories and impressions passed down for me to eke a story from, make from it what I will. A rough guide, or a cautionary tale.

***

Special thanks to my Grandma for permission to use her story, and the treasured letter that filled in a lot of holes. XO

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