I want to tell you about the MS150 but, before I do that, I want to mention a luncheon I attended on Friday before heading out for the MS150. The luncheon was sponsored by the Seton Cove, and the guest speaker was Naomi Shihab Nye.

I have loved her poetry for years, so I jumped at the chance to share a room with her. I expected a soft-spoken someone. Naomi Shihab Nye is a gentle spirit, but she isn’t soft-spoken. She is hearty and exuberant. This woman loves to listen and laugh, and I listened and laughed with her. 

I loved learning that she and Marion Winik, another of my favorites, are friends. I loved hearing her about writing process and her suggestions for writing prompts. Those included:

  1. Every day for a month, write the answer to the following question: “What am I waiting for?”
  2. When you sit down, ask yourself, “What am I caring about right now?”
  3. When you read poetry, don’t asked yourself, “What is the poem about?” Instead ask, “Did I like this poem? Where did this poem take me?”
  4. Trust in the impulse of a first draft.
  5. Give up the desire to be profound. Write about little things.

 Each tip helps me to be a better observer and writer.

After the luncheon, I googled her and found this video of her reading one of her poems. Enjoy it. And if you have a similar video you would like to share of your favorite poet, please do. I welcome your suggestions of new people to love.

The Write Stuff.

I spent the weekend at the Story Circle Network’s Women’s Memoir Conference in Austin. I love writing conferences because I get to be around people who love what I love, and I get to hear stories of all kinds. Sometimes I pick events based on who is presenting. This time, I didn’t know most of the presenters, but I went because I have enjoyed past workshops with Story Circle Network, and this particular conference is their big deal that happens only every other year.  Was it time well spent?  Absolutely.

I got to hear Gail Straub, Susan Lincoln, and Susan Tweit speak.  I was able to attend workshops by Jeanne Guy, Carolyn Scarborough and Amber Lea Starfire. I picked up half a dozen books written by people at this conference, and the one I’ve already read – Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson – knocked me over. Her tale of trying a second time with a husband who had left her once spoke to me, though I’ve never been married. I could feel the desperation and desire in her heart with every attempt she made to save her marriage, and I ached for her, just as I ache for my girlfriends when they tell me their stories in person. Her writing was just that good.

Lots of little things came out of this weekend, including a reconnection with Johnett and Rose, two of my favorite spirits in Austin. But one big thing came out of the weekend.

As I sat in a workshop on journal writing, I started flipping through the pages of the spiral that I use to take notes when I attend these workshops. I came across something I had written in March of 2011 in Round Top at another Story Circle Network event where Christina Baldwin spoke.  The writing prompt was, “Once there was a woman who…,” and this is what I wrote.
Once there was a woman who was afraid of her own voice.  She preferred to listen to her mother’s voice or her father’s voice or the voices of her siblings, so she made sure to surround herself by them always. If ever she sat alone and her own voice started to emerge, she rushed over to her family home so her voice could and would be muffled by the voices of others. It worked every time. 

As she got older, she had more and more trouble rushing towards her family. Physically, she simply wasn’t as able. So in her old age, when her voice spoke again and she sat paralyzed and unable to move, she was forced to hear herself. And what she heard – really for the first time – surprised her. She heard truth, her own truth. She heard creativity and desire and beauty. And though she was at first afraid, she became grateful for her own voice, and she started to listen to herself for hours at a time.

Eventually, as she listened to her own voice, she started to crave mobility, and she started to believe that she could one day move again. The voice said again and again, ‘You can do it. You can walk. You can go anywhere you want to.’  And eventually, she did. And she was happy. For the first time, she was genuinely happy, and she was not afraid of her own voice or of anything else.

Reading these words of more than a year ago – words I don’t recall writing – I was struck at the fear within me. I carry a lot of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointing myself, of being disappointed, and of disappointing others. I don’t want to be a person of fear.

As I read that entry again and again, I was reminded of a quote in the little book I kept when I was a kid.  It contains the following, which I attributed back then to Katharine Hepburn:

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.

To do what interests you, you have to know what interests you. To know what interests you, you have to listen to your own voice. This weekend I was reminded of that. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

A good weekend.

I filled this past weekend with exercise, sports, and things related to sports.

Erin came into town on Friday, so we went swimming at Big Stacy. The pool was packed with families enjoying the Good Friday sun, but the lap lanes were open. We swam about an hour before heading to a Seder hosted by my friend Nan.

On Saturday, we rode 56 miles. We joined Fred and MJ in riding Parmer. I had not been on the road in a while, but I’ve been riding on a trainer and the spin bikes at the gym, and I felt stronger than I have this season.  It was hot, so the distance hurt, but it also felt really good. Also really good was the three-hour nap I indulged in afterwards.

Saturday night, Erin and I watched Moneyball. How that movie made it into and out of the theaters without my seeing it is beyond me. What a movie. What a story. I had no idea how teams were formed or run in baseball. That movie opened my eyes to see the sport in a new way, both as a business and a passion. I’ve written before about wanting to see a Cubs game. Now I want to add to the list that I’d like to see a game in Oakland.

On Sunday, Erin and I ran 7 miles on Lady Bird Lake. We were both feeling the 56-mile ride from the day before, so we were not terribly fast, but it felt wonderful to be moving. We were also lucky enough to run before the temperature peaked for the day, so we weren’t out there in the miserable heat. It was actually quite perfect.

Sunday afternoon, we watched the Masters. I am not a golfer, and I don’t usually watch golf, but Erin had it on, and I watched while reading the first Harry Potter book for the first time. (My Harry Potter experience will have to be a blog post for itself.) I know little about golf, but yesterday’s event sucked me in, and I fell for sweet Bubba Watson. I adore him for his tears and gracious manner. I adore him for being a champion without ever having taken a lesson. And something about a golfer named Bubba just strikes me as funny. I’m a fan.

All in all, it was a healthy and inspiring weekend in more ways than one. Thank you, Erin. Thank you, Fred and MJ. Thank you, Billy Beane. Thank you, Bubba Watson.