the music of her laughter

Carol…. Her name means song. 

Carol was my brilliant, beautiful, and only sister. And I lost her, ten years ago tomorrow…. Sometimes, when the music of her laughter echoes back to me, sunbeams break through clouds.

In memory of my beloved Carol, whose heart I’ll cherish forever, these words today:

There is a music for lonely hearts nearly always.
If the music dies down there is a silence
Almost the same as the movement of music.
To know silence perfectly is to know music.

~Carl Sandburg, (1878 – 1967)

While my pretty one sleeps

I’m reposting the love letter I wrote for my mother on this eleventh anniversary of her birth into heaven. She’s the brightest star in my firmament, and my love for her is endless as the sky.

My Path with Stars Bestrewn

0020_Momma A portrait of Momma, painted in 1960 by Shirley Heysinger.

When I was a child, Momma used to sing to me. As sunset petaled the evening sky, she’d gather me in her arms and rock me in my small bedroom with its dormer window and sing Tennyson’s “Sweet and Low” before tucking me into bed. Nestled close to her heart, I loved to feel her calmly inhale before she’d croon the familiar words:

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one sleeps.

Music and poetry were my nighttime coverlet, and my gentle mother filled my waking hours with beauty. When I was small, she’d recite for me the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson…

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Why I write: the tone and hue of my words

MPWST_Books(PI2_0209)

When my lovely friend, Katrina Kenison, wrote to ask me to participate in a blog tour she had joined, my heart stopped and I trembled for days, so frightened I could scarcely draw a breath. With a new blog only four months old, I felt unequal to the challenge. Although I’ve scribbled in diaries and journals all my life, I’m still accustomed to, and far more comfortable with, hiding my work away. Although I accepted Katrina’s out-of-the-blue request with quaking and trepidation, I’m glad I did accept. Attempting to answer these straight forward, yet open-ended blog tour questions became an invitation to do some profitable soul-searching, an opportunity which has caused me to stretch, reach back, reach forward, and grow, and in the process, to know myself better. For this experience, for gentle words of encouragement and unfailing support, and most of all, for the gift of her friendship, I’m ever grateful to Katrina.

Before I continue with my small story, it’s my privilege and pleasure to introduce my friend and fellow writer, Jessica Halepis, who has graciously agreed to join this blog tour. Jessica is a gentle archaeologist of the soul, a gifted writer who digs deep in order to offer her readers gems of wisdom and delicate beauty. “Life,” she writes, “is about sinking into tenderness. It’s about learning to bend, to fall. It’s time and again learning how to open yourself like a new flower to the give and take of love.”

A glance back. . .

In 2011, while researching a now-forgotten topic, I happened upon Katrina Kenison’s exquisite video, The Gift of an Ordinary Day. I wept over, and was smitten by, the gentle wisdom she shared about motherhood and children, about noticing and celebrating the preciousness of each day. Two weeks later, my dear friend, Ann, wrote from Washington to say she’d just found a wonderful book at her library, a book whose words and message kept making her think of me. Ann wanted to recommend The Gift of an Ordinary Day. (How about that!) She was certain I’d find in its author a kindred spirit, and she was right!

I read Katrina’s books, and loved them, discovered she keeps a blog, and, subscribing to it, became a devoted follower. Through Katrina, I found another of my favorite writers, the marvelous Lindsey Mead. Lindsey and Katrina became – and remain – my twin pillars of inspiration. In occasional private correspondence over the past couple of years, I’ve visited with them about words they’ve written which resonate so with me. Reading their weekly posts continues to spark my imagination and fill my mind with good things, with gorgeous thoughts and soul-filling words. Because of their shining example, I brought to fruition my dream of starting a blog of my own, a place where I, too, might share the things I love – beautiful quotes and poetry, photographs of nature, and above all, peace.

I am always ready to disqualify my dreams of writing because I don’t have a degree in English. Rebecca Murphy, a friend and mentor I met through Lindsey, taught me not to be my own worst enemy and to believe in myself. Lindsey, Katrina, and many of my closest friends have also offered me encouragement. I think a lot of writers shrink with anxiety. Scratch that. I think everyone suffers from occasional feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. We all fear being judged, yet we put ourselves out there and hope to be noticed for our own special gifts. We long to share our uniqueness and be accepted, just as we are.

As time has gone by, and in the few short months I’ve been publishing My Path with Stars Bestrewn, I’ve continued to learn what a warm and welcoming community is present here among the bloggers and writers – fascinating individuals who share hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, creativity, words, and marvelous diversity. I simply can’t get enough, and I’m thankful each day to have an opportunity to absorb it all.

I have no special ambitions in the days ahead. I intend only to go right back to doing what I love, which is to take my fledgling hops with language, to post all I find beautiful and share it here, quietly and heart to heart, from a place of peace.

 

What am I working on?

I’m working on the various components of this blog. The occasional essays I post here require time and inspiration. Inspiration, I’ve discovered, is an inelegant house guest. She’ll thunder in unannounced and disrupt me in the middle of my work day, just when I’m figuring quarterly taxes or trying to catch up on bookwork. I’ve spread many a banquet in her honor only to find that she won’t touch a crumb. She’ll sit in stony silence, arms folded. Just when I’ve thought of what I should say to her, she’s gone, without having bothered to close the door. She is drawn to the woods – I’ve heard her singing there – so I walk down to woods’ edge alone to shoot photos; perhaps I’ll catch a glimpse of her. I’m lonesome while she’s away, so while I await her return, I wander at will through my quote garden, console myself with poetry. Inspiration is an elusive enchantress and a fickle friend, but I adore her just the same. She’ll be back.

 

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I have no genre. Since this blog is in its infancy, it’s difficult to know how to describe it, or how to compare it to others. For now, I can say that I consider it my home journal, where I decorate my walls with nature and surround myself with poetry and quotes that inspire me, a place where I can weave my quiet thoughts and dreams, an online nest I can fly to.

 

Why do I write what I do?

Have you ever accidentally spilled a cup of uncooked rice, heard the disheartening clatter as it strikes the counter, helpless as the bits and pieces careen in every direction? That’s what would happen to me, to my thoughts, if I didn’t write. Writing, journaling, is my unspilled rice cup, the container which holds each grain of thought, where I can select and examine each one, or, at least, store it for future use. I write to contain my thoughts, to preserve them, to prevent them from skittering away.

My About me page explains a bit more about what I value, who I am, and how I approach my work.

 

How does my writing process work?

Because I’m new to the world of publishing my writing in a blog, it feels awkward and presumptuous to talk about my supposed writing processes. However, I’ve been writing privately for most of my life, so what I have to say on this topic pertains primarily to this previous experience.

I will write at any hour of day or night. I perch in the faded recliner in our sunroom with my journal and a pencil (while our kitty, who dutifully oversees all my creative endeavors, purrs in my lap, curls at my feet, or stops in at regular intervals to check my progress). I’ll jot a line or two, then stop to gaze out at the woods. During the day, I watch birds flutter in to visit our feeders, I study the clouds. At night, I keep the light low and enjoy the stillness and hush – a peaceful silence interrupted only by the soft tones of our wind chimes or the occasional hooting of our resident owls. I habitually lean towards writing at night, a holdover from my days as a young mother, when my quiet time arrived after my darlings were snug and slumbering.

I will sit at my keyboard to write, but I’m beginning to discover I’m easily distracted and led astray when I do. It’s tempting to interrupt my thought flow and check Facebook or send messages instead. (I love my family and friends and enjoy keeping up with their lives.) So – I’m trying to do more of my quiet journaling. Somehow, it seems more intimate to write in pencil; it stills my busy thoughts and helps me focus.

Sometimes, words flow from me seamlessly with little need of editing. Usually, though, writing is a slow, methodical process. When that rascal, Inspiration, comes to call, I’ll compose a lengthy draft all at once while she’s here. I’ll write for hours at a time, oblivious to my surroundings, neither hungry nor thirsty, completely absorbed. Later, I’ll go back and carve away excess material; in this sense, writing is like sculpting. Next, I’ll consider the tone and hue of my words, adding and subtracting until my palette, as it were, is to my liking; writing is so like painting. When I’m close to finishing an essay, I’ll read certain lines over and over, in search of a cadence or sound; for me, there is music in words, and I write to make them sing. Sometimes, and rarely, what I’m writing comes from a place deep within, and in this instance, writing is prayer. If I never write another jot, I’m satisfied with having composed  While my pretty one sleeps, an essay I wrote about and for my gentle mother, words straight from my soul, words of remembrance, of love, of gratitude – of peace. I would not be the woman or the writer I am today without her; she’s in everything I do.

 

Would you like to meet my lovely friends? These are my fellow blog hop writers. . .

 

Jessica-HalepisJessica Halepis is a mother and a writer who lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. When she isn’t making dinner, folding laundry, hugging her kids, reading, or looking out the window, she writes. All of her writing can be found on her blog, Nourished Mom. Her work has also appeared on Mamapedia and the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

authorphoto200Katrina Kenison has traced the seasons of a woman’s life through three books: Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry (2000) now considered a classic for parents of young children, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir (2009), and Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment (2013).

In the process of writing a memoir, she says, “I’ve learned to celebrate the beauty of ordinary days and to savor the pleasure of small moments well lived.”

Before becoming an author, Katrina spent many years working in publishing, first as an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in New Haven, New York, and Boston, and then, from 1990 through 2006, as the series editor of the best-selling The Best American Short Stories anthology, published annually by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt. She co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

Katrina is also the author, with Rolf Gates, of Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. With Kathleen Hirsch she co-edited an anthology of short stories about motherhood, Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple,Country Living, Family Circle, Redbook, and other publications.

A Reiki practitioner, gardener, writing and yoga teacher, Katrina lives with her family in rural New Hampshire. Her YouTube video for The Gift of an Ordinary Day has had well over two million views. She blogs weekly at http://www.katrinakenison.com.