It’s another poem today. I do have other types of blog posts planned but I’m still in the researching/planning phase and, now that I’m back at work, that’s slow going.
I’ve mentioned my car accident in an earlier post and spoken a little of my traumatic brain injury. I’ll spare you a litany of my ills but will say life with a TBI is difficult. These difficulties combined with the chronic pain from my other injuries makes it easy for me to get overwhelmed. I was feeling overwhelmed this weekend because of a task I had to complete and wasn’t sure what to do, how I’d find the information I needed, if I’d even be able to complete it, and a poem began to form.
I’m calling this one Idiom and wish to note this poem is in no way intended to condone the eating of elephants 😉 Rather, I hope it encourages anyone going through a difficult time.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” ~ Anne Frank
I found this quote online and wanted to share it because how true it is! There is not, in my opinion, any substitute to being alone with God. This alone time has been important to me my entire life. Both my parents worked through my childhood so, of necessity, I spent a great deal of time on my own and could sneak off into a field or tree and have time alone with Jesus once my chores were done. Now that I am older and know Him in a deeper way, that time alone with Him with the sky overhead our cathedral is of utmost importance.
So important, that years ago I wrote a poem about it.
Someone asked where I found You
So I sat right down and thought
Did I find You in my prayers?
Yes, but I know I don’t pray as I ought.
And did I find you in the written Word?
Yes and no, I said
For I don’t read it as I should
There’s so much to do instead.
I’m a miserable Christian! I exclaimed
And guilt was a heavy stone on my back.
But wait, where was I?
Oh, now I remember-
How did I get so far off track?
I banished the guilt, shrugged it off
Cleared it all from my mind.
I focused completely on thoughts of You
And left all others behind.
Where did I find You? I asked myself
I turned my eyes to the heavens above
I smiled with Joy as I realized I knew
All Creation testifies of your love.
Especially for me, it’s the skies themselves
That bring my heart closer to Yours-
When the sun rises and when the sun sets
I feel that my spirit soars.
The skies are alive with colors like flame
That swirl and bend in a dance.
Look up! You say, See what I’ve made
This will be your only chance-
For each one is different-not one is the same
What has been before won’t come again.
And each new sunrise and sunset that I’ve seen
Are more beautiful than the last ones have been.
I feel so privileged, so singled out
As I wonder how it could possibly be-
That You’ve been there waiting every day
To paint the sky new just for me.
So that’s where I find You-the works of Your hands
As all Creation attests to Your fame
For through You, by You, and for You all things are made
I submitted this poem to a magazine at the beginning of this year but, as they’ve shown no interest, I’m posting it here! This is also my first attempt at using the “Verse” option in the block editor…
Your love is like water-
Peace to my parched heart.
Your love is not hindered-
Joy to my mourning spirit.
Your love cannot be held-
It slides through my tight-fisted grip.
Your Love must be known-
Live giving water to my soul.
I finally have a post. Things have been going awry with my laptop and then my internet connection so I haven’t been able to get online long enough to post. I am working on a poem that occupied my mind during my last walk at the reservoir so, while I consider iambs and rhythm and rhymes, I thought I’d post about poetry.
Poetry plays an important part of my reading and writing life. The musician in me likes reading poetry and likes reading it aloud so I can hear the rhythm and beat the author chose. Reading aloud also allows me to attempt to feel what the author intends for me to feel. I do the same when I write poetry. I read my own aloud because every syllable is deliberate. I am composing rather than writing as I attempt to put together words and rhythms that paint not only a picture for my reader but introduce them to the song I am creating. One of my favorite poets is a master at this. When Edna St. Vincent Millay writes “nor yet a floating spar to men that sink and rise and sink and rise and sink again”1, I know how it feels to be adrift in the sea: overwhelmed, unable to set my feet on anything solid, struggling to keep from drowning.
I read poetry as a writer because of the pictures authors are able to paint with words. Sometimes there will be that perfect phrase that shows me how to put in words the image important in my fiction. One of the most sense filled poems I’ve ever read is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur. I can see myself lounging in a garden-without any mosquitoes and lumpy ground, of course- as Omar Khayyam writes, “Here with a loaf of Bread beneath the bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse-and Thou”2.
And then, I have found poetry to be the perfect medium for connecting with God. I feel what Rabia of Basra feels when she writes, “Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist…In my soul there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church that dissolve, that dissolve in God”3. I read her words and my heart knows it is so.
There are so many other poets whose works are on my bookshelves: poets whose works that span the ages. Emily Dickenson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Shel Silverstein (because silly verse is important as well), sit beside the Sagas of the Icelanders, Ovid, and Homer. I love that poetry has been a form of expression since before humankind wrote their words down. A cry formed in the human heart and found expression in poetry.
These poems often went hand in hand with music which brings me to my go-to poems: the Psalms. This collection of songs, prayers, and poems (my Amplified Bible even calls Psalm 16 a poem of David) are some of my favorite poetry. Whenever I pick up a new translation of the Bible, I immediately turn to the Psalms in order to hear these poems in a different way. A preacher I listen to recently said all of life is found in the Psalms. That made me turn to them again trying to read them with new eyes and I’ve found what he said is true.
Every expression of life can be found in the Psalms. Exaltation, Despair, Love, Betrayal, Longing, Fulfillment, Anxiety, Triumph: the gamut of human emotion is found in the Psalms. So is brilliant imagery. The writer in me reads and re-reads “Behold, (the wicked man) conceives iniquity and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. Psalm 7:14” and “He made darkness His secret hiding place; as His pavilion (His canopy) round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. Psalm 18:11”. I don’t yet know how these mental pictures will end up woven into my fiction but I hold them at the ready.
As a person of Faith, the Psalms are a way I connect with God. Most of the time I go to them for that purpose rather than as a work of literature but I think they are that as well: some of the most beautiful ancient literature composed before Rome itself rose and fell.
Collected Poems, Edna St. Vincent Millay. “Sonnet XXX”.
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald and Illustrated by Charles Stewart.
Love Poems From God. Rabia of Basra. “In My Soul”.
Note: All quotes from the Psalms were taken from The Amplified Bible published by Zondervan.
It’s still winter according to the calendar but snowy days have been few and far between here in Colorado. I need some cold days because my cookie recipes are stacking up but I can’t complain too much: cold weather makes me feel old and creaky. On really cold days I entertain myself by thinking of seeking warmer climes, however; I’d miss winter.
I like snowy days. Every sound is muffled and the world is quieter, stiller, than usual. At least, I like them when I’m inside and warm. I remember one time when I wasn’t much of a fan of cold and winter.
My dad had taken a job as foreman on a ranch and moved us north. My brother and I were excited to be living on a ranch and were sure we’d each be able to have a horse. It was the dead of winter and, practically the moment we arrived, the pipes in the house froze. I don’t remember much of that time other than the bitter cold. I do remember being put to bed with so many blankets and coats I could barely move. I woke up on the third morning after our arrival to the sound of my mother packing our boxes and we were gone. That was the coldest I ever remember being and the shortest I ever lived in one place.
Usually though, I like snow. I like watching the flakes fall, I like the feeling of isolation. I used to like hiking in the snow, though I don’t do much of that now. All other sounds are muffled and the crunch of snow under my boots, the creaking of branches, and the occasional drop of snow to the ground all are inordinately loud. Even when with other people, hiking in the snow made me feel alone. I always felt more in touch with my own breath outdoors in the snow-perhaps the act of drawing the cold into my lungs-and even my thoughts seem to move more slowly.
I once tried to capture this feeling in poetry. I wrote the included poem for my English class while at University and it’s one of my earliest attempts at word painting. It’s been years but I remember my classmates liked it. I hope you’ll feel the same.
One With Winter
It was a moment I will always remember
I stepped out of the trees
And a magnificent sight lay before me
A fresh snowfall covered the meadow
Beautiful, unmarred, soft, covered in a thin shell
The light from the moon sparkled like diamonds
All around me was silence-no movement for miles
There was only the fog I created as I breathed.
The coldness of Winter was in the air
It caressed my face, my lips
Winter found a kindred spirit in me
It entered my skin, my blood, my bones
And we were one.
As Winter I felt such peace-such nothingness
I was the ice in the air and the snow expansive before me
Beautiful, still, cold
I let myself sink into the heart of Winter
Until I was becoming lost in the cold
And had to fight my way back to myself
I took care as I walked around the meadow
Reluctant to mar the beauty I had enjoyed.
I returned the next day
To see my snow covered meadow but the snow was no longer there
It had melted-submitted-to the loving warmth of the sun.
There were only two things I wanted to do when I was a child. One, I wanted to write books that touched others the way some of the books I was reading touched me. Two, I wanted to study whales. The whale bug, if there is such a thing, bit me in the 5th grade. That was when I discovered Pacific Blue; a cassette tape combining music and whale song. I listened to that tape over and over, dreaming of one day being on the ocean and hearing whale song for myself. I only applied to one university when the time came: the University of Alaska Southeast where I knew the Humpback whales’ migratory path would take them. Fortunately, I was accepted. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete one year of school before a car accident ended that particular chapter of my life.
I didn’t give up right away. One of my favorite classes was my Microbiology class and I thought I’d keep my dream but change it up a little by switching majors from Cetacean Biology to Marine Micrology. That’s a field I made up but the symbiotic relationship between Right whales and the parasites that clean their skin fascinated me. Maybe my new brain injury meant I couldn’t do the diving and ocean work I’d intended but the dream wasn’t completely lost and I liked looking through microscopes and conducting tests.
I underestimated the devastation of the car accident. I completed a second year of school before I had to call it quits, admit that the car accident had wrecked my life, and I wasn’t physically or emotionally up to completing my degree. I went home to recover.
Almost 15 years later, I am still recovering. It took 5 years after leaving university to give up the scientist dream. I applied to and was accepted in the Microbiology program at DU but wasn’t able to move forward. When that door closed, I was devastated. What was I if I wasn’t a scientist?
In the early months after my car accident, I had a neurologist tell me having a TBI (traumatic brain injury) was a little like PMSing all the time. She prescribed antidepressants and I hated them. I don’t know if I can put into words how antidepressants made me feel. Separated: from myself as well as the world around me is as close as I can come. I made the decision to stop taking them-without any doctor’s knowledge-and have been antidepressant free for 13 years.
A side note: if you are on an antidepressant and want to quit taking it, DO NOT do so without your doctor’s knowledge. If I’d known then what I know now about the effect an antidepressant has on the brain, I’d never have stopped cold turkey. Fortunately, I had no serious side effects from quitting the way I did.
I tell you all of that to tell you that journaling is what saved me once I quit taking mood stabilizers. My brain injury does cause some emotional difficulties but getting everything down in print helps me to see what I’m experiencing and put it in perspective. I’ve always written: I wrote my first novel in the seventh grade. It’s not bad though I say it myself. I did change the name of my villain halfway through the manuscript but it’s a handwritten manuscript: such a change would be noted and corrected in a second draft. 😉 I’ve consistently journaled since my family gave me my first one for Christmas when I was 9 and I’ve indulged myself over the years by writing poetry. With the death of my scientist dream, a second began to stir. What if I could be a writer? I had at least 20 books I’d started over the years but hadn’t been able to finish: all of them were interesting but none of them were the story my heart wanted to write. What if I had a story to write? What if people wanted to read it? I’d had a paper published while at university: it was one I’d written for my English class where I’d had the audacity to compare/contrast one of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets with one of my own poems. My teacher had told me I had talent and offered to help me switch majors if I wanted but writing was just something I did for fun: I was a scientist.
That being my belief, what now? I’ve never been one to quit on anything but this scientist dream of mine did seem thoroughly dead. What did I have to lose? My mother helped me get started. She smiled when I told her what I was feeling, opened a dictionary, and read me the definition of science. Definition 2 states “a systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied”. That struck me. My ultimate dream was to discover something I didn’t know about the world and share it with others. Did I need a microscope for that? Could I use a pen and paper instead? I opened a fresh notebook (college ruled-wide ruled has never inspired me to write. I don’t know why) and started with an idea.
That was years ago. So many I’m not even sure. I’ve completed a 612 page manuscript since then. When people would ask me how my book was going I would reply; “slowly, but I am writing a series of seven and the first one needs to be a solid foundation”. It’s true, I do have a series of seven planned but re-reading my giant manuscript made me realize I was writing all seven at once. I’ve narrowed my focus to Book One, laying a foundation I can build on later.
My sense of regret and loss has disappeared as I’ve written, researched, deleted, and written some more. Writing fulfills me the same way watching a bacterial culture blossom and grow used to. So, all the old adages are true. No dream dies but another is born. No door closes but a window is opened. And, thinking back, I wonder if a dream ever really dies. I don’t think they do: they are much too resilient to die. I think the same dream manifests itself in a different way. Life today looks nothing like I planned but my dream of making discoveries is alive and well. I have to work on the sharing with others bit. It’s not easy for someone as naturally introverted as I am, a personality quirk my brain injury has seemed to make worse. However, the brain injury does not define me and I am striving to expand the borders of my comfort zone.
In an attempt to stretch them to the breaking point, here’s a poem I wrote when I discovered writing could fulfill me and my life wasn’t a wreck because of one accident.