between the lines

i love what is left unsaid in poetry, story, dance, art.

my artist friends tell me that there is a culture of belief among traditional Asian artists that each piece of art must have an line that sweeps off the page, representing the eternal quality of art.

it is this sweeping line of eternity that we feel in the empty spaces between the lines of poetry or in what remains untold in a story.

i heard li-young lee speak a few years ago and he talked about how man needed to invent flying buttresses in order to capture the thrill of the height of heaven. that without the illusion of upward space, created by what wasn’t there, we didn’t feel the vastness of sky.

i have never forgotten that. i hope it permeates my stories – the loss and mystery of souls only partially revealed – like heaven not yet fully known.

the seed of story

it is raining this morning. the slow, soaking rain of what’s left of spring. my husband is on his way to a funeral – his cousin’s in west virginia. i’ve been up since a quarter to four grieving other things outside my control.

these past few days have been so full of real life that it has felt as though the story has been squeezed out. (in the midst of chaos, there is rarely creating). but this morning, looking out the window at the vivid green of early morning rain, i muse. perhaps the story is only germinating, waiting beneath the ground until the outer casing of death falls away. perhaps, like easter, the seed of story will burst through afterall, leaving me ripe with wonder. perhaps.

what shapes our stories?

what shapes the stories we tell?

everything.

i spent 20-some-odd years as an actress and the best bit of directorial advice i ever got applies not only to performance, but any kind of art – and life for that matter. the advice was this: if you bring your skill to the art at hand, you are only as good as your skill, but if you lay down your skill and bring all of who you are, everything you have ever experienced will be at your disposal. this is a much greater well from which to create.

what shapes the stories we tell? we do.

not today

no words about story today. today i just live my story in the lines of this poem.

emptying the nest
shreds of motherhood
like gossamer filament of spider web
stepped through, broken, no longer usable
hang about me on this august evening
while crickets spread conversation
like a walton goodnight

inside
children tackle algebra
call boyfriends
sing about bologna
draw portraits of themselves
with number 2 pencils

i sit outside
rocking myself in summer stillness
aware mostly of what I cannot see
knowing mostly what I cannot know

like manna
or love
my motherhood is meant to be spent
like this morning’s spider web in the garden
usable only one day

fancy that

had a bit of a break thru today. turns out the only way to write something new is to stop thinking and start writing. fancy that. how had i forgotten?

i sat on the porch (with my laptop making red u.f.o. welts on my thighs) and wrote some really wrong stuff. paragraphs of it. then i laid in the sun and stewed until i could go at it again. finally, sweating in the florida heat, i pounded out something that had a measure of merit. a day’s work for one lousy page.

man, i hate that.

and some days…

i was cleaning out my files and came across this journal entry. a recent family matter, combined with this morning’s post, made me want to share:

and some days the words are quiet;
their voices still.
they rest their stories on cushions
and avoid my eyes.
no amount of begging arouses them
and I am left alone
wondering if I will ever tell stories again.

and some days the children are quiet,
their voices still.
they hide their hearts under covers
and avoid my eyes.
no amount of pursuing engages them
and I am left alone
wondering if I will ever have children again.

it is amazing, to create a thing and let it be.

diving in again

if i was on target in my very first post “stories as an act of faith” – then my current confusion about rearranging my novella opening is a faith issue, and my hesitation, fear. i never know exactly how a story is going to right itself, i just dive in and begin. that is, i dive and begin if i am fearless about the outcome.

so what has happened here? i began to judge the work. it was a necessary stage; i had finished a draft and needed to show it. i received a compliment and a complaint from two of my most important literary companions. now, if i wish to become the fearless creator again, i must take off my hat of judgment and replace it with the hat my childlike artist wears, the little girl inside me, the essence of stacy for whom stories are an act of faith.

the fearless diving in, the discovery of truth that finds its way into my heart through the path of story, can only come when i am without the bondage of fear or comparison. and so i begin again, like an artist constructing a collage, and paint another layer across my canvas. i cannot tell this story, any story, with the guillotine of excellence hanging over my head. so i must leap in fearless, knowing only that i tell stories and that this one is unfinished, that this one has something more to say to me.

like waking dreams

at night my soul rearranges the confusion of life and turns it into technicolor movie reels, by day my soul tells stories. both are wrestles, expulsions, a pouring out of the eternity that lies – since creation – trapped in my finite body.

stories come out, they are not made up. i don’t create stories, i let them come. my mentor, janos, says i ought not tell too many people that the way i write stories is by listening to voices in my head. but there you are. i hear the voices of people who have no voice and give life to their stories. like waking dreams, they have nothing and everything to do with me.

a poem

i know the sweet basil by its green wings
a pair of lovers, clinging to a stem;
small butterflies resting.

last year’s rosemary
curls around its pot like a lazy garter.
the adolescent mint –
burst past the boundaries i set for her –
waves her aromatic body
encouraging,
taunting.

like snow without footprint
is the empty page before me.
a tiny life peeps through the soil
sprouts words that
cling to the stem of the soul.

small butterflies resting.

stories those little bodies told

i just got home from my daughters’ ballet recital (i actually had two in this one). and let me tell you about the stories those little bodies told. there were skinny girls and plump ones, graceful ones and awkward ones – some that made music with their bodies and others that just made noise. but everyone of those gangly, gimpy, soaring swans told the story of a little girl becoming a woman. in every lip-bitten twirl and furrowed-brow step, there was excruciating courage and the desire to be beautiful.

their stories made me cry.