Waiting for inspiration never works

Waiting for inspiration never works

I sit and pick my face,
think of tomorrow’s plans,
fidget in my seat
listen to the laughter
and voices around me.

I could write a fastwrite,
instead I’ll start a poem
Now there’s a new term
and still I’m stalling.

Words are there for the asking.
Please, yes, come and
invade my brain,
pour concrete images
so I can see what is there.

Put my foot in the mold,
be my own celebrity
in the steps where readers
show up for how not
to be inspired.

mediocre yesterday

After a mediocre meditation
and a poem equally so,
I was driving an unfamiliar route
and saw the Way of Happiness.

It was one of those moments
when your mind stands still.
My mind made mediocre.
My mind created the scale.

That haughty judge
stopped creativity.
That critical mind
stopped happiness.

Today I am just
on the Way.

The promise of Pondicherry

The Promise of Pondicherry

I remember when our driver stopped and we saw the monument with the words Pondicherry. Rashma and I shrieked with surprise and delight. After a two hour car ride from the Chennai airport past open fields and South Indian temples, our destination seemed to suddenly appear out of nowhere. We had three nights in a French Heritage Hotel to look forward to. We would work on our book collaboration but leave time for walks, sightseeing, and relaxation.

Hotel du’ Parc looked just like its pictures on Trip Advisor. I loved the bright mustard yellow walls of the early 17th century buildings, the palm trees, and courtyard where we would have leisurely (read slow) South Indian breakfasts. We climbed the stairs and, yes, the key and the lock were often difficult to maneuver but the two suites adjoining each other served as a fine way for us to be near yet have separate space. Rashma complained about no tea service for our welcome. The hotel assistant quickly left to appease the North Indian woman and her Western sidekick.

We did have our tea! We walked to get a feel for the town (Rashma had been here once before with her husband). I loved the unique feel of Indian and French, like nowhere else I’d seen in India. There was a strong meditative vibe to the town, with Aurobindo and The Mother’s ashram only a few blocks away and its world famous experiment, Auroville, up the road a few miles. Pondicherry was accustomed to Westerners, many from Western Europe–especially France and Germany. Our hotel was 1/2 block from a Ganesha temple, two blocks from a park. We made seeing the Bay of Bengal a priority.

By now I had been in India over a week, staying with Rashma and her family in South Delhi. December had just begun and I soaked in the sun. I was now in synch with the time zone, had recovered from a sudden sickness on the short plane ride, and ready to play tourist–just Rashma and me, writers on the loose.

The power of words

I teach an online class called “Women Writing, Lives Changing” through Catherine of Siena Virtual College. It’s based on the practices of Women Writing for (a) Change.

This winter session there are usually eight or nine of us who make it to class. We are women from Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, and the United States. Sometimes we are from The Philippines, Germany, Israel, or Switzerland. Once a week we meet in a live chatroom and have discussions about writing and share some writing. I’ve commented that it feels as if we are bringing peace to the world a handful of women at a time, crossing geopolitical boundaries, connecting with our words.

I received quite a powerful response from one woman (whose name I will not mention, to keep confidentiality)! I thought this blog would be a perfect place to acknowledge it.

She said “Your words give me strength and courage to go forward.” She is a minister having a tough time in a patriarchal institution (that narrows it down). When I heard/read her words, I felt a shiver go through me. A shiver of that very strength and courage she was invoking. As a poet, I can actually “hear” powerful phrases. This was one of those times. I let the acknowledgment in. I knew it wasn’t just me as the teacher-facilitator, but the “strength and courage” of the circle of women trusting enough to share words with strangers from literally all over the world.

What this college is doing is so special, even just nine of us at a time. For the ripple effect becomes a tidal wave and who knows how far it may travel? After all, it is nearly full moon time which will only amplify the effect. Thank you, K, for your powerful quote that reminds me why these online classes are so important!

When I don’t write

“A writer advises against taking a break in writing practice because returning to writing is difficult. I have spent years trying to get back to writing. A long time off is suicidal for a writer. You come back to your desk, lost and confounded. Words fail you. Your voice sounds weak and thoughts are clouded. I always struggle to get back to a writing routine. This blog helps me feel sane. At least I am writing something, I tell myself. My unsolicited advice: keep writing, even if it a blog post or a short poem.”

So warns my friend and writing sister Rashma Kalsie in her blog post today entitled “When You Don’t Write.” I highly recommend her blog – http://blogtounblock.blogspot.com/ . Rashma is a blogging mentor to me and so much more. The paragraph I quoted is only a taste of her wisdom.

During lunch with a friend and on my drive home I stewed over her advice. I have to admit it’s true. I have written little since this new year began (oh, class agendas, emails, a few fastwrites at Women Writing for a Change meetings). I have so many stories to share still about my recent trip to India! I have poems waiting to be put on the page. The only place I may part from Rashma’s blog post is in the time and energy to write even “a short poem.” Of course, a draft is a draft is a draft. But to be a good poem–even a short one, even a haiku–requires some crafting, often many drafts.

I have mused before about my resistance to writing: fear, laziness, not wanting to be just average, time, and tiredness. No more!

I have decided I can no longer dare to call myself a writer unless I get serious and ‘just do it.’ I am putting myself on notice with you, dear public, as witness!

Missing India

On my second cup of coffee this rainy Sunday morning, I realized: I miss India! Only three weeks and I’ve shown most people close to me my fifty pictures printed out from Walgreen the old fashioned way. It was when I mentioned to my friend Bev yesterday that maybe I should put together a slide show that it started: creating one would be a way to keep the trip alive.

I bought a book on greater Delhi at the airport. This souvenir is invaluable! More than a book for tourists, it is also informative for those moving, or recently moved, to Delhi. The book reminds me of places I traveled and gives me names of those many tombs scattered across town. I won’t have to ask Rashma so many questions. Its name is Outlook Traveller Getaways: Delhi & NCR City Guide (NCR stands for National Capital Region).

I got really excited about the pull out map! Wow! I could trace places Rashma and I went around Delhi–that angry autorickshaw driver returning us from her publisher; the almost relaxed rides near Janpath and my whirlwind gift trip to Cottage Emporium; the drive to Lodhi Gardens; and the one to Habitat Centre to hear Prof. Gupt’s talk.

I’d like to return to Lodhi Gardens–without carrying those shopping bags. I’d like to wander around the Defence Colony area where Rashma teased me about it being the expats’ neighborhood. Although we got to the Gandhi Memorial, I never saw the spot where he’d been assassinated nor the little museum. We never got to a concert, although I did have a few private moments with the young voice teacher living in the flats. I’d love to go hear Sufi music as well as sitar. It’d be enlightening, I’m sure, to walk the Tibetan Market and explore the north. So many ruins, so many temples unseen! But then, we did do a lot…and I had a 10.5 hour time change to adjust to.

And what about Rashma’s wonderful friends and neighbors? I could use at least an afternoon or evening with each. Facebook is not enough though it’s an easy way to stay in touch thousands of air miles away. She knows I miss the somewhat domesticated wild dogs of Charmwood Village. My mornings here don’t begin hearing the vegetable bhaiya shouting out the products on his cart. When people ask what was my favorite thing about India–a truly impossible question to answer!–I say experiencing the everyday life of a middle class Indian family.

Yes, I’d like to return to India. I realize how spoiled I was, staying as a guest with Rashma and her family! I am aware that I’ll turn 64 in two months. How much longer will my energy hold out? All I know for certain is that my passport expires in 2017. Of course, it can be renewed but ancient India is calling me to my second home before then.

26 pictures yet . . .

As I lay in bed last night, mind still roaming, I reached for my smartphone and ordered prints. I selected 26 photos from my India trip. This morning, on my way to Sally’s, I picked them up at my neighborhood Walgreen’s.

Poor Sally, generous Sally. As I sipped a chai latte, my extroverted self became even more vivacious. Sally listened to highlights of my trip which included the 26 moments captured by cell phone. Taj Mahal: quite a few of these;  Pondicherry sights: French heritage hotel courtyard, the Bay of Bengal beach with its big black rocks, the Ganesh temple, the Gandhi statue; Mahabalipuram:  me with the Durga ratha (chariot temple from stone), Rashma at the ocean, some Indian kids hanging with the huge elephant carved from stone; Rashma with her daughter, then with a few friends who came to her flat for tea and biscuits. And more.

I discovered myself returning to the chaos of the roads of Delhi. I’m obsessed with making people be there with me:  the horns, the race to grab the space. I can’t. I made the pet sitter watch two You Tube videos in an effort to get the atmosphere across to her. She’d been to Thailand and had a pretty good idea (I haven’t so I don’t know). Wish I’d taken a bunch of photos while on those autorickshaws but, honestly, I was too busy surviving!

As a writer it is frustrating to use words to describe what photos show. It is what I choose to do–write. No one is forcing my hand. I plan to continue posting about India until I run out of . . . well, chai and memories. Then I’ll return to poetry–about my life right here. I’m in no hurry, though. I am one of those travelers who like to get their money’s worth and make a trip last on and on. How fortunate I am.


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