I am noting a shadow lately on my almost-teen’s upper lip. A couple of months ago he said to me in alarm, “When I woke up this morning, my voice sounded strange. I didn’t recognize it.” I could hear it too. His singing voice has now descended into bass, like his dad’s. Every week he is taller, lankier, more like an adolescent, more like a man. I told him at dinner last night, after a conversation with two mothers of teens, “I understand why you are so tired recently. You are completely re-forming. Like a caterpillar to a butterfly.” “Oh great,” he grimaced, “I’m going to liquefy and reconstitute.” None of us look forward to changes that huge, that painful, that necessary. We hold our breath, haul in our reserves, squint skeptically at the miracle of flight promised on the other side.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: shadow. The first time the same word has come up more than once. But what a versatile word it is.
I studied French in school for years, but only felt truly fluent the odd occasion when I spoke it drunk. At a party sometimes; or once in my early twenties in Hungary, where in the wine-cellars of Eger’s Valley of the Beautiful Women, I conversed brilliantly for hours with a man from France. I was shy then, and often overwhelmed with anxiety in social situations. A friend with an alcoholic parent once warned me of the drastic change in my personality when drinking. She was right, and yet, instead of sinking further into the dependency, the more vibrant self that had once been tightly furled eventually learned to bloom unaided. I still drink alcohol, and sometimes it relaxes me, but it’s no longer an escape or a crutch or a way to get away with things. Sometimes to my regret.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: fluent. Will I ever write a regular blog post again? I’m not making any promises either way.
Those first few days were the usual mess of blood, tears, milk. My gravid body slowly deflating, leaking and bruised. I stayed in my room, on my bed, where it all happened. Tucked the crying baby in one arm, the stunned toddler under the other; was reclaimed by the relentless cycles of sleep and waking, spun loose from clock time. By the third day I was feverish. I was swept off to the hospital, the tiny babe – an accessory, not a patient – wedged in with me on the narrow cot. Burning with heat, leaking milk, I trailed IV tubes, gown askew. My husband slept on a fold-out chair in the corner, held the baby, held us together. The toddler, hustled between grandparents, was ushered in for a visit, dazed but resolutely himself. “I am Pooh. He is Piglet,” he told us, claiming the new creature into the story, his story; so that we were complete now, we were whole.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: feverish.
This March day of sun and brisk wind, I am at home with a cold. I drink tea with ginger and honey, baptize the air with my sneezes, feel my head foggy and dazed. The cobwebs between windowpanes invite my contemplation. My house creaks, settles. I’ve heard soft scratching, found tiny pellets in corners; appraised the piles of books on the floor, the box of half-opened mail. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen sick when my kids are away. I used to dream of ambitious projects for these times, rarely realized. Now I am grateful for some hours of silence; for time to think without interruption, to tend no-one but myself. I’ve come to trust tears and menstruation as rituals of shedding: letting it out, letting it go. Perhaps these fluids in my head, considered wryly, are telling me the same thing: release, release. Take this day as it is. Let go of who you think you should be. Meet yourself as you are.
From my currently daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: release.
This has been a winter of burrowing, hiding out in my lair like a mammal in hibernation, or a wild creature tending its wounds. Digging deep into the earth of myself, I imagine myself as grounded. It’s an internal process, I admit, not visible to everyone I encounter on my daily travels. This week I read the Handless Maiden chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book that keeps coming forward to meet me when I need its wisdom. She writes of the woman undergoing initiation, soul deep underground, but body anchored firmly in the daily rituals of the outer world. I feel this too, core strength and discipline rising like a tree out of the soil in the barren months of winter, but with vitality humming down in the roots, threading deep in the soil, sap preparing to run.
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lair. This is from two weeks ago.
At this time of year, I feel the energy of the earth stirring. I feel it passing through me too, a resonance that pushes against the shell of my winter covering, the one that keeps me warm, protected and enclosed in the cold dark days. But now, instead of directing that surge outwards, as I have often done, I am holding it close, compacting it, building it up layer after layer, until it is as hard and bright as a diamond deep in my chest. Stored energy I can choose to use and direct, or hold on reserve. Am I trying to hold that energy back because I am afraid of it? Because I now feel like it diverts my focus, hurts my discernment, sends me spinning and reeling and ablaze? I tell you: what I want is simply to hold the banks of my own river; to channel the current wisely. I want to set limits for myself gently and firmly, to say: “Thank you. This is enough.”
Word prompt: surge. From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. This is from a month ago.
I only came close to drowning once. A cottage on an Ontario lake, owned by Polish friends of my parents, a generation older, who had survived their share of trauma. Me, an immigrant child from a small country, raised in tight places. Not used to all this space, all this nature. Did I know how to swim at all? I was alone in the deep water regardless, close to shore, simply slipping down into the darkness, arms flailing, head submerged, gasping for breath. No voice. Someone spotted me, shouted, one of the sons – an older teen – jumped in, dragged me out. I was self-conscious already then, my body too close to his. He got me to shore. I brushed him away. I never thanked him for saving my life.
Word prompt: submerged. From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent.