Mining for Treasure

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into what will be “home” for a few days with a tote full of food and a second tote full of books, camera, notebooks and pens. It’s sort of perfect, yes? 

Lena is waiting at the door when I arrive before jetting off to a chair in the dining room where she will watch with indifference as if my presence here is of no particular interest to her. (Oh, wait ..  she crawled into my lap for a full 20 minute love-fest on the corner chair. I love that she remembers me)

I love cats (especially this one). And I especially love how she commits herself so completely to this (stereotypical) role. She treats my visit here as if it were an audition: When it’s time to eat she will get playful. If her box needs scooping she will get vocal. In the early morning and late at night she will snuggle up close, recharging her battery through touch and connection. This scene will repeat itself for all of the days I expect to be here. I suspect she has learned me, just as I have learned her. Simpatico. 

I’m at the tail end of a workshop titled: Mine Your Writing. I brought along a stack of journals, notebooks, sketchbooks and loose pages. What an extraordinary exercise in the unearthing of gems. More than gems though, I am boring through to unmined places to excavate seeds that need replanting in order to thrive. I’m doing that with the guidance of one of my favorite creative mentors, Mary Anne Radmacher. 

I have been writing since age 12 when I was given my first diary. My writing and flair for the dramatic developed early and has remained largely intact for decades. I wrote about relationships and confidence and a deep desire to fit in. I fell in love all the time back then, alternately letting it lift me up and then crush me into pieces on the pavement. While most people have an internal compass to guide them, I seemed to have a faulty one, where the needle was stuck and I was never quite sure how to navigate the places I found myself in. I learned to operate from a deficit and I stayed stuck. 

But always, I kept writing.

(… and I still fall in love all the time)

I notice little things as I’m thumbing through these journals. My handwriting has changed (which is to be expected over time) and I notice an urgency in some entries and measured calm in others. I can see where some words seem to lift me off the page and where others seem to bury me deeper into it. I’m looking at everything with a different eye: pen choice, ink color, word choice and even the journals themselves.

Themes and patterns are revealing themselves. I’m thinking differently about the repetition of thoughts and I find myself listing those things on a page in a new journal. A light bulb goes on as I realize that what I’m actually creating now is a table of contents, each word on that list, a new chapter. This was the instruction on our eighth day and surprisingly, it happened quite organically.

Having some guidance on this path is like tossing a wrench into my usual internal dialogue and slowing everything down so I can better see how these gears tend to operate in me. Much of what has come out on these pages has been clunky and tedious like a broken record. I’m feeling some tenderness for that young woman from all those years ago. Grateful she hung in there, plowed through and always kept a pen nearby.

These days, I try to see life more like a creative ledger. We all fill columns with assets and deficits and (if we’re lucky) find some balance in our uniqueness. Some people are great wordsmiths or musicians, others brilliant artists or teachers. In others, that greatness might not be as obvious, but it is equally profound. They are the listeners, the healers, the magicians. Some people know just when we need a hug or a nudge or a stern look when we’re about to be unfaithful to our own ideals. Those people? They are the knowers.

All week long I’ve been sending myself notes from my phone. My walks with Yoda are no longer “walks” at all. He has become a true connoisseur of the “environmental experience”. Translated: he sniffs and licks, digs and dawdles. He’s moving slower and slower, and out of an abundance of love, I don’t rush him. Instead, I take note of my own environment and send dispatches home. He is both muse and center of gravity for me.

In those notes are a lot of disconnected thoughts. I want to write about them all! Here’s a bit of that randomness, plucked just now from my phone:

What is the purpose of a small fork?

What is another word for broken?

Is it paradox or irony when I am shoveling handfuls of peanut M&M’s in my mouth while listening to The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry?

Do people recognize that hate is a luxury?

Where did the expression “throw in the towel” come from?

Through this thoughtful “mining” of my writing I am adding to this list of prompts by looking for themes I’d like to explore further. Armed with “post its” I can identify broken chains of thought as well as sentences from my own writing that jump off the page. It’s a fascinating process and if you’d like to learn more, drop me a note and I can share how I have been navigating my own words and plucking out the gems. 

(I’m guessing you’re still wondering about that small fork. Did you know that there is a secret language of cutlery? Yes, yes there is… more on that another time)

What I thought would be a wet, blustery weekend is turning around (so says the forecast). The weekend looks sunny and warm (for fall). Outside, the trails here are a little sloppy but there is change happening everywhere. The towering maple looks heavy, laden with days of rain. All that had flowered is now stripped of petals and curling into itself like a nice warm hug. I’m hoping for dramatic morning skies and songs of the birds wintering over in these woods. Will this be the weekend I finally see the owl? I’m on the lookout for the family of deer, and of course, this guy … 

Yesterday there were juncos and brown creepers, red-breasted sapsuckers and the resident Anna’s hummingbird that lives here year-round. There are lots of Stellar’s jays, spotted towhees and mourning doves. I haven’t seen or heard the red-breasted nuthatches, so I’m wondering if this is a year they have headed south. Every couple years they head south when the cone-production is low. Could this be that year? I’ll share more of these charming companions of mine after I wrap up some of this journal work. Stay tuned! It’s a wonderful, wild place!

P.S On my shorter drives and while I am doing my drawings, I’ve been listening to John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. Wisdom, blessings and a quote plucked out that will be added to my list of writing prompts; things I want to take a deep dive into later. (Little gems and food for thought)

This one is a whole meal …

“I am lonesome for all the conversations we never had”.

-John O’Donohue

(Reminds me of an old Richard Brautigan poem:

Boo, Forever

Spinning like a ghost
on the bottom of a
I’m haunted by all
the space that I
will live without

9 Comments on “Mining for Treasure

  1. Yoda reminds me of my dog, Tesla. She does S.A.S.S. walks–Stop and Smell Stuff. Her slower pace encourages me to notice more of the natural world around me. Probably the same for you and Yoda. 🙂

  2. This is glorious. It’s really a lovely thing to have someone with different eyes staying in one’s home—someone who is a gifted observer and writer (what a marvelous combination). Also who reads cat language. (And Lena is clearly a different cat with you. eg: she has never once met me at the door!) I will be interested to hear how you spin a water leak. 😟 I went to sleep in my car tent and woke up to a Great Horned owl, after dreaming of said water leak.

    • Immersing myself away from my usual routine is always good for the soul. Not sure what to make of owl dreams and that damn water leak, but I’m going to keep hoping you’re having a trip for the ages. Let it be the thing that occupies your mind. Lean in, absorb the newness of everything. All is currently quiet (and dry) on the Western front 🩷

  3. This is a beautifully written piece, from animals to journals and everything in between. I would like to be guided through the re-reading because otherwise it just doesn’t happen. Treasures all around, even in (maybe especially in) the uncomfortable parts. Keep mining!!

    • Thanks for that, Nancy. I have lots to share as I weave myself into this process. Having some guidance is like using bumpers at the bowling alley… Always good to avoid the gutters and stay in the proper lane 🙃 Yes, so many treasures!

  4. Your comment about falling in love all the time reminds me of a line I like from Hozier, “I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new.” Also, ‘I am lonesome for the conversations that we will never have’ is a great sentence. It seems to capture the right mood for how I feel about not having my mom around. We could talk happily for hours. It was one of the things we did well, when other things, like being together in the same house, we did not do well. I miss her so much. Not all of her. Maybe not even most of her. But gosh I miss talking to her.

    How envious I am of you taking a writing workshop. It’s a bucket list thing for me. I like especially how you are being trained to mine your own writing. I hope to learn that skill eventually too. I love how it is exciting and inspiring you.

    • What bittersweet reflections. I think that’s really a lot of what this whole process is about. Finding the broken chains, walking back through time and rethinking a thing growing more distant in the rearview. Thanks for being here, friend. I was a little skeptical about an online workshop but it has been a lovely surprise. I would do it again!

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