Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mountains Can't Speak - Spring Retreat 2014

Last weekend I hosted a writers retreat. It felt like running a marathon. Because it was a marathon. Of sorts. I prepared for several months in advance. The week prior, I devoted every spare minute to this endeavor. But the Runner's (Writer's?) High made it totally worth it.

I'll write more details about the event in follow up posts. For now, I'd like to share the result of a writing exercise from Friday's workshop. Ann Cannon and Louise Plummer led this workshop. They were amazing! And, yes, I paid them cold, hard cash for their time. Louise said she was glad it was payday because she just bought a new iPad. You're welcome, Louise. Ann said she wants me for her next cruise director. Thank you, Ann! (I didn't pay her to say that.) It really was a lot of fun.

We were assigned several timed writing exercises during the first workshop. For this exercise Louise and Ann gave a prompt, something like "a time of transition in your life" then set a timer for a specific interval (I think it was three minutes for this one) and students wrote non-stop until the buzzer rang. If we got stuck or couldn't think of anything, we wrote whatever words came to mind or chose a word or two to fill the dead space. One woman used "blah, blah, blah." When she read aloud, these filler-words actually added to the peice. It was quite remarkable. Anyway, we had to keep writing. Remember this while you read below. It might make more sense this way.

Honestly, I don't remember exactly what the prompt was for this exercise because I used my own, taken from a text message sent moments before the exercise began, by a dear friend in the Northwest.

Here's what came of that prompt: 

"What can I say that will mean what you want it to mean? Who cares what you or I or anyone wants, we just live, and hope the sky stays clear long enough to make our way along the path. You've asked too much of me. I can't do this. I want to lay down now, here on the dark soil where rabbits have crossed the path into the hedge. Were they eaten by wild dogs? Did they bear young? What has become of the soft brown things we once were? Where have our dreams gone? You ask too much of me. I don't even know what purple looks like. How can I write a color? How can a color be a mood? The only way to tell the truth is with a question. No answers here, just sounds in the dark. Mountains can't speak, no matter what the poets say." 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Poetry On Canvas

Two years ago I was fortunate to have a poem win a particularly lovely award, which included an original oil painting inspired by the poem, painted by a local artist. The poetry and art were published in a small volume in the fall of 2012. Although, this is not the art created for the poem, it is my next favorite piece from the event and was chosen for the cover of the book.

A friend of mine asked where she could read the poem. This is for you, Caroline. Thanks for asking.

Winter heard me call your name

but the air was thick
with smell of rotting honeydew
the night my child lay ill and dying.

You wrapped me in your sweater.
I believed you for a moment when 
you said everything would be all right.

The moon covered her face in ash.

With morning, spring was gone.
I stayed cold indoors,
you made angels in the snow. 

When I read the poem at the art event, several people cried. One woman who had lost a child, asked me if the poem was autobiographical. I cried with her for a moment, then told her about the poem.

At first, I wondered if some ancient, long-gone ancestor was telling her story through me. It felt so vivid. A woman, speaking to her husband, who offers his sweater for comfort. They are losing a child. Perhaps their only child. When I wrote it I wept.

This poem remained on the dry-erase board in my kitchen for weeks. I kept looking at it and wondering about it. Several months later I discovered the meaning.

The child is innocence - a girl child, the most vulnerable part of society, something precious and dear. 

The woman is the feminine aspect of the soul, the gestating, inward-turning, receptive, inconsolable, mourning element of any human being. The yin, so-to-speak.

The man is the masculine aspect of the soul, the strong part, the expressive, outward-turning, action-taker who moves the body to "do something" in the face of loss, the part which makes us get up, get out, and create beauty from ashes. The yang.

This poem is about each of us. It speaks of the loss of something precious and perhaps irreclaimable and about how we respond to that loss. Every response is holy. The turning in, the moving out.

The poem is about making angels in the snow, when part of us wants to just lay down and die. On its face, the poem seems to be about death, but, really, it's about life.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walking the River Trail

for Dalene

Grass ignites like blades
of afternoon sunlight.

Porcelain soil, baked
beneath winter sky.

We watch Black Angus
tug on shards of roots–

where even Spring
cannot imagine itself.

Melody Newey © 2013

Monday, December 09, 2013

I Wonder As I Wander

For years now I've tried to write a poem about the birth of Jesus, but the words just won't come. So, I wrote about not being able to write about it. Also, I love Jesus.

Waiting for Words

I listen to the song in my head
about a manger, wonder how
to write the Only Story.

I wander through holy lands in my heart,
patient pen cradled between fingers,
descend beside a stream of tears
into the silent night.

Lambs bleating on hillsides
disappear when I turn to look,
their keepers gone with them.

Men from the East move together
toward redemption, their tale told
in beams of moonlight, while I walk
ancient roads, wordless, alone, watching
dust blow away toward Bethlehem.

Still, still in the long dark
I hear a lullaby, lift my eyes,
hoping for a wise star.

Melody Newey © 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Month of Devotions: Listen

Day 20. Mediation. Sound.

I've been listening to this for the past hour while the sun set. I wrote poetry. It's dark outside now. No other sounds in my home. I can't tell what season it is. The crickets take my mind to July. August must be just around the corner. No wonder I sleep with my windows open in summer. No wonder we can't help but sing.

Here is a voice of God. Here is Her lullaby.

Cricket song slowed to human time. Find a quiet place if you can and listen for a long time. 

: : :

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Month of Devotions: Water

Day 12. Meditation. Water.

My grand children and I walked along the river trail near Bridal Veil Falls the other day. They tossed leaves into the outlet stream alongside the trail below the falls. We watched the leaves weave through rocks, swirl around eddies and eventually make their way to the opening of an aluminum pipe that went under the trail and emptied into Provo River on the other side.

We talked about how the leaves follow the water. A few moments later as we continued our walk, my grand daughter spontaneously began singing "Follow the water, follow the water, follow the water, it knows the way. . ." to the tune of an LDS primary song. She was right. I love her for this. And for a million other things.

We follow the water out of the womb. We follow the Living Water to where its source would have us go. We are made of water. Water flows in us and through us.

We are baptized, redeemed, washed clean by water. I love this imagery. I love that water and the Savior are connected in our religious texts and in our unconscious mind. God is good.

John 7:37

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Month of Devotions: Gratitude Again

Day 10. Meditation. Abundance.

Today I understand that even during times of fear, heartache, anger, loneliness or despair – the deepest part of my soul remains in a state of constant gratitude and awe for the abundance of God's love in my life.