Monthly Archives: June 2013

Writing for Healing


“How’s the book? How far along are you with your book?” friends and relatives ask.

“I’m still working on it,” I say, embarrassed. It takes a long time to write a book. Most of the hours in each day, every day of the week, I write. Standing over the kitchen counter, sitting at the dining room table with the dog at my feet, on the computer with the dog on my lap, with a clipboard on my lap as I drive, in bed, in waiting areas of offices and on the deck by the pond as I watch a small green heron, I write my book. Two and a half years ago I hoped with all my heart that my daughter would live. Now I spend all my energy and wishes on my book.

“You should check out Literary Marketplace online,” say friends. “You need to get an agent.”

Swenson Book Development sends an email with this week’s post about various types of editors.

“How long have you been writing this book now – two years?” my mother asks.

It is a sweet time as I read the book over “once more” after the latest changes, and then “once more” again.

“It won’t be forever,” I say. “Besides, I don’t know what’s next in my life yet.”

But really, I’m afraid to bring my book to an agent or editor. It’s like going to the doctor or dentist. I’m scared something major will be found to be wrong. My manuscript might be eradicated or ripped to shreds. It could be painful.

So I nurse the book a little longer, memorize its features, and love it like it’s a daughter with cancer.

Share Button

Healing From Loss on Fathers’ Day

FATHERSDAY “How are you gonna keep this place going all by yourself?” my father had asked ten years ago, the last time he came to visit. He kept his own tiny yard on Long Island immaculately trimmed and cleared. It was his comfort and joy to sit outside in a pristine landscape with his dinner al fresco, a tall glass of beer, and a dog by his side. He would be horrified to see how I’ve neglected my house in Ithaca the past two years.

It is Fathers’ Day. So this morning I sweep all around outside the house, prune the bushes that have grown over the walkway to the front door, and arrange the wind-tossed plastic Adirondack chairs neatly on the deck. I replace the outdoor tablecloth and set up a new freestanding fire-pit. But my dad is not coming to visit. He’s been dead more than three years. I’m not expecting anyone today. There were times I was surrounded by fathers, grandfathers, in-laws, and friends’ fathers. But now there is no father-figure to call on the phone or cook supper for. I can think of no other way to commemorate Fathers’ Day than to clean up the porches, the flowerbeds, and all the outside areas the way my dad did.

            When it starts to rain I go inside to look for pictures of him. A cardboard box is crammed with unsorted photographs that have not been looked at in ten years. There are pictures of my babies, my growing children, long-gone pets, and my father. And there are photos of my ex-husband.

            I cannot remember talking to my children’s father since Marika’s memorial two years ago. Communication had always required hard work and patience for us. And after Marika died, there was no longer a need to try to connect.

             I’m sure he will not be home on this Fathers’ Day with one child gone and the other in Afghanistan. The small, enclosed porch looks the same as it did years ago when I used to drop Marika off on alternate weekends. No one is around so I leave the package on the mail-table with a note.

    “Happy Fathers’ Day. Being a mother is the best thing I ever did. Thank you for being Greg and Marika’s father. Here are some of the old family photos you never got. I have hundreds. Let me know if you’d like some more. Cheers! Robin”

            I tiptoe back to the car and head for home, singing.


Share Button

Healing from Grief Close Up

TULIPEYES“Use the macro setting on your camera,” says Kathy, teaching the photojournalism class at TC3. “See how close you can get and still maintain focus.”

“My camera doesn’t have that,” I insist, afraid if I press the menu button I’ll never return to normal function again.

“Look for the tulip icon,” says Trent, the student sitting nearby. “See, you have it. Just click on the tulip.”

“Whoa, um … thanks.” I plant the camera before my face to hide my sheepish glee. Then I take shots of my pack, my shoe, the computer and Trent. “Hey, it goes back to regular focus when I turn the camera off,” I say in disbelief. My world has just expanded and I still have some control.

The next day I take my camera with its newfound tulip button to my mother’s house in Massachusetts where I hover intimately close over flowers and a moth stunned by the rains. I peer into a cup of latte, discover caverns in my cake, and bend low to photograph my feet. I stalk the yarn store cat.

When I step closer to my sister to capture her blue eyes I find they have turned green. When I hold my hand in front of the camera I notice my nails need a manicure. With my new tulip-eyes I see things I never noticed or thought about before.  The past three years I have missed the intricate perfection in the world. Up close there is more beauty to be found. There are smudges and flaws.

I wonder what else I’ve missed since I was blindsided by grief. And why am I so desperate to hang onto normal all the time?

Step Closer
Song by Marika Warden

I close my eyes,
Go somewhere far away.
It’s no surprise
You’re standing in my way.
I turn to memories,
I turn to happy days.
I can’t rewind, instead my mind replays.
Step closer.  Come a little closer,
Come a little closer,
Come a little closer.
Step closer.
Step closer.

I can’t pretend
There’s something far from here.
It’s not the end,
Just whisper in my ear.
It’s not reality,
There’s nothing I can’t do.
It’s just a fantasy. ‘Cause I am here with you.
Get closer.  Come a little closer,
Come a little closer,
Come a little closer.
Get closer.


Share Button

Too Much To Do

RAININGSUKI Suki, a Havanese, jumps for treats in front of a pond of frogs in Ithaca, New York.

I wake up smelling skunk. Will I need to call wildlife control again, I wonder? Then I remember today’s the day I’m supposed to clean out the upstairs closet, prepare the guest room, change the cat litter and finally take down the holiday lights. And I have a homework assignment: Stop-Action Shots.

There’s too much to do. I just want to sleep in this morning and not move. I try to think of one thing about today I can look forward to. Oh yeah. Today’s the day I get to climb into my clumsy fishing waders and weed the pond. Ick.

The cat climbs into bed and walks on top of me to tell me it’s time to feed him. The dog tries to lick my eyes open. She scratches under her right ear. In my head I note: check for ticks. Another thing to take care of. Suddenly my queen-size bed is too crammed and uncomfortable. So I rise to face my day.

Inside the house it reeks of skunk but when I take Suki for her walk, the air outside is filled with the sweet scent of locust trees. There is frog-song and birdsong. The early morning light kisses the pond as the sun tries to push its way through rain clouds. It is suddenly shining and raining at the same time and I wish I could frame it all in a picture. But how does one capture a million frogs, invisible songbirds, what June smells like, the rain and a rising sun in a photograph?

“Experiment with the stop-action settings on your camera,” said my instructor, Kathy Morris, in the photojournalism course I started last week at Tompkins Cortland Community College. “You need good light, a high ISO and a fast shutter speed to see frozen motion in your picture.”

Nothing and no one is moving this Sunday morning at my house. If I could set the camera’s timer, find and set the continuous shooting mode, and gather some enthusiasm to frolic in front of the camera I’d have an action shot. Instead, I bribe the dog. But this option is no easy task. I hold and focus the camera with my right hand. I press the shutter halfway down to keep the focus. With my left hand I pick up a dog-treat and toss it and quickly look back in the viewfinder to catch Suki before she lands. And click the shutter as I toss. It takes twenty tries.

Suki jumps up. Click. The rain falls down. Click. Suki falls back down, her ears fly up. Click. The frogs in the pond poke their heads up and down in the rain. Click. Click. Then comes hours in Photoshop putting all the images together. And finally, the fun part, flattening out the colors of the shadows on Suki and painting in raindrops. In the end I’ve escaped my funk and I have a photo I can use for homework. Maybe I can even use it in my blog post. Okay, so it’s missing the songbirds, a few frogs, and the smells of a morning in June. Just add that to my list of things to do.sukireverse

Share Button