Sample Writing From Siesta Lane
It came to me during a Chicago traffic jam, trapped in a metal oven, a popsicle gooeyed onto my sweaty thigh, the guy in the next car cussing through his cigar. I gazed through steaming sunglasses at this muscular city buried in concrete, its veins plugged with cars, and felt my life constrict like a capillary
Now I love this city with its fashion parade of architecture, the gruff but generous. people, Lake Michigan with her necklace of public beaches. Yet every spring migrating birds confuse reflections of clouds and trees with real nature and collide against skyscraper glass. I imagined flocks of warblers, sparrows, thrushes struggling through the pollution above my windshield, disoriented, smashing against panes – stunned or dead. In my mind’s eye I was a migrating bird—swerving across the freeway’s metallic seascape amid plumes of smog trying to discern truth from illusion.
There were warning signs even then about greenhouse gases and climate change. Higher temperatures shrink ice caps, increasing water surfaces that absorb more heat, producing higher temperatures that raise sea levels in an accelerating cycle. I thought about all the people living on coastlines, holding their breath. About the planet poised in this crisis like a glass of water about to tip. While surrounding me at just this one moment on just one day in just one of hundreds of cities on earth, thousands of vehicles were spewing toxins into the air like grey cotton candy.
As if a call to action, my fellow drivers began a crescendo of honking not unlike a cricket chorus or the alarms cries of small birds when a hawk circles. What is the ethical response to knowing that my lifestyle threatens the health of our planet and our species’ survival? Could living simpler make a difference to the future? To my sanity? In an age of dwindling resources maybe we’ll all have to downsize anyway, so it could be empowering to try it voluntarily.
At that moment I began a journey against the consumptive current—to seek my own refuge from which to ponder this dilemma, to heal some of my longing for wildness. I would find a place where cougars roam and a few clean rivers still carve their own channels.
Wasn’t Oregon at the heart of the sustainability movement? Organic food. Green culture. Big trees. Mountains. Loud honks and “Whatya waitin’ for, lady? The Cubs to win the pennant?” broke my reverie but I began, in my mind, packing to go West.
(Excerpt from Siesta Lane)
Sample Work From Writing Circle Participants:
I do know this: when we give voice to thoughts and feelings (whether orally, or written, or in another creative way).....there is a release. It helps...doesn’t change things...but helps.” - Judy Macuga Wandschneider
Quarantine on an American Farm by Becca LaTourneau
It was kind of the pandemic to arrive in time for spring planting. Boots will stick in the same mud they would have otherwise. Seeds will still grow toward our nourishment. The sheep and goats can all get fat on the green shoots they have been looking forward to all winter. Birds will migrate, singing familiar lullabies to angry children.
While death tolls grow larger on the newsfeed and desperation is discussed in urgent but abstract video chats, I plan to clean out that big box of college memorabilia finally and to document digitally all of the this-and-thats and to send them on to the landfill, I guess, while garbage service is still uninterrupted.
The aristocrats celebrate in drunken abandon before every revolution. Bunnies breed just as selfishly as ever even when the burrow starts crumbling around them from a distant plow's approach.
My plan is to knit and to dust the ceiling fans and to separate the garden tools from the shop tools and to calculate my ration of chocolate chips and to rewire the kitchen light. Until catastrophe is a rope around my own neck, I will wash my privilege with a good lather for 20 seconds. I bought soap in bulk long before the first reports of apocalypse.
On your lifeboat, what would you take and what would you leave behind?
To keep me sane and my head above water, I would bring my art supplies and journals with favorite pens.
How can you take connections except in memories, which will fit nicely anywhere.
The reliance on my own skills of observations and analysis for whatever may come and the trust of gut feelings and intuition.
Appreciation for the senses, applicable anywhere and a grounding tool for which I seem to always be in need of.
Love - love of self for self preservation and desire to thrive, love for life - any around me and love of growth, change and radical acceptance.
My anger and bitterness about how my life has not been at all what I had imagined or hoped for.
My fear that I’m not enough and that I’m wrong.
My resentment and regrets - all that heavy, wasted and unproductive energy from the past. Let it go.
Anxiety and depression - are they things I can shed? Oh, please let them be so. These bindings that keep me still, frozen, gazing at my boat.
What is the thread that you follow? (inspired by The Way It Is poem by William Stafford)
End of the Rope
The rope winds gently around my waist,
twisted, smoothly strong by years of mistakes,
trying again, doubt and wondering how.
Thick with memories of others who
believed with the strength of solid ground.
Believed that all earthquakes eventually stop shaking.
Believed in soil’s ability to grow what we need next.
The end of this rope was handed to me long ago.
A generous lifeline offered for free
to keep me on the planet.
Now I look down at the rope in my calloused hands,
threads of the millions, an explosion of frayed ends,
their forgivings, endurance,
the woven learnings of my ancestors.
The rope loops back and around me,
over and over,
then off into the distance.
I don’t need to see the end now
to trust it is anchored deeply somehow.
© Ali Grimshaw 2020
Prompt based on The Way It Is poem by William Stafford.
What is your thread that weaves through your life and pulls you along?
Oh my gosh, what a hard question. This feels like one of those dreaded interview questions where you’re supposed to tell something about yourself in 10 seconds which is impressive, but not braggy, only this is worse because it is something that is meant to get to your essence. What does it mean if we have no thread?
Last night, I shared the question with my husband. “Yea, sure. Blame, insecurity, and fear. Fear can be sub-divided into several categories: fear of illness, fear of failure and fear of abandonment. Fear of abandonment is the biggest.” I stopped short--we were on one of our many walks. While I searched for my own threads, negative adjectives never even occurred to me. There are few things that I don’t know about my husband. Few subjects that we haven’t discussed. I guess I knew that he lives with all of these feelings, but there they were right up front. “When you grow up with a dad like mine, who is always negative and angry and has a ton of his own fears, it is hard not to absorb them.” In that moment, I greatly admired my husband, who is almost always positive and upbeat, has a can-do confidence that borders on charismatic. A man who is quick to anger, but also quick to ask for forgiveness. A man who is the first to help an old lady cross the street, to offer money to a homeless person. In that moment, I saw the struggle inside him to shake off those internal threads. The struggle to not pass them on to his children. But as his wife and lover of nearly 25 years, I see the threads that run through his life differently, perhaps the result of years of internal struggle—daily, he replaces blame and insecurity with compassion, and fear with gratitude. - Karen Solomon
What is Your Blueprint to Survive the Pandemic?
Blueprint for the Cocooning Days
These seeming rarefied days
Pandemic and panic swirl on the outside
While a tenuous calm settles around my family and me inside our four walls:
exercise (wipe down surfaces!) virtually connect (wash hands!) work from home (order groceries online!) garden (cough into my arm!) cook (socially distance!) relish pursuits reserved for staycations (don't touch my face!)…
If I can shut out the awful news, keep at bay my worry and fear,
my cocoon feels safe, and I, in control.
Emerging from this Twilight Zone chrysalis will take tough mental work
Because the blueprint I most need will be how to reconnect without fear
When my illusion of control is cracked wide open
- Kathy Weeks
What small heroisms are keeping you afloat?
I find it fascinating that this pandemic is occurring at the beginning of spring. For on my walks like so many others’ walks (as that is all we can do right now) we see at every glance reaffirming life and growth. Regal magnolia trees in comforting mauves and pale pinks. An arched trellis of clean white jasmine flowers amidst purposefully planted tulips and daffodils. Tiny buds of promising green in the distant trees on their way to becoming a more opaque view of afar.
These - these are the small heroisms in my present experience as I am shuttered away in isolation from most connections. I get to be freely touched by them but no one else. At every step I am reminded that there is life, hope, color and beauty yet even when lies, deception, ignorance and profiteering reign daily in my newsfeed.
In uncertain and frightening times we tend to turn toward nature when we remember to. It is the medicine I need even as I have to put it on my to do list and sigh as I find a bra and some shoes to enter the outside.
For some, wine seems to be a little hero - dulling the pain while lifting spirits. For me, it’s snacks! Flaming hot white cheddar popcorn is my current little hero helping me with negotiating long lonely evenings warmed only by Netflix’s glow. Lastly, strangers - people I may never meet or ever speak with again sharing fears and laughs more freely than friends and family are able to do right now with me. Vulnerability is indeed heroic. - Casey Anderson
How will I get through the next few months? What will be my blueprint?
Like always, small steps seem to be the answer. I’ll call on the strategy I use when I’m on a hike, and I’ve already gone up too many switch-backs and I see I have many more to come. When my legs ache and my breathing hurts. During these times, I look at my feet and start to count steps, and somehow in the counting, I forget my tiredness and the feeling of not being able to go on, and I just keep going. And all the sudden, I’m almost at the vista, and I can see a glimpse of the beautiful view ahead.
During this time, I will make small goals. I’ll finish writing a chapter of a new textbook. I’ll clean the kitchen, I’ll take a walk in Wood’s Park and marvel at the ancient Doug Firs. And I’ll breathe the air that is cleaner because there are fewer cars and fewer planes, and I’ll enjoy that the Earth is getting a rest.
Then I’ll goof around with my son, play board games, and read books. I’ll stop worrying about larger life goals for me and my family that I carry around with me. I won’t try to build our business or worry about college choices. Instead, I’ll try to do at least one thing each day that I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time. Today, I’m going to plant California Poppies in my front yard, tomorrow I’m going to make a soufflé, and the day after that I’m going make a pan of lemon bars.
Finally, I’m going to delight in all of the small wonders of my new quarantined life: During the day I can work in my favorite chair with a cup of chai tea, in the evening I can go for a walk and enjoy conversations with neighbors, who I’ve talked to more in the last week than in the last year. And finally tonight I can watch “The Ozarks: Season 3” without guilt because as an Italian woman on lockdown said recently, “God gave us the corona virus, but he also gave us Netflix.” Karen Solomon