Until

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

Until she had nothing,

she thought she could go anywhere.

Kyoto beckoned on cobbled streets,

maiko hurrying to a party at twilight.

Lisbon unlocked the old quarter,

where Portuguese whistled on pursed lips.

Morocco, flat roofs under the stars,

sent the call of the muezzin on the desert wind.

 

Until she had nothing,

she thought she had the breath

to plan for a workshop in Italy,

to find a quaint B & B,

to choose which class,

collage or linocut?

 

Until she had nothing,

she imagined a villa on the Costa de la Luz,

a piso in Cadiz,

a condo in Las Colones

for a month, a season, a year.

 

Until she had nothing,

Until the doors closed,

Until the work of going

was greater than staying,

Until masks weren’t enough,

Until the asymptomatic were contagious,

Until the Ides of March turned viral,

she thought she had the time.

 

 

K.E.

The Fan Quilt

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Several months ago, I embarked on a Big Project: a king sized pieced quilt for our bed.  I was tired of the quilt I’d made over ten years ago, and I had a stack of Asian fabric to start with.  I knew I’d need to buy more, but that is the quilter’s best excuse.  I love fabric.  Sometimes a beautiful pattern or texture of cloth can elicit a visceral reaction.

For this quilt, round edges were my new challenge.  I cut the fan blades and slowly, over weeks, sewed ninety-four fans.

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Once I had cut the white squares, I laid out the center pieces on the design wall (see above).  But the quilt was too big for the wall, so I moved to the floor.  The only space large enough proved to be our bedroom, and even then, I had the corners under the dresser and the bed.

With the top done, I took all the extra fabric, plus some new yardage, and stitched it together to make a back.  The quilt top measured 107″ square.  In the end, I was wrangling a huge amount of fabric in and out of the sewing machine.

When front and back were done, I sent it off to a local long-arm quilter, who did a magnificent job sewing the “quilt sandwich” together.  Then I put on the binding, and VOILA!  A very big finished project.

 

I won’t say, “Never again!” But it will be a long time before I take on anything as big as that fan quilt.

What I’m Reading: The Weight of Love

weight of love

It’s rare that I choose to read poetry.  Even more rare that I buy a book of poems and read it all the way through.  These poems by Pat Schneider spoke to me on many levels and touched my heart.  I connect with her as a writer, a mother, a seeker and a caregiver for a spouse with dementia.

Adult Children,

how they visit

from the far-off island nations

of their lives

How they bring us shiny notions

from the future we can’t possibly surmise

How the foreign languages they speak

surprise, delight and frighten us

until we remember how we pushed them

in the swing, how they shouted, laughing,

higher! Higher!

–p. 20

About Pat Schneider (from the back cover):

Pat Schneider was born in the Ozark mountains of Missouri where she became intimate with fossils, creek bed grasshoppers and box turtles. After a search for work took her single mother to St. Louis, from age ten Pat lived in tenements and in an orphanage until she was given a scholarship to college. Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing, and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other 
misfortunes.

Pat’s books, poetry, plays, and libretti have been praised by the most prestigious publications and authors in America:  The New York Times, the Library Journal, the Atlanta Journal, Small Press Magazine, St. Louis Dispatch, the North Dakota Review, Oprah Magazine, Vanity Fair, the North Dakota Quarterly, the Kentucky Monthly, the Bellingham Review, the Louisville Times, and many others.

Peter Elbow said that Pat Schneider is “the wisest teacher of writing I know.”  Julia Cameron, author of The Right to Write and The Artist’s Way, noted that Pat is “a fuse lighter. Her work is gentle, playful, brilliant, and revolutionary” and Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction, notes that Pat’s work is “heartening and practical, a rich variety . . . that celebrates both difference and difficulty as the gifts they are.  

I have a personal connection with Pat Schneider, as she developed the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method of leading writing workshops.  Schneider’s type of  writing workshop provided a safe space for me to try out my pen in a local group. Led by Kate Hymes, herself an accomplished writer and teacher, the workshop confirmed that I was a writer.  Ultimately I saw my own novels published by Handersen Publishing. (www.handersenpublishing.com     www.amazon.com/author/ellisk

Schneider’s AWA method offers all people–those who consider themselves writers and those afraid to own the title–a safe, supportive workshop in which to explore.  In an AWA session, the writer hears what s/he has done well, what language was strong and memorable, what stayed with the listeners.  Rather than providing criticism, the AWA workshop provides encouragement.  I, among many, am proof of the success of Schneider’s approach.

So I thank Pat Schneider for her teaching, and for this gem of a book in which I found many deep and elegant expressions of our common experience.

Hush

Hush. Slow down. Say the names of those

for whom your candle burns.

Say them into the attentive ear

of memory, or of God.

Oddly, now, either one will do.

You are no longer required to believe.

Receive the gift of listening.  Belief

is as hard as a hickory nut

that cracked, holds many mansions.

The faces that you love are chalices.

Hush.  Slow down.  Tip the chalice,

sip the wine, and say it:

all whom I remember are now mine.

 

p. 3

Mushrooms at the Edge of Dread

 

closeup photo of white mushrooms

Photo by Ashish Raj on Pexels.com

(inspired by What Kind of Times Are These —Adrienne Rich)

 

At times like these

new fears emerge in the night,

like mushrooms.

 

At times like these

we wake in the contagious morning

to discover pale, sinister growths.

 

At times like these,

truth is a buried treasure

hidden under sand on an uncharted island.

 

At times like these,

we guess and guess and guess again.

What is safe? What is holy?

 

At times like these

we hide and wait for the cure,

but will all be required to take it?

 

At times like these

touch is precious medicine.

Everyone should have a hand to hold.

 

At times like these,

living at the edge of dread,

only burnt offerings can please the gods.

 

Kim Ellis   7-23-20

My Musical Ambitions

dulcimer

When I was ten years old, I told my mother, “I don’t want to take piano lessons anymore.” She answered that she’d let me stop lessons, but added, “You’ll regret it when you’re older.”

Truer words…

At age nine, I had already begun playing guitar. After a few lessons from a college student, I learned to play enough chords to accompany myself as I sang. Although I’ve never gotten much better, the guitar has been a mainstay. But spurred by fantasies–I kept acquiring other instruments.

Sometime during college I bought a cheap dulcimer. It was little more than a trapezoid box with four strings. I tried hard but unsuccessfully to figure out the chords Joni Mitchell used in her recordings. Later, my first husband gave me an exquisite dulcimer. Made in Asheville, N.C., it had a matched wood back and friction tuning pegs (tricky). Its beauty did not improve my playing.

During my college years, I also bought a saz. What was I thinking? I probably got it because it was so pretty. This I never learned to play.

saz

Another instrument attempt was a violin. I may have traded in my classical Aria guitar for the fiddle. I even took lessons from a master fiddler. My cat would be stretched out in a patch of sun. When I opened the violin case, he’d sit up in alarm. Then he’d bolt for the nearest exit.

Now let me pause here and say that I did actually practice these instruments—for a while. The desire to play didn’t carry over into the rigor of daily scales. My interest wasn’t focused and I’d drift away.

By this time, I knew quite well that musical proficiency requires obsessive practice. It didn’t stop my musical dreams. In Ireland, I bought a couple of pennywhistles and a bodhran (round Irish drum). At home in New York, a little red concertina caught my eye.

My most recent indulgence was a harmonium. I intended to accompany the chanting of kirtan. The instrument still sits in the corner of the living room under a yellow quilted cover. To play this particular harmonium, it must be lifted out of its box to rest on two tiny supports. That in itself makes access difficult. Soon after I bought it, the harmonium developed a sticky key. It’s not hard to pick out simple melodies on the keyboard. But, as with all my musical acquisitions, the harmonium languishes in the corner while I engage in my preferred creative pursuits.

We sold most of the other instruments when we downsized to the apartment. I still have my guitar, the harmonium, and a couple of pennywhistles. In my next lifetime, if I can’t be enlightened, I hope to become a proficient musician.

harmonium