Writing Prompt: Let’s talk about the weather

This week’s writing prompt with my class is about the weather. You know, that thing we so often use for small talk. But the weather seems to be at the forefront of every conversation this week. The northeast is getting pounded with snow once again, and locally, we’re under the threat of freezing rain, which is one of the worst things that can happen in the South, next to tornadoes. All in all, it stinks to be outside wherever you are. Unless, of course, you are in South Florida. Or some other warm climate.

So this week, write about the weather. Tell us what kind of weather you enjoy.

I love the rain. Even now, that the temperature is below freezing and I can hear the gritty sound of frozen rain hitting the windows, I like it.

There’s something about the overcast days, with the dark gray clouds and the chill in the air that speaks to me in a comforting way. Now, I do like sunny days. I enjoy the sunshine and cool breeze of spring, the heavy heat and burning sun of summer. I even like snow. Especially if I’m a tourist.

But rain. Rain. It soothes me. Inspires me. Calms me. Makes me want to take a nap.

When we lived in Miami, my husband and I used to sit on our back porch and watch the storms coming in off the Everglades. Those were the epic storms. They rose up gently with heavy black clouds. Everything about them was larger than life, monstrous. These storms moved slowly, so it seemed like they were constantly building energy, and they usually brought lots of thunder and lightning along with it. Those were the storms that lasted all day. It was perfect for porch-sitting, coffee-drinking, spending time with your lover deep in conversation storm-watching.

If the rain came from the east, from the ocean, they were different. These were usually sudden showers although every once in a while they’d bring some thunder and lightning, too. Mostly, though, these storms blew by quickly, the clouds spreading out and thinning until the sun came back out and dried up everything. Those were the rainstorms that came and went, leaving no evidence. They were fun, too. Great for running and playing in the rain, or just keeping an eye out for the end, after everything was refreshed.

These days the rain bring a more somber mood, and I’m ok with that. It chills me, and that just gives me the perfect excuse to make something hot to drink, maybe coffee, maybe tea. Maybe some rich hot chocolate. I’ll inevitably find my way to a cozy spot next to my husband and cuddle under a shared blanket to read a book or talk.

Plus, puddles. What’s not to love?

Writing Prompt: Crystal Moment

This week’s writing prompt with my class is simple yet complex. We often think of milestones in our lives, but can we isolate one moment that impacted us so profoundly that we can say it has defined who we’ve become? This crystal-clear moment shines in our timeline so brightly we can point to it and say That’s it. That’s when I became brave or successful or happy or bold.

What’s your crystal moment?

My crystal moment happened when I was in college. I studied abroad between my junior and senior year. It was an easy decision to make. I was majoring in English, with a great love of medieval French literature — a lot of the Arthurian romances came out of that time period. I couldn’t get enough of Chretien de Troyes’s poems and epic stories of Lancelot and the Grail, and the heroic virtues of chivalry. I guess I was a romantic.

I went into this adventure with an open mind, but I really lacked a lot of maturity when it came to being on my own. I’d always lived at home. I went to a commuter college, and while I was paying for my studies, everything else was comfortably taken care of by my parents. I had a roof over my head, meals, and even a car (plus gas money). My only responsibility was to do well in school and graduate.

I was well on the way to graduating when I got the wild hair to study in France. After all, I’d been reading  plenty of French literature, I might as well go visit.

It was actually the best thing I could have done. I learned a great deal on this adventure, not all of it about French literature. In fact, while I did read some Victor Hugo in French thanks to a wonderful library in my host home, I learned much more than just stories. I’ve always known that literature is the study of the human condition. I got to experience the human condition in a new way. Better than reading about it, I got to live it.

This adventure taught me about self-reliance since I had to figure everything out on my own: from budgeting, to travel, to essentially being on my own. I learned a great deal about different cultures, not just the French. My location in Aix-en-Provence placed me close to Marseilles, close to the French Riviera, and beyond. I saw quite a bit of Europe. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was empathy. This daughter of immigrants got to experience first hand, at the same age, what my parents experienced when they came to the United States.

Wait. Let me qualify that. I wasn’t running away from oppression. I had money in my pocket, and a return ticket to my home.

But I did learn what it was like to immerse myself suddenly into a culture I didn’t quite understand. I found myself yearning for the familiar, isolated in unexpected moments. Voiceless as long I didn’t know the language. It may have only been a little piece of their experience, but it was enough for me to return home with a different attitude. A broader understanding of what their generation experienced.

If that had been all, it would have been quite a bit. But thirty years later, in my work, I teach many new immigrants to the United States. My experiences then continue to inform me today. It’s an extraordinary full circle.

my journal from the trip
my journal from the trip

a twist on the photo challenge

How to capture the manifestation of “express yourself” when it’s a poem? By piling up all my journals into a nice little bed.

And writing a poem, of course.

click on the picture to read the poem

found a little piece of heaven

I’m sure I’ve confessed my love of journals here. Utilitarian canvas-covered sketchbooks and beautifully embossed covers with sewn-in creamy pages make me want to write brilliant things in them.

Then I get clammy hands and a terrible case of writer’s anxiety when I fear I won’t be brilliant…just…mediocre, and I don’t want to ruin the beautiful pristine pages with my ramblings. Because of this silly notion, I’ve amassed a stack of lovely (and some utilitarian) journals, sitting pretty and empty on my book shelf, longing to fulfill their purpose and house all kinds of thoughts.

Big thoughts. Small thoughts. Complicated and incomplete thoughts. Stream of consciousness and careful thoughts.

And yes, every once in a while, maybe something brilliant.

Something changed a couple of years ago and I started writing in these beautiful books. I didn’t think it would happen, but I’ve filled them all. I just opened the last empty one and filled the first page. Heaven.

slackery, writing, and new journals

I have no excuse for not updating here, especially since you have no doubt busted me wasting time on Facebook or Twitter. Somehow, though, 140 characters seems easier to accomplish than a blog post, at least in these past months of an insanely distracting and busy time at work. It doesn’t help when I remember that I have three blog posts sitting in draft mode, two of which have been rendered obsolete.

But it’s all good…or as they say, it all comes out in the wash. So maybe I’m back for a spell — maybe I’ll just hit-and-run post and continue wih a pronounced period of slackery.

Actually, I suspect things are going to be much improved now, and we’ll leave it at that.

I have been doing a lot of writing, just not here. I filled up my last journal a little sooner than I thought, and took a little outing in search of a new model.

Some people obsess over manuals and blue books and whatever else they use to buy new cars — I spend endless hours caressing journals in bookstores. I know, it’s a little weird.

Anyway, I finally settled on one from the monastery…. I used a plain black Picadilly lined journal for too many years to count (the …um…black one in the picture). Lately, though, I’ve found that size, while convenient for slipping into my bag, a bit tiresome on my hand. Yes, this is the part where I sound all old and stuff and whine about arthritis, wah wah wah. So I went a little bit larger, and unlined, so I don’t feel all cramped about writing small, either (dare I mention my aging eyes? no? good idea).

Here’s a little comparison, with the old journal on top of the new:

But the best part is that it is filled with pages and pages of cream-colored thick paper screaming to have me fill it up with stuff:


And if that isn’t enough, every so often it has a little inspirational quote on the bottom. Usually, I think it’s a cheesy distraction in a journal, but this one is full of saints’ ponderings, so who am I to pooh-pooh St. Teresa of Avila, who happens to have today’s entry: