Writing Under Deadline

I put together this quick little collage and decided it reflected how it feels to be writing under deadline with an editor breathing down your neck.  Trying to find a muse in the midst of outside pressure.  Keeping from getting too scattered.  Trying not to lose the flow.  It’s a challenging experience.

Facing the Unknown


rest in simplicity
a quiet sense of self
an invisible heat
and turning back
to the ground of reality

the place of vulnerability
is a doorway
for our best gifts
a great hidden dynamic of life
a relationship
with the great unknown elements
moving toward a new world
a new work
a central foundation

the details of life
speak to us
in their own voices
we must apprentice ourselves
giving ourselves over
to learning
to a change of identity
to indescribable beauty

the winter of listening
a faculty of seasonality
the conversational nature of life
its growth depends on rain
on sun
changing leaves
courage and

a normal part
of human existence
a core human confidence
what is the conversation?
disrupt the present narrative
not knowing what to say
you don’t know how
to play the game
don’t let others
smother your humility

naming things
is a tool
of belonging

life is the long farewell
a presence that holds our losses

a well-felt sadness
can be as generous toward others
as a well-felt joy

our fiercest cycles of life
a gift to others

life as an enemy force
you may not achieve everything
feeling as if you don’t belong
cycles of humiliation
falling apart
what if it’s all about nothing?

start close in
the elements inside us
are unique to us
multilayered contexts
held together
in conversation
with a larger landscape
beautiful and deep
calling up
through an open door

just into darkness
into a day of
these forces and tides
will never come again
pretend or ignore
or look it in the face
make sense
of the complexity of life

we don’t have to be
an image of perfection
where you are
our particularities of life
stop telling stories
of the same visions
form an image
inside yourself
you’re following
the elemental reality
of existence
the disciplines
of an everyday

to be human is to be visible
you are not an accident amid accidents
ask the question
turn away from previous conversations
take the first step
the step you don’t want to take
commit to a new unknown

grow into the story you’ve been told since you were a child
something is ready to spark in you
a robust vulnerability
a new pattern
hold these in the ways that only humans can
what shape awaits
in the tree of you?

real creativity
takes place
in the grit of life
a wordless
creates spaciousness
around the unknown

the depths

bent under the weight
of looking back
at a lifetime’s grief
one day
you gaze
into the depths
and see the sky
reflected above
you rise
straighten yourself
look toward new horizons
with fresh eyes
into the life and future
that was yours all along
no longer weighted down
by ill will
or lost loves
shaking off misery
allowing yourself
to dream
and live again

walking in blessedness

walking in blessedness
as a dedicated spirit
in the morning light
the heart was full
what horizon is looming there
for this devilish version of self
seeking a new tomorrow
sinning quietly
living in new ways
set free from regret
seen for the first time


This is a long time family recipe. So what I learned making this cold soup is don’t snack on it or sample it until it’s had time to sit in the fridge for several hours. It was way too vinegary when I sampled it, but after the flavors had a chance to blend, it was much better. Cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.

6 to 8 small servings

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely minced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 cup tomato juice or V8
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, stir ingredients together.
Chill soup until icy cold (several hours or overnight).
Serve cold.

a murder

you want to commit a murder
the Grief inside you has grown a body
it breathes
it eats
it shits
it bites
Grief is so alive now
its name is capitalized
this Grief that is alive
this living hellish Grief must die
you want to smother Grief in its bed at night
you want to smother Grief with your favorite pillow
when the dreams come to haunt you
and Grief stirs awake
you want to shove Grief off the freeway overpass
watch Grief splatter in the oncoming traffic
while your favorite song comes on the radio
goodbye Grief
you want to see Grief jump off the tallest building
you want to feed Grief to the wolves at the zoo
you want to starve Grief in a box at Christmas
you want to choke Grief with a child’s hair ribbon
you want to commit a murder

– from Grief Song

Overwhelming emotions

One of the things I experienced, especially in the early days of grief, was being overwhelmed with emotions. The pain was so real and so strong, it would frequently keep me from functioning in my day-to-day life. Gut-wrenching crying. Breath-taking horror. I felt like all of my emotional responses were turned up ten-fold. Or maybe 100-fold. I tried to get my emotions under control, but nothing seemed to work. I would just end up bottling them up, only for them to explode out later, even stronger. I was a mess, and in so much pain.

A friend who’s a professional therapist, suggested I try a technique she’d been teaching for many years. Mindfulness. I thought she was asking me to meditate or to somehow focus on the pain. It sounded too simplistic to actually be effective. But as I came to understand Mindfulness as she intended, I found it helped tremendously. Your mileage may vary, but I thought I’d share in case it may be helpful to someone else.

Every time I felt overwhelmed with emotion, I would take a deep slow breath, and then focus on the current moment. If I was feeling afraid, I’d ask myself if there was something in that moment that was threatening to me. No? Then breathe. I would sit quietly, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing. One breath. Another. What did breathing feel like? Was the air cold or warm? I would keep my eyes closed and focus on my skin. Could I feel a breeze? Or the soft touch of my socks? I would breathe quietly and listen silently for sounds in the room. The whir of an air-conditioner. The sounds of a cat. Then I’d focus on the sounds outside the room or outside the house. A lawnmower. The birds at the feeder. Children playing. Then I’d come back to my breathing and find that I was calmer and more centered. Less apt to feel overwhelmed. And the next time the overwhelm happened, I’d go through the process again.

Focusing on the present moment can help turn our thinking away from the what-ifs of the past and the future. The present, this very moment, is what matters right now. When you feel overwhelmed by past hurts, losses, or future imaginings, try focusing fully on the present moment. Take a breath. Take another. Feel your body. Hear the birds. Actively and gently turn your thoughts from the past and future, while you look at the realities of right now.

Breathe. Just breathe. I still practice Mindfulness and it still helps, even in these times when my emotions aren’t as overwhelming. Give it a try. It can’t hurt, and it may prove to be a gentle, helpful lifeline that can bring a little peace in the midst of the turmoil.