Archive for the ‘Good Writing’ Category

“Twice I have held the ashes of people I adored – my dad’s, my friend Pammy’s. Nearly twenty years ago I poured my father’s into the water near Angel Island, late at night, but I was twenty-five years old and very drunk at the time and so my grief was anesthetized. When I opened the box of his ashes, I thought they would be nice and soft and, well, ashy, like the ones with which they anoint your forehead on Ash Wednesday. But they’re the grittiest of elements, like not very good landscaping pebbles. As if they’re made of bones or something.

I tossed a handful of Pammy’s into the water way out past the Golden Gate Bridge during the day, with her husband and family, when I had been sober several years. And this time I was able to see, because it was daytime and I was sober, the deeply contradictory nature of ashes – that they are both so heavy and so light. They’re impossible to let go of entirely. They stick to things, to your fingers, your sweater. I licked my friend’s ashes off my hand, to taste them, to taste her, to taste what was left after all that was clean and alive had been consumed, burned away. They tasted metallic, and they blew every which way. We tried to strew them off the side of the boat romantically, with seals barking from the rocks on shore, under a true-blue sky, but they would not cooperate. They rarely will. It’s frustrating if you are hoping to have a happy ending, or at least  a little closure, a movie moment when you toss them into the air and they flutter and disperse. They don’t. They cling, they haunt. They get in your hair, in your eyes, in your clothes.

By the time I held Pammy’s ashes in my hand, I almost liked that they grounded me in all the sadness and mysteriousness; I could find a comfort in that. There’s a kind of sweetness and attention that you can finally pay to the tiniest grains of life after you’ve run your hands through the ashes of someone you loved. Pammy’s ashes clung to us. And so I licked them off my fingers. She was the most robust and luscious person I have ever known.” – Anne Lamott

A year or so after first reading this passage and I thought of it again this morning. For love, for friendship, for having those in our lives so full of life we want to taste them. I love this passage – stunning and sad. I love it for making me feel.


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“I was demanding of myself a deeper and greater honesty, more and more revelation in my work, in order to give it back to the people; where it goes into their lives and nourishes them and changes their direction and, you know, makes light bulbs go off in their head and makes them feel. And you know it isn’t vague, it strikes against the very nerves of their life and in order to do that you have to strike against the very nerve of your own.” – Joni Mitchell

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Come friend,
I have an old story to tell you –

Sit down beside me and listen.
My face is red with sorrow
and my breasts are made of straw.
I sit in the ladder-back chair
in a corner of the polished stage.
I have forgiven all the old actors for dying.
A new one comes on with the same lines,
like large white growths, in his mouth.
The dancers come on from the wings,
perfectly mated.

I look up. The ceiling is pearly.
My thighs press, knotting in their treasure.
Upstage the bride falls in satin to the floor.
Beside her the tall hero in a red wool robe
stirs the fire with his ivory cane.
The string quartet plays for itself,
gently, gently, sleeves and waxy bows.
The legs of the dancers leap and catch.
I myself have little stiff legs,
my back is as straight as a book
and how I came to this place –
the little feverish roses,
the islands of olives and radishes,
the blissful pastimes of the parlor –
I’ll never know.

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“Go literally and figuratively to that huge boulder field, that mouth in the forest … stand literally and figuratively and lift your arms and your heart to the sky and know your infinite balance.”

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Unconditional Love: Stories of unconditional love between parents and children, and how hard love can be sometimes in daily practice.

I advise maybe not listening to this at work – if you’re anything like me you will be sobbing at your desk which I find myself doing far too often.

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“Once (Roethke) said to me, that nervous undergrad who wanted the love of the world to roar out every time he put a word down, ‘Don’t worry about publishing. That’s not important.’ He might have added, only the act of writing is. It’s flattering to be told you are better than someone else, but victories like that do not endure. What endures are your feelings about your work. You wouldn’t trade your poems from anybody’s. To do that you would also have to trade your life for his, which means living a whole new complex of pain and joy. One of those per lifetime is enough.”

-Richard Hugo, The Triggering Town (quickly becoming my favorite paperback professor)

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