The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

January 16, 2010

Poetry from my 30s

Filed under: Cynthia Boiter,poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 01:02
Tags: ,

A little something today because I’m feeling brave.

~~~~~

Home No. 5

~

I know the harnessed poet in the

wild-eyed boy, Southern man.

The lips of his woman taste of

honeysuckle and late-August muscadines.

Her back sways like the loblolly,

quivers like cane,

arches like that old barn cat.

~

His woman’s arms wrap as warm as Granny’s

line-aired crazy quilt, stitched from

Momma’s white baptismal gown,

Aunt Ellen’s faded calico-peach apron,

Great-granddaddy’s worn broadcloth shirt.

~

I know the Southern poet man — the way

he eats his supper like a sacrament.

Sopping up pot-liquor with powdery flat biscuits

until his tin plate shines.

Holding blackberry seeds on the

tip of his tongue until the bitter cuts

through the sweet and he has to swallow,

but he knows he has eaten it,

good.

~

He breathes in heady chow-chow, pickled preserves, cayenne

and smiles as the blazes rush through his chest

and lap at his nostrils and toes.

He wants to turn to the river and dance in the

must of the leaves and the left-fruit

beneath the coppice of trees.

He wants to

dance.

~

The wide-eyed Southern man-poet

loves his children

like good dogs.

His momma

like Jesus.

His home

like a well-shifted shed.

~

I know the southern boy-poet and his stars.

How, each evening, he takes them

from an icy Mason jar,

buried by the chimney at the old home place —

bricks asunder, foundation nearly gone —

and places them,

just so,

in the pitch-black Southern sky,

where he commands them to

shine.

~

And for years, they would.

~

I know the Southern poet-man,

whose travels have led him into and out of the woods,

long past pondering the mystery,

to the place where old boys

die.

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January 14, 2010

Be true to your school, I do, they dance, no day but today, & Beer! Beer! Beer! — + strings & jeans

It seems that life is getting back to normal these days — the parties are over, the garland is down (most of it, anyway), and the routine is starting to set in — if you believe in routines, that is.  I’ve never been one to dig into the rut — too claustrophobic for me.  I can see why some folks find the rut functional –it’s safe and can be comforting, I guess.  But if the rut gets too deep, it becomes harder and harder to see out of it and the next thing you know, it becomes a maze — and then — you’re trapped.

I’ve always been a fan of second and third careers, changing majors mid-stream, and letting the flow take you where it may.  Life never gets dull — it’s a sin to be boring.  That said, this is what we’re doing this weekend, starting tonight.

On Thursday at 7, my eldest and her beloved are going with me to see the Women Gamecocks play some mighty bball at the Colonial Center.  The Beer Doc drags me to as many of his little sporty events as he can, but never seems to be going in the direction of the arena when the Big Girls play.  Yesterday, after mentioning that the guys were playing LSU last night and that we should all Go Cocks and the like, one of my new students, the amazing Ms. Ebony Wilson who happens to play guard for the Women Gamecocks — and no, don’t give me any of that “lady” Gamecock crap until you’re ready to call the boys the “Gentlemen” Gamecocks when they play ball — asked me if I was going to their game tonight.  Zap!  What kind of Women’s Studies instructor am I if I don’t go out and support some of the toughest and most talented women of the university?  So, I’ll be there waving the garnet foam finger that Annie gave me for Christmas — Gamecock women are #1, in my book now, and Ms. Ebony Wilson happens to wear a #1 on her jersey.  Tonight’s game will be preceded by the best chee-boogie & brew in town at my beloved Hunter Gatherer.

And then there’s Friday night.  If you read my last blog & review of the film, you know that I’ll be attending the 5:30 showing of La Danse at the Nick, which will be preceded by some used-to-be surprise nuptials of two dear friends.  For all intents and purposes, the I dos are still a surprise if you haven’t been formally invited to the wedding or if you aren’t friends with the folks — of friends with their friends — on Facebook.  So, everything that I wrote yesterday still stands if you find yourself still in the dark — and I hope to see you there. In the light, before the film starts.

But for me and the Beer Doc, we’ll be darting out the back door of the theatre about half way through so we can grab some snacks and libation before we head down to TRUSTUS to see Rent.  This will only be like my umpteenth time of seeing this play, all other times on Broadway, but I am just so excited about seeing Kevin Bush play Mark — a role that both he and Doogie Howser were made for.  It only runs through next weekend and tickets are slim pickin’s, so if you have your heart set on going, as well you should, call the theatre at 254-9732, and beg Joe for a ticket.

After Rent we hope to make it down to CMFA at 914 Pulaski Street to take part in my friend Aaron Pelzek et. al.’s artist-driven extravaganza, Playing After Dark #4 — Free Form.  Aaron and buddies have brought together an awesome group of artists who will bring you everything from art-in-the-making via my friend Karen Storay, to Sherry Warren’s choreography (also my bud), a local band called The Noise, puppetry, poetry by Charlene Spearen (yes, a bud), scenes from Jaques Brel is Alive and Well — a play I was just writing about in the Beer Book, oddly enough, and, hell, I don’t remember — a bunch of stuff.  My friend Jeffrey wrote a nice little ditty on this event on his blog at http://carolinaculturebyjeffreyday.blogspot.com/.  The shenanigans start at 7:30 — which is why we’ll be coming in at the tail end, but never fail — the whole shebang is going to crank itself back up again Saturday night at the same time, same station.  Tickets are like $5, so seriously, head out to this event and show some love to local artist driven arts.  It’s the way it should be.

Which brings me to Saturday — the day of the second annual Columbia hosting of the World Beer Festival at the Columbia Convention Center.  There are two sessions, afternoon and evening.  Having made the mistake of attending as many sessions of beer events as offered before (read about this in Bob, Beer, and Me, coming out this spring/summer, by god!), we will only be attending the afternoon session — after which we will promptly crawl to our hotel room in the Vista and snooze until the evening festivities commence with yet another freaking basketball game — the Gentlemen Cocks, this time.  Is it possible to OD on sports?  Is that something that happens to the hard-core — read Beer Doc — or has he developed an immunity or a tolerance — built it up in his system, as it were, leaving him protected while his neophyte woman remains susceptible to sports poisoning and may just have to sneak out at half time, already clad in her blue jeans, to the Koger Center for some strings?  It is time for the Philharmonic’s Beethoven and Blue Jeans, after all.

After running in and dropping off a coat closet of old coats at the Art Bar last night — thanks to Chris Bickel for his generous offer of collecting a scad or two of coats for the cold during karaoke — I felt the yearning for the good Art Bar people in my soul, so the night should finish us up, just a few blocks from our hotel, at the best place to be in the city after 1 am.  We are so lucky to have that place.  Really, take a minute and thank your maker for the Art Bar.

Whatever your drug of choice, get drunk on the goodies going on in our beloved city this weekend.  I’ll see you around town.

Cheers, Y’all.

January 1, 2010

The New Year, Cassie Premo Steele, The Poemgranate, & my favorite poem from Ruin

Educator, author, creativity coach, and poet, Cassie Premo Steele has a multitude of gifts that she generously shares with her community, near and far.  Next Thursday night, January 7th, Cassie will be the featured poet reading a selection of her poetry as part of the entertainment component of the FOM series on Main Street.  Her work will focus on relationships and intimate issues — such as parenthood, marriage, and family & work struggles — and she’ll be reading and signing her books at 7:30 pm.  Poets Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Chris McCormick will be reading at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, as well.

Cassie’s poem, The Poemgranate, was recently nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. The first time I heard this poem, the author was standing on the front porch at Muddy Ford on a cold and drizzly autumn day, speaking the words intimately to our group of 8 women who were participants in the first Women Writing Naturally Workshop.  The day was all crisp and spicy and promising despite the gray dormancy of the woods around us.  After the reading, Cassie broke apart a pomegranate and shared seeds with all of us, then invited us each to commit our seeds to the ground with our own personal wishes and blessings.  If you can imagine how special that moment in time was for our small group, you’ll know how important it is that you come and hear Cassie read next week.  Here is the poem below.

~~~

The Poemgranate
By Cassie Premo Steele

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I am in a hotel room, far from home.
Next door a baby cries. The mama
Coos her sweet southern comfort.

I did this with you, when you were young.
I ran like Persephone, but with a baby,
Smoky Mountains, New Mexico plains,

Boston, and beaches—we’ve seen the insides
Of hotel rooms turned tombs as I tried
To get what all mothers want, peace

And quiet. I would put you on the floor,
My lily, my orchid, my crocus, let you
Play with plastic cups, suck from multiple

Bottles, anything for one moment
When I could look away without fear
Of falling or choking or hurt.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

You are no baby anymore, at eight
You have fallen from grace
Many times—not from your mother

But from yourself, which is worse.
I mourn like Demeter, even though
You are still here. You inherited

More than my eyes: my vision,
My moods, my hungers, my cycles
And sins. They live in your skin.

You told me last week you had waited
For thousands of years in the sky
For a mother who would take you in.

Me, I said, smiling, I was the best one.
And then you stuck in the pin: No,
You were the only one to be so dumb.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I have no flowers to welcome you back,
No seeds to plant, no chants to make
You whole again. I am human.

Not a goddess with magic or power
To create seasons that mirror
My immense sorrow, your great need.

All I can do is to feed my desire
For solitude, find a way back
To myself through these words

That I harvest like fruits, plucked
From my head, cut open in bed,
And eaten, forbidden or not.

Seeds and core, peel and stem, entire.
It is with this poemgranate that I might
Make myself, mother, whole again.

~~~

Cassie is also the author of five books, one if which is Ruin. Here is my favorite poem from that collection.

~

What Woods

by Cassie Premo Steele

~

What woods are these, that would begin

with this bitchy little seed, so ferocious?

What good is this mean tree that tries

to cut my fingers until they bleed?

Podlike I crawl back into the earth’s

prehistoric sandied shore, and let her take these

teeth from me, let her keep me

from biting back, or biting more.

There I listen, earlike, for the crowned

dawn so I can emerge from this

horrible beginning, so I can split

from my nightmare heritage

and learn to stand where I belong.

~~~

For more information on Cassie, to follow her blog, listen to her radio show, or order books that you may have signed at the FOM event, visit the following link:  http://www.cassiepremosteele.com


December 26, 2009

Poetry from a younger me

Filed under: poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 22:18
Tags: , ,

As I’ve said time and time again, I am not a poet.  But I’ve always liked to dabble in poetry for fun.  When I was a kid, the occasional poem was a much-needed outlet for quite a bit of my outsider angst.  I won my first poetry contest when I was in the third grade — can’t recall the poem, but it was awarded by a publication called Read Magazine and I won a cheap little charm shaped like a scroll.  Thanks Read Magazine — validation rocks.

Then when I was in high school, freshman year, I started entering a poetry contest that the University of South Carolina – Spartanburg, now called USC Upstate, sponsored.  The first year, one of my poems was published in their literary magazine, quirkily called Maggie’s Drawers, (from the frontispiece of the magazine are the words — For those not acquainted with the term “Maggie’s Drawers,” it signifies a complete miss of the target on the rifle range), but I didn’t win anything.  The next year, I lucked up and won an award of special merit for a poem I’m too embarrassed to re-print — although I do recognize early Pagan interests in the lines and am amused by the fact that my insecurities clearly required me to include a nod to Jesus near the ending, lest my spiritual uppitiness land me burning forever in hell.  (I’ve always recognized the utility Pascale’s wager, which says that if you believe in a supreme being but you turn out to be wrong, you’ve lost nothing — however, if you don’t believe in one and there actually is one, well, you’re just screwed.)  Shift and dodge, dodge and shift — ain’t religion grand?

Finally, by my junior year, one of my poems was awarded first place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see myself as the little drama queen I was — given my distaste for such creatures as an adult.  But it won out of 500 entries, (granted 500 entries that likely originated from upstate South Carolina — not exactly the arts capital of the Southeast), so here it is, in all it’s dripping drama.  (note the lack of capitalization — e. e. cummings was my hero)

~~

doodle my name

on the place mat

set under cold bacon and egg

and warm memories

of other mornings.

I don’t ask for

clean or silent thoughts

just as long as they’re

of me and not

the ones before.

Lean on my wallshadow

and cherish yesterdays

like

8-year-old new bike Christmases.

Pretend

hours are minutes

I’m but seconds away.

~~~~~

Personally, I’m much more fond of the following poems, which were published in the same issue, but not recognized.

~~

i wear new shoes

like a dog eats grass

casually at first

taking for granted

the fields of choroglory

and soles of leatherbetter.

~

now and then i

wonder almost hope

that both would turn

to cindergravel.

~~~~~

(Quite the budding socialist there, huh?)

and this clever little gem …

~~

If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.

~

About truth

or faith

or promises –

wait – that’s not right …

~

If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.

~~~~~

By my senior year in high school, I had already won first place but I entered anyway and, this time, was awarded second place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see how much difference a year makes in the growth of a young person.  It’s not that the poetry is that much better, but it is braver — and that makes me happy.  Here’s the second place winner, and it has a title.

~~

No Imitation

~

I don’t want to write down

love words or nature phrases

or spell myself with little letters

or substitute silly exclamations

where a simple word belongs.

~

And I don’t want to write of sex

as an ocean and God as a brother

or his another

or the way Mr. McKuen

makes poems into songs.

~

I just want to write of me

and my yesterdays and

next years and burst bubbles

and plan the ones I’ve yet

to purse my lips for.

~

I’m too interested in acquainting

me with me to try to imitate

you, the man who died

fifty years past, or some sea-gull

who learned to soar.

~~~~~

Cute, huh?  This was in 1975 when Rod McKuen was all the rage — he had teamed up in the fifties with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and moved spoken word poetry into popular culture.  Then in the sixties, he was responsible for translating much of the work of French singer/songwriter/poet, Jaqcues Brel into English before his death. I still have a few of his LPs, despite the fact that I soon learned — and may have been learning even in high school — that his work is uniformly considered pretty iffy.  Still, it meant something to me at an important time in my life — so there! to critics and idiots alike (and sometimes one in the same) who think they can determine what is and isn’t art based on their own world views alone.  As for the sea-gull reference, Richard Bach’s beautiful but naive novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, had been published in 1970, aiding and abetting in the non-conformity movement of the time,which, as my previous poetry so well illustrates, I was all about even as a child.  This fact could not be better illustrated than by the following self-righteous little ditty of mine that served to close out the 1977 issue of Maggie’s Drawers.

~~

… After my words have pleaded

with you,

if you still believe yesterday

can carry the weight of eternity —

~

then never shade your eyes

against my sun again …

~~~~~

Well, that was a fun little trip down the pot-holed, briar-ridden, tar and gravel path of Memory Lane.  It’s hard to not find oneself introspective at the juxtaposition of old and new years.  Funny though, I found this last poem printed in the pages of Maggie’s Drawers today, coincidentally entitled December Twenty-Six, which is the self-same date as today.  It’s a sweet little poem and I still like it a lot.  So, here’s a gift to today’s readers from an 18-year-old me.

~

Happy holidays to the children we were and will always be.

~

December Twenty-Six

~

Packing away ornaments

I store a month of memories

of crowded stores

and anxious eyes

beside a dry and brittle tree,

icicles still intact,

in a full and contented attic.

Outside, G. I. Joe spies

pink ruffled undies

mounted on a chrome horse

who toots to me at the window.

And I turn, lost in thought,

to toss away an age-old Madonna

and reach for Santa’s tiny sleigh

to gingerly wrap in tissue.

November 12, 2009

Zen & the Art of Being Busy, plus Ladies’ Night Out at the Columbia Museum of Art

I like being busy — doing different things all the time, dipping into the arts, politics, travel, intellectual pursuits, and even sports (but only for Gamecock athletics and on Super Bowl Sunday when I arbitrarily pick a team and cheer for it as if my brother were the QB.  I also like to hear when Clemson loses, but I don’t really care who beats them, and I sure as hell don’t want to watch the game.)  I’ve never been much for going to bed early, which is why I often write these posts in the wee hours of the night, and I resent the fact that I have grown to need between 6 and 7 hours sleep.  Sleep feels like lost time to me.  I don’t mind the demands of teaching a couple of classes at the university, writing freelance articles, and working almost constantly on the beer book which has turned into behemoth, but what I hope to be a nerdy beer-drinker’s dream.  (Did somebody say edit?)  But when I get too busy to do all the things I want to do, that’s when I’m sad.

Tonight is Ladies Night at the Columbia Museum of Art, and I’m going to be a big girl and do the right thing and stay home and keep working.  I’ll be honoring the zen of going out by staying  home, chained to my computer, getting shit done.  But that doesn’t mean that You have to.  Here’s the blurb, fresh off the museum’s website — go have a drink for me.   Cheers, Y’all.

Ladies Night Out
11/12/09
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

The 5th annual Ladies Night Out – one of the most talked about events of the year celebrates the Museum’s fall exhibition, Ansel Adams: Masterworks in style with beauty products from Pout! boutique, Nana by Sally purses, Jewelry from Unforgetable, Children’s apparel by KD’s Treehouse and Swift Water Beads & Jewelry Supplies. Enjoy gourmet cupcakes from Cupcake in the Vista, libations and entertainment by DJ Peter A.

Call 803.799.2810. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Cost: Admission includes hors d’oeuvres and wine/beer and is $20 or $10 for members. Admission fee can be used toward the purchase of a new membership at the event.

September 22, 2009

Judgment of the Phasmatodea

Filed under: not writing,poetry,writer's life — cynthiaboiter @ 20:08
Tags: ,

I had a stretch-my-legs moment while working on the beer book today and wandered outside for some air and a dose of the mysteriously energizing vibe that always seems to emit from the woods we insensibly call our own.  (If anything, we belong to the forest — it certainly doesn’t belong to us.)  Earlier, Bob had noticed a walking stick bug on the porch screen and wondered aloud whether these amazing insects had come back to Muddy Ford this year. 

Sure enough, there were several to be seen.  And I pondered how funny it is that when we couldn’t see them, these brilliant mistresses and masters of camo, we assumed they were gone. 

They weren’t gone; they were successful. 

So a little ditty came to my head and, since I’m feeling a bit brave today, given my hefty helping of the Muddy Ford magical mystery woods, I guess I’ll share it with you.

 

Judgment of the Phasmatodea

 

I laughed at the walking sticks

at my house in the woods

noticeably hiding

their twiggish bodies

against the white fence post,

the back door screen.

I can see you,

I smiled quietly,

shaking my head

like an all-knowing god.

But it occurred to me

as the obvious does

and I had to laugh once more,

when from the woods

there came a knowing

of those more cunning

smiling just as silently

down upon me.

August 6, 2009

The Productive Writer, Mark Plessinger, Bohumila and the FOM Series, the White Mule (& Van the Man!)

Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged, but that’s because I have NOT been being the Reluctant Writer lately:  I have been being the Productive Writer!  And it feels great!  

The beer book is coming along nicely as we plow through the early days of Bob’s beergrimmage — the time before we had actually decided to write the book — and reconstruct the route and stories and beer experiences we enjoyed during this time of year, two years ago.  (Much of the book after that period has already been written — so we’re sort of writing the beer beginnings at the end.)  It has been exciting reliving those thirty some odd early days of beer exploration with Bob and the wonderkins and I’m pleased with how the project is progressing.

In the meantime, I do want to share with you an upcoming event that I’m going to have to miss.  But first a little background.

Mark Plessinger is a local optician and business owner who shares my love of art for art sake and recognizes the importance of placing a limelight on new and exciting local artists.  His business is called Frame of Mind and it is located on Main Street across from the art museum.  There you will find the most spectacular spectacles with a decidely European flare.  But more than that you will also find a little something extra.  Whether it is the work of Anastasia Chernoff or Claude Buckley or Pamm Collins, Mark and his wife Wendy always have a gallery of  new and intriguing art hung amongst their wares.   They call these revolving monthly shows the FOM (Frame of Mind) Series and this week they’re bringing someone extra special.

Bohumila Owensby is a designer of fashion and jewelry and the key word in describing Bohumila’s work is innovative.    After winning second place in the Columbia Design Guild’s 2008 Runaway Runway show she walked away with first place in 2009 and people haven’t stopped talking about her yet.  Her original jewelry designs are also featured in the gift shop at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Mark chose Bohumila as the featured artist for August in his FOM Series, and the opening night reception is tonight, August 6th from 5:30 – 8 PM.   There will be light refreshments, something special to sip on, an assortment of Columbia’s loveliest folks and, best of all, Bohumila! 

Do not miss this wonderful free event! 

And when you find that you are able to tear yourself away from Mark and Wendy and Bohumila, just slide your sassy self next door into Main Street’s newest bit of coolness, the White Mule (formerly Jammin Java) where yet another art exhibit awaits you, complete with an Ed Hardy wine tasting. 

Sadly, I will not be joining you for either event, but don’t cry for me.  I will be enroute to Obamaland where I will be spending an intimate evening with one Van the Man Morrison who is going to flat out rock my gypsy soul, just like back in the days of old, and sail my sorry ass into the Mystic.  Have mercy.

So in my absence, please enjoy the gifts that these amazing artists and generous business owners have for you on this wonderful summer night.  Give them back your time and attention.  Being a part of the creative act is one of the most stimulating, humanizing and, yes, precious parts of being alive.  And the opportunity is waiting for you, right there, on Main Street, Columbia, SC.  Damn — did you ever think you’d hear those words?

July 13, 2009

Bob, Beer and Me excerpt — Heidelberg

            While not necessarily known for its beer, Heidelberg, Germany is known for its university and, as everyone who has ever matriculated into an institution of higher education knows, a college town is a beer town.

            We chose Heidelberg as the first stop on a short beer journey in the early spring of 2008 for three reasons:  it is easy to reach via train or bus after flying into Frankfurt; it is known for its historic university-oriented “drinking clubs” as well as Vetter’s Brauhaus, a revered brewer among the drinkerati; and, it has a castle.  Both Bob and I are suckers for castles, having spent hours when our girls were young either climbing over the ruins of castles and abbeys on one of our escapes to another country; reading about the people, both real and mythological, who had inhabited castles in days past; or planning, saving for, and daydreaming about our next trip when we’d be able to go castle hopping again.

            For so many of us Americans, castles are depicted in our minds as imaginary – crayon creations that fade easily into the clouds, or miniature sand structures that wash away before they’re even completed.  That’s one thing so many European children have over America’s kids – castles exist right in many of their back yards.  Their entrances and aprons are rarely roped off and seldom will you find black and yellow safety tape limiting children from climbing the ramparts or peering out through arrow loops or murder holes.  The castles are stone cold real.  And with this reality comes intrinsic connections to two vital pieces of the puzzle that help construct life and life expectations for a child. 

            One is not just a link, but a relationship with the past.  It is tangible.  The evidence is there.  While America’s children have been asked to believe in a combination of the vagaries of an ideological identity shaped by Hollywood, the executive office and the power of pride, the best they can hope for is an occasional en masse field trip to a Civil or Revolutionary War battlefield.  The past is not even past, for so many American kids; it never even existed.  For kids growing up in cities like Heidelberg, with a castle dating from 1214 AD, they need only look over their shoulders to Heidelberger Schloss, to witness scenes from a living history book on a daily basis.  Preservation of the past is an important lesson to learn from our elder countries.

            The other and equally important puzzle piece that castles can offer children is the association of the imaginary with the real.  When castles and palaces and thatched roofs and stone cottages can only be found in story books, it may serve to encapsulate fantasy, imagination and creativity – turning the act of making the impossible possible into a box that can be shut – a book than can be closed – a dream more easily dismissed than believed in.  Maybe castles that we can touch and feel and climb through can serve as reminders that what we imagine can come true no matter how fanciful it may seem.

June 10, 2009

Vin français voyage – première partie (aka Clark and Ellen Griswold take on French wine country)

Filed under: aging,France,Paris,travel,wine,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 17:32
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a while since I’ve written — both legitimate writer-type writing, and blogger-type writing as well.  But I really do have an excuse this time.  I’ve been traveling.  Read on.

 

Paris is one of those cities that, once you go there, you never really leave.  I remember so well mine and Bob’s first trip to Paris over twenty-five years ago.  It was part of our month-long adventure of back-packing through Europe on twenty-five dollars a day, financed via the South Carolina Student Loan Association.  (Never, everaccuse either of us of being financially responsible.)  We had our Monkey Ward backpacks, our Eurail passes, a strict budget and all the audacity of Southern born idiots savant.  Neither of us had ever been out of the country and I had never traveled in a plane despite growing up the daughter of the Greenville-Spartanburg airport manager and living, literally, on airport property. We were fulfilling childhood dreams of chasing horizons; of one day being passengers in those planes that flew constantly overhead. 

 
I’ll never forget rising up early morning out of the Paris metro, sleep deprived from an overnight ride from Amsterdam in a train compartment with a crazy lady who, convinced she was on her way to marry Baryshnykov, constantly packed and unpacked her trousseau.  Nighties and negligees hung from the compartment doors and the luggage racks over our heads.  We arose at the St. Michelmetro station in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  To the left of us stood Saint Michael’s fountain and to the right the Notre Dame.  Even today, I sometimes catch the scent of  how Paris, the city, smelled that morning wafting through the air — crisp and cool and clean.  (And Paris is an amazingly clean city still.)

 
Since then, we’ve had the good fortune of re-visiting this favorite city several times, both with our children and without.  This most recent time, we celebrated our 30th anniversary there and launched our explorations through some of France’s vast wine country from Paris’s Gare de L’est, as we traveled to Reims, the epicenter of Champagne country; then to Strasbourg, where we began our journey through Alsace and down the Rue du Vin; and, finally into the heart of Bourgogne to thoroughly explore Burgundy wines and the Cote d’ Or.  In the end, we returned to Paris for one last weekend of celebration and the completion of a sentimental circle, indeed.
Over the next few days I’ll use this space to share some of my thoughts and experiences garnered over this recent seventeen day long visit.  I’ll reflect on wine, hotels, tiny villages with names that sound even funnier with a Southern drawl, and what it’s like to travel now versus then. 

 

We had a great time — I’m looking forward to telling you all about it.

May 22, 2009

Rites of passage

It has been a while since I posted an entry on this blog, but personally, I’ve witnessed so much in the past few weeks — rites of passage, endings, beginnings — so much so that, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to reflect a bit.  Maybe something will strike a common chord with you or yours.  Please share if it does.

Within the past two weeks I’ve said goodbye to the 90 some odd students to whom I swore my allegiance for the fourteen weeks of the spring semester.  I’ve often described myself as an evangelical sociologist and instructor of women’s studies and I sincerely mean that.  (God knows that, as an adjunct, I don’t teach for the money or job security.)  But I am an absolute junkie for watching the lights flash on in a student’s eyes when she comes to understand that humanity has constructed the society in which we live — that it didn’t grow up from the ground and it wasn’t set in stone from above — it is not located within our DNA; or when she learns that she can proudly declare herself a feminist without also also being a lesbian or a hairy, army booted ball-buster.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a lesbian OR a hairy, army-booted ball-buster.)  I love my job and am always as sad as I am happy when the end of the semester comes.

The week before last was spent in a flurry of exercises and ceremonies as Annie and her Honors College classmates revocated and graduated.  During Revocation each Honors College student has the opportunity to address the audience with words sometimes witty, sometimes profound.  Annie did me proud by thanking me for raising her as a feminist and introducing her to women’s studies — she’d won the Arlie Childs award for Women’s Studies the week before.  Of course, I was the one who wanted to thank her — for embracing what matters so much to me rather than rejecting it, which she could easily have done in the name of stubbornness or autonomy.  Then she and all the other kids who, just four lightening fast years ago, had moved into and bonded in Maxcy — the same dorm her dad lived in during his time at Carolina, and the same dorm that Bonnie would move into a year later — walked across the stage at the Colonial Center, no longer kids, now graduates, now adults. 

No other image embodies optimism like that of a graduate in cap and gown. 

To see so many fresh young faces so pumped with pride and accomplishment — it was thrilling to me.  And to see my first born — a brilliant beauty — scooped up in the gowned arms of her beloved after the ceremony, was both thrilling and radicalizing.  I am now the mother of a grown woman.

Many of you were among the revelers at the Muddy Ford graduation celebration featuring  the musical stylings of the local Columbia band, American Gun.  It was such a joy to celebrate with the graduates and so many of their parents under the stars and in the glow of the tiki as the band played on our Gilligan’s Island stage.  Bob’s kolsch went down cool and sweet and delicious.   The boys in American Gun are not only talented but good and decent.  Sweet music for rowdy young turks and the awkward and discomfited parents they’ll grow into being.

The next afternoon we retreated to the primordial shores of South Carolina and spent the week licking the wounds of winter in the sand and under the partly cloudy skies of Hilton Head Island.  The sun finally came out on Saturday just in time for the momentous heart break of young love set asunder as Bonnie and her beau parted ways.  Tears washed us back to Muddy Ford on Sunday and have kept us under a steady but receding mist ever since.  Broken hearts heal but they do so far too slowly and the scars stay tender for life.  

All these experiences of the past few weeks — joy, pain, the bitter-sweet saying of goodbye, congratulations, you don’t need us anymore, you’re on your own, where did it go — these rites of passage have re-sensitized me to how precious our time is — and I mean this not in a syrupy, melodramatic way, but in a very literally precious — hold a bubble as it quivers in your hand — way.  Be still, hold it while you can because that very bubble will pop on your ass and then it is gone, just gone — and you’re done.

So tomorrow, Bob and I leave for 17 days in France as we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  Thirty years ago we stupid and exceedingly lucky young lovers gambled it all — and it payed off in spades.  So much so that if it ended right now all we could say would be, “damn, what a run.”

I’ll try to write from the wine road, but in the meantime, here’s to the bitter and to the sweet.  Life — no regrets.  Au revoir.

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