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Posts Tagged ‘The Write About Love Project’

Cornwall – The Running Away Place

In Places on August 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

Mousehole In The Sun - Angela Jardine

When I was four I was adventurous and without the wisdom of fear, so I often ran away to teach my parents a lesson when I was upset with them. At forty I was all fear and, sadly, there was still no sign of any wisdom. So, when life got tough I ran away again and as Cornwall was the furthest I could get without needing a passport, crossing the sea or painful injections, I decided it was going to be my refuge of choice. Besides, it had a wild and romantic appeal to the odd pint of my blood that was Celtic. So I upped and left, feckless as a hare, to deepest Penwith to find solace among strangers.

On that first day of arrival I sat, a disconsolate heap of untidy tweed in my jumble-sale coat, on the cliff path overlooking Mount’s Bay, bemused by the loveliness of my surroundings. The early daffodils fluttered their golden skirts like coquettish can-can dancers and an azure sea played a leisurely game of tag with the rocks below, just feet from my feet. I waited for the sun to thaw out my frozen heart. It was healing by landscape.

After three days of this intensive treatment I was strong enough to return to the mayhem of my life in the North, though I wept as I crossed the Tamar and felt that I was going into exile. I did not know then that one day I would return to Cornwall and I would return to stay.

A mere fifteen years later I ran away again and headed, lemming like, for the same coast, the great bay of Penwith, having held the memory of it in my heart and mind, precious as a pearl in an oyster, for all the years in between.

I settled in the tiny fishing village of Mousehole and knew myself to be the luckiest person in the world. Everyday I found excuses to walk about the tiny, twisting streets, proud in my localness and anxious to be envied by the less fortunate visitors. My soul wrapped around my surroundings like a hen round an egg.

At least once a day I would walk to the end of the quay to gaze out across the bay towards the castle on St. Michael’s Mount, enthralled by the ever-changing scene with the sea below me as temperamental as a toddler one minute, as placid as a sleeping cat the next. Sometimes there would be tall ships, ghostly in the mist, rigging creaking, sheltering in the shadow of the Mount. Ships caught in a time warp.

Other days the scene would be hot and continental with yachts and motor launches idling about on the water and the gleaming white ferry charging purposefully across the bay, stalwart in its support of The Scilly Isles.

Mount’s Bay, and the land that encircles it, has held my soul in thrall ever since I first saw it all those years ago, and it still does. I am still its humble worshipper and I can only leave it with a sense of suspending time, of holding my breath, until I stand on its shore once more. It is the place I love above all others.

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In Romantic on February 14, 2011 at 10:27 am

 

LA Photo By Denise Emanuel Clemen

“I gave San Francisco to a woman,” my date says.  I like that he understands what I mean when I tell him I have trouble being in L.A.  “It’s a problem when a freeway exit sign represents a person and the experiences you’ve had with that person,” he says.  He really gets it, I think, as we curve along the 110 through downtown Los Angeles.

“There’s Mr. Ex’s building,” I say as the damn thing looms over us in the urban glow like a monolith that might want to tip over and crush us.  My date looks over at me and nods. He’s a Match.com guy, and this ride home from the airport is our third date. We’ve been emailing during the days I’ve been away and I like him even better than I did when I left. But the only thing I know about where our relationship is headed is simply that we’re driving east. One date at a time. It’s all I can manage a year and a half after the breakup of a thirty-year marriage.

Half an hour earlier, I fretted as I strode up the jet way. What if I didn’t recognize him? I’d only seen him twice, and the last time we saw each other we were sitting in the dark at a dance concert. What if he didn’t recognize me? Airport fluorescent isn’t anyone’s best look, so what if he scanned the crowd and walked away? But when the escalator delivered me to the hallway outside of baggage claim he was there at the bottom, smiling and pretending to hold up a sign as if he were a limo driver.

For months after my marriage ended, whenever I came back from a trip I’d fantasize that Mr. Ex had changed his mind, and there he’d be at the airport waiting for me. He’d be holding a sign and it would say Take Me Back–or I’m Your Vehicle, Baby, a line from a Chicago song he’d always quote if he gave me a ride somewhere. But Mr. Ex never showed up. And now here I am in a car with a guy I barely know, and we’re driving through my past in the City of Angels.

My date first messaged me on Match a couple of weeks earlier while I was visiting friends in Portland. Robin and I sat on the couch, our heads together over my laptop, and scrolled through the pictures and profiles of the men who were interested in me. “Date the bass player,” she said. “They don’t have to be the center of attention.” After decades with a man who remained at the dinner table or a party only when he commanded the room, I liked the idea of someone who didn’t need to be wailing the melody center stage. The bass player had a solid day job, too and was fit from years of practicing and teaching Tai Chi. He didn’t profess to have any “unusual needs” like the guy in the loafers and the sport coat who explained during our online correspondence that he insisted on being “included” when his girlfriends used the toilet. The bass player didn’t post dozens of pictures of himself poolside in a skimpy pair of Speedos or shots of his pet lizards posed on toy furniture. So I took Robin’s advice and answered the bass player’s message.

We agreed on a hike for our first date and climbed one of the trails near the Griffith Park Observatory on a December Southern California day when you could actually see into the distance. The ocean was shimmering in the sunlight; storm clouds piled up like a stack of pillows over the San Gabriel Mountains, and from our particular angle the Hollywood sign appeared to read, “Hollywoo.” There wasn’t really any serious wooing going on though. Both of us were cautious. But conversation was easy, sweet and deep. After two hours of talking and walking we hugged and agreed we’d get together again. Then we got into our separate cars and drove down the hill. At the bottom, as we sat side by side at a stop sign, he blew me a kiss before we turned in opposite directions.

But I wondered if I really would see him again. My experience with Internet dating did not include much forthrightness when it came time for the on-the-spot analysis of the first meeting. “It would be fun to get together again,” I told the stocky curly-haired guy I’d met for coffee after a couple of weeks of emailing back and forth about our favorite New Yorker stories. He had teeth the color of topaz and t-shirt so sweaty that I shook his hand with a fully extended arm and had no intention of seeing him again.

“You’re beautiful and sexy and you have a great sense of humor,” the screenwriter on the verge of his big break told me at the culmination of our expensive dinner. I tried to envision my silver hair glistening in the candlelight like some ad in an AARP magazine, but I saw the way his gaze shifted every time a pretty woman young enough to be my daughter walked by our table. “I’ll call you next week,” he said as he kissed my cheek. I knew he wouldn’t.

Dating at the age of fifty-plus includes the inherent knowledge that we’ve all been broken, and there seems to be an ethic that says, “Do no further harm.” It makes it hard to be honest about the prospects of beginning a relationship. But with a little bit of luck a pleasant hour or two has been spent, and one returns home with a clearer idea of what characteristics might be included in that perfect match. If you are someone that dates with your head and not your heart, that is.

I have no idea what the bass player sees in me, is what my head says as I ride next to him. I ponder his profile while he watches the six lanes of traffic in front of us. We’re so different from one another, I think. Different ethnicities. An age gap of ten years. I’m taller. I know very little about music or eastern religion. But then he glances my direction and our eyes meet. There’s nothing I’d like better than to skate my palms over his shaved head and bring his mouth to mine. How exactly did an online dating site figure this out? Or am I just swept away in the moment the way I was last summer before I got tired of the playwright who wanted to read me a play of his every evening before we turned out the lights?

I’m striving for more candor this time around, and while I don’t think Internet dating requires a brutally accurate assessment of why people don’t especially want to go on that second date, I aspire to some degree of honesty. “I don’t ever plan on getting married again and if we continue to see each other, I’m going to take things very slowly,” I told my date before our good-bye hug in Griffith Park. “It might be months before I’m alone with you in the dark,” was my response after he invited me over to his place to watch a movie. “I’m really glad you came to the airport,” I tell him now, electing to keep my hands to myself in an effort to avoid a fifty-car pile up.

When we get to my place, I invite him in for a glass of wine. I’ve already told him I’m not ready to sleep with him yet, but as we sit in my living room with the lights low, visions of the future stand quietly in the shadows. Through the French doors, I can see the ivy and jasmine vining around my patio, and it’s easy to imagine my roses in full bloom when summer comes. Something is unfurling inside my heart.

In this era of Internet dating, love happens the way it always has. It’s not a laundry list of attributes or an inventory of likes and dislikes that propel us toward one another. It’s an earlobe, the taste of a kiss, or the way someone nods when they understand what is being said. Dating sites no doubt increase the traffic on the freeway to our hearts. The intersection of the data on our screens and the input of our senses is a good place to stop and smell the roses. But love, as it’s always been, is still a happy accident where the palpable world collides with the mysteriously intangible.

My date pats the sofa as I set two glasses of wine on the coffee table. I curl up next to him, pondering the wonders of Internet dating and the small miracle of how, in a city of almost four million people, I’ve been guided to someone I never would have found on my own.

Denise Emanuel Clemen writes in a variety of places one of which is Birthmother, A Blog About Adoption.

Not Just A Turkey Sandwich

In Romantic on February 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Living in separate countries for much of the year before our wedding, my husband and I never had an opportunity to share a Christmas holiday together until our first year of marriage.

While we had little trouble sorting through the different holiday customs, such as pulling Christmas crackers around the dining room table or overloading the Christmas tree with too many ornaments, we were unaccustomed to the more personal rituals that each had grownup with or developed while raising children with our former spouses.

Some things were easy as my husband did not care whether he had a Christmas tree at all and I decorated it as I wished after he dug up one used several years earlier and brought it in from the garden. While I was used to a much larger tree, I found that a smaller one was easier to decorate and there was no quibbling about what went on top. Having had the same angel on my tree for the previous 22 Christmas seasons, I was pleased that he did not question why we needed a Teddy Bear angel on our treetop in a house with no small children.

Christmas dinner found us both preparing our own traditional favorites and we moved around the kitchen almost like synchronized swimmers timing everything so perfectly that the pink stuff he said looked funny next to turkey, slipped easily from its mold, and his roasted parsnips, found a place along side my grandmother’s sweet potato casserole.

With Christmas day being such a smashing success it was not until a few days later that some of glitter began to rub off our still new relationship.

It was my fault really, and can be attributed to what never changes, the expectation that your loved one should be able to read your mind.

My husband John was thinking as he always does about how best to make use of the turkey leftovers. Little is ever thrown away in our home and he could not have anticipated the reaction he received when he announced that he had made a soup with what was left of our Christmas bird.

I assumed for a half second that he had used the bones and the bits of turkey left on them, but I quickly discovered that all the turkey in the house was now in little pieces floating in a mixture that I was not going to eat. At least not in a turkey sandwich which I was looking forward to having for lunch that day.

To say that I handled it well would be a stretch. As I went sulking off to my studio space grumbling to myself about how important that sandwich was to me, and how could he use all the turkey up and never ask me, and how I was really looking forward it, and why did he think I bought the white bread which I never eat except with turkey sandwiches, and why couldn’t he have just asked me first, and on, and on, and on.

I tried to tell myself that it was just a turkey sandwich and no big deal, but as I went off to think, I thought about what was it that made the loss of a simple thing like the sandwich so important. Frankly, I’m not even that fond of turkey and tend to think of it more as an accessory item for Christmas dinner than a necessary piece.

It turns out it wasn’t about the turkey sandwich, but rather the ritual of eating it with my family back home.

Traditionally, it is almost like putting a period at the end of the sentence and closes out the family Christmas festivities each year. Missing my daughter and the rest of my family and friends back in America made it more painful in a way not to have this closing ritual and after I had thought about it for a little while, I came out of hiding to talk with my husband who listened quietly, hugged me while I had a little tear, and acknowledged my feelings without being the slightest bit dismissive.

I thought it was all behind us after that until we went into town to pick up a few things at the grocery store. As is our way, we split up in the store with each going off in different directions to pick up the items on our lists with a plan to meet at the checkout line.

Imagine my surprise when I saw him standing at the deli counter ordering sliced deli meat something he’d normally never do. I knew immediately what he was doing and watched as he bought a few slices of turkey so I could put some closure on my Christmas, in the same way I would have in America.

I was so touched that I almost began to cry standing next to the canned soup, in the aisle where I had stepped to watch him without being seen. The tender look on his face when he presented it to me later was as sweet as any love letter I have ever received and let me know that he understood what he was offering me was not just a turkey sandwich, but a gift of the heart.

 

To see more of  Elizabeth Harper’s stories and photographs, grab a cup of coffee and head over to Gifts Of The Journey.

 

Mother (And Father) Love

In Family on February 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Photo by Mariellen Romer

Last summer I was parked at Dick’s Drive-In, a famous 50′s style hamburger joint in Seattle enjoying an illicit vanilla milkshake. As cars came and went a steady stream of young people dressed to the nines in formal evening wear hovered around parked vehicles in small clusters, refueling after a hunger created, I guessed, from the adrenaline of their graduation ceremonies held earlier in the day.

Was there an evening prom to go to, with a quick hamburger at Dick’s to tide them over until the celebrations started? Judging by their outfits there was; the girls looking luscious, fresh and radiant as brides; the young men strutting about feigning coolness in their unfamiliar evening suits. As I wished for my absent camera to capture them all, a memory long-buried suddenly sprang vividly with into my mind.

I was of my 6th grade graduation, which marked my transition from elementary school to junior high. Getting ready for it, I thought I was truly all grown up. For this momentous occasion I’d found a dress in a second-hand shop – probably all either myself or my parents could afford at the time – a full-skirted confection of dusky pink chiffon, complete with 1960’s style shoulder veils on each shoulder. I thought it was the epitome of sophistication, which would naturally be transferred to me, the wearer. Truly, I was going to be the bee’s knees.

The day before the graduation ceremony my mother washed the dress, promising to iron it that evening when the humid heat of June in Washington DC would be slightly more bearable in those days long before we had air conditioning at home. The plan set, I went to bed.

I awoke the next morning eager to don my dress and become the grown-up it would make me. My father intercepted me in the kitchen as I honed in on the last seen location of the dress in the sun porch where most of the ironing was done, the rows of high screened windows allowing what breezes there might be to bring a little coolness to the oppressive DC heat. He stood in my path with half his shaving cream removed, a familiar sight at this time of the morning. He spoke quietly in response to my questing glance, so as not to wake the rest of the sleeping household.

“I’m afraid your dress isn’t ready for you to wear today.”

I looked at him aghast, my moment of glory crumbling before my very eyes. “But …why?”

He sighed as he cut across my protest, uncomfortable but not unkind. “It’s all wrinkled. The wrinkles just won’t come out. Your mother was in tears last night, trying to make it right. She was ironing up until two in the morning, trying. She tried everything.”

Speechless, I looked at him, horrified at what I was hearing. “She says you have a blue dress you could wear,” he continued. “Is that right?”

It was. I had a blue sky blue linen shift with a white yoke, modern and in my young, uneducated view, plain and very unimpressive compared to what I had hoped would be my triumphant alternative. But I saw the look in my father’s eye, a look that said there were no arguments to be made. Mute, I nodded unhappily. Yes, I could wear the other, plain blue dress.

My father’s relief at my apparent acceptance was palpable. He was never one for delivering disappointing news like this by choice, tending to let my mother handle these trickier situations. But I knew that the fact that he’d actually got to me before my mother woke up meant that something relatively serious was up.

In spite of this I confess to sneaking off to the sun porch in the early morning sun, the cicadas already rattling noisily in the trees outside as I attempted to produce the miracle that my mother had failed to achieve. I pushed the iron around one of the many layers of wafting chiffon, and then another, realizing with sinking heart the truth of what my father had told me. Wrinkles were truly perma-pressed into the garment where no wrinkles should have been. The whole outfit looked simply miserable.

I gave up, somehow understanding despite my youth the struggle that had gone on in my poor mama’s heart the night before; somehow able to feel the level of angst she had gone through, resonating with her feeling of standing between me graduating proudly and me graduating disappointed in how I looked. I was a rather shy and self-conscious young girl, (not much has changed) and this was her way of supporting me as I moved through another of so many often daunting change of schools. I knew that this would feel like a knife in her heart.

To this day I still do not know what shard of maturity graced me with the insight to still my protests and accept that my mother had honestly tried her very best to make this day right for me. I am embarrassed to tell you that the dress I actually wore was far more appropriate, more elegant and striking on me, a tall, dark-haired girl moving into womanhood. The straight blue shift to the rose-pink dress was like comparing Jackie O couture to something a middle-aged woman with dubious taste would wear to a cocktail party. I had a vague sense of this as I carried the US flag in the graduation ceremony entrance procession; it became much clearer to me a few years later as I looked back on that day with more comprehending eyes.

The sleek, polished young and wonderfully dressed young people at Dick’s brought this memory rushing back, a memory that had completely gone from my consciousness. It made me think deeply.

I thought about how young and fresh today’s graduates are, with so much, both good and bad, to face in their lives as they live them.

I thought about the many, many, times my mother and indeed my father, must have held their heads in their hands or even wept hot tears behind closed doors, stung by the sense of their own failure as they tried to give their children things they thought would make them happy, confident, or relieved, even for a short time, of the burden that all children must struggle with as they live those lives: learning to navigate their way in the world.

So let me say for the record: Mama and Dad, I truly appreciate what you tried to do, then and so many other times in my life, to make things right for me no matter what day it was.

I also thank the universal gods of sartorial rectitude who planted those immutable wrinkles in the pink chiffon dress. They paved the way for the much more flattering alternative I ended up wearing, however oblivious I was to this truth at the time. It’s certainly not every day that a young person is lucky enough to escape looking like Miss Piggy by the ignorance of their own hand, at such a formative point in their schooling.

And finally, I take my hat off to all parents who wrestle with this alligator every day. Not just to parents in fact, but to anyone who reaches out to give to another, and who runs the gauntlet of their feelings of inadequacy and incompetence when they fall short of the standard for success that they set themselves.

We all have a story of someone who has helped us, struggling in the giving of the gift. Is it not a testament to the resilience and teeth-gritted stubbornness of the human heart, when it  continues to give in spite of its fears and scars of shame? That love pushes past the odds, at times past the seemingly impossible, to place its gifts safely within our hands?

I believe it is.

 

To see more of Mariellen Romer’s words and images, pop by A Full Life and have a look.

 

Come To The Edge

In Unexplainable on February 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

 

Photo by Sara Kellogg - Cash & Khrysta

Lately, my life has been absorbed by a writing class and the 5,000 short story I had to produce. Engulfed by my work, I’ve paid scant attention to changes around me.

The winter weather at my Vermont home turned bitterly cold and snowy as I sat day after day at the computer birthing a character dear to my heart. She is flawed but it is her flaws that make her so precious to me. And, as I wrote her story, that of a battered woman of my age (50s), who isn’t able to see any choices beyond life with a man, my life in many ways started to mirror hers. I became fearful and timid. My anxiety peaked when I finished the story for peer review and awaited comments. Am I a writer? Am I talented enough to have what it takes? What do others think of my writing? As I awaited validation or censure, I became tense and joyless.

And while I was working on Agnes‘ story, I decided to start riding my young Morgan mare, Khrysta, who had sat idle since the fall. I assumed we would pick up right where we left off but I was wrong.

At first, Khrysta seemed excited to be out in the snow packed woods. But one day, as we were out on the trails, a small animal ran under her hooves. She reared in the air, headed home to the security of her barn, and became afraid and unwilling to extend herself beyond her immediate surroundings. I could visit her, groom her and tack her, but try as I  might, I could not budge her from the sanctuary of her barn. Every nerve in her body quivered with fear as I attempted to urge her forward.

I decided not to push her. I was busy writing and had no time for her antics. I was more angry than sympathetic and quite willing to play the blame game. But at the moment, it didn’t matter. I was busy elsewhere.

Yesterday, I decided enough was enough. The story was done, the comments will be what they will be and it’s time for me to part ways with my heroine, Agnes. I headed to the barn and found Khrysta parked in her usual spot in her stall. The snow was gleaming on the top of the pasture about a quarter of a mile away from the barn. I had no intention of allowing Khrysta to remain within the confines of the barn trapped by her fears. But I understood those fears. I would not push her but instead we would leave off the saddle, the bridle, the halter, the lead rope and we would walk together; as friends.

I started up the hill not looking back at Khrysta and I started to sing silly songs. She started to follow, slowly, cautiously, still unsure. Soon, I was wallowing waist deep in snow. A glimpse back; Khrysta still followed.

Halfway up the pasture, the view started to open. Gorgeous mountains cloaked in white. How long had it been since I’d even bothered to notice?

Khrysta paused and began to dig in the snow searching for grass buried now for many months. I watched her busy hooves weave intricate designs.

When she was done, we started our journey once more. On we went, higher still, both of us walking with purpose now, just a little faster, a little more assured.

At the top of the pasture, I paused to look down on the barn, now a dot in the distance. The mountains surrounded me, the vast sky was above me and all of the sudden the malaise of the past few weeks receded. I started running and challenged Khrysta to a race.

She walked behind me at first but as I struggled in the snow drifts and laughed out loud as I repeatedly fell on my face, she started to run faster and then with complete abandon. Running, bucking, joyous in her freedom, Khrysta circled the high meadow.

When she could run no more, she stopped in front of me and put her head on my shoulder. I could feel her hot breath and the utter relaxation in her body. We spent more time on top of the mountain that day, Khrysta and I; hanging out, being friends, letting it all go.

As both Khrysta and I closed our worlds tightly around us the past few weeks, each of us became lost in our fears. I became my heroine, Agnes, and after I became her, I let her fears overwhelm me.

Ah, but now I remember.  It is not the destination. Never. It is the journey; the day-to-day beauty of a life lived with awe, wonder and thankfulness. I may or may not become an author. People may or may not like my work. But no longer will I allow my fears to define me. Yes, I will strive and work hard for my dream but with every day, I will remember to take time to embrace life, enjoy it, thank God for it and step outside myself.

Guillaume Apollinaire said it so beautifully,

“Come to the edge, he said.

We’re afraid, they said.

Come to the edge he said.

They came.

He pushed them.

And they flew.”

 

Find your desire, push yourself and fly.

 

To see more of Sara Kellogg’s words and photos, visit her at her Vermont home, Red Pine Mountain.

Write About Love – Together With Me

In Friendship on February 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

The Write About Love Project ‘ began last year after I saw, ‘ Write About Love ‘ written in chalk on a gravestone while visiting a famous Paris cemetery with my sister. Coincidentally, I had talked with her only the day before about how unsettled I felt with my writing and its direction.

Having spent several years as a blogger sharing my stories of finding love and a new life in another country, I finally felt ready to do something with the fictitious characters who showed up in my head, begging to be heard.

With several stories outlined on my desktop, my indecision about direction was not based on a lack of ideas, but rather something having more to do with a sense of responsibility and contribution as questions about what we leave behind had nagged at me for some time.

Daily doses of tragedy and horror made accessible through online media overwhelmed me, and I was torn when I thought about writing mysteries and stories of intrigue that had violence at their core when the real lives of so many people were nightmares on their own.

An unpublished writer, my questions were all about the stories I felt compelled to write to compete with popular fiction authors and how that seemed like permission to connect with a vengeful, ugly side of myself that I was not ready to explore even through characters in my incomplete books. I struggled with writing containing imagery that I considered dark and destructive or writing something that would let me spend time in the light.

Whether ‘ Write About Love ‘ was a gift for only me that day or whether others stumbled across it also, I don’t know, but seeing a chalk message that still looked fresh after a downpour made me feel as if I had been given my answer.

Since a good part of my conflict dealt with how I might be remembered after I die, it feels right that I received a message to ‘ Write About Love ‘ in a place where people come to remember the lives of the dead.

At first I interpreted the words ‘ Write About Love ‘ to mean that I should work on a love story until I realized that ’ Write About Love ‘ was not intended to be about fiction and that it was not just a message for me.

The ‘ Write About Love Project ‘ is a place for all of our stories. One where I hope to have others join me in what will be a project of hope and inspiration, a place where we can all go when we need to read about something other than an often bleak world.

Please be a part of this by emailing me your stories and allowing me to post them here.

thewriteaboutloveproject@yahoo.com

Personal stories of love, hope, and acts of kindness are welcome. I hope to see stories that inspire and help us remember the impact we have on others when we share our experiences and write about love.

Please click here to return to the first page and see all the stories currently posted.