Confidence and the Act of Writing

The daily diet is 24/7 news, carnage, disease and disasters. It leads to feeling overwhelmed. Here’s a thought for consideration. Writing is enough. Enough for what? Enough for one life? Enough to get through one day? Enough to move beyond feeling drowned in the overwhelming?

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Sometimes, I let the uncensored pen guide me. On the page I relive memories of my family, friends, politics, the woman’s journey. The inner and the outer life…the faults and fears. I stand back and say don’t be so hard on yourself and your choices back then or of their choices which is probably more important.

Memory is intricate, shapeshifting. I think about how to break through to what May Sarton calls memory’s “rough, rocky depths.” I have my writing to dig deep, unearth the secrets. I gain confidence. Much is written in newspapers about older women losing confidence in themselves. Women are up against a lot. A society that discriminates against aging, the feeling of losing one’s attractiveness and worth. Stay focused on something meaningful, stay engaged with friends, strike up a conversation with a stranger, they say.

Many theologians preach that whether you’re searching for God or not, hope and transformation serve as the pathway to meaning. When we engage with others in meaningful and uplifting pursuit, hope and transformation naturally follow, don’t they? It’s the reason I cherish the love among fellow writers as we share our words and stories.

We love someone and so we write.

It is the season of Advent. Darkness envelopes the spirit. The holidays leave many grappling with loss, grief, pain, even death.

Advent is a time of expectation. A gloomy day soon gives way to sunshine. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel! A writer takes it all in, loses her naivete, applauds herself for declaring her independence…no apologies, no excuses.

Writing in this crazy world leads to mindfulness, which leads to understanding, or at least a little peace of mind to accept each other, to stop worrying, to accept ourselves…to confidence.

The Many Benefits of Writing

“It’s not until we are lost that we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

At last Saturday’s writing workshop at my church, we talked about the many benefits of writing. Among them are strengthening ourselves both emotionally and physically by writing and unburdening thoughts and memories that may have restrained us over the years from fully self-actualizing or healing. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell.

We spoke about the curiosity a writer cultivates through something as simple and mindful as a walk in the woods on a wintry day and then going home to write about it with an uncensored pen.

“Playfulness in writing plays an important role. Allow yourself to try new things, to shake off the inner critic and loosen up. I think you’ll find, as I did, that your creativity soars.” ~ Margaret Gracie.

Poet Mary Oliver made a whole career out of writing about her surroundings from a walk on the beach where a simple scallop shell caught her attention to the sounds of birds on a spring morning. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. “~ Albert Einstein

Writing teaches us “stillness.”

Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness. ~ Wayne Dyer

After we discussed the benefits of writing and more, we penned our memories of Christmases past and shared them in the circle. Here’s mine. As we approach Advent and the darkening of winter, a luminous path back to ourselves often resides in gratitude.

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Evening darkness descends with the harsh high-pitched caw of a crow. Or is it a turkey buzzard? Amid cornstalk fields, and suburban lawns, these birds stake their claim to November’s dark days. I’ve seen a lot of them lately, foraging for food, cawing from the leafless treetops, strutting and bobbing along the sidewalk, black harbingers of approaching winter. The days loom long and lonely and the birds and I are one, creatures caught in a chilly winter world. Their cries are a reminder that he is gone, although the years stretched into what feels like a millennium since last I saw him or heard his voice or felt his touch or took in the scent of his apricot aftershave.

On our first Christmas Eve together, he said, “Let’s get a puppy.” Scrapping by on a teacher’s and a reporter’s salary— fairly good to make a life together—we hung glass icicles on the small pine tree in my apartment. “A blonde cocker spaniel. Our gift to each other,” he said. His offer of a puppy went right to my heart, lighting up a dark winter night.

I wish I were thirty again and his hand reached for mine. As I write this, I marvel at how words work as witnesses. He lives in my heart and on the page. Writing brings me closer to myself. Outside my studio window in the darkening night, the caws remind me more is behind me now than before me.

Perhaps when the mood strikes, I’ll string garlands of multi-colored lights on the azalea bush by my front door or put up a Christmas tree in my living room decorating it with holly berries, dried magnolia leaves, and hydrangeas… Downstairs in the cellar alcove, cardboard boxes filled with ornaments won’t be brought out this year, it’s just me after all. No fanfare, just me. The glass ornaments from Dresden, once belonging to my grandparents lay buried under dusty tissue, along with the silver glass icicle, and the bubble lights he insisted we buy which I hated.  I hear his voice. “Let me get you a puppy for Christmas.” I sit up straighter. Have I noticed the warmth of my house tonight, the yellow Labrador Retriever lying at my feet? When I do the caw becomes not a mournful dirge, but an invitation to stop and listen. To remember the touch of his hand on a Christmas Eve long ago and his words, “Let me get you a puppy for Christmas.”

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude and joy… and writing.

In an Aging and Difficult World, How to Find Focus?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing what most authors do after they publish a new book. I’ve been reading at Open Mic Nights, giving author talks, sharing excerpts from my book, and sitting for book signings. My books are displayed on a table like so many pieces of a rainbow puzzle, brightly colored covers, and stories about women—older women as in the case of the new novel And the Memory Returns. The women come to my table and skim what is written on the back, the plot synopsis, and my author bio of being a former reporter and now running a writing group. Often in the last few weeks, I’ve heard, “This sounds interesting. These stories. My problem is that I can no longer focus. I’ll read a few chapters, forget what I’ve read, and then have to go back to the beginning so I don’t read books much at all anymore.” Some admit the inability to concentrate on reading a book has meant resorting to word games, and crossword puzzles, Wordle, in hopes of keeping their minds, if not sharp, at least from becoming more muddled.

I empathize as I have not been writing every day as I once did, and I indulge in my favorite word game on my cell phone far too long each day. My focus wanes and many days I feel the lack of energy that prevents a writer from crisp and thoughtful intent when putting words on the page. What is wrong with me?

Or is it the difficult world in which we live? As the election tomorrow finally comes to a grinding end, I am exhausted. I live outside of Philadelphia, one of those “swing state” areas that apparently can decide the increasingly fragile balance in Congress. I can’t turn on the television or listen to the radio without being bombarded by endless political tirades of one candidate against another, mean-spirited rants that eviscerate the opponent whether for health reasons or for their supposed indifference in stopping crime, even in some cases accusing them of making crime worse, although for what end anyone would do this strains credulity.

Maybe the challenge lies in finding the energy to focus on what matters in your own life, whether it be a day trip or lunch with friends, a stroll through an art museum, or an escape to an other-worldly field of lights. Still, there is nothing that can turn the tide on age. The body is fragile, and the mind is taxed to remember details, storylines, and even the simplest things that once came to mind without effort. “What is the name of that story,” a friend asked me recently. “You know, the one with the sled and the big rock?” It wasn’t until an hour later after we had both scoured our brains that a light went off and I remembered it was Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. “Thank you, thank you,” my friend said, knowing that otherwise she would have had to go home and look it up to get some peace.

So, I will continue to write when I can, where I can …. I like to think I can seek out the quietude to do this away from the frenetic frenzy of a warming planet, screeching politicians, the stripping of women’s rights that held for half a century before a politicized court decided to force their extremism on the rest of us. I just finished reading Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers, a large volume on the last twenty years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. I can handle court intrigue, why Harry married Meghan, and how Camilla spent her life pursuing Charles and assuaging his fears and his ego. Maybe that’s all I can focus on, some fantasy world in the court of the absurd. My mother stopped reading after my father died. It was too painful she said because it brought back memories of the two of them lying in bed together reading at night before they went to sleep. She was also nearing eighty when he died. I’ve been alone for years now and I hope that doesn’t happen to me because I feel the desire to clear my mind and focus on what matters. I want to keep reading. There’s still so much to learn. I want to keep writing. Yes! Even writing this helps clear away the fog.

If You Don’t Write, Life Is Just One Thing After Another

Our Women’s Writing Circle prompt for November comes from Zen in the Art of Archery, a book by German philosopher Eugen Herrigel, who after living in Japan and studying Japanese archery, is credited with introducing Zen to the Western world in the late 1940s. He writes: “If you don’t write, life is just one damn thing after another.” This struck me as a good prompt, not to mention a reminder to keep writing. How does writing lead me to understand something, whether great or small in my life, simply by putting it down on paper? To say that writing is cheaper than therapy is an oft quoted cliche but one that is true, as well as a teaching tool. You see if I don’t write, life does become just one damn thing after another.

Take the past several months where I learned that making the days enjoyable meant reaching out to others, talking to strangers, learn something new. As I traveled solo up and down the tri-state area where I live, I forced myself to walk miles, past historic homes of clapboard and brick, along banks of green, gray rivers glistening in the sunlight, lugging a small suitcase up the winding wooden stairs of bed and breakfasts, where in one case, I felt I had stepped into a scene out of Stephen King’s The Shining. The house was literally wall-to-wall dolls, ceramic and cloth faces frozen in smiles, eyes glittering, staring at nothing. They were arranged in china cabinets, on fireplace mantels and hearths, even on bathroom shelves above the toilet. Write about this, I told myself.

It reminded me of the time when we cleaned out my grandparents’ house in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Dolls nestled in baby carriages wearing faded yellowing nightcaps and gowns spoke of childhoods morphed into old age. The memory returns of my mother and her life.

At night on my trips, I wandered into restaurants, usually seeking out a comfortable looking bar where people talked to one another and shared anecdotes about their lives. “Here, look at this,” a woman said to me one night at a bar in Frederick, Maryland, holding out her cell phone. “This is my granddaughter. She was born yesterday. The first girl in two generations!” It made me remember my father’s joy at having a daughter.

Or the night I drifted aimlessly down streets and into a tavern in Annapolis, Maryland with seashells and maritime decor on wood-paneled walls. A man young enough to be my son asked me what it was like to be a writer. “I’m a painter,” he said … “when I get the time and I’m not working in the tech industry, I want to live a creative life like you.” He told me he worked remotely, saw few if any people during the day. So, there we were, two strangers, making a connection on a breezy summer night in a world where loneliness and isolation are epidemics. Write about this.

So, as I write, I think about what I want to say tonight when I read from my new book at the local public library. What do I want to say about being a writer, about the privilege of being able to connect through the written word? Maybe it’s that you have to keep experiencing new things, meeting new people, learning something new each day, and booking a solo stay at a bed and breakfast out of a horror movie. We live in a world where too often people are glued to their screens, they’re not getting outside, taking a walk, just living, just observing, just listening to someone else. See that’s the joy of being a writer. All of that is part of your job description. And in the end, you’re making sense out of “one damn thing after another.”

Writing to Remember … and Move Forward

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the small triumphs that came with a summer of day trips. There were breezes from the river rippling across a church cemetery with sun-bleached tombstones, the sepia-toned photographs in museums of those who fought for civil rights, the seagrasses framed against an impossibly pure blue sky, the sugared walnut, apple, and chicken salad savored while looking out on the Chesapeake where a lone seagull swooped with abandon.

Inis Mor, Ireland

Yet, triumphs, when it comes to romantic love the second time around in these “sunset” or “autumn” years feel as elusive as those river breezes.  As I wrote to friends on my Facebook page this week: Rule Number 1. Don’t meet a blind date in the town where you got married. And how do you get past the shaking hand and bad teeth when you are reminded of once being young and married to the man of your dreams? Just as an aside … he was sweet and a good conversationalist.

After I said goodbye to him and drove away from that town so steeped in memory, I waited for the dreaded text. An hour later, there it was. “Let’s meet again for a walk or a day trip,” he wrote. I sighed … how nice, but if only, if only I could see myself in his arms. Not the arms of the man I’d just had coffee with, but in the arms of the man I’d once loved.

A recent article comparing voles to humans (voles are monogamous) offered the somewhat saccharine notion that despite a human’s propensity for monogamy, “soul mates” can be found more than once in a lifetime. Take the 82-year-old woman who suddenly appeared sad in the elevator one day, the columnist wrote. Her husband had died suddenly. So, she got a senior golden retriever for the company. About a year later, she was again in the elevator, only this time with a happy smile. And shortly after that, was observed holding hands with an older gentleman. She had found someone!

As a widowed friend said to me, “How do we get past the age spots on the hands, the bad teeth, the croupy cough, the … well, just the old age? Not to mention that most men view women as second-class citizens?” She asked this after we had both attended a party, mainly of married couples where the women looked ten years younger than their spouses. One of the women, in her eighties, had actually found her second husband through a dating app. She leaves him at home now when she travels the world because “he’s a bother and doesn’t want to go anywhere,” she confided to my friend.

For anyone, who has read my books, you know that true love is a recurring theme. Although it’s not for lack of trying that my heroine, Ava Stuart, didn’t find someone again after Jay. In the years after his death, she would have liked someone to travel with, someone to come home to at the end of the day to cry, to bitch, to moan about the state of the world, to laugh at life’s absurdities. This is how writing leads the way for Ava. She explores her memories and reflections, and comes to terms with, even finding pleasure, in being alone.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” –Anaïs Nin

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Ava writes in her memoir in And the Memory Returns.

She thought about Jay, and how he always made her feel special. How lovely it had been to share with a real man—one who liked women and wasn’t threatened by them, who offered intellectual stimulation, a soak in a hot tub, talking about politics, love, and life. Ava felt like it had been a billion years since she lathered Jay with soap in the shower, her hands running down his firm stomach to his thighs where the dark hair caught in swirls in the hot water.

As she grows older, Ava understands that the hope and the promise of writing are that she can live twice, yet not be frozen by the past and still look ahead. No one holds her back. She holds the cards to this day and to her future. No one could save her, but herself. How many times could a woman reinvent herself? Did metamorphosis have an end date? Now there were so many women like her, alone and in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. She liked to think there was a wildness to this, an excitement in this sea change of women alone.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
–Anne Frank

How about you? Have you written to remember and move forward?

Life’s Small Triumphs at Summer’s End

Between the endless chaotic news cycle and the ups, and downs of living through the past couple of years and its effect on families, it’s not easy trying to stay focused. Lately, I’ve been talking to people who say they have “brain fog.” It’s impacting their ability to think clearly, and to write. Besides, healthy eating and a good night’s sleep, one of the best ways to overcome the feeling of lassitude, according to the experts, is to stay engaged with life and create something meaningful for yourself.

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From my perspective, it seems that we’re all a bit overwhelmed. Mindfulness, living in the moment, and not looking too far ahead served me well this summer. I needed to put aside the overload and take it one day, one step at a time. I realized that I could tap into some of the most beautiful scenery in the world right here in my own backyard, which I wrote about in this post, and do it spontaneously.

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I explored nearby Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland from Wilmington and Winterthur—to Rehoboth and Asbury Park—believe it or not, I had never been to either town although I’ve lived in Pennsylvania most of my life. I published a book, And the Memory Returns, this summer, a turning point of sorts because who knows how many more books, if any, I have left. As anyone who writes knows, authors soon learn the book business is tough. You can go broke publishing a book, but I didn’t and I love how it all turned out. As you grow older, it’s easier to shake off the ego, and the possible failure and simply relish the little triumphs.

As Fall beckons, I look back on the loveliness of places I’ve visited this summer. Did I ever think that I was growing too old, cynical, or jaded to appreciate the windswept spray of saltwater against my face, the importance of learning about enslaved people and the Underground Railroad, the magical story of an impossibly young 31-year-old First Lady who brought history and grace to the White House, her legacy now exhibited at Winterthur?

My career as a journalist ended quite some time ago, the children are grown and the house has been stripped down to all but the essentials not counting the antique china and crystal inherited from my parents, in which my sons have no interest, yet I don’t have the heart to part with.

From the Delaware Historical Society collection

I remind myself of the freedom of not having to go to a job, of not worrying about graying hair, or even how many copies my book sells. I realize how much of my life is tied to the changing seasons. How many more will there be?

No, I don’t have to write a blog post every week if I don’t want. Yes, I can hop in the car and take that 50-mile drive to the Chesapeake Bay area or visit that history museum. Yes, I can move beyond brain fog. Yes, I can relish the small triumphs as summer comes to an end.

The Ancestry and Legacy Journey

I just released my second novel And the Memory Returns about a woman who looks back on her life and the people and events that most shaped her. A writer, her memories serve as a diary of a sort. As Ava begins writing her memoir, the phrase, and the memory returns … is the jumping-off point to remember.

Ava might have sent her DNA to Ancestry (to make sure that the stories her parents passed down about her heritage were indeed true). My results came back last week, and what my parents told me proved accurate, although there were surprises. While I am mainly of Germanic and English heritage, there is some Russian and Scandinavian thrown in there, which I never knew. How cool is that.

Looking back at the past and where I came from as I “row north” to quote Mary Pipher from her bestselling book, Women Rowing North is about mortality. As I began researching my “family tree” I learned that some of my ancestors lived only to thirty, while others made it into their nineties. My great-grandmother died on the day my mother was born. Her name was Gertrude so now I understand why my mother’s name was Gertrude. (My mother never told me that.)

Who were these people going back generations?  What were their dreams, motivations, desires, and demons? I’ll never know because except for my grandmother who kept a diary in a brown University Composition Book, none left a written legacy.

The Ancestry journey has been an exercise in “and the memory returns.” I remember my father saying that the Weideners came to Philadelphia prior to the Revolutionary War. “Weidener with three e’s is the real German spelling,” he insisted, not the Weidner or Widener as some spell it. This is how a third cousin ended up contacting me on Ancestry. You’re one of the only Weideners on the site, she wrote.

I remember my father telling me our family began as glassblowers in Philadelphia. By the early part of the 18th century, most of us had migrated to Chester and Berks counties, here in the Philadelphia suburbs. One Weidener even fought under Von Steuben in the Revolutionary War.

My cousin reminded me of where my grandparents are buried in Germantown. An old Episcopal church with crooked tombstones and ancient ivy comes to mind as a little girl followed her parents there. I plan to visit that cemetery soon.

In some ways, the Ancestry journey put into perspective the fact that my book does not yet have a review and the copies I ordered to sell are taking three weeks to arrive. Has anyone even read it?  Momentum, as my friend said, happens gradually.

“You never know where the book will lead,” she said. “Give it time. It’s your legacy.”

Time and history and a reminder I am but one in a long line of lives and stories.

Have you tried Ancestry? What surprises, if any, did you learn?

And the Memory Returns

And the Memory Returns is the first book I’ve written since 2015 when A Portrait of Love and Honor was published. Returning to the protagonists Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli, I felt I could delve into this crazy, serendipitous journey of life.

For Ava, writing allows her to explore her memories and make sense of them in a way that empowers. For whatever happens, memories remain within us. As Oscar Wilde said: Memory … is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Aging is not easy, but it proves to be a time for reflection, she thinks. Her life isn’t always the way she imagined it would be, but whose ever is. It’s up to her to find within the ordinary life, the interesting and even the extraordinary. The men and women from the small towns to the cities struggle too and offer in their own small way a portrait of honor and courage. From the Sussex garden of Virginia Woolf to the streets of Paris and Cairo, the beauty of life in all its complexity can’t be ignored, that is, if one chooses it to be so. And, for some, like Ava’s best friend, Toni, memory is no more as she struggles with Alzheimer’s.

Yet, despite illness and the unfairness of life, a good dog, a loving son, and the opportunity to travel to far corners of the world make for gratitude and acceptance. A spiritual life and community—and memories of Jay—form the backbone of Ava’s resolve never to give up as she begins writing her memoir…and so, the memory returns.

Told with beauty and warmth, insight and style, And the Memory Returns captures a woman’s journey as she ages and finds healing and redemption. ~ A Reader

A Writer Explores Her “Backyard”

I’m always looking for new experiences and encounters. Or, selfishly, I’m looking to learn more about me, who I am. Since I’m on hiatus from international travel, I’ve been exploring my “backyard,” so to speak. I live in Pennsylvania. Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland are all within easy driving distance.

I suppose it’s not where you go, or how far you travel, but what you get out of it. Whether I strolled beaches in Cape May or the boardwalk of Asbury Park, New Jersey, I pay attention. The smell of salt water, the icy ocean lapping around my ankles, a psychic calling herself “Madame Marie” selling your future on the boardwalk, an old man smoking weed under the pavilion. A writer pays attention to grittiness, realism, and beauty. And, of course, the stories.

In Historic New Castle, a waterfront town dating back to 1655 where Dutch welcomed ships harboring on the murky green Delaware River, I met a woman, a volunteer docent with the Delaware Historical Society. It was a slow lazy Thursday morning in June and the visitor’s center was nearly empty of tourists. So it was that she gave me a one-on-one tour of two Colonial-era houses. As we browsed a kitchen with stone fireplace and copper cooking pots and dining room with Chinese porcelain teacups and teapots brought over on sailing ships centuries ago, she shared the history of the town and its early settlers. “Did you know the Dutch were so tall because they ate a lot of fruit and vegetables?” she asked as we stepped outside into a garden of herbs and flowers maintained by volunteers.

She liked to talk and with a little prodding on my part, she also shared her history. She had retired here, downsized, restored a small 800-square foot, 19-century home, and loved her new life, she said. “My husband had died, my children were grown, and my big house in Chester County seemed ridiculous and a maintenance headache,” she said. The house in New Castle she ended up buying “needed a lot of work” and required that any changes be approved by the Historical and Architectural Review Board. But the challenges of dealing with how to retore with integrity a house with mud cellar floor and no closet space had paid off.  “It’s small but perfect for me and my little dog,” she said.

“There’s so much to do here in town from concerts and festivals that some nights I think, oh, I should stay home but I don’t,” she said. She invited me to come back in October for a ghost walk sponsored by the Historical Society and pointed out a bed and breakfast where I could stay. We parted at a restaurant she recommended, one with an outside area with fountains and purple and blue hydrangeas and towering magnolia tree.

I ordered lobster corn chowder and iced tea with lemon. A couple to my right had just ordered a bottle of pinot noir and her disappointed look as he left the table to take a business call, struck me that she suspected he probably didn’t appreciate her or the loveliness of the place. I see that a lot. People race around, not paying attention, acting without regard for others. It’s why I’ve come to dislike airports. As he took his business call and she drank wine alone, I got to thinking that it was nice to be by myself on this day. I don’t always feel this way. Some days it gets lonely. But on this day, I was a woman seeking out an adventure, a golden moment to remember, a moment of authenticity away from the day-to-day routine, and had found it.

I began thinking about the widow who had shown me around town and told me her story. How long would I stay in my house? Where might I go if I moved? What about Lily, my yellow lab, who needs a fenced-in backyard? And my sons? They live nearby. Am I prepared to move to a place where there is more to do, live in a small house, and not see my sons as often? That’s why I’m writing this. Writing is a “thinking out loud” exercise. It helps me sort through my thoughts. Writing takes you on a journey of heart and mind. Don’t go there if you don’t want to know the answers, but for a writer, it’s like breathing. You do it or die. The reward comes in paying attention to details—the sunlight on the river, the psychic on the boardwalk with her flashing purple palm readers sign, and a woman’s story of her new retirement life.  Writing offers a chance to conclude, or, if not a conclusion, something genuine, a tiny kernel of truth, an unedited moment.

Who knows where I’ll be next year? Whether I’m here in Chester Springs, whether I’m in Asbury Park, or back to Europe, I’ll be writing. I’ll be sifting through the encounters, the experiences, and the stories. And that’s all that matters.

Summer’s Journey for the Writer Waits

It’s the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. As light lengthens past nine at night, a writer feels braver. Summer offers a richer and truer expression of relaxation and reflection.

When we write, we’re in “summer school.” Writer William Zinsser said: “The subject you best know is yourself.” So, write about that. If you’re journaling, use the journal as a “classroom” to explore and learn more about yourself and others. Author and writing teacher, Susan Tiberghien, once said, “I try to live my day as a journey. When a flower opens in sunlight, when a cloud beckons, I write that in my journal.” In writing, self-absorption slips away. In her writing guide, Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg notes that writing allows us to “let it go.”

Not only that, but I have always felt writing fosters empathy, not just for others, but for us. What’s the point of that? Empathy translates into better relationships, opens up a mutual give and take, and encourages different perspectives and a rhythm of hope and optimism that might not have been there before. When people ask why I started the Women’s Writing Circle, I always say it was borne out of this feeling that women’s voices have been marginalized. Writing may crystallize a plan, a path forward, a way out of a problem. We’re in this together.

At a recent writing workshop, we were asked to describe a room in our house. Does it foster creativity? How would you describe it? What would you change if you could? I wrote about my pink, gold and red living room. The colors and textures reflect my taste, as well as a commitment I made a long time ago to declutter the spaces where I live. Clutter fosters chaos, disorganization. There’s a couch, a loveseat, and a chair. There are books in one corner near a dark green rolltop desk. On the walls, hang the art from my travels. The art depicts the Wheel of Life, bought in Nepal, the Tree of Life, from Morocco, the winter sled and horse skimming across tundra, bought in Russia. For all that I have seen and traveled the world, I spend most of my days, here in this room, in this house, redolent with memories. A hint of laughter hangs on the breeze or is that the windchime next door? What would I change? The touch of a hand on mine, a kind word over another solitary dinner. What was a choice? What wasn’t a choice?

I write. I ponder. Summer’s journey for the writer waits.