Reading & Writing a Life

Carla Pineda's blog

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“Winter is when I reorganize my bookshelves and read all the books I acquired in the previous year and failed to actually read.” (p.210)

Ahh! So true! Just recently, earlier this “fall” season I cleared four bags of books off my shelves. Three of them have been taken for resale, one more remains to be taken. My bookcase in the kitchen (yes, the kitchen) now has no overflow and the ones in the guest room are almost there. There is some sense of organization. I can, most often, find what I’m looking for when I need/want it.

I am reading Katherine May’s book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times that I purchased just a week ago. I am nearly through it. It is a wonderfully warm and engaging read.

I have yet to put a mark in it which is rare for me. I will go back and find those lines I want to savor like a dense winter stew and mark them lightly with pencil. I am not looking for enlightening lines that take me into my head for insight and excitement. I will be looking for those single lines that drop me deep into my being, ones that wrap me in a warmth of words, leave me quiet, in deep, dark places.

I will likely finish this book today or tomorrow, dig for those gems, and write about them on the blank pages of my journal.

I highly recommend this beautiful book!

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A Long Year

2020 Journals

It’s hard to believe it’s coming up on the end of September and before long 2020 will be over. It’s been a long year. A long drawn out year. With the pandemic, the political climate, and now the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg it just feels like too much to take it, to deal with, to continue to live with. I’m tired.

My journals have filled up quickly this year. Here’s the stack of them and I’m almost through volume #7. I’m finding that I need the blank page more often these days. Somedays I only write a line or two. Then there are days like earlier this week when I wrote almost 20 pages. My pen would not stop. Ever had a day like that? Where you are just the scribe and you are not even sure what you are writing?

I often get hung up on expecting that what gets on the page will all have deep meaning, be profound, or answer the most elusive question I have. Ha! Give that one up!

Here’s the thing. Just write. Take a few notes on something that spoke to you. Take a picture of the birds on your patio or a fresh flower that just bloomed. Write a short prayer or poem. Respond to the tree in your yard.

Life will still be going on. All the muck and muddiness of the year isn’t going to go away overnight. Just record something on the page of your journal and things will lighten a bit. Then, do it again tomorrow. I’ll be on the page with you. #readingandwritingalife #journaling #journals #writing

Wishing you well!

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“Not simply visiting this world”:Sunset & the Owl

“Not simply visiting this world” is a line from Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes.  This last line of this poem resonated deep the morning I read it.  I want to stay awake.  I want to know what I want to do with “my one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver) and how “to live the only life I have”.  (again, Mary Oliver)

Mary Oliver’s poetry inspires me, moves me, rattles my nerves somedays.  Her words vibrate a life energy, let me see things in ways otherwise unseen.  I am still wondering what drew me out to take a picture of the sunset the other evening.  I can see the edge of that time of day out the top of the kitchen window most evenings.  I just note it, go back to the stove or the sink and the sun sets.

But, this evening, something/someone moved me to grab the camera/phone and take several shots. Then and only then, almost as an afterthought, my eyes caught the tree branch and something more.  My first impression…a black garbage bag had blown into the spiny branches, still winter weather bare.

And, then, I saw her (I’ve decided she was a she) with a capital “S” saw her.  Was that really an owl?  Her head turned a slight turn and there were her two little ears, distinct as the sunset was orange and pink.  It was sunset and even though the sky was vivid colors the graying of twilight almost hid her.  She sat and sat, quiet and still, only once lifting herself to the next branch and then still again.

“Do not simply visit this world”….There are messengers, in places, and from voices we miss, right in front of us.  These voices are often quiet,  even silent, not loud, in your face, distracting voices of chaos or distortion.

Visit the world, awake and aware, of these different messengers (voices)….the sunset, the owl, the silence, the moon….

What do they have to say to you?  Who else speaks to you?


Beginning Again

I have not been here for nearly a year.  I have no excuse.  I write in my journal or do writing prompts daily.  I’m in a writing group.  I love to write.  So, what has been the adversion, the block, the resistance to coming here?  I do not know.  But I am back and “beginning again” on the pages of this blog.  Maybe you’ll come along or check in from time to time.  I would like that.

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When I Write

Going along with “Why I Write” to “When I Write”…this is from a writing exercise I did in July 2005.

When I write I feel the scratch of the pen crossing the page and I wonder what I will read when I get to the end of the line.  When I write I sometimes feel challenged, sometimes set free, other times I cringe at the idea of writing, thinking I have to say something profound .  When I write I want to just write, to let loose on the page, not fret over structure, spelling and such.  At least not for now.  When I write my heart wants to soar, to take off singing words to plan on the page.  When I write I scan the surface of things around me for food.  I want to dig deeper, deeper into me to dig up, pull out the voice that is me, who am I when I write?  What does my voice sound like?  What does she have to say?  When I write i see the blank page, clear, white, no lines and I want to freeze.  When I write I see objects around me and I write to deeper, deeper down into life that surrounds and penetrates me, makes me who I am and helps shape who I can become.  When I write I see the possibility of depth, of deeper meanings and stronger connections.  I don’t always see this at the time I am writing, often I see in retrospect, over my shoulder, through the lidded eyes of sleep when my brain is at rest and my heart breaks open.  When I write I see, or am more likely to see with the eyes of my soul.  When I write I discover new connections and re-realize old ones.  When I write I know more than I think I know.  When I write I discover m, over and over again.  When I write I discover we are connected in ways I would have never imagined, you and me, me and them, us and nature, the world we live in.  When I write I discover we do more than just exist.  We are greater than we know.  I discover God in life when I write, God in the tiniest flower or in the glorious rainbow.  When I write I discover the joy of discovery itself.

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Why Write?

I have been away from here for far too long.  No, I haven’t stopped writing.  I just haven’t been here.  The other day I was going through files on one of my flash drives and came across some things I had written about 5 years ago.  This is one of them, written in June of 2005.  It was 5 years ago, but yesterday.  It is old thoughts but not. 

Why write?  Why not?  Someone has to, needs to, to keep some form of communication going, to see what spills out onto the page.  If I write I might surprise myself.  Samantha just called.  She is talking to her dad, her voice carrying over the phone to my end of the couch.  I keep writing, one line at a time to reveal me to me.  Sometimes I think this is such a waste of time, to write for why I don’t know, but I keep coming back to it.  I cannot not do this.

The air conditioner hums in the background, the TV is silent.  Paul, now off the phone is reading.  I am writing.

The couch is scattered with books, a pen, the digital camera, a TV remote, a cell phone.  These are some of the trappings of a modern day existence for me, yet also things of substance and stability.  The written word and tools to write, these I need.  Pens, my journal here in my lap, don’t leave home without it.  One never knows when the writing bug will bite and the need to put pen to paper will take over.

Why, oh why do I write?  Do I want to write?  Need to write?  I write to see into clarity, to understand or to question the hows and whys.  How do things come into being?  Why are we here?  What is to become of us?  Of me?

This all seems like such babble but a baby must babble first to begin the foundation of speech.  Isn’t the same true for the writer?  Don’t we babble ourselves through nonsense into clarity?  Into fuller and deeper written words?

I write to catch moon beams off the crescent sliver in the night sky.  I write to calm the dry dusty desert windstorm blowing through my soul, stopping up my ears, making it hard for me to hear the deep voice of sanity.  I write to calm my mind, to gain direction, to get off the merry go round, or maybe to get on it, to seek adventure, to see where the spinning wheel will stop.  I write for my mother and Minnie, to carry on a familiar yearning, this blood deep need to write.  Some days this feels like a curse, other days, blessing and gift.  Some days I can ignore it, but not for long.

What happens when I don’t write?  My body aches, my soul parches, even reading about writing is some help.  It is a tease but it leads me back to the page or the computer again.  How does this writing, just for the sake of the practice shape me?  Us?  Shape our lives?  Our souls?

Reading and writing a life..We read, we write, we write, we read.  Our thoughts and the thoughts of others, weaving together, insights and aah’s…yes, that fits, no, that’s a discard…keep writing…see where you end up.  There really is no beginning or end…Writing is this ongoing  journey, a spiraling into, going deeper, coming up for air, for insight, with new questions, then going back to the blank page.

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A Question or Two…

How do I read the events, situations, circumstances that happen in my life?

I love to read memoir.  Books like Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, Kathleen Norris’s Dakota, Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace are favorites of mine.  I find myself  going back to them because I find snippets of my own experience or a resonance in them that strikes at the heart of things.  A Year by the Sea  by Joan Anderson is another favorite. I wonder where the titles come from?  Are they there before the book is formed or do they rise off of a page as it is being written?  Just curious!!

If my/your life was a book what would its title be?

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This Thing Called Writing

I was cleaning off one of the surfaces in my house covered with…guess what?  Yep, books and I came across one I had completely forgotten I had.  And, it was a book on writing…“Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Writing Essays and Memoirs for Love and for Money” by Adair Lara.  With such a catchy title I would think I would remember it.  Sometimes I think I buy books like this because I think I’ll find the magic formula for helping me write the perfect piece.  After all, these writers are in print…they must know something that I don’t, right?  Yet, when I start to flip through the pages and look things over I find there are, yes, some new things, but more often reminders of things I already know about this mysterious thing called writing…which isn’t really very mysterious at all.  It’s more about putting my fingers on the keyboard or picking up my pen and going for it.  Books I’ve read and writers I know just say, “do it”.  Practice, practice, practice!!  Revise, proof, edit, write some more, revise, proof, edit.  Funny, when I honor the practice I have so much more fun than when I get caught up in an end result or preconceived notion of what I should be writing or what it should end up being.  If it’s going to become something for publication or I decide I want to take it in that direction there will be a time for that.  (and it can still be fun!!).

My grandmother, Minnie, as she was known to us, was a writer.  I remember her sitting at her little metal typing table, the side wings extended to hold her onion skin papers (always with a carbon).  She typed on a manual typewriter, her long delicate fingers stroking keys with the same percision with which they played the violin.  Her typing eraser was neatly placed on one side with a sharpened red pencil for editing and correcting.  Her process was a meticulous one or so it seemed to me through 13 year old eyes.  I do not know if she ever had anything published but I do know she was faithful to a practice and discipline of writing that I admire; although she was such an intense and serious person that I can’t say if she had fun with it or not.  Maybe it brought her a joy none of  us could see.   All I know is I am thankful for her legacy; for the love of  words and writing passed on to me, her granddaughter.   Such a blessing!  Who in your life has passed the love of writing on to you?



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A new journal part 2

So, I made a decision which new journal to use.  It is one that I  had put away as an extra.  I purchased it almost two years ago when I saw it on a clearance rack and figured I could always use a back up extra. How did I know this?  I actually wrote about it in another journal that I was rummaging through the other day and found my entry.    And, so I am going to use it.  It is a light purple color, with a soft back cover, 6×8″ in size.  The paper is softly lined;  not so much like school paper that it would be a distraction.  I have embellished the first page inside with a rubber stamp: “I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something SENSATIONAL to read in the train” (Oscar Wilde).  And, so it is ready for my next entries.  I have been carrying it around for a few days but have not put pen to its paper. I’m getting use to the feel of it and its company so that when that absolute need to write comes I will be ready.   I love what Anne Lamott says about never leaving home without pen/pencil and paper; even just a 3×5 index card.  You just never know when you will see something or have a thought that must go on paper.  Maybe a writer’s motto is like the scout’s:  Be Prepared!  And, since the front of this journal is not embellished I will look for some image to put on the cover.  I may use a greeting card with a special or significant quote that speaks to where I am in this present time.  Or chose a picture or icon that draws me to it.  And, so I begin a new volume, excited to see what gets both put down on the page and what comes forth from the page.  It is always a fascinating, surprising and yet ordinary journey that I never tire of.

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A new journal

It is almost time for a new journal.  The ones that I use most of the time… about 5×7, spiral bound, unlined pages with a thick, plain black cover that can serve as a lap desk…the ones that I have bought 2 or 3 at a time for years to always have a spare… they are getting harder to find.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I can find the brand I like out-of-town but the last time I went to get a few they had about a third fewer pages in them and the price had not gone down.  So, I got two of another kind of sketch book that I have tolerated…and now I am, thankfully, just a few pages short of finishing the second one.  I have not ever gotten totally comfortable with them.  And, so I am wondering what I will use next.  I have a few journals that I bought on whims, on a “just in case” I need it, maybe one was on sale…I should just use one of those.  Yet, I have found over the years that using a journal that does not feel comfortable…wrong or odd size (too big, too small), paper and pen don’t agree (this is a big deal for me!), lines or no lines, (lines make me think of school)…makes my writing process less likely to bear fruit. Yet, there is also the idea of trying out something new and different.  So, as I wind down my current journal I will be thinking of which one to use next.  Maybe I’ll just lay them side by side, close my eyes and reach for one.  Or, draw a number from a hat.  Who knows?  I may find a new favorite!  How do you pick a journal to read and write  your life in?