imagination

Slowing down for magic

On a recent evening we were walking on our rural road, my mother and I, when far up ahead we saw a whitetail deer crossing the pavement. A shadow nearby, her newborn fawn, no larger than a cat, born that day or perhaps the night before. We stood still, watching from afar as it followed its mother into the safety of the brush, spindly and unsure and looking wholly exhausted with the world.

We marveled at the deer’s tiny-ness and continued with our walk. We had been too far away to see exactly where they had entered the woods, but we gazed beyond the branches and greenery as we went to see if we could detect a sign of the mother deer and her unbelievably small charge. At one point we stopped completely and stared into the woods, trying to see past the leaves.

We were looking in the wrong place. I touched my mother’s arm to get her attention, because at the exact point we had stopped, a minuscule spotted bundle curled motionless in the tall grass next to the road.

To exhausted to follow, the fawn had lay in that spot, waiting for its mother to return. What reason or energy or strange ultra-accurate unconscious calculation had caused us to stop in that very place, we don’t know. I say it was magic or some earth spirit or higher force saying, look at this. Be connected to this beautiful moment. Stop and look.

There are some writing retreats that focus on craft, on critique, on the expertise of authors.

We stop and look.  

Can you remember the last time? Is it hard for you to remember that time when you were a child and you were bored?

Magic happens at a slow speed. We step outside of our lives so we can slow down.

What can you find? What will you see? It’s waiting to be discovered.

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A Meditation by Eline Van Wieren

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When I meditate, I sometimes imagine I’m on a tiny string connected to my crown that leads all the way up to a to a gigantic golden ball hanging somewhere between the roof of the house I live in and the clouds.

That might be a weird thing to do, but my yoga teacher says that gold is the color that represents love. I imagine the string being a like a leaking tap where it connects to my crown and the gold drips into my body. It fills up my feet toe by toe, all the way to my ankles. I get distracted by thoughts. Probably something about something I wanted to do yesterday but forgot.

When I get back to the leaking tap, the gold is already reaching up to somewhere around my knees. I hear a car drive by and I think about the children in the backseat and the radio station they’re listening to. For some reason whenever I think of people in cars, I imagine them singing along to a Tracy Chapman song.

I think, this is a strange thing I’m doing. Shouldn’t I be sleeping in until way past noon and drinking gin tonics and maybe sleep with some guy I care nothing about? Shouldn’t I be doing things that will turn in to stories that I can tell to make me an interesting person? But the gold has already found its way to my belly button.

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I sigh. The air I draw in reaches down all the way to where my panties start. When it leaves my body I sink a little bit deeper into my meditation cushion. A few days ago, a guy asked me why I sometimes wear make-up and I told him it’s so I can feel like a real girl. A soft and hairless girl. My aunt says I shouldn’t call myself a girl anymore, I’m a woman now. But most of my socks have holes in them and I often forget to change my bedsheets before they start to smell stale. The gold spills over my armpits into my arms.

Last week I went to a yoga class where at the end we sat in a circle to tell each other the things we had on our hearts. If you wanted to talk, you pressed your hand palms together before your chest and bowed forward. Then you waited until the group had bowed back to you before starting your story. In the middle of the group was a vase with half-withered flowers. Nobody was allowed to respond to what you told them.

When the class was over, one of the women in the group came up to me and asked me if she could give me a hug. I told her she could. I held on to her tighter than she held me and I was aware of it. Everywhere I go I look for mothers. I wasn’t sure how long the hug was supposed to last, so I tried to let go in phases. When our upper bodies were no longer touching, she placed one hand on my waist and the other on my shoulder. She said, ‘Don’t forget you’re a beautiful person.’ We looked straight into each other’s eyes and I hoped she thought my face to be pretty. I asked, ‘Can we do another hug?’ We said we could. She was soft.

I am almost filled up with gold. All of me is glittering and there’s no one here to watch. I don’t really know what love means, but at least I can imagine all this gold and glitter. All the weight of this body has sunken into the laminate flooring. As the last drop reaches my skull, the bell of the timer I set dings. I open my eyes and the gold is gone. I move on with my day.

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Water/ by Laurin Bellg

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This prose poem is from the prompt Water we received on the second day of the retreat on Pantelleria. I brought a struggle with me to the gathering, a pivotal decision to be made about my future. And there on that sparse, volcanic island – closer to Tunisia than Italy – I was able to see more clearly through Water than I was ever able to do with the charts and statistics I’d laid out neatly and collated logically to help me decide. The logical charts hadn’t helped me at all and kept bringing me back to the same thought that to follow my heart makes no sense at all. I had to go halfway around the world to understand my dilemma and sort it out. The WOW retreats do that – take you to places where you have no choice but to unplug, and thus unfettered, allows you to look at things differently and see what’s really there. I am not a poet at all. Far from! But, even having words come out of me in a different way in a different place with different people was useful to render clarity.

Laurin Bellg

Appleton, Wisconsin

 

Water

I’m in control until I’m not. And when I’m not I struggle,

fighting the water; gasping when it rushes right into me.

I’m reminded I forgot to breath before it hit. Damn.

I drown. I go down. Now thoroughly and completely down,

I find out – what’s down there. What’s down here,

where I am now. Down in the layers of muck and sediment,

among fossils of the non-living, who once lived but now

they just don’t because they can’t.

 

Their choice of fuel was always going to be self-depleting,

and once it’s gone, well – it’s gone. That’s it then.

There’s nothing left to do in that fuel-less place but die

and become shells of ourselves. And I do that.

I die, but I will not be committed to fossil and shell.

I decide. There is nothing left to do but sever bindings.

So, I grab them. Rip them. Leave them there and float up.

And it’s easy. I’m surprised that it’s actually – easy.

 

I’m amused that it took that long to realize, to know I had that –

that shell. A shell, it turns out I don’t even need. I thought I did,

but now I know. I don’t. Funny, I did not even see it –

did not realize, until I lost it, that I ever had it in the first place.

That’s how the sheer weight of the thing – that confining,

limiting shell – can go unnoticed, or if I do notice, how I

convince myself of its usefulness to me. How maddening.

What a stupid construct, really, that somehow

I thought I needed it, but now that it’s gone I am so light –

Light and light – a self-illuminating, auto-renewing

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luminescence in water floating up

 

from deep and pressing water to something I can actually tread.

Once I know that, I can move in any direction I choose. And I do.

I choose – to move. Away. Away from the safe shore I’ve sold myself

as logical to that one – the one I feel is out there, just beyond sight.

I am certain it’s there because, having dwelt in water for so long,

I’m an expert. I know water – how it moves, how I fight it, how it

flows around me when I let it. So, I find the path, that synchronous current

that I don’t have to fight to navigate. It moves me forward with ease,

with a hum and a flow. A flow that I know

would move away from me if I tried to control it.

 

So, now that I have died, escaped the shell, left it there and floated up,

It’s clear that I’m not really moving away from but going toward.

 

Laurin is a critical care physician living and working in Appleton, Wisconsin since 2002. Medicine is her heart, but writing is her soul. She is married to a poet (not his day job), who is looking forward to attending his own WOW retreat in the near future, since Laurin – the test case – made it back alive. He noticed she was changed after WOW, but decided it was for the better. They have two daughters, a rescue dog, a feral cat, a hamster too pedigreed for its own good and a few fish. Laurin is an award-winning author of the medical memoir Near Death in the ICU and continues to throw short stories and essays at contests, because, well, you know – deadlines. That’s the trick she plays on herself to hoodwink a regular writing schedule. Occasionally, they win – the contest entries and the hoodwinking. Next goal is to try her hand at journal submissions. She went to Pantelleria fighting the urge to peruse an MFA in creative writing for the pure pleasure of it (as the answer to a long-time dream and a gift to herself so her writing soul won’t rot), but it’s never made sense on paper. She came back from Pantelleria thinking – we live, we work, we die, so get an MFA and see what happens. Could it be that simple? The WOW writing retreat was pure magic for her and felt like home. She can’t wait until the next retreat, thinking she may have found her writing tribe among these fine, creative folks – many of whom seemed to be the same kind of creative crazy that she is.

Laurin is a critical care physician living and working in Appleton, Wisconsin since 2002. Medicine is her heart, but writing is her soul. She is married to a poet (not his day job), who is looking forward to attending his own WOW retreat in the near future, since Laurin – the test case – made it back alive. He noticed she was changed after WOW, but decided it was for the better. They have two daughters, a rescue dog, a feral cat, a hamster too pedigreed for its own good and a few fish. Laurin is an award-winning author of the medical memoir Near Death in the ICU and continues to throw short stories and essays at contests, because, well, you know – deadlines. That’s the trick she plays on herself to hoodwink a regular writing schedule. Occasionally, they win – the contest entries and the hoodwinking. Next goal is to try her hand at journal submissions. She went to Pantelleria fighting the urge to peruse an MFA in creative writing for the pure pleasure of it (as the answer to a long-time dream and a gift to herself so her writing soul won’t rot), but it’s never made sense on paper. She came back from Pantelleria thinking – we live, we work, we die, so get an MFA and see what happens. Could it be that simple? The WOW writing retreat was pure magic for her and felt like home. She can’t wait until the next retreat, thinking she may have found her writing tribe among these fine, creative folks – many of whom seemed to be the same kind of creative crazy that she is.