Painting Spring

spring-color

Water soaked grey sky
pure tones of birch
magnolia, forsythia
spring green leaves
redbud

spriing-colors-in-trees

Raindrop music
fills the air
my paint brush
drips with color

JZR

I made these photographs and wrote this poem back in April of 2008, posting it on the blog I was then tending.  I’m going back through all of the posts now and considering putting together a small e-book to repurpose some of the writing and photography I was doing at the time.

Spring, being the season of rebirth finds me also at work on a new Website and hope to have it up and running before too long.  I’ll let you know more as it progresses.  In the meantime next week will be all about getting my studio cleaned up and getting back to work on my memoir.  There are many new ideas filling my thoughts.

Posted in Being Creative, Books, Memoir, photography, Poetry, The Garden, The Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Courage Of A Seed

Water Lily Seed Head, © Joan Z. Rough

Water Lily Seed Head,
© Joan Z. Rough

“In nature, we are quietly offered countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which ultimately is an awakening beyond our imagining.  All around us, everything small and buried surrenders to a process that none of the buried parts can see.  We call this process seeding and this innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break ground into a life of light that we call Spring.  As a seed buried in earth can’t imagine itself as an orchid or hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt or a mind filmed over with despair imagine itself loved or at peace.  The courage of the seed is that, once cracking, it cracks all the way.  To move through the dark into blossom is the work of soul.”

Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, Staying close to What Is Sacred

 Last Sunday, found me shuffling through a pile of books that I had started reading and put aside because something else called to take their place for the moment.

I had started reading Mark Nepo’s, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, in early December.  Wanting to preserve the sweetness of the experience of reading Nepo’s words, I opened it daily, reading only a few pages or even just a few paragraphs at a time.  I would ponder what I had just read, savoring the wisdom, as I might a raspberry lozenge that I don’t want to dissolve on my tongue too quickly.

Obviously, it was slow going and in the midst of total chaos and my failed time management in February, I set it aside until things calmed down and I could once again tap into the richness of Nepo’s writing.

Sunday, I opened the book slowly to the page where I had left off, starving for a shot of spiritual wisdom. I sat in my reading chair, while a chorus of birds sang just outside my window, and read the words above.

It was like a homecoming … finding a long-lost relative who I haven’t seen in years.  I was awed by the words and found myself rereading them over and over, filling up the empty spaces in my heart that had been drained over the past month or two.

I am so ready to begin reading just a bit of this book again every day … without rushing, so that the words settle in my soul and I again carry within me the courage of a seed.

What are you reading?  Do you have a book that you cherish and read only a few sentences at a time?

Posted in Books, Healing, Kindness, love, Matters of the Spirit, Mental Health, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, The Seasons, Wise Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Living All The Way

Amaryllis, © Joan Z. Rough

Amaryllis,
© Joan Z. Rough

“This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.” 

Terry Tempest Williams

Posted in Matters of the Spirit, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, Wise Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’ Give Up

Grandlings, Zoe and Noah on the Downtown Mall.

Grandlings, Zoe and Noah on the Downtown Mall.

I’ve been running into those words often for a couple of days now as I try to get myself back into my daily routine and at work on my memoir.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in which the routine, the writing, exercise, and getting enough sleep have taken a backseat to other things.

The loss of Brody took a number of days before the waves of grief that overtook me became fewer.  During that time I mostly sat and cried, unable concentrate on the simplest of daily activities.

Five days later the annual Virginia Festival of Book started here in Charlottesville, and with it came a visit from a friend whom I’d never before met in person, but with who I knew I had much in common.  We’d emailed and made comments back and forth on each other’s blogs and even talked on the phone once.  Shirley Showalter of 100 Memoirs was someone I’d stumbled upon on the Internet and it turns out she lives only about two hours away.  Her book, Blush, will be in print and on bookstore shelves sometime in the fall.  She’d been planning to visit the Festival of the Book and I invited her to stay with me here in my home.

What a wonderful time it was.  We went to a few of the festival sessions together and spent hours talking and reading to each other from our memoirs. Way ahead of me on the writing and the publishing angles, she is an inspiration and I know that if she lived any closer I’d often be on her doorstep asking unending questions. When Shirley returned home l was filled with excitement, new ideas and directions for my writing as well as pinpointing publishing options.

For a few days I struggled with catching up on all that I had let slide for a week.  The daily rounds of laundry, preparing food for the upcoming Easter weekend and visit from my daughter’s family took up most of my time. Not to be forgotten was taking time to play with our new adoptee, Max, who snuggled his way into our bed and hearts, easing the sadness of Brody’s untimely death.  There was little time for writing, except for capturing notes as I remembered things I would change in my memoir, made lists of new books to read, and emailed a few new contacts. I also just needed to sit with myself to bring the roar of excitement to a lower level in which I could think more clearly, keeping myself from being overwhelmed by all that I wasn’t getting done.

Easter weekend was a blast with my Grandlings (read grandchildren) staying with us, sleeping in our basement, “Harry Potter” room, which looks somewhat like a set from the movie.  We gifted Lisa and Deena with a stay in a nearby hotel so that they could have a few evenings without the kids. We spent lots of time walking and laughing and on Saturday helped to surprise Mark’s stepdaughter Casey on her 25th birthday with a lovely party.  It was the first time in a number of years in which my kids were all here together. We joyfully spent our time celebrating each other.  As I grow older occasions  like this past weekend become more and more important to me.

Casey blowing out her candles.

Casey blowing out her candles.

We’re all back in the daily grind now, and I can’t help but feel a bit let down.  I’ve not felt like writing and last night caught myself thinking that maybe this memoir I’m working on is a waste of time.

I’ve so enjoyed the distractions of friends, parties, great food, laughter and being with my kids, that returning to the serious work of reliving the past and moving through it to healing, seems more painful than usual. The sunshine and the bursting forth of new life is stealing my attention and my need to get my hands into the earth is growing.  Words flow onto the page with difficulty and I struggle to make myself sit down and dive back into what was.  Time marches on and there are so many things I still want to do.

But I am returning to my work, knowing that it is something I must do, even when it doesn’t feel good. I’ve moved my September 1st deadline for a finished first draft to November 1st, and plan on giving myself a few breaks along the way.  We’ re making plans to kidnap Zoe and Noah for a week this summer when we’ll ride the train up to Washington and take in the museums.  We’ll also go swimming, read books together, see a silly movie or two and just be with each other.

In the meantime, I’ll not give up working on my story.  I love the writing, even when I hate it. I’m growing way beyond the trauma that once made me hide from life.  The secret is to integrate the past and the present, stay out in the sunlight, breathe deeply, and enjoy every single moment that comes my way.  Time will do as it will.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”  Earl Nightingale

Posted in Books, Dogs, family, Friendships, Gratefulness, Healing, Life, love, Memoir, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, The Garden, Time, Uncategorized, Wise Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Practice … Practice … Practice

DSCF0277“Why is it we understand that playing the cello will require work but we relegate writing to the magic of inspiration? Chances are, any child who stays with an instrument for more than two weeks has some adult who is making her practice, and any child who sticks with it longer than that does so because she understands that practice makes her play better and there is a deep, soul-satisfying pleasure in improvement. If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie hall next month!” you would pity her delusion, but beginning writers all over the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker. Perhaps you’re thinking here that playing an instrument is not an art in itself but an interpretation of the composer’s art, but I stand by my metaphor. The art of writing comes way down the line, as does the art of interpreting Bach. Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means to get to the art, you must master the craft.

“If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish but because you long to write well, because there is something you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment: The only way to get the clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the fresh water underneath.

“Does this sound like a lot of work without any guarantee of success? Well yes, but it also calls into question our definition of success. Playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound — not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself.”

Ann Patchett, The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life.

Posted in Being Creative, Life, Music, Quotes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Max

IMG_0652I can’t help myself.  Today is the day I usually post a quote that inspires me.  But we’ve a new member of the family and just can’t wait to introduce him to you.  If you haven’t read this blog before you need to know that I love dogs. There are many posts to check out here if you do, too.

Just over a week ago we lost our dog, Brody, to pneumonia.  My family, the people who took such good care of him at day care every Thursday, and Brody’s veterinarian team were all devastated.  He had lived with us for only six weeks and I could not understand how I would be able to go on without filling the enormous hole he left in my heart.

My very kind and sensitive dog trainer friend, Karen, sent me a picture of a picture of Max and so began the task of my beginning to come to terms with what I now understand to be part of my job description in this life.  I was an abused child. I find it comforting and necessary to take in small abused and abandoned dogs. That does not mean that I stop grieving for all of those gentle souls who have shared their time with me.  There will always be cracks and crevices in my heart through which sorrow and tears will seep when I think of them.

This new little guy in named Max and he came to live with us this past Sunday.  He weighs in at about thirteen pounds and is mostly, if not all, a Shih Tzu. He lived with a single mom and her two kids.  One day she decided she’d had enough and packed up the kids and the dog and dropped them off at her mother’s house.  He was turned into a shelter because the kid’s grandmother couldn’t take care of the children and the dog, too.

Max hadn’t been clipped for a good long time and was covered with mats and infested with fleas.  The caring folks at the Louisa Humane Society, took him from the shelter. They had him shaved down to his skin and put him in a foster home until he could be adopted out.  His foster parents took great care of him and were kind and generous to be able to give him up.  I would not have been able to.

IMG_0632He is a sweetheart of a dog. Gentle, quiet, and he loves to cuddle more than anything else.  He and Sam are beginning to make friends and Lily, who tried to avoid him altogether, has finally given in.  Just this morning I found her rubbing up against Max, the way cats do to mark their belongings and territory.

Yesterday, Max passed his test at doggie day care with flying colors.  I took him in for a brief visit where he was introduced to a number of other dogs to make sure he won’t cause trouble in the big day care pack.  Tomorrow will find him there, mostly following big brother, Sam, around and figuring out the ins and outs of day care.

He’s been sleeping at night in a crate since he’s been here, but at 5:30 this morning he woke me, asking to be let outside.  When he returned instead of going back into the crate, he jumped up on the bed and curled up next to me under the covers.  Uh-0h!  I wonder where he’ll want to sleep tonight.  Although I prefer that he sleep in the crate, (Sleeping with dogs in the summer time can get overly warm.) he just might get the best of me.IMG_0630

Posted in Animals I Love, Compassion, Dogs, family, Gratefulness, Healing, Kindness, Life, love, Memoir, Navigating Through Life, The Journey | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Missing Brody

Brody and big brother, Sam.

Brody and big brother, Sam.

A week ago this past Friday, Brody died of pneumonia. He apparently had it for the entire six weeks that he blessed this household with his big heart and huge personality.

He lived every moment of his life with gusto.  When he was afraid, he turned snarly. He thought he was the biggest dog in the world and if he didn’t like you, he tried to make you as afraid of him, as he was of you.

When he slept, he slept deeply.  He loved lying on his back in my lap and have his tummy rubbed.  His head would drop toward the floor, his eyes would roll back into his head, and he’d snore a little.

He ate like it was going out of style, afraid that someone might steal his treasure, but there was no food aggression.  He never tried to get Sam’s food away from him and never seemed to be jealous that Sam was getting more attention than he was.

He played the way he did everything else, emptying a large basket filled with toys in minutes, seeking out the noisiest squeakers he could find.  He’d roll on his back, flipping his chosen plaything up in the air, catching it in his mouth and between his paws.  The living room floor was always a maze of stuff that Brody brought out to play, and if I picked it all up and put it back in the basket, he’d immediately begin emptying the basket over again.

He was always happy to see me, running at full speed through the door and into my lap just the night before he died, after Bill had picked him up from “Doggy Daycare.”

He loved with every cell of his body, consuming those he loved with his deep, dark eyes and his smile. Mornings, I’d lean out of bed, open his crate, and he’d jump up on the bed, waking me with his kisses. He loved Miss Lily, the cat, with as much love as he had for Bill and I, and simply adored his big brother, Sam.

Except for some coughing and sneezing that became nonstop the night before he died, he never showed signs of being sick.  He ate well, played well, lived well.  He had been examined by at least three veterinarians and they never picked up that his lungs were filled with fluid. His presence and his passing have served to remind me of how all of us must live … with gusto … with love … taking nothing for granted.

We all miss you, Sweet Brody, but we know you’re up in heaven somewhere, amongst the other angels, Molly, Charlie, Peppermint, Hannah, and Cleo, who blessed our lives before you. We’re taking your cue to live well and will soon be welcoming another little doggy soul into the place you kept warm for him.

IMG_0625

Brody, taking a nap.

Posted in Animals I Love, Dogs, Gratefulness, Healing, love, Matters of the Spirit, Memoir, Navigating Through Life | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Books And Words As Containers

DSCF0414“If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then the next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that’s what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time….

“[T]he proper fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

Today not only marks the first day of spring, but also the opening of the 19th annual Virginia Festival Of The Book, where writers, books and words of all genres are shared and honored as containers of life.

Posted in Books, Memoir, Poetry, Quotes, stories, Wise Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brody 2008 – 2013

I am bereft.  I cannot possibly write about it now.  Maybe later.  Just know he was a very small dog with a huge personality and lived his life living with joy until the very end.  He taught me many lessons while he was with me.

Brody RIP March 15, 2013

Brody RIP
March 15, 2013

Posted in Animals I Love, Dogs, family, Friendships, Gratefulness, The Journey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

What Is The Life I Should Live?

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

“All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs through my mind. I say song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex. In fact, how strange it would be not to think it — not to have such music inside one’s head and body, on such an afternoon. What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift I should bring to the world? What is the life I should live?”  –

Mary Oliver (from “Flow,” Long Life)

Posted in Dreams, Life, Matters of the Spirit, photography, Quotes, The Journey, Wise Words | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments