Boobs!

THE WOUNDED AMAZON, Marble statue Metropolitan Museum, NY: wounded Amazon (Roman Copy, probably after Polykleitos or even Kresilas or Pheidias) c. 450-425 BC.

THE WOUNDED AMAZON, Marble statue Metropolitan Museum, NY: wounded Amazon (Roman Copy, probably after Polykleitos or even Kresilas or Pheidias) c. 450-425 BC.

“The truth of the story lies in the details.”
~ Paul Auster

 

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. When else would I get to shout ‘Boobs!’ as a title for a blog post?

Because today, dear readers, it’s all about boobs. My boobs.

Today is mammogram and ultrasound day as my very thorough specialist ticks every single thing on his rather big checklist in my lead-up to surgery.

Hoopla!

Although, to be honest, like all the other tests I’ve done thus far I don’t expect it to be fun, or even comfortable.

So it’s boobs all morning for me.

Then a spot of lunch in the hospital cafe.

After which they will look at my heart, which means more boob action really…

 

I’ll be quite busy while all the medical technicians and doctors are doing their thing.

I’m carrying around a snippet of my memoir in my head that needs some editing. It’s a wild space in the Kimberley where my aboriginal aunties took me once, so that they could show me a special little bird. As the hospital machines click and beep, and things are done to my surrendered body, I’ll be focusing in on the landscape of my mind, doing my best to remember in vivid detail the smell of the dust and the heat of the sun so bright in the sky that I could only squint beneath the brim of my broad hat. I’ll think about the wonder of this hidden place my aunties showed me. The way we left our vehicle and walked single file along the track to find it. The way the sunlight sparked on the water in the creek. The steep cool rock walls and the lush green foliage. The chirruping calls and flash of wing. The way we all waded into the water in our clothes and sat down silently. All of us watching, watching and waiting. Waiting for the little bird to appear. That’s where I’ll be today. I’ll be back in time, someplace else, happy and safe, remembering.

I’m sure it will be a useful day all round.

Lots of love to you all,

Nicole <3  xx

Rain, Words and Silence

Bohdi

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”
~ Robert Frost

 

It was raining in the city. Raining and I couldn’t sleep, my head so full of thoughts and my body so tight with pain.

Now I’m home, home at my farm, it’s sometime before dawn even thinks of pushing her first rays over the horizon, and the dark bowl of sky above me is raining cold bright drops fresh as tears. I’m still not sleeping, but I’m peaceful. The pain hums in my belly and my veins but I can drift away on my thoughts to someplace else, and I’m such a seasoned traveller on this night-train now that it’s no imposition. In its own way it’s liberating. I choose to see it like that, anyway.

The beauty of this sacred morning space is achingly, breathtakingly silence-making. No words can capture the majesty, nor fill the space inside me.

Can a poem be composed entirely of stillness?

 

Inside our little farmhouse Ben and the dogs are sleeping. My mala beads are laced through my fingers still, prayers lingering upon them. The fire crackles and hisses in the quiet as the tiny twigs and branches I have placed on the ashy embers smoke and dance their way to life.

 

All night in my not-sleeping space I’ve been thinking about my memoir. I have carried it with me all of this year, and it’s been more an agony than a labour of love.

In the long quiet rain-filled hours that went before this one I finally understood where it has all gone wrong. There are too many words and not enough space. I made it all too busy so I could hide in the pages like some dark shadow-bird. So that you wouldn’t see me. So that you wouldn’t judge me.

It’s in the quiet moments and the emptiness that all the magic happened. In those places I am stripped bare but I was ashamed for you to see me naked. In these past few hours I came to understand it all differently. If you can truly see me, it’s only because you recognise that same place in you. Why was I so afraid to take you there with me?

 

I’m okay, and I’ll be okay.

And so, my friend, will you.

Sending all my love your way, bejewelled with tiny raindrops bright as tears and the scent of woodsmoke and damp good earth.

Nicole xoxo

 

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

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A Life Examined – On Memoir Writing

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

Image by Anna from flickr via Wikipedia

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

“From the ages of 8-18, me and my family moved around a lot. Mostly we would just stretch, but occasionally one of us would actually get up to go to the fridge.”
~ Jarod Kintz

 

This past weekend, unexpectedly, I was holed up in bed recovering from a nasty infection. I’d planned a million things for my weekend, but ended up doing nothing much except thinking and reading.

I’m revising my memoir right now. It’s my One Big Thing for 2016 – to have it completed and submitted to an agent or publishing house.

I remember when I began this wretched tome. How hard can it be, I said to myself. Writing about yourself has to be easier than writing fiction. You already have the story line and all you need to do is put words on the page.

I thought I could knock it over in three months.

Be warned, my friends. That is delusional thinking. This is my third year of effort, on the back of a lifetime of diaries and scribblings and, more recently, blog posts. I have come to discover that memoir means agony. It means the constant overturning of stones under which you’d preferred not to look. It means stripping your own skin – at turns with a blunt butter knife or a cheese grater. It means scrubbing back the tidy stories we tell ourselves in order to come to a deeper truth.

This is my fifth draft, and finally I feel that I am getting somewhere.  I believe I am writing now with a voice closer to my own (rather than a story voice – in the way that some people have a phone voice), and distilling experiences into clean and beautiful elixirs or poisons, depending on the circumstances.

Sounds awful doesn’t it?

And yet…

Through the process of writing this memoir I have come to see my life more clearly and to know myself more deeply. I have crashed through limited thinking and found grace and compassion for myself and others. I have excised meanness and victim-thinking and blame from my pages and from my mind. I’ve healed old hurts. I’ve found me. I’ve learned to love me, flaws and all. I’ve learned to love others in ways I’d given up on as impossible.

I hope, one day soon, to be able to share my story with you. More importantly, I hope to encourage any of you seeking to use part of your own life for writing and self-examination. Memoir is soul work. Our own story, examined, is a great teacher. Through sharing our stories we connect, one to another.

Image from pinterest

Image from pinterest

 

What Else Can You See?

Image courtesy of Chris Dryden

Image courtesy of Chris Dryden – who is the awesome star of this shot, and also, my friend!

“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
~ Marilyn Vos Savant

 

A wise and talented memoirist and creative writing teacher, Beth Kephart, has her students do an exercise where they go out into the world and take ten photographs.

The students know they are going to come back into the classroom and write about those photos. I bet they are already thinking about the clever things they will say as they snap off their shots.

But then she has them do something unexpected. She asks them to disregard the main object in focus, and instead look into the background. What’s there, she asks. What are you missing? What are you not seeing? How does that inform your subject? How does that influence your story?

In editing my own memoir, I took Beth’s advice. As I read through my finished draft I saw how Lyme disease was threaded strongly though the background, even though my focus is on my psychic awakening. I knew I needed to bring a little more attention and detail to this background thread. I also saw my insecurities, twinkling there like stars. The same insecurities I deal with twenty-five years after the fact. Hmmmm….

We can learn much from those background details. It can completely change our story.

I love my friend Chris Dryden’s photo of him jumping over a car on his skateboard, back in the day. It is such a strong image. But when you look into the background two things stand out. Chris is doing something amazing, and the guy in the blue shirt has totally missed it. The Charleston x-ray clinic stands watch too. The perfect destination for any skatie who doesn’t quite make that tricky jump. I laughed and laughed when I finally noticed that.

What’s going on for you right now? What details in the background of your life deserve some attention? How might they change your unfolding story? What things do you want to bring from fuzzy into focused?

It’s a useful exercise for life, as much as for writing.

Much love, Nicole xx

PS – If you are writing memoir I highly recommend Beth Kephart’s book Handling the Truth – on the writing of memoir

Inside My Story

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

~ Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

 

I’m deep into the editing process for my memoir right now. It’s a strange process, crafting your own story.

The only way that I can do it successfully is to become fully immersed in the story. It’s no good to do a bit here, and a bit there. It takes time for me to get into that place of flow, so it’s easier to simply sink down into it and keep going. That means no socialising, no work, no phone calls or facebook or being on tap for others. Right now I need to be front and centre for myself.

I’d thought that at this stage of the rewrite I would be a manuscript surgeon. Objective, detached, interested only in the problems and the process of rectification or amputation. But it’s not like that at all. To write my life, I have been walking that road in my mind. I have to put myself there, so that all becomes real again. Now, again.

I must admit I’ve been struggling too, with style. I have some literary bits, some introspective bits. Especially near the front of the book. You know, trying to craft an impressive beginning and all that… As I read over it, the words didn’t flow the way I wanted them to. I wasn’t sure what to do. Then Rosie wrote a comment on my blog;

Nicole, you couldn’t write crap if you tried! You go girl and write as you do here. Your following on this blog should tell you that we love the way you write. Hugs and crystal sparkles (you know which crystal!) xxx

A lightbulb came on for me. I stopped writing for imaginary judges and agents and publishers. I started writing for you, dear readers. Just like I would write any blog post. Just the way I’d tell you any of my stories.

Oh my goodness, Rosie! A thousand hugs, a box of chocolates, a big sloppy kiss. You’re a genius, woman!!!

 

I’m recrafting my beginning as though I was writing my blog. Telling it all the way it happened, with the usual out-falling of emotion and honest confession.

I guess that after one thousand odd posts here on Cauldrons and Cupcakes I’ve found my voice after all. Who’d have thought?

Thank you, lovelies. You are all much more a part of this unfolding story than you or I could ever have imagined. Bless <3 xx

Crazy Busy Writing!

2015-08-05 18.31.45

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

There’s not much going on at my house right now.

Except this.

Reading. Underlining. Sighing. Crying. This book is all a pile of crap. Sudden bursts of stompy-footed door slamming and wandering around the paddocks. The clickety click of my keyboard. Endless kettles boiling.  Paper. Everywhere.

Ben brings me tea, and makes a hurried exit.

Thinking.

Reading. Highlighting. Sighing. Laughing. Hey, that bit was quite funny. Reading some more. Nope, it’s all still crap. Sudden bursts of stompy-footed door slamming and wandering around the paddocks.

Ben stokes the fire and stays out of my way.

Emergency phone calls to my sister. ‘Hi, can you remember when this thing happened? Great. Thanks. Bye.’ Hanging up to get straight back to writing.

Me reading over things thinking ‘Can I tell them that? Can I say that?’ Me wriggling in agony, ‘God, I can’t believe I’m writing that.’ Sitting under trees watching the black cockatoos flying overhead. The clickety click of my keyboard. Endless cups of tea. Words. Everywhere.

I’m working on the final edit of my Kimberley story. How stupid was I to think that it would be easy to write about myself! A memoir? I’d rather scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush. Hemmingway was right.

More tea. More writing. More sighing.

Let’s hope this is all soon done, so that normal life may resume.

Life on Hold

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“Finished crap can be edited. Unfinished greatness languishes forever. The only bad writing is the thing you didn’t write!”
~ Margarita Gakis

 

I’m tweaking the very final edits of my memoir. You know, the one about my time in the Kimberley?

So, there’s not much else to report right now until that’s done.

That’s why the dogs look so bored.

Anyway, while I finish up, fuelled by copious amounts of tea, here are some pictures from yesterday morning’s walk…

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I’ll be back tomorrow with something much more exciting, I promise!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Lots of love, Nicole xx

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