MY GOOD WRITING ROOM

img_2099“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”  Warsan Shire

I was diagnosed with interstitual lung disease in 1999. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that the most dramatic adjustments to my manner of living were required. What follows was written in April of that year. It was originally published in the now defunct California Woman.

It’s a good writing room, this room into which I have downsized to accommodate my disabled body. The room is big enough for comfort and small enough to be easy – and quick – to clean.  Perfect!  It’s the master suite in a sprawl of a condo on the gentle sweep of a tree-lined street in Menlo Park, California, a long way from home . . .

That march of trees down the drive, by the way – the oak and maple and campertown elm – is important. I’m enamoured of trees. Their proximity influenced my decision to rent.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ― Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems

img_2102-2This place has a solid, foursquare feel to it. There are no stairs inside the condo and no stairs to reach it, and this is an added attraction. The colors are soft and peaceful: creams, peaches and pistachios, maroons and deep green. My large and cherished statue of Quan Yin and two tall plants add grace to one corner. My pie crust table with a small forest of variegated greenery sits in the other. There’s a maple secretary, which is perfect for my laptop and family photographs, a shrine (or so my world-class daughter-in-law says) to those who sit at the center of my heart. I have tossed a white cloth of Brandenburg lace over my round bedside table. My stereo lives on top of the old oak dresser. There are two mismatched-bookcases, much valued by me. They are part of our family history.

Once, forty-some years ago and 3,000 miles away, I was addicted to Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances. I think if she would have written about this room with its fine, healthy plants, good books, good music, and hodgepodge of furniture, she might have described it as “shabby genteel”. That’s okay by me. I’ve got no one to impress and it serves my body, my spirit and my latter-day ambitions well.

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I decided on a double-bed. It offers ample enough room to lay out books, pens and colored pencils, paper and even my laptop. My darling landlady’s two yellow-eyed black cats are also ample and like to hop on the bed for a visit. Executives both, they supervise and comment petulantly when I ignore their direction. I’ve had many kitty companions. My last was Pywacket. I’ve learned over time that cats, like moonlight, inspire the muse. They are very welcome in here.

There’s a washer and dryer inside the condo, so I don’t have to try to lug laundry to a garage or laundry room and back. The kitchen isn’t quite as bright as I’d like, but it’s clean – scrupulous – in granite and stainless steel. I enjoy cooking almost as much as writing. It’s an endeavor that feeds my soul as well as my body, though I admit I miss having the energy and opportunity to cook for others.

I’m all moved in and settled. If you peeked in at me, you’d think me a housefrau, not a bad thing, running the laundry while preparing dinner: creamy yogurt, enchanted broccoli with olive oil, garlic, and lemon, and cheery orange carrot-coins with fried onions and dill. I prepared a risotto with rose brown rice, shallots, and shiitake mushrooms. Later, a mug of  honeyed Citrus Chamomile for a restful night of writing and sleep.

From this stillness, this cleanliness, this simplicity, I will write, cook and love my people with reckless abandon. For the moment, there is safe harbor. Life is good and tomorrow is a new day.

© 2008 Jamie Dedes

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Turning Pain Into Beauty … a triumph of tattoo and poem over mastectomy

c Jamie Dedes

My mom had her first mastectomy in 1949 when she was pregnant with me.  Things were different then. Mom and her contemporaries had no support after mastectomy. They had the surgery, were sent to get fitted for prostheses … and that was that. There were no hospital or clinic classes in art and poetry for healing. There were no support groups, no talk therapy. Perhaps worst of all, there was no privacy about medical records. My mother actually turned down a promising job opportunity because the firm’s board members wanted to review her medical records before hire.

Things have improved since Mom’s day,thank goodness. Privacy and rights are better protected. There’s patient support available before, during and after mastectomy. There are more options after recovery then chosing between having or not having prostheses. I’m artsy enough myself, I guess, that I love – and am touched – that some women choose to cover their scars with gorgeous, colorful and creative designs like the one below, which triggered this post. Allegedly Facebook keeps taking this photograph down, seeing it as offensive. Who knows? Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. I can’t image why they would. This is a brave and beautiful thing. There’s nothing obscene about it.
11156334_10153170849803886_8901359381613103_n-1

Tattoos over breast-surgery scars started – as far as I know – with a poet and writer, Deena Metzger:

c photo by Hella Hammid

c photo by Hella Hammid

Deena (b. 1936), the proud Amazon. This photograph of her is iconic and became – with the addition of the verse below – “The Poster,” which was designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon, the one who shoots arrows.
There was a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered,
but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart.
Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears.
What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing.
I have relinquished some of the scars.
I have designed my chest with the care given to an illuminated manuscript.
I am no longer ashamed to make love. Love is a battle I can win.
I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound.
On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

© Deena Metzger

If The Poster had come out when my mother was alive, I’d have bought it and had it framed for her.

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Deena Metzger is a American writer and poet, essayist and screenwriter, an advocate and counselor. Her book Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner World (Harper One, 1992), is ideally suited for those of us who see writing as a spiritual practice. Her website is HERE.

On Friday, I posted a quotation from Deena’s essay, The Language and Literature of Restorationon The BeZine 100TPC Facebook discussion page.  I think the quotation (below) is relevant to our concerns for our earthly environment, which is the focus of The BeZine’s 100TPC effort for 2016.  Deena is holding us – poets and writers – accountable for our part in what comes next, extinction or survival.

“Extinction stalks us. Not an act of God, but a consequence of how we have chosen to live our lives. Such choices are handed to us by language and literature. Literature that is reduced to media, obsessed with violence, conflict, sensationalism, nationalism and speciesism. We are each responsible – we participate – no exceptions. The antidote for extinction is restoration. Languages and literatures that lead toward restoration are essential. So we have to try ….” MORE

Note: The BeZine is a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines100TPC is 100,000 Poets for Change.  Link HERE for information about this global peace initiative started by American poets, Michael Rothernberg and Terri Carrion.

© 2016, words and mother/daughter photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; © Deena’s photograph and poem Deena Metzger.

and then a new generation

10358082_10152372768442034_1234373728_n…and then a new generation …

a boy, an old soul
but a merry new story
fresh at bone and marrow
adhering to Conrad’s dictum
with little shocks and surprises
in every sentence of his book
his life, his metaphor . . .
wearing Truth as his dermis
seeking tears, not blood
and he, like all good art
changed me for the better

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, Photograph courtesy of my cousin Dan, all rights reserved, from the family album, please be respecful

haunting the years

silhouettes-of-childrenthere’s little i’d want to live over
but a few moments, with special people,
their memory held safe, gently wrapped,
with affection, like a
gift waiting to be touched,
opened and savored …

ribbon tugged
….. paper unfurled

the scent of other children, brothers,
the timbre of their voices, those early days,
the freshness playing in my mind,
in flickering light, like

an eight-millimeter film
…..t of toddlers and youths

haunting the years until today
when i found you again

i reached out 
…..and you reached back

© 2014, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ courtesy of George Hodan, Public Domain Pictures.net