by Linda M. Hasselstrom
Excerpted from September 22-23, Autumnal Equinox: Shop with Your Senses from The Wheel of the Year: A Writer’s Workbook.
The pink tongue of sunrise slurps across the thin black treetops as I lift my cup. Duggan’s tags jingle softly as he thumps downstairs to get in my lap.
Then I spill coffee, reminding myself my little Westie has been dead nearly a month. With my journal on my knee, I make a note about Duggan’s grin. I get more coffee mostly to stop patting the spot where he always lay against my thigh.
Living means gleaning, gathering, collecting: paying attention to whatever is around me at any moment. Watering a house plant I found discarded in the alley, I notice the butterfly-shaped shell I picked up on an Oregon beach on September 12, 2001. We knew what had happened to the Twin Towers, but with no television we walked the beach, especially glad to be alive beneath a blue sky empty of planes. We talked about a world suddenly simplified, but more frightening.
Another plant is mulched with glassies my father collected shooting marbles with his friends in grade school ninety years ago. The school yard is covered by a parking lot, so only my memory can glean those marbles now.
This collecting habit of mine continues throughout the seasons but seems especially appropriate in autumn, when we harvest summer fruits. Our ancestors expressed gratitude by sharing breads, nuts, apples and vegetables, pledging to share the bounty during the winter.
So my house pulses with my memories of my travels and my joy at coming home, with souvenirs of this life. My writing, too, blooms with the echoes of ideas gleaned from every step I take, liking my life with those that preceded and will follow mine.
“From fire to water to earth and to wind” runs a chant of commemoration, “The circle of life, the dance without end.” Writing is a dance.
What have you gleaned this year, literally and figuratively? What writing have you rescued from the discard pile?
Write a poem or piece of prose created entirely from proverbs. Start by collecting proverbs that you recall your parents or other elders telling you when you were a child, then see how you can recombine the lines to create something new. Here are a few familiar proverbs to start your thinking process:
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
“The early bird catches the worm.”
“There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
Choose a poem that you admire that makes a statement of the speaker’s beliefs. Write a poem in imitation of it, using details from your own life as the poet does to state your own beliefs.
List the things you do not regret in your life. Is there a poem or essay in your list? Or more than one!
Linda Hasselstrom is the author of The Wheel of the Year: A Writer’s Workbook; Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet, with Twyla M. Hansen; No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life, Between Grass and Sky, Feels Like Far, Bitter Creek Junction, Land Circle, Dakota Bones, Going Over East, Windbreak, Bison: Monarch of the Plains, When a Poet Dies, The Roadside History of South Dakota, Roadkill, Caught By One Wing.
She is editor of Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, Crazy Woman Creek with Gaydell Collier and Nancy Curtis; also editor of Journal of a Mountain Man, by James Clyman.