Category Archives: Laurie Wagner

27 Wildest Days: When the Virus Came

I started writing with Laurie Wagner eight years ago. When I quit my job last May, almost a full year ago now, I quit a lot of other things too, and writing with Laurie was one of them. I was in the process of calling all my energy back to myself, back to my core. I wanted to know what might arise if I slowed down, let go of all my projects, made space. In practical terms, I no longer had much of an income and wasn’t sure when that might change, so I thought it best to not spend any extra money until I was more settled into retirement.

The problem is that writing with Laurie isn’t a luxury, it’s essential. Once the world shifted, I thought I should get back to practicing with Laurie, but because she’s no longer teaching her classes in person, all the online sections filled. Luckily, she announced her 27 Wildest Days offering, “27 brand new videos that offer you a chance to create a daily writing practice on your own. Each day you’ll get a very short – under 10 minutes – video from me telling you something about Wild Writing, reading you a poem and giving you a couple of jump off lines. From there you will write on your own for 15 minutes. You don’t send me anything, it’s not a class, just a chance for you to lay it down and get real on the page.”

When I took my first class with Laurie, I posted an open love letter to her on my blog, which started with,

Certain people that you encounter in your life will change you, alter the way you experience the world in significant and long lasting ways. The impact of their light, their nakedness, their wild love continues to ripple and shiver and quake all corners of your life, sending out aftershocks that continue long after your focused time together, making things forever different, illuminated. Laurie Wagner is one of those people.

I just love her so much. And I’m so happy to be writing with her again. Even though she’s sending an email every day, and I could do the practice every day, I’ve been saving the prompts and videos, savoring them, wanting them to last a little longer. Here’s what I wrote in response to the day one prompt, which was essentially a reflection on “when the virus came,” and more specifically I started with “I wanna tell you about…”

Neighborhood grade school’s playground is wrapped in caution tape, recess is cancelled

I wanna tell you about how at the beginning of all this, the staying home, Eric working from home, it was clear that Eric needed projects, was restless and if that energy went on for too long without somewhere to land, he’d become irritated, frustrated, so I asked him to trim down the rose bushes in front of the house. They are climbing roses, but someone planted them directly in front of the big window in our living room. They grow tall, trying to climb but without anything to attach to, eventually blocking the light, so I cut them way back each year.

Said roses

I asked Eric to do it for me this year but we haven’t been able to find the clippers and now it might be too late because they already started to bud out tiny leaves, sending energy and effort all the way up the stalks I wanted cut down. And then, this morning, a robin sat on the very top of one of those stalks and it really seemed too late, like the moment to make the change had passed and now both the buds and the birds were making use of, even needing the things I wanted rid of.

I wanna tell you that just days before the first wave of shut downs, people still didn’t know much about the virus, weren’t taking it seriously, weren’t thinking about it much, weren’t preparing for it yet, but me, I spent four days in a row going to the grocery store, each day thinking of a few more things we might need, still only thinking in terms of two weeks, 14 days, and the third trip to the store, I bought two packs of toilet paper and Eric made fun of me, but just two days later, not only was the toilet paper all gone but also most of the paper towels, napkins, wipes, and tissues, and I had to wait in line for 45 minutes at the check out, how we all stood so close together.

That same day, classes moved online at CSU and FRCC for the rest of the spring semester. Two days later, group fitness classes at the gym were cancelled. By the end of the week, the gym was closed altogether, all restaurants had moved to take-out or delivery only. My yoga class I teach was cancelled indefinitely and the classes I took were moved to Zoom. My massage was rescheduled, my haircut canceled, Sam’s teeth cleaning postponed. We started to be more careful about using all our perishable foods, shifted to picking up our groceries without needing to go inside the store, wore masks, waited in the car while Sam went in for his physical therapy — which he was much better at without me there to distract him. Then it became clear we’d need to cancel our trip to Oregon this summer. My mom got a smartphone and learned to text on the Tuesday of the week everything shut down and I took my first dose of Zoloft.

I got a new shirt

Where Music is Part of the Failure

onourwalk

I wrote this at the last meeting of my Wild Writing class this session. The prompt was “Music for Guitar and Stone” by Ruth Schwartz.

On our walk this morning, after being on our own for a whole week, two days longer than planned because of the snow, I start thinking about discomfort. The first “noble truth” of Buddhism is that life is suffering, but that’s hard for people to get their heads around. It gets confused with the perspective “everything sucks, so what’s the point?”

It’s easier for me to understand it as “life is uncomfortable.” And what follows is that the source of that discomfort is our desire to be comfortable. It pulls us out of every moment, a constant longing for some other now.

As we walk, my thinking, my internal narrative is constantly interrupted by the need to reroute, because of mud or another dog and its person heading straight for us or a rabbit frozen on the side of the path or a pile of horse poop. It’s also interrupted by the need to respond to the dogs, a tangled leash or the young one about to eat something he shouldn’t.

And that makes me think of the way Susan Piver shifted the Four Noble Truths, came up with Four Noble Truths of relationships, of love — the first being that relationships are uncomfortable. She explains that the root of that discomfort is the way we cling to comfort, the ways we blame the other person for causing our discomfort.

I call dogs one of my practices, (along with writing, meditation, and yoga), because in that relationship, primarily on our long daily walks together, I can see all of it — the ways I fuck up, the ways I’m winning, the mundane and the magic. When I see how happy Ringo is to find the perfect stick and carry it, I expand, my heart opens. When he tries to eat a huge pile of cat poop that will surly make him sick, I feel myself contract in fear and irritation. It’s all there, and I’m just trying to get comfortable. I notice that and try to shift, attempting to be okay with the discomfort, to allow it — “where failure is part of the music.”

Registration for the next round of Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner just opened. This time it’s a shorter session, only four weeks. After this, classes won’t start up again until the fall, so if you’ve been wanting to try it this is a great opportunity. It truly is a magic practice and Laurie is an amazing teacher.