Category Archives: Wild Writing

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

Poetry is Weights and Measure

Yesterday I did some wild writing with Mikalina. As my teacher Laurie Wagner describes it, wild writing is a timed writing practice where, “we write as fast as we can, pen never leaving the page. By writing so quickly we are able to push past our inner critic and our ego and all the ways we stay trapped in looking good. This gives us a chance to move into a less self conscious, loose groove where, if we’re lucky we may stumble into the fertile imagination that lingers within us, conjuring up stories and memories that are waiting to be written.”

To start one round of writing yesterday, Mikalina read Maya Stein’s poem, weights and measure. A round of wild writing always starts with the reading of a poem and the suggestion of a few select lines or phrases to use as a starting point, then we write for about 10-12 minutes. When I shared my response, Mikalina told me I should post it to my blog, so here it is.

When I read Maya Stein, I somehow imagine that she writes each poem as quickly as we wild write, that what she writes comes out fast and fully formed. Clearly that’s not possible, not how it happens. Sometimes, I’m sure a line rises to the top like a bubble in the water, a fart in the bathtub, but it doesn’t always work like that.

Writing poetry is about space, about lingering, about circling back to the thought just before this one, or that thing that happened 20 years ago. It’s the smell that triggers a memory. It’s also getting somewhere and realizing you don’t remember the trip at all, you simply woke up and found yourself where you were going.

Poetry is like hunger, like forgetting to eat, like dreaming, like a long walk in the woods where you are surprised by a hummingbird or a bear, where you get lost or you find a particular rock that you just have to put in your pocket, take home and put on your writing shrine, always and forever able to remember where you found it, where it came from.

Poetry is that dream you can’t quite remember. Poetry is the map of an unknown territory that you study so much it’s like you’ve been there before, already. Poetry is like water, like air, like blood, like dirt, like roots, like waves. Poetry is grains of rice you can boil and eat even though before that they were hard and entirely inedible.

Poetry is the white noise that helps you sleep, the music playing in another room your ears strain to recognize. Poetry is citrus. Poetry is when Eric roasts peppers in our tiny kitchen in our tiny house and my eyes burn from the smell. Poetry makes you cry in the same way cutting an onion or a strong wind does. Poetry is your baby blanket, the satin edge of it frayed in one corner from all those nights you rubbed it against your cheek so you could fall asleep.