The New Sisyphus

The past week has felt like an ongoing train wreck – news story after news story about Trump’s swift sledgehammer to everything I thought my country stood for. The smashing of the free press, health care options, trade relations, the environment, the idea of sanctuary, and more. Never have I felt so bereft after the inauguration of a new president and never have I felt so alarmed at what is happening to the United States.

This blog has not often been a place where I rant about politics, politicians or policies. It has more often been my creative space, a way to share publishing news and photos and travels and things that make life amazing. But I’m having a lot of trouble shutting off the alarms in my head and focusing on creative work.

I know I’m not alone.

Is the whole idea of Trump’s onslaught of ridiculous executive orders aimed towards just wearing his opponents out? That certainly feels like what is happening around here. It feels like the first week of his presidency is an endurance test for all of us, like a bully throwing out punch after punch without allowing his victim to get up.

And that is why I’m determined to figure out my own balance, to set goals for actions on a regular basis, to find a way to not burn out before the first quarter of 2017 has gone down in flames.

Since last week, when we were fresh from the Women’s March, I’ve signed petitions about the environment, health care, refugees, and net neutrality. I’ve donated to Senator Al Franken and to the Democratic Party. I did a volunteer shift to raise funds for local food shelves. And I know that I can’t keep going at that pace and still edit a poetry journal or create my own work. Nor can I constantly talk about this – my friends, who are as upset as I am, need to have other conversations, too.

What is the answer?

For me, it was taking a breath this weekend to work on sustenance. What does that look like? It looks like throwing yeast in warm water with some sugar, adding it to a flour mixture and kneading the resulting dough on my kitchen counter till it is smooth. It looks like baking oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips because everyone in my family likes them. It looks like chopping onions, peppers, garlic, and celery to layer on the bottom of a big crockpot, followed by turkey thighs and diced tomatoes and hominy; the resulting turkey chili fed my family Sunday supper. It looks like going out to dinner with friends on Friday night, resolving to not discuss Trump during dinner so we could all catch our breath.  It looks like shutting off the television before the 10 p.m. news comes on so sleep is a little easier to reach. It looks like leaving the yoga mat out all the time so stretching and breathing as a daily habit is always easy to honor.

And it looks like showing up at the slush pile and the blank page in spite of all the awfulness because this is how we who are writers and editors do our work. We have to connect with the world, we have to keep our eyes open to what is happening, and we have to have the chops to reflect what we see through our art, through our words.

I feel better today from having had a weekend of quiet time with family and friends. But I’ll be back at it this week, reading the news, signing petitions, volunteering where it counts, putting my money out there for the good it can do and trying to not have my head explode.

How will you find your balance through this very unbalanced time? And will you allow your voice to be heard?

Speak up. Silence allows awful things to happen.

 

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Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.

 

 

On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Yes, my blog this week is a day late. And there is one very important reason for that.

Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our old friend Ruby. Ruby was our 14-year-old Irish terrier who spent her life in our house, watched our kids grow into amazing adults, stood by us when we each lost our fathers, welcomed our granddaughter, took our second dog Truffles under her wing, and paced the floor around 5:30 every morning in her old age.

It was a bittersweet day, as any pet owner will know. Ruby told us she was done by refusing to eat and drink over the weekend. She was tired. She had lived long enough.

And so we did what we needed to do: took her to our vet, whom she loved, and helped her leave us.

Ruby the Irish terrier

Ruby

Even though I had to get a box of Kleenex to keep in my office yesterday, today I am thinking about how Ruby made us better people by forcing us to slow down once in a while. She had a way of backing up to us wherever we were sitting so that we could pause and pet her. She was good at being insistent. Pay attention, she seemed to say.

Dogs are good at that.

As we move on to the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, taking a moment to pay attention to whatever is there in front of us might be a really nice idea. Turn off the news, put away the screens, and pause.

Happy Holidays, everyone. One Minnesota Writer will return in January 2017.

happy holidays from one minnesota writer

Winter Visions

snow filled evergreen

It’s looking like Christmas out there. After a snowy weekend, the trees are laden with white. The air is crisp. The landscape looks clean. And thoughts turn to holidays, cozy nights, blue stars far away in the night sky. Enjoy your week.

WINTER TREES

 

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

poem courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, poetryfoundation.org
photo by KCMickelson 2016

Happy August! The 2016 Road Trip Route Home

 

Once we admitted that we couldn’t stay at the Pacific Coast forever, we headed back to Minnesota. There was plenty to see along the way:

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Mount Hood, Oregon.

 

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Mount Adams, Oregon, way in the distance.

 

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Lampreys through the viewing window at Bonneville Lock & Dam, Oregon. 

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Wine, cheese, and music in Hood River, Oregon, which turned out to be one of our favorite places.

 

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Surfing the river in Missoula, Montana.

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A visit with my friend and fellow poet Constance Brewer in Gillette, Wyoming.

 

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We also met Connie’s corgis, Max and Merlin, and her partner, Scott.

 

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The touristy lobby decor of the Arbuckle Inn, Gillette, Wyoming.

We weren’t quite done, though. We had one more national park to visit before we landed back on our own doorstep. Next week: The Badlands.

Happy August, everyone! Hope your summer includes fun, travel, and happiness.

 

 

Spring Flowers

It happens to me every year: my attention is drawn outside and I never want to come back in. Here are a few reasons why:

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wild violets in the grass

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crabapple blossoms at their peak

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leopardsbane lurking in the shadows

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lilacs that perfume the air

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wild columbine

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bleeding hearts

Happy Monday. May you have flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

 

Happy Winter Solstice!

I love the Winter Solstice. The short day and long night is just right for being cozy, for cooking, reading, writing, wrapping gifts, snuggling. The little kid in me hopes for snow.

When my daughter Abby was little, she used to watch a show called Little Bear. Little Bear had a winter solstice episode that I watched with her over and over. It was the most feel-good episode of kid shows in the mid-90s. And I still love it.

So, today, for you, the Little Bear episode with the Winter Solstice segment. It starts at 8:35. Because we all need a little kid-like break sometimes.

Happy Solstice!

One Very Cold Tuesday in May

It was dismaying this morning to wake up to 38 degrees. Not as dismaying as waking up to wet snow, like the people in Michigan’s UP did, but not what we want in May. Not at all.

May is one of those transition months here in Minnesota. Things are beginning to flower, but there is still that chance of frost, that chance that anything tender will get killed. We have to be patient, not put seedlings out too soon. We keep things in their pots, bring them inside when it dips below 40 degrees. If we have been impatient, or overly optimistic, the seedlings that are already in the soil get bedclothes to ward off the chill. In the mornings, we rush to see if they survived.

I’ve been thinking about those transitions, how tricky they are, as I’ve helped my daughter Abby move home from college for the summer. We brought home the last of her items last night, cleaned the student apartment together, bid it farewell. Together with her father, we lugged futon, bedding, end table, kitchen items, and odds and ends that fit no specific category into our basement. By the time we finished, it was nearly 9 p.m. and we headed out to a late supper at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings.

Abby wasn’t planning on coming home for the summer until recently. Her student apartment lease was supposed to go until mid-August. The University, however, ended all leases at May 31 and let students know that they needed to tell them if they chose to stay for some reason. Abby decided that, if we were willing, she would come home and save some money. And we decided that we would love to have her back in our house once more.

Any parent of a young adult knows that letting go is excruciating. And welcoming a kid back home, once you’ve said goodbye, is both wonderful and terribly tricky. While you’re still the parent and this kid is in your house, they are also a young adult who has been on their own. They have become used to making their own decisions, in their own time and their own space. Sure, there are those who would argue that parents paying the bills have the final authority. And I would say it isn’t that simple. Nurturing young adults who are capable of managing their lives requires us to let them stand in cold ground when the temperature drops and realize they need to put on socks without us saying anything. But it’s hard to see our kids choose the very thing we wouldn’t, to know that they don’t have the same long-range vision that our experience has given us, and that we, too, made all kinds of stupid choices back in the day.

I keep thinking about the seedlings outside that need us to watch over them. That’s exactly what I’d like to do for my daughter – watch over her even though she’s usually quite capable. Protect her from the coldness of the world. Give her a blanket even if she’s inclined to throw it off.

Parents and gardeners take their tasks seriously. Optimism and impatience often live in the same body. The commonality is in the urge to nurture life.

Welcome home, Abby.

all photos by KC Mickelson 2015

First Five Fragments for Friday – AWP Edition

Live from the AWP bookfair!

Minneapolis is abuzz with bookish sorts and it is exhilarating. I’m sitting at a table where I can snag free wifi, my bag already loaded with books at 11 a.m.  A poet is reading off to my left. A magazine publisher is meeting with another writer to my right. I’ve already attended a session about writing about disasters. This conference has something going on all the time, as it should.

And what does a writer do with all this stimulation? Let it simmer. Let it blend into a stew of ideas for future projects. Ignore the fact that it snowed yesterday since it already melted. Look at the hundreds of #AWP15 photos on Instagram and tweets on Twitter. Sink into it all.

And don’t worry about saying five intelligent things today. Take time to think. Take notes.

See you next week.

And if you’re here at this conference, hit me up on Twitter @kcmickelson.

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Sunday morning fog.