I was up before dawn today, deciding not to turn over and go back to sleep when my husband arose to feed the cats and start his own day. I curled up in the big chair in the office and pulled my pile of writing books next to me, looking for inspiration and a way to redirect my mind from remnants of restless dreams. I found the inspiration in bits and pieces but it was when I opened my own writing notebook and read something I had written a little over a year ago that the sting of tears and the stir of the heart told me I had finally found my piece of gold. Leonie Dawson has said that when you go back and read something you have written and it makes you cry, then that’s the good shit, that’s what you should share. So, here it is, the thing that inspired me, my piece of gold – the good shit.
The following is from one of my writing notebook, it was in letter form to my Aunt and was never sent or shared, until now. I’ve left it mostly unedited and as it was written that day.
October 5, 2012
Dear Aunt B.,
I saw a painting on a feather the other day while visiting an art gallery and it reminded me of you and the amazing paintings you’ve done on feathers. Then today my writing prompt in Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg, a book on the practice of writing memoir, was to write about a Mother, Grandmother or Aunt starting with “I remember…”. I chose to write about you.
I wrote about you in your hair salon downtown, about your look, about the music you had playing. The memory of your long painted nails massaging my scalp at the hair washing station. The Aussie shampoo, bubblegum scent. The spray of warm water as you rinsed my hair and the deft twist of your wrist as you rung it out and piled it on top of my head with a long clip. I wrote about helping you shear sheep. I wrote about how you would move from one task and talent to another with a matter of fact, no nonsense way. I wrote about how you loved to grow zinnias.
Then after stopping the writing exercise more memories flooded forward and tears stung my eyes. A missing wrenched my heart as I recalled all our time spent together.
Do you remember teaching me to throw metal buckets at the barn as a way to let go of anger and frustration? We stood a ways back from the barn, metal buckets at hand and let them fly. I remember the whoosh of release and the satisfactory loud clang as they hit the side of the barn. It was easier to laugh after a few bucket tosses, and we did. Then we would make our way back to whatever we were going to do next. Garden, paint, learn how to fix the car, bake bread. So many things you shared with me and I find each one is a special treasure stored up in my heart.
So, thank you, Natalie Goldberg, for that prompt and your wonderful writing books. Thank you Leonie Dawson for helping me know when it’s the good shit. And thank you Aunt B. – for everything.