Jackhammer Days

The Soul Has Seasons
By Bethany Reid
Like blackberry brambles the soul has seasons
when its leaves grow scarce.
Even then, a smallish body will find shelter there,
deer mouse chittering, or the tiny wren, piping its song.
For what, if not that singing, does the soul dare
a new season’s greening?


Hello friends.  It has been awhile since I posted here and I’ve missed my days of scheduled writing and updates.  But truth be told, I have been taking care of myself in what has been a period of jackhammer days, both literally and figuratively.

As many of you know, I moved back to Portland last summer and in an either brilliant or insane move purchased a 1947 home which was in need of some major renovations.  Today this blog is being written from my new office.  Outside my office window my contractor is jackhammering away the basement foundation in order to install an egress window.  It is noisy.  It is dirty.  I am hoping the house does not collapse and the new earthquake retrofit holds.  In the meantime, I am visualizing a beautiful finished basement that is light-filled and has a second bathroom.

Also during this time, a family member died, another family member had colon-cancer surgery, and an adult child moved back home.   I had something die in the chimney and for a week flies flew out of the fireplace like bats from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin.

And while I haven’t been writing much, I did travel to Iceland and Ireland, have been invited to poetry readings to read from my new book, and I organized a poetry event in the small town where I graduated from high school and invited Finnish poet Gary Anderson to come read with me.



Last week I hiked seven miles up the Salmon River trail on the southwestern flank of Mt. Hood with old friends, and I’ve been reading and cooking more than usual—all things that anchor me during this fallow writing port-of-call.

So while my world is being disassembled and reconstructed I have complete faith the one thing that will remain intact (even if it is silent for now) is my poetry, because I can feel the seeds beginning to germinate, and a gentle push of green carrying a word or a line up through the dark with a story to tell.

But for now I am reading the poetry of Bethany Reid, who is a poet friend from Edmonds, Washington.  Her new collection Body My House (Goldfish Press Seattle) is a collection that as author Priscilla Long so aptly conveys: are poems to read and reread, and to savor.  I recommend you check her out.

My next gig is in Portland at “Another Read Through” on November 29th— a lovely neighborhood book store in North Portland.  I will be reading with two of my favorite poets Christianne Balk and Kristin Berger, and we would love to have you come down and hear us read.


Yours in poetry,


Reading Deprivation

Thanks to writer/poet Bethany Reid, I have been reading the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and enjoying weekly conversations about the process with her and other “creatives” who committed to a 12 week journey and exploration of this book. Check out Bethany’s lovely blog for reflections about this process and much, much more.


Week 4 in the book includes a week of “Reading Deprivation”.  Arggghhhh, was all I thought. Like any good addict, the first step is admitting you have a problem. And like most addicts, I was sure I didn’t fit the profile.

In a small panic, I wondered what I was going to do when: I ate (I often eat alone with a book my only companion), used the bathroom (yes, queens and kings of poetry, your books reside in lovely containers next to all three thrones), rode the ferry (good time to catch up on my reading!), went to bed at night (my current novel waiting for me), sat in the waiting room (what else would I do?), not to mention how I was going to finish my book club book.

I started this reading deprivation assignment yesterday morning. By lunch I had written down a few words for a poem. This morning I wrote the first draft. Last night instead of plopping down on the couch with a magazine or book, I organized my mess of writing, which had taken a back seat since our move this past summer to Port Ludlow. I listened to a Simon and Garfunkel album all the way through, just like I did when I was 15.

Today I woke up somewhat relieved I didn’t have to read. All those books I love to read were also reminders of all the books I had not read, all the music I had not heard, all the trips I would not take. I also understand the irony of reading a book to figure this out.

Slowly, I am beginning to understand, I need to whittle down my exposure to the world. With all its wonderful opportunities comes a bit of anxiety that I can’t do or have it all. It made me realize that I feel best when I create, and to create I need to unplug, slow down, pay attention.

Sometimes the things we love in our life are the things we have to let go of to move forward. Even if for a little while.

Thank you Bethany for the invitation to be part of this amazing dialogue. Thank you Julia Cameron for your wisdom.

Here is the first draft of a poem that came out of me letting go of one small thing and being open to what I might create in its place. I don’t usually share first drafts, but today I am not going to worry about it not being finished, but rather just share its beginning journey.


Absent a book on the table, I chewed more slowly, listened more carefully as
Simon and Garfunkel sang: my mom doing laundry, hanging out shirts in the dirty
breeze, which snapped my memory to release,
while the words moved on, and I stayed back

at four or five, mesmerized by the wringer-washer on the deck of
the cabin, which even then seemed ancient to me.

Grandma fed Grandpa’s grey work pants and shirts between rollers
that slid flat and dry out the other side where they fell into a tub and
waited for the clothesline, while I stood near the hem of her

dress as she gently warned me to keep my hands away from the washer,
while the scrub jays yakked in the skinny firs and rhododendrons popped
pink alongside the trail to the lake—all of us bursting from a rare bit of sun.

She was a quiet woman but large in gesture, driving me
10 miles to and from town for a root beer float at the A&W.
Frying up her famous donuts and handing me the first greasy bag to take outside.
Tending my blistered feet with my mother after I had stepped into a fire.

Keeping for years the doll I wanted so desperately as a child,
wrapped in tissue in a box she used to hold her checks
which she placed in my hand as she lay dying,
still perfect in its silence.

In poetry,