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My refrigerator is not receiving cold air from the freezer, so I have been instructed by Gill, the repairman, to put a toothpick or chopstick in the “defuser baffle” to hold it open, until he can put a new baffle in tomorrow. To do that, I need a small compact mirror. In searching through drawers for a mirror, I come across a book I treasure, The Booklover’s Birthday Book, purchased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art many years ago. The copyright is 1984 and that sounds about right.

Over the years, I’ve written quotes that appeal to me into the book. I don’t know the author but I love this:

To write and to create is to focus on your center. Centered, your life does not frenetically pop, but slowly you change into the elements and live in two realms.

It is the new year, the year of the Rabbit to the Chinese, and many of us are renewed in our vows for health and inner and outer exploration.

I am reading a book by Clare Cooper Marcus, Iona Dreaming, The Healing Power of Place, A Memoir.

I came to this book because of my need for place, because of my understanding that Mount Tamalpais and my home are part of my healing. I didn’t realize when I began her book that Clare had also been through cancer treatment. I recommend the book for anyone but especially those who have been through treatment and want to delve within to understand. I also recommend it to those who may be searching for or who have found their place.

In the book, she quotes Deena Metzger on the value of writing. Why do we write, or why might we?

Deena Metzger in her book Writing for Your Life:

In the process of writing, of discovering our story, we restore those parts of ourselves that have been scattered, hidden, suppressed, denied, distorted, forbidden, and we come to understand that stories heal. As in the word “remember,” we re-member, we bring together the parts, we integrate that which has been alienated or separated out …. self discovery is more than gathering information about oneself …. It alters us. We re-store, re-member, re-vitalize… Writing our story takes us back to some moment of origin when everything was whole ….

I woke this morning aware I need to honor the entry to my home, so I looked around and found two Japanese bells to hang on the gate, and some mobiles that have been languishing inside that seemed to want to be out.  I placed the pink quartz angel I was given to carry to chemotherapy and radiation out into a bowl of water filled with rocks, an offering that graces the deck.

Writing a book is a reclusive process, solitary.  One wants to stay true to their own voice so it is important to stay in touch with one’s self and monitor outside influence but now the book is out and it is Spring, though the heater is running and the winter storms continue, and yet, something in me is now pulled outside, and so I hang a star with the word Wish on it on the branch of a tree, and my rose-pink heart with the word Love and I celebrate in and out and the connecting with all of you through the book, the blog, and who knows what else.  The world is open today as is my heart.

This weekend I participated in a wonderful writing retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains.  As a way to introduce ourselves, we were each given an index card cut in half, and asked to answer three questions.  The questions were:

Who am I?

Why am I here?

What do I hope to learn or gain?

I realize these questions are applicable to each day of our lives.

Who am I?

Why am I here, in this place, at this time, on this planet?

What do I hope to gain, learn, give?

Play with the questions.  Answer them in different ways, in a poem, as recipe, as fiction or non-fiction.  Paint who you are and why you are here and what you hope or intend to gain.  There are many ways to explore who we are and why we are here.

Good Morning.  My son pointed out that those of you new to Breast Strokes may be confused by this blog. Where do you enter?  Do you know enough about Jane and me?

Here is some background.  I began posting about my cancer treatment on October 27, 2005.  You can read those words as they were posted on my blog, an online journal,  through the archives here:

Look for the archive on the left and go to October, 2005, or you can see what I am posting these days on the Live Journal blog.

Jane and I learned that speaking to each other, then writing, and then, reading out loud to each other what we wrote were keys to healing and health.

In this moment, I am here on WordPress considering what to share.  I am still getting a sense of who you might be, wanting our time here to be a give and take.  When I began my blog in 2005, it was easy.  My family and friends wanted to hear how I was doing. Now, I am well and I am curious about you and what I may have to offer.  I want to pull one of your many needs out of a hat and respond.  In the moment, I am with a new word for me, “prosimetrum”.

I saw the word yesterday in my friend Tamam Kahn’s new book, Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad.  Fred Chappell introduces the word “prosimetrum,” to describe what Tamam does in her book.  It is a literary form which “alternates sections of prose with poems”.

That is what we do in Breast Strokes. I was unaware it was a form. It felt right to us to use poetry and prose to capture and explain our journey.  It is why I suggest a mix of writing poetry and prose to you, to anchor your journal, and stimulate and verbally and mentally explore.  I find it useful to paint and write the words that come.  I am often surprised as the words change the longer I paint.  A painted piece may have many titles or may write its own poem.

Chappell says of “Untold,” that: “When the journey provides understanding, the abrupt bursts of poetry offer exhilaration.  Each is indispensable to the other.”

I wonder if in our daily lives, in our habitual thought patterns we forget to do exactly this, to burst into the song of poetry, to document our lives, yes, and also, sing them.

I recommend Tamam’s book because of the deep way she explores her own life through the lives of these other womenAlicia Ostriker, writes that Tamam’s book is a “bridge between worlds.”

Yes, and there are many worlds to bridge, many of them within.  Begin!  Write for yourself and write to share.   Find the balance you are.  Fly your own kite.  The words are yours to bare and bear.

Tamam quotes from the poem of Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness:

…. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing

You must wake with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth ….

About this blog:

Cathy and Jane started writing together during Cathy's illness, and that writing became a blog, which then became a book!

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