Writing a Postcard

I’ve been in a funk this summer, and feeling, frankly, as though all this writing is pointless. Aren’t there already enough books in the world? Despite good friends, despite a class in which I was assigned to write one metaphor per day. (Which can also be similes, “This weird funk, purple like Puget Sound at dusk,” or brilliant word substitutions: “A blue funk washed over me.”) Despite walks. Despite baking many loaves of sourdough bread.

But it is August, and that means POPO, or POetry POstcard Fest. I don’t always sign up for August, as I participate in my friend Carla’s February postcards event each year. But this year, August postcards feels like a good idea. Somewhere I have a quote written down, about letting go of expectations and big-picture goals and doing just the one next right thing. The metaphors can be that next right thing; the postcards can be that next right thing.

Carla’s postcard month is about peace — the idea being that if you want more of something in your world, then you can begin by putting more of it into your world. I like the idea of writing all month on a theme, and in February I wrote about peace, but also about my marriage and gratitude. (The original had the word peace embedded in it somewhere.)

Violinist at the Window

Henri Matisse, 1918

Shades of ochre and orange
make me think of the grapefruit
my husband bought yesterday
at the market, and of the grapefruit spoon,
a Valentine’s Day gift,
used this morning at breakfast.
The song Matisse’s violinist plays
is Chopin, a prelude, or maybe a nocturne,
and those make me think, too,
of my husband. Notes lifting
from the violin, both sweet and tart.

–Bethany Reid

This morning, in my attempts to distract myself, I drifted over to a couple favorite blogs: one being Rita’s Notebook,  the other, photographer Loren Webster’s In a Dark Time… After reading other people’s words, I can tell myself, “See, someone is reading. It does matter.” You don’t have to be Stephen King or James Patterson to have readers.

Then I visited my old blog, One Bad Poem, and reread posts from around the time of my father’s death. I had a houseful of teenagers! And I was teaching! And I kept writing! Gratitude was splashing all over me. So many farm pictures, so many stories and scraps of poems…

When you write a poem on a postcard and mail it, you know that you have at least one reader.

So this August, in addition to wanting a little more kindness and generosity toward my own writing life (from me, I mean), I’m asking myself, what else do you want more of in the world, Bethany? That’s what I’ll be writing about. And so here I am, writing it down again, and feeling grateful for you, reading these words (grateful for comments and emails, too).

Next, another loaf of sourdough bread.

8 replies
  1. Rita
    Rita says:

    When we reconnected, one of the things I marveled at is how you have kept at writing through teaching and mothering. Not just kept at it, but centered it. And not just putting words down, but putting them out in serious ways. I never lost faith in the general importance of writing to the world, but I certainly lost faith in the importance of my particular writing. Yesterday I passed this post on to another writer friend of mine, in response to a draft of her writing (about grandmothers and canning and preserving) and I had the thought that this kind of writing–words passed from one person to another, through our screens–is perhaps our time’s version of sitting around a fire and telling tales. And that it matters. In a different way from the stories that are bound into books and sold for money, but they matter, too. And are, perhaps, just as serious.

    Reply
  2. Paul Marshall
    Paul Marshall says:

    Bethany,
    Funk, Funky, Funkiest, Funkify, All Funked-up. It all makes me think of Jimmi Hendrix and Purple Haze.
    How about Funky Purple Haze.
    Opening lyrics to Purple Haze:
    “Purple Haze all in my brain
    Lately things just don’t seem the same
    Actin’ funny but I don’t know why
    ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”
    Don’t you just love “Scuse me while I kiss the sky”?
    I totally zoned the POPO and didn’t get any reminder notices in my email (wonder why) so I’m excused from participating. I hope it helps you to get your Mojo back.
    Have you thought the funk might just be Post/Not Post/Post covid? Live/Die/Live.
    Yesterday I had a long phone conversation with Josh (middle son mid 40 years old) and his experience of blah-ness. He said, “If everything ends, fails, gets screwed up, why even start anything?”
    My response was that unless you were gonna die you’d just get bored doing nothing. The trick is figuring out what you ‘want to do’.
    So Bethany my friend, if you didn’t write what would you do to fill the time?
    As Always,
    Paul

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Paul — I replied to Rita after reading both of your comments. But I want to make certain you know how glad I am that you wrote and shared this. You’re right, of course. I think of an old friend who said at a poetry reading that sometimes when he starts writing a poem, he does it out of a feeling of depression, but as the poem begins to unfold (he said, beaming), “I get happier and happier.” Me, too.

      Reply
  3. Bethany Rohde
    Bethany Rohde says:

    I’m glad I got to read this today. Thank you for sharing how you’re feeling about writing at this time, Bethany. Quite relatable.

    Thank you too for, including the idea behind Carla’s peaceful postcard month that, “if you want more of something in your world, then you can begin by putting more of it into your world.” What a generative and encouraging way to approach the day. (I just wrote it on our family’s kitchen whiteboard.)

    At times, I get discouraged about my writing too. Sometimes, I find it refreshing to leave it be for a while, then pick it up as a way to unwind, perhaps like a whittler who goes back to her quiet work, when she’s drawn to it. She may sit down on a tree stump after a long day, open her pocketknife and start gliding it across a bit of found cherry branch. In that way, I enjoy the process of forming a little something from materials I have on hand. Sometimes the act of simply smoothing the grain is a gift to myself.

    Reply
  4. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    I loved your post and poem – I am 77 – here are two things my mom told me
    “no expectations” and oops this was not my mom “don’t let the bastards get you down” not sure who said that first – but I think my husband,Laurie, told me. years and years ago and we keep saying it still.
    Love, C

    Reply

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