words are foreplay for the soul

Archive for the ‘Write Like You Mean It’ Category

March 21st, 2011 by Akua


Everywhere I look I see new growth. Buds ripening. Cherry blossoms bursting into soft pinkness. Vivid colors superimposed over the blue-grays of sky and water. New green shoots pushing up from seemingly lifeless brown twigs. Surely there is a metaphor here.

I am cold. I miss the warmth. I long to feel it permeate my limbs, my skin, my heart.

I’ve used a cliff metaphor perhaps too frequently in the past for it to fully fit now, but I do feel that I have at least dipped a toe into the waters of change. Change happens slowly sometimes, stealthily, without us noticing, like a cat climbing into your lap: one paw, one whisker at a time so you will fail to notice movement at all until there are four paws of purring goodness curled contentedly where a few moments ago there were none. I feel that cat now, or one of her paws…

A friend tells me I know what is right for me. The next step. I look to the gods for reassurance, to the winds, to the stones, but they remain silent. All I notice is growth. Movement. All that is required is to step into the flow and let the current add its weight to my own. Exponential. Like breathing. I send my own green shoots deep underground where they grab hold and grow into exploding brilliant stars overhead, magnified by the rains and winds of my soul’s longing.

I know what I need to do now. The song of it fills me, warms me, exposes me to the soft warm breath of spring.


March 6th, 2011 by Akua

Hawk redux

Driving northward today toward my What Comes Next, I saw my friend Hawk. He sat calmly in I-5’s manicured median grass north of Seattle, surveying his dominion with sharp brown eyes. He saw me but did not look. We nodded briefly at one another while I sped past at 70 miles per hour, his feather-blur held sharp by stilled recognition. My thoughts, immersed in the grounded action of how my next few days will be spent, flew on speckled feathers to Black Friday last when Hawk spoke words of promise to me and brought me aloft with him into worlds dreamed of but yet unreached.

My car flew silently on redbrown wings. In two minutes I passed another hawk, having entered a new dominion. Hawk #2. A sign? How could there be TWO hawks sitting silently in the median of I-5?  If this is a sign, I thought, let there be three. My thoughts continued flowing ahead in the river borne of the ancestors, our shared ancestral past, my shaman-selves. A river of anger, flowing into words of creation. I am a pioneer.

Three minutes. The wings beneath me flew higher. Faster. My thoughts grew stronger. THREE. The third hawk spoke as I passed, telling me all the secrets I have ever forgotten, reminding me to breathe into the punctuation wrought by ONE, TWO, and now THREE hawks, breathe IN your destiny, breathe OUT your story, tell it high and pure, sing it into the sky.

December 5th, 2010 by Akua


I am an expert at recognizing my resistance. When it crawls wetly onto my lap from the briny deep of my soul I stare at it a moment and then hum tunelessly. I don’t hear you, I don’t see you, let me alone, leave me be. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, Resistance perched pertly atop my head with a Cheshire grin. Fine. You win.

I am writing.


I feel Resistance in the act of Googling. Now I know that Ganesh is associated with the first chakra, called Muladhara, and that mula means “original, main,” and adhara means “foundation.” Great. I needed to know that. I feel complete now. There is recent relevance to this information and Resistance tells me, Go ahead and write a nice little email explaining that bit, and then I realize I’ve walked into the trap again. Not writing.

Google was invented for people who Resist.

My mother, inching ever closer to a permanently childlike state, used to called it Procrastinating. For her it looked and tasted a lot like making chocolate chip cookies, but we all knew it was more that there was something she didn’t want to do. Resistance.

I tell people that resistance is an invitation to look more deeply within. Great. I’m not-writing about a not-something that I can’t yet see. It all comes clear now. Thanks. I look within and see the Cheshire smile beckoning. I can find a million things to do other than write. Breathing, for example. Did you know that most of us fail to place adequate attention on our breath? We breathe shallowly. I should spend the next hour, or perhaps the next month for good measure, breathing. Just to be sure.

Okay. Deep breath in. Tomorrow it’s Morning Pages. Pinkie swear. Let’s see what’s inside.

September 21st, 2010 by Akua


Her open mouth screams silent tears,

gasping sobs tear her body into pieces that

float above her, waiting to be sewn back together

One thread drawing them tight and snug again,

a sweater she can thrust her arms into gladly,

wrapping warmth around her icy bare branches.

Inside her, alien flesh pricks with tiny knives,

razors opening sealed wounds that cry scaly tears

and glue their eyes tight shut, denying their misery.

Above her his spiky breath covers her hair, her ear,

dripping down her neck with a snail’s undulation.

She rises, tasting ashes in her mouth, and floats,

now lost in a sea of misty grey,

now lifted above the clouds into brightness.

Her eyes close against the sudden blindness of clarity

and she sees her tiny body far below, broken.

Stars burst, gasp and die.

Colors collide, crayons melting.

The ancestors mourn.

January 11th, 2010 by Akua

Snowed in

Last week the flurries started. They really began on New Year’s Eve, the day I drove away from a warm heart and to a cold empty house that I wanted to fill with all my wishes for the coming year. Wishes full, I lay down at ten minutes to midnight, not realizing that the standard way to bring in a new year around here is with all the leftover July fireworks. Someone even torched a minivan just a block away that night. I’ve considered torching minivans myself, and might have had I ever actually owned one, but likely not as a way to bring in wishes for the coming year.

The flurries began that day and it started snowing harder in the days afterward. Sad, lonely, desperate people who wanted fixing or at least hope that they could be fixed. They reached black lonely tendrils to me, tendrils that I should know better than to accept, and soon I was Atlas holding up the world on my narrow shoulders, unable to speak or breathe.

Or sleep.

My childhood was populated by monsters and witches who lived under my bed and in my closet, coming out at night to masquerade as shapes that became chairs and other mundane items when the lights were switched on. It didn’t help that somebody thought it was a good idea to take me to see a bad B-movie sci-fi flick called The Lost Continent that featured seaweed that would reach in through ship portholes and grab people, making a weird rattling sound.

I heard that seaweed this past week, those black tendrils reaching for me choking out light and air until all I felt was the song of the unburdened.

Having dispensed with the seaweed with the handy axe the witches had left under my bed, I noticed that I was snowed in. Six feet of snow covered the front door. Cars looked like hummocks. The air was crisp and still. Nothing moved.

I took a shovel the size of my thumb and shoveled the city free. When people awoke in the morning, there was no trace of white.

And I slept.

The snow started again today, flurries falling on my face and eyelashes. Soon I’ll be sleeping under a warm blanket in welcome darkness. I reach my green seaweed tendrils toward the light, waving tentacles that could twine around a hot air balloon and lift me up, up from the snow, carrying me over pristine high white glistening mountains.

Free to fill my year with the wishes I began with a snap and a bang.

December 3rd, 2009 by me


A hospital bed stood in the center of the room, once a living room. Now it was a dying room, its walls covered with loved ones’ artifacts and memories. The man in the bed was tiny, shrunken, his body barely visible beneath the sheet that covered him. Only his feet and one hand created small hills in the otherwise nearly-flat landscape. His face was turned to one side and his eyes never left mine. Hold me, they said, I know everything. Hold me.

The skin of the man’s face was surprisingly smooth, as if all the cells of his body had ceased their normal work and instead concentrated on making his skin look like a teenager’s again. His eyes looked out from inside deep dark recesses that were two small caves in his face. His eyes spoke. I know everything. I remember when I was a tiny jumble of cells, a zygote. I remember the feel of the wind on my skin, of the sight of birds flying overhead. Once I wanted to fly with them. Now I have become part of this sheet, this bed, this room. I feel myself getting bigger and smaller at the same time. Hold me.

I held him. Softly I sang, surrounding him with song, and the notes became bigger and joined with his spirit, his life essence, that stood just behind him. Together we kept expanding, my clear high notes and his eternal life presence, becoming as large as All That Is, spinning into the heavens. The memories in the room applauded. This is what they had come for.

Gently I placed a hand over his that lay beneath the sheet. His body-shell trembled. His shrunken chest rose up and down, guiltily, tiredly. I felt the nearly-constant tremor in his hand soften. The notes rose and fell in rhythm with his chest. Sleep, his eyes said. Sleep.

Soon, promised the notes. The memories in the room swelled with appreciation. Soon. The body-shell sighed. The mouth spoke but the words that fell out were from another time. The notes receded. Cells quivered. Soon.

November 30th, 2009 by me

Yo, an interview

You’ve been avidly following Neil Kramer’s Citizen of the Month Great Interview Experiment, right? Right?? This is where I get to ask another blogger incriminating questions and post the Q & A right here.  Then someone else asks ME questions and posts them. A long chain of awesome. I love it.

Introducing Mary Mac of Pajamas and Coffee. I spent hours stalking her. So should you. Go now.

1. So the Evil Queen is your role model. Have you ever slipped anyone a poisoned apple? More importantly, if you were to slip someone a poisoned apple, who would it be and why?

The Evil Queen is hot. The princesses are SOOOOO overrated at Disney. I’m a villain stalker when I go down to Orlando, and they aren’t easy to find, either, dammit.

I have slipped a poison apple or two over the last 15 years I’ve been a professional writer- of course, I prefer the poison PEN version. I try to keep my poison-pen-posts to a minimum (because I just end up sounding whiny and emo) but once in awhile, I serve up the green bubbly apple dippers. Because being a villain is cool like that.

2. What would it take to get you to go camping with the Schmoneys again?

Believe it or not, I go camping with the Schmoneys every year- if they invite me back after that little crapping in their woods incident. I love camping (with Jack Daniels and Slim Jims)- and plan to invest in a warm weather sleeping bag for future frozen run-ins with Mother Nature, who I totally forgive for trying to kill me.

3. If your house was haunted (and it totally looks like it should be, which is way cool) and you could choose your ghost, who would it be?

My 1881 Victorian is totally haunted. I haven’t been able to choose my own ghosts so hmmmm, cool question. Let’s see. I would want Frank Sinatra to haunt me, so he could sing “The Lady is a Tramp” and then make out with me. Also, I would want Michael Jackson to haunt me so we could do the “Thriller” dance together at my Halloween party, with the added bonus of my making tons of coin on Access Hollywood and Youtube because Michael Jackson is haunting my house.

4. Pie or cake? What kind?

Both! Any kind! But, if I’m at the bakery choosing one of each, it would be blueberry pie with red velvet cake for dessert.

5. Since you’re originally from the Philly area, when you’re headed to the beach is it still “down the shore” even though you’re now on Maryland’s Eastern Shore?

It’s always ‘down the shore,’ baby! We still go to the Jersey beaches- Cape May every year! Was born in Jersey so love me some Jersey every summer, because everyone reminds me of my grandmother and I can get a decent cheesesteak.

6. Facebook or Twitter, and why?

ooommmggg Twitter. Faster, more fun, better conversations, no Mafia or farming apps, plus my mom’s not on Twitter! I am a total Twitter addict- follow me @marymac- I always follow back, unless there is a chick giving head in your avatar.

7. Who is your role model?

Wait I thought we learned in #1 it’s the Evil Queen!

We did. My bad.

Or did you mean a non-fictional character this time? Right. Ok, well I’d say definitely Erma Bombeck- she INVENTED finding the humor in the oft-mundane everyday life of a mom- I read her columns and books growing up. I want to be like her when (er, if) I grow up!

8. Who’s in your ideal posse? (anyone — living or dead)

This is going to sound dorky, but I sort of have my ideal posse. My JavaJammers (the cool readers who come hang out on my blog PajamasandCoffee.com) are so much fun- I laugh out loud at their comments, love hanging out with them on Twitter- or in some cases- in real life! I appreciate them reading so I can write. If I could add anyone to the posse it would be Jon Stewart because I worship him on the Daily Show and I want to lick him.

9. What one thing do you want to pass along to your kids?

That writing about licking people is slutty.

No, wait, let’s see. Um, I hope I’ve been a fun mom to my 4 kids- I am definitely not THE BEST mom (my blog slogan ‘Where Mediocrity Kicks Perfection’s Ass’ applies to parenthood as well) but I love my four kids more than life itself and being a mom is my best life achievement.

10. What advice can you give to aspiring magazine freelancers who are now bloggers?

I wrote for print (newspapers and magazines) for nearly a decade before I found blogging. I prefer blogging because I have NO EDITOR! No offense to editors- I’ve been one, but they want things in their voices, while blogging is all about your voice. My advice would be stick with it, it takes time to find your readers (or is that just me? um..). Don’t get overly preoccupied with statistics and making money- those will come with time (I hope..). Just write well, don’t worry so much about ‘blogging with integrity’ (whatever the hell that means) and instead blog with honesty. My last piece of advice would be to read Pajamas and Coffee every day and tell all your friends to as well! Heh.

September 19th, 2009 by me

Dear Anne LaMott

DISCLOSURE: I suspect I, uh, stole the idea for writing a letter to Anne LaMott from Andy Raskin. Oh, you don’t know Andy Raskin? I didn’t either until about a week ago when his book The Ramen King and I went home with me from the library. I suppose I would have known him if I still listened to NPR — where, apparently, Andy Raskin talks about things — but I haven’t listened to NPR since at least 2005, and in fact the listening to NPR, especially Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion (though I saw the movie — was that cheating?) was ceded to the Other Side in my divorce settlement, much like those old Body Shop stock accounts that probably are still worth only pennies on the dollar.

[A further note on Andy Raskin: Andy, if I may address you directly and at this point I don’t see why I shouldn’t considering everything you have meant to me this past week, I have to report that I sort of hated you through about the first half of your book. You were kind of a jerk! But then you got all vulnerable and I started thinking Maybe he’s on to something here, and I especially liked the technique of letting that horrible inner voice do the talking for awhile so you could really hear it and from where it comes, and then I started thinking that despite your unfortunate inside back cover photograph — the one that makes you look alarmingly identical to the Party of The Other Side in the aforementioned divorce — I’d almost sort of want to meet you. (Not in a creepy way or a stalking way, I promise, but more like in a I think I get you and you seem like a cool guy kind of way.) At least, if it weren’t for the fact that semi-famous people are almost always a disappointment in person, I mean, cough, so I’ve heard. (Not you, of course.) You understand. No offense. Your book rocked, really.]

Dear Anne LaMott,

A few years ago someone commented on the blog I was keeping at the time. You sound just like Anne LaMott! Through the osmosis of such things I knew that Anne LaMott was an author who wrote books. Score! I Googled you. Oh, bummer. I saw references to “God” and “Jesus.” Since I am a person who frequently and liberally sprinkles words like “reincarnation” and “chakra” and “aura” in her conversations, I figured we couldn’t have much to say to one another despite what my well-intentioned commenter thought.

That’s where I was wrong. I adore being wrong.

Last week one of your books jumped off the library shelf into my hands. Well, we say that, books jumping off shelves, but in reality it’s unlikely, I mean seriously, show me the legs that cause all this jumping. How about, the book took my notice? Became magically brighter while everything else fell away? Sure, okay. I was in the Biography section, where, apparently, the lovely librarians in my library have seen fit to stash your books, or some of them. I don’t know, I’m not an expert in library science (but I love that it’s a Science, I mean, Books and Science are two things one doesn’t expect to be combined, you know?), and I don’t even know if there are other books of yours in other locations. I just know I saw A N N E  L A M O T T along the top shelf and something made me stop. Anne Lamott. Well, fine. I guess it’s time to see what ol’ Anne Lamott is like for reals. So I chose a book after scanning the three or four titles that were there. Plan B. Sounds good, I could use a Plan B myself. So I took it home.

I started reading. Interesting. I liked you immediately. I liked how you looked at things. I liked your passion. I liked your cadence, your use of words. The way people use words — which to me are like living, breathing, feeling beings — is important to me. I judge people based on their use (and abuse) of words. Yours were spare. Bare. Frank. Honest. I liked that.

I flipped to the back inner fly leaf. The words tumbled out and the sudden sound of my voice surprised me, “Oh, she’s beautiful!”  Dreadlocks. Hippie-ish jewelry. A warm, slightly self-conscious smile. Someone is taking my photograph and I find that a little ridiculous, your eyes seemed to be saying. A woman growing comfortable with her skin. I liked her very much.

I decided, too, while I read, that we think very much alike. That we’d probably like one another. That we do share a similar writing style. I liked the forthright, tender, compassionate, human woman who emerged from your pages.

Thanks, Anne LaMott, for the gift of you I received through Plan B.

Oh. I can understand your question. What does she want? Well. I wrote to another writer once. I was twelve. His name was Ray Orrock and he was a columnist for a Bay Area newspaper. I adored his writing. His column about driving around the block an extra time just so he could watch the odometer turn from 99999 to 00000 made him seem like just the sort of person I was. At twelve I wasn’t driving, but if I had been that’s just the sort of thing I’d do. So I wrote to him. Poured out my heart. About being misunderstood. About wanting my life to mean something. And you know what? He wrote me back. Took about three months, which in twelve-year-old years is nearly a lifetime of little deaths, but he wrote back. He was kind. He was understanding. He gave advice. Keep your chin up. You’ll be fine. I was embarrassed that I had taken up the time of a 50-year old man and I hid his letter away in a drawer.

So what do I want, Anne LaMott? Writers write to reach people. That’s what they do. It’s why they — we — write. To be heard. To connect. So consider yourself heard and connected. Sure, I don’t know you, but I got a sense from those pages. And writing — reaching, connecting — seemed like a good idea.

Hi, Anne LaMott.

October 28th, 2008 by me

You know something’s wrong when you never even check your stats anymore.

Or write a post.  Or sleep.

In addition to my regularly-scheduled activities, I’ve been writing content, editing, and designing a website. Which is technically “up” except for a major bug, so I’ll hold off on the announcement.  But I poured my heart and soul into this thing.  And Matthew spent the last two months doing all sorts of techie things in its creation, things that I don’t even know the complexity of, but doing them consumed all his time. And he is very very good at what he does, and is about 1000 times faster doing anything connected with a computer than I am (except Twitter. Twitter is totally my world, baby!), and if he spent all day for two months doing this then you know this site is the SHIT.

And it is. Except I can’t show it to you yet.

In the past 3 days we’ve been watching The Kite Runner. I’ve read the book twice and Matthew just finished it. I could not stop shaking while watching it. I am going to dream about that brown land ringed by white-capped mountains.

And I am so very tired on such a deep inner level that I am incapable of rest. I hope you never feel this way.

October 22nd, 2008 by me

100 x365 #12: Steve J.

The question is this: does the fact that I also dated your brother (though not simultaneously—I have standards, you know) have anything to do with your sudden and completely unexpected urge to get me to go with you (I had to drive) to a Yes concert?  And did my attendance with you at said Yes concert—which is remembered hazily, if even at all—entitle you to a front-seat over-the-gear-shift condom-fumbling session in my 1973 Honda Civic? I say nay.  And afterward I couldn’t look you in the face, so that pretty well ended the dating.  If you could even call it that.