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The kitchen table

The moon this morning.

We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us…but we can practice being gentle with each other by being gentle with that piece of ourselves that is hardest to hold.

~ Audre Lorde

To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.

~ Galway Kinnell

A crow on her morning mission.

I read a poem by Joy Harjo this morning.  It’s called Perhaps the World Ends Here.  It begins with:

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

And ends with:

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

You should be able to find it easily and fast enough if you do a search.  Someone referenced it, I think, in a newsletter I receive.  I don’t remember who or which email it was contained in.

Just after noon, at my kitchen table (which is also where I practice my arts and witchy spells and writing).

The poem transported me back to my childhood.  Some of my earliest memories arise from at or under my mother’s kitchen table.  Not the table that we ate at when we sat down as a family, but the smallish table that was in the tiny kitchen, backed into a corner and blocking the door to the basement (a scary place down below where toads could be stepped on and squished, and where a room nobody knew existed — a room for storing coal for the furnace — was found when someone knocked a hole in one of the walls).

What I was working on today.

The kitchen table was where we would eat breakfast, usually not all together in the same way we did for dinner.  Dinner was always served in the separate dining room where we could all fit at the table.  Counting Mom and Dad, there were usually six and then seven (when my sister came along, rather late) at the dining room table at dinner time.  Often more, with friends or other family joining us.  It could get pretty cozy (or crowded, if you prefer) at either table, in either room.

This morning’s beautiful sunrise that looked like a large and colorful bird with her wings stretched out across the sky.

The kitchen table was also the place where the adult women would cram in around it to drink coffee or beer (depending on the time of day), to chat and gossip, and to debate and discuss the important things in their lives.  Mom always had a tablecloth on the table, one that hung down far enough that I could hide under the table.  If I was very quiet and very still, I could sit there for hours listening in on all the women had to say, listening in on their laughter and tears, their joys and sorrows.  I would eventually be discovered and shooed away with a “Go find something else to do!”

Moving closer.

I wonder, now, if they knew most of the time that I was there and thought little of it.  I don’t remember most of the details of the things I overheard, but there must not have been anything particularly shocking about their conversations.  Otherwise, I’d probably remember specifics.  It seemed to me at the time, and seems to me still, that as long as I was neither seen nor heard, there was an unspoken permission to be there, allowing me to learn something of what it was like to be a woman in their world.

Hydrangea in winter.

I started writing Morning Pages again.  It’s only been a few days.  I’d forgotten how the practice of letting unstructured, uncensored words pour out onto the page stirs me to want to write.  Forgotten stories rise up from wherever they are stored within my body-mind.  Poetry, too, although that’s something I rarely share because I don’t really know how to write poetry.  There are different types of poems, rules and structures that I know little to nothing about.  Perhaps someday I will take the time to learn.  For now, I’ll meander and ramble like the creek that runs through the marsh.  Depending on the moon and tide it could be just a trickle that makes its way through the muck and mud, or a fast-moving stream overflowing its banks into the marsh grasses, or calm and reflective like the moments at slack tide when the water is neither coming nor going, rising nor falling.

The garden fence.

I often think that my writing and visual arts practices are a way of sharing my voice.  If you’ve ever had a speaking/oral conversation with me, you know that my words don’t come easily.  I talk as if there is a disconnect between my brain and my mouth.  Perhaps the disconnect is really between my heart and mouth.  One of the guest speakers in yoga class mentioned that the journey from heart to throat to mouth is a long one.  In my case, it not only feels long but also arduous.  A rocky path strewn with obstacles and detours/digressions and getting lost.  There are times — rare but they happen — when that journey from my heart to my throat to my mouth is smooth and easy, devoid of obstacles and stumbling blocks, but’s easier for me to say what’s in my heart in writing or through photography (and maybe, someday, through drawing and painting).

Pondering voice this morning, I also wondered what silenced my voice.  But that’s a different story, a different tack or course on the waters of life.

Another Prussian Blue project.  (Unfinished.  I’m still trying to figure out what else I might want to do with this.)

That’s probably enough from me and my voice for this sunny Wednesday that is usually wordless.  Thank you so much for stopping by and visiting with me.  Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset.  It’s a beautiful day.  Relatively warm for January.  Tonight’s sunset is scheduled for 5:11 PM.  I’ll be there early to take a little walk before we lose the light and whatever warmth might be left of the day.

Please be safe, be well, and practice gentleness.  It’s a good practice.  Even just a soft, gentle gaze can change the way life looks.

Zinnia in winter.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,951)  Sunrise clouds that stretch their wings across the sky.  1,952)  Words.  I’ve always liked words.  1,953)  A Wednesday walk.  1,954)  Morning Pages and the practice of writing.  1,955)  Poetry that inspires and provokes or paints pictures of life and joy and grief and everything in between.

Out in the cold.

Author:

Robin is...

36 thoughts on “The kitchen table

  1. Robin, I used to be intimated by poetry…and what I did not know about it. So I kept it to myself. Then I saw this, “Poetry is anarchy. You can do pretty much anything you want with it.” I used to call my writings stanzas, not poetry. Now, I know that it’s poetry. It’s not perfect as a poetry scholar might look for… and it is my poetry. Rita Dove has been quoted as having said the following: “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” I hope you will reconsider sharing some of your poetry here. My experience is that when we write, the words tell us as we go, how they wish to be presented. That’s how my poetry was born years ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I was going to mention to Robin that the line beginning with how she lost her voice and ending with waters of life would break naturally into a stanza with only a couple word changes. Sometimes prose elides into poetry.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you so much for you advice on poetry, Carrie. I really appreciate it. Both quotes spoke to me and I have to admit that I love the idea of a little anarchy when it comes to writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on the anarchy in writing! I recall the first time I posted a poem that I wrote. I hit the post button with some trepidation. The time I’ve given to participating in Ali Grimshaw’s Writing Circles over the last year or so has made a huge difference in my view of my poetry and I have come to appreciate the ways the words wish to be on the page…and what actually comes up and out of me when I write! I wish you well as you consider unleashing the beauty within, as you add it to your many creative activities. 🙏💕

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think, maybe, this post was a sign that I’ll be cutting back on the many creative activities. Just a hunch, but there’s something that keeps coming back around about writing and lately what was a whisper has begun to feel like a smack on the head (more than a nudge, in other words). The photography is part of me and will always continue. The drawing and painting, I’m beginning to see, were distractions. I might write a post about that. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I did Morning Pages for years, then decided they weren’t serving me. I shredded all of them. I don’t know any other thing I’ve ever done that was as cathartic as doing that. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t write them, but just what happened to me. We all move through life in our own ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so interesting, Ally. I used to burn all of my journals in the yearly bonfire and most of them were Morning Pages. I don’t think they served me well, either. What I’m doing now is technically something different but I call them Morning Pages because… well, I don’t know why. I just do. I start with a poem, usually a line or two from a poem, as a prompt and write from there. I think what I’m doing might be more akin to Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice (one of these days I will read one of her books!). I do it almost first thing in the morning and it does lead to a kind of stream of consciousness writing, but with a little more focus. I don’t insist on three pages, either. Whatever comes, comes. If it’s only a sentence or two, great. If it’s five pages, great. Anything above, beyond, or in-between is great, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gosh, Robin, I’m so glad I stopped by today! I learned something about you that I didn’t expect. Your words flow so beautifully on the page, so I had imagined they would in person too. I am the opposite to you. When I am talking, I tend to find a million-and-one things to say, that is, when everything is right in my world. When anything is out of kilter, I withdraw. Especially with writing in my blog, which is something that is happening now. There are so many disturbing things happening in Australia currently, and I feel that my writing “voice” is gagged.
    But … since you recommended writing Morning Pages, many years ago, I haven’t stopped writing every day in my own personal journal. I am extremely happy to hear that the person who inspired me to take up the practice has begun that form of writing again. I find that my day is not complete if I don’t begin the day by writing in my journal.
    Your “under the table” story reminded me of a day late last year. It was around November, and my two eldest grandchildren had a sleepover at our house. They are cousins, and have so much fun together! In the morning, they constructed a cubby house under the ten-seater table, where they ate breakfast, played, and listened to movies on a iPad. They had great fun. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing a piece of your life today. I really enjoyed reading your story. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joanne. It’s so good to ‘see’ you again. 🙂 My grandchildren like to play under the table, too. I was thinking this morning about how it might be a kind of rite of passage, in its way. Tables make great forts or cubby houses. I understand what you mean about your writing voice feeling gagged. I feel that way at times, too, with all that is going on in the world.

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  4. Oh, those skies! Took my breath away. So many different styles of communication. Being, Franco-American, I can talk the hind leg off a mule. My eldest daughter is more like her Yankee father, and conversation doesn’t come easily to her. Your writing and your photographs seem to come straight from the heart, and I always look forward to reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautiful post, Robin–from Jo Harjo’s work to your stunning photos. I love your reflection on your childhood’s kitchen table and voice, too. I could see this being part of a published piece. I knew nothing about poetry, and I sort of cringe reading back on some of the early stuff I posted on my blog, but you observe and love words, which is a good part of writing poetry.
    My words definitely flow better on a page. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When you mentioned the memories you have from times under your mother’s kitchen table it made me think of those lines from the Dave Matthews Band song, Ants Marching.
    “And remembers being small
    Playing under the table and dreaming”
    I used to listen to the adults while sitting on the stairs, hidden by the partial wall between the stairs and dining room. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you mentioned that, Barbara. I think of that song whenever my grandsons are hiding under the table. Someone will ask, “Where’s the Little Wookie?” and I’ll say, “Under the table and dreaming.” I spent time sitting on the stairs, too, but that was something different. Unauthorized spying, so to speak, and usually when something not-so-good was going on. It always felt a little (and maybe this is hindsight) like being under the table was okay. An unspoken permission to be there until I was shooed away.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That a wonderful poem along with your wonderful thoughts about the kitchen table. You got me thinking how life was different then – especially with dinners. Dinner was a time to get together – and Sunday midafternoon dinner had its own significance. Times of the past – times that have passed – times to remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Frank. 🙂 I’m not sure those times have passed for good. My sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren still gather for the daily dinner ritual and Sunday dinners after church still have their own ritual and significance.

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  8. Robin, I’m giggling over the image of you hunkered beneath the kitchen table listening to the grownups and soaking in how to be one yourself! My sis and I used to do the same thing, only halfway up the stairs. “Spying on the adults” was such a good pastime! I want to encourage you to try your hand at some poetry. Your words already have a rhythm, a flow, and I don’t think you’re far off the mark in writing verse. Plus, you might be surprised at how freeing it can be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Debbie. 🙂 Your comment about giggling made me smile this morning. There is just something about giggling that is irresistible. Thank you, too, for the encouragement regarding writing poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Robin, this is an amazing piece of writing. I could feel it so viscerally. It’s stayed with me since reading it yesterday–and perhaps with many of your other readers as well. It felt so grounded and full in the body. It made me want to write from grounded immediacy–just so you know my post today was an attempt to write from the grounded presence you showed here. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome and thank you, Kathy. ♥ As I already noted in our conversation on your blog, I wrote this when I was feeling very much in my body when I wrote this. What also came up was being fully of and in and part of this earth and the elements that we are made up of.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I like how you ended a thought-provoking post with a few things that make you happy. It reminded me of the song My Favorite Things, and it’s interesting to note how the things that often make us happy aren’t the grandiose happenings, but simple, every day things “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens”, Wednesday Walks and “Sunrise clouds that stretch their wings across the sky”, these are a few of my favorite things! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you do, as we’re entering our third year of the Endless Weekend, it’s now on our list of favorite things 🙂 Glad to have met a fellow Endless Weekender enthusiast! I hope to, over time, discover what else is on your list of “reasons to be happy.”

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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