Unpacking…thoughts more so than boxes

I’m about 3 weeks into my professional transition from more than two decades researching, teaching, and leading at research-intensive institutions to a new post at a small liberal arts college.

I must say that I’ve been diligently unpacking, but I’d be less than honest if I said that the diligence was focused on unpacking boxes. I’m focused on unpacking my transition and reflecting on new opportunities.

As a part of this unpacking focus, I’ve been finding and getting accustomed to new rivers and lakes so that I can stick to the rivers and the lakes that I’m used to…if you know you know…for periods of reflection and writing.

Left: A picture with grass, trees, sky, and a lake ; Right: A picture containing sky, grass, and an arched bridge over a river.

I’m enjoying all I’m learning about a new community and institution, as well as about new colleagues and neighbors.

I’m also thrilled to have selectively spent time unpacking and setting up my new writing studio. While the other unpacking can wait, I’m re-establishing my writing practice after moving-related (and anticipated and planned for) gaps in my regular writing process.

I’m finding new “pre-writing” contemplation walking trails and paths.

I’m forgoing new place-based writing rituals and routines

I’m settling in at work, home, and play…and focused on possibilities.

Even as I walk by unpacked and/or tucked away boxes, I’m thrilled to be unpacking new thoughts and plans for opportunities in writing, leading, contributing in new spaces and places.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, you can find me on Twitter at @BerondaM…even when I should be unpacking!!

Processing and proceeding

I generally write mostly outside of my home, apart from early morning sessions in a home writing space, that is.

I have routinely written on planes, in airline lounges, in coffee shops around the nation and world and more…my life rhythm generally drove my writing rhythm and productivity.

Writing….in Deutschland…Ein kaffee in meine hand

COVID-19 and the associated coronavirus pandemic has literally grounded me and through my own “process and proceed” reflections I have also been grounding myself in this time and space figuratively.

Initially, I grounded myself in the continuation of my writing practice through “forcing” myself to write more at home in my “morning space”, but my mind struggled to convert this treasured space to an everyday and “all-day space” for writing. So, after urgent deadlines were filled and no longer served as the motivation to “stick and stay” in my home writing space, I tried relocating to other places in my home—with variable and limited success.

This only served as a short-term solution.

As spring has slowly emerged in mid-Michigan, I have found a new seasonal solution…finding deserted spaces with a bench—even just a large stone or clearing will do—to write in nature. A self-made tea or coffee in hand, I’m finding inspiration, new words, and new motivations in these sacred spaces among the songs of birds, comfort of a gentle breeze, and gratefully receiving gifts of oxygen and occasionally shade of the plants surrounding me.

A quiet writing space by the water

My “writing space” and time are different, as dictated by a different time and different challenges in the face of COVID-19.

Whereas I can no longer be “alone together” to write in public spaces surrounded by the energy and sounds of other humans that I treasure in places such as cafes, in nature I’m able to be “alone together” with other beings, including my plant and bird kin.

A quiet writing corner under trees in bloom in spring

Today, between writing bursts, I listened to the birds in their song-based conversations. I listened to the trees “speak” through the rustling of branches and emerging leaves. I didn’t capture all that they were saying to each other and perhaps to me; yet, I listened intensely in hopes of capturing some seed of wisdom, of kinship, of shared understanding of our changing world.

Just as I have had to learn to “be different” in this time, I will likewise have to be different after, because the world itself undoubtedly will be different.

At least I am learning more about the flexibility I can—and must—demonstrate by providing avenues and searching out spaces for being with other beings to facilitate continuing my work—my conversations with the world.

We will all have to emerge from this pandemic different. I have specific hopes about the ways in which we will be different.

May we be with each other differently.

May we be with other beings differently.

May we truly emerge different and better.

May we emerge more thoughtful, more aware, more humble, more “grace-full”, more “grace-giving”.

I’d love to hear more about the ways you are processing and proceeding in this unique moment in time. You can find me as always on Twitter—@BerondaM.

Rhyme and rhythm

I’ve said before that writing is as essential as breath to the writer.

So, finding ways to write means that I’m no longer holding my breath.

My father was a poet—although I’m not sure he knew it.

He loved rhyme and alliteration—the creativity and rhythm of it all.

Everyone he loved, he gave a rhyme-based nickname. Mine shall remain a closely guarded secret here. Yet, so many family and friends sat with reticent smiles remembering their lovingly bestowed monikers as we memorialized him late last year.

It may have been his influence that led me first to the belief that my writing gift was as a poet. Although, I later embraced that I am firmly drawn to prose. I am a writer who writes as celebration, as therapy, as offering, and more.

One of the challenges that I’m finding about the current coronavirus-induced moment is that it has completely disrupted my rhythm. The rhythm of my life largely drove the rhythm of my writing—something which I didn’t fully understand until that rhythm was abruptly disrupted.

I write daily—even now although some days it’s utter nonsense.

Some days I write a single phrase or sentence, other days I write for hours.

My general writing patterns before this were legendary.

I wrote in the morning.

I wrote in pockets and crannies between meetings.

I am even one of those people who gets in a deep writing groove on planes.

I’ve also been known to pull over mid drive to capture a thought or two.

I wrote in my work office.

I wrote in coffee shops.

I wrote in the library.

I wrote in botanical gardens and quiet corners of museums.

So, although I know logically that this moment of a global pandemic is nothing I’ve encountered and, thus, I should not be surprised that it would impact my ‘normal’ routines and rituals. I truly thought the transition to writing from home would be smoother for me.

I can quite literally write almost anywhere, so surely I can write here I presumed.

What I have found, however, is that the monotony of writing in the same place, same space—day in and day out—has completely thrown my rhythm into chaos.

So, I’m finding a new rhythm—one that is not driven by the external demands of a life on the move and in which I’m frequently on the go. The novelty of a new space or new view, or the comfort that comes from sliding into a familiar booth of a favorite coffee shop or nook of a commonly visited garden can no longer be the cues that stimulate creativity and word flow.

Now, I’m having to draw on the internal compass that drives the deposition of words from my inner voice to the page.

I’ve said before that writing is as essential as breath to the writer.

So, finding ways to write means that I’m no longer holding my breath.

Breathing is now the new rhythm…breathing oxygen in and expelling carbon dioxide out to sustain my life.

Now I’m also writing to the new rhythm of ‘breathing’ as composition—taking reflection in and expelling out words to make sense of the world through writing which is indeed as essential to me as my lifelong form of breathing—and certainly is sustaining me in this uncertain moment.

What are you learning new about yourself in this atypical moment? I’d love to hear more about it. As always find me on Twitter—@BerondaM.