One of the biggest reasons why people are encouraged to write by therapists and perhaps why so many people keep a journal, is because writing helps clarify thoughts. By translating all those brainwaves into words and grammar and syntax, we can make sense of the confusion, understand things or relieve the pain. I used to write poetry in a very offhand way for entertainment, but upon finding a vibrant community of poets and writers when I moved to North Carolina 10 plus years ago, I went from dabbling in the shallows to the deep end of poetry. Poetry helps me work stuff out: illness, sadness, happiness, confusion, and grief.
The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe. ~ David Hare
Last month a good friend of mine passed away. I met her when we both answered an ad on Craigslist for a writing group. The organizer disbanded the group after 2 or 3 sessions which is just as well because I didn’t like anyone in the group anyway, that is, except Judy. Judy and I clicked, which is funny when I think about it because we are opposites in so many ways. ‘Were’ opposites? I don’t know the proper verb tense to use when talking about someone who is dead.
Judy was a vegetarian, Nature loving, Earth Mother. I am a meat-eating, city girl who believes Nature is something you drive by and look at. She was athletic and out-doorsy. I like air-conditioning. Always active, she hiked the tallest peak in 48 of the 50 states, and biked across country, some of it while in her 50’s and early 60’s. And she was a wonderful writer and poet!
For years we met every month to talk writing, inspire each other to write, and critique each other’s writing. We started with short stories or essays and then moved into poetry. Even when life got in the way of monthly visits, we still met regularly with papers in hand. A life-long educator in the Montessori school system, she taught me hugely valuable lessons in writing, and in life.
Last week I attended a Celebration of Life for her. Her family hosted the event at a large park and historical site, which was the perfect setting for this special lady. She had a huge impact on a great many people. The gentleman who spoke first, I think it was her brother, said that she had about six solid networks of people in her life, a blessing indeed. After the family spoke, many folks went up to speak. The night before I wrote a poem about her, but perhaps more about myself. I had to, because that’s what I do. I work things out with poetry. I checked my inner compass to see if it would be ok for me to speak. After all, I “do” open mics all the time, but this wasn’t exactly the same thing. But the answer came back yes, and I’m glad I did because many people came up to me and thanked me for the poem afterwards.
So, to share it one last time, here is my poem for Judy Martell. All of her books are available on Amazon.
When you lie beside me you will feel
beneath us both, the heaven I believed in.
Judy Martell, July 1950 – June 2017
Tomorrow I will attend
your Celebration of Life
but you won’t be there
or a cake with candles.
This is my first time
standing in the church of Nature
to say goodbye
A decade of friendship
spent in coffee shops and bookstores
writing, reading, learning
our lives unfolding for each other
with coffee and poetry.
Who will read my poetry now
and tell me I’m not done?
I still need you.
You had the smallest carbon footprint
of anyone I know, yet your life
was as big as the whole outdoors
Your legacy is as big as the sky,
the only heaven you believed in.