Emily Dickinson and I

One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson is “I’m nobody! Who are you?” because I can relate to being on the outside looking in. It is a poem about us vs. them and challenges authority (the somebodies) while seducing the reader into complicity with the writer:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

Poet. Recluse. Brilliant. Dead at 56. Emily Dickinson is a paradox.
I found Dickinson at a time when life wasn’t kind to an awkward adolescent with frizzy hair, thick glasses, and crooked teeth. Her poems spoke to me then, and I often turn to them now when I’m feeling lonely, sad, or in need of inspiration. Dickinson became a celebrated poet posthumously because of her unique, compact phrases and quirky use of form and syntax. She praised nature’s beauty, questioned death and immortality, and paradoxically expressed opinions: what may make perfect sense is actually madness and what may sound crazy is perfectly sensible.

During Dickinson’s lifetime only a handful of her poems were published. After her death, her family found 40 hardbound booklets containing nearly 1,800 poems crafted by her hand. It was a labor of love for Dickinson who found comfort in words, yet she kept her words to herself. Instructed to burn her letters after her death, Dickinson’s sister Lavinia, ignored the request and had them typed, edited and published. In the end Dickinson became famous – a somebody she railed against in her poem – or did she?

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Like Dickinson, I am a prolific writer.
I have filled hundreds of journals and notebooks with prose, poetry and unfinished bits and pieces. These now reside in bins and drawers in my home. Like Dickinson, I dread the thought of someone finding my raw thoughts and would not want them published after my death. Sometimes I write about the same things over and over until I get it right. However, doubt seeps in just after I hit publish. Could I have made this sentence stronger? Is there a more descriptive word? Am I grammatically correct? So, I get Dickinson’s reluctance to have her work made public for others to comment and question.

Why does art lead to suffering?
I am fortunate to have many wonderful people in my life who lift me up when I’m feeling dislocated, isolated, and on the brink of throwing in the towel: You are good enough. You have a strong voice. You are a great writer. It’s important to surround yourself with those who listen, offer encouragement, and nudge you to get outside your comfort zone.

A while back, I met with author and columnist Pam Sherman and told her about the book I was writing, explaining that it was part meditation, part parenting lessons. And then I said: Who am I to write about parenting? I’m no expert. I’m just a mom sharing lessons I’ve learned from my raising my son.

You know what she said? “Your humility is cute, Kris, but it’s not helping you. The best thing you said was that you are a mom. You can help others by telling your story. You have something to share. You are a writer.”

Who am I? I am a writer, a mother, and an author.
Last year I published a book – Mommy Musings: Lessons on motherhood, love and life. It celebrates the big and small events, and conundrums, that I discovered in my own motherhood journey.

Instead of writing it long hand in a hardbound book like Dickinson, I typed it on my Mac and uploaded it to amazon. Now available in print and digital versions, Mommy Musings offers nineteen unexpected and uplifting true stories, each followed by a lesson and invitation to notice life’s joy and wonder.

Writing and publishing this book is a gift to myself more than anything else because it has allowed me to let go. I know now that I can’t hold on to my stories and keep them for myself. I have to release the darlings and share them with the world. Maybe, just maybe they will bring clarity, awareness and a little joy to someone.

I am public like a frog. I am somebody. Who are you?

What do you think?  This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends. Follow me on:FacebookInstagram (@kristinebruneau), or Pinterest.

When the moment gets real

When the moment gets real and gut wrenching, I take out a notebook and pen to write down the bones of my feelings. Perhaps it is the flight in me to draw inward, away from the world towards freely expressing what’s in my head. Then again, it may be the fight in me to wrestle with complicated feelings, chronicle moments of joy, or create a sense of peace and calm.

Summer got real five months ago in western NY like the long anticipated smile from an infant gazing into his mother’s face. Clouds like tiny fists tumbled across blue skies. A warm breeze beckoned the ash’s feathery leaves to bow and bend. White blossoms danced across the great lawn, open to new beginnings.

As days grew longer, lilacs and peonies bloomed like children swelling with delight to begin summer vacation. The time of brightness and warmth had finally arrived for real and I couldn’t wait for the grass to tickle my toes and gaze into starlit nights. Music and laughter drifted over backyard patios while crickets buzzed, chirped and hummed to their lovers.

By October, the insect chorus fell silent; their love dead and gone. The Autumn Applause had burst into brilliant hues of red, orange and yellow. In the blink of an eye, the moment was whisked away by icy gusts – nothing gold can stay.

Outside my window, November snow falls gently on the majestic blue spruce; pine cones lie scattered in frozen patterns on the ground. I am stunned by the cold, starkness of the real scene.

My desk light casts shadows upon my notebook. Doubt rises like water boils for coffee. Surrounded by great literary minds, my prose pales to the likes of Shelly, King and Dickinson. Wise teachers reach through tattered pages with sage advice for writing practice. Strunk and White, Zinsser and Goldberg urge me forward.

Masters and humble practitioners grace my shelves and fill my mind with more ideas than I can keep up with. I hunch over my book and squeeze my pen, choking words and phrases that leave me sore. I give in to the moment and give it all I can. But is it enough? This moment is uncomfortable, exciting, and real.

What do you think?

This is my best work today. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends. Follow me on: FacebookInstagram (@kristinebruneau), or Pinterest.  

Soccer Practice

What is soccer practice? Like writing – or nearly anything else worth doing – it is all about focusing the mind. I find that I can always learn something new by stopping and observing something so simple and sweet right outside my window.  This is a very short story about a boy and his dog enjoying their soccer practice.

A boy and his dog guzzle from a backyard hose on a humid summer’s eve. Dripping chins and chests are ready for another game. With the top of his foot and intense concentration, the boy kicks with precision. The black-and-white orb rises. Up-up-up it soars into a sea of blue and then descends. A comet, it crashes into the ground bouncing once before the dog attacks. With murderous eye, the dog sinks her canines into the smooth layers of polyester. Shredding skin with precision, she refuses to release her kill. The boy wants to kick some more and gently pries open her reluctant jaws. The ball is free. And so it goes: Soccer practice. Again and again for many minutes. Eventually the boy tires and goes inside. The weary dog trots behind the boy. While he showers, the dog cools her belly on the kitchen tile. Her tongue, pink like ham exposed. Hot breath and heaving chest mark the end of soccer practice.