Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Madeline Part 2

"Madeline, I'm here. Tell me about that day." At the appointment I set with myself to meet Madeline and begin to hear what she has to say, this is the way I begin. I have always been drawn to this picture of all those in my collection. My great grandmother, Florence in the foreground. Madeline posing, as if she is the one the camera is focused on, against this great tree. 

I think on this day something happened. Madeline, and maybe others too, entered into what Christina calls the "Spiral of Experience". A happening that eventually took her deep into her own story. A shift that shook her out of a dream.
I asked her who she was on that day. And with a bit of self-consciousness at first, "is this her voice, or mine", "this is silly, what am I doing", Madeline appeared. I dutifully put her to page. When I thought I was done, she was finished enough for now, Florence, Flossie once, asked to be heard. A mother watching her child become a woman, and worrying as mothers do. How she held her, this pretty one, the next one she would lose. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Writing Madeline

My grandmother's teacup. An in-progress gel transfer of a poem written by her sister, my great aunt Madeline. A lit candle. A starting point for journaling from my dear friend and storycatcher, Christina and my heart breaks open to the story that is living deep in me, a little crack. A peek in. The story, for now, I am writing for me. The process it feels right to share here, for everyone, or no one to see.

Serendipity. A treasure hunt. For years pieces have been given to me to arrive at this moment of taking up this endeavor. The chance to lead women's conversation circles around legacy. The glory of working for two men who believe that journaling and reflection as a group is a core process for running a good business. An April ice storm. An unlikely job interview that led me to a paper school and a new world of melding photographs to paper and paper to binding, the creation of the very container for story, itself a form of meditation. The discovery of Madeline's poems in the raft of papers passed on to me by the family keeper of these things. And the way I couldn't deny she was somehow speaking to me as I rubbed soft paper pulp from the image of her words until they reappeared under the tips of my fingers. The aching wounds I feel compelled to heal that can't be traced to my own blessed life. A call to weave all of these art forms into one that is uniquely mine. An invitation.

I begin. 

Christina suggests I start with dialogue. A written conversation with Madeline. Have fun, she advises. I quickly create a signature, a set of pages sewn together, to hold all that we have to say. I pull out pictures of Madeline, and the partly rubbed off transfer of one of her poems, "If I Could Choose". I feel drawn to working on the transfer, rub more of the dried paper remnants from the surface with a bit of warm water. Invite Madeline to visit with me. I fill one of my grandmother's teacups with warm water and start to rub the surface. "Try the other hand" I remember from journaling therapist Kathy Adams' advice. As I switch to my left I feel the paper differently. I am required to slow down and work deliberately to find my way. A switch happens inside me too, a lower gear engages. 

After a while I notice that one line of the poem lies smooth as tumbled stone at my touch. A sign in image transfer that it is done. "Where Science Long to Dream,".  I move to sit down with my journal, and capture this line, and a question. "Why Me?". . . . . . . I can see Madeline, a moment in time that I borrow from a photograph. She is in the background, unaware, posing languidly against a tree. She turns toward me and answers me and I write it down. Then I write and she speaks. We both do. An hour later and I am wrung out. Exhausted. Elated. Intrigued.

I tuck our things away and take a long walk in the first hot spring sun, until another day.