Desert Sandstorm and Writer’s Block

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  —Eleanor Roosevelt

            Photo:  John Haslam  foxypar4

I have been dealing with writer’s block lately, like so many writers do.  Sometimes I think creativity is like a grain of sand in the middle of the desert.  When all is calm, the grains sit there storing up energy.  Then the winds begin, stirring up the grains, and creativity comes to life as the grains move and re-form, taking on new shapes in new places.  I’m telling myself that at this time the grains of sand in my own personal desert are at rest, but soon the energy will burst forth on the wings of the wind and I’ll be able to write again.

For several summers I attended the International Women’s Writing Guild’s summer conference at Skidmore where I took classes from other women writers who had successful careers and had published novels or poetry or drama or memoir.  The best class I took was from Alice Orr.  She presented great lessons in writing, but her best advice was to write for at least an hour every day, without ever taking a day off.  I took her advice because I had been working on a young adult novel for many months but it wasn’t finished.  When the session ended, I went home, bought a special pen and grid notebooks, and set to work for an hour every night.  I was teaching at the time and it wasn’t easy, but I finished the novel only because she taught me how.

I wish I had her in front of me now, nudging me into writing daily.  Sometimes I try to convince myself that I am working at writing because I am thinking about what to write or thinking about what is wrong with something  I have already written.  I read blogs and am awed by those writers who blog daily.  How do they do that, I wonder.  How does that happen?  Their discipline and drive and creativity convince me even more of my own inadequacy.  The thing about writing, however, is that it is very addictive.  It’s not like one can really give it up.  But calm does settle over the desert until the stormy winds start up and ideas are born.  I’m waiting today in the stillness.

Winter White

“That some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than that everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.” ––James K. Feibleman

Winter White

The evening air that spring was warm, almost sultry
as she danced in his arms,
she in a pink chiffon dress, ruffled at the neck,
he so handsome in a gray jacket and striped shirt,
she feeling something new
that she later recognized as love
long after he walked away from her,
too late for dreams to come true.

The brisk winter air was cool against her face
as she walked with him hand in hand on the paved path
and later danced in his arms,
she in a long-sleeved white knit dress,
he in a navy blue jacket and white shirt,
that night when commitment came
and with it a sense of belonging once hoped for
but lost that spring evening just a year before.

Color, she thought, was everything to her memory,
pink signaling hope,
winter white a coldness,
a loneliness she could not ever overcome.

Moments in her youth gone,
stored in the far recesses of her memory
where wishes and dreams still live on.

Valentine’s Day Memory, 1991

There is only one happiness in life—to love and be loved.”  George Sand

                                                                  Photo Temari 09

Valentine’s Day Memory, 1991

The love between my mother and father was an example of how true love should always be.  I almost never heard them argue.  More often, I heard my mother laugh at my father’s antics, humorous comments, and silly faces.   My father tried always to please my mother and make her happy.   I remember one evening when I was young, maybe around ten years old, I walked into our darkened dining room and encountered my mother and father in a deep embrace.  I had never seen them like this, but I knew it could not have been the first time.  I just had never seen it before because their love tended to be a very private thing.

After they retired, they bought a small house in Florida where they spent winters.  They returned to New York for spring and summer.  In 1990 my parents came up for Christmas, but my father wasn’t well.  We just weren’t sure what was wrong.  A few weeks after they returned to Florida, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that had spread to his lungs and his brain.  My husband and I drove down to Florida in February to drive them both up north so my father could receive treatment and they could get the support they needed.

Valentine’s Day occurred while we were down there.  I remember my father motioning me over to his chair and handing me some money.

“Buy your mother a box of chocolates and a dozen roses for me,”  he said.  He was barely able to get up out of his chair, or I know he would have dragged himself out to get these things himself.  I did as I was asked, and when I returned, he asked me if I would continue to do this every Valentine’s Day in the future.  I guess he knew he would not be doing it himself any more.  I promised him I would.

My father died on May 10, 1991, just a few months after his diagnosis.

Every Valentine’s Day since then I have bought a red, heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen roses for my mother.  Every year she has said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have done this.”  But when I tell her they are from Dad, she can’t argue with that.

I hope every year he has looked down at us with joy as my mother opens her box of chocolates and arranges the roses in a vase.

Dad, I’ll remember to do this every year, just like you would have.  And thank you, Dad, for showing me what true love is really all about.

Almost Enough

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.” —Emily Dickinson

Photo Taki Steve, takacsi75, creative

Almost Enough

The way the bright blue sky fades to pale gray
at the edge of the horizon where the tips
of the dark green pines reach toward heaven

The way the light plays over the icy wet surface of the lake,
today more pristine than yesterday
when fishing shanties and ice fishermen dotted the lake,
the warmth of the winter sun changing the frozen surface,
promising spring and hope

It’s almost enough to soften the pain of your words this morning,
angry words that lingered in the air warmed by the sun,
ice forming within me instead of on the lake.
One would think all this beauty would soften it.

It’s almost enough.

© Barbara Flass 2012

Note to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood: Never Underestimate the Power of a Breast Cancer Survivor

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
—Dr. Seuss

I try not to blog about controversial issues, but this week’s news story about the conflict between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood has forced me to reconsider, at least for today.

My sister and I have supported the Susan G. Komen Foundation for years.  Since my sister’s diagnosis twelve years ago, since my diagnosis eight years ago, and my sister’s death in 2005, I have believed that Komen’s support of women with breast cancer was worthy of my donations.  The walks have been important to my family because much of the money was kept locally to support diagnosis, treatment, and research in our area.

The important thing to remember about all of this is no one should underestimate the power of a woman who has had breast cancer.  We are vocal, passionate about survival, and determined.  We will never stop our support for services for women wherever those services are offered.  Anyone who sat in the room with my sister during her final ten days of life would never insert politics into the issue of providing services for women that could save their lives and spare them the agony I witnessed my sister undergoing at the end of her life.

This is one more examples of how our dysfunctional Congress affects us all negatively.  I hate to see women react emotionally to the point where they say they will no longer do the Komen walks or support Komen in their efforts to provide grants for breast cancer research.  I wish more than anything something could have saved my sister’s life, but at least I can hope that there are women whose lives will be saved by early detection, by better treatment, and by environmental changes that will prevent breast cancer.

I have seen in the past two days how people, including New York City Mayor Bloomberg, will step in and support free mammograms and treatment for women without insurance.  Good can always come out of bad.  In the past few days Planned Parenthood has received more in donations than they were receiving from a Komen grant and abortion is not the reason for this increased support.  The mixture of politics and emotional issues such as breast cancer is a volatile one, so we cannot allow the controversy over abortion to take away financial resources that could save lives.  We can prove to Congress and to the Komen Foundation that we will do what they will not.

I don’t know if Nancy Brinker did the right thing.  If the Komen Foundation cannot support organizations under investigation and if our Congress is currently investigating Planned Parenthood for misdirection of funds, then it seems obvious that Komen has the right to withdraw funds, even temporarily, until the issue is resolved.  But for women to withdraw support for Komen and refuse to buy pink or participate in walks as many women are now threatening to do is to miss the core of the issue.  Women die of breast cancer.   We cannot allow any woman to die because she could not afford a mammogram or treatment.

I hope women will continue to support women diagnosed with breast cancer in any way they can, put aside political issues, and reach out in any way their hearts tell them to.  I am not planning to withdraw my support for Komen at this time, although I will continue to keep up with developments as they occur.  Perhaps the Komen Foundation will reverse its decision in the coming weeks.  My sister supported the Komen Foundation and if she were alive today, I believe she would continue that support because I know for her the only thing that matters is life.


“Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

—-William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”



I thought of you today,
something I don’t do very often anymore.
I thought of beginnings and endings,
starting and finishing,
knowing and not knowing,
happiness and abandonment.

As I grew up I came to know good things and bad.
I came to know happy days and overwhelming grief,
but when I think of you,
I remember only the innocence of youth,
the pure joy of discovery that often comes
before loss.

I learned how to fill emptiness with others.
Still there are those days and nights
when moments come that remind me of you.
It might be just the lyrics of a song
or a laugh that sounds like yours
or the way a smile lights up a face.

I may briefly have a memory of your hand holding mine
walking in the rain along the river bank,
and for just a little while I’m sad again
that some of the most wonderful things in life are fleeting
while the most sorrowful moments are long-lasting.

Dichotomy–like the rainbow in the midst of the rain.

© Barbara Flass 2012