Toni Amato is Right, As Usual

The new writing group met last night for the first time. I’ve done my best to appear confident about this new venture, but anyone who knows me well knows the turmoil of the waters beneath the placid surface. Facilitating workshops is not new to me — I’ve done it in various venues and for various years for more than 20 years — but this particular project lies quite close to my heart. Fear of failure and fear of success dogged my steps in the months leading up to its opening.

I feel particularly grateful for the love and support of my two teachers: Toni, who first challenged me to consider the possibility of starting a workshop similar to his, but on the opposite side of the Boston hub. He’s provided support both practical and spiritual — and will no doubt continue to as my own confidence waxes and wanes. And Barbara, whose workshop sparked the necessity of finding a place to generate new stones to polish and polish under her guidance. She said to me, “My first workshop was two friends who were there for free, and one person who paid $40.” That was 30 years ago, and 125 books and countless journal publications have emerged from her workshop since.

This time last week, I was reciting a litany of fears to Toni, and he responded — as he often does — that the universe would give me just what I needed, moment by moment. Last night, that was a small group which merged effortlessly. And a group decision to focus on generating works of poetry, the form I am concentrating on myself.  In three hours we worked four different prompts, and by the end of the evening we felt expansive and full of possibilities.

We meet again in two weeks, when two more new members will join us. We have space for a few more, but whether the group stays small or expands to capacity, I’m sure the universe will provide just what is needed.

Gratitude: Germination, Money, Traffic, Tow Trucks

Gratitude is a practice that grows with use, strengthens as it gets stronger, spills out of the heart and into the world. Reciting the same dry words over and over again does not suffice. I need to write it down, seek out the new, let the words and associations spill out of me, touch each other off, tiny candle-flames coalescing until they’re blazing through the darkness.

As the days grow shorter, the trees flare and drop and reveal their bare architecture, my sap flows downward into silence. Under the snow, summertime slumbers. My mouth tied up with cobwebs and leaf mold, and underneath the filaments that hold the soil together, erupting after rain into white shoots of mushrooms — Indian paintbrush.

Three weeks ago, I struggled through unexpected traffic, late to a too-early appointment, left my car in its spot too long while the ignorant hounded me and I turned them tai-chi-like into pupils, and when the work was done and I could raise my head, I left the building to find my car half-hoisted in the joist of the tow truck.

I knew what came next. You don’t live in a city like Boston for ten years without knowing what came next. I danced the dance, said my lines, pleaded for mercy, failed to weep or gnash my teeth when the greasy man said, “Fifty dollars. Cash.”

Slaves who had become kings. I opened my wallet. No cash, but a card, and he would wait while I went to the ATM. Two twenties and a roll of quarters later, I was free, some buried part of me seething, sure, but the rest of me remembering how, in years past, I’d done the endless drive to industrial waste-yards, paid the fee and then the fee again, seen the greasy kings boasting about their orchards of waiting cars, the kings of trespass towing.

Learned the hard way that keeping my papers in order was not optional. Plodded to the other halls of justice, gave this paper-stamper and then that one my money more money always more money, watched my bank account wither past zero and into the land of deprivation, trying not to worry, not knowing what would keep me in the freezing room I rented with three others in Cambridge, eating lentils and rice in a cold winter porch, trusting in an unknown abundance despite the evidence.

And on that afternoon I saw the fruit of all that suffering.

Fifty dollars is a fortune when you have to it give to the miserable man in his miserable truck, and can be free to drive, comfortable and warm, through the bright autumn afternoon.