the narrow space between interference and intervention.

  We have all watched the dissolution of people. Some in our families or among our friends, wondering whether or when to step in, navigating the tiny space between interference and intervention. And some in the world of celebrities, watching them wax and wane inside People magazine, participating in their demise by our curiosity it seems. Lindsay Lohan, for example, a short sure path from cute freckles to hollow rehab and back again, while we have watched and bought the magazines detailing her struggle. Amy Winehouse's tragic journey has made the news recently with YouTube videos of her unable to speak or sing in Prague, cutting short her European comeback as she was booed off the stage. I couldn't watch, not even from the antiseptic distance of YouTube. She was in need; she was dying. I love her voice. I unabashedly love it. And her look. I don't exactly know why. Something fragile and knowing and fierce. Tiny stick legs like a foal, a deep smoky voice, those eyes, that crooked mouth. The beautiful, stunned look on her face when she won a Grammy. Her skittish way of dancing. Those who picture me writing in a pristine office with classical music softly in the background surrounded by scented candles might be surprised to know that I write with headphones on and music loud in my ears. Probably too loud. The Flaming Lips, Coldplay. But that's how I write best, with words being sung hard and typing other words at the same time. I wrote an entire book to the music of Amy Winehouse recently, her songs on repeat for...

real women play the tuba

I think you know how much I love my daughters. And how much I love the fact that Emma is fully committed to playing an instrument twice her size. She has asked me over the years to ask readers to support her efforts to raise money for abused horses or buy new band uniforms for her high school, and I have always declined. Not because I didn’t support what she was trying to do, but because I never wanted to impose on people who come to this blog for inspiration, not to be asked for money. For that same reason, I don’t accept advertising on this site and I don’t use affiliate links that give me a kickback if you purchase some product–I only tell you about things I love if I love them, without any attachment to money. And I still don’t want to impose, but I have agreed to support her in a special quest because I can see in her beautiful blue eyes how very much it means to her. She has played the tuba (and its marching band cousin, the sousaphone) for eight years. She has played on loaner instruments from the schools she’s attended all that time, some good and some not so good instruments. Teachers always remark on her beautiful tone. People who see her diminutive stature always are shocked to see her wield a huge sousaphone and not only carry it, but dance with it as part of the NC State University marching band. And all that while, she has longed for her own horn. Tubas are very expensive, and we told...

the last puzzle piece.

My friend Nina died a year ago today. To say "I miss her" does not suffice. She was one of the funniest people I have ever known–laconic, sardonic, dry–as well as one of the wisest, and one of the most ornery. I spent that weekend with her, unknowing, fearing, and yet walking toward her. When the nurses needed to be with her, I walked to the fancy lobby of the nursing home and took over a glass-topped desk with a jigsaw puzzle I found there. I started it on Friday, the day my vigil began. By Sunday, it was nearly done. I found myself slowing down the pace, as if that would keep Nina alive, as if she would die if I finished it. Then only one piece was yet to be placed. I held it, touching the edges, knowing it would fit if I placed it in the empty space, but unable to do so. I put it in my front right pocket, and touched it the rest of that day, until she died. I left the puzzle out on that desk; the nurses all knew it was mine to finish, and so they left it. I carried on my life without Nina, except for the small cardboard puzzle piece in my pocket. For weeks we walked around together like that, me reaching into my pocket, feeling the edges. As summer turned to fall, I went back to the nursing home and slipped the puzzle piece back into the box, to be solace to another holding vigil for a loved one. Nina was not one to go gentle...

for what or for whom do you grieve?

This weekend is the one-year anniversary of the weekend I spent with my friend, Nina, while she died. Three nights. And a year ago, I had my hardest night this evening, as she frantically tried to tell me something, her voice gone, her ability to write gone. Just a wisp of a person after being ravaged by Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS, she pulled me on top of her on her death bed, holding me tight, her eyes wide, wild. Gesturing, gesturing wildly toward the ceiling, looking into me and through me as she panicked. This was the hardest night, the long one, the one during which the chaplain was roused from his bed at 4am to come pray over her. This photo was taken at Nina's funeral. We placed objects and photos on a table for people to remember, and to remember her by. This old doll was one of a very few things Nina asked me to pack for her move into the nursing home where she died. What are the things we keep? What are the things that fall away? I’m currently writing a book called “The Geography of Loss.” It’s about navigating our way into loss and grief, exploring the geography of the lands we find there, sometimes setting up camp for a while, and then emerging into new lands. It is about creating our own atlas of experience. I've created a new space for people to share their answers to this question: for what or for whom do you grieve? Your answers can be anonymous, unless you include your name at the end of your...

you’re a writer. now get to Boston and write.

(I'm unsure how to sync up my voice with my mouth in this video, so just imagine that I'm speaking in Russian on the video and that you're hearing the English translation! Also not sure why it chops off before the end. Should end with "I'd love to see you there!") I'm honored to teach with Susan Piver and Jen Louden again this fall. We're bringing our popular "Walking into Fire" writing retreat to BOSTON on September 23-24, 2011, and you won't want to miss it! Full of writing, laughing, and creating a community of writers, this is a magical event. Here's what a few folks said after our last "Walking into Fire" retreat: “Three beautiful women who happen to be stunning writers, talking about writing. What more could one want? The chance to sit in the same room with Jen, Patti, and Susan was 100% privilege. To be mentored and guided in tangible and generous ways was gift beyond-belief. And to experience their presence and companionship with me in the writing process, inspired and invited more than I could have imagined or hoped. I now write more – and better. Further, I believe more deeply than ever before that what I have to say must be said.”  –Ronna Detrick, www.ronnadetrick.com “Writing often feels like this mysterious craft that nobody will explain (except to tell you to “just write!”). Yes, “just write” is part of it. But there are more parts too, and something in me relaxed to receive these clues to the next steps beyond just showing up at the page. This workshop answered a need to know...