The Writing Shed
Landscape Stepping Stones is a journaling tool created by Dr. Progoff. It is a list of 8-12 places that have been important, including residences, environments, places visited, and other significant landscapes. I chose to write a landscape of stepping stones that led to the current drafting of my memoir. When choosing what stones should be on the list, I asked myself: 1) if this place influenced or even altered the trajectory of my work and 2) if I am still living with the result/impact of this place.
Here is my list:
- It was a place where I got up every morning—one of my mother’s finger lakes painted tables, now in her basement apartment—where I would get up at the crack of dawn to revise my manuscript—The Margaret Project. I was also escaping from a violent marriage and this table was safe for me, but also hidden.
- It was a room where the book covers in the special collections library were glossy and vibrant and full of red and green peppers. Where the tables had lamps with soft lighting. Where the architectural details were wood, and influenced by the Spanish invasion of New Mexico.
- It was an outside experience when I slipped on the ice, stepping down the front stairs of our Pine Tree Street house—the perfect house, for the perfect couple, who wanted to live a perfect dream of an interracial marriage. I now remember this falling moment as a symbol of the fatal cracking of our marriage and the memoir as a place of solace.
- It was a town where I noticed the weeds in the sidewalk, a town, Albuquerque, that was re-enchanting my life, even as I was letting go of monsters, villains, and real-life predators.
- It was a house where I learned that I could feel safe in my own body. More than this, It was a house where I learned that someone else could provide a safe place for me to rest, and we could be safe together—our bodies together safe, so that I could write out of a place of tranquility and not danger. Drew’s house.
- It was a visit to United World College that put me on the path of reversing former regrets, mistakes, and fucked up experiences where I was alone. This visit to former co-worker Marianne showed me how strong I was and that I would be saying a lot of goodbyes over the next few years, that I needed to do this to rebuild, to create the life I needed to create for Remi and I, and ultimately, to create the manuscript I was always meant to write. Her house was full of cats, incense, day beds, ingredients for Thai coffee, and a potpourri of shampoos and conditioners!
- It was a setting where I could see my mother as a woman and not my mother—the Atlantic Ocean—this big vast and deep and still place of aliveness. I want this to show up on the memoir page. And it will! It is in me.
- It was a landscape where I could cultivate conversation—the gardens at the Unitarian Church in Lynchburg, VA and Anne Spencer’s writing studio her husband built for her. This admiration of another woman’s backyard is something I have carried with me and now it is becoming a dream! This place has showed me how possible it is to manifest a dream and for it to be heard and executed. If I trust and take risks and share my heart and be open with my emotions, the people in my life care for me and surround me with love.
Reflection on landscape stepping stones related to my drive to complete my current memoir manuscript:
I am aware that some of the most difficult places have been some of the most fruitful (e.g., the steps of a former house where I slipped and injured hip is seared in my memory as the beginning of the end of an emotionally violent marriage). I am aware that some of these beginnings took a while to develop and that the beginnings and endings frequently overlapped. So while I was starting on a path to writing the story of becoming a mother, I was saying goodbye to the ideal of a perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect interracial couple identity. I notice that I am a complex woman who is more open with her emotions now than at any other time in her life, and with this openness, comes love and support from those who care for me. I am surprised by the continued tone of forgiveness and healing when my mother pops into my journal. There is a continued softening, tenderness towards her. My body wants to smile at this list of landscape stepping stones and pay homage to its path and to giggle at some of the everyday pleasures I experienced, the orange globe mallow weed I saw on my walks that were re-enchanting my life at the same time that I was mythless and looking for new stories to fortify my life. I feel determined to continue to create a life that is pleasing to me, to seek out places that cultivate aliveness, and to embody this pleasure and aliveness in me so that it oozes into the stories I put on the page.
Poet Stanley Kunitz states “Through the years I have found the gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.”
Our next workshop at The Writing Shed will be Wednesday, September 20 from noon-1:15 (MT), on Zoom Meeting Space. We will use a poem to guide our personal explorations.
Register here: https://jessicamaggiebrophy.com/registration/
For the last twenty years, Cara Dinley has been exploring the miraculous bodymind. Her background is in dance and performance, and she is now a trauma informed practitioner who specializes in embodiment, regulation, and trauma release. She is currently a Lead Trauma and Regulation Practitioner at Heal Your Nervous System.
After I shared my question about “The Life Cycle of Healing” in the Heal Your Nervous System community (of which I am a member), Cara responded with insights I am deeply grateful for her and am still deliciously processing. I wanted to share them here with you at The Writing Shed as they are unique and revolutionary to what you may have learned about healing.
I refer very often to the cycle of life when I am relating to members and clients and it always seems to bring about a softening.
Clients often ask–Why is it we need to be reminded so often of this? It’s so obvious!–and yet we often believe the darkness will never end and that we have been dealt it because we did something wrong.
When in fact the cycle that follows is the only truly repetitive thing in life–that there is a seed that wants to grow, which requires that it changes form and moves into unknown places before blossoming; then once it has given fruit it–at its most magnificent–already begins to die. Very slowly perhaps, yet surely. This is the cycle of life.
Inhalation and exhalation follow exactly.
While this cycle seems obvious to many what often seems less obvious is how this cycle exists in each moment.
While the butterfly analogy is one we are all fed and want, it seems to miss the all important “death” aspect.
I love the word you use: recursive. For me this is very much the experience I have, and I notice it in others too. I feel like the expectation to continually move forwards and get better is actually reductive.
In the arts we call this “endgaming” –our mind creates the vision and we steadily take all the steps towards it; anything that diverts is named a distraction. If I am disciplined, I will achieve my vision. If I don’t, I have done something wrong.
This kind of endgaming removes the opportunity to be awakened by other incoming stimuli/associations which may change your vision. Becoming open to what is incoming, including others words and offerings, in my experience has generated a making that is far richer and indeed a conscious collaboration, which removes the I, the I, set up for perceived “failure”–as we rarely make anything alone.
If we can remove time and measurement, we can experience a kind of flexibility which welcomes an ever unfolding richness in every direction to a different degree.
If we apply this concept to arts making (or healing or learning), we value the inevitable expansion and condensing and non-linear leaps of experimentation, knowing that the act of jumping into the unknown can be extremely generative.
Whether we are making arts, learning, or healing, the way we navigate our own journey can only be in accordance with who we are and with what our personal capacity is. So only the individual can make the choice–
- When is it too deep to jump?
- When do I need stimulation? When do I need rest?
- When do I notice myself pushing and forcing? Is this truly generative?
And while I love the word recursive (yet I haven’t been using it — so thank you for that!) the image I have is helical but not just one helix as in this pic below–I see learning as following a helical path which never repeats and instead takes a slightly different path–quite close to the previous one perhaps–the path eventually takes and ever wider and deeper trajectory. As if filling the inside of a cone ever, ever so gradually. To me that is learning.
And it is also unlearning in reverse–but not a perfect reverse . . . I feel like we can jump levels and create gaps as you say . . .
Image Credit: Dirk van der Made
We see the spiral unfurling also in this pic of the fern which resembles the Koru (the Maori word for loop and symbolizes the unfolding of new life and renewal).
Jon Radoff, CC BY-SA 3.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa…, via Wikimedia Commons
What’s cool about the Koru pic above is all of the little, what will be leaves curled up, as if these are alternative paths which required energy in order for the whole to find flexible strength . . .
And while I love these natural images what I see **in them is something linear–because I can’t see or know the complexity of **what is happening inside them.
However in order for them to grow from a shoot the size of a fine thread into something with luscious, strong girth . . . unbreakable in a torrential rainforest downpour, something has grown and fills within which supports the structure we can see . . .
There is so much that we can’t see . . .
I’m happy to share with you that I’ve been accepted into a poetry therapy credentialing program with the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy 🎉 !
I will work with a mentor for about 4-5 years to plan therapeutic poetry sessions in non-clinical settings, like the community college and The Writing Shed.
Poetry therapy, to me, is mode of healing that holds space for us to express our feelings, to write our deepest thoughts, and to be guided by the poem. By that I mean, the poem guides us to look at our internal worlds or external life circumstances with fresh eyes, ideally with greater compassion and gentleness and understanding.
I applied for the credential because my own healing and growth has come as a result of the expressive arts, and I am a believer in its power to make us present to our own lives.
I will begin offering poetry sessions soon at The Writing Shed. Stay tuned 🔥. . .
Join me next Thursday on April 20th from 12:00 to 1:00 for a journaling workshop on Zoom. We will learn the very magical dialogue tool.
After I reflected on the dialogue I had with my heart, I realized a few things: my heart seems to fiercely defend my true self. I love her for this! At the end of the conversation with my heart, I also realized internally I was open to conversations. In other words, I didn’t need to have a hard and fast resolution right then, which has been a hard fought win for me. I don’t like loose ends!
My reflection write also noted that by dialoguing with my heart, I was able to easily distinguish between multiple parts of me, the ego part, the Superwoman syndrome part, the little girl part just wanting to be seen and heard and affirmed, and that immutable part of me that is so tied to my nervous system health and transformation.
Like most journaling sessions, just doing a reflection write on the learned tool can be the most rewarding part!
Register for the journaling workshop at www.jessica maggiebrophy.com/registration
I’m celebrating a third place contest win for the personal blog, “Confess Already: The Power of Disclosure in Writing”!
The win was judged by the 2023 New Mexico Press Women (NMPW) Communications Contest, the largest inclusive media organization in New Mexico.
I submitted this blog because I got to practice some of my favorite things, including the integration of metaphors, family narrative, scientific evidence, and unresolved resolution.
While I am certain the blog could still use some revision, I’m glad I submitted it to the contest and am grateful for the award.
The content attracts those who are interested in writing as a healing modality. The metaphors about confession invite readers to grapple with the complexity of confession; in the end, the blog encourages readers to see the power of confession to liberate the silences in one’s life and to bring about emotional benefits.
You can read the full blog here.
Celebrating a small win today. This personal web site (home of The Writing Shed) won first prize in the New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest 2022!
I celebrated with a mango yuzu chantilly cream cupcake. 🎉
The New Mexico Press Women (NMPW) was “organized in 1950, as an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. It is an organization of professional journalists and communicators that promotes the highest ethical standards while looking to the future in professional development, networking and protecting First Amendment rights” (“About”).
Do you have a moment in your life that you want to return to? Are the details so vivid that they haunt you at night? Are you craving to understand this moment in your life? This moment that could teach you everything? This moment that could show you your bravery or your resilience or your capacity to do everything in your power to protect yourself and your kin?
In this captured moment that I experienced in April 2021 (and wrote about in Nov 2021), I can see now how strong I was to leave a violent home. I can see now how I went into Mama Protector mode. I can see now, that it was the first time I woke up from a very bad dream. I can see now that I had the clarity of thought and wherewithal to get the hell out and to save myself and my son.
Join me for the next free journaling session on Saturday January 21st at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time. You will learn to write your own captured moment. The captured moment does not have to be a response to trauma, but I just wanted to share how powerful this tool can really be by sharing my own traumatic memory.
Register for the journaling session at: www.jessicamaggiebrophy.com/registration.
What moment in your life needs recounting? I and The Writing Shed members are here to be your witnesses 💕🖋️
Join me this Saturday December 17th at 9:30 a.m. MT to also learn the guided art making tool (in a Zoom journaling session). This tool is all about being the heroine of your own life and not being satisfied with the stories of others. Rumi tells us “unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation, so everyone will understand the passage.” After a journey, “then comes a moment of feeling the wings you’ve grown, lifting.” The images of our lives have a lot of messages and symbols to teach us. It is going to be a fun journaling session with drawing and coloring. Bring your own art supplies!
Register for the journaling session at: www.jessicamaggiebrophy.com/registration