Writers Conferences: Doodling HippoCamp 2017

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Rebecca Fish Ewan

1 hippocamp17 donna 1. HippoCamp, the brainchild of Donna Talarico-Beerman, in its third year, three-plus days of focus on creative nonfiction. p.s. Donna has way more amazing hair than shown here. I tend to put a little of myself in all my portraits and my hair sucks.

2 hippocamp17 Beverly 2. So funny. Waiting to forget the movie plot, so I can enjoy reading Riding in Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio, serial memoirist.

3 hippocamp17 Dina and Melanie 3. Dina Honour’s voice still resonates in my head. Keep an eye out for the army of women she’s amassing. They will save humanity.

4 hippocamp17 Joanne Lara Alexis 4. All of the readers that followed Dina brought their own brand of awesomeness, reading from their debut books. Google them: Melanie Brooks, Joanne Lazar Glenn, Lara Lillibridge, Alexis Paige and Lisa Smith.

5 hippocamp17 Lisa and panel 5. Their panel after the readings set a tone of generosity, humor and serious investigation of craft that echoed throughout the…

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Second Coming

BONED published one of my poems and a mixed media piece I created to accompany it! Yay!

Boned

by Vicki Gabow

20170329_211343
Flung far and wide
slowly reassembled –
a stray dog’s buried collection –
hoping for a second coming.

The growing darkness kept him motionless;
turned bone to native rock.
At last, darkness swallowed him,
he could move no more as he wept rust colored tears.

Forlorn, he lay piled
self upon self – a framework dismantled.
Lifeless, with joints of corroded metal,
nuts and bolts unyielding.

Time alone held the key;
greased the joints, breathed life,
with each turn of the wrench,
back into the body. Whole again,
though pieces once scattered.

Hands on the clock ticked idly away;
ever so slowly, he began to smile.

Moveable once again,
he shook the dust from his limbs,
and strolled on as the sun glinted
from the whiteness of his bones.

Vicki Gabow is a high school teacher by day and a storyteller, poet, and painter by night. In…

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Salt Bearer

a shadow from the past
cast upon a new life
a dream in the shape of you
ashes and dust be gone

exorcise this demon
feasting on the soul
crammed within Pandora’s box
left to be forgotten

haunting the mind
brushing up against the landscape
leaving your scent behind
a lingering trail of memory

like a slug
leaving mucous in its wake
tainting the path
with residue – a sticky slime

tracking your every move
we come with salt and lime
shriveling and poisoning
at once existence to nothingness

 

“What Dreams May Come”

“To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.”
Hamlet, Act III: Scene 1: Lines 65-69

Recently, I’ve become fascinated by my dreams. Growing up, I had two recurring dreams that I remember to this day, both nightmares of being kidnapped and tortured (by, of all things, SHEEP in one of them! Hence, my distrust of sheep to this day). Then, for years, I never remembered my dreams upon waking. However, in the past few years or so, I’ve again begun to have dreams that I remember in my waking hours. I’m fairly certain that the reason I’ve been more likely to remember my dreams these days probably has a good bit to do with the medications I take for anxiety and depression.  Most recently, I’ve had alternating and sometimes colliding dreams of a recurring nature.

The first is almost definitely a product of my anxiety. Specifically, when I find myself struggling with my anxiety in my daily life, I tend to grind my teeth at night – worse than usual. I find that I wake up with a clenched jaw and sometimes even a headache from the tension. It is during these times that I have the dream about my teeth breaking/crumbling. I often swallow my teeth in these dreams.

The second most frequently dream is a mashup of houses and places I’ve lived or visited, including the landscaping that existed during my time living on campus during college, all connected. I go from room to room, up and down flights of stairs repeatedly. I seem to be looking for something or for a place to hide. In these dreams, I often end up in a building that looks like a hospital, but with really messed up elevators that give me a feeling of anxiety or danger. If I don’t end up there, I end up in this tall Gothic looking castle. In the topmost spire of the castle is a spiral staircase that leads to a large library (bigger on the inside).

A third dream that commonly mingles with the previous dream is one in which I travel through the mashup of places I’ve lived and, in each room, there is some sort of water. A tub, a shower, a swimming pool…all indoors mind you. In most cases, the water is warm and inviting though there have been a few where it’s a public restroom (one of my least favorite things on Earth) that is dark and creepy and extremely dirty.

The last and most recent addition to my dream catalog is one of my car breaking down, but not just breaking down – the undercarriage completely falls off my car and drags on the ground! This was in conjunction with the crumbling teeth at one point.

Over the past few days, I’ve taken to looking up potential meanings for these dreams. I’ve gotten everything from anxiety to rebirth, stopping to evaluate my energy/health, making progress or growth in a spiritual/emotional journey to repression of thoughts and things I want to say, to the attainment of a higher level of rational thinking and objectivity. The pools, tubs, and showers could represent the cleansing of negative thoughts/emotions or that I’m in tune with my unconscious mind and that I’m receptive to my intuition and creativity in my waking hours.

Regardless of what they mean or if they mean anything at all, puzzling over these dreams leaves me with a strange mix of fascination, anxiety, and curiosity.

Last night didn’t go as planned… (life with anxiety)

Last night didn’t go as planned. Part of me feels like I should just get used to it and acknowledge that this sort of thing is my new ‘normal,’ but I have a rebellious streak that won’t quite allow me to acquiesce – at least that much hasn’t changed.

The Plan
I’d seen the Facebook announcement a week or two in advance. One of my favorite local bands would be playing a small local bar I’ve always enjoyed seeing them play. Awesome. I put it on my calendar. I was excited about getting to see the band again since I really haven’t been able to conquer my anxiety enough to see them in quite some time. Last month, I’d had tickets for a venue practically in my back yard, and at the last minute, I couldn’t force myself to go. I told myself after a long day of work that I just wanted to stay home and relax. This time would be different, though, I thought; my husband was going to go with me, and it was Saturday night, not a Friday night after work.

What Went Down
About two hours to show time, the usual feelings of doubt and dread that present themselves before almost every social engagement I attend these days set in. Did I really want to go? No one would notice if I just didn’t show up. What if so-and-so is there? I don’t really want to talk to x; x makes me feel uncomfortable. The feeling of being squeezed, the heart that feels like it’s flip-flopping in my chest, the litany of negative thoughts…

But No, I thought, I’m not going to let my anxiety control me this time. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now; I’ve planned on this all week. I’m fucking going, and that’s all there is to it.

As we got ready to leave, my husband asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, of course; I’m fine.” Even with the one person I trust the most, I have difficulty explaining. If I tell him what I’m feeling; he’ll give me an easy way out and say we don’t have to go if I’m not feeling up to it. I am going to suck it up and go. It will be fun damn it!

We park the car and walk to the bar. The entrance is crowded. Fuck. The band is setting up in the corner of the front room. We manage to squeeze past the 20-somethings crowded around the bar and into the back room where there are actually some tables left. We can’t see the band from here, but maybe we’ll be able to hear them play anyway. It’ll be fine.

A group at another table in the back room gets a little larger as more friend join them. They become louder. The bar has its usual music playing in the background. The football game is on the TV. It’s loud.

A seat opens up in a different section of the bar, and we decide to move hoping to be able to hear the band better when they start playing. We can see the front room – it’s packed with people. There’s no way to even get to the bar if we did want drinks AND the only way out is through that crowd.

I don’t like this; it’s too loud!

             It’s a bar, bars are loud places, you know that. Once the band starts, you’ll be fine.

There are too many people. I feel confined. 

              You’re ridiculous; you know it’s always crowded here. You used to LIKE that about this place. It made it feel cozy.

The band is playing their first song and people are getting louder. I can’t focus on the music. I can’t even see the band from here.

               Just stay for a few songs; maybe it will clear out a bit.

At this point, I feel physically uncomfortable. Husband asks me if I want a drink. No. He offers to wade through the crowd to get it. No. Another group of people starts talking and laughing loudly nearby. I say, “Why do people have to scream and be so loud?” Husband can’t hear me. I pull out my phone to message him even though he’s sitting across the table from me. He finds this ridiculous, but I can’t have a conversation with him without yelling, and I can’t hear him when he talks either. He refuses to read the message.

What the hell is wrong with him?! He knows I can’t hear well and he keeps asking me to repeat myself, but he won’t fucking text with me? Why can’t he understand that it’s easier for me to talk with him that way than outIloud, especially when it comes to being anxious and struggling emotionally? I can’t do this. 

Overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling like my heart is going to explode, I grab my jacket with a sigh. “Let’s go.”

I make my husband go in front of me to make our way through the crowd again. I can’t even handle trying to ask drunk people to politely move aside.I don’t know these people. I just want out! We eventually make it to the door. I glance at the band…I hope they don’t see me leaving.

Once out into the cold night air, I begin to cry. This is not how I wanted tonight to go. I’m angry and disappointed with myself. Why can’t I just have fun? I used to do this all the time! What is wrong with me? My husband asks if I want to go somewhere else. No, let’s just go home. My heart continues to thump like a rabbit trying to escape my chest cavity – I can hear the throb in my ears. It makes me a bit light-headed. Deep breaths. It’s okay to cry. Get it over with. 

In the silence of the car driving home, my heart begins to slow, and the tears begin to dry.


I woke up this morning and knew I wanted to write about this. I don’t share because I want people to understand ME. I share because I know there are so many others out there who have similar experiences. We are not alone. If I can help just one person to feel just a little less alone, I will have succeeded in my purpose. If reading this helps one friend or family member of someone who lives with anxiety to understand just a tiny bit more of what their loved one experiences, I will have succeeded in my purpose. We are not alone.

Cool Lesson for Today

I teach a course on short stories. It’s probably one of my favorite things to teach because I love short stories myself. Recently in class, we’ve been looking at popular fiction and the various genres. This week we’re focusing on Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Yesterday, while working on my plan for the week I had wanted a short sci-fi film that I could show in one class period that would be interesting enough to keep my students’ attention and that would have the obvious elements of sci-fi. At the time I was working on my plan I couldn’t come up with one, but while eating dinner with my husband an idea hit me, and I thought to myself – I know, an episode of Star Trek!  – which like much of what goes through my mind, I apparently verbalized this thought, much to the confusion of my husband who then said, “what about an episode of Star Trek?” 

I proceeded to explain my prior quandary, and he then reminded me of another wonderful something…The Twilight Zone! Oh, yes, that would be even better!

In seeking out the perfect episode to show today, I landed quite fortuitously upon “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

This was beyond perfect! Not just for the purposes of my lesson, but also perfect amidst our recent political climate change. It was the perfect message for my students to hear, and perhaps myself as well.

Quite in awe of how beautifully this all came together, I couldn’t wait to write this post because I wanted to share just a small reminder to all about the dangers of mass hysteria/the mob effect and how we often let our fears control us to the point of chewing off our own tails. Fear of the unknown and different is not an excuse for bigotry.

Enjoy, My Friends, Enjoy!

 

Falling

Falling is something we fear
falling down
falling out
so maybe that’s why we fear
falling in love?

and what does it mean
to “fall in love.”
anyway?

is it that we’ve
come to realize
we might just need
someone
other than ourselves?

when we can no longer
imagine existence
without the other?

is it when we know
that we would sacrifice
our happiness for that
of another?

This falling in love thing
does sound a bit
like falling really

there’s a cry of
desperation, a clinging
to the past, and finally
a surrender to what must be

No wonder we fear falling,
it isn’t the fall that
scares us,
it’s hitting the ground.

In Over My Head

So between the bouts of depression, anxiety, and plateaus there are these wild and spontaneous fits of creativity, productivity, and energy with desires to take on the world. I fall in love with these peaks of happiness; the view is incredible up here! You should see it!

All around me, I can see the beauty of the world, and it inspires me and makes me feel alive.

There’s just one problem.

After reaching the summit, I still have to come down the other side of those mountains. And the higher I climb on the good days, the further I have to fall back on the not-so-good days.

At the peak, the world feels entirely conquerable. In fact, if you catch me on one of these days, it’s nearly impossible for me to say, “no.” Can you…shave this greased pig for me? Sure, why not? I’d love to! Can you…wrestle this Tasmanian Devil into this princess costume and teach it to sing? Hell yeah, let’s do this thing! Can you…travel back in time and bring me back a T-Rex named Norm who is into making decoupage picture boxes and wants to marry Selena Gomez? Give me just one second!

You get the picture. I am the queen of “yes.” I want to do ALL the things, and somehow I convince myself I can handle doing ALL the things. But as soon as I begin my descent back to reality, it becomes apparent just how far I’ve climbed. Staring down from these dizzying heights, I immediately feel in over my head.

One of my biggest phobias is a fear of heights. Vertigo sets in, and I’m left clinging desperately to whatever solid ground is within reach. My death grip is such that I am too terrified to move; I become paralyzed with fear and doubt.

 

What I Know of Leaves

As a child, I loved autumn – the fallen leaves, raked in piles on my lawn with their musty scent always thrilled me. I remember my Dad and I raking the leaves from around the entire yard to create the largest mound possible before plunging into the mountainous pile.

I still find great pleasure in the autumn leaves, but I haven’t jumped into a pile of them in quite some time. Perhaps I need to do that again. But these days I find myself admiring the colors and shapes of leaves. I enjoy the crunch of dried leaves beneath my feet as I cross the lawn and I still love their earthy scent. I enjoy watching the squirrels scamper through them as they seek to hide their treasures.

I think the leaves are my favorite part of the season. They seem to pair nicely with jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and hiking boots.

Upon the wind, they gather and play
dancing and swirling as though
they were a sign of youth and vigor
instead of the dying of another season.

Laying one upon the other
Shifting and stirring,
rustling with
each footfall and breath of the Earth.

Hues changing, ripening
with intense beauty and fading
into the background with age.

Tiny Explosions

Yesterday was a dark day for me as I know it was for many who share my core values and beliefs. I am grieving over what feels like a direct violation of my soul and of any safety I’ve ever felt. I wrote the only thing I could eek out, which I’ve included below.

Today I woke up somewhat calmer, if delusional. I guess it’s proof (at least in my mind) that anti-depressants do work because surely I could not be calm and relatively even keel of my own accord. I’m drug induced optimistic. That’ll have to do for now.

I’m torn between not wanting to draw lines in the sand and divide a country further and wanting very much to say, fuck it, and denounce my citizenship. I do not want to be a part of a nation of individuals who believe that a misogynist, bigoted, sexual predator belongs in the highest office of our nation.

I’ve always been one to believe the best in people – in humanity. We are flawed, every last one of us. I’m trying my hardest to choose love; to be a person that continues to see the good in others – to love those who I feel, in my bitterness, have betrayed me.

TINY EXPLOSIONS

I woke up to tiny explosions
and crumbling fortresses in my mind
I woke up to a world I couldn’t  comprehend.
No amount of staring off
into space
can resolve the growing dissonance in my mind;
explosions I can’t control,
explosions of overwhelming fear
and sadness, usher in
a complete lack of faith in humanity.
My country has failed me. My people
have failed me.