Gramma Hedlund gave me a Steno Pad when I was eleven for Christmas. In the beginning, the scribble on the pages resembled the news feed onmy Facebook wall, a warped report of a teenager’s life, make up’s and break ups. Over the years, the filled notebooks spilled over into dozen of boxes and were shuffled from coast to coast. The illegible markings left a pen trail tracking a life that was like a whoopie pie: gooey cream caked between hardened shell of love and heartbreak. Little did Wilma know that her gift would begin a dance that would last a lifetime, long before "morning pages" was a fixture in common New Age vocabulary.
Writing on demand, however, was a challenge. Taking out the pen to fill the empty pages with wishful notions of wit and wisdom took practice. Many mornings were spent staring at the blue lines propped on my knees, pen in the right hand and mug in the other, waiting on the muse. As I grew emotionally, the writing in the spiral bound notebooks bore witness to the transformation that took place in my life.
Sometimes the darkened room became light and the words became lists. While other mornings words flowed doing cartwheels and somersaults, scrambling children in the schoolyard, lining up at the bell to be accounted for.
Whatever the outcome of the morning scribbles, by the last sip of coffee, the page would bear witness to another day. Sometimes there was little more than a to-do list, ideas for a new chapter, a newsletter in the offing, and occasionally my next great idea. The early morning pages are illegible, and if not immediately transcribed to the computer become forgotten banter.
Over the last forty years that single Steno Pad was replaced by numerous, colorful spiral bound notebooks lining shelves in the garage. One time I revisited my works documenting the timeline for my memoir, The Shaman Chef: My Life and Other Recipes, about how cooking saved my life.
About a year ago the city had five big trucks lined up in the parking lot in the local park shredding paper. On that day the weighty boxes were stacked into the car , driven to the park, and the energy set free. After all, most of what was stored there was unreadable even to me and had long been committed to my memory and memoir.
Several years ago, I began the process of rewriting. To me the process was like preparing a glace de viande , refining and reducing to make words that stick to the back of your tongue, leaving a fragrant taste after your last bite. This process took discipline and many hours of sitting and examination of every smell, texture, and personality that I had ignored. In addition, there was now the external critic, the editor who required reading of book after book on writing. So what came easily at eleven became refined at fifty. Then the work began. Still today I am grateful that my grandmother gave me the first glued pages that began my dance with the bear. So today, after all these years, I write.
I encourage you to begin a daily ritual. It could be a walk, a meditation, or yoga. It is a one day at a time proposition. Many years ago, my friends stashed me away at a house in the woods to heal in solitude. He was a painter. I was amazed that he had so many canvasses lined in a bin. I wondered, How he had done this; in the silence of the woods? The answer: one painting at a time.
Join Stephanie Gunning and Renee Baribeau, April 29th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for an experiential writing program unlike any you have experienced in the past. Open heart and mind to the grounding energy of nature, guided by the practical shaman, Renee Baribeau, then step into the field of potential wherein our group will shift our destiny by tapping into uplifting creative forces. Be prepared to move, to write, to connect, and to share—and to eat a delicious, healthy lunch. Class will be held in Palm Desert, CA More information and Registration