Tag Archives: Writing

July 2, 2014, Salem, Wisconsin–Two Days In.

     About a week ago, I retired from a fantastic teaching job after nearly two decades so that I could write. And because my loving, and much-loved husband got a job across the country. A job he needed, wanted and deserved.
      And because I was tired.
      And frankly, because I was afraid. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace and do it with love and style. Afraid that my cancer wasn’t going to stay in the past, was sending me signals through chromogranin blood and 24 hour urine collection tests that I took regularly and that I didn’t understand but sure saw going up. That I’d be dealing with “it” once again, and I’d miss too much, too many hours of planning lessons worth learning, giving relevant feedback, and connecting with love and meaning to my dear students and their families.
To those of you who scoff at my description of 8th grade kids as dear, I say, throw away that prejudice. Junior High age children haven’t changed a bit. They are as lovely and strong and confused and thirsty for answers as they’ve always been. They are gorgeous and deserving of love, respect, and guidance. They are us when we were twelve, thirteen. Filled with energy, depression, fear, joy, and self-indulgent superiority. Us. Then. They need us, and if we love them, they even want us around—old people who care and are willing to suspend the easy judgments that flow and have always flowed, like a mean, mean river around us, separating us, generation by generation—now that we are so experienced and “wise.”
And because, forgive me, my intestinal health was much compromised by my earlier surgeries and my condition, and I hate, hate, hated having to run out of class, interrupting the art class next door, putting my wondrous friend/fellow teacher Heide on notice that I was already gone, could she please watch my class as well as her own.
It seemed enough.
This meant leaving California. The San Bernardino Mountains. The Rim of the World. An amazing community—a gorgeous resort I was more than privileged to live in. A real home. Friends to die for (and I would!). Church. School. Family.
My daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren, all of whom love me as dearly as I love them.
Am I crazy, selfish, cold-hearted? What? I pray it’s none of that.
I was an unlikely nomad in childhood, spent hundreds of hours in cars moving from one place to another. Lived with a lot of people. Only had one house my mother owned, and that for just a few years. I more than loved that place on Winslow. It was haven, heaven, heart. But I learned to move on. When I was young, I learned that.
Hated it, but learned it. Change is as inevitable as death and taxes. There’s no getting around it for most of us. I know we can all site examples of people we know who never changed their address, and maybe they were even lucky enough to die before their loved ones, but those people are few and far between. For most of us, we either keep going or we lose more than we had.
I won’t lose the love of my home in California, my community, my students, their families, the pines, or the spectacular rocky cliffs. They will always be right here. My daughter sometimes doubts that we will survive this. She counts the likely number of times we will be together again before I die. I wish I could explain. I’m trying to now. I’ve lost mother, father, step-father, brother, mother-in-law- so many. But I’m not alone, nor empty. Perhaps I am fuller, feeling each of them taking up such a large part of my heart. They, those who loved me, and everyone else, every place else, stay with me. And I will stay with them.
If they wish it.
Mahalo, and greetings from Wisconsin, USA. May your path be as valuable to your heart as mine has been to me.



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The Salem Wife: Reflections on Paris, Lake Arrowhead, and the Writing Life

ImageSaturday, April 19, 2014

Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA

The ridge is always alive. This morning the oak leaves, the color of peaches and chestnuts, reflect the early sun—small curved hands opening to birdsong and bells. It is Easter week. I’ve just reread the prologue to Paula McLain’s captivating book, The Paris Wife, born again to words unfolding the Paris of the time between the great wars, describing the weight of despair felt everywhere, a place “full of ghosts and the walking wounded.” Yet also a place where “On any given night, you could see Picasso walking from Saint-Germain to his apartment in the rue des Grands Augustins, always exactly the same route and always looking quietly at everyone and everything. Nearly anyone might feel like a painter walking the streets of Paris then because the light brought it out in you, the shadows alongside the buildings, and the bridges which seemed to want to break your heart…”

Over ninety years later, Paris is not so different, nor the world. Such a lovely place to suffer. Loving, seeking, and undergoing the process of constructing a life wherever we might be. Breathing. I am not in Paris now, nor anywhere like it, but having been there, if you were one who walked the streets as an artist, means you keep it always, tucked safely close to your poet’s heart, drawing on the images and the memories of those exquisitely crowded streets.

It can be intimidating to write after that. How does one earn a credential that in essence joins your mean scratchings to the great ones’? Better to stay home, you sometimes think. Give up these grand ideas and dreams and do something practical.

So you do, something practical that is. But you never actually become practical. A cloud never goes unnoticed, nor a perfectly expressed thought, nor a moment of harmony. Well, you can, at least, keep a diary. Sometimes years go by in this way. Practically. But the inner search never stops, never quite gives up on you. Reading feeds your urge to write. A drive alone. The heartbreak in your child’s cry. Your divorce. Your mother dying. The hummingbird glimmering near your head, begging for nectar, as you drink your morning coffee.

Somehow, if you can steal some time to write it down, you know you will capture some of it, store it away in your poet’s heart right next to the spot where you keep Paris. So it is this morning, in Lake Arrowhead, California, on my daughter’s deck. My home here is no more. Soon I will steal away from these ridges, and the mighty oaks, and the pines. Away from many happy years spent teaching, raising children, and welcoming grandchildren into the world, going toward the once known, now foreign place of my childhood, toward a future day where I will sit at a desk near a river in Salem, Wisconsin, my husband by my side, being practical no more.

©Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, 2014


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My Little Mission Inn

My Little Mission Inn

This is my newest Christmas ornament, made by Cora Lee, my dear Mission Inn writing friend. She is a docent at the Inn, a National Writing Project Fellow, a teacher of writing, a world traveler, and a very genuinely fun human being. If you haven’t written at the Mission, do. For us it is a twice a year dose of writing magic.

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December 20, 2013 · 3:21 am