Loss and Grief as Mindfulness Practice

Glendalough Mist 6[Author’s photo]

Many years ago, distraught and devastated after a miscarriage, I turned to literature for solace and comfort. So when my dear mother died just six weeks ago, I went searching for memoirs written in an attempt to decipher the overwhelming effects of death on those left behind. Consequently when I stumbled across the memoir, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, the story of a woman who struggled with unbearable grief after her father died, it sounded just about right, albeit a little too close to the bone, my flesh still flayed raw by funeral corteges, my soul seared by heartrending hymns singing my mother’s soul back home. Was it too soon to try to understand, to unveil one of life’s greatest mysteries?

Bereavement. Or, Bereaved. Bereft. It’s taken from the Old English bereafian, meaning ‘to deprive of, take away, seize, rob.’ It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone.”

Wham! A gut-wrenching, heart-piercing, bolt of fire hurled from the gods above, hit their mark with absolute precision. I was winded. My spirit felt as if it had been severed from my body, arms and legs and, oh so heavy head, drowning, submerged, pushed, held under water, limbs like rocks dragging me down to the depths. Such heart pain leaves its mark; scar-faced channels of grief cut, sliced, engraved into deep, barren ravines.

Mum’s gone.”

“Gone where? It’s midnight!”

“No, you don’t understand. [How could I? It didn’t make sense.] She’s had a heart attack. The medics have stopped trying to revive her.

Since that horrendous night, it feels like I’m stuck in that moment, the phone call playing out repeatedly in my mind, over and over again, like a wound up gramophone which won’t shut up. Like Groundhog Day. Time seems to have altered, its shape and sequence forever changed. But not just time, meaning too. Before that night, Mum was an anchor, a force, a raison d’etre.  I have lost the one person in the world who was always, without reservation, on my side. My advocate and principle cheerleader is gone from this world. This vast, empty space where the bitterly cold Arctic winds blow without ceasing, will never feel the warmth of early morning sun again. Standing in this abyss of grief I feel not just lost and lonely, but as if my very moorings have come undone. It is simply inconceivable that life will go on. And yet it must.

What does one do when one is left drifting, floating on a river of despair which seems to follow no known pathway, meandering in and out of gloomy gullies and desolate deltas, pursuing its own course with a reasoning and logic all its own? I can neither control nor outmanoeuvre its trajectory. But I can give it room to roam. I can open a space within and without which would allow the force of this overwhelming grief to flow, not just in tears, but in memories too, remembrances of times past.

There is a place I go to whenever the world and my walking in it threatens to overcome me with its bustling busyness, too noisy and wearisome for a fragile soul. An ancient monastic site where the earth continues to hold in safe keeping the memory of its distant past. Steep slopes, deep lakes, and dead trees dot the scrub hillside surrounding the lakes. The veil between the natural and the supernatural is thin here, in this place where monks lived and moved and had their being, where they prayed in the darkness and again at dawn, and many times throughout the day, in the ‘big hours’ and the ‘little hours’ too, shivering in the damp and cold which seeps up from the sodden earth below. They must have stood by the edge of the lake and stared out over the still twilight, reflecting the sky and clouds above, just as I do when I return here to think about my mother. Their robes would have blown in the wind which always sweeps down from the gap between the mountains, the valley left behind when the glaciers moved through, sculpting the land aeons ago. I crave the spaciousness, the vast openness which only this landscape can offer.

Here in this numinous space, walking on this sacred earth, I can feel my mother hovering close by, as if the very air I am breathing is filled with her presence. The cold wind blowing down the valley makes my eyes well up, tears fall, dropping black stains on the grey stones by the lake shore. My gaze embraces the wider landscape, the white blasted trees which have all the appearance of sentinels, or mummified centurions keeping watch over all that lies below, including not just the monks’ graves from long gone, but me also, and my mother’s spirit joined now as one with the voices of the wind and the water, all the  ancient ruins, cells and chapels, stones too, still carrying traces of chanted psalms from long ago – nothing can drown out the songs of the past. The past and the present, and the future too, are all of a-piece.

This is the womb knowledge I carry back home with me when I return to the suburbs where I live and where my mother lived her entire married life, after moving up to the city from the country. And so when I stand at an opened kitchen window, or stroll out into the garden, I hear her sweet tones in the breeze which caresses my cheek, I feel her tender kiss in the first fall of a gentle summer’s rain. She hasn’t left me after all. I simply need to learn to adjust my vision, to recognize the new shape of her being, hovering as it does between heaven and earth.

-Writing this has almost been unbearable, a heaviness in my chest like someone has punched me so hard I am left winded, flying backwards through the air, back and down, down, down, down, free falling into a bottomless pit of despair. And just when I think I can’t breathe anymore, a little wisp of air blows gently from the blackened crevices, and I breathe it in gratefully, knowing that yes, I can go on.

Writing prompt:

I asked above what one can do in the attempt to make some kind of sense of death and loss and grieving. The only answer I can offer is, as Rilke tells us, “to live the questions now”, and if you are a writer, to write. For if you are like me, and I presume you are if you are reading this, then you make meaning of your life through the practice of writing. While the subject of death is far too enormous and mysterious to ever be encapsulated, codified and tamed through the act of laying words upon a page, like letting a diaphanous shroud drape gently over the embalmed body of our loved ones, still words are all we have at our disposal in the attempt to somehow understand. And maybe they are enough. At least for now we can practice seeing “through a glass, darkly.”

Write about the death of someone dear to you. Approach it any way you want – begin with the facts, if that is your best path into the mystery, the agony of your tangled memories. Be prepared for the onslaught of emotions which will surely take you by surprise. Be kind to yourself. This is mindful writing in its rawest form. Witness well to what emerges from behind the veil.

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

Burn Out

"Paula's Find," a firepit sculpted by my late husband, Richard Cabe.

“Paula’s Find,” a firepit sculpted by my late husband, Richard Cabe.

The title of this post comes from one of my favorite books in Marcia Muller’s mystery series starring Sharon McCone, a smart, self-aware and generous San Francisco Private Investigator who finds herself so worn down from the violence and greed she experiences in her work that she becomes numb, barely able to function.

McCone takes refuge at a remote ranch in eastern California and wonders if she will ever be able to lead her agency again, or care about the work that has inspired and intrigued her for so long. In the end, it is another case that draws her gradually out of her malaise, but not before McCone learns some important things about who she is and why she cares.

I’ve been struggling with a form of burn-out lately. I have two major magazine assignments due in mid-August, and while I’ve been working on them both, to say I’m not motivated is to put it mildly.

Motivation has never been a problem for me before. I have always been able to dive into whatever’s uppermost on my writing to-do list, and work methodically toward my deadlines.

Now, I struggle to make myself focus, and spend a lot of time looking out the window, pacing the house, tending my gardens, walking to the Post Office to check my mail, reading the news on my laptop… Anything other than work on the stories I need to research and write.

It’s not that I don’t love to write–I do. Writing is one of my two life-passions; the other is playing with plants–especially native plants, the pioneers for restoring nature to our everyday places and lives.

What I don’t love anymore, I realize, is the freelancing part of writing, writing what others will pay me for. Which of course has been a major part of how I’ve made my small living for decades. I’ve been fortunate enough to land interesting assignments for good magazines; even though the magazine market has shrunk drastically, I still do.

Why am I now struggling to motivate myself?

Five years of pushing too hard–through my late husband Richard’s journey with terminal brain cancer, through my mother’s simultaneous decline, through caring for my dad in his first years alone, through finishing my former house and Richard’s studio and selling that property, through paying off the last of the brain cancer bills and building my small house and studio–five years of scrambling to cope with whatever was most urgent has simply taken a toll.

I thought (optimistically) that I had skated through those hard years without consequences. I was wrong.

I’m tired. Not too tired to prune the heritage tomato plants growing vigorously in the stock tank on the front deck, to pull invasive weeds along the creek, or write my daily haiku for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not too tired to think about the next book even.

I’m tired of chasing a living, tired of writing to order.

Part of that is timing. Thursday, July 16th, would have been Richard’s 65th birthday, the date he aimed to retire and focus solely on his art without worrying making it pay. He didn’t make it.

I’m not old enough to retire. I’ll be 59 this fall. Yet I find myself wanting to–not to quit writing. Like Richard, I just want to quit struggling to make the work I love pay.

So I’ve made myself a promise: After I finish the next two assignments, I’ll take a break. Not from writing, just from the hustle of freelancing. I’ll work in the garden, pull weeds along the creek and think about the next book. And while I’m doing all that, I’ll take a hard look at my finances and see how far my savings would take me.

I have things to say, and my patch of earth to continue restoring, whether or not anyone will pay me for it. I could get excited about that work.

Prompt: What writing excites you? How can you free yourself to spend more time on it?

Sus short hairSusan J. Tweit is a plant biologist and award-winning author whose mission is to restore Earth and we humans–one book, one yard, one place and one heart at a time. She lives in Salida, Colorado, in a house she helped design and build on a reclaimed former industrial dump site with a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains. This essay originally appeared on her blog.



I can’t tell you how much finding your organization has meant to me. I am convinced that lifewriting is a tool for health and healing as well as leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

—Sylvia in Idaho

These circles have changed my life in these last months. And I don’t mean that in a small way. It is huge. It is as if each writing topic, each book selection, each offering by all the members is ‘godgiven’ directly to me, for my benefit. Amazing. Makes it crystal clear that we all have such common ground, such common heart. I am not dancing in these circles because I am bored and need a hobby. It is something else entirely. And it is Spiritual.

—Grace in New Mexico

I wish I could let people know the degree to which SCN is responsible for my writing more, writing better, feeling more confident, and getting some public writing attention. It all feels like miraculous progress and I am floating…

—Duffie in California

Thank you so much for your uplifting letter and your “welcome back” to Story Circle Network. I have really missed my SCN sisters… I feel like it will save my life in many different ways by allowing me to share my story once again and to hear the stories of beautiful women. Listening to other’s stories is one of my favorite pastimes. Also, when I went to SCN workshops I loved sitting in a circle and reading my words out loud. What a powerful tool for each of us to share our truth.

—Jeanne in Texas

These are just a few of the words of praise we receive at Story Circle Network on a regular basis.


The Story Circle Network is dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives through memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and to raising public awareness of the importance of women’s personal histories. We carry out our mission through publications, a website, classes, workshops, writing and reading circles, and woman-focused programs. Our activities empower women to tell their stories, discover their identities through their stories, and choose to be the authors of their own lives.

For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of our compilation, Kitchen Table Stories, an anthology of sixty-some stories and recipes contributed by nearly 75 women (an $18 value!) to both new and renewing members.  KTScover

It’s the perfect time to gift you, a family member, or friend with a membership to Story Circle Network!

To sign up, or give a gift membership, go here:

Questions? Contact us via email: storycircle@storycircle.org or phone: 970-235-1477 or mail: Story Circle Network, PO Box 1670, Estes Park CO 80517-1670

Home for Henry Blog Book Tour: Slow Writing

By Anne Kaier

AnneKaierphotos 008

Note: We are pleased to be hosting a blog book tour stop for author and Story Circle member Anne Kaier’s delightful memoir, Home With Henry.  For more information on the book, visit http://www.annekaier.com/content/home-henry-memoir .


Do you write best under deadline?  Can you sit at your laptop, bring all your wiggly brains to bear on a subject and just spit something out? Come up with five hundred words of deathless prose in a zippy half-hour? I have a very accomplished friend who works as a speechwriter for a fortune 100 company. She routinely writes complicated speeches for the CEO in no time. Sits down on a Friday morning and has a draft of a half-hour speech ready for review by all the corporate muckety mucks by lunchtime.

I cannot do that. I need to ponder, contemplate and rewrite. It takes a good year for me to write a long prose memoir piece. This includes walks and dreamingtime and –my personal favorite—writing down brilliant ideas on scraps of paper as I am driving.  And I live in Philadelphia—a big city with crazy drivers. They don’t scare me. I can easily steer with one hand and scribble with another. But deadlines drive all the good ideas right out of my head. As the great Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge admitted:  “deadlines stun me.”  Now Coleridge wrote, possibly while stoned, several of the best poems written in English, including the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” So I am comforted by this. Great minds can, it seems, think slowly. Anyway, mine does. Great or not, that’s how it works.

AK&cats 001When I wrote my new memoir, Home with Henry, about rescuing a feral cat, I kept a journal, written in longhand, mainly at work, when I should have been doing other things such as writing sales brochures. I took my time about it—and didn’t tell anyone I was keeping the journal. So I could write in it with a feeling of freedom, every day—or whenever I wanted to. I certainly didn’t have a deadline. I was writing for myself, because I was interested in Henry’s progress from hiding under a spare bed to coming downstairs and showing himself to be a sweetie. After about a year, I put the journal aside. I didn’t go back to it until a publisher asked me for a manuscript and I convinced her that my cat tale would make a good book.  Even then I was able to take some time in revising the story.

In our fast-paced life, there’s a premium on being able to multi-task—and do things quickly. Efficiency experts rule. But I need to take my time and dawdle, let my mind wander where it will. I need to sleep on my drafts, mosey out into my garden and stare into space when I’m writing something. I believe in slow writing. Like slow food, good writing, for some people at least, needs to simmer, bubble, and stew.

henrycoverFINALpublicityHow about you? Are you a dawdler? A master multi-tasker? Let us know in the comments below, and please support Anne by checking out her other Home with Henry Blog Book Tour stops. 



June 29 http://redwhiteandgrew.com/

June 30 https://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/

July 1 http://judyalter.com/

July 2 http://www.MochasMysteriesMeows.com

July 3  http://consciouscat.net/

July 4 http://www.bloodredpencil.com



July 5 http://joyceboatright.blogspot.com/ 

July 6 http://maryannwrites.com/

July 7 http://womensmemoirs.com/

July 9 http://www.thecatonmyhead.com


At Seventeen

For a long time I have kept and maintained, admittedly sometimes sporadically, two very different kinds of journals – the first the repository of my daily writing practice, the other a kind of on-going commentary outlining my thoughts and musings about everything to do with writing, both my own and that of others, a writer’s diary if you will. Recently I have turned this practice into something a little more focused. I begin by choosing an event in my life, something from the past which shimmers a little around the edges, the light reflecting upon the waters of my sometimes still, sometimes turbulent mind, and while all that glitters may not be gold, still it is usually worth exploring. And so I dive in and mooch around a little, first in this spot, then in that, and if I am lucky, if it is a ‘good’ day for writing, I might discover something new, something that might reward sifting through the sieve of mindful interrogations. Of course ‘good’ by its very definition is a relative thing, so what might be treasure today may, on the morrow, be nothing more than sand slipping through spread-eagled  fingers, offering no gifts worth grabbing on to. But that is tomorrow’s problem. Today, this moment, is all that concerns me now.

That this moment extends beyond the limited expanse of my habitual quotidian and paltry vision, stretching the eternal now upwards, and inwards too, to the furthest frontiers of space and time, transforms the experience into time beyond time; it is all there ever was, or can be. Herein lies freedom, the spaciousness of mind which carries me above and beyond the petty shenanigans of a life hardily lived. Even my dreams are beggarly in comparison, for I fail to dream big enough! But if I dig and delve, if I am not afraid to dive in, take a deep breath and jump, trusting that there is something much bigger and grander and a whole lot more powerful than me out there ready to catch me, call it what you will, who knows where my curiosity might take me?

To prepare myself for these big adventures, first I sit and meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, just breathing, following the breath however it is in the moment. Then I take up my pen and start writing. When I am done, and I always know when I have said all that needs to be said, for now anyway, I walk away from my writing desk for about 10 minutes, just enough time to make a cup of tea and carry it back to my desk, sipping it as I re-read my own words. Next I pull out my writer’s diary, and I begin to ponder what it was I was trying to express. What exactly was I trying to say? What did I mean here? And what of this word there – is there another which might better express, more accurately, what I am attempting to articulate? I become my own first reader.

Invariably this part of the process opens up multiple possibilities, an almost endless stream of themes to consider and explore. I pick a few, the ones which appear most pertinent to me in this moment; they would be different at another time – it is this specificity I believe which makes this kind of writing ‘mindful’, for here I am focusing upon the treasures, the gifts of this moment in time without thinking about the future, or worrying about the past; I am simply open and receptive to what lies in front of me now, unfurling, unfolding at my feet.

Today I wrote about an incident that happened to me when I was 17, desperate to escape from the shackles of a life I believed was slowly strangling me. I wanted so much more than what I had, but the wanting itself, the yearning was the impetus, the motivation, the trigger to do something, to change. All I knew was that I wanted to run as fast as I could, believing that the freedom I experienced in my fantasies would be borne out by lived experience far away from home. Sometimes I still hear the siren call of this dream of another way, something different and new, something elusive and ephemeral, beckoning to me, whispering my name, calling from across vast swathes of time and space, inviting me to walk on from the mist of memory into the sea of possibilities, to not be afraid, or rather to release the fear, to breathe deeply and to feel that breath seep down, lower and lower, slipping past shoulders and chest, tight with unresolved pains, down, down, dropping down, behind my belly and it’s fluttering knots, sliding across sore sciatic nerves of dis-placed hips, the price of a rushed birthing a very long time ago [what was the hurry?], slithering over sore knees and swollen ankles, too painful to take any weight. But the breath itself is magic, and as if I am swooping downwards in a kamikaze leap, I leave my fear behind, and become all breath, until by the time I reach my toes I am free, utterly free. Feeling my feet, I am flying!

So why couldn’t I then, and why can’t I now, just be happy, content with this, just this? Why must there always be this yearning for something more? What is this yearning, this burning desire to find something anyway? What, for God’s sake, do I think is out there? And why is it always writing, only ever writing, which seems to touch upon this inexplicable impulse to stumble upon meaning, to track down and ferret out the significance of the events set down and laid out like the living dead upon the slab of the microscopic gaze?  What is it precisely that draws me back so relentlessly, eating me up and spitting me out, and still I crawl back, over and over again, incessantly chasing the dream that this time, today, I will write my way back home, wherever home might be? And just for the record, it wasn’t where I landed when I was just 17! Still, though that soon-to-be young woman didn’t get it all right, she did intuit a thing or two worth re-visiting. Good to know my writing can take me back any time I feel inclined to mine her-story again.

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

What’s in a name?

Cherry blossom

As long as I have been writing I have struggled with the challenge of defining what exactly it means to write ‘mindfully’. In this post I thought it might be useful to attempt to tease out some of the differences between writing practice, mindful writing and journaling. At various times I have appended any one of these labels to my writing process. At various times I have been perplexed as I have tried to figure out which label best described my practice. My mother always said I liked my ducks in a row, and when I was younger I had no idea what she meant. Now I know! Perhaps it’s a touch of OCD, perhaps it’s an attempt to pin down and force meaning upon the chaos of words, or perhaps it’s simply an attempt to understand and grasp what exactly it is I am trying to do when I sit down to write; in other words, why I write.

One of my favourite personal essays is “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion. In this inspiring work of creative non-fiction, Ms Didion muses upon her reasons for writing in her journals, the explanations not always readily evident when re-reading past entries, many of whom remain a mystery to the author herself, as she wonders what on earth she meant by words and phrases which obviously struck a chord when first she wrote them down. In the end Ms Didion suggests that it’s not what the words recall in themselves, but rather what they evoke in the author’s imagination, the memories they stir, the associations they generate. The words we write bring it all back, so that it is as if we had returned to times past. With our words we can re-live previous experiences, not always in a direct relationship to the facts of the event per se, but rather as conduits of their emotional undercurrents, traces of shadows still lingering, echoes of the past. Keeping a notebook is one form of journaling, that is, a method of capturing moments in time, painting life as it happens in the raw with, hopefully, the sensuous imagery of richly evocative words. Is this mindful writing? Yes, if it is written with attention, and a deep listening with the inner ear, lingering languidly over the nuanced newness of the moment as it unfolds. Of course, some journaling is a simple noting of a few pertinent facts and no more. Then the only mindfulness required is in the initial noticing.

So much for journaling! What then of the difference between it and mindful writing? Mindful writing incorporates more than the seizing and word-capturing of an event, the apprehension of an episode or an encounter. When we write mindfully, we don’t always have a thought, (though we always have an intention, more about that below) initially anyway, with which to begin. So the writing itself is the practice, the words spin out from the initial desire to sit still, in silence and solitude, and simply write.

But what do we write? Ah, now at last we are coming closer to the heart of the matter. Herein lies the difference between writing practice and mindful writing. Though they are related, they are not quite synonymous. In writing practice we open our notebooks and set down whatever is stirring our minds at that precise juncture. We don’t edit or re-read; we just keep writing until the timer goes off, usually 10 or 20 minutes after starting. And then we stop. Writing practice, like mindful writing, is best embarked upon after a period of sitting meditation, for then the mind is open, spacious, and free; thoughts, ideas and sensations have latitude and license to rise up from the murky depths below. All of which sounds very similar to what we might reasonably expect from the practice of mindful writing.

But still there remains an important distinction. Mindful writing differs from both journaling and writing practice in one essential element – intention. Thus, before beginning our mindful writing practice, we have normally decided what our focus in any particular session is going to be, that is what the bedrock of our writing shall be, where we shall direct our concentration and attention, whether we plan to pen a haiku, or respond to a specific writing prompt, or some such other.

Is this splitting hairs? Perhaps. Perhaps too it doesn’t matter what we call it, nor even what our particular approach might be on the day, so long as we write. For it is the act of writing, the process of transferring our wild thoughts to the page that generates the alchemy, playing with the elements which serve as the foundation for future creative works, whether these manifest as transformed and transforming works of creative non-fiction, memoirs, short stories, novels or personal essays.

Each form shares one important detail in common – raw writing which awaits transfiguration through the alchemical shaping of craft. As Alice LaPlante writes in her seminal book ‘The Making of a Story’, first “immerse yourself in the intuitive creative process. That you may then take these raw, early pieces and shape them into something meaningful…”. [p. 25]

Journaling, writing practice and mindful practice then are the ‘process tools’ through which we discover what it is we wish to say. Which brings me back to the beginning – why I write. Ultimately I write to discover who I am. Mindfully.

Why do you write?

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

Mindfully Mining Memories

Memoirs are a strange, unpredictable beast. They cover the gamut from straightforward linear autobiographical writings, to carefully crafted works of creative non-fiction, where impressions are gently set in shimmering juxtaposition, like grace notes, suspended between intermediary paragraphs of glistening prose. Memoirs such as these necessarily border fictional re-creations of past events hardly remembered, except perhaps, in the lingering echoes of the lithographic pressings which weightless remembrances lay down, like feathers, upon the susceptible sub-conscious mind. The best memoirs, or at least those I favour, combine a sense of truthfulness not always co-extensive with actual factual events. Sometimes there is more truth to be found in the lies, or imagined re-constructions, than in the quotidian details of the happenings themselves.

Is it not precisely this which we do when we dive in deep to the subterranean depths of our murky memories? I mean, of course, that we lie, if lying it is to try and understand, to impose meaning upon the unfettered chaos of the past. The best, the most potentially fruitful of these reminiscences are the ones we cannot quite grasp or understand immediately. Before we can even begin to penetrate their meaning, we must first wipe away a little muck here, a dirty mark there. We brush and burnish, shine and polish, until the insignificant stone reveals its precious bejewelled kernel, irradiated with suggestions of symbolic significance.

Mining memories takes time, lots and lots of what Brenda Ueland called ‘moodling’, resting in the moment, sitting in silence and solitude, waiting and not-waiting, still, yet simultaneously alert to the inner rumblings of possible internal volcanoes. Mindfully mining memories demands oodles of time from its devoted practitioner, what the ancients called ‘kairos’ time, the non-ticking clock of eternal time, that ever present moment which our most assiduous words transport us towards, allowing us to hover above the chasm, an invisible border between perceived chaos and imposed order. Now and then, mindful writing simply drops us into the furnace, that place of mystical burnishing from whence we re-surface altered, a little transformed, not enough that anyone might notice, but carrying traces of another way of being, of see-ing, shifting our vision just a little off-centre. Yes, we might forget what we experienced, but never really fully. We always emerge from our pilgrimage through the meandering, labyrinthine corridors of our minds a little different from before. Bit by bit, like snails and mosses and the soft, contemplative contours of Japanese bonsai , in ever expanding circles of slow time, we begin to intuit the way back home. We follow the path we knew, and not-knew, was always there. And in our knowing, and even more in our not-knowing, we begin to understand what it means to write mindfully.

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own