Welling Up


This past week my family vacationed on a quiet, spring-fed pond in New Hampshire; indeed, one spring welled up precisely where swimmers would stand if using the dock’s ladder to enter or exit the velvet water: always a brisk and bracing surprise!

Having grown up on spring-fed ponds, that sudden chill was familiar. Familiar too, yet still mysterious, wondrous, was the subsequent thrilling moment when I contemplated from whence cometh that water. To imagine water coming forth from out of the ground and beneath the water thrilled/s me. Welling Up—it’s a construct about The Source that speaks to me.

Last evening, back in Somerville, I went to a cook-out hosted by a dear, new friend—and a member of the Saint James Church’s choir. Most of the crowd milling in her back yard were also in the choir or members of her beloved church. So, naturally, before we tucked in, everyone sang “The Doxology”Praise God from Whom all blessings flow / Praise Him All creatures here below. 

Does it matter how we imagine where all blessing flow from? You say “From On High,” I say “From Within”; let’s call both crude approximations, shall we?

And praise.

“Own It!”


[People’s Climate March, September 21, 2014]

On a cold and rainy evening a couple of weeks I walked to Porter Square Books to hear James Wood, book reviewer for The New Yorker, give a reading. During the Q & A, one woman raved about a novel he’d written years ago. Renowned critic of other people’s novels (his piece on Penelope Fitzgerald means he’s aka as “Household God” to me), Wood pooh-poohed his early-on book. In so many words he said, “I could write a much better novel now. I’m older and wiser.”

What? Huh? Household God’s use of wiser irked me. But because James Wood is someone I revere, walking home after the reading I spent some time thinking about why his word-choice bothered me so. And realized, rain drumming my umbrella, my discomfort wasn’t about him. But about me.

am unable to stand in a public place, fifty or sixty people seated in front of me, and declare that I am wise. have always inserted the mollifying “dare I say it?” before using the word wise when speaking of myself. Always. Unequivocally.

This ain’t false modesty. I really DO not feel worthy. Hoary-headed though I be, I am not yet able to own my wisdom. (Yet I am proud enough of my insightful and wise novel, Welling Up, to endure the rejection and yawny indifference and heartbreak of trying to get it published?!)

My own backstory : a few years ago I bought a fire-engine red, cotton, broad-brimmed hat from Davis Squared. Too broad-brimmed, maybe? I certainly felt conspicuous wearing it; that’s for sure. But when I told the (young and hip and model-worthy gorgeous) store’s owner how I felt she just shook her head: “Own it,” she advised.

Here are two (ahem) wise things I wish to say about owning it, about really embracing my wisdom:

1. This is about gender. Were James Wood a woman I think I would have reacted differently. (A clue: This past Sunday, a man at meeting for worship used the word wise to explain where “we” aging, spiritual people are developmentally. And again I bristled.)

2. This is about time and reflection and prayer. It took me years to write Welling Up. Off the cuff, off-balance, overwhelmed, I am usually ridiculous.

How fortuitous that in Quaker circles I can sit and vacantly stare into space as I ponder whatever’s before the group—collective wisdom is Good Stuff—and only if clear, wipe the bit o’ saliva that may have dribbled as I pondered, and say something!






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Outside my kitchen door, a fledgling robin sits on the deck railing. Downy, helpless, utterly quiet, the baby bird waits so quietly, so still, I would not have even seen it had not its red-breasted father—a flash of ochre on a gray day in a gray backyard—suddenly appeared. With a worm.  No doubt aware of the potentially dangerous human just inches away, the father-child feeding is efficient and soundless. Off Dad flies. The fledging waits.

I, too, wait. “Final Draft 4” (?!) of Welling Up* sent off to my wise and thoughtful writing coach, told to take as much time as she needed, like that patient fledgling, I await her comments and suggestions with complete trust.

Inwardly, however, I am a mess. The focus of so much of my consciousness both awake and asleep, my creative and ever-plotting, ever-sifting brain now set on “Pause,” I am anxious and obsessive.

So I could learn a lot from that tiny, quiet creature.

Simply I am here. Simply snow falls. [Issa]

* For two thousand years, as the role of women shifts in Western culture, so does the story told of Mary Magdalene. Set in Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Welling Up offers another version of this evolving tale. My novel begins on Easter of 1997, ends at Christmas of that same year, and centers on the emerging love and trust between redhead Jewell McCormick, a formerly-homeless homecare worker, and her favorite client, Rocco Pellegrino, an elderly, wheelchair-bound Red Sox fan.

June 29, 2011: Talkin’

Whitey Bulger’s surprising, out–of-the-blue capture last week’s got me thinking: I need to deepen Welling Up. Why? Because one of the two main characters of my novel, which I thought I’d finished last summer, is a former member of the Winter Hill Gang.

While  All Souls tells Whitey’s sad/maddening/horrific tale best, it’s a House of Representatives’ report, written in 2004 that’s inspiring me to go deeper. Specifically, it’s the title: “Everything Secret Degenerates: The FBI’s Use of Murderers As Informants.”

Everything secret degenerates. Feels like an open invitation to probe, seek, TALK!

February 7, 2011: Let Go, Let Nudge

Yesterday, during silent worship, I let go of my plan to revise a two-act Armenian-themed play I’d written a few years ago—mostly because in many ways, the book I finished last summer and am now marketing tells the same story. (In both the play and the book, the relationship between an old guy in a wheelchair and a young, feisty home health aide is central to the plot.)

Instead, I am intrigued/nudged by another Armenian-based concept and have begun initial research (I love research!).

Is this nudge about another play? Is it a book and if so, fiction or non-fiction? (I’ve become intrigued by Alice Stone Blackwell, a suffragette and daughter of Lucy Stone—she of Keep Your Own Name fame. Aided by “Armenian friends,” the bluestocking Lucy translated Armenian poetry into English in the early 1900s. Hmm.)

Yes, it was hard to let go of the play; it’s got some good stuff. But this decision feels like a vote of confidence for my book and as if, maybe, I’ve finally finished with the old guy in a wheelchair theme. (For the record, my grandfather, Paul Revere Wild, was “a cripple” from birth and, yes, used a wheelchair for much of his life.)

But on this sunny day, when there was just the slightest hint that Spring might come someday, to begin something new, emerging, challenging, is very exciting.

September 16, 2010: Query, Query

“Friends have developed the Queries to assist us to consider prayerfully the true source of spiritual strength and the extent to which the conduct of our lives gives witness to our Christian faith. [“Faith and Practice of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends]

“We prefer to see only a query letter first. If we are intrigued, we’ll ask to see a portion of the manuscript.” [Posted on a literary agency website re submissions.]

Query, query. My worlds collide. For after finishing Welling Up, a 262 pp. musing on that “true source of spiritual strength,”  I must now submit. Such a good, spiritual-practice word, huh?

And I’m going to need some strength: FYI: some literary agencies receive over 150 queries a week! How’s that for competition?

But last night, listening to my spiritual advisors, i.e. the men and women who come to our Wednesday night meals-and-sharing gathering for the formerly incarcerated and those who care for them, I was “renewed and refreshed” (that’s Faith and Practice language.)

So I know I have done, as an agent in a recent, pre-submission dream told me, “wonderful and important work.”

“Onward and upward,” as dear Sara Sue Pennell, beloved member of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, exhorts.