February Post

February is about to slip off the calendar and I haven’t written any posts here this month.

What have I been doing?  Aside from work and teaching and family?

I’ve been running a lot. I’m preparing for the Cambridge Half Marathon on the 10th of March.  I like it when my long training runs get up to about 10 miles and more.  It’s a good distance and amount of time to be in a moving solitude, sorting through the days.  I usually do the long run on Sunday morning as a way to end and begin the week.  Though it’s been a cold winter, spring is steadily arriving – admittedly one step forward, two steps back sometimes – and I see the changes in the landscape. (I’m also fundraising for Cancer Research UK with this run.   If you’d like to sponsor me and support their mission, please consider donating here)

Oh, and we have two new family members.  This is Pandora.

black cat


She lives up to her name nicely, getting into the bathtub, falling into the toilet, climbing up the bunk beds, taking her bell and collar off.  As the expression around here goes, she’s full of beans.

This is Zelda.  She’s Pandora’s sister.  She lies around looking lovely.  Let’s hope she’s better for my writing than the other Zelda was for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s!



They are both pleasingly black.  Not a spot of white anywhere on them.

And I’ve been reading – David Whyte’s, The Three Marriages.  Wonderfully written and very thought-provoking.  I’d recommend it.  And I just picked up a collection of Nadine Gordimer’s  short stories, Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black.  Wow.  Stunning.

Although I haven’t been posting on the blog, I’ve been writing.  I looked through my journal and I have about 120 A5 pages of writing from February.   What do I fill these pages with?  Sometimes questions that struggle across the page, inarticulate and clumsy, left unanswered.  Sometimes I’m trying to organize my time.  Occasionally I’ll follow a writing prompt from a book.  Frequently, I sit down with the only directive being Natalie Goldberg’s ‘keep the pen moving’ and I see how far I travel in thirty minutes.  I’m always surprised where I end up.

What, then, is the work of writing for me?  Is it a form of meditation, played to a soundtrack of jazz in moments of solitude?  An hour of escape on a weekend afternoon?  An easier descent into sleep?  An exploration of that liminal land between waking and dreams?  I don’t know.  It changes.

Much of my writing lately has been a voyage inward.  It’s the practice of paper.  The main purpose, the bones of it, is to write.   I go a bit cross-eyed trying to think of audience or product at the moment.  An essay, a poem, a story – these might grow from the compost of words I am creating and turning these days.   I am scattering seeds and improving the soil of my garden.  Writing inwards to dig up old roots, separate clumps of bulbs that are too close to each other to breathe and grow, clearing last year’s dried leaves and stalks.

I read a quotation recently that was something like ‘writers are the only artists who must generate their raw material before shaping it.’  This is a season of creating raw material.   So, I’m not really writing pieces with a beginning, middle and end. Or bothering much about development, meaning or even general coherence.  I’m simply showing up at the page because it’s a guaranteed doorway into the unexpected.

Flowers will bloom later – they always do.

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7 Responses to February Post

  1. writetobeyou says:

    Melissa! I have missed you. This piece captures everything that I have based my workshops around. You are embracing the process and not fixating on the product. It’s a soulful reminder to me. Since releasing the book my mind has been on product and it doesn’t always feel nourishing. Good to hear your voice and imagine your runs. I am finding the blog hard to generate at the moment also. I love the uncertain transition from winter to spring in the UK. For now…


  2. writetobeyou says:

    Me again! With your permission I am going to quote from this blog post in my next workshop. It is beautifully articulated and full of truth!


  3. cellocatnw says:

    Beautiful, Melissa. I am sitting here with my black kitty beside me, my venerable soon-to-be 18-year-old cat who still likes to go outside but sits around on the porch blinking rather than looking for trouble. I’m glad you have two new kitties. They are gorgeous. I hope Pandora learns to avoid the toilet. And yes, I find writing so much more difficult than music! But equally satisfying, nonetheless.


  4. Melissa says:

    Rory – Thanks! I’d be honoured. Please feel free to share whatever you like from the post! And I’m still planning on the other project we discussed. I’ll email you about it soon. ‘Uncertain’ is one word for the transition between seasons here in the UK. 🙂

    Hi Mary – Thanks! I think Zelda looks a little like Satchmo. Isn’t it amazing how much communication can come through a cat’s blink? I find writing and music both difficult, too, but somehow manage to practice writing much more. Now that I think about that, there’s a lot behind that sentiment. Really liked your post about practicing the other day. I think Pandora has learned to look before she leaps (literally!).


  5. Elaine says:

    My writing is taking similar turns at the moment Melissa, so I appreciate your well articulated thoughts. I’m also running the Cambridge Half – I may see you there.


  6. Rachael says:

    Hello, Pandora! Hello, Zelda! And hello, Melissa!

    A half marathon! One hundred twenty handwritten pages! So much to celebrate!


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