Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Fifth Blessed Christmas

Dear Family and Friends,

As our dark season approaches the return of light which is Solstice, and then Christmas, I’m becoming aware how this grand, ongoing drama of life is taking place also, within myself.

A few of the large-scaled dramas have touched me personally this month, e.g. when I participated in last Sunday’s march for Racial Justice (escorted by police down Congress Street) at the end of which, in the Portland High School gym, we listened to stirring talks. Having translated from French to English some African asylees’ “Declaration” papers to present before US Immigration, I’ve learned a lot. For example, one politically active young man, happily settled here now, had to flee for his life for doing a similar thing in the Congo. The newspaper’s quoting an African onlooker’s expression of amazement witnessing this peaceful demonstration means something.

The other one relates to Francis’ and my having started a weekly Anti-Torture Vigil at Monument Square in 2003. I used to read everything about that dark subject to select materials for handouts – at that time. Since Francis’ death, however, I haven’t had the stomach (good cliché) to follow any of this closely. Now, with the release of the long-awaited Senate report on interrogation techniques used by the CIA, however, I’m grateful indeed that finally, the truth has been publicly acknowledged by our own government. That too means something.

About my writing work, something new has developed within the last week. It mirrors what happened in 2011 when I was puzzling how to handle poems that were coming at a time when I wanted to write Francis’ story and mine in prose. At that time, I was poised to include both poetry and prose in one book, just as I was about to do now. But, as I finally chose to do, then, I have decided to do the same now: write two books, not one.

So the content of the third book,“SING TO ME AND I WILL HEAR YOU – New Poems,” will include these new poems by themselves. And the fourth book, “THIS NEW LIFE A Widow’s Journal,” will include selections from my journal which I’ve been keeping since Francis died.

To speak about my journey now (almost five years after his death on January 3, 2010) – when I went to bed last night, I felt downright surprised at the depth of my joy. When I awakened even more happy, I wondered at it. The reason, I decided, is that I had spent most of the previous day selecting the order . . . , in other words, I was sequencing the poems for my third book. That’s cause enough for joy, for sure, because those approximately 70 poems that have come since publication of the first poems book, reengage me with the experiences Francis and I were privileged to share. These new poems also touch on my own experiences adjusting to this never-before-traveled road I’m on – the state of widowhood.

There’s even a deeper reason for the blessedness I felt last night and this morning. It’s what I’ve discovered through writing both the poems, and my widow’s story. And it’s this: I’ve come to appreciate this time in my life, just as it is. Widowhood has given me the opportunity not only to grow in new ways, develop gifts I didn’t realize I had, but also, to advance in understanding that comes with age.

Moreover, all along, since Francis died, I’ve felt “called” to write. But now, with a deepening, reassuring surety about it – that my current writing of two more books (for a total of four) continues to confirm that I’m still engaged in the work I must do before I die – no wonder I felt almost euphoric! For what deeper satisfaction can there be than doing what one feels called to do? 

May each of you and your loved ones experience the joy of this season through the diverse ways of celebrating it, including Christmas.
May you be blessed with good health and energy to carry on with your own good work for the common good of all people – and for the restoration of our planet. (On this subject, here is important information I’ve discovered: http://www.context.org/about/plans/cis-long-term-strategy/

Loving regards,
Elaine





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Life Changes


Dear Family and Friends,

I was pensive last night, the 24th of September, because it was on that night, in 2009, on the eve of my birthday, that Francis and I got the disturbing results of his MRI. I wrote a poem about it in my first book, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Poems, called: “We Missed All the Signs.” And in prose, Sing . . . A Love Story –  I wrote about it again, in the penultimate chapter“Crossroads,” under the section (p. 179): “TWO SCENES”.  In fact, two years ago at this time, I wrote yet another, a second, poem (to be included in my third book in progress): “Nadir and Zenith.” I even shared it with you then, in 2012.

This third reference to those “Two scenes on that dark day” – in the “Nadir” part of this poem called “The Blow”– recalls “the shock of the 24th / the day we learned / you soon would die.” Then in the third stanza, the poem expresses, not exactly a question, but a kind of foreboding, as if bracing myself ahead of time to expect – that “future birthdays / may be dyed purple.” Last night was the fifth year, not the third after that “dark day.” I sat in my usual place, not for meditation (or “sitting,” as I prefer to call it) this time, but simply to reflect, in the presence of both Francis and my parents, as a kind of honoring of this “anniversary” night.

Having begun working on my third book, “THIS NEW LIFE A Widow’s Journal and Poems,” I already knew something had changed, but I wasn’t sure, ahead of time, how much it had. I was almost surprised to realize that, (not just as at Christmas, 2013 when I wrote you, “It’s Different Now”) even for an anniversary like this – I no longer felt that heaviness. I was sensing, as at Christmas, not just Francis’ joy that “our” first two books are already published, but his joy that I am now turning away from a direction I had begun to take.

I wont, since I can’t anyway, go into detail about this at this time. That is the subject of the third book, the writing of which is very much, still, a process of discovery. I knew from experience that writing reveals something new, but I didn’t realize until now, how much.

So, feeling assured on Francis’ part, I felt joyful last night, noticing my attention was lingering on my parents, instead of on that “shock,” the day we got the awful news five years ago. I was thinking of my mother who gave me birth 79 years ago, and of my father who watched with joy as I came into the world with my whole life ahead of me.

It’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I feel its spirit already. During the annual reunion with my McGillicuddy family, early last month celebrating “Shrine Sunday” (pages 84 – 86 in Sing . . . A Love Story) I was heartened by the experience of how familial bonds deepen as the surviving members carry on traditions we once shared with our beloved deceased. They are still very much with us, as members of the younger generation step into their shoes. And I found that very moving.

Loving regards to you all, dear family and friends,

Elaine

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Job done! = Ex Libris Maine: May 2014


Dear Family and Friends,

There’s a lot of work involved in promoting a book. It’s something I did only minimally for the first one, Sing . . . The Poems. For this one, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story, I not only set up dates for readings and book signings (July 10 at Longfellow Books and August 1 at the Portland Public Library), but I also spent a good bit of time submitting required information and photos to the directors of two allied nonprofit organizations – Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance (MWPA) and Find Maine Writers (FMW).” But that important part of the job is now done (I say with an exclamation point)!

Click here to read MWPA’s monthly “Ex Libris Maine” E-newsletter. Then you’ll see the bare bones synopsis I had to write and the cover photo of my book. And that, in turn, will bring you to my website where you’ll see - but just click here find.mainewriters.org to see both my book cover and profile now included among those of other Maine writers. 

(By the way, people really like the cover photo. It was taken by my publisher, David Gawlik of Wisconsin, who is also an excellent photographer. He took the photo at a CORPUS Conference, in 2005. One couple after another – married priests and their wives – lined up before David’s camera.)

To be honest, this is the part I like least –  getting these little tasks completed. It’s daunting for a newcomer like me who is not hard-wired to grasp web formatting, if that’s the right expression. But I hasten to add that it’s been rewarding to experience the kindness of Joshua Bodwell, of MWPA, and Stephen Abbott, of FIND MAINE WRITERS. Co-directors of these organizations, they patiently directed me as well. Their work makes us Mainers proud; it’s responsible for keeping our literary community vibrant.

If you haven’t yet received a copy of my Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story, you could support local bookstores where I’ve brought copies – Nonesuch Books in both South Portland and Biddeford, The Book Review in Falmouth, and three bookstores in Portland – Letterpress Books at Northport, Sherman’s on Exchange Street, and of course, Portland Portland’s well loved independent bookstore – Longfellow Books.

In fact, if you’re out of town and need either of the books or the CD delivered, www.elainemcgillicuddy.com has a direct link to Longfellow Books. Chris Bowe its co-owner said: “You do the writing. We’ll do the distributing.” Now I’m eager to get back to work on the third book and to garden!

With loving gratitude,
Elaine
            And now – go to Ex Libris Maine: Click here

Monday, April 14, 2014

Another Synchronicity!

Dear Family and Friends,

I just finished getting copies of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story to local bookstores – in Portland (Longfellow and Letterpress Books), South Portland, Falmouth, and Biddeford, Maine.

If you would like a copy but cannot reach these bookstores, my own local bookstore – Longfellow Books – will, from now on, be the distributor of my books, the CD of my reading the poems, and the next one in the trilogy (now in progress) – Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – the Uncollected Poems and Journals. (“Journals” here refers to my own journal since Francis died).

Of course you can go to Amazon.com to buy this second book, Sing . . . A Love Story, but if you’d like to support “Indie” bookstores instead – the folks at Portland’s beloved local bookstore can mail it to you.

All you have to do is use the link posted here on my new website: http://www.elainemcgillicuddy.com/books/synopses/  Called “fiercely loyal to Maine's community of readers and writers,” Longfellow Books – when it suffered water damage from a burst pipe last February –  experienced how much our community appreciates them; many rallied to help them. 

But what does this have to do with “Another Synchronicity”?  It’s the result of what happened three Sundays ago.

When my friend, Lesley Hoey, asked to interview me for a personal project she had undertaken, I agreed to meet with her at a local tea shop. In the middle of our conversation, a young woman, Jessica Bland, approached to inquire if she could interview us. She explained that she was commissioned to write the “PlayNotes” for an upcoming play at Portland Stage Company. (For years, Francis and I bought season tickets to attend performances at this longest running theater in Portland.) For this one in particular, “Savannah Disputations,” the staff at PSC wanted input from the community. So Lesley and I gave her forty minutes of our time.

Well, today, with my bookstore deliveries completed, just when I was planning to write this letter – Jessica emailed me the link to PSC’s PlayNotes. This means you can read her interview with us in the PlayNotes! It will be handed out to theater-goers when the play opens next week.

On top of that, there’s this added bonus: Jessica used, in that PlayNotes interview, my book’s actual cover photo! What perfect timing, since just last week I also dropped off copies of the (attached) 4x6” promotion card in strategic places on Portland’s main Congress Street – places like the Maine Public Library, the Maine Historical Society library, Maine College of Art, etc.

More visibility means more books for Longfellow Books to sell. And it means more people can hear of the love story I was privileged to live and am now privileged to share. Our world needs love stories.

Just scroll down to page 18, here: http://www.portlandstage.org/Page.15.PlayNotes

Joyous spring to all,
Elaine
PS: Please don't hesitate to let me know if you'd rather not continue receiving these letters. (Just write REMOVE on the subject line). We'd still be family and friends.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blame (or Credit) My Publisher

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s David Gawlik, married priest from Wisconsin and owner of the small publishing company, Caritas Communications, whom I blame or credit. Anticipating the publication of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story (coming out soon!), he proposed that I get my own website to promote this second book.

After some scouting around, the person I chose to create the website is my editor, Mike O’Connor’s own graphic designer – Nina K. Noble. Like Mike, she also lives in Port Townsend, Washington state, on the Olympic Peninsula.

Nina turned out to be just the right person, just as everyone “sent” to help me with my writing imperative has been just the right person (like David and Mike). I call those three my team. Nina is a Russian Orthodox Christian, and a yoga practitioner, to boot. She’s even a student of Jung studies. So Nina and I have become friends in the process of my sending her material, and her “designing” the website.

Look here to see the fruit of Nina’s work . . . outstanding work, I think you’ll agree:  www.elainemcgillicuddy.com

Initially, it was a website focused on just that – promoting the first two books, the CD of my reading the poems, and later, the third book in progress – Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Uncollected Poems and Journals. But I found myself drawn to make it also a site for collecting various memorabilia.

The “memorabilia” that I most appreciate is the Portland Community Television’s “The Second Act” interview with Francis and me, in 2005. We had to go to some lengths to use it. I thank Lee Slater, my goddaughter Rowan’s dad who made a “MOV” out of the only DVD I was given at the end of that interview in 2005. For the 2012 interview with me by Bill Gregory, the TV station already had it uploaded and available on their website. Nina just had to copy it from there. But those earlier interviews were not uploaded then. But now, after Lee’s work, emailed to Nina, you can see on my website that “Second Act” interview conducted by Susan Hirsch with me and Francis.  

I realized after that, that I wanted to do even more with the website. I thought that my hip problem and yoga-to-the-rescue story might be of help to others. My annotated list of books on grief and death which helped me after Francis died has already helped others, so why not share it more widely?  Spreading the word about permaculture (edible landscape) is needed in our precarious times, and the chants which, at the end, helped Francis in facing his death – (That’s what the “Sing to Me” is all about!) – those could inspire people as they did us. So why not include those as well?

Now viewers can see Francis and me (very briefly) in another video, a youtube video showing Aramaic scholar, Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz leading us in the recitation and chanting of the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Of many Aramaic prayer retreats Francis took with me, that one in the spring of 2009 was his last– only months before he was hospitalized. There he is in that video, wearing a blue top my mother had made for him.

With that website work completed, I am ready now to work on the second half of the third book. The prospect is a joyous one because I know by now that writing is a work of discovery.

Just last week, after a long supper conversation with my friends, Joe and Claire Brannigan, I dropped off two books I’m loaning them – Old Age, Journey into Simplicity, and Jung on Death edited by Jenny Yates. (Because of Joe’s terminal condition, please keep them in mind and heart as they face together what is approaching.) My loaning them the books occasioned a little research on my part through which I came across this fitting quote by Helen Luke.

"Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do, doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in it — and the delight is the sense of the sacred."

Yes, it fits me like a glove. From the poems that came after Francis died, and through the telling of his story and mine, and now with my own widow's story coming next – writing, at this time of my life – feels to me like a calling. And people’s hearty response to my Maine Jung Center presentation only seems to confirm it. For that I give thanks.

And with loving gratitude,
Elaine









Monday, February 17, 2014

A Sweet Synchronicity + Poem and Reminder


Dear Family and Friends,

I went to a funeral this morning. Another friend in our parish, Rosemary, became a widow last week. Francis and I used to sit in or near the same pew in church on which she sat with her now late husband. The two eulogies were no exaggeration: Bob was a very kind, accomplished, generous, compassionate man. We will miss him!

At communion time, another friend, Anne, who was rounding the corner of the section where I sat, touched my shoulder and showed me what she had found in the hymnal she was using – Francis’ memorial bookmark! (Ask me if you’d like a copy, as a PDF). When I passed on this message to Sue, next to me (another widow), we both teared up. It felt like a sign — Francis’ way of saying “I’m among you!” which of course he is, as Bob, Sue’s late husband, is too.

When Anne came to our pew offering to give me Francis’ card, she pointed to the title of the hymn on the page; its last word was “dance” (and it was not “Lord of the Dance”) – but clearly, the last word in that hymn’s title was DANCE.  My eyes widened again, for a second reason.

Since January 30, three poems have come to me. The second one, “My Deceased Husband Speaks to the Men in My Life,” starts out with the “guys at Hamilton’s Garage.” The February 15 poem, “Them I Know,” is a serious one, even longer. But the first one which is relevant to my story here is called “When My Time Comes.”

Remember that Francis’ memorial card marked the page for the hymn with the word “Dance” in it:

WHEN MY TIME COMES

     will I cower before the dark,
     in an unknown void,
     alone?

     Or, when my time arrives,
     will I take Death’s hand,
     and
     enter in the Ballroom
     joyful in knowing
     you’re waiting for me there?


That’s the sweet synchronicity part.
Now the reminder:

Three people recently double-checked with me – “Is your talk next Sunday?”  The basic facts are on the mainejungcenter website.

Chris Bowe of Longfellow Books will be present to sell copies of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Poems, and to take orders for Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story (available in March).
Thank you for supporting our well-loved and “fiercely independent local bookstore!

Loving regards to all,
Elaine


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A More Succinct Announcement

Dear Friends,

One among you who admitted to feeling “overwhelmed” by all the information in my email, “Invitation,” asked me:

Are you going to send out another more succinct email about this event?

I’m so grateful she told me this! When I sent out that overly detailed email, the Maine Jung Center hadn’t yet posted this, but here it is now, straight from their website, in good time for you to save the date.

Loving regards to all,
Elaine


Aspiring to Live Authentically 
Elaine McGillicuddy
Sunday, February 23
 2—4 p.m.
Portland Friends Meetinghouse
1837 Forest Ave, Portland ME
Elaine will share both her journey through grief since the death of her priest-husband, Francis, and the providential way that writing her 
poems and telling their love story restored her will to live and gave her a new purpose in life. Besides relating how becoming a published poet and writer became a healing experience for her, Elaine will read 
selections from her books. Participants will also be invited to sample a few energizing yoga stretches and savor a few lines of the soul-satisfying Lord’s Prayer chanted in Aramaic.  
Elaine G. McGillicuddy, MA, poet and writer, is a former nun who married a resigned priest. She is a retired English teacher, certified Iyengar yoga teacher who co-founded Portland Yoga Studio, and a  leader of the Dances of Universal Peace. She is now writing her third book, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You–The Uncollected Poems and Journals. The titles of this and her other books are drawn from her husband Francis’ words to her before he died.