Posted: November 9, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Books, Family, Health, nature, poetry | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beauty, family, gifts, gratitude, grief, health, joy, love, nature, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, transitions, writing
(This post was first published on the AlzAuthors
Expressing the Inexpressible through Poetry
By Ann Campanella
When I was in my early thirties, my mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. She was 41 when I was born, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been a shock to see her aging in this way. But it was.
I always knew she was an “older mom.” She had been a fount of wisdom for me during my adolescence and early years of marriage.
Mom always said her children kept her young. There was a span of ten years among us, and I had vivid memories of my mother hiking, playing tennis, swimming and sailing at the upstate New York lake we visited each summer.
My grandmother and great aunts lived into their nineties. I had imagined my mother would always be there for me, at least until she was well into her eighties. But it wasn’t to be.
My mother’s mind began to unspool at the same time I was trying to become a mother and struggling through a series of miscarriages. At first her memory became slippery and she began repeating stories. Her emotions seemed out of proportion to what was happening in her life. Her words no longer matched her behavior.
Mom’s descent into Alzheimer’s was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Heartbreaking because she was aware that “something wasn’t right.” It was painful to see her struggling to present a healthy face to the world when her memory was disintegrating. Beautiful because my mother’s spirit showed through her trauma, and the disease became a stage upon which the love in our family could be illuminated and acted out.
Poetry has long been a way for me to attempt to express the inexpressible. When the jagged edges of loss threatened to undo me, writing poems provided a way to hold onto pieces of my mother. Each poem or “stage act” allowed me to bathe my mother’s life in light and meaning.
What Flies Away is a collection of poetry that tells the story of my mother’s illness, my father’s sudden death and the miraculous birth of my daughter. This collection of poems won second place in the Oscar Arnold Young Book Award for the best book of poems in North Carolina in 2007. I was also honored that two of the poems, “The Chase” and “How to Grieve,” earned the Poet Laureate Award.
Now, ten years later, my collection, The Beach Poems, has been published. I consider it a sequel to What Flies Away, as this group of poems shares the story of what “comes after.”
I’ve always loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, a book where the author reflects on the patterns of her own life. I was able to do this at the beach.
My mother had Alzheimer’s for fourteen years, and her disease changed me. After a decade and a half of caretaking, it took time for me to find myself again.
During a series of retreats, I spent time walking the sand and absorbing the rhythm and beauty of the coastline. Gradually, held in the arms of the wind and waves, I was able to release my grief and begin to heal. Memories of my mother and the time before she was ill slowly trickled in. To my surprise, joy washed over me and I felt my spirit come alive again.
Writing about my mother’s Alzheimer’s experience, whether through poetry or prose has been a privilege. I spent 20 years working on my memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found, which was featured on this site on January 18th, 2017. My memoir has been recognized internationally and my poems have received many awards.
But I’m most grateful to have had the opportunity – through readings and speaking engagements – to meet and link hearts with those who are walking their own difficult path through Alzheimer’s. The Beach Poems is my gift to them.
I am here
at the edge
of the earth
on a mat of sand
wind cups the curves
of my body, waves
a constant roar
in my ears
blue belt of sky
presses against the horizon
I think of my mother –
all that was and never will be –
cry out into the void
but wind and sand and sea
my mother is here
and not here
and always will be
I hug the earth.
(from The Beach Poems, Main Street Rag Publishing Company)
About the Author
Ann Campanella is the author of the award-winning memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found. Formerly a magazine and newspaper editor, her writing has been widely published. She blogs about her life and horses at Fields of Grace and has been a guest on many blogs and podcasts. Ann’s poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Twice, she has received the Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society. She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her family and animals.
Fields of Grace
https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Campanella/e/B001JOWQ3A (Amazon Author page)
https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/?product=the-beach-poems (Main Street Rag Online Bookstore)
Posted: November 3, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Books, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beauty, gratitude, grief, joy, lessons, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, transitions, writing
Happy November, everyone! I have a couple of special announcements today. First, November marks the release of The Beach Poems! If you took advantage of the pre-publication discount, you should be receiving your book soon.
November is National Caregivers’ Month. It’s so perfect that The Beach Poems was birthed during this particular month because these poems tell the story of what it was like being a caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s for 14 years and what it was like after she passed away.
The beach was the place I went for respite and healing. I took a series of retreats on the coast and in the midst of the wind and the waves, I gradually rediscovered who I was again. Memories of my mother and my younger self came flooding back to me, and I was able to release the grief I had carried for so many years.
Like a shell caught in the tide, it felt as if my heart was rinsed over and over, scrubbing away the grime of what had weighed me down. My mother was now free and so was I.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the transformative power of the sea as much as I enjoyed working on this collection. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few stories and poems from that time.
The next big announcement is that for the entire month of November, in honor of my mother and all the hardworking caregivers, the eBook of Motherhood: Lost and Found will be available for only $2.99, less than half the original price of $7.99. Click here to get your copy, and feel free to share the word!
For anyone interested in a signed copy of The Beach Poems, leave a comment and include your email.
Thank you to the many friends who supported me on the journey of caring for my mother and sharing our story through poetry and memoir.
Posted: August 15, 2017 Filed under: Family, Health, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beach, beauty, clouds, dawn, family, gifts, gratitude, grief, health, joy, love, nature, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, trust, walks, writing
The beach has always been a place of deep nourishment for me. When my mother passed away, after living with Alzheimer’s for 14 years, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I fled to the coast in search of the parts of myself I had lost.
Each morning, I got up early and walked the damp sand, studied the shore birds, listened to the roar of the waves and inhaled the salt breezes. My mother had always loved the ocean and images of her inspecting shells or pointing out dolphins gradually began to float back to me.
As I remembered and grieved for my mom – the woman I had lost, the mother whose physical form had departed this world – tears filled my eyes and slipped down my cheeks.
At the same time, descriptions and words filled my head. and I began jotting down lines of poetry that turned into poems. In this period of solitude, I gave voice to the myriad emotions that came to the surface.
Little by little, a lightness began to permeate my soul. It was as if my grief had been clogging the pathways to joy. And as I gave my feelings permission to take flight through words, a sense of the sacredness of life filled me. Gradually, I awakened to some of the day-to-day blessings I had been blind to over the years as I numbly cared for my mother.
I’m excited to share my journey from grief to joy in my new collection of poetry called The Beach Poems. It will be available through Main Street Rag Publishing Co. The list price is $12. But If you live in the U.S. and you order now, you will receive the pre-publication discount of $6.50 (plus shipping).
Click here for your pre-order discount. The collection will be mailed to you upon publication. Thank you for your support, and may your beach days be blessed!
Posted: July 29, 2017 Filed under: Family, Lake George, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: appreciation, beauty, family, friends, gifts, gratitude, grief, lessons, nature, poetry, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, walks, writing
I was just chatting with a “friend” on Instagram. We were connecting about our love of animals and nature, and our conversation suddenly took a turn. She told me that her mother’s birthday was tomorrow. I knew that her mother had died and sensed that she felt this loss intensely.
I felt a sudden deep empathy. My mother is gone too, and her birthday was in late June.
My Instagram friend is a writer like I am and her words made me pause. “We never fully stop grieving. It is an ever evolving process, and through writing they live on with us and through nature and animals communicate to us. Never the same, but comforting.”
As a poet and a nature and animal lover, I know this to the core of my soul, though I’m not sure I’ve spoken it out loud. My mother was deeply in tune with nature. I remember her awe over the spectacular winter sunsets on the North Carolina coast, her silent reverence for the beauty of Lake George and its wildlife as we paddled her green canoe, her passion for protecting undeveloped land.
Like nature, she was never in a rush. Mom taught me to appreciate the mountains around the lake and the long stretches of damp sand along the coast. With her eyes, I take in the tall pines that line the bay, and I scan the ocean’s dark grey green waves for the fins of dolphins.
I follow her footsteps as I hike the rocky hills of the Adirondacks. Is it her feet or mine that sink in the sand as I search for shells beside the ocean as the salt air caresses my cheeks?
Each time I walk on the beach or return to my ancestral home in upstate New York, I am soothed by visions of her.
To read more about my mother and her influence on me, order a copy of The Beach Poems, a collection of poetry about the Carolina coast and the crescent of sand we called “the beach” at Lake George in Upstate New York. To receive the pre-publication discount, click here.
Also, check out my friend @meditatingwithanimals on Instagram and learn more about her lovely book here.
Posted: July 28, 2017 Filed under: Family, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beach, beauty, family, gratitude, grief, joy, lessons, love, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, writing
I’m so pleased to announce that my collection, The Beach Poems, will be published by Main Street Rag Publishing Co. I’ve been working on this group of poems for oh…about 10 years. (Not long compared to the time I spent on my memoir.) 🙂
The beach has always been a place of deep beauty and healing for me. My mother passed away in 2007 after 14 years of living with Alzheimer’s. As you can imagine, it took some time for the layers of loss to lift. This collection of poems is special to me because it shares the story of my journey from grief back to joy.
Here’s the exciting part. My publisher Scott Douglass is offering a pre-publication discount. The book will be released in a couple of months. But if you order now, you can get it for $6.50 (plus shipping) instead of the cover price of $12. Not a bad deal.
Here’s a link directly to my author’s page:
The MSR Online Bookstore: http://mainstreetragbookstore.com/
*A note from the publisher: Those of you who don’t like buying online, Main Street Rag will take checks, but the price is a flat rate of $12.50/book regardless of quantity which includes shipping and sales tax. Please remember, though. This is for advance orders. It doesn’t mean the book will be shipped early, only that you are receiving a discount for ordering before it goes to press, but the price will only last for a limited time, so order now!
Thank you so much for all of your support! I send my deepest gratitude and blessings to those of you who have walked with me and been on your own journey through grief. May your beach days be blessed.
To read more about The Beach Poems, go to my website by clicking here: www.anncampanella.com
Posted: May 7, 2017 Filed under: Family, Health, Our animals, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, audiobook, family, gratitude, love, narrative, transitions, writing
Last spring, I was blessed with the incredible opportunity of recording an audiobook version of my memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found. I spent an exciting, fun and intense week up in Syracuse, NY, in early June. In order to prepare my voice for the marathon recording sessions, I practiced reading my book for hours. I wanted to be sure I knew every word, every nuance of each line.
Reading a book aloud is obviously different from writing a book. While you might “hear your voice in your head” while you are writing, to read the words aloud takes breath and awareness and presence. I wanted to inhabit each scene, not rush through them. I wanted to remember what it felt like not just to write the words, but to live the experience.
Since Motherhood: Lost and Found is a memoir about the loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s and my desire to have a child, it was easy for me to slide back in time and feel the tenderness of those years. I could feel the vibrations of my mother’s voice as she wondered why my father would no longer let her drive. I could almost inhale her familiar scent as I pressed against her, hoping to calm her as she waited (in her confused state) to be admitted into the hospital.
Certain experiences seem to create chords within us, a deep resounding that is old and familiar. The heartache of a miscarriage, whispered words of comfort, a mother’s hug, the touch of a loved one who is slipping away. I found it healing to relive my memoir this way, even if a part of me wanted to turn away.
Giving voice to a story adds a richness to it, a quality for which I wasn’t fully prepared. At the end of my week in Syracuse, I felt both wrung out and new. The days had been full as I recorded 75- plus pages each session, taking small breaks to sip lemon water and ease my throat. I remember emerging from the basement where we recorded, being amazed at the sun and wind and light. I had forgotten there was another day going on around me as I had tumbled back through time, reliving my own version of some of the most intense moments in my life.
I felt I had given something more through this reading. Not just an account of my losses, but a full-bodied expression of my love for the people and animals in my memoir. My parents who struggled through their final days, my husband who stood firm beside me, despite his own callings, the horses and families who filled our barn, my siblings who linked hands and hearts with me, and my precious daughter whose unexpected birth brought light and life to Joel and me.
It’s been said that writers write to discover who they are. Reading aloud Motherhood: Lost and Found was also a discovery process. Through the experience of giving voice to my own words, perhaps I understood a little bit more about what had drawn me to spend a significant part of my life crafting this story. And putting a voice to it somehow claimed it as mine.
To listen to a sample of Motherhood: Lost and Found, click here. This audiobook was just released TODAY on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Motherhood: Lost and Found is also available on Kindle or in hard copy here.