Finding Myself at the Beach

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!

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The Connecting Power of Nature

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.


Introducing The Beach Poems

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:

https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/?product=the-beach-poems

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


Two More Poems…Actually Three

I read two more poems and had them videoed for April Anarchy. The first one was “Horse” by Louise Glück. Click here to watch the video. You’ll get a live view of Foxie and Smokey in the pasture.

The second poem was “Morning Swim” by Maxine Kumin, my horse-loving friend. Click here to view that video. Sorry, there’s no horses in that video, but I did have wet hair. 🙂

And for good measure…here’s a poem of my own, written a few weeks ago, before the horses came:

 

I Hear It In The Wind

 

A barn that has stood empty far too long

calls my name. I hear it as the wind fingers

new leaves and fescue rises green

in the pasture. I throw open

stall doors, sweep debris from the aisle

as my daughter brushes cobwebs

from oak boards. We dream together

of horses trotting in from the field,

forelocks flung across wide blazes,

ears pricked in our direction.

I feel new life in my fifty-four-year-old

bones this spring. She is ready

to toss her mane against a crystal blue sky,

prance with joy.

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The barn, before the horses arrived.

 


Where Horses and Poetry Intersect

I mentioned in a previous post that a friend of mine asked me to video myself reading a poem written by Maxine Kumin, who was a wonderful poet and horse enthusiast, for April Anarchy, a fun Facebook event designed to introduce people to all kinds of poetry during the National Poetry Month. Here’s a glimpse of the bracket:

Upon hearing that we had horses back in our barn, my friend, Suzanne Baldwin Leitner, asked if I would like to read a couple of other horse-themed poems. For fun, I asked my daughter to actually video these poems at the barn. I thought I’d share these videos on the blog as I just love it when my passions collide!

To view a reading at the barn of “The Ride” by Richard Wilbur, click on the title of the poem.

April Anarchy is just beginning, so if you’d like to get in on the fun, look for Suzanne Baldwin Leitner’s Facebook page or click here. You’ll find videos of all the poems in the bracket. The first round has just started, so vote for your favorite poems.

I’ll post my other readings as the April Anarchy Poetry Tournament continues!

 

 


Bends in the Road

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Yesterday morning, I had no idea how I would find a companion pony for the horse we are bringing to our farm for Sydney. But I had the sense that I needn’t worry, there was a plan, even if I wasn’t privy to it. I thought it might come through the lovely women at Race2Ring, a rescue operation for horses coming off the track and other horses in need. And, indeed, I had an email from Erica that morning that made me hopeful. And I received a phone call from Tracy, the director, that afternoon. It was a blessing to connect with these women who care so deeply about horses and people and to know they had been working so hard on my behalf to find a suitable companion for Foxie.

But it wasn’t to be. At least, not this time. Still, I felt a sense of peace. I figured it must be time for me to reach out to some of my other contacts in the horse world, although I doubted I would have much success since the lines of communication had grown dim with so little contact over the past decade.

Then I remembered a post I had seen late the night before on an Equestrian site. It was about a Shetland pony who was for sale and lived on a nearby farm. The price was cheap. But I knew I didn’t want to buy another horse at this time. I looked up the owner’s Facebook account to see if I might learn something that would propel me in one direction or another. To my surprise, she and I had a friend –Helen– in common. What was amazing to me was that this friend was not a horse person, but a former homeschool mom and a writer. Helen also happened to be someone my friend Karen knows well.

One of my concerns, as I have been moving back into the horse world, has been how will I ever have the time for both horses and writing. A couple of weeks ago I had initiated a call for writers who were interested in gathering together in critique groups. A part of me wondered why it was that at THIS particular time, when I was starting something new with horses, that I felt the nudge to reach out to other writers. In the past, I might have talked myself out of one thing or another, convincing myself I only had time for one new initiative. But, for whatever reason, I trusted this nudge, and simply allowed the experience to unfold.

Helen was one of the writers who answered the call for the critique group, and I could tell during that first meeting she was someone I wanted to get to know better. The week before Easter, my friend Karen invited a group of moms and kids to her house for their annual Easter egg hunt. Sydney and I had attended Karen and LK’s egg hunt many times. But this year, I was delighted to discover that Helen and her daughter were there. Helen and I talked as we hid eggs, sharing bits of our lives and our writing. I felt an immediate connection with her.

The horse world, like every pocket of the population, has its share of unseemly characters looking to make a quick buck, so I often approach transactions with a bit of wariness. But when I saw that the Shetland pony’s owner was a Facebook friend with Helen, I thought she must be a nice person. And that is exactly what the Shetland pony’s owner typed to me in her message when I told her we had this friend in common.

I asked the Shetland pony’s owner if she would consider a month’s lease, and she responded enthusiastically: “Absolutely!” I asked about the pony’s manners and what she would charge for the lease.  She said he had good manners and there would be “no charge.”

No charge! I could hardly believe it. Not only did this pony sound like a sweetheart, someone who our family would quickly fall in love with, he was an easy keeper and had come from a home where he had been well cared for and loved for seven years. And we could pick him up on Friday!

The fact that God provided a connection to this Shetland pony through a new writer friend reminds me not to give into my fears, but to trust that He cares deeply for my concerns and passions.

Interestingly, at the same time that I was communicating with the Shetland pony’s owner, a writer friend, Suzanne, who is creating an April Anarchy bracket (similar to March Madness, but filled with poems instead of basketball teams) in honor of National Poetry Month messaged me: Would I consider videotaping myself reading a poem written by one of my favorite poets, Maxine Kumin, and posting it on YouTube? I was happy to do it and honored to be asked. A Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Maxine had also been a friend and fellow horsewoman, someone who loved animals, nature and farm living as I do. Over the years, she had often encouraged me to get a horse for Sydney and get back to riding.

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 Maxine and I with one of her horses on her New Hampshire farm.

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Me with Sydney, Maxine and Victor (Maxine’s husband)

Last night, I took a walk at sunset and allowed the confluence of these events to penetrate me. I continue to be astounded. The stamp of poetry and writing have appeared throughout my transition into the horse world. Even this blog (that Sydney helped me create several years ago, but I’d yet to post anything on) suddenly sprang to life as I contemplated the rising tide of joy that washed over me when I considered what it would be like to share the experience of having horses with my daughter. And I thought to myself, I must collect these moments, frame them with words and remind myself to see and appreciate the beauty of this narrative flowing through my life.

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Trust

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Before the sun came up, I woke with a sense of peace like clean gauze wrapped around the oozings of my heart. My mind had wanted to race in circles last night, but I slowed its galloping with a reminder: things often look new in the morning. And in this damp drenched April dawn, I sense a settling, the way pollen clings to grass or how magnolia petals that blossomed pink and surprising in March gradually turn brown and drift to the ground. Whatever it is my mind wants to force into place has eased, leaving a sweet trust that hides in the sleep-freshened branches of my mind.