Look at me.

summer morning writing

summer morning writing

I am thinking a lot, a very lot, about attention these days.
Undivided attention.

The kind of attention where you notice hazel flecks in otherwise brown eyes.
The kinds of attention where you sit watching a stunned small woodpecker regain
it self after smacking in to your porch window, under which you too sit, a bit stunned, trying to regain the same.
The kind of attention that is what I call “hands free living.”

Maybe this will be a perennial topic for me?
Maybe living with kids, who are quickly becoming emerging adults, as my friend Alison Leah Sher names her generation, means that I will be asking for full attention at the dinner table or in conversation.
Are you one, like me, who likes to notice the flecks?

attention to my art-journal in the morning on my desk on the back porch

Undivided attention is a gift.

Poet Mark Nepo says,

“We can find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.”

I wish he’d been at the dinner table last night.
It was not pretty.
I was not pretty.

But motherhood is like that, right?

I am salvaging myself by writing, reading and sorting out books and linens against the ensuing humidity and navigating the alleys of clothing and gear that are strewn in the hallway upstairs. I know I am not the only mother of a teen and an about to be 21-year-old who have to pick steps from the bathroom to my bedroom. Right? Please tell me I am not the only one.

You know I am devoted to the stories of women, in particular the stories of mothers.
My own stories included.

That means, I show up at the page, this one and in my journals, first, before doing other stuff like email and errands and other work stuff pertaining to mothering or teaching. I have to show up here. I have to give myself undivided attention; otherwise I spend the rest of the day botching every single interaction because I am not clear. I have not done the sacred work of connecting with my spirit through writing or painting or whatever else I do that connects me. We each do different practices, but do them we must.

I see this in the Powder Keg Sessions, my writing workshops for women. After thirty minutes or so of centered, quiet writing, no matter what emotional pot was over-boiling the rims of their days, the writers at my table carry forward some truth on to the page that brings tears or laughter or hushed awe when it is read aloud.

Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It’s transformative in our personal and professional lives AND it’s also critical in our community lives. But we don’t think about history as our collective story.

-Brené Brown

Summer is a time when our days are different. Even if our jobs remain steady, our hours are different because the daylight is different. If your house if busy with kids, take a journal for a walk and find a park bench to sit and write for a bit each evening. If you can get out when dark falls, find an open field to watch the fireflies. Carve out some time to wander.

My Autumn Joy clematis blooms in June

My Autumn Joy clematis blooms in June

Like Mary Oliver says,

“You too came in to the world to do this. To go easy. To be filled with light and to shine.”

On Literary Mama this week, my Questmate Saundra Goldman wrote this:

“As a student of writing practice, I should have known better than to look outside myself for the direction of my book. I should have trusted the story was within me.”

I trust that the stories I have to tell are already within me. It takes undivided attention to get to them.



PS Go find some fireflies, please.
PPPS Here is a poem by Taylor Mali titled Undivided Attention.


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Showing 5 comments
  • Kitty Cavalier

    I LOVE this! Suzi your sensual slow way of capturing the beauty of life is like lavender lemonade on a steamy day in July. The flecks. Oh the flecks. The flecks is what we’re all here for right? Love all the teaching you are doing and your book!!! A dream come true for all of us, hungry for your words like caterpillars. Chomp, chomp. ❤️

  • Julie Bond Genovese

    LOVE it – “…otherwise I spend the rest of the day botching every single interaction because I am not clear. I have not done the sacred work of connecting with my spirit through writing or painting or whatever else I do that connects me. We each do different practices, but do them we must.” Amen sweet sistah, my reflection hasn’t been too pretty lately either, for this very reason! xoxoxo julz

  • Christina Polizzo

    I have yet to meet you or attend a powder keg, yet I read you often and enjoy “getting to know you” that way. The flecks…I yearn for the flecks and lately it seems the flecks have turned away….I want to see the flecks of GOD…perhaps my vision is blurred right now? (I’ll write about this as soon as I leave this comment….I’ll spare you and your readers :)). I wonder if I know…if people know…the impact of taking the fleck out of view. When I think someone won’t know I’m not paying attention and on some level they can feel it. I had body work done recently and while lying face down I could feel the disconnect of energy every time the person looked at his/her phone…over and over again I felt the fleck turn away. Such an interesting thing to ponder. Thanks Suzi.

  • Terri Bocklund

    Connection… we both wrote about birds snacking into our doors. How does this happen?

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