Posts Tagged ‘Jen Lee’

Catching steam from a kettle

December 2nd, 2009    -    8 Comments

Today’s guest blogger is Jen Lee, a writer and performer in New York City’s storytelling scene. She is the author of Fortunes and Take Me with You: A Journal for the Journey. You can find more of her work and information about her upcoming workshops and retreats at

I walked with my girls to the park after school, thinking it would pass the time on a day my husband would not be there to relieve me in the evening hours. When we got there, I couldn’t believe I didn’t bring my camera.

These things make me ache: beautiful, camera-less moments.

Our destination was the Long Meadow in the gloaming, and the trees across from us were a blend of bare branches, flame-colored leaves and evergreen boughs. It looked like a painting: a painting we stepped into. I sat on a bench with my tea in hand and I watched two little spirits forget their mirroring forms and spin under a pale sky. Residents of an assisted living center joined us for their daily constitution, speaking in Russian as they passed by on the path again and again or sat near me on the benches.

The leaves were falling as I watched, surfing on the breeze. The color was dropping to the earth as the sun was saying its good night. My daughters’ youth making its own journey across a finite sky.

And no camera. Just the ache of the beauty, the heartbreak of its passing nature, making me look and listen and see with careful attention.

Five old women walked the path shoulder to shoulder, and I thought how happy I would be if I could be with my friends in the gloaming years. How I hoped to be good at being an old lady. To walk shoulder to shoulder, daily up and down the same path, to see one’s scenery with newborn eyes again and again as it ticks and tocks. Sunrise, sunset. Bud, flower, fade. A white blanket tuck-in and a bright green morning.

I knew then – memory is no possessor. Whether we try to capture moments with a camera or with our minds, we might as well be trying to catch the steam from the kettle in our bare hand and hold it. All we can do is this: walk through this present moment shoulder to shoulder, seeing all that unfolds around us and within us with newborn eyes as this moment delivers us to the next one, tiny and new.

Photo of Jen Lee by Susannah Conway

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Sister’s keeper

July 6th, 2009    -    2 Comments

The incandescent Jen Lee asked me to scribble a line or two to introduce her newest collection Fortunes, and so I did, and here they are, almost ready to count and keep for yourself. You will want to keep one for yourself, and you will want to give away a dozen. What we give always comes back to us and thus fortunes multiply.

She returned the favor by giving me more profoundly blank pages of her Don’t Write journal, which has worked a kind of reverse osmosis on me. (Sorry, the magic is sold out.) The empty lines of that book have filled with more unfiltered prose than I ever didn’t write, and I’m looking there to find the finishing stroke for my second book this summer. Reverse osmosis generally takes a lot of pressure and is fairly slow, but it works.

I trust what Jen knows, and even more what she doesn’t, and she told me as much herself:

“My feeling about your book manuscript is that it is already written, somewhere inside you or outside of you. There’s just a good stretch of dictation left for you to take down. The hardest work is the way such projects rewrite us as they are gestating, and eventually born.”

The due date for my labors is Labor Day, naturally, and I’ve no doubt the baby will arrive on schedule. After that, I’ll be free to fall up north, plunging into a golden pile of overdue forgetting. The treasury opens by itself.

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