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Moments of Seeing: Reflections from an Ordinary Life

Order your copy now!

“Katrina Kenison beckons readers into her world and proves to be an insightful guide and companion through the vicissitudes of life.”
~ Chicago Tribune

In this long-awaited collection, Katrina gives voice to the simple joys and private longings of women everywhere.

Order here.

http://www.katrinakenison.com/2000/07/09/2305/

making room

A few weeks ago I phoned my son Jack in Asheville. “How would you feel about me taking over your bedroom at home and turning it into a writing space?” I asked.

I’d hesitated for weeks before raising this idea. But Jack didn’t hesitate in his response. “Oh, that’s fine,” he said, “you can do whatever you want with my room.”

Although we have a tiny office on the first floor of our house, I’ve never written a word in it. The desktop computer is my husband’s and his in-box sits beside it, overflowing with not-urgent papers and clippings and instruction manuals. The window above the desk looks out to the driveway and whatever vehicles happen to be parked there. The counter is a repository for checkbooks and bills to be paid, stamps and envelopes. And the chair, just the right height for Steve, is not very inviting to me. The office is a perfectly good place to write a check or Google driving directions, but it’s not a space my muse has ever chosen to visit.

Most of the words I’ve produced over the last ten years in this house have come from a stool at the kitchen table, where I look out to a view of fields and mountains and sky. I’ve spent countless hours perched there, staring out the windows above the sink while trying to pull my thoughts together. As a mother, as a wife, as a cook and homemaker, and also as a writer, I’ve always been drawn to this room, my own home base, whether I’m chopping something, stirring something, washing something, or writing something. Soups and emails, jars of jam and blog posts, thank you notes and books, all have come from my kitchen. More often than not, several of these things are coming together at once, which means that the written work can easily be shifted to the bottom of my priorities list. No one actually cares if I write or not, but dinner does have to appear on that table every night.

And yet, as summer turned to fall this year, I found myself longing for some other kind of place, a place not in the middle of the action but away from it. A place in which some new work might begin to take shape, privately and quietly. A place where there is nothing that needs to be chopped or watered or cleaned or stirred, where books of memoir and poetry would be easily at hand, and where my laptop and notes and papers don’t have to be put away at the end of the day so that placemats and napkins and silverware can be laid out in their place. [continue…]

no sides

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall — the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.    ~ E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I’ve been listening to the crickets’ warnings all afternoon, trying to accept the truth: summertime cannot last forever.  Much as I would love a hundred more days just like this one, there’s no denying that change is in the air. From my “summer office”  — an old blue chair on the screened porch — I have a view of mountains, garden, and sky.  It’s as serene a vista as any human being could hope to call home.  There is not another person in sight and I’ve allowed my computer screen to darken into sleep mode on the table in front of me. And yet distractions are plentiful.

Bright, busy monarchs float from one purple verbena spire to another, and every few minutes I step outside to count them.  Six at once today, more than I’ve ever seen here at one time.  A pair of bluebirds splash in the birdbath while woodpeckers and jays come and go from the feeder. A breeze rustles through the leaves, clouds slide by, bees hum, the sun slips behind the trees.  As the day turns and the shadows lengthen, the cricket song intensifies, as if more and more insect musicians are finding their way into the field, tuning up their instruments, and joining the symphony.  It’s hard to get much writing done.

Every year, my family teases me for mourning the end of summer even before the 4th of July fireworks are over.  I always want more – more dawn hikes up the mountain, more strawberries and blueberries and peaches to pick, more arugula and basil to cut from the garden, more swims in the pond, more dinners on the porch, more bouquets of cosmos and zinnias, more fires on the hilltop, more s’mores eaten in the dark, more nights of deep sleep with all the windows open. [continue…]

making a difference,
one step at a time

“Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.”   ~ Alice Walker

These days, many of us are profoundly aware that the rent is going up. And, out of our deep love for our lives, our world, and each other, we respond in countless ways — with our voices, our dollars, our time, our conversations, even our bodies, as we dig deep and work together to make things better for all.

As every long-time reader here knows, one constant for me over the last seven years has been an annual commitment to help improve the odds for women diagnosed with reproductive cancers.

It has been seven years since my dear friend Diane died at age 55, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. I think often of all she’s missed — a daughter’s marriage, a son’s graduation from business school, seven Christmases, seven family vacations in Maine, the list is endless.

But I also recall the powerful ways in which her courage and grace continue to inspire those she left behind.  Her example galvanized the rest of us — to be braver and more generous ourselves, and to do our part to make a difference in the lives of others, one step at a time.

Raising money and walking the Jimmy Fund Marathon route with Team Diane is my way of upholding the legacy of my own beautiful friend who died way too young. But it’s also a way to ensure that we — those of us who walk, and every single person who donates to this cause — are making the odds better for each of the 22,000 women who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.

A month from tomorrow, I’ll be out there, walking 26.2 miles to raise funds for Dr. Ursula Matulonis’s cutting-edge team of researchers at Dana Farber.  Dr. Matulonis was Diane’s doctor and, in the years since, she has become both a friend to our group and an inspiration to all of us who continue to support her work with the funds we raise. Thanks to the clarity of Diane’s final wishes, every dollar donated goes directly to Dr. Matulonis. In the last seven years, much progress has been made.

This year, I’m especially looking forward to Sept. 24 because Team Diane will welcome Diane’s older daughter and her new husband to our ranks. Also, my own “soul” daughter Lauren will fly up from Atlanta to walk with us.

Our team began with loved ones, but the circle has grown to include many who didn’t know Diane but who have been touched by her story or by cancer in their own lives. This cause, and our annual contributions, have far exceeded anything we could have imagined when we first set out to support a fund in our friend’s memory. I’m pretty sure she would be delighted to know how far the ripples have reached.

Many of us feel stretched thin right now, as we look for ways to promote healing in our world. That said, I’d be enormously grateful for your support, in any amount. And please know, I will be thinking of you and your loved ones as I walk on September 24.

(One thing I’ve learned over these last months? Paying rent actually feels pretty good – much better than the alternative!)

Click here to learn more and to support my walk: http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2017/KatrinaDiane

Gratefully,

Katrina

Support my walk, leave a comment, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win two books.

It’s become something of a tradition for me to take this opportunity to give away a book or two, just to say an additional “thanks” to you — for reading, for being here, and for all you do.

If you choose to donate, be sure to leave a comment below. I’ll enter your name to win a copy of Mary Oliver’s “A Thousand Mornings” (because Diane and I shared a love of Mary Oliver’s poetry) and a signed copy of my own “Moments of Seeing” (because some of our long friendship is captured in those pages, and well, just because).

And if you want to meet Diane and see our team in action, take a few moments to watch this video Lauren created for us. It’s a great reminder of exactly why we do what we do!

Donating is one-click easy, here.  And I’ll choose a book winner at random on Sept. 25.  Needless to say, my heartfelt thank you’s will come to each and every one of you.

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honor system

Acouple of weeks ago a friend texted me a photo from his local farmstand, where freshly picked cucumbers are priced according to length. Customers choose their produce, tally up what they owe, and leave their payments in a box. The farmer’s innocently suggestive drawing made me laugh.

But what really struck me about the photo was the nostalgic beauty of this age-old endeavor – a way of doing business which simply assumes the best in each of us. During a summer in which the Boy Scouts have apologized for the behavior of the President of the United States and PolitiFact rates just 20% of his statements as true and 69% as either outright lies or false, it’s hard not to feel sad and suspicious of our moral culture, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. As a nation, we are watching the criminal investigations into this administration unfold with a mixture of horror and fascination. Often times, as yet another presidential lie is exposed and supplanted by an actual fact, I wonder how this man goes to sleep at night. And what of those individuals who repeat his falsehoods in exchange for a paycheck? How do you live with yourself if you know most of the words that come out of your mouth are untrue and the things you do each day are dishonest?

When my son Jack was very young, his favorite story was Pinocchio. Although we didn’t watch many movies in our household, we did own the Disney version of Pinocchio and Jack watched it with endless fascination, as if that movie held for him the key to life. In a way, I think it did. There was Pinocchio, pulled again and again toward adventure and excitement and trouble, and tempted again and again to lie his way out of every jam. And there was Jiminy Cricket, whispering in his ear, “Go ahead, make a fool of yourself, then maybe you’ll listen to your conscience.”

What child really wants to hear “the still, small voice” that, as Jiminy himself acknowledges, “most people won’t listen to”? [continue…]

who is we?

If you’ve ever fallen out of touch with a friend, you already know this: reconnecting isn’t easy. You quiet your nerves and deliberate for a moment before, finally, after months, picking up the phone just to say “hi.” You wait a beat or two before hitting send on an email with a header like, “Everything ok? I’ve missed you!” That’s sort of how it feels to me today, as I sit in my somewhat messy, decidedly lived-in kitchen and type these sentences onto the screen. I could clean up all the dishes from the veggie soup I’ve just made and rinse out the cans for recycling. Or I can let them wait, take a deep breath, put my fingers on the keys, and trust that  words will come.

This morning I listened to an interview with writer Pico Iyer in which he explains why he spends the first hours of his day in silence. “I just sit there,” he says, “trying to sift through my projections, my distortions, trying to find the voice behind my chatter, trying to find, of all the things passing through my head, if there is any one thing worth committing to the page.” Although I haven’t been doing much sitting lately – there are too many weeds in the garden to allow for that – I’ve been engaged in a similar kind of daily sorting and sifting and wondering. “Speak only if it improves upon the silence,” Gandhi advised, words I’ve pondered while questioning my own writing, how to respond appropriately to the unfolding events in our world, and whether there’s any need to add one more voice to the clamor.

Reading the New York Times over breakfast, tuning in for the latest CNN breaking news updates as I peel potatoes in the evening, I’m at once pulled in and appalled. How to reconcile these small pleasures – the comfort of a morning cup of coffee, the routine of making a meal in my own familiar kitchen – with the deeply disturbing developments reported in the paper or on my TV screen? [continue…]