I’ve had a lot of questions recently about how I write. I listen deeply, and then the floodgates open.
The landscape is different but always the same. The tide is high or low, lapping the shore or booming chased by the wind, but always the tide. The sand is a soft carpet, a million tiny pieces worn from parent rocks of distant times, sometimes wet, sometimes dry, but always under your feet.
I’ve heard the sand whistle.
A fish washes up, a keening gull drops a clam, it smashes on the low tide rocks, and a meal is served.
The crows are a Greek chorus, chortling from low trees.
Your feet splash and leave prints on the flats that are gone when you return.
These are the sounds of poetry.
To write a poem, you must listen deeply and inhabit your subject.
Befriend a tree. Sit with it and listen. In time you’ll hear its story, and if you listen well, you might, for a time, become the tree.
It’s a form of shapeshifting.
The magic is in the listening and the becoming. Become your subject, and return to write about it.
I’ve had a lot of questions recently about how I write. I listen deeply, and then the floodgates open.
I’ve been driving through traffic and said to the child in the backseat, quick! find a piece of paper and a pen, write this down! Luckily the car always provides the needed materials.
I’ve jumped out of the bathtub with an entire new poem. Water seems to aid creation, and why not? We come from the sea, and we float in water for our first nine months.
I have fragments scribbled on napkins, envelopes, and pretty much anything to hand. It looks messy, but it isn’t.
Walk the place you love most each day.
Listen. Watch. Inhabit.
I am not on the ocean right now, so I am listening deeply inland, along freshwater woods and fields. At first, it didn’t smell right, no salt, and I didn’t know the birds.
But I’m listening and slowly shifting, and new things are coming.
You can read Mary Petiet’s poems in Moon Tide and Owl Magic.
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Open the Owl Magic toolbox of simple anxiety-busting strategies designed to reveal your hidden power.
Journey at your own pace through guided meditations, stories, poems, yoga poses, and writing prompts.
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What seeds are you planting now?
The autumn dark descends earlier each twilight, but that doesn’t have to leave you cold.
Now is the time for deep interior work. The early dark signals the great turning within, the ancestral soul-seeking, the ancient memory tugging at the edge of the psyche as the afternoon fades and the moon peeks over the clouds.
Brew your tea. Cast your spells, sit within your quiet, and choose your focus, for what you focus on will surely grow.
Where I am in the Netherlands the dark comes early indeed. But the Dutch have a tradition of keeping things cozy, so the night is lit with flickering candles and met with warmth inside. It is time to reflect and take stock, and as we face increasingly challenging times ahead, it is time to care for ourselves and each other.
The descent is necessary so the return can happen.
In descending, find your ripest, most potent pomegranate seeds, and bring them back safely to plant them in fertile soil that they may flourish. Our job right now is to find the seeds, our mission to plant them well, and our goal to see them grow.
Mary Petiet writes with a passion for connecting and empowering women to live from their highest selves.
She is the author of Minerva’s Owls and Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems, and a contributor to the anthologies Jesus, Muhammad, and the Goddess, She Rises, vol.2, and Awaken the Feminine!: Dismantling Domination to Restore Balance on Mother Earth. Her work has appeared in Feminism and Religion, Sage Woman, The Wayfarer, and she is a contributor to Mother House of the Goddess.
Join Mary on Facebook or online at www.marypetiet.com and be the first to hear about her new books. She loves to hear from readers at email@example.com and is available for work with book groups and online readings. If you love Owl Magic, please be sure to tell your friends and leave a review on Amazon and Good Reads.
Fall winds are blowing in the Netherlands. It rained and hailed last night, and the dark is falling earlier. The recent equinox of September 22 offered a rare moment of balance in an increasingly unbalanced world, and I for one grabbed it!
Fall is subtle here. It creeps in on foggy cat feet as the trees turn slowly russet and yellow.
At the moment, the huge old oak behind my house is welcoming hundreds of swallows as they migrate south to warmer climes. My cat watches them, but his hopes are thwarted by the warning bell he wears around his neck, the unfortunate consequence of hunting too well.
The cat’s name is Pip and he started life in a parking lot in Hyannis on Cape Cod, from which he was rescued as a very small kitten. Later, I brought him home from the SPCA because I needed a good mouser in my old farmhouse. Later still, Pip made the trip to the Netherlands with us and now he is a popular sight in the neighborhood.
If he could speak, he’d probably tell you the bell on his collar is his biggest problem.
Pip’s prowess as a hunter is legendary. I imagine he has quite a reputation in cat circles, so I wrote a short poem about him in Moon Tide called Four Feathers, after the gift he very proudly left me early one morning several falls ago.
Pip’s bell warns the birds effectively of his approach, so I can guarantee no birds were hurt in the writing of this blog.
When you sit on my porch you’re really sitting with Rock.
A long time ago, a retreating glacier left a huge rock in my front yard.
For all I know,
Rock goes deep into the earth
possibly emerging in China…
~Excerpts are from the poem Rock in Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems
When you sit on my porch you’re really sitting with Rock. In summer, soft green lichen covers its top. In winter it stands above the snowline, and kids like to climb upon it playing king of the mountain.
We live atop a scene of ancient devastation.
A long time ago, Cape Cod was born of retreating ice.
Before the trees, the road, and the house, the rock was here, and after all of today’s uncertainties, the rock will still be here.
Like the sky above and the ocean that surrounds the Cape, Rock sits in mute testament to endurance.
Does Rock remember?
Do we remember?
To sit with rock is to remember the long game, the endless bend and stretch of time. Rock is of the eons and surely full of stories.
We are of this moment, and also full of stories, and we share with Rock this capacity to endure.
Read Rock’s whole story in Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems.
Every so often, Cape Codders think about declaring an independent state. It’s a fine idea. The place is unique enough to warrant statehood, but it hasn’t flown yet.
As Labor Day weekend winds down, I’m wondering from an off-Cape vantage if instead of statehood, the Cape shouldn’t have its own calendar.
Cape Codders know fall does not start locally with the equinox on the astronomical first day of fall, which occurs this year on September 22. Instead, it begins on Labor Day weekend when summer people depart, and locals get the place back again.
It’s a magical moment of sudden quiet at the end of a long, hot, busy summer.
It’s also the moment dogs are allowed back on the beach, and there is nothing finer than beachcombing with a good dog. You can never be sure what you’ll find.
My black pointer lab mix Daisy loved the ocean, and I think her best find ever was a large quahog she dug out of the low tide flats. When she trotted back to me with this treasure, I opened it with a rock, and she savored every bite of the delicate meat inside. She loved seafood.
I have found all kinds of things on the beach over the years, and the best find is always a horseshoe crab because they are so rare now. The worst is litter. Some of it’s useful, such as the new life jacket I found wedged by the tide into a breakwater. Some of it’s tragic, like the dead seal that washed up occasioning a visit from the environmental police, and some of it’s just plain sad, like the garbage.
Most of the time Cape beaches are beautiful and pristine. You find the odd bit of plastic and pick it up, problem solved. But once, a few falls ago after Labor Day, we were out walking the beach on an incoming moon tide driven by a strong northeast wind, and I found more trash than we could carry. It was a stark reminder of two things: the oncoming winter and what is floating around out there that shouldn’t be.
So I wrote a poem about it.
Moon Tide tells Cape Cod stories and is available on Amazon.
If you have not befriended a tree, go out and find one to sit with.
Old Cedar knows why growing into the wind is certainly no solution. It tried to once, and proof of the attempt lingers in the twisted gray trunk below a shock of green on branches curved by the forceful old north wind.
~from Moon Tide: Cape Cod Poems
The last time I visited my favorite tree on Cape Cod was in January, about six weeks before COVID put a temporary stop to travel home.
Old Cedar lives on a quiet stretch of shore between the marsh and the ocean near a tidal creek and not far from a friend’s boathouse. I like to sit at the base of the tree and survey my kingdom.
If you have not befriended a tree, go out and find one to sit with. The world is full of wise old trees.
The green leaves at the top of Old Cedar are gone now, and as the ocean claims it from below, there is not much left, really. It is becoming the skeleton of a tree, the very memory of a tree.
I found two feathers stuck fast into the Old Cedar’s tangled branches the last time I visited, so I suspect I am not the only one. Maybe trees have some memory of their ancient sacred role in pagan belief, and maybe that adds to what they can teach us now.
As the world changes around me, I think about Old Cedar, and how it chose to grow with the wind instead of against it, how its roots have held it tight for so long, and how in the near future it must inevitably be swept out to sea to make room for whatever new thing comes next.