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Life Stokes Embers is Coming

What’s been happening lately? I’ve been working on getting ready to publish my second book and first full poetry collection!

The title of my book is in the form of a Brevette poem I wrote last year:

Life

S t o k e s

Embers

You can learn about the Brevette form here. It’s a simple and fun kind of poem!

It’s a bit hard to pin down where Life Stokes Embers began. It might very well have been with the poem I wrote three years ago, “Small Moments Matter”, which several friends assumed was about a love interest, but was actually inspired after a tough day when my mother was recovering from brain surgery. That poem was the first in a Word document that expanded bit by bit, poem by poem.

It might have been when in one of my writing group’s meetings, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe my words in the form of poetry were worth sharing and that at least some people enjoyed them. It might have been when I wrote the Brevette poem I later chose for the title. It might have been when the image of the front cover poured into my mind, as if from a pitcher above that I couldn’t see.

Anyway, here’s a bit of what to expect. These poems are about my own life experiences, moments in time, mostly throughout my last few years, or thoughts I fancied and felt a need to pen so they would turn into something more. They reflect some of my most deep and intimate thoughts about common life experiences many share. Here are poems inspired by mundane moments, imaginations, travels in new places, hours with friends, nights with family, challenges with stress, fear, confusion, anxiety, mental illness, and hope, determination, and renewal.

Some of these poems you may have read already on this blog! In this time of Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the opportunity to share more of my most personal and satisfying work. I’ll share because life is too important and inspiring not to write about, and this is part of what I feel I’m meant to do.

“charcoal coal fire” by watts_photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

China Again!

It’s already been over a year since I started this website and blog! My first post on October 27th was on a positive side of fear. I’ve experienced true joy in overcoming the fear of sharing more of my written work. Soon I will share more about my second poetry book coming this fall! This is a project I haven’t shared much about yet, but I am beyond excited (and a little scared) to put this out there.

So come back to hear more about Life Stokes Embers. There are two main differences between my first and second book. 1) My first, Beside Them in Nature’s Mirror, is a chapbook whereas Life Stokes Embers is a full poetry collection and 2) The poems in Life Stokes Embers I wrote for myself, whereas I wrote the poems in Beside Them in Nature’s Mirror for others.

But now, here’s a reflection on my China trip.

Goodbye China, Goodnight 
by Aubri Wilson

Goodbye China, Goodnight

As I fly away too soon

Tears run down rivulets near my nose

And I gaze at the Shanghai coast

Strange it is that less than an hour before

We strolled around the brightly winking Bund

As if travelling in a movie scene




Goodbye China, Goodnight

And Good Morning too

After a very long night

Soon I will wake to

The same morning

In a different land

With the same mourning

As when I left you before

Not knowing how long it may be

Before I return again




Goodbye China, Goodnight

I will dream of what we did

And what we saw

And what we tasted

And how we marveled

And wished for more




Goodbye China, Goodnight

And if I had more time

Oh I wish

And if I did

I would search more ancient gardens

And get lost in bamboo forests

I would ride in another boat

And sit by a hidden spot at Xihu

To write poetry like many before me

I would rise early for a prize of

Steaming doujiang fresh as it comes

I would hike the hills without steps

And visit golden temples in sites

Farther than I’d reached before

I would find the cave

In each mountain of Guilin

And explore verdant paths

Among rice paddies in countryside

I would return to my old schools

To see who has taken my place

I would visit each province

But if not, try the dishes from all

In some larger city like Hangzhou

I would stay until chestnuts roasted

And white sweet potatoes fragranced the streets

And yet until lychee and longan

Fill up the markets

And if I had more time

Well, enough

I will hope to come

To see you soon

It’s hard to describe the feeling of returning to a foreign country you fell in love with years before. And it was so much fun to introduce my husband to things I loved and even the things I didn’t quite love about China. We visited Shanghai and Hangzhou, two large cities I had never set foot in before so it was new for both of us. In Hangzhou I was able to reunite with my old friend Kris, who I met during my English teaching orientation back in 2012. We were able to study Mandarin together in Yangshuo (at least in classrooms next door to each other) that summer. If you’re interested in travel in China, she is one to learn from. Go check out her YouTube channel, Imbibing China for great content on adventures in less touristy areas of the country.

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My husband and I ate loads of noodles (yes, my diet went out the window for nine days), walked until (at least my) feet were sore, boated, biked, took an overnight train, flew on one domestic flight, climbed two mountains, explored two caves, cruised down the Li river in rainy weather and made memories we’ll never forget. I was struck by a sense of familiarity with several things-the sound of the Mandarin language and people complimenting me on my pronunciation with the very few words I could speak, being served whole fish with head and eyeballs intact, breathing in polluted air, groups of ladies doing synchronized dance in public, being stared at and laughed at, calls of “Huān yíng, huān yíng!” when entering restaurants or businesses etc.

What smacked my sensibilities overwhelmingly were advances in technology. In my previous time in China, all of my students used QQ for online communication. Now, the masses use WeChat, an app that my husband and I were unable to download even with the Chinese SIM card we purchased in the Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport. WeChat enables not only chatting, but paying for things like soda from vending machines, your meal in a restaurant, bus fare or a DiDi (China’s Uber). Cash is used much less and not even an option in many cases. AliPay is another rival payment option. We also couldn’t help but notice the cameras on every corner and wonder about the social credit system that will soon spread to all of China. If you haven’t heard about this fascinating and globally concerning system, check out this informative article (complete with surprising infographics).

China is growing and changing rapidly. In Yangshou, a small county where my former employer is still headquartered, West Street, the pedestrian street of shops, clubs, bars and beautiful architecture, is now joined by a new West Street with a mall. Yet with all the change, I found my employer’s office, still the same, and the countryside still beautified by the farmers, in this season by flowers they planted after the rice harvest. And still happy couples taking wedding photos don traditional clothing from favorite dynasties long, long ago. We were lucky to take part in a session with an old friend who was married the week before we arrived!

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Travel Poems

In less than a week, I’ll be flying to China again. I’ve written a bit about China here and there in previous posts, and included it in my bio on this site. This time, just as I told others when I left, I’m coming with my husband. Sometimes you don’t know what exactly you want to do, or how to accomplish what you want to do but taking a first step or a few steps will unfold a bit of magic that leads you to your goal. Visualize what you can and let the details fill in over time. I believe that’s how my next trip is happening. I started to believe my husband could be the one when he matched a bit of my craziness after I asked him if he’d go to China with me, and he said yes. At the time he was still my boyfriend and a trip this large might seem unwise to be the first to start planning together. But here we are!

We’ve already had no short of adventures in various forms, including getting a motorcycle a few weeks ago, and using said motorcycle for various trips including going to get vaccinations before travelling!

Now, why did I go to China seven years ago? I believe there was an innate longing that took me time to recognize. It was a longing to travel and see something more of the world. It was a longing to learn how people lived in another culture, and to meet others so like and so different from me at the same time. It was a longing to see what I could do away from everyone who loved and supported me. It was a longing to have an adventure. It was a longing to spur new ideas and creativity that would provide fodder for writing and my future life. It was a longing to grow through challenging experiences. It was a longing to choose a path not as beaten and worn as others nearby.

As I’ll be travelling again to new areas in China I’ve never been, and to one I lived in for a time, my mind wanders to what I remember and have yet to tell, and to wonder what I’ll yet experience. Travel poems are in abundance and if you’ve never had an ounce of wanderlust in your life, reading some may change your desires. Here are a few examples, the second of which, by Du Fu, sums up what I may expect to feel next week. It so powerfully aligned with my mind, that I started to cry reading it through. And here is one of my own penned for this occasion:

 

Travel Poems in my Heart

by Aubri Wilson


Never did I ever think

Something was born inside

And grew with me each night

But in a new continent

In the east

Where I remember

Rice paddies and a buffalo

"Mr. Hello" with mung bean ice cream

And karst mountains

Motorcycle taxis and scaffolding

Golden temples and majestic pagodas and towers

Dumplings and hot pot and chrysanthemum tea

Markets with lychee and longan and rambutan

And bok choy and choy sum and garlic scapes

Students who studied long but found time to laugh

Motorized rickshaws and ancient hutongs

A palace and museums of relics from time unknown

People with curious looks and friendly smiles

Who fed me with their own chopsticks

In that land in the east

I discovered there

Travel poems in my heart

Which made me long

To remember and return

To reunite with at least a few

Friends I made years ago

And with a tongue and country

Which welcomed me and my heart

In a strange way I didn't know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting Paradigms

Shifting Paradigms

by Aubri Wilson



Ten feet under in the earth

I hope to see stars

Though I've never been

In a cave of glowworms

And nothing bright shines here

Maybe I secretly dream

Of tours in New Zealand



And if I don't feel like myself

As I think I should be

Could I really be a doppelganger

And not what's real?

In the mirror

My eyes are startled

By the sight of

Who I've become

With my full control



With you came the most

Paradigm shifts

I've ever grabbed hold of

With hours of searching

Inside my mind

Leading to a reality

Beginning with you



I saw myself with joy

Doing what gave me joy

Returning to what gave me joy

Fleeing from what gave no joy

Giving you what gave you joy

Living fully a life of true joy



And when I actually saw it

And trusted it

And reached towards it

And pulled you towards it

With me, and got up again

When slipping from

Not noticing the wet floors

There it was all along

Waiting patiently for me



Truly there joy was

And light underground

That you can rise to

And touch without

The burn, and if

The poor beetle

Mistaken for a worm

Can glow wondrously

Then so can I

 

Have you ever tried visualization? You can find a few tips thanks to Forbes here. I first read about visualization, without knowing the term, from stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. In one, a woman spoke of thinking of her goals and desires and then finding pictures in a magazine to represent each. She cut out a handsome man, a cute house, and even a dollar sign. She would look at the pictures every day and think of what they represented for her. In a year she was married happily, living in the home of her dreams, and without financial stress.

So if I make a picture book of my desires, they’ll come true? Yeah, right, I thought. There’s a bit more to it I think. Knowing what you want is important, sure. Later in life, though, I began to think of times I’d used visualization with real results.

For example, in high school when I spent an hour or more a day practicing the piano, I also spent a significant amount of time thinking of the pieces I wanted to learn in my mind and seeing myself play them like a virtuoso. Eventually, with practice, I could make those runs with my fingers that were impossible at first. I kept seeing myself do it, trying, and then I did. I saw what it looked like, I could feel invisible keys, and the subtle smile on my face.

Or, when I first dreamed of going abroad, I narrowed down to China and getting there through TEFLing. While a good number of people around me doubted, I visualized myself walking the streets of China, teaching in classrooms and eating in amazing hole in the wall restaurants with real Chinese noodles. I read books and looked at countless images of China, the food there, the people there and I began daydreaming about being there. And somehow, through what seemed like uncommon luck and maybe foolish pluck, I found myself on a long plane ride to Shanghai and living there for nearly a year.

If it worked when I wasn’t fully conscious of what I was doing, what are the possibilities if I use visualization intentionally? Do you use visualization? What have you found it can do for you? Have you ever had a paradigm shift through practicing this and doing and gaining what you used to believe wasn’t possible?

Photo source from Flickr here.

 

 

 

 

Pain and Writing

This past weekend I attended the annual conference put on by the American Night Writers Association. It was my fifth year and I finally fulfilled my goal of having a published book of my own to sell in the bookstore. I may have only sold one copy, but it’s a start! One of the presenters I listened to, Leslie Householder, the author of The Jackrabbit Factor (which I’m about to read), spoke of how one reader purchased the book after she was interviewed on television. But that one reader contacted her and shared how it had blessed her life immensely. You never know. Even if the book is for yourself alone, why not write your story? Why not pen your poems?

The atmosphere at the conference is one of grand inspiration with writers at all levels and stages and of all genres coming together to learn with and from each other. It’s one of the most positive places. At my first conference I realized I would learn more here than ever in my creative writing courses in college. There were terms I didn’t recognize and I knew nothing about marketing or publishing. I’m still sparkling emerald green in those areas I’ll say.

There’s nothing like having some time away from routine to reflect on things and even plan a reset. As I was unexpectedly able to spend some time in Michigan on a lake the week before last, I thought about all the unexpected things that had come recently. I spent a precious few minutes writing down some thoughts on recent weeks and thinking how my life had changed. Then and in the days that have followed, I’ve thought about pain. What a master teacher it can be. We wish for things to be good. We wish for things to be easy. But we often wish to be what we are not, without any trouble, without any work, without any pain. While I don’t ask for or enjoy pain, I wouldn’t take away any I’ve experienced. It can humble and strengthen and fill you with empathy. I’m amazed by people I know who have gone through some challenges I can’t imagine, and come out from them better and stronger than before.

When we make mistakes and struggle in the writing world, as every writer does, that’s not a bad thing. If we wish each other the best in life, that’s not solely all good things. That includes pain because it will lead to growth like nothing else can. And who wants to remain stagnant anyway? Take it from Andy Grammar here.

Jouvay Dreams

Jouvay Dreams
by Aubri Wilson

Cocoa pod, cocoa pod

Low hanging in rain forest

Rooted in volcanic soil

On a gorgeous island home

Among spices and fruits

The flavors meld inside

The pretty, pretty

Cocoa bean, cocoa bean

Purplish in white pulp

Sweet as mango

Soon to ferment and tan

Under moving feet

Later roasted, winnowed

Conched and tempered

To become the rich

Bar of delightful

Taste like the dawning

Of a new and joyful day

Jouvay, jouvay

I'm dreaming

Of a new and beautiful day

This week I had the privilege of touring a chocolate factory in Grenada, where Jouvay chocolate is made. We visited the island not just for my chocolate obsession, but the trip had plenty of chocolate at the beginning, middle and end. I’m not sure we bought enough…

Here are some photos from our tour outside the factory, where the cocoa pods grow. We got to taste the pulp around the beans, feel some fermented pods, and taste test chocolate of various percentages. I love it as dark as it can get and they had it! If you’re interested in the process of chocolate making, you can read about how they do it at Jouvay here, and much of this applies to other chocolate factories.

Several things about Jouvay impressed me. First, how the trees are grown with other spice and fruit bearing trees which I believe is the key to the unique flavor the bars have. My husband and I had never tasted any chocolate like it. And we couldn’t get enough of it on our trip. If you ever go, watch out because if you’re a chocolate lover this might be a bit dangerous! But I digress. The second thing I love about Jouvay is how the company is set up with the cocoa farmers being majority owners and manufacturers. They value fair trade, sustainability for the environment and stability for the cocoa farmers. Our tour guide was friendly and passionate about the process he showed us. They had a cafe for chocolate drinks and a shop of bars including some with nutmeg (the island is the second largest producer of it in the world), ginger and nibs. It was a dream.

This one experience and many others on the island make me smile when I think back to myself ten years ago as a college kid listening to my creative writing professor tell us to explore the world and travel to open our mind to new things to write about. Never did I ever think I’d visit a rain forest area and be looking at cocoa pods growing on a tree, or have my hair french braided on the beach by a Grenadian and come home with that new style and a pair of copper cocoa pod earrings!

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Lately I’ve been enjoying the album Nation of Two by Vance Joy and particularly “Alone With Me” as with my husband I’ve been doing things I never thought we’d do, and I try to remember there’s no reason to put limits on myself as I’ve done far too often in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All At Once

Most times in my life fall into two types. In one, I’m standing in what can’t even be called a stream, just a few inches of rare water covering my toes and not reaching the tops of my ankles. I’m squishing my feet in silt, trying to create some movement where it feels stagnant, and wondering if it will rain.

In the other, I fall over a cliff, pushed by a deluge that creates a mighty waterfall that didn’t exist before, and into a deep pool, where I am then pounded with a storm as I try to swim to shore. Sound familiar? There rarely seems to be a middle ground.

Right now I’m more in the deluge stage. Please excuse my hiatus for the last three weeks! In ten years I might laugh and say this was all nothing compared to the current state. But I’m not there yet, so this is something. My husband the other day mentioned that so many things were happening all at once. I agreed. It feels like this song.

 

One of the telltale signs for me of things happening all at once was this. Before our first trip of the month, our honeymoon, I reminded my husband that we needed to plan our first trip together abroad (two months away) soon after coming home. When we returned, went back to work, unpacked things in our new space bit by bit, I tried to plan more for our trip to China. We took a weekend trip last week and I felt more behind. Then, I realized we were going out of the country to a tiny island elsewhere first (next week!) and thus couldn’t apply for our Chinese visas until we returned from that trip with our passports. We hadn’t even planned any kind of itinerary for our island visit yet.

And I hoped to do more unpacking and organizing and setting things up in our new home before this next trip. How much will get done remains to be seen. It’s lucky I’m with someone who makes me feel like no one has ever before, and I feel more encouraged about being a go-getter for a while even while everything is all at once.

 

Better and Brighter

A Very Small Flicker by Aubri Wilson

You gave me a day, when I only asked for an hour.

I gave you a spark, but couldn’t sustain it.

As weak as I felt, you made me think I could be strong.

But I held back in fear, and watched you slip away.

You remained in the foreground of my thoughts.

But if I was to reach out to touch you,

You became a diaphanous specter.

I hid behind smoke screens and dust,

All the time wishing you to see me clearly.

In tears I turned and walked away,

Softly treading the well-worn path of defeat.

But, you grabbed my hand, and asked me to stay.

And then I had hope again to create a flame

From a very small flicker you wouldn’t let die.

 

No matter what I do, I can’t seem to think of writing about much right now besides something relating to what’s going to happen in six days. I’m getting married! For years I’ve looked forward to the day. I thought it would come, but I didn’t know when. A few years ago I wrote the poem above, imagining a future event I might experience, and how wonderful the part when someone would grab my hand and ask me to stay. In some ways I feel like I’ve experienced fairly closely the road this poem outlines. In the midst of many to dos, it’s nice to reflect on the way I’ve come.

Certainly there are ups and downs, but I do believe if you try to be better during both kinds of times, you will, and it’s a joyful thing to find someone doing the same who you can get better with. Better and brighter!

 

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

My Next Book!

My vision for my upcoming book of poetry began just over a year ago, funnily enough in my office at work. And it came in a surprising way. Several people invited me to be a speaker for an event that is no longer. At first I just shook my head but after five or so suggested it, I wondered what I’d speak about if I accepted in future. I was talking with a colleague at the time about this and then I said to her that if I was going to speak, it’d probably relate to art and writing. And then I said something to the effect of, “And it’d be better if I’d already published a book at that point.”

Well, plans began and shifted several times. I published Beside Them in Nature’s Mirror first and then planned on my second book as a compilation of some of the general poetry I’ve written over the last four years. It’s coming closer! I had the title and images for the cover in my mind develop many months ago and now I can say that I have cover images ready to create the final cover design! It was so exciting to see the vision in my mind come alive in this way. I can’t even describe that feeling. And this is a tease, because I’m not ready for a cover reveal yet so you can see.

With wedding planning lately timelines may be pushed back a bit, but I will put updates on my second book here as we go along. However, to give you an idea, here are sections the poems in this book will fall under:

 

Love and the Lack Thereof

Musical Pictures

Faith

Deep in Thought

Imagination in Flight

 

In the meantime, while planning and preparing this book in the midst of life, I’ll try to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly. Thanks for putting it that way Micah. That’s about the best we can ever do.

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