Dean’s List of Synchronicity

  • Earlier in the week, I’d had a break-through realization (that’s a rebranded breakdown) that working on my memoir was causing more anxiety than pleasure. Not in the way that all writing is brutal and intense, but still a creative flow. This was more panic inducing and stirring up PTSD. After working really intensely on it during the pandemic and this year, I trusted my intuition to put it aside.
    It’s The New Times. I’d like to shift my creative writing to the present. Especially since I’m in a new place having just moved to southeast Wisconsin. I had a creative direction meeting with myself and wrote by hand for pages and pages, changed locations, wrote more, went for a walk, wrote more and went deeper.  Did some Nia – and sat with the Move to Heal mantra-like question of self-care: What would feel better? 
  • Short form. Stream-of-consciousness. Lists for Dean’s List. Lyrics. Poems. Creative nonfiction. Maybe some articles. Stepping stones to step away from the big project with the self-imposed urgency stirred up by the losses in recent years – from personal to community to global. 
  • A day after I reached this decision, my great-nephew, who is eight, was visiting and asked me to tell him all my careers in order. Oh, my.
    “Well, in my twenties, I moved around a lot, so …,” I began.
    After a few moves, he asks for clarification: “So, you worked there three times? You left for different cities and went back twice?”
    “So, you went back to the same job in the same city two times?”
    Um, yes.
    “Why do you keep repeating your life, Aunt Dean?”
    Well, now. Not sure I can answer that, but thanks for saving me six months of therapy. I’m open to messages from the Universe, but dang. So, on to my new writing direction. 
  • A few days later I saw an Instagram post about Out of the Box – Reading the Landscape / Writing the Walk presented by Black Box Fund – a Milwaukee arts organization doing super creative events all summer. The free event was led by poet Chuck Stebelton (An Apostle Island, Oxeye Press, 2021) who is also a Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer. The event was being held at Lakeshore Park, the only urban state park in Wisconsin, located by Lake Michigan, in downtown Milwaukee. Since I moved to southeast Wisconsin in April, I’ve been mesmerized by the farmland, trails, lakes – especially Lake Geneva, along with enjoying family and the nearby small towns. So, I chose this as my first trip into Milwaukee.
  • My parking angels were on it, and I got a free spot near the Summerfest Amphitheater. Yes, the world’s largest music festival happens here. Music has always been, is, and always will be a big part of my life. 
  • I opened my truck door and was surprised to hear a sax solo in what I immediately knew was a jazz-funk band. 
  • As I headed towards the park, and the planned spot to meet, I took in the cityscape of Milwaukee – like a kid’s drawing – tall and short buildings, chopping up the horizon. A bridge led over the water of the park’s lagoon and marina, and from the top I could see Lake Michigan, the REbirth: Cracking Art flock of giant bird art sculptures and the funk band playing on a dock. People were walking, biking, roller-blading, pushing babies in strollers, climbing art, dancing and picnicking. All kinds of diversity in age, race and speed. Not one to hide my freak flag, I stopped at the top of the bridge and threw my hands up (think Mary Tyler Moore in NYC) and spun around from water to cityscape, to more iconic sites I’d been researching online for months like Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
  • The poetry event was lovely. Reading, listening, writing, walking. (I’ll definitely do some walk-n-write events for Write Your Life.) I met nice people, heard and read good poems, got some great insight into the plants and birds of the prairie in the park. I split off from the group to go a bit farther and see the Hoan Bridge and visit the Milwaukee Pierhead Light
  • I wandered back to the REbirth: Cracking Art exhibit to check it out and enjoy the music. Of the hundreds of people in the park, the one I asked if she knew the band was the saxophonist’s girlfriend! The band was Funk Club Wagon – a funk band that started during the pandemic, on a trailer, pulled behind a van, bringing socially-distanced music to neighborhoods where people were stuck at home. The band also does FunkToon shows on a pontoon boat, and even has a MKE River Round-up featuring other local bands. That involves a starting bar, people on kayaks following the live music on a pontoon through downtown Milwaukee with a stop at one riverside bar, then returning to another.
  • My new friend introduced herself as Tami, and spelled it out T-A-M-I. Same name and spelling as my first name! She’s a writer and in film, and we’re meeting soon for coffee. 
  • My first new friend when I moved to Greenville, SC in 2017 was Tamara Dwyer – who was a T-A-M-I in childhood! (She’s a realtor and if you move to Greenville – and a lot of you will! – call her!) 
  • So, new-friend-Tami passed my name to another musician, who wanted to talk shop, and whose girlfriend just moved to Austin. 
  • On the way back to my truck, I noticed a small percussion park – xylophone, marimba, pipes, drums – in great shape and no one around. My first school band experience was as a percussionist, and marimba, xylophone, etc., are my favorites. I bought a new keyboard just a few weeks ago. So I played a few tunes as people passed by on the Hank Aaron Trail. Might have started writing a song about trusting intuition, following passions, new adventures, moving forward and not repeating the past.

Crocheting and Crying

This year as I celebrate 20 years of teaching Write Your Life as a Woman, I’m sharing some older articles and columns inspired by the class.

Crocheting and Crying
by T. Dean Adams
This article originally appeared in skirt! magazine in 1998.

For the past year I have had the urge to crochet. Though I rarely have maternal urges, the desire to crochet feels similar. My great-aunt Myrt learned to crochet when she retired from fifty years of working at a textile mill. She taught my mother, who has crocheted for as long as I can remember.

In most memories of my mother, she is crocheting; her fingers move a needle in and around yarn in a steady comforting rhythm while she talks. Her fingertips count stitches and she seldom even looks down at what she’s doing. Yarn and a needle are always with her like a pocket book. She can make pretty much anything you can think of: scarves, hats, afghans, little Christmas wreaths and Easter bunnies to wear as pins, frilly collars, shawls and bedroom shoes.

My mother crocheted while she waited for me after dance classes, while she sat through football games to watch me perform with the band at half-time. When I moved to Los Angeles she rode with me and crocheted her way across all the oddly-shaped states slammed up against each other, making delicate cross-shaped Bible markers.

She was crocheting during our last big fight. The one we still gingerly step around. The one that made me feel I’d left the tribe for good and the person I’ve become would never be let back in.

I left my family, my tribe, on my own. I went to college, moved and moved and moved and moved and never even thought of moving back to my hometown. I left the church, left the beliefs I grew up on and became activist. I even left the kitchen – the womb of all comfort and care, where love cannot be denied in a green bean casserole and salmon patties, and became a vegetarian. I write the truth, as best I can, as bravely as I can, about me, my life, my story – which is also their story, for total strangers to read.

Aunt Myrt died last month and I suppose I have known for the last year it would be soon. I knew the day she died, knew when I saw the light blinking on the answering machine with the message from my mom. I loved Aunt Myrt because she loved my mother. She loved me too, but she never knew me the way she knew my mother, who she loved like her own daughter. Having no children of her own, she cared for everyone else’s children. Now grown and spanning the ages of twenty to sixty, the children she’s loved each think they were her favorite.

I finally bought yarn and needles and started a scarf. Never stopping to think, “I don’t know how to do this.” Some odd mother-line osmosis gave me the innate ability to crochet with only a quick glance at instructions. Every time I pick up the needle I have to concentrate at first: around, down, around, pull through, around, pull through two, around, pull through two more. After a few rows my fingers fly and stitch-by-stitch a scarf flows from my hands.

It makes so much sense for me to crochet, I told myself. I can make all my holiday gifts. But when I started the scarf, when I tied my first loop knot to begin, I felt nothing logical. The first stitches, the first rows were like a big sigh after holding my breath. I crocheted and cried. This first purple scarf will be full of wanting. Wanting to be part of my family I feel so far from though geographically they are close.

One row is an apology because I did not go to Aunt Myrt’s funeral. It is a weakness I hope to outgrow, but I cannot go to funerals. I fear the sorrow may consume me and I will never stop crying. There are rows and rows of love. Maternal love, not just from biological mothers, but also the kind my aunt gave my mom, and she gave my sister and me, and we all give to each other.

There is a row of forgiveness for the times my big spirit scared them and they tried to hold me back. And a row of sorrow for the years apart. A row of the things I never told them that I wish I could. Another row of apology for the mean things I said and did and wish I hadn’t.

Around, down, around, pull though, around, pull through two, around, pull through two more. I crochet now to relax, to think, and when I don’t know what else to do. The very act conjures up the spirit of my aunt and my mother and I feel the gift of their love and strength, the hope that forgiveness brings, and the grounded feeling of being true to myself, honoring both what I’ve been given and what I’ve become on my own.

Soon it will be winter, and I know this scarf and the peace it brings will keep me warm.