Thursday, July 20, 2023

Conceptual Journey

by Michael Shapiro 

What is taken for granted?

What goes quicker than we thought?

What can be wasted the most?

What is something that is sought?

When younger can seem quite slow 

When older moves way too fast

Never have enough of it

For time isn't made to last

Perhaps taking a time out

Noticing the stars and moon

All the beauty in nature

Lovely scents of spring's first bloom

Spend more time with family

Tell your spouse how much you care

Be present with your children

Enjoy all the love you share

Why put off 'til tomorrow?

As there are no guarantees

Live each day to the fullest

Much joy in each day to seize

Michael Shapiro has been writing for two and a half years following the passing of his wife on December 14, 2020. He writes mainly poetry and has been part of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop for the past two-plus years. He has also self-published a book of poems (One Pen Two Hands One Heart One Soul) on Amazon. His biggest joy is writing as he feels his wife writes with him and they become one through the words.


by Lisa Ben-Shoshan

A warm sweater coat, wrapped around me like my grandmother's arms, flapping in the wind as I walk the streets to work. It's thick and long, and gathers leaves behind me, sweeping them under my booted feet as I hurry. The sleeves are overly long, dangling past my cold fingertips even though they are rolled up twice, for style. There are pockets hanging way down low, too low to be of any real use, for style again. It's all about style, isn't it? How we dress, what we choose to represent ourselves. Why put on a boring article of clothing, why buy it, even, if it isn't going to make you feel that you are in your element? So the long sweater coat, which is really something I would love to curl up with on the sofa at the end of the day, is more than my protection against the elements. It is a reminder of love, of grandma's sweaters she used to knit for me when I was young when she was still here, of the Afghans she knit which I still keep and pull out when I want to feel that sense of remembering, that sense of sorrow. How lucky am I to have these small reminders of what family is, almost like it has been captured in a poem or story. And how lucky am I that I can pass these things on to my children, like letting them read the story, and hopefully have them appreciate it as I do.  


Like my grandmother's arms, my time is a circle, I think, of time and family and love and remembering. Time, moving around the inside of my head marking the passing days and weeks and years, spinning now, spinning even faster as I get older. I hold onto the memories, I hoard the old sweaters and Afghan quilts, I hoard the letters and stories and photos and faces. I keep them in my mind, and I make the dead come to life again, or live still, in my mind. I delve into the memories of family, of my ancestors, searching for links through genealogy, connecting me to my past and theirs. I'm searching for a sense of continuity, of connection, a glimmer in an old photograph, faded and torn, which shows me that I have my great-great grandfather's eyes, that my son looks like my father, that the bits and pieces that make up all of us, our hair, our coloring, our skin and blood and bones, are more than pieces of DNA and dust. The things we remember, the pictures, the pieces of jewelry handed down, hearing my mother say I am just like my father—it is all part of who I am, and who I am is forever connected to the living pieces of everyone who has ever come before me. They live in me, in my mind, and so they never die.

Lisa Mellen Ben-Shoshan wrote and illustrated her first book, entitled “Valentine Wish” when she was in the first grade; the single edition was treasured by her parents. An avid journal keeper for many years, she parlayed her skills into a career in marketing communications. A positive outcome of her encounter with breast cancer set her on a path of investigating her family genealogy where she keeps the memories of everyone who came before her alive.

What is Fifteen Minutes?

by Rachel Kobin

Albert Einstein said, “Time only exists so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Until recently, I took this time-is-just-a-construct attitude so seriously that I thought fifteen minutes was not enough time to do anything “worthwhile.” Fifteen minutes at a time, I started finding it harder and harder to accomplish anything. I’d venture a guess that you may have had similar experiences. I hope, by the time you’ve finished reading this short article—less than fifteen minutes, I promise—you will feel inspired the next time you have fifteen minutes to spare. 


What do you do if you have fifteen minutes before the kids must be picked up, the laundry is dry, or before a meeting? I normally play Words with Friends or Solitaire or stare at the wall. That staring at the wall time serves as a meditation of sorts. As far as Words with Friends and Solitaire go, as Bertrand Russell said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” But most of us have teetered on the tightrope between the lofty enjoyment of our free time and the descent down to the punishing pavement of procrastination. 


I cannot claim I haven’t lost my balance and gone splat! into the pavement of procrastination recently. Hell, because I procrastinated months ago, I was late getting to work on marketing The Philadelphia Writing Workshop’s summer offerings and writing this piece for the newsletter. However, I am getting better slowly, bit by bit and step by step. 


In fact, it all started with steps. I read about a reputable medical study that found walking for fifteen minutes after meals steadies blood sugar more effectively than one long walk. So, I started walking for fifteen minutes after meals, which means walking around my house in bad weather. Boring? Yes, but fifteen goes by quickly, and music, podcasts, audiobooks, and calls with friends help a lot. 


Since last August, after ten years of no regular exercise, I’ve taken hundreds of fifteen-minute walks. I’ve added bodyweight workouts, more vegetables, and more water. I’ve lost weight and inches, and parts of my body now sit higher than they were. 


Most importantly, my attitude toward fifteen minutes has changed. Now I look at that construct—that chunk of time—as substantial. In fact, I started a new workshop called Daily Writing Prompts, where participants write to a prompt for fifteen minutes every day and then send what they’ve written to a partner who gives them only positive feedback. It’s amazing how much you write when you’re consistently at it for even fifteen minutes a day. 


What is fifteen minutes? It’s the beginning of the present time. A present to you. The gift is wrapped beautifully with bows and ribbons. Unwrap it and choose your next move. What will you do with it? Take a bath because you’ve been rushing through life without giving yourself a break? Fantastic. Buy yourself a Ukulele and start lessons on YouTube. Splendid. The possibilities are as unlimited as your imagination. Enjoy.

Rachel Kobin is the Founder and Director of the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. She has facilitated creative writing workshops and provided editing and coaching services since 2011. Read her most recently published poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in the anthology, Through the Looking Glass: Reflections on Madness and Chaos Within