Yes, Green Windows is still scheduled to shut its shutters at the end of June.
This has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crises. You can read here about why Green Windows is retiring.
The timing, from my point of view, now seems perfect. I have been so deeply grateful these past several weeks for the community we've built over the last twelve years. I've needed you. I've needed to write with you. I needed you in order to find my own words to use as oars to paddle through these hard times day by day. I've seen you need each other, too. And sharing words helps us all understand everything better, not feel alone, and have a sort of collective empowerment.
We've also been able to write together a lot more. Not because I have more time (I don't) but because there is no travel time. Being with you online is not the same, and not as wonderful, but it is wonderful and the technology is a blessing, allowing us to be together and to be together even more often. And writing together more often has given folks an opportunity to explore ways the community might continue post-Green Windows. So I'm grateful that all the other times I considered ending Green Windows, I pushed on, so we could get to this moment together.
The timing of this retirement is also good for me because letting go of Green Windows will allow me the time, headspace and energy to find responses to the tragedies, deepening inequities, and opportunities of this crisis with organizations such as The Beat Within and the ATD Fourth World Movement.
Here's the retirement plan:
* Instead of a monthly Uniquely Yours workshop in June, we will have an online Celebration! June 28th, 7pm. Everyone is invited! We will do a little writing, because that's what we do, and I promise it will be painless even if that's not your thing. Please contribute your ideas for this celebration, your last words even if you can't attend, and RSVP here.
* Our 127th and last monthly Uniquely Yours workshop is Sunday, May 24th, 7pm, online. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* Jenna Frisch and I will facilitate as many other online workshops as we can through the end of June. The schedule will change week to week to adjust to our other changing commitments. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops if you would like to join us.
* We have been posting writing from the workshops, here on the blog. Check it out! Much of this blog is being put together into a book that will be available for online purchase at the end of June. You can still submit writing for the blog through June 30th, but submissions for the book are closed.
Thank you for all your support and all the words you've given Green Windows and each other over the years. I can't wait to see what you do next.
All my best,
by Alec West
Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Ten body-weight squats, ten push-ups. Then five rounds of shadowboxing with a two minute rest between each. He had the thought to skip his workout today but brushed it aside. It didn’t make sense to get beat up in the ring six months from now just because he had learned he had a new brother.
His dad had sat him down with his mom and younger brother for a family meeting.
“I’m just going to start from the ending,” he said.
Alec thought his parents were sitting him down to hash out a plan for if they passed away. “You have an older brother.”
“No, that’s dumb!” Alec exclaimed. Things like that happened to other people but they didn’t happen to his family.
The body-weight squats and push-ups took about five minutes to do all five rounds of each. Alec liked the way he looked in the mirror. That morning he admired that his belly was not only slim, it was toned. He couldn’t remember when he had been in this kind of shape. Just before the shelter-in-place order came down, Alec had started seeing a new personal trainer. She was slender and lean like a jungle cat and called herself La Tigre. She had a goofy, all-knowing smile that reminded him of Red, the kid he’d first gotten high with in high school. She had a rhinestone encrusted on one of her canine teeth that made her smile look devious. She was a dangerous woman and she was training him to be a fighter. Just in time, too, his first amateur match was six months away.
Alec stepped across his bedroom jabbing and ducking. He imagined his opponent had a girlfriend he was living with who was training him. This girlfriend was merciless—even their sex was aerobic. Alec was training against them and he imagined their regimen was relentless, like the computer in online chess.
Just because Alec had learned he had a new brother he’d never met, didn’t mean he could take a day off. Anyway, he wouldn’t process this information any better watching TV.
It made sense. His dad had been a guy in San Francisco in the ‘80s. Of course he could have gotten another woman knocked up. He was a West. Luckily this had happened before he’d met Alec’s mother. She was understanding to a point.
Alec allowed himself to listen to sentimental music while he punched the air. Jab, jab, duck, jab, right hook, left hook, jab, right. Combos were the way to win in a fight: knock the opponent’s guard down and hit him in the jaw. There was a pandemic outside and through a genetic-mapping service, Alec had learned he had a new brother. Fucking 2020.
Written in a Green Windows workshop, April 1, 2020
Check out Alec's book What Happened When I Stopped Watching TV,
Kristina wrote this very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece in an online Green Windows workshop on April 15th, 2020, during a global pandemic and shelter-in place orders. Thank you, Kristina!
by Kristina Yates
Still life goes on. I often think about how long I will live. I’m so aware that next month I will be 70 y.o. When I write that number I find it hard to believe. Maybe 60, but not 70. Really?! That means I only have around 30 more years max left and what will those last 10 be like anyway? I’m working on being healthy, strong, flexible, etc. but honestly there is only so much one can do and the fact is we grow old and die. The hardest thing is being old and female and not having a valued role anyplace. Where is the family, the village? Why aren’t I the beloved wise elder? Instead I’m just this old single woman who feels like her life doesn’t matter to anyone.
And then they begin to fall all around me. New cancer diagnoses almost everyday. I know oh so many dead people. And then one day I will join them.
What is the point of life anyway? Seems like I should know it by now but I don’t. In fact I’m not sure there is a point other than enjoy, make it through the best way one can, fight the good fight and above all love. I do love and I love well.
Still life goes on no matter what. In spite of the pandemic, in spite of death and in spite of suffering all around. And life goes on in spite of global warming, in spite of war, in spite of our unbelievable president who seems as unreal as the pandemic, like a bad dream.
And still life is about love. Love of children, old people, animals, nature, social justice, and self. Self love. Oy, sounds so new age doesn’t it? And still life is about what? The truth is I don’t know what life is about and I’m not sure anyone does. But I’ll just trust there is perhaps a reason and would like to believe that good will reign in the end, but I guess part of me isn’t sure. Still life just is. It’s moment to moment. It’s about trust, love, and connection and that is the part that is challenged right now. Just how to feel the connection when we are staying 6 feet apart. Hmm and still life continues. My heart beats, I feel. I feel so much-loneliness, boredom, rage, hopelessness, hope, and love. And still life is.
by Karen Gordon
Life is breath, is mind, is ears
His life is still here, though very still
Sometimes he yells No
Pushes away hands
That try to give what he does not want
Or maybe even need.
He is still him
In the still waning time,
Night and day become the same
Yet each breath spends another hour
He will not give in, he will not give up
Determined no one will tell him
How to do this life, this time,
They broke the mold.
He is himself, still life
Still living to his dying days
A furrowed brow and then
The morphine smooths the lines, takes the pain.
A hand maybe he will hold
He pushes the covers away, needs the air on his groin
There is nothing forbidden his last times, his parting days
Now alone even when his family keeps him company
For 10, 15, 30 minutes.
His time alone, on his terms
Though surely not the way he would have wanted
Body thin and bruised from old falls.
Still as a leaf on wind
Crashing, not floating, to earth.
His mind comes and goes
Words cannot find their way from his mouth
Eyes closed mostly
He is not waiting for death.
He pushes internally, not knowing with what
A beautiful man, even now,
Lines of his jaw, fair and soft, softer than ever before
He is not waiting
He is participating
Inside where we cannot see
His inner demons, his inner angels
Come to visit, entities more vivid
Than we, on the outside.
He sleeps with them if he is sleeping at all
He moans to them – a beckon or a rebuff
The strength he lived with keeps him here.
His time is near but unknown
He is himself.
Such as this is
Until the last.
Life is this now.
For him for us
Until we die.
I first encountered Green Windows skimming through the Omni Commons’ event calendar, hungry for a way to break back into a more regular creative practice. I have a vivid memory of venturing up the back stairs and finding myself in a disco-adorned room with a ring of chairs in the middle. The workshop felt natural and welcoming, and most of all I was astonished by people’s readiness to read something so fresh and offer their thoughtful, genuine feedback. When I read that night, it was the first time since high school that I had shared my creative writing with anyone.
Green Windows has profoundly shifted my relationship to writing. The care and intention that goes into the space is remarkable. Writing is both taken seriously and made extremely accessible, with the understanding that the process of writing has value in and of itself. Peggy’s skillful facilitation, often opening with a reminder to “trust your voice, trust your images, trust your imagination,” truly roots and guides the workshop. I find myself looking forward to each person’s unique interpretation of the prompt, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to share space and time with this group. Through these past few years, I’ve become curious about and invested in my own creative voice in a way I hadn’t been before.
Flipping back through my notebook, every Green Windows page has not only my writing but underlined words, starred portions, and phrases I’ve jotted down while listening to other writers––all signifiers of the connection and mutual exchange that make the workshop so deeply meaningful.
The following piece was written in a Green Windows workshop on January 24, 2019 in response to the prompt "item of clothing you'd never wear."
by Katherine Genis
My cowboy lover sends me video diary entries whenever he’s at a station with strong enough wi-fi. He’s not really a cowboy, but we’ve had the good fortune of eating real beef: once a proper steak and once just broth but still made from an actual animal. Both were strange and luxurious experiences. The first time, I vomited after we got home from the restaurant. My stomach isn’t used to real meat, let alone red meat. That was years ago now, but I’d do it again, even if it was as good as flushing hundreds of dollars down our water-efficient toilet, zeros and ones sliding away instantly without fanfare.
These days, I tend to the local grove and help people make offerings. Occasionally, curious tourists and romance-inclined teenagers come by, but mostly I see the same handful of faces, people who have known the grove for years. It’s slow work, so I keep an herb garden on the side. The satchels turn my fingers fragrant and medicinal. When the next shift arrives, I pack up my workstation and head home.
A video message waits for me. My lover, all dressed in black with greasy hair. He’s wearing the silver face paint I gave him, and his image fills the thumbnail preview. I tap play, and he tells me about his day and the other cowboys he’s met. He talks with his hands and describes, in maddening detail, a poached egg he was gifted by chance. His recounting of the yolk spilling over potatoes turns my head fuzzy with desire. After this job, he says, we’ll have eggs together. He doesn’t go into specifics about work, but he still finds lots to talk about. Mostly I just want to know he’s alive. I think he knows this.
The video auto-deletes after playing. So long, partner. I pull my hood around me, grinning in the dark apartment with only my screen to see.
Jordan wrote the following intense piece in a Green Windows workshop on December 24, 2017 responding to the prompt, "Describe Cold Without Using the Word Cold." Thank you, Jordan!
by Jordan Blanks
Chattering, shivering, every hair standing at maximum papillary attention. Hard dagger-like wisps of air move about my head, in through gaping mouth, and down into my trachea and lungs. In the tiny sacks of pressure awaiting him, rounder softer carbon dioxide slips into his place for the journey back out, only to turn to bayonets once contact is made with the outside elements again. Nose is non-existent; run away with the knife and the spoon as well as all piggies just trying to race home. Just 1 more hour. Need to finish. Try to move away from the physical and focus on the task at hand. Pulling another hood up over my hat, drawing the tie strings together only allowing the whites of my eyes to shine through.
The only thing that can save me from this painful fate is bed or death. Trying desperately to hug myself with one arm while furiously writing with the other. The rent sure is the right price but the ambience, especially in winter, leaves so much to be desired. The single pane 14 foot windows, invariably surrounded by trees and vines, perpetually keeps out the sun. This Darkness(TM) always keeping a permanent dampness and murkiness that continues to be so hard to escape. In this frenzy and others like it in the past, I often find myself attempting to crawl under the covers and endeavor to hibernate like a bear until springtime (most often late spring).
My eyelids start to dip and sag and before I know it my right hand slaps the side of my face. Feeling anything is an insurmountable feat. Prickly pins and needles constantly surging from the bottoms of my pinky toes through my central nervous system and out to my pinky fingers. Even with multiple layers it feels as though there is an ever expanding hole perched at the vertex of my skull, turning my brain to mush with the swift sharp stampeding rapiers of wind. How in the world is there possibly this much wind inside a locked apartment? If only I could get rid of the persistent firey dry ice that moves at a snail's pace through my veins. This ooze being pumped around by my four-chambered muscle filled to the brim with bundles and branches. How much longer do I realistically have before the sludge with switchblades poking out of every direction becomes too much and the whole thing just ceases to work as one again?
What brought me to the Green Windows workshops?
For the most part, it was a desire to resuscitate my long-dormant creative writer identity. My partner Karen has been attending, and as she’s always liked the all-too-infrequent poems and prose I wrote for her, she thought that this workshop might be a good fit for me. As it turned out, she was absolutely correct.
The supportive atmosphere is a shining contrast to a creative writing class I once took back in college. I admit then when I took the class at age 20, I was hardly rife with real-world experiences, and I ultimately felt that my creative flow was stifled by a lack of good subject material and a middling imagination. Nevertheless, the stories I read to the class inevitably resulted in negative reactions from my classmates. My literary soul melted before their no-holds-barred approach to criticism disguised as critique.
The teacher was not much more supportive, spending most of her analyses discussing what did not work in my stories than what did – if anything. She happened to be a published novelist. One day, I obtained a copy of one of her novels. I have a vivid memory of settling down on my dormitory bed and opening her book with great anticipation. I couldn’t even finish it. The prose was clumsy, the characters shallow and underdeveloped, the dialogue stilted and dull. One-third of the way in, I had had enough and tossed it aside permanently. How, I asked myself, could any publisher even touch that manuscript without wearing rubber gloves?
But perhaps my standards were too high. During that same semester, I was enrolled in a class devoted to the 20th Century American novel. I was reading Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow… Was I spoiled? No. Did my teacher’s book just seem poor at a time I was reading one literary giant after another every day? I’d have to say yes. Comparatively or not, sometimes bad writing is just bad writing.
Unfortunately, her class killed my desire to continue to develop as a writer. This is why I thank God for Green Windows. This is the place to go for writers trying to figure things out and expanding their creative frontiers. I'm grateful to everyone involved in making Green Windows happen.
The piece, below, was written in a Green Windows workshop, inspired by a piece of music.
by Chris Folger
A stag bows behind his front leg, then rises, stretching himself toward the clouds. He takes several steps in the direction of the rocky brook, his legs caressing the forest floor in beatific syncopation. His eyes shine with the intelligence of the cosmos. He is Nature’s highest form of evolution.
His stride seamlessly flows into a graceful gait; pebbles kick up out of his way with all due deference and gratitude. His head darts in multiple directions, keenly spying on his world; his instincts ever on the alert for the unexpected.
He arrives at the brook. He leans down toward the drink, then stops. Is he gazing at his reflection, as much in awe of his majesty as are all other creatures? Even the reeds piercing the surface of the water bend in his direction. Are they begging him to do them the honor of feasting on them?
Now he touches his lips to the brook and begins to drink. The reeds curl away, rejected. His antlers, spiraling high from his brow, scrape tracks in the water, as if they too are thirsty.
The stag rises, satisfied. He turns and sees his mate. She approaches and they touch shoulders. They inhale the commingled fragrance of their breath
IT'S TIME TO CHANGE
by Hayden T. Renato
When things get so difficult to bear that we want to escape from our lives, our bodies, our pasts, and our futures, it's time to change. The present is purgatory. What we do now can make the difficult things in life easier to bear in the future.
When half of society endorses capitalism as their savior, it's time to change. There's a meme that says, "if capitalism is so great, then why does it need to be bailed out by socialism every 10 years?" Those of us who understand how the world works know that our unenforced "civil rights" came from a series of business deals and ulterior motives.
When your clothes get dirty, it's time to change. But when you mix the wrong colors of paint, they can't be unmixed. A cracked foundation will not support our revolution for social, political, and personal freedom.
It's easy to feel alone when there's nobody around you. It's time to change. It's easy to feel alone when you don't have a say in how shit gets done, even when it AFFECTS YOUR LIFE. It's time to change. It's easy to feel alone when numbers and papers and currency outweigh US. It's time to change.
I keep my riches in my notebook, and my notebook is free. This is how life should be. It's time to change.
Writing anything creative right now is not easy for me. Writing in community helps. Always. But especially now. I'm finding the community Green Windows built over the last 12 years to be vital - alive and necessary. Green Windows' retirement is still looming, but I'm grateful that it hasn't happened yet. That we still have each other and these relationships forged through believing in each other's creativity. We need us right now: to be in touch with each other and to help each other be in touch with the part of ourselves where our best, most powerful writing comes from.
We've done a couple experimental online writing workshops and are ready to do more, according to interest and capacity. Please sign up for our newsletter and indicate your interest in online workshops (or change your preferences), if you would like to join us.
Here are two poems I wrote recently. I haven't used my pen name "Meg Claudel" in years. Partly because I haven't been submitting work for publication. Partly because my writer identity is mixed with my identity as Peggy Simmons, Founding Director of Green Windows: Art of Interchange. But these two pieces have nothing to do with that role.
I hope you are writing and well. This is hard. And will end. But the world will not go back to how it was exactly. Meanwhile, I'm grateful for you and for your words.
This Is Not About…
By Meg Claudel
This is not about me.
It’s only me, here. A cat or two, spiders, oranges.
But this is not about me.
This is not about you.
Or you. Wherever you are. I will imagine you with cats and oranges.
Hopefully heat. Maybe someone to curl up on the couch with.
Hey babe, if you're sick, I’m sick.
This is not about your kids.
I miss your kids.
Adults are boring and there is only one here.
You wish we could trade. For an hour or two. Me too. We can’t.
This isn’t about us.
This isn’t about the planet either.
Because, frankly, the planet would be better off if several million of us were to leave.
So maybe this is about us
Even if this isn’t about you or about me or about your kids.
Maybe it’s about the kids, including yours.
It might well be about the oranges.
In the dream my cats pulled me out of the creek before they left.
This isn’t about the cats, they will be fine.
This is about my mother.
And maybe your mother too.
The white cat Mom inherited when my sister when to college already left.
This is about my dad who has survived everything
Though comparatively has survived nothing.
This is maybe about your dad, too, or your grandad.
And, yes, maybe your kids.
This is about your kids because this is a short chapter of humanity.
And our next chapter, in which your kids are the protagonists
Where it is about them
Has a completely different setting than our last.
This is about money.
It is, don’t lie.
This is about privilege.
It is, don’t lie.
The blinds on the window of who really has what are being lifted.
This is about us:
The ones who need groceries. Oranges and cat food.
And the ones who bring groceries. Fresh cut yellow roses.
This is about going hugless for weeks. Months.
And this is about kids clinging to you when you are at work.
This is about technology becoming a basic, as basic as oranges
(While reminding us this is about who has what).
This is about hoarding toilet paper
And this is about recognizing cashiers as essential
And grocery stores becoming supply depots in our battle with an invisible enemy.
This is about information and lies.
This is about power and vulnerability.
This is about us
But it’s not about us.
This is about today.
Tomorrow it will be about tomorrow.
There are oranges and there are cats
And there is a creek which does not stop flowing
And there are your cute faces on my screen
And there are words, there are always words.
This is not about words.
Thursday March 26th, 2020, NYWC online writIng workshop
“Visiting Your Lover” is not on the List of Essential Activities
When the State Orders Us to Stay at Home
by Meg Claudel
I could argue that you are coming over to “care for” me
18 months of sex and companionship do not, though, count as “family”
Yet you visit and for us the afternoon is stolen
Lunch is ready. The bed is sunlit. Wine has been delivered
Our skin is disinfected and we are touching
Two weeks of six feet apart and we are touching
All of me touching all of you
If you are sick, I am sick. (Isn’t this family?)
We don’t need much, my fingers on the side of you neck
Your thumbs under my shoulder blades
To go wholey into the moment, stolen and sunlit
A pandemic left on the doorstep
The news silenced by bird calls and “Dream a Little Dream of Me”
Covered in your list, then covered in mine, solidifying our dream
We create this bubble and walk into it together, alive and joyful
Grateful and surprised
No before or after, the after so unseen
Harmony written on your skin, there is where we stay
March 31, 2020
I have some news. You don't need any more news today, especially non-joyous news. This is a moment that will be a reference point in our lives: before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. I hope you and yours are well, home, and safe. This is a moment when we are reaching out to each other. I was given roses at the grocery store today. It is also a moment to reach in. I hope you have moments of quiet and moments of creativity. I hope you are writing (drawing, dancing, singing...) so that this moment in time is as much as possible a time of growth and centering.
Two months ago, I made the decision to retire Green Windows later this year, after twelve years of incredible work. I've taken some time to have conversations and make some decisions, and can now make it public. (I didn’t call everyone I wanted to. I’m sorry if I didn’t get to you!) My timing is bad. I apologize. I like the word “retire.” After years of good work, Green Windows is not going away: it will stop working professionally, but its spirit and work can continue. Partly because they exist with you.
Thank you. Thank you for all your words: all the words you braved onto the page and all the words you found to tell other writers what you loved about their writing. Thank you for the community you created, with your openness, your belief in each other, your trust in your authentic self and your fidelity to creativity. Watching our community grow was a privilege. I have been deeply pleased to give you the space to create it.
We have done 125 monthly workshops! Many, many 4th Sundays, especially in the moments my life was hard, I spent the afternoon wondering how I would have the needed energy for the workshop that night. I wondered why I was doing this. Without fail, the very first lines of the very first piece of writing that was shared impressed, settled, warmed and inspired me so that I recalled, again, Oh, oh yeah, of course, this is why I’m doing this. Thank you.
Two years ago when my finances became more challenging, I had to ask Green Windows to pay more of its share of my livelihood. I had a clear choice: either Green Windows grew into something sustainable that could help me live in the Bay Area, or I’d have to close its doors (its shutters?). I gave it a last go, with a lot of help, especially from Yesenia Sanchez and Catherine Mencher, but also from everyone who donated money and/or showed up to a fundraiser. Thank you. We did this cool impact survey that enabled us to show others what we already knew: that Green Windows grows artists and develops cross-cultural community. And we met our financial goal for 2019! But that goal was just a step toward sustainability and I can’t imagine doing it again, much less ramping it up to be able to meet the next step’s goal.
I love the workshops. I love being in that space. I love the writing and the constant reminder of the brilliance of individuals when they are encouraged to be themselves. But I do not love all the work that has to happen to get folks in that space and to pay for it. Furthermore, I do not believe in the current (just pre-COVID-19) climate that it is possible to do the work - the work in the space plus the work to get in that space - part-time. I’m tired of the hustle. For these reasons, I need to retire Green Windows. But also, frankly, it’s time. Twelve years is a long time to do anything. I'm very, very proud of what we’ve done together for a dozen years. Proud of you. Grateful. And I’m ready for the next thing, though I don’t know what that is. (First order of business: get a full-time job).
And you all don’t need me. Or Green Windows. Your brilliant selves are still your brilliant selves. You can carry the spirit of community and creativity that we built with you, into everything you do. And I want to know how you will do that. Please let me know (in a comment on this post, ideally) what Green Windows and its community have given you that you will always have. Please let me know how you will carry it forward and share it.
Here is my plan, very much subject to fluctuations as we shelter-in-place and have to go through extreme measures to keep each other safe.
[Read May 20th update on the plan here.]
THANK YOU! All your words have always been welcome in Green Windows workshops. Your words remain welcome, and important, even just on the page, or just shared with one person. Please remember that I believe in you and your words. Trust yourselves: The page knows that with that trust, you can’t write wrong.
Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you for sharing.
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Please submit a post with a piece you've written in a Green Windows workshop and/or about your experience there, or a piece related to Green Windows' mission.