Helena Clare Pittman

Helena Writes #6: On watching, and traveling through story-telling

The bears are asleep now that the temperature has dipped into the single digits, nights in these foothills of the Catskill Mountains. So, I’ve put out the bird feeders. I acquired this wisdom soon after coming here 23 years ago, when my sturdy feeder, made so that squirrels couldn’t chew it through, disappeared...

Helena Writes #7: On semicolons, and feelings over rules

A semicolon has been used to punctuate complete thoughts within a sentence; it is somewhat arcane, I’ve thought, and been replaced by a period or an em dash (—). The above sentence could also be written this way:...

Helena Writes #8: On learning the market, and loving what you do

A beautiful snow is falling, coating everything. Here in this woods, once snow falls, in December or January, it doesn’t melt until the end of April. But this morning’s covering is fresh, fine. It may be what my farmer neighbors call a sugar snow, for the maple sap that will soon run. But I don’t know these secrets, coming from the concrete streets of Brooklyn...

Helena Writes #9: On similes, metaphors, and glimpses

I think the eyes open when one writes, just as they do when one paints, to a more subtle, finely-tuned world. I’ve just looked up from my notebook. The snow on the hemlock trees past my window makes a fine, latticework pattern. I didn’t see that before I started this writing. It’s a glimpse, a vision of bright order. Outer to inner eyes. I think I’ve gasped...

Helena Writes #10: On yellow(s) and time travel through imagery

The snow has at last melted here. Three solid days of rain, and the daffodils are bursting! In the days before I painted flowers from my garden, and also in the days before my investigation of the use of yellow grew deep enough to dazzle me, I’d take note of the daffodils I’d brought up here, from my garden on Long Island, and how they poked through the leaves first, the garden still bedraggled and delinquent...

Helena Writes #11: On teaching by learning, learning by teaching, and voice

Outside my studio window… I begin so many things I write with those words—letters to friends and family, these blog writings. And there, today, my woods are in the infancy of spring. Fine, crescent-shaped young leaves, yellow, on the witch hazel bushes, the scene looking lacy...

Helena Writes #12: On citizenry and alphabetry

At the supermarket two weeks ago, I encountered a man. He’d knocked down a display. I couldn’t pass by with my wagon while he was picking it up. I said, “I’ll wait…it’s usually me that does that…” –very female. I am protecting his pride. He smiles. “You’re a good citizen,” I add. He says, “If you knock something over you pick it up.” A principle. A morality play. But we had connected...

Helena Writes #13: On red, green, and writing for children

When I was in kindergarten, at four years old because I had a January birthday, I met Donna Pukatch, who would become my best friend until I left Brooklyn, when my family moved to Queens. We were already bonded by the time of this recollection...

Helena Writes #14: On the fleeting summer, and the hush that falls

I saw one crimson maple leaf, very small, brilliant, on my driveway next to my mailbox. Last week! No! I cried. I don’t want to see you! I veiled my eyes against that gorgeous thing. It’s hard to accept that summer is waning. Everyone here feels it. People talk about it in dropped voices, low tones. It’s the bad news that supersedes the roiling of the world and its agonies...

Helena Writes #15: On found time, process, and the gifts of writing retreats

The five of us, myself and the four writers who registered for the retreat, had dined together. We then drove to the place that would be home base for the next four days: The Lazy Pond Bed and Breakfast, in the town of Liberty, New York, where I live. Lazy Pond is just down my road, but the others had traveled from all over the country.
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