My friend Carol Olicker wearing her sparkly Cinderella slipper earrings

One of my favorite ways to revitalize my writing is to spend an evening sinking into a soft couch in my friend Christine’s living room and journaling with our women’s writing group. We’ve become super close over the years, sharing our birthdays, triumphs and setbacks. Some of us write or teach professionally, others write for the pure joy of it.

Our formula is simple: we start with a writing prompt, such as a poem or exercise from Natalie Goldberg’s memoir-writing book Old Friend from Far Away, and let our writing take off from there. Here’s a poem that poured out of me during our last session, where we used the beautiful poem “To the New Year” by W.S. Merwin as a jumping off point.

To the New Year (Inspired by the poem by W.S. Merwin)

by Linda Egenes

“With what stillness at last you appear”—this I love.

Somehow this line will forever be entwined in my mind with the sight of our Carol,

looking like a benevolent Christmas elf in her red tank top and green polka-dotted socks,

adorning herself with red camellia—not one but two—behind the ear,

inserted in her hair with deft, effortless care,

hanging on her ears the emerald-green dangle earrings

somewhat in the shape of Native-American dreamcatchers

and finally uncoiling on her wrist a diamond-studded watch

with a thick, white plastic band.

She does this matter-of-factly,

like she is used to getting dressed at the party,

her face relaxed, her blond curls set off perfectly by the ruby flowers and tank top,

her earrings catching the eye in perfect unison with the green socks,

even the white dots echoed by the white watchband.

I do not know how these small acts of adorning herself like a human Christmas tree make my heart swell in a chorus of appreciation for Carol,

for her honest and flower-blossoming heart,

for her daily acts of sparkle

and her compassion that shines forth in the darkness like a Christmas star,

but somehow I know that these are the moments,

untouched and sweet,

that make up a life here in Fairfield,

where every moment is true and zooming forth from one heart to another,

where all the moments link together

to make me feel loved and in love

with Carol and everyone in this room and the snowy streets beyond,

to make me feel that here, here in this 150-year-old room,

wrapped in the healing tonic of Christine’s cushions and throws

and Bud’s slow breath

and Ellen’s clear and soft vision of unity

and all our shared moments of 40 years together,

that here, here we are living the best of all lives

and anything is possible,

anything at all.