Read "The Luminous Particular," Jeannine's new essay on how using close attention allowed her to truly see and then write about the world and, by doing so, save her own life.
I’m simultaneously aglow with inspiration and choking back tears. Something about Jeannine’s adept description of her childhood has started a forest fire in my head related to mine. Grateful for the opportunity to read this - thank you.
I don’t belong to the super ball generation but love Jeannine’s image of the super ball family tucked into their beds. If I see and feel the tenderness, I don’t need to see the toys themselves. I walked through the portal of this image and was once again a child tucking Steiff animals into their beds during a thunderstorm—conjuring safety by taking care of toys that seemed real.
Shimmers and shards, Jeannine. Gorgeous shimmers and shards. These ones cracked my heart: Melting Colby cheese in a metal measuring cup over the gas flame of the stove as an afterschool snack. Stuffing bits of toilet paper over your braces to keep them from cutting up the inside of your cheeks, because *you, the child, had to take yourself to the orthodontist* and forgot. The bowls of milk petrified around the spoons into a shiny, impenetrable glue. These images show the loneliness and neglect you experienced in childhood 💔 AND your resilience ❤️🩹 Also your poetry machine is a marvel - love the article.
Thank you Jane for featuring this beautiful essay. Jeannine’s Substack is indeed much-cherished. I highly recommend.
I was brought back to my childhood vacant lot adventures through reading this. I also meditated on how my daughters may be experiencing their world right now. I admire both Jane and Jeannine, and was delighted to find this in my inbox this morning!
I love this essay with its luminous particulars. And the writing is so good it gives off not just light, but heat, and texture and motion. Beautiful.
What a gift to be let into the particulars of Jeannine’s experience - both luminous and heartbreaking. My childhood was unreasonably easy and happy in most regards, but I know (from later in life traumas) that sense of being saved by devoting myself to noticing the seemingly insignificant particulars that build the world around me. One moment in particular comes to mind - lying in the grass in my backyard, my body shaking with tears because I was so sick that I feared I’d have to give up custody of my kids, and out of nowhere, a rabbit hopped up. He sat there looking at me, his whiskers glowing in the sunlight, and I lay there looking back. He twitched his nose at me, and that little motion was enough to twitch some small thing back into place within my own soul, so that I could make it through another moment (and then another and another). I’ve been saved by rabbit whiskers, frost on the fields, the veins of leaves, or grass between my toes more times than I can count.
What an incredibly beautiful, insightful essay. I love so much of what she says here about poetry and focusing on passion rather than close attention—I find these are often intertwined. Writing has also saved me throughout my life and I loved how she weaves in her childhood experiences here and speaks to that survival mechanism.
I love tumbling into your world of words, Jeannine. So transporting and always inspiring. Thanks for demonstrating, once again, the magic of paying close attention. What a treat to read this essay and discover Beyond.
Hello. Thank you for bringing Jeannine Ouellette’s splendid essay into my focus today. I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the surfeit of fine writing here since I first entered Substack less than two months ago. Neither my heart nor mind is fickle but I seem to acquire a new favorite writer almost every day; Jeannine became one early on.
This past week, I’ve also been reading a lot about a Jane Kenyon, whose work I first discovered in the late ‘90s. And I’d completely forgotten that John “Tim” Timmerman and my late second husband had been close writing friends when Craig attended the U of Michigan for his psychiatry residency in Grand Rapids. I believe Tim had just recently published his book on Kenyon when I met my husband, in 1999.
I’ve remarked elsewhere that Substack is more than a writers’ platform -- it’s the best kind of creative community, alive with inspiration, serendipity, generosity and mutual support and encouragement so vital for a writer’s growth. I’m glad to have encountered you.
As for your question(s) ... Can I get back to you? 😊
Your writing is lovely,affirming, & inspiring Jeannine. My childhood was spent roller skating, biking & longing for friends to play with, which I did interact with a few. I was outgoing yet shy. At age 10, I heard a neighbor playing, “Carole Kings’, “Tapestry”. Went straight home and wrote poetry for the first time. Music was a salvation and release for emotions, not allowed in my dysfunctional home. Catching Pill bugs, and watching them contract at touch...fascinated by the science of combining vinegar & baking soda. I wrote hundreds of songs, and poetry. Now at retirement, I will enjoy an unfettered life of creating art with words and artwork at last 🦋
When I was a child there was a narrow space between our garage and the neighbors chain link fence and I would find myself out collecting those small red berries that grow on long green vines that would become my potion in my makeshift back of garage lab where I would mix dirt and water and those red berries into a concoction that became my potion. For what, who knows I was just fascinated with science before I even knew what science was. Lovely essay to ponder the ole childhood. TY!
I love the poem "computer!"
Potential Halloween costume for someone.
I had a large six room wooden doll house complete with carpeting and wall paper. I loved the couch with removable pillows and a white grand piano with opening top. Every day after school, I made up stories with the doll house people, often modeled after the soap operas my mother watched. And yes, some of those little people jumped off the roof.
Daily renewal. Daily possibility of what can be. My daily birth ❤️
Ive just realised the link on beyond isn’t active.
Thank you I loved reading this beautiful essay and I admire the ingenuity that Jeanine continues to show in lighting the darkness with keen observations and writing. Book on order!