I am Renee Dargie.  I am a mother of three wonderful children and I am a military spouse.  I currently reside in Soignies, Belgium where I am trying to carve out a home in the Belgian countryside, this being my 20th move in 43 years.  I have lived and traveled around the world and so the concept of “home” is one that remains central to my writing, my life and my passions.  I love learning languages, sewing, writing, teaching, tutoring in our highschool and being with my family.


trying-to-sewTrying to Sew

I have been trying to sew all day.  It shouldn’t be a difficult task for me, yet I cannot focus on this task or any other task today.  The paper and a black mechanical pencil find their way in front of me.  It is almost as if a magnet that lies in my chest has drawn these two articles to me and will not let them leave.  They remain here because the small voice inside me knows that I need to write.  Yet, I ignore this still and wise voice more often than I care to admit.  Today I will let the voice lead me onto the page.  Sophie, a character from a book that I have been working on for almost two years still stands in a garden of the Fujiya Hotel in post war Japan and remains there – with the wind blowing her brown curls and her eyes fixed on a man raking.  Before long, his eyes are fixed on her and he has something to tell her.

The story does not rage in me, it is quiet and friendly, but I can feel its intensity building.   I can feel the call to write, not only about Sophie, but about life, children, marriage, heroes, teenage girls, mending and time that slips away from us.

Scraps of ribbon, thread and pieces of calico and designer fabric sit in piles in front of my notebook.  These pieces wait patiently also.  They wait for hands to choose them, cut them, and sew them into something that is beautiful, artful and useful.  This is what women do.  It is what we have done for years and for generations.  We have been asked to shape and mold beautiful objects, hearts, souls and lives from whatever we are given.  We are asked to carve out homes in strange lands, help with Algebra and turn scraps into mouth watering meals and bits of by-gone fabric into glorious quilts that warm us through long winters.

And what about the times in our life when we are blessed with great abundance?  We continue to work, and create and mold and shape.  Even amidst great abundance and stocked cupboards and modern amenities our most fundamental and basic tasks will not change.  There will still be mending to attend to; we will still be called to pour out our love, our energy and our breath into that which comes before us in need.  And we will drain ourselves and we will need to replenish our own stores.  Daily, we need to find a way to fill ourselves again with the energy that allows us to mother, to serve, to work, to live, to cry, and to remain steadfast for those who depend on us.  We cannot ever let the well run dry.  We must find sustenance.  I believe that my own sustenance is going to come to me through the laying down of words onto the page, each day.  I can start with thirty minutes of daily pages and move into some other writing.  I have to do this because the dream is still alive inside my soul and it needs daily watering.

And it should not be such a great feat for me to sprinkle the page with life sustaining water – with words to build my dream.  Why do I resist this so much?  It is time to stop resisting and attend to my dreams.  Music is medicine for many, running is medicine for some, and the matching up of words in a row is mine.

The light is on over my sewing machine, the heater is bringing warmth into my retreat, into my sewing room.  I can be tiny right now.  Small steps, small blocks, paying attention to the words, paying attention to the fabric, the thread, the emerging shapes, the emerging quilt and the emerging stories that are inside me.  Now, just sew a few squares and press them.

story by Renee Dargie, all rights reserved

back to voca femina home



Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leathercrafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

Read chapter 1 of Deeper Warrior


ready-to-fightDeeper Warrior Chapter 2: Ready to Fight

Damned if I was going to suck the life out of Chris as I had Carol. So I kept a distance, only talking to her once in a while. She was carrying more than a full load of classes anyway, in the junior year of her agronomy degree.

Mostly I focused on the martial arts. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I punched and kicked with my green belt on at taekwondo practice. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I practiced throws, foot sweeps, and choke holds with my brown belt on at judo.

I had practiced judo for a while in junior high, so it was familiar to put on the heavy uniform, tie the belt around my waist properly.

Washed by the hot, strangely pleasant gym smell, I bow at the doorway to the wrestling room. Drop my duffel and shoes by the door, watch a brown belt mop up puddles of sweat left by the wrestling team, feel the cush of the bright red and yellow mats under my bare feet. To one side, a rubber coated stick man bolted to the wall, forever frozen in a crouch, his feet, or more properly, stubby leg ends, levitated about six inches from the floor. Wrestler’s dummy, for practicing throws when a judo partner wasn’t available. Watch out though—his spring loaded grip on the wall was unbreakable, and if enthusiasm got the best of you, he could pull back and dump your butt on the mat.

Line up for practice, by rank: brown belts in front, then green, then orange, then white. Stretching, fall practice, then jumping over people. That is, line up two or three students bent over at the waist, then line up the rest of the team to run full tilt towards them and leap head first over the people to land in a forward roll on the other side.

Then, technique practice. Throws, foot sweeps, arm locks, choke holds. Finally, covered in sweat, sparring practice. And after an hour and a half altogether, the peace of a well-fatigued and strong body.

I competed in tournaments, and earned my brown belt. Next, black belt. And there was some noise about going to the Olympic Training Camp. Not that I didn’t have setbacks. I dislocated the acromio-clavicular joints in my shoulders, first the right side in my freshman year (which interfered annoyingly with the fencing class I was taking that quarter), then the left one my sophomore year. Badges of honor.

Sophomore year I added taekwondo to the mix, wanting to be well rounded in my self defense capabilities. I didn’t compete in taekwondo tournaments; after all, it was just a supplement to judo. But I did earn my green belt.

Gina, Cindy, and I worked out with the “lower belts” the first hour. The group was too big to practice all at the same time, so white through blue belts worked out the first hour, and brown and black belts worked out the second hour. Alex (Alexandra) was a black belt who came early to help instruct the lower belts.

Gina, fair, petite, a talented graphic artist with a flair for decorating cakes as well. I remember her mostly laughing, even in the middle of demanding graphics projects. Cindy, taller, blond, fine boned, able to produce with acrylics the realism of a photograph.

Alex, dark, petite and fast. I remember working out with her on Saturday, taking fighting stance and saying, “I’m ready.” Before I could move she had completed a spinning wheel kick, brushing the side of my face with her foot. I adjusted my stance as though nothing had happened and said, “I’m ready.” She laughed.

I was the tallest, my sturdy frame suitable more for judo than taekwondo, outweighing all three of them by about forty pounds. Stolid and reserved when sober, laughing and looser when drunk.

All four of us lived in the “West Street Slum” area. I would often take my physics book and class notes to the Design Center to hang out, ostensibly studying, while Gina and Cindy worked on art projects. Or all of us would do something fun together, like  meeting at Dugan’s for pitchers (and pitchers) of gin and tonic, or going to see Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Or, say, going to watch the male strippers.

“Come on! Let’s go sit up front!”

“Oh, God,” I muttered to myself, following reluctantly.

Alex led the way forward. Her idea, enthusiastically endorsed by Gina and Cindy. I mean, come on—male stripper night at the only strip joint in town? And wasn’t that blue belt one of the male strippers here?

I went. God forbid anyone should think I’m a coward.

We ordered drinks and settled in while other tables filled with women. College women in their twenties, laughing, smoking, clinking the ice in their glasses. Older women with heavy eye makeup, tall glasses of beer in their hands, looking around eagerly for the young men to undress in front of them. I didn’t have time to get sufficiently drunk to enjoy this–but I tried.
Fog descended on me as the sensuous music blared through the room, and lithe young men became increasingly unclothed, while writhing suggestively about various pieces of furniture, and on various women’s laps. Panic was held down in my chest only by the iron bands of pride.

Then one of the strippers danced on my lap. Sitting stiff and rigid, I asked politely, coldly, for him to remove himself, to go dance on someone else. Languidly he leaned toward my face and whispered in my ear.

Next thing I knew I was standing, my fist cocked back ready to punch, and the stripper was dancing lightly away. My face burned, my head thumped with adrenaline. Without a word or glance to my companions, I fled.

Back to where the bar served drinks to the few men in the room, then outside to pace furiously and get my breathing under control in the fresh night air. I considered walking home; a mere 5 or 6 miles. No, I’d better not abandon my friends.

I went back in, but I couldn’t bring myself to go amongst the tables or back to that empty chair. I prowled restlessly beside the bar, ordered a Mountain Dew. No more alcohol.

At the end of the show my friends came back to me, laughing at some joke, and very curious. What horrible and disgusting thing had the stripper said to me, that caused me to threaten violence then flee? I flatly refused to divulge the content of his statement.

My face burned again at the thought of what they would say, and how they would laugh, knowing that his words were only, “Why are you here, then?”

story by Bobbie Jo Morrell, all rights reserved

back to voca femina home