Creative Arts and Healing
Dear friends, thank you for your patience as i finally show up again, ready to share the present moment and beyond, my last entry written in Autumn...

We have had a cold spell, probably the coldest and longest of our 27 years in Tallahassee,
and while a bit daunting, is nothing compared to what is going on up North, and in the Mid-West -- i did actually have to scrape my icy windshield (with a plastic spatula) and douse it with a watering can - for perhaps the first time in memory, and i watched my confused cat walk gingerly across the back deck that had a slight dusting of snow, then ice. Georgie kept picking up his paw and staring at it, then putting it down, then picking it up... Such innocence! He has grown his thick winter fur, and sleeps in a laundry basket of towels in our mudroom, curled up in such a tight ball he looks like a big loaf of challah.

Meanwhile, we keep a fire roaring in our fireplace. Perfect for dreaming and scheming and basking...

My 74th birthday is coming soon -- in five days -- and i smile, seeing as how it adds up to 11, which is also the number of this calendar year (add 2 0 1 8 = 11) so i'm saying i am entering double portals: 11 11, into whatever adventures beckon to me.

I continue to try to place Prison Wisdom in prison libraries -- here's a good story. I receive the Sun Magazine, out of Chapel Hill, and they put out an issue with alot of attention to Prisons (alas i did not know this in advance or I could have contributed.) Well, in the next issue there were two letters by men, one in Tucson, one in Manhattan, Nevada (!) both of whom teach creative writing in prisons there. I found them on the internet (magic), and
e-mailed one, and wrote the other a letter. The first, Erec Toso, who teaches at the university in Tucson and offers Creative Writing to the men in a nearby prison on Saturdays,
responded to my inquiry. He purchased one copy, and i gifted another (remember, individuals who purchase my book can also "gift" a book) to his students, and hopefully it will eventually end up in their library. This man - Erec - is also working on compiling a book of HIS inmates' writing, and I'm thrilled that others think (and act) as I do -- sharing the creative spark among those behind bars, and honoring them with a publication. When their book comes out, I will pass the info along to you. I'm still waiting to hear from the Nevada contact.

And so it is, that opportunities arise, almost mystically, for me to share Prison Wisdom,
and the inspiring message that beams from its many writers and artists... I still plan on offering sermons or "special programs" to various churches in town, to spread the good news...

Tom and I, a year or two ago, completed the 100 days of Happiness Journaling Challenge, which consists of each of us writing, before bed, in our own journals, something that made us happy that day. Then we share it aloud with each other. We have found this exercise to be most uplifting... first, we tend to focus, during the day, on what we might be writing about that evening, which means actually paying more attention to happiness moments. Secondly, we heighten the intimacy of our marriage by taking the time to share these moments with one another. Writing is very different than "just talking." It allows contemplation and reflection, and the words come out differently - perhaps more lyrical and potent, or so we have found.

Because we had enjoyed doing this exercise/ritual for 100 days in a row, i decided, when a chance arose, to do a reading/sharing at our Unitarian Church about the experience, and people asked could we lead a workshop to help others take the Challenge? We said YES,
and did so. We plan to regroup the first Sunday after the 100 days have passed, to share the results with each other.

Now I've got a bee in my bonnet to start offering introductory workshops around town on taking the 100 days of Happiness Journaling Challenge. It's so much fun to write about happiness, and very poignant to hear what others write when they share highlights from their days.

So now I say to you, dear readers, what's stopping you from writing nightly in your own Happiness Journal, and sharing the results with a partner, child, friend, or neighbor.
It's so simple, and so rewarding! Ten minutes with a pen on paper, and watch your happiness moments multiply!!!

Time to throw another log on the fire, look out the window to see my camellias in bloom,
and continue my explorations of what 2018 might bring - what beckons - what I will
leap into -- and, will report back...

Out my window now
sky so blue it thrills my eyes
as cold fingers type


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On the first of October, a hint of fall, a relief from perpetual Tallahassee summer.
A light rainfall makes my yellow jerusalem artichoke flowers shine even brighter,
and the new broccoli plants are beaded with jewels. As i look out my study window,
a window that has been in my life for 27 years, i am touched by the scene -- a landscape that wasn't here when we moved in, that changes with the seasons... a landscape that once had a swing set and sandbox, where kittens of different colors leapt chasing butterflies, where my little girl grew up, and moved away for college, then moved back, found a job, moved to her own place. No more swing set, no more sandbox, no more multi colored kittens, just one orange tiger tom, our Georgie, and his own paradise to roam in, Haiku Garden.

So, since I announced the much anticipated arrival of Prison Wisdom, I have been busy letting the world know this book of inmate writing and art exists. I have given a "private" launch for my closest local girlfriends, a sermon at the Unitarian Church (titled "Writing Toward Freedom - the Making of Prison Wisdom"), a presentation to the Re-Entry Coalition (all individuals and groups that help released prisoners start a new life, no easy task), and an "event" at the Blue Tavern, a music venue... a blues musician played freedom songs, i gave my "spiel" and chosen readers channeled the words of my inmate writers, to an audience stunned by the power and beauty of these incarcerated authors. In all cases, I offer to sign books, but also to accept "gifted" books, that will make their ways into Prison Libraries and to organizations that help prisoners.

This is my work for now; i am dedicated to it, and to the mission of helping people everywhere understand that people locked away behind bars have something in common with us, have something to give us, that can actually inspire us -- their humanity, their stories, their joys and sorrows, their redemption. I never knew when I began offering writing in the prisons that there would one day be such a book, but it feels like a blessing, a gift that somehow was given to me. Maybe it was just part of my life's purpose -- to
share the benefits of the writing life with others -- or maybe it was some sort of acme, apex, of my journey, that I cannot know now. What I do know is that when i leave this earth -- this book, among my other treasures, will be my legacy.

So, dear friends, the wheel turns, it always does, and in just four months, this woman with a crown of silver and a braid of black (worn over her left shoulder) will be turning 74. Being into numerology, 7 and 4 adds up to 11, and that is the number of the Muse, double the Pioneer Spirit, which means I'll probably be off on some sort of sparkling new adventure,
that I will be sure to let you know about as soon as I know what it is. Or there may be multiple adventures, one never knows. In the meanwhile, I live day to day, at my computer, in the garden, writing with friends (my 700 word story club continues to expand, and i'm adding a free verse component to it), hanging out with my husband, daughter, cat,
planning new engagements for my ongoing Prison Wisdom work (two house parties coming up), and anticipating a trip south for a four day Dances of Peace retreat, always an enchanting interlude...

"Oh peace, deep and divine, enter this heart of mine,
Oh peace, sweet and sublime, enter this heart of mine
Om Om Om Om, Shanti Shanti Shanti"

A reminder of the way it could be, maybe even shall be? How the whole world yearns for it.
... "And into plowshares beat our swords, we shall study no war..."

So, dear readers, let me close with an autumn Haiku, perhaps the weathers gods will hasten my favorite season forward:

My flannel shirt jumps
off its hanger, so ready
to leave the closet


Those of you already anticipating the chill of winter, mufflers and gloves and de-icing windshields, we live in a different country down here!

And that leads me to this: YES, we survived Hurricane Irma, even the horrifying worries as it barreled north, and escaped with ZERO damage. Yes, we lost power for 34 hours, but that was a small price to pay for all our tall backyard trees (waving now in a light breeze) standing tall, roots holding firm. And our new green metal roof happily intact...

May autumn lift your spirits, give you apple cider and round orange pumpkins, bright leaves to crunch through on a Saturday afternoon stroll, and squash slow baking in the oven...


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Dear friends and newcomers to this site

I am happy to announce the arrival of my long-awaited book PRISON WISDOM, just published and waiting for readers to dive in to its poignant, heart-felt, creative, inspiring words and art!

I was 47 years old when I entered the local jail to offer Lifestories and Haiku Poetry for the first time. At the end of that semester, i collected the favorite writings and art of my inmate students to put into an anthology that they called Hey You! I later taught at Tallahassee's Federal Correctional Institution, when it was a men's prison, and they called their collection of writings Out of Sight and Mind. When I was an artist in residence at a women's prison in Monticello, FL, those students called their anthology Beauty behind Walls. And finally, when FCI became a women's prison, in 2010 I created, with my students, a number of anthologies, through 2015. The name for their anthology was Imaginations Uncovered. Excerpts from all of these anthologies are included, unedited, exactly as the inmates penned them, all written from prompts, or "seed phrases" that I use to evoke writing. I.E. I remember a room, A lonely time, A magic moment, When I look in the mirror I see.... We also write poetry together (I always write with my students) explore guided visualizations, fantasy, and a variety of fictions, for example "It was the night of the full moon..." or "I enter the scene..." (looking at a calendar picture), or "I find myself in a room I've never been before..."

As I state on the back cover blurb, "I believe that every person has a creative spark within them, and I hope to evoke 'the wisdom of the pen' in each and every one of my students... As you, the reader, experience...this unique collection, I hope you will be inspired to pick up a pen to tell your own stories..."

The last section of the book, contains the letters and stunning artwork of my prison pen pals, several of them on Death Row. The cover of the book, a sunflower with butterfly,
is one of those artworks. To see this image, please visit the Prison Wisdom page on this website menu.

Now 73, you can do the math and say that this book has been in the making for 25 years! Of course I had no idea when I entered Leon County Jail for the first writing class (in a GED program), that I would be 1)having a prison ministry, or 2)creating a book of Prison writings. I have found, throughout my life, that following my imperatives has led me into adventures I had no idea where they would take me. I'm sure all of you can say the same about various themes that run through your own life.

It is my intention to send my book out to prison libraries, to inspire other incarcerated individuals, but also into public libraries, correctional programs, and to make them available as book club offerings. Each person who orders a book has the opportunity to "gift" a book to a prison library. In this way we all become disseminators of the Prison Wisdom message,
that the humanity hidden away behind bars has beauty and courage to share with us, to inspire us; as we read, we may find ourselves looking into a mirror, saying not "this could be me" but "there I am."

Here are two Haiku from women at FCI, the first asked to write about her hands:

Tiny little hands
soft with strength and capable
to change this lost world

And secondly, if life is a book:

My life is a book
some chapters are sad, but there’s
a plot twist you’ll love

I invite you now to visit the Prison Wisdom page, and to spread the word to friends and colleagues who you think might enjoy the book and support the cause.

Meanwhile, as I prepare for local launches, speaking engagements, sermons, etc. I look out the window at my garden and know for sure Spring is here, gliding easily, here in the south, into summer. My life goes on "in endless song," or in my case "in endless flowers and vegetables!" When you plant a seed, something comes up; sometimes it's a poem, sometimes it's a story, sometimes it's a cherry tomato or a cucumber or a gardenia flower.
What a mystery, the fecundity of the earth and of human life. Treasure it now.

I will close with one more quote from the book. The prompt was "I have a Dream."

"I have a dream of pain come to past. I live in a world where there is no controlling, people love freely and hate is not known. Nature is our friend and we respect it. No more storms, just tranquility. We live with an open mind and heart. Innocence is our nature." Chris


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Yes, and not only is it Spring, all over the land (at least in Florida), but i have celebrated my 73rd birthday, moving me into a number One Cycle (7 + 3 = 10 = 1), that is, New Beginnings.
And indeed, with the publication of my book Prison Wisdom (due out this month), I leap into a new world, a world in which this book makes its debut and spreads its message near and far.
I invite my readers, friends and strangers alike, to help me pursue this goal, by letting others know about the book, and helping me distribute it to prison libraries, beginning in Florida and then radiating outwards. It is my dream, that indeed this book of inmate writing (and correspondance and art) be used as a textbook in corrections programs, in social work classes, and even as supplementary reading in literature classes, for the wisdom of the pen, in the hands of these writers, invites all to pick up their own pen and write.

Soon enough Prison Wisdom will be available through my publisher (EWH Press), (watch for link in my next blog, as soon as the books are ready to "roll")... but in the meanwhile, I haven't stopped writing -- stories, poems, mini-essays, because it is my nature to do so, and I hope this is the case up until the very end of my life. I include a recent Out the Window Poem as one example:

Outside the window
life goes on
and in the inside, same
What do we make
of the tick of the clock
warning us
time slippeth away
or courses through us
like every breath

Listen to the music
of the trees
oh how they serenade
the sky, the owls, the ferns
how they reach out with
branches and roots
to touch the under layers
and those above
while outside the window
you are invited to partake
of the bounty you've forgotten to see
until now...


And the garden grows, the vegetables establish roots, the tendrils grasp the lattice,
the bees buzz around, the flowers do what they know how to do so well -- they bloom --
hibiscus, geranium, petunias, salvia, marigolds, vinca, impatiens; the butterflies flirt,
the birds alight on the feeder, the rain falls, the sun comes out, the moon goes behind a cloud, the moon lights up the entire sky, the wind chimes rings in the breeze, the woman notices her world, which is so fecund, so nurturing to her soul. And she prays, for the immigrants, for the prisoners, for the hungry, for justice, for enlightenment of the powers that be, we too are powerful, we too give of our light to the world, never ever give up,
and as she writes these words, a stray sunbeam lights up the prism in her window, and the rainbows dance their shimmering magic....

Saying, now is the time to begin anew, to send out one's intentions, to add one's coin to the fountain, "May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, peace, peace, peace..."


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I have lived thru my first and hopefully my last Hurricane, with Hermine. We were fortunate that none of our very tall trees fell on house, car, or cat, though one tree fell thru the neighbor’s fence into their yard. However, the damage in Myer’s Park, across the road from us, was devastating. Many beautiful, ancient trees were uprooted, splayed with their roots exposed,their long torsos and branches downed forever. I could not avoid seeing the carnage, and the line of poetry that kept running through my brain was “open graves of beauty” as I gazed at the fallen giants. I finally sat on my back porch, opened my journal, and wrote my elegy to them.

After Hurricane Hermine

Even in this golden light
I see the fallen trees
in their open grave of beauty
roots asunder
no longer vertical,
these giants,
but splayed upon the earth
bridges over nothing

How many decades, how many
hundreds of years
had they been standing watch
as we just blindly went on
ignoring them
until perhaps we caught
the moon in her branches
one crisp autumn night

You won't be holding the moon now
you'll be hugging the earth
your birth mother
until every shred of you
bark and twig and leaf
is transmogrified
just mulch,
and yet I can see you
as you waved your branches
in the days of summer
before your slaughter

I saw you before you fell.

* * *

I have written poetry all my life, and I find it sustains and uplifts me. It’s also a gift one can share with others.

One of my pen pals up north, Eve, teaches a creative writing class, and she sometimes sends me the prompts. This one was My Life as a Book Poem. I sat down and the following emerged (thanks to the kindness of my Muse):

If my Life were a Book Poem

If my life were a book
I would want you to savor it
to turn the pages slowly
to revel in subtlety and
its counterpoint boldness

I would want you
to read my book with a lover
holding hands and stopping
now and again to gaze
into each other’s eyes
as if to say
yes, how true, how tender!

If my life were a book
it would remind you of grasses
blowing in the wind
and puffy clouds floating over
a serene blue pond
where a swan swims mutely

My book would lift you up
and make you cry
giving you every reason to
and then, as you weep
you can’t help also laughing
because everything meets in the middle

You could read any page at random
while sitting on a swing
or eating rocky road ice cream
or dabbling your feet in the lapping waves
or stirring homemade applesauce

My book is ripe for picking
never boring, always in style
both mystical and commonplace
like the evening sunset

You don’t want it to end
and I don’t want it to either
I just want to go on writing
my life as a book
and never ever run out of ink.

* * *

Finally, some Autumn Haiku (and a few others tossed into the mix):

Sweeping the courtyard
to tidy my life again
tomorrow, the same

Cucumber tendrils
know how to climb the wire fence
the sun teaches them

Pens around the house
in case I want to scribble
a sudden haiku

To shiver is good
I’ve waited the long summer
for this cool moment

Brushing my long hair
while my cat stares at me – hmm
how strange Ka’s fur is

A few pink blossoms
on ragged zinnia stems
not ready to quit

Hummingbird poses
on spiky autumn flowers —
but my pen is too slow

* * *

In this harvest season, and in the Jewish New Year number 5777 (!), I take stock of my life.

My book Prison Wisdom is currently in the able hands of my graphic designer, and it will
no doubt be out by my birthday (Jan 23). I anticipate several launch parties, a potential sermon at my Unitarian Church, a Go Fund Me campaign to get copies of the book into Prison Libraries around Florida, etc. The timing is right for this book to be valued as the testimony of those locked up behind bars, or of what one inmate anthology called “Beauty Behind Walls.”

I continue to generate 700 word stories with various pen pals, including a linked novella of 34 episodes (followed by “the author” interviewing her characters) called The Greta Tales, which hopefully will be made available in the near future…I’ll keep you posted.

I praise the wild daisy blooms of the swamp sunflower in my garden, the burgeoning fruit on “Grandma Rose’s Grapefruit Tree,” the butterflies and hummingbirds cavorting around my spiky fire bush shrub, the shivery cool breeze that calls for a robe and slippers as Tom and I read the morning newspaper on the back deck and sip strong French roast coffee…

May all of us be safe from storm, from sadness, divisiveness, self-doubt. May we each find ways to cheer each other on through the many challenges we face as the year 2016 comes to completion. May our dreams find fulfillment, and may the fruit of our labors taste sweet.

Autumn wind chimes ring /summoning the bird duets/ harmony calling


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