Creative Arts and Healing
Dear readers, friends, sudden newcomers to this website, welcome!

Spring is a rapturous season here in Tallahassee, Florida, where in only mid April
the tomatoes are ripening and basil lends its aphrodesiacal fragrance to everything it touches (sandwiches, omelets, salads, rice, ad infinitum), peas are crunchy off the vine, and the cucumber leaves triple overnight..... Rain falls in just the right amount, the sun shines with just enough breeze, my yard is lush and green, the trees leaves more sparkling in their youthful nature, and

at last, I am hard at work on a book I've been talking about wanting to write for a very long time: Prison Wisdom. Taking the ten anthologies of inmate writing and trying to coax them into an accessible, eloquent, poignant, inspirational shape, so that all who read its pages are not only touched by the writings of inmates, but moved with a tender urgency to pick up their own pen and write. Write about rooms you remember, write about a lonely time, write about a magic moment, write about your mother and father, your children, your longings, your sorrows, your jubilations. For as Bo Lozoff once said "We are all doing time..." and how do we do it? That's the key. Do we live in bitterness, regret? Do we live greedily, haphazardly? Do we live consciously, attuned to our inner voices as well as outer circumstance? Do we live by the clock, or by soul-time?

I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed's book Wild. I happened to hear her speak at Florida State where she also read from her book, and my husband Tom purchased Wild for me for our 26th wedding anniversary. In between everything else, I finally picked it up (it's a large book in every sense of the world) and lived through her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail with her, through every hardship and gladness, through losing her boots, (and toenails), through
meeting characters who were generous, kind, scary, decent, as she traversed over snow, rock, mountain, step by step, day by day, from Mohave, California to the Bridge of the Gods,
over the Columbia River, Oregon on one side (the end of her journey) and Washington State on the other.

We all need wildness. For many years I had on my wall the poster with a John Muir saying "In wildness is the preservation of the world." Along with us humans who live here. We need to be alone with sky and river, clouds and forest, birds and foxes; we need to breathe air unsullied by the city's commerce. We all need, at least, a garden, a bench, a half barrel of tomatoes and basil, to ground us, to nourish us, to remind us of our own connection to
the elements. To remind us to breathe... to be still... to weep perhaps, as we take it all in, and let it all out, and take it in again...

Thank you Cheryl for your reminder. Thank you to all the authors who inspire me, who
take me on journeys, thanks for the gift of literature.

Meanwhile, I go on writing Haiku, Spring Haiku, Rain Haiku, in tune with the seasons.

Here's a coupla to leave you with, for now

Tulips opening
letting inner sunshine out
reminding me to

Birds can't wait for dawn
to begin their rejoicing
singing the sun up

Rain washing away
the debris of my old past
birthing me again

Spring fever rises
with morning sun - quick, outside
buds are opening

May this Springtime invite you out into it -- to picnic, hike, play ball, swim, dance, plant seeds, moon-view, write poems to the rain. Nature never stops, always turning over a new leaf, look into her kaleidoscopic mirror and find your treasure


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Dear friends, how could Autumn have totally escaped an entry on this blog? I can't answer that. What I can tell you is that, facing our ritual family year end letter, I wrote two different versions, trying to sum up 365 days in the life of me, and, after reading both letters to my husband (a helpful second opinion) he couldn't decide which one he liked better, either! So, to have my cake and eat it too, I submit, below, the letter which is NOT being sent out with a postage stamp, but is available for my devoted or occasional on-line readers! I do vow in the coming year to be more regular in my blogging, so don't give up on me, friends!

Katya’s Holiday Letter

Woosh – again, a year has flown by, filled with outer events and inner dramas, adventure, peace, discouragement, rejoicing – the A to Z of human emotion and sensation, as experienced by one woman who has specialized in setting down the stories of her life (and those of her imagination) one could say “religiously” or “with devotion.” Now I am
aware of moving inexorably towards the seventh decade of my journey (I’ll be 69 on January 23) and embracing the contemplative nature of one’s “golden years ” where one
perhaps asks oneself, “What else?” or “Is this – my life – enough, just as it is?” Resting content on one’s accomplishments, or setting new goals, new trajectories and visions?
Of course the answer has to be both, celebrating the many chapters one has already
walked the earth and made one’s imprint, and charting new territory with seasoned wisdom, perspective, and grace.

If I had a bucket list for my writing life, I would say one book stands out as imperative.
I have so far self published four books: ]Journal Adventure Guidebook, ] a companion fill-in-the blanks “Seedbook” with writing prompts, My Haiku Life, and The Wheel of Belonging, an anthology of faith columns and sermons. Now it is time to focus on another aspect of my teaching/writing life that has been a constant for many years – working with prisoners. I have accumulated anthologies printed at the end of each course, (as well as material from prison pen pals) and I am determined now to put these writings together under the title Prison Wisdom. I do this to honor the humanity of each inmate, but also to honor my own humanity (and the writing I do with my students behind bars), to honor whatever led me to this path and kept me on it for all these years. Bringing this book to fruition – which means seeking and finding an agent/publisher so the anthology can reach many – is my resolution for the coming year. I put my energies into motion and affirm the rightness of the task and the timing.

My life flows on ... teaching -- offering Lifestories and Haiku classes and workshops around town... writing -- I took a poetry class for the first time in 20 years and learned a new poetry form: the pantoum, a 15th century Malayan “folk tune” with repeating lines. The pantoum does not heed a particular syllable count or rhyme scheme but I felt motivated to add that to the mix to heighten the melodic nature of the form. (See next page for one example.) I continue to write Haiku daily – that is, I still believe in the enchantment of my Haiku life – noticing the extraordinary in the “commonplace” – and passing on its pleasures to all willing to listen to the whispers of the Muse.

Bright between the trees / mother moon shines her spotlight / on my upturned face

My cat on my lap / birds chirping their dusk duets/ inside me time stops

My life flows on, in the garden, in the kitchen, in my daily walks, my correspondence with friends and extended family, the books I read, my weekly stints at the homeless shelter (where I’ve prepped and served lunch for two years now). It flows on in my travels -- this year to Ithaca and Senaca Lake, with my college roommate Ann, and to the Detroit area and Pleasant Lake, scene of childhood memories where I visited with long-lost cousins; to St. George Island of course, and, for Tom and my 25th wedding anniversary, an overnight at nearby Wakulla Springs, where we recited our vows again (hoping for another 25!) From far away I celebrated my brother Ron’s 70th birthday (he lives 3000 miles across the continent in Berkeley, CA.)

My life flows on as the American people vote in Obama for a 2nd term, as wars drag on and peace accords are made and broken, as two close personal friends of mine die, one a suicide, one from cancer, and too our beloved cat Missy, now buried in “Catlandia” on our backyard hill. My life flows on through arguments and forgiveness, through celebrations of life’s milestones (like my daughter’s upcoming 25th winter solstice birthday), through dark nights of the soul and radiant moments of joy, from year to year, from holiday letter to holiday letter. Hidden in all this is a form of alchemy, of magic, of spirit renewed time and again, if only we notice, part the veil, read between the lines, grasp the ephemeral and the eternal, mirrored in each one of us...

Pantoum #3

I need an oracle today
a secret mirror that will speak
a shaman to help me on my way
and lead me down the path I seek

A secret mirror that will speak
to the point and without delay
and lead me down the path I seek
no need to stay inside the fray

To the point and without delay
turn into sunshine what is bleak
no need to stay inside the fray
sing me a lullaby to sleep

Turn into sunshine what is bleak
appear in a cloud when I try to pray
sing me a lullaby to sleep
your sacred wish I will obey

Appear in a cloud when I try to pray
a shaman to help me on my way
your sacred wish I will obey
I need an oracle today


So, in a nutshell, that's my tale, and what didn't appear in it, also did happen, but
a letter can't be a novel, now, can it???


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The dog days of summer are with us now in Tallahassee, but due to massive amounts of rain, the August grass has never been greener, nor the weeds so prolific. I'm home from my adventures North and am settling back into the familiar groove of life on Myer's Park Drive. In short term memory I'm gazing at lakes, though -- Seneca Lake in the NY Finger Lakes region -- and sifting through the slate stones by the shore, looking for those shaped like hearts -- rare, but for the dedicated seeker, also bountiful (I ended up with about 20)... And I'm still swimming in Pleasant Lake, scene of many happy childhood and teenage memories, back and forth, back and forth across the water, as I wrote in one haiku "testing ecstasy." I'm remembering the lakes, and knowing no swimming pool can ever take their place. What is there about a lake, a shimmering lake floating with lily pads, that arouses both awe and serenity?

It's too soon to think about sap rising and a fall teaching schedule, isn't it? I hope so because the motivation is slow in generating energy right now. Maybe it's enough to sweat as i prepare the soil for my autumn garden, maybe it's enough to frequent the public library
and dream of my own novel, yet to be born. Maybe it's enough to enjoy my adult daughter, who just found her dream job at a local architecture firm -- staying with us at home until her salary kicks in. Maybe it's enough to scroll through the achievements of past chapters,
amazed at how long and full sixty eight years actually is. What a privileged position to be in - not worrying about tomorrow, not worrying about health or money, or about what my final obituary will tell the world about who i was, what i loved, what i stood for.

As for the political scene and my hopes for America -- oh that would be too strenuous a topic to address, I fear. I remember the words of Rodney King, so simple and pure: "Why can't we just all get along?" I wonder how many languages that sentence can be translated into? Why can't inequality cease to exist? Why can't hunger be banished forever? Why can't
violence just be a word in old dictionaries?

On what is the idealist to base her hopes and dreams? Who decides what reality is? Who decides what's possible? OK, OK, the dog days of summer inspire such existential and
poetic questions in me. The body may be weak - from heat - but the mind chugs along
trying to fathom what's true, what's beneficent...

And the zinnias shout pink pink gold gold!! And the bees hover, sniffing out the
aphrodisiac nectar... Summer loves herself, it's clear -- she loves her overheated libido,
her wild rainstorms, her lightning slashes, her glaring unimpeded sun rays. Give in, she says, surrender to my inescapable embrace

And, from the air conditioned comfort of my study, watching the cardinals, so insistently red, land in my oversize avocado plant, I reach out to you -- in your summer daze, in your search for whatever is missing or calling to you -- just behind the slightly opened door --
dream a dream with me

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SUMMER, again! 
Yes, summer again. "And the seasons they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down" sang Joni Mitchell, and look, the year 2012 is about half way over already! And my workshops and classes are finished until the Fall, and in exactly one week I'm getting on an airplane and lifting off for Ithaca, New York, where my college roommate Ann and I are going to celebrate 50 years of friendship. Half a century! Besides romping around Ithaca, with its beautiful waterfalls, gorges, and heightened cultural offerings, we will have a cottage on one of the finger lakes (Lake Senaca) for a week, and walk, swim, read, talk, and eat to our heart's delight, our idea of the perfect get-away. Oh yes, and watch sunsets from the end of the dock over the serene waters. And write Haiku during.

After Ithaca, I fly to Detroit to see some cousins I haven't laid eyes on in many years, and revisit the lake where my grandparents, aunts and uncles, had cottages way back when, with willow trees, a beach, and canada geese, even swans, as i recall. One cousin still lives out
there and I will sit on her patio drinking my morning french roast coffee, and pinching
myself to be back in the realm of childhood once again.

The shenanigans of politics and the sufferings of the globe are, for just this short time,
relegated to a psychic shelf, to be tuned into later, and the beauty of nature and rest and peace will instead be in the foreground. If one can indeed ever separate oneself from the woes of the world. I do so now in order to become refreshed and gain momentum for diving back into the wreck as adrienne rich the now dead poet named one of her volumes. Diving into the wreck in order to rescue it, to heal it, to reframe it, to expunge its outdated paradigms and make the affairs of humanity whole again.... Such are the meanderings of my mind, as i talk with you tonight, on the eve of July 4, when America, and each citizen or immigrant, thinks about independence, and co-existence, and what makes this country great. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness....

I find it always hard to leave my garden, my ashram, and leap out into the larger world, and always a blessing to return, renewed. I will take good notes, and report to my blog in the Fall with whatever i have reaped or gleaned from my adventures.

In the meanwhile, may each of you reading this find a comfortable spot to curl up in, or a bike to ride on, or an ocean to jump into, or a garden to wander in, picking fresh
tomatoes and cucumbers for your mid-day meal. May each of you have the vacation
you want -- even if it is just falling into a good book, or preparing a special dinner
for a loved one, or putting on reggae and dancing wildly in your livingroom. Vacate and return, vacate and return, in that rhythm of nurture, stimulation, and purification. As the seasons go round and round, and our hearts beat on, linked to the one great heart of the universe ---

Fireworks! Sparks making blossoms in the sky The full moon casting its light on merrymakers below --- trails of beauty never lost for having once been


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Can you believe it? We've gone from the russet leaves of fall (my last entry) to the lush green eden of spring in Tallahassee. I lived through winter, Im sure of it -- lived through my daughter's 24th birthday, Chanukah, Christmas, New Year's, my January birthday, my 25th wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day, but apparently I didn't stop to write about any of it.
Oh yes, also lived through Alana's trip to India over the holidays to study eco-housing in preparation for her masters thesis in architecture. In no time at all she will graduate, just as I graduated at age 24 with my masters in education...

Suffering through a springtime cold, for the first time in ages, i lollygag around reading old New York Times book reviews, thinking about which book of mine i should focus on next, or how to find an agent, or whether gardening is enough of an accomplishment. Back in the women's prison with a new class, i never tire of first meeting my students knowing how close, how intimate, we shall be by the end of the course, seeing their eyes light up when they "get" that we're all "equal under the law of the pen" that this is not a writing contest, and that each of us has something of value to share. It seems so obvious to me; we've all lived, suffered, rejoiced, made mistakes, atoned for them, enjoyed a good meal, wished for love, had our dreams, put one foot in front of the other as we made our own unique path. And now it's time, high time we could say, to write about it, to recall and deliver to the world our own human literature.

Ok, I'm a crusader for lifestories, for haiku poetry, I'm a crusader for "everyone has something to say and deserves to be heard." I've made it my life's calling, my life's
passion, my life's joy to write and invite others to do so. I don't care if I'm a household word, just let there be many words, let their be huge democracies of words, huge encyclopedias of the human experience set in ink... on real pages, PLEASE, a book one can hold, as close as a lover, letting the pages riffle in the wind, spilling a rosy drop of tomato on it, what the heck, or a tear. Let the books be loved, read again, passed on to others, rediscovered, reprinted, and adored by readers everywhere, writers everywhere.

So sayeth Ka.

And inbetween my crusading, how i love my flowers, my vegetables, my bouquets all over the house, my e-mail exchanges, my cat Georgie, whose purr rumbles as he plumps down on my lap, a hefty loaf of pumpkin fur, how i love the sunshine and rain, the yellow butterflies of spring, the buzzing bees, the tiny new green leaves, the wind in the chimes.
I love reaching out to my anonymous and welcome readers, saying "I'm back, I'm still
alive, I'm still writing" and glad of it.

May spring gladden our hearts, make us want to romp in the clover, plant seeds that will blossom and fruit, as we sow now what we most wish to harvest... may it be peace

A coupla spring haiku

Too many flowers
for just one woman to count
let the bees do it

Cat cannot decide
this garden bed or that one
for its daily snooze

Birds write brand new songs
for the springtime hit parade
treetop broadcasting


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