Creative Arts and Healing
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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Almost Summer Solstice 
Dear friends - Time has slipped by, for our Tallahassee summer is well underway. My tomato forest is once again bearing dozens of ripe fruit, perfect for bruschetta on a crusty olive baguette, or halved into sandwiches, or gracing a green salad, or just popped into my mouth for a juicy treat. My hydrangea flowers are especially prolific this year -- we had a blue bush of them in the courtyard of my childhood home in San Francisco -- evoking tender memories - and in my yard they come in a variety of hues: the deep blue, light purple, dark purple, green-ish white, and pure white. I celebrate 26 years of living - and gardening - at this homestead, and everywhere my eye looks is a reminder of the work gone into establishing the beauty that greets my eyes daily, sometimes prompting an Out The Window poem, written from my study as I gaze outward.

The good news is that Prison Wisdom is in the hands of my publisher, Jeff, of EWH Press,who is currently going over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, soon to be passed on to my graphic designer to upgrade and highlight the artwork and other graphic elements, to finalize the more than 330 pages that make up the volume. My dream is to send copies to Oprah and Obama, to help grow the numbers of individuals who will finally hold Prison Wisdom in their hands, and be moved by its eloquent and poignant message. A message that says we all long for liberation, we can all hear the voice of the muse when we take pen in hand to tell our unique story -- whether of pain or pleasure, sadness or joy, hope or discouragement. As one of my early readers of one sample anthology put it, "When you read this you won't say there but for the grace of God go I, but rather there I am."

With a world full of violence and polarization, we long for antidotes, we long for a healing balm to offset the mind-numbing atrocities that fill our media and our neighborhoods. What will this healing balm be? How can we unify in the face of suffering rather than add to it? Oh, these eternal and existential questions, tormenting in their frequency. If I had the answer, I would weave it into every poem, essay, and story, I would plant it with every seed, and watch it grow, and flourish. If I had the answer I could be "Queen for a Day," or the Goddess of Rebirth. How trite, how sentimental, to think one can counter misery with love, with bouquets of flowers, with baskets of red tomatoes, with friends dancing freely celebrating their right to exist.

Let me then be sentimental, let me add my voice to the peace-makers of the world,
let me bless newborn babies with a homeopathic vaccine against fear, let me rejoice
when sanity, justice, and a life's purpose for each human, finally exists, as the unbroken promise, guaranteed each one of us, through the long arc of our journey on earth.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."


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Almost the Ides of March 
Hello dear friends, strangers, and all who happen upon this site --

It's hard to believe it's Spring -- the entire winter went by without a single entry.
That's because I was working hard on my book Prison Wisdom -- and still am --
I was off to St. George Island for my annual February holiday/vacation with my college roommate Ann, I was planning my husband Tom's 68th birthday party (vegetarian chili and cornbread, and a big tropical fruit tart for dessert), writing installments on my Greta Tales (700 word linked stories, created in tandem with my writer friend Eve who was creating her own tales), beginning to plan my garden, and writing a few sonnets with another pen pal, from Ecuador, Mimi.

I'm excited that in May I'll be teaching a three part "Fables and Fantasies" class thru OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute , offering non-credit courses to anyone 50 or older.)
I had a love affair with Fables for a few months (I love obsessions such as this), and I hope to put together a "chapbook" or anthology of them once Prison Wisdom is off to the printer.

It's hard to believe I'm 72 and I still have so many manuscripts waiting for my attention, or
waiting for my creative energies to zoom in and launch them.

I hope to live to be 99. What a birthday that will be! But let's not rush things, OK?

For those of you interested in knowing more about Prison Wisdom, please visit
EWH Press, click on authors, find my picture and name, and read my bio and the
blurb about the book. I haven't actually counted how many inmates - and prison pen pals - have their writings shared in this book, but it's got to be close to 100. I wish this collection was mandatory reading in all Criminology and Corrections curriculum, Literature classes, Social Work programs, in all prison libraries and public libraries, and definitely that Oprah will choose it as one of her book club selections. Hear, hear!

In the meantime, spring is here, the garden is looking good -- the compost added to the planting bed spawned about 75 cucumber/squash? seedlings, some of which i pulled out in order to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, etc. and some of which i left, to see what would happen. I may be making pickles this year, or zucchini bread!!!

I for one willl be very happy once election season -- campaign season - ends, and hopefully we will have someone in office who will allow us to be glad to be Americans, yes? I am holding that thought.

And composing Haiku that praises Spring -- this green growing time -

This green growing time
hands in soil, sun on my face
planting my future


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