Creative Arts and Healing
HEADING NORTH -- Summer Vacation 
Dear friends and seekers who accidentally arrived at my site

Summer greetings!

Tomorrow at crack of dawn I head up to Ithaca NY to visit Ann, my college roommate and friend of 52 years. We have a cottage on Lake Cayuga for a week (and no internet!). Swimming, walking, reading, eating, writing, talking, sleeping, is the menu that so satisfies! I have purchased a small elegant Haiku journal and plan to fill it, day by day. When our time is up, Ann will take me to the train station in Syracuse and I'll take a six hour leisurely trip through the countryside, arriving at Springfield, Massachusetts where my old Liberation News Service buddy Allen will meet me. He lives in an Octagon House he built himself way back in the 70's, has a huge garden, loves to play Scrabble and cook and hike and swim. While there, he will introduce me to an archivist at UMass in Amherst who has expressed a strong interest in obtaining my papers (my life-long literary output). That includes more than 500 journals, a few published books, reams of poetry, short stories, essays, sermons, letters, collages, photographs... I joke that it's amazing i've managed to live a life while creating artifacts for posterity!!!

Along those lines, I came up with an idea to organize (compile) my manuscripts into slim chapbooks for archival purposes and potential distribution to the wider world, later. Under the rubric SINGING BIRD PRESS, I have put together four and intend to continue for the next several years, maybe even hiring a literary assistant to help me with the technical aspects (while i continue to prepare the MS into their best form.) It is a joy to finally take work that has sat in a box, a file cabinet, or my hard drive for a long long time, and put the words between covers, what we call hard copies, as well as in electronic form. I call this creating "The Little Library of Ka" that I will continue for years to come. The truth is that i keep writing too, so the task is endless, and fulfilling, and my own "manifest destiny."

We all have a legacy, taking different forms. My garden homestead is also a legacy, the forest of tomato trees, the camellia bushes that have become trees, avocados planted from seed now home to cardinals and sparrows and chickadees, the stone pathways, the garden art, Rose Cottage restored as a personal temple. My daughter is part of my legacy, my beautiful Alana, who lives nearby and works for a local architectural firm, who creates gourmet meals, who willingly plays Scrabble with me, who has her own lifestory, ambition,

Those of you who have followed my journey all these years could be considered part of my legacy too -- the interwoven strands of friendship guiding, upholding, forgiving, challenging, affirming me day by day, year by year. Thank you.

May all who read this have a summer vacation of your own, however you define it. A trip to the beach, the mountains, the local park, date nights with a spouse, little honeymoon getaways, good books, time to lay back and watch the clouds change shape, hear the rain tap tap on the roof of your get away cottage...

I thank my husband Tom for taking care of the garden, our cat Georgie, parakeet Monet, and the whole homestead while I am away. When I return, be on the lookout for vacation haiku!

Leaving my garden
to discover other worlds
pen in my pocket


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Here it is April already – the brutal winter (yes, even Tallahassee occasionally has our version of that), is over, taking with it alas, my seven year old avocado tree grown from a seed, despite my attempts to cover and save it. Luckily I had a four year version of a different avocado plant, also grown from a seed, and the birds seem just as happy to perch in its less lavish branches before they hop up to the bird feeder which is right outside my study window. I realize that stories of endless snow, endless ice scraping, endless waiting for a hint of a crocus, of my northern neighbors, trump my sad story, but still, and still...

As I type here, a gentle rain is falling, watering my fast growing summer crop of vegetables (with a few cool weather crops still holding their own, i.e. broccoli and my husband Tom’s bumper kale crop), for within a month, we will be embarking on summer weather, reminding me of a day almost 24 years ago (May 15) when we first drove up the driveway to our new home, with Alana in her car seat and our cat Koko springing to attention with her feet on the dashboard, meowing delicately as if to say, FINALLY, after the very long drive from Oklahoma. It was so dang hot those first months, and I had so many packing boxes to unload, while Tom started his dream job, that often I sat and cried, with Alana gently patting me and saying “okay mommy, okay.” I’ve gotten used to the summer heat, if one can get used to almost 100 percent humidity and scorching days in the mid to high nineties for months on end, because I have found that the human body (unlike my poor avocado tree) is adaptable, as is the interior psyche who says, oh well, soon it will be fall, and oh all will be well!!!

The late news, since my last post, is that I have celebrated mightily the big milestone
event of turning seventy (January 23), and feel none the worse for it. I do not intend to brag, as one must be superstitious about invoking the wrath of some unseen deity, however let me just say that seventy suits me. I even find, with a few exceptions here and there, to find it a rather soothing age/state, one in which I can without bravado declare that I have nothing left to prove... nothing more I have to accomplish in order to be touted as a successful human being who “left her mark” on the world. Will I ever publish another book? Find an archive for my literary works? How many more Haiku workshops will I teach? Will I ever travel to some exotic place again? Will I ever have a grandchild? If none of the above, I can still rejoice in and savor all that I have done, been, and still am.

Let me hasten to add that I will always be a writer (and a gardener, and a reader, and a cook, and a dancer, as long as my health permits), regardless of whether I am 20, 40, 60, 80 or the fabled 99, which I think is a dandy age to say goodbye, penning a last verse before my breath gives out. In other words, dear friends, I am still me, and I hope always to be me, in all her myriad constellations, while reaching out to say hi, hello, how are you, to my fellow beings (and the animals and trees and the moon and sky.)

The rain has stopped, the flower and veggie beds are satiated with drinking water, artichokes are steaming in the kitchen to take to Alana’s where we will be having dinner... that little toddler in the car seat, the one who comforted me when my new life in such a hot place overwhelmed me, is now 26 years old with a graduate degree in architecture, working at a local firm, dwelling in her own apartment, with her own beloved cat (tawny prince Kahlo), exploring the many constellations of her self.

The world goes on with its earthquakes, floods, droughts, wars, inequities, and unrelenting beauty, too -- the whole A to Z of humanity and nature and whatever ties it all together. I surrender to knowing I can’t single handedly heal the sick, and bring peace to the land, yet day by day I can choose to find grace in the moment to moment rhythms of life with all its seasons.

At seventy I can say I have lived, yet I live on... as perhaps these very words will live on... these thoughts that tumble in the crucible of my consciousness, out, out into the
rain swept atmosphere where flowers, so fully bathed, bow their heads....

April 9, 2014

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Dear readers -- as you may know by now social media is not my strong suit. I don't have a facebook page, i don't tweet, and i only blog, here on my site, once each season. my preferred "addictions" (besides good strong French press coffee and half and half) are writing haiku, writing short stories, reading (the public library is my 2nd home) gardening and walking.

Today on my ritual morning walk -- about 35 minutes of briskness - i passed by the neighborhood duck pond, at the end of my regular route. I noticed how boldly hued the trees are that edge the pond: scarlet, orange, gold, and how they reflected in the clear waters below. Autumn in Tallahassee doesn't show its "true colors" until late November or early December. We can have cold snaps, even light frosts, but winter doesn't settle in - if it does at all - until late December or January.

Most Autumn seasons find me teaching and compiling LifeStories Reviews, but i am taking a break from teaching, other than an occasional Haiku Hour in the community. Originally, I made that decision because I wanted to focus my attention on putting together Prison Wisdom, a compilation of my work writing with inmates over two decades. However, that project is momentarily stalled. My concern is presenting their writing in the best possible way, weaving my story as an evolving participant into the mix. Other concerns are whether i want to self publish or find a publisher -- and from my current research it seems as if regular publishing offers little incentive in the way of marketing and distribution. I definitely do not want this book to sit in a box under my bed, nor am I primed, pumped, to hire a publicist or start a prison wisdom facebook page, or even toot my horn around town to try to get readings (and thus sales).

My deepest love is writing and offering others a chance to express their voice, their stories. I have considered myself to be a writer since age 14, and have been offering writing to people "from all walks of life" for 35 years, and that is a legacy I hold dear. I think of the many many people who have written poems, stories, fact and fiction because of my encouragement and invitation, and at this moment now, I ask myself, is it enough? Must i publish more books?

As I near the age of 70 - a sobering and tender milestone - I ask myself how I want to live, how I want to spend my time, what matters most to me. I suppose I have always asked these questions, being a philosophical sort of person, but the questions take on an urgency now as I come to terms with the fact that i, like all humans, am mortal.

I honor the men and women in prison who have taken off their armor and permitted their
souls to be revealed through the wisdom of the pen. I hope one day on this blog I can announce the arrival of Prison Wisdom as a book, a book of paper with a cover, a book one can hold, leaf through, read in the bathtub, teach in the classroom, laugh and cry over.

If that day comes, we can celebrate together. If it doesn't come, i put down the beating stick, and hug the truth to me: I entered those barbwire gates, we looked into one another's eyes, we opened our hearts, and we wrote. Each inmate received an anthology of their class excerpts, one that they shared with family; some of their words made it into my sermons;
and most importantly, we truly recognized each other's humanity.

In this late autumn season, as i reflect on the passage of time and seasons, and see 2013 coming to a close - I commit myself, anew, to following the dictates of my heart, to allowing inspiration and the Muse to guide my daily life. I thank you, one and all, for being part of
this journey. For following my story as it reveals its shape in each entry here. May we
whisper words of encouragement to each other, whenever we falter, whenever we fall, and help each other rise up to claim our fate, to cast the runes, to mark the passages of darkness and light with our mindful attunement.

Sunlight and shadow
the mystery of life speaks
in potent riddles

A new day given
to assemble the puzzle
each piece a treasure


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Hello one and all, and especially hello to myself. I try to write every season and I'm overdue.
Life has a way of wooshing along, and i sometimes wonder, whose guiding the oars? setting the sail, clunking down a bumpy road, flying high above the clouds looking down on this
turning earth?

Writing this blog is a way to connect all the dots, to see what dots, or stars, or heart shapes are on the horizon, coming toward me, as I move to meet them.

Back from a trek to Kansas City, Mo. to see my old friend Sara who with her hubbie moved there 18 months ago. From there, to Lawrence, KS, to visit my last remaining "elder" Aunt Violet, 86, who relocated there to be closer to her son, my cousin David (and his wife and two grown sons.)

Violet is the only sibling left of my grandmother's daughters: Rose (my mom), Daisy, and Violet. Just being in her and my cousin(s)presence gave me a sweeping sense of my family connection down thru the ages, and up into the present. Family, blood, genes, legacy, and the sharing of life from birth to ultimate death, is a heady brew, and I drank fully.

Sara, fellow artist and spirit sister, infused me with our so-missed personal dialogues, and i helped myself to plenty of her vigorous and bounteous cherry tomatoes (none left in my hot and rained upon garden). A highlight was seeing a show together at the palatial Fine Arts Museum in K.C., a traveling exhibit of Mexican painters including one of my favorites: Frida Kahlo (and her muralist husband Diego Rivera). Another was visiting an arboretum and posing for a picture next to a huge sculpture of a Tibetan goddess, my mythic counterpart(?)

Now laying the groundwork for Fall -- haiku workshops, back to work on the Prison Wisdom
anthology, planting greens in the garden -- and the unbelievable movement toward my 70th birthday in January.

How did it happen? My Dad always joked, it's better than dying young. And I say amen to that.

Mom lived to be 83, Dad to 89, my mother in law and my dad's mother, to 93. How long shall I live? How long shall I love? How long shall i garden, teach, read, hunt for seashells, play scrabble with Alana, go out dancing with Tom?

Tom starts back to teaching tomorrow (Negotiation for Planners), Alana begins her second year working at a local architectural firm, gathering expertise day by day, working out the themes and details of her own destiny. While I gently anticipate the end of summer, and the energy that comes from crisp air, shivery mornings, long vigorous walks, and many hours of dedication to my literary projects.

Anticipate with me -- let yourself muse on this summer/autumn transition - we can compare notes -- the biorhythms of our intersecting journeys...

Summer sun eases
we can open night windows
to catch a soft breeze

Rise to my full height
savor the fruitful bounty
so within my reach


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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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