Creative Arts and Healing
Dear friends and welcome guests --- My last entry had me anticipating Spring, and preparing to plant vegetables, and I was still wearing jeans and flannel shirts. No more! Now we are in the midst of grueling summer temperatures (in the high nineties with lots of humidity); my garden is sagging, the tomatoes almost gone, the basil hanging on, a few banana peppers and ikebana eggplants doing their best, and I'm about to head west to California for a two week adventure.

My brother Ron lives in Berkeley, and I haven't seen him since our dad died six years ago.
Tom and I will be staying in a pleasant hotel above a coffee house on the main drag near
the Berkeley campus (think restaurants, exotic boutiques, flower stalls, bakeries, cheese shops, etc), before we head north along the Pacific Ocean (long winding scenic coastal route) to Mendocino, a quaint (now upscale) artist/hippie town, next door to the state forest where we will be attending a Dances of Peace week-long camp. We will be sleeping in an old stone cabin built by the WPA in the 30's -- no heat, no electricity -- and did I mention it can get real COLD among the redwood trees? We're schlepping sleeping bags in a duffle on the plane, sweatshirts, chamois shirts, and other layers. When you've lived in Florida climes for 25 years, I believe the blood thins, and the cold is even colder (to the bone), so I am prepared for all eventualities.

The good news is that the archive I worked on for over a year -- compiling manuscripts into chapbooks under the Singing Bird Press label -- at the WEB DuBois Library at UMass/ Amherst, is up on the web now, and can be accessed at:

(Copy this link into your server. Once you have arrived and read the intro, click on Finding Aid to get to the collection itself. ) It is truly a relief and a joy to know that my writings will be safe, and eventually accessible to anyone around the world who has an internet connection, or who visits the archive (to actually hold my books in their hands). At this point i have not yet released the material to be retrievable electronically, but will muse a while longer on how I want this to be handled.

Which leads me to my next work: Prison Wisdom. I have returned to the women's prison in Tallahassee, after a year's hiatus as I worked on my archive. My current class just ended with the publication of a magical literary review (Imaginations Uncovered is the title). The creative writings of these women are stunning, poignant, articulate, sad, humorous, uplifting, and
courageous, and are a reminder that we are all working toward liberation, freeing ourselves not just from barbwire and the sameness of kkaki uniforms, but from all the constrictions of civilization and our own fears, obsessions, and doubts. Together, in this prison classroom, we have created a forcefield of positive energy, fueling our creativity and our self-regard, and the magazine reveals this alchemy. Much of what we have created will be channeled into my Prison Wisdom book -- prose and poetry (particularly Haiku), fact and fancy, the full gambit of the human condition, flowing through the power of the pen, and the muse that guides us.

This fall, I will be returning to the prison to start another class (new women), but also will offer a graduate class, for the individuals who are still in prison who have taken Lifestories
with me, and can now continue to deepen their writing practice. At the same time, I will be gathering the component parts to weave into an inspired and inspiring manuscript. My intention is to have Prison Wisdom available in every prison library, every public library, in criminal justice and literature classes, and any other organization or institution that could benefit from its powerful message: we are all mirrors to one another, part of the interdependent web of humanity,and we each have a voice of value to share. How potent and redeeming is that!

May summer bring you many excursions to lakes, mountains, rivers, oceans, prairies,
forests; may you enjoy sunrises and sunsets, starry nights, moonbeams illuminating
the landscape, sunshine and rain, train rides, bicycle rides, time to dance, praise,
hug, inhale the scent of flowers, of strong coffee or delicate cups of fragrant tea. May
you treasure the moments of connection with your fellow humans, and animals, and
great towering trees; may you read a bounty of books, and write your own stories, and poems, and share them, around a campfire, with a glass of wine, on screened porches, in hammocks, at the dinner table. Life is a gift and a mystery, always inviting us to discover and embrace the infinite dimensionality of our world.

Pausing is so wise
delighting in the richness
of what is here now



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Dear friends -- Somehow time has elapsed since I last sat here and penned (metaphorically speaking) this entry to you. In the meanwhile, I celebrated my 71st birthday (after the big 70, this seemed like i was starting over, as in one, two, three) with little to-do, had my annual beach retreat with my college girlfriend Ann at St. George Island, where I wrote bountiful haiku, buffed up my tan, and worked on a time-line of my life to send to my Archive (at UMass/Amherst). What a trip down memory lane, doing a rear view mirror life-review, starting with my birth in 1944 at a Detroit, Hospital, to parents who were only 24 and 25 and already had another child (brother Ron)! and ending with my life at Haiku Garden, Tallahassee, Florida, 2014 (age 70). What constituted major events, what stood out as compelling in my evolution of me? The themes that emerged from this fascinating exercise were of value: tracing my life as a woman of letters, a "strong woman" (from a "long line of strong women" in my mother's oft-stated pronouncement) participating in the 2nd wave of the feminist movement in America, my life as a teacher and healer, my prison ministry, (from its inception to present time), etc etc. I could see as the time-line progressed how in fact there were several timelines braided together, and I find myself wondering if it would be valuable to offer a workshop on time-lines, to gain perspective on the trajectory of one's life.

Then one could choose to focus on one element, or one period of time, and flesh it out,
or use the time-line as a guide to writing a memoir... In any case, I'll never forget typing
at the beach cottage's dining room table and calling out to my friends: "Now I'm graduating from Antioch!" " or Now I'm on my trip around America!" or "Now I'm marrying Tom!" or "Now Alana is graduating from UF!" And inbetween all the "important events" and people,
how could i forget (although they got little mention) my beloved felines: way back to my first cat as a young child growing up in San Francisco. Her name was White Tar, because she was white with black splotches. She was so passive she would let me put a baby bonnet on her and push her in my old buggy down the sidewalk!!! My love of cats never paled, and each one holds a special place in my heart. Same goes for my parakeets! I do believe my current one, Monet, did make it into the bio part of my time-line, anyway!

Reviewing all the people who have affected my life, was in itself, a novel all its own.
From childhood friends thru college friends through my work at Liberation News Service with the collective, my move to Portland and the women's movement era, etc etc, on up through my healing work and all the students who have written with me, or danced with me, or learned healing touch in my workshops. Those of you reading this blog who fall into the category of old friends, let me thank you now, for giving me your love, support, inspiration, courage, humor, and for sharing your challenges, losses, sorrows, as well as your victories and joys. How blessed are we who have kept in touch with old friends, while making new ones, always open to the vast potential of the human beings who happen at any moment to intersect us on a shared time-line...

So, is it winter or spring? In Florida they have a way of blurring edges. The first daffodils have shown up, yet the winter camellias are still in full-swing, the nights are cold enough
for a heavy quilt, but some of the days are hot enough to sit outside in jeans and a t-shirt and soak up the sun. It's time to put the peas and spinach and broccoli and chard into the ground, even though my winter chard is still growing (in various beds around my homestead). For the first time in the history of my life, my huge avocado bush, that sits
on the deck and invites birds to alight before they flit to the feeder -- has flowers on it, which may very well mean avocados. Wow!

What's coming up in the future? Making my first shipment to the Archive: my four self-published books, my 14 Singing Bird Press chapbooks (compilations of my life in writing),
various small press anthologies, and a few random magazines with my articles in them,
as a starter. How exciting to know my work will sit on a shelf and that people may find me (through the Archive website) and want to read my works, want to see how I fit into the arc of history (or herstory), what sense i made of civilization "and its discontents", what gave me happiness and what made me weep. It's all there. And lucky for me, it all continues....

As one of my Haiku composed at St. George expressed it:

Waves roll in and out
my life is an epic tale
washed clean every day

Happy Springtime, it cometh! And May the sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way home....


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At last! The breeze comes through the open window, i'm actually wearing a light robe, and I'm back talking to you, welcome guest!

While the summer seemed endless, as summers down south tend to be, now it seems to have wooshed by, because of course now is the present moment, and the leaves are scattered all over my back hill, no mistaking the season.

I'm happy to report that I am the proud mother of 10 Singing Bird Chapbooks: A Dream to Ride On (Selected Poems); If I Live to be 100 (mini-essays); The Millenium Poems (written during Y2K); The Odin Stories (Tales of an Enlightened Cat); 3 short story collections age 15-23, 34-45, and 52-70); Inn at Stone Cairns (a novella); In the Beginning was The Word (selected essays), and "Free Your Sister, Free Yourself" - The Women's Liberation Years. The labor was sometimes smooth and sometimes challenging, but it was so worth it, and has provided me with an unexpectedly moving Life Review. Every poem and piece of prose, every photograph and autoharp song, has a story beneath the story. I lived it, I created it,
and now it shall be archived, so as to sum up (if one ever can) the life of one woman.

I should add that eventually UMass (The WEB DuBois Library) will also receive my 500 or so journals. Can you see scholars of the future diving into my deepest secrets? I hope they do, and I hope what they find is how I intersected history (herstory), how my story is both
totally original and unique, but also the story of an American, who lived through the 40's, 50's 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, into the new millenium and beyond -- an Aquarian, teacher, healer, mother and wife, a gardener, dancer, lover (to be sure), a beach bummess, scrabble player, visionary humanitarian, a human being of quirks and foibles, who left her trace on the great fabric of time. whew!

What's coming up this season??? More chapbooks (the order still to be determined),
a trip or two to the beach, more wednesday evenings with the women's spirit-group i have been privileged to be part of for more than a year, a Lifestories women's group I've been attending for a decade! (it pays to stay in one place long enough to be able to say this); more adventures with husband and daughter (Alana, as you recall, lives in Tallahassee and works as an architect at a local firm), more Haiku poetry, more planting and reaping, more dreaming, more connecting up with far flung friends and pen-pals (including four prison inmates I correspond with), taking me up to the end of the year... with many surprises in store, I'm sure, and would i have it any other way?

Thank you once again for being part of my story, my life, my evolution. Even if we have never met in person, our paths, through these words, has crossed. I hope to know you better. You are a mirror and a gong, to reflect and wake me. Let's continue our pilgrimage together....

And let us, as we journey, bring peace to the troubles of the world, let us visualize a world without violence, based on respect, creativity and compassion. Each of us, one day at a time


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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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