Creative Arts and Healing

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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My goodness, how did that long oven hot season suddenly depart, and the welcome breezes of autumn stir me to action again? For I am in the middle of my fall classes -- teaching Lifestories at the women's prison, and for OLLI, a senior institute connected to FSU. I also offered a program for the Tallahassee Writer's Association on "Fables and Fantasies,"
a delightful session for writers who really want to enjoy themselves, not sweat over revision, craft, or anything else to deter their vivid imaginations from taking flight! Here's a fun exercise for anyone reading this blog today. Find a partner, one of you choose an animal (say, a rhinoceros) and the other an inanimate object (say, a washing machine). You each take these prompts, and begin your fable with Once upon a time (a rhinocerus found herself tired of washing her garments in the muddy river, so she set out in search of.... etc!).. Once you have written your fables, you share them with one another, and laugh at the differences in your stories or even at the amazing similarity (one never knows).

... But aside from the joy of my classes, and soon, the pleasure of compiling the literary reviews for each group of students, there is "the rest of my life," which, if you have visited my blog before, you know means time in the garden, my big wonderful yard filled with stone pathways, planting beds, container flowers, statues and temples, a victorian cottage (once my daughter's play hut), adirondack chairs, a mighty and fecund grapefruit tree (that my mother planted, 3 months before she died, 13 years ago), camellia bushes and trees galore, and so much more, a homestead I tenderly refer to as "Haiku Garden" for all the Haiku I have written here, in the last 25 years, and to the future poems too, that will one day emerge. Time in the garden, yes, but much time reading too, and visiting Tallahassee's public library, time cooking, or as mom always said "arranging food", time changing sheets, throwing in a wash, feeding my cat (and bird), visiting with my daughter (still local, a working architect), going dancing with my husband, or to a movie or play, or for a brisk walk down to Cascades Park, the newest addition to public space, just ten minutes from us.

I confess I also read news magazines, and the New Yorker, and get the Sunday New York Times, and tune in to the machinations of advanced 20th (or is this 21st?) century problems, adventures, crises, -- such as the current campaign for president, or the refugees fleeing war-torn nations and other privations, fleeing with just a small bag of possessions, children in hand or in their arms, looking for a place that will take them in and give them a new home. All this is happening, along with the weather - the storms, the hurricanes, the flooding, the droughts, the earthquakes, as well as gorgeous sunshine, tender rain, full moon radiance, shining stars -- it's all happening, but you could never possibly describe it all, you can only go on living your life to the best of your ability, and feel compassion for the world's sorrow and the world's suffering peoples...

Yes, it is autumn, that exhilarating time of year, that I so love -- when leaves change color, even "down here," and one can actually put on a sweater, and use a quilt on one's bed. Fall is full of energy, of focus, of, in my work, passing on my devotion, my enthusiasm, for the
wisdom of the pen, inviting all my students to share their voice, to know it is of value, that they are of value, and that our collective force field is a powerful gift not just to us, but to all who our words touch now, or will touch later.

I reach out to you - my readers - friends - colleagues - strangers - who could be friends - and wish you the best of this harvest season -- homemade pumpkin pie, blooming chrysanthemums, hot apple cider with cinnamon, a good book, a hot shower or bath,
a walk thru the leaves, a contemplation of autumns past which have brought you to
this autumn, and ask that you add your voice to this human serenade, this travelogue of possibility, of heartbreak and ecstasy, just pick up the pen, it will always be ready to accompany you, as you jot down the notes of today, in its ever expansive catalogue of

Autumn wind chimes blow
casting a magical spell
on the one who types

Lift me higher now
let me spill my poems for you
golden like your leaves

Colorful music
to guide my contemplation
into fall's mirror


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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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