Creative Arts and Healing
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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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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