Tag Archives: journal therapy

Poem about last night

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They arrived in the dark.
I’d lit candles all around the house,
except on the big table. Waiting.

Wrapped in colorful coats, holding
purses and journals and expectations,
they alighted on my doorstep.

Bird by bird.

I embraced them all,
even the strangers.

They circled around the kitchen
counter, got their drinks, and
pecked at the snacks.

Names were exchanged,
connections were made,
compliments were shared.

No one questioned why I had
a Jane Austen ball gown hanging
on my pantry door. (until later)

Then we gathered in the circle,
and breathed our collective breath.

Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

The pens, and one pencil, emerged.
Some timidly, some boldly,
to scribe their words.

They were heard.
Names were dropped into the circle, like seeds.
Words, intentions, hopes and dreams were shared.
The candle flickered, and held their secrets.

They left in a flurry of jangling car keys,
re-wrapped grace scarves and last-minute questions,
and returned to the darkness from which they came.

But perhaps each carried, in their
hearts, the lit candle, a bit of warmth,
a sip of the sacred.

I cleaned up the kitchen,
went to bed, and closed my eyes.
When I opened them again, this time really opened them,
there they were, the birds, on the feeder.
Waiting for more.

Here.
In the garden.

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Filed under birds, garden, gratitude, journaling, meditation, sacred, welcome, writing

Women Writing for (a) Change: Why Here, Why Now

IMG_1188Tonight at dinner, when I mentioned the Divine Mother during a prayer, my son said, wryly, “So, it’s all about female gods for you now, is it?”

We then proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about Greek mythology — which he loves — and the origins of the female goddesses, then the shift to patriarchal models. He thought that perhaps this evolution was due to men’s superior physical strength.

I explained that the first figures worshipped and represented in cave drawings were women, because of their mysterious capacity to create new life. We then traced the evolution of that worship (for various reasons) from woman as Goddess to woman as property, given the right to vote in the United States just a short time ago.

“Did you know,” he said, rather seriously, “that in some countries today it’s forbidden for women to even speak in the presence of men?”

As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

A few years back, I started a blog called “One Brave Voice.” I wanted to express my feelings about politics at that time. The blog was short-lived; it quickly devolved into an argument with one particular person.

Maybe, my sister said to me afterward (a bit thoughtfully), maybe the blog was just your own still, small voice, trying to get your attention.

Hmmm.

After my marriage dissolved, I found my voice in the pages of my journal. I wrote, constantly, and the clean white pages were a container for my grief as well as my growth. Over time, the pages changed from dark lines of dense black ink to colorful, looping letters inside journals covered with birds, flowers, and butterflies. Each page was an opening into my own soul, my interior acre, my spiritual garden.

My journal listened to my inner voice, cultivated it, and nurtured it.

IMG_0670Last spring, I went on a field trip with my daughter. She’s an intelligent, lovely person and a budding biologist. As we ate lunch, I overheard the woman next to me, a biology teacher, talking about how, on another school field trip, she had directed two young girls to read some scripture out loud. She went on to say that her son had gotten up and walked away, and, when she had asked him where he was going, he reminded her that their church teaches that women cannot be spiritual leaders.

“What? I asked, incredulously.

“Oh, yes,” she said, blithely. “It’s true. It says that in the Bible. In Timothy.”

I could not believe my ears. Here was this woman, a teacher herself, actually defending this position, in today’s day and age. The message for me was, my daughter was not the equal of her son. That her voice was not as valuable as his.

I was outraged.


This summer, I studied Conscious Feminine leadership at the Women Writing for (a) Change school, founded in Cincinnati 20 years ago www.WomenWriting.org. After three weeks, I knew that opening an affiliate site in Jacksonville was my next step.

I don’t want to argue about politics.
I don’t want to argue about religion.

What I do want to do is create a space in Jacksonville for any woman, young or old, to feel welcome, honored and listened to, through the medium of writing and creative self-expression. It will be women writing for (a) change. And someone will be listening.

I live my life by several quotes these days. One is:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Hillel)

The other is,

“I will do what I can,
where I am,
with what I have.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)


wwfc-logo-box-final2Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, is simply the place where I am called. It’s where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” as Frederick Buechner said.

Please join me in the WWf(a)C mission: To nurture and celebrate the individual voice by facilitating supportive writing circles and by encouraging people to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community.

You can support this community in several ways: 1) SIGN UP today for the sampler series starting Oct. 9 at Re-Threaded; 2) HOLD THE SPACE if you can’t attend but would like to sponsor another woman from Re-Threaded’s staff to attend in your place; or 3) FORWARD this email to someone you know who would value this experience.

This event is a fund-raiser for Re-Threaded, which provides safe, viable, and dignity-giving work to survivors of the sex trade: www.rethreaded.com. I share the values of this organization, and want to support it as best I can. My goal is to raise $1,000 with this effort.

All the details are on my website: www.WomenWritingJacksonville.com. Thank you for listening and for your support. Even if all you do is simply hold the space for this dream to come to fruition, I would be most grateful.

Here.
In the garden called, Women Writing for (a) Change.

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The mama bluebird nestles

In the photograph, the mama bluebird nestles into the nest box.

Beauty, is my first thought.
How lovely she is!
Large, black eyes.
Beautifully aligned beak.
Her perfectly symmetrical head,
covered with the light and the dark.

Blue feathers.
Purple nest.
Brown wing tips.
Small, round opening from behind allows the light.

a143b0682ae811e3bc2222000a1f98f9_5I remember watching her build this nest on the “bird cam” we set up.  At first, she collected bits of the long, pine straw needles and laid them in the bottom of the box.  Eventually, she would hop into the box, lay dawn a straw, then twist and turn her little body, her tiny claws scratching an opening that was softened by the curve of her breast.

Over and over, she entered, nestled, and flew out again. It seemed a bit of an invasion of her privacy, but I hoped for her forgiveness.  I was learning so much, about how to build a nest, how to make a circle.

The nest box squared the circle.  Inside the edges, a universe opened up. And in this cosmos, the bottom of the nest, the chalice, the darkness, the center, the circle…she laid an egg.  And then another. And another. And another. Each sky blue oval was another universe, the infinity of the possibility of creation, the yoke inside — the golden circle — a place of infinite growth.

It was a lovely process to watch.

The first time I saw her enter the nest box, I hollered for the kids. ‟She’s in there, she’s in there!” I called.  They came running.  And when  first egg appeared, they were both thrilled.  (At least, that’s the way this mama bluebird chooses to remember it.)

To find my center,
I scratch with my feet a little,
and hunker down,
and rub my chest into the rough spots,
smoothing them with my love,
my patience,
my faith in the miracle of the circle.
A miracle of holiness.
A miracle of wholeness.

Here.
In the garden.

— from a journaling prompt, to describe a photograph, at the Women’s Circles, Women’s Stories writing retreat at the Center for Journal Therapy, Denver, CO, July 18, 2013

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Digging In The Dirt

Just for fun, here’s an interview with me that my colleague and friend, Jean Rowe, wrote for The Center for Journal Therapy last fall.  Some good dirt on me!  (Jean is the Program Manager and Oncology Certified Social Worker at Young Survival Coalition in Atlanta, and leads journaling workshops for young survivors.)

What is your relationship between actual gardening and journaling?

My garden is both a metaphor for my life and a literal experience, where I can connect with myself and the earth. In my journal, I write about both experiences. In the process, I learn a lot, about myself and about the world. Plus, I often write IN the garden. I have a bench in my front yard, tucked under a tree and near my bluebird nest box, and it is a delightful spot to journal in the early morning, among the birds and flowers.

What have your harvested from the garden that is your journal?

Stability. It’s an anchor, a root system, one that keeps me grounded. I write in my journal every morning, without fail, and often throughout the day. It’s how I find out what’s going on with me, how I process the events of my life, and connect with my spiritual self. These are all activities I did not do very well until recently.

Here’s the link for the rest of the article: http://twinstitute.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/C4JT-E-Zine-Autumn-2012-smaller.pdf

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Painted Bunting

Yes, that is a painted bunting.  In my garden.  First spotted by Camille on a feeder, then photographed by Matthew on the orange tree.

I think I first fell in love with birds at Mrs. Andes’ house (my piano teacher, in West Newton, Pa.)  She had a wonderful, well-maintained, neatly enclosed backyard, with bird feeders stationed all over it, including pine cones hung with peanut butter and seeds.  When I completed a piece as a little girl, she placed a bird sticker in my music journal, where she wrote her notes each week.  (I got to pick which bird from a sticker set.) And if my mom was late picking me up, and the next student came, I could spend time in her yard, watching and wondering at the order, at the grace, of a simple backyard of an elderly couple with no children, a small paradise for me and several lovely little birds.

We were standing at the kitchen counter tonight when Camille spotted the first painted bunting.  “Mom, Mom!” Urgent.  I always feel like I go into slow motion when she says that…can’t move quickly enough to see what she wants me to!

And there it was.  A painted bunting, on the feeder right outside the kitchen window, hanging on the hook-and-line contraption that Dad set up for me the last time I was here, so that I could raise and lower the feeder as needed off the pergola.  I was stunned, not quite sure what I was seeing.  Then Matthew said, “It’s a painted bunting, Mom!” And he picked up the Peterson’s bird guide that happened to be sitting on the counter, and there it was, right on the front cover. I couldn’t believe it.  Camille has always had extra sharp eyes.

Matthew got right to work, looking up the details on the bird in the book.  “There it is, Mom,” he said, as he showed me the migratory patterns, and pointed out that the little fleck of color on the tiny map meant that we would see buntings throughout the summer.  Wow.  The most glamorous bird I’d seen on that feeder before was a tufted titmouse last week, and I thought that was pretty darn exciting!

Of course, ol’ sharp-eyed Camille had also recently spotted two bluebirds checking out the nest box I had casually set on the baker’s rack on the back porch.  (Put that box up in the front yard last Saturday morning…more on that later.)

Matt decided we should always keep the camera handy from now on, and set it up with the long focus lens. And I decided we should start keeping a bird-spotting list.  I got a blank journal from my mini-stash (one with birds on it, of course), and documented the sighting.  Camille moseyed out from her room briefly to see what was going on, and Matt went outside with the camera.  All was quiet for a few minutes while I finished cooking, then Matt came in with his announcement: He’d seen several more male painted buntings, as well as a pale green female, and had the photos to prove it!

So, we set up for some more bird watching.  The kids set the table outside, under the pergola, while I finished up our dinner of breaded chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, and a salad of sliced red tomatoes, purple onion, balsamic vinegar, and green basil leaves picked from a container on the back porch.

Then Matthew read his favorite prayer from the Book Of Gratitude:  “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” And Camille said the follow-up prayer: “Help us to be grateful for everything we have, to remember to be kind, loving, and thankful, and to have a positive attitude about everything.”

And then we spotted another painted bunting, this time on the feeder at the far end of the yard.  Then he was gone, and back.  And gone and back again! Finally, two appeared at once, and rested in the cypress tree. It was quite a show, while we finished our dinner, the kids enjoying swishing the cutlets around in their ketchup (horrors).  “Why don’t you like ketchup?” Camille asked me for the thousandth time.

Then she hesitated, considered going inside, and instead pulled her latest English book, Lord of the Flies, from behind her on the chair. “Want me to read this you guys?” “Yes,” I said.

“You can learn a lot by reading books,” she pointed out, the understatement of the evening.

And by hanging out together, in the garden, watching birds.

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