Paris with Renee

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

e.e. cummings

September’s gift comes from Rosemary Powelson, once a colleague at Lower Columbia College. She taught art for many years, tap dances, acts in plays, and is a joyful soul living it up in the world. I think you’ll enjoy this travel story: She took her granddaughter to Paris–and it’s a lovely tale of how we can love each other well.

Thank you, Rosemary. I’ve fallen behind on my own blog-entries, but more will come. For now, how fun to share Rosemary’s story. When she told me about their time in Europe, I said, “Would you write that for us?”

*          *          *

metro-mademiselles
Metro mademiselles

One summer afternoon, some years back, my 10 year old granddaughter, Renée sat on the couch reading The Little House on the Prairie. Out of the blue she announced, “I want to go to Paris.”

“Sure, I said, when you’re 16.” I didn’t think much more about it, but soon I noticed her “Paris” t-shirts and the Eiffel Tower key chains hanging from her back pack. She had a big dream and trusted me to make it come true. I opened a savings account and started dreaming with her.

On her 14th birthday she looked me in the eye and asked, “Are we really going to Paris?”

“Yes,” I replied–and felt the train leave the station. Continue reading “Paris with Renee”

Changed For Good: Motorcycling in Marriage & Doing What You Thought You’d Never Do

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly,
you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

Shadow of motorcycleThis week I’ve invited writer and artist Majida Nelson to tell us about something that has inspired her life. You’ll love her story–one that begins on her 58th birthday–in the 99 degree “bake your skin off HOT” desert.

Besides numerous illustrations and art projects, Majida K. Nelson, writing as M.K. Nelson, published her first middle grade novel, THE RED ROYAL SECRET in November of 2012 (Puddletown Publishing Group). The adventures of camera-mad Lucky Lukenyenko, his best friend Ken Wong and tag along little sister Mei Ling unfold in contemporary Portland, Oregon but have roots in history. It’s a fun read–highly recommend!

A native Portlander, Majida and her husband, Mark, recently moved from the Hawthorne district all the way across town to Humbolt–our neighborhood in northeast. Majida is an avid gardener in the process of leading her neighborhood in the planting of more native habitat.

Thanks, Majida, for sharing your creative spirit and being the first guest-writer for L.I.T.!

Ride on! Write On! (or is it Right on!) and Boogie-woogie. . . I wonder if you have energy left to dance along the way. Maybe it is internal!

 

Riding the Motorcycle Pillion and how it changed my life for good

by MK Nelson

Pillion Post     May 2009
Grand CanyonWait a minute…it’s my birthday. 58 (but who’s counting?) and how am I celebrating? Sweating in 99 degree heat in California City (near Mohave–as in desert) “assisting” with a flat tire change. Mostly I’m keeping “the mechanic” here above watered inside and out.

We were cruising along in the 99 + degrees doing pretty well for maritime types. We hoped to get into the Desert Tortoise Reserve before noon. In the shade of a gas station we stopped to drink water and to get our bearings when I noticed a Harley guy coming across the lot. “Are you looking for a tire repair?”

Bewildered, we looked down at our rear tire. The bike had picked up a nasty shard of metal outside town and pierced our new tire.

Bikers look out for each other and thank our lucky stars for that. It was hot. We had a flat. The town had no motel. We needed lunch. Did I mention it was bake your skin off HOT? Continue reading “Changed For Good: Motorcycling in Marriage & Doing What You Thought You’d Never Do”

Poetry: Writing Our Relationship with Trees

“What we are doing to the forests of the world

is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing

to ourselves and to one another.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Cape D 2011 070Not long ago, John Fox led a poetry writing workshop in Portland, Oregon. The theme, “Writing Our Relationship With Trees” seemed ho-hum–until I attended.

During these two days I witnessed the wonder of words and sharing that happened as John offered prompts, read poems by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye–and invited the rest of us to write and share.

It’s amazing what can happen when we sit to write about and with these tall lives from deep root to branches–and when we write from our memories associated with maple, cedar, apple and pear. Trees help us to breathe, yet how often do we stop to contemplate their impact?

This week I want to share some of the writing from that weekend by Carolyn Norred, Esther Elizabeth and Peg Edera–all poets who have been previously featured on L.I.T..

On the second day of the weekend-workshop, we gathered around a near-by Red Cedar. If you haven’t leaned against one of these giants lately Continue reading “Poetry: Writing Our Relationship with Trees”

John Fox, Poetic Medicine & the Art of Listening

“Wherever I can find a place to sit down and write, that is my home.”

Mary TallMountain

John Fox
John Fox at Gleann Cholm Cille in Ireland

At Groiler’s, the one-room poetry bookstore in Harvard Square, back in 1996, I bought a copy of Finding What You Didn’t Lose— John Fox’s first book, subtitled, “Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making.”

“It’s important to be a witness and to be present to someone so they can edge out a little, then a little more. If I can be without judgment–or at least not show it–people feel safe,” he tells me.

It would be almost two decades before I would meet this kind listener, poet and poetry-therapist, though I thumbed through the chapters year-by-year–always a believer: Writing can heal. Writing does heal.

In the English 101 courses I taught for almost 20 years, I saw it happening. In essays students wrote week-by-week, journals they kept, conversations we shared, the world shifted.

Students  learned about themselves, writing words on the page. And we read poetry aloud and talked and wrote in response. They–and I, too–made connections and discovered possibilities for our lives. It was fun, and some who had recoiled in the beginning opened with the poetry.

From a young age, John knew he was a writer. Planning to study poetry with Ann Sexton and George Starbuck, he went to Boston University. Sexton would leave before her time, of course, and eventually John would transfer to Bard College. He continued his studies of literature though never called to deep-academia–earning a Ph.D. or publishing scholarly articles about Renaissance-men. He memorized Blake, Yeats, Ezra Pound and began exploring his spirituality with the likes of Ram Dass, later Stephen Levine, and he would eventually meet Joy Shieman–a poetry therapist Continue reading “John Fox, Poetic Medicine & the Art of Listening”

The Outlier: A Poem by Peg Edera & Thank You to William Stafford

“I tell you, Chickadee, I am afraid of people who cannot cry.”

Alice Walker

 

Peg1Portland’s icy-snow is melting, and some of us are staying warm with words.

For me it’s been sitting on the couch with one book after another, but on Friday night some lucky poets gathered at the Newmark downtown to celebrate what would have been Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford’s 100 birthday: Li-Young Lee, Mary Szybist, Kim Stafford, Matthew Dickman, Paulann Peterson and Tony Hoagland (Ted Kooser did not make it as planned) read their own work, some Stafford poems, and they each talked about the influence the late-poet had on their own lives.

I’m sorry I missed the event, but here’s a video worth checking out to take in some of William Stafford’s wealth of words and life, The Stafford Centennial: A Conversationan OPB production.

William Stafford is known as a poet who awoke early each morning to write. Everyday he would make poems, and when someone would ask how he does it, ask about those days when the muse didn’t seem to show up, he’d say, “I just lower my standards.”

We don’t gather at 4am in the morning, but a small circle of us meet several times a month and write poetry. During our darkest months, we gather as the sun rises, and that’s when Peg Edera wrote “The Outlier”.

Continue reading “The Outlier: A Poem by Peg Edera & Thank You to William Stafford”

Pippa Arend: Building Hope Through Relationships

 

“The more intimate you are with yourself,

the more intimate you can be with other people.”

Diane Hamilton, author of Everything is Workable

 

 

IMG_20140114_173723Soon after we moved to Portland last summer, our neighbors mentioned Pippa Arend, Development Director of p:ear (project education, art, recreation). They had attended a dinner-party at her Northwest-home–a fund-raiser for this non-profit that “creatively mentors homeless youth”.

“You should check it out,” Cam said. “They’re doing good work.”

Pippa, according to my neighbor, had turned personal loss into gain, had taken both her time and resources–not to mention her own “feral” youth (she would later tell me) and co-created a program serving homeless youth who struggle to find their fit–and to build hope for their future.

When in her late-20s, Pippa was thriving as artist and entrepreneur. After college in New England and a few love-sick years in Poland, she had worked with welding-artist Eric Peterson, owner of Unique Forms. By 28, she owned Tornado Creations, designing and selling high-end custom furniture.

“Life was fun but a little directionless. On the surface, it all seemed good, but my life lacked community and accountability.”

That’s when she met Joy “who, fortunately, saw something in me and asked if I’d volunteer teaching art to kids at The Greenhouse School where she worked.” Backed by The Salvation Army, Pippa loved this new work. But, after only six months, funding slipped away, and the school closed.

Continue reading “Pippa Arend: Building Hope Through Relationships”