Get L.I.T.! Saying Goodbye to 2014

“To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest source of all personal happiness.”

Bertrand Russell
(favorite reminder-words of the year!)

 

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Kalaloch, Pacific Coast, Washington

It’s been a world of L.I.T. in 2014–Lives Inspiring Today.

Thanks to each of you who have traveled along. It’s been a pleasure to notice and note so many people who are making a difference in our world–and doing good stuff.

From friends Julie Buccerri and Stacey Hill in Massachusetts who are teaching kids to think and act with care, to the many poets who invite us to feel and see in ways we might not otherwise–Peg Edera, Esther Elisabeth, Carolyn Norred, Sarah Kinsel, Glenna Cook and John Fox: Thanks for letting me talk with you, for letting me write about you, and for letting us feature your work.

When I look back over the months, it is fun to see some of the people I’ve met this year- Continue reading “Get L.I.T.! Saying Goodbye to 2014”

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”

Galen Doucette & Liza Baer: Committment Toward a Better World

“If you make it a habit not to blame others,

you will feel the growth of the ability to love

in your soul, and you will see the growth

of goodness in your life.”

Leo Tolstoy

20141016_110705_AndroidSome people endeavor to study for a PhD in microbiology or medieval literature. Others take a year or two to travel the world, learn about other cultures and people, and begin their own business or perhaps parent a humanitarian non-profit to better living conditions for people in Sudan. Another path might lead a person to medical or law school or maybe to begin a family while teaching history. Fewer people make the choice Galen Doucette, 31, and Liza Baer, 30, have made: Beginning April 4, 2015 they will enter into a cloistered life for the next three years and three months.

liza-bowls-buddha-croppedThey are the youngest who will be a part of the group at Ser Chö Ösel Ling (SCOL), the retreat land in Goldendale, Washington built by KCC (Kagyu Changchub Chuling) a Tibetan Buddhist organization in Portland, Oregon. So far, Galen will be the only man, though traditionally more men than women have chosen to enter a long retreat which often lead a retreatant to become a lama (spiritual leader).

Our one certainty: The times are always a-changing, and this week I’d like to share Galen’s story because he’s quite a guy–and I had plenty of time to talk with him while out cooking for a retreat in October.  I  also invite you to meet Liza Baer who tells her own story quite beautifully at her website.

If you are inspired, Continue reading “Galen Doucette & Liza Baer: Committment Toward a Better World”

In Season! Sauteed Delicata Squash with Carmelized Onions & Feta

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”

-W.C. Fields

For IMG_20141116_152131this week, why not get down to basics? Food and the harvest can keep us warm.

Friends have been swapping recipes all over the internet lately, but here’s one I picked up at the King Farmer’s Market this icy morning.

To give shoppers a sense of what’s possible, the market managers, Anna and Amber, have arranged for someone to demo a recipe each week. They offer a sampling of food and highlight a piece of the bounty being sold by local farmers.

They often choose a vegetable people might not know how to cook–like delicata squash: It’s wonderful! No peeling necessary! Slice, seed, saute–or toss into a saag or a stew. Options are endless.

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The farmers and vendor and people like Amber and Anna who make the market happen are inspiring. They help to build community–while providing fresh food. And this extra effort–the cooking onsite–gives all of us some new way to find delight.

The cook looked happy as she chopped the delicata and sauteed it fresh. She then mixed in the already caramelized onions–and sprinkled some fresh cheese on top. (Since no one sold feta today, she bought what a vendor had on hand.)

sauteed delicata squash with onion and fetaWe had today’s demo-recipe for dinner tonight–along with beet greens harvested from the garden yesterday–and some leftover brown rice.

What’s inspiring? Anna and Amber run the market, and a lot of others work alongside and behind the scenes. It’s dedication. It’s community-building. Thanks for being there!

 

Click the recipe image to expand.

“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.”

-Orson Welles

Brooke Hall’s Leap Into the Wilderness

 “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing

when no one else is watching

– even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

Aldo Leopold, 1887-1948

Ecologist & author of A Sand County Almanac

 

20140621_183222_AndroidMy interest in the outdoors started when I was horseback riding as a child,” says Brooke Hall, now a Naturalist teaching children survival skills, ethnobotany, bird language, primitive crafts and wildlife tracking.

“Some of my favorite memories of riding are through fields outside of San Antonio–finding a swarm of bees in a tree, or encountering a rattle snake on a road. In New Hampshire, I remember being bundled up on chilly fall days, following trails amongst the colorful fall trees.”

Brooke says she did lots of exploring and loved being outside with the horses and all of the hard physical work that went along with the sport. “I loved being covered in hay, dirt, horse hair, and sweat.”

Though her parents aren’t outdoorsy types, they supported their only child to do what she loved.

Riding taught her how to jump into things and not be afraid to get dirty.

“I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to cover myself in mud and crawl around on the forest floor practicing native scout skills this year if I hadn’t had those early experiences.”

Brooke spent nine months as a student in the Wilderness Awareness School’s Anake Outdoor School–about 30 miles northeast of Seattle. She learned to track wolves, build fire from friction Continue reading “Brooke Hall’s Leap Into the Wilderness”

When No One Is Watching: Thank You Parents–and It Takes a Village

Wear gratitude like a cloak and
it will feed every corner of your life.

~Rumi

 

20140917_162617_AndroidThe other day I had my annual appointment with *Jennifer, my dental hygienist.

“You have two kids, right?” I say in-between fingers in my month. She’d already told me about her son who’s off to college.

“He’s always been so easy. Things always turn out for that kid.” Happy glow she tells me how once he told an elementary school teacher, “This is my favorite holiday–not because it’s Halloween but because it’s my mom’s birthday, too.”

“My youngest is 16–a strange age.” Her voice tightens. “He’s driving now and he got himself a job, but recently he said to me, ‘It’s okay if I’m a little late,’ –and I about went wild on him.”

She looks at me for confirmation and I smile.

This generation! I can’t stand that kind of attitude–as if it’s okay to be casual about everything. That is NOT okay! People are counting on you,” she told her son.

“Then he asked me a week later if he can go to the Homecoming Dance. He was scheduled to work that night, but he says to me, ‘I can leave early,’ and I tell him ‘No. No you can’t: You made a commitment. You can’t just leave early. People are counting on you.’

I nod sympathetically, wondering how this story is going to turn out. “At least he got himself a job,” I manage as she completes the polish.

“The next week he asks if he can take a day off work to go watch his girlfriend’s volleyball game. It’s the same conversation, and I ask him this time, ‘How long have you known about her game?’ and he says ‘A couple of weeks.'”

He was talking to his mom about this conflict the day before the volleyball game.

After each of these scenes, Continue reading “When No One Is Watching: Thank You Parents–and It Takes a Village”

The Other Side of Silence: Chopping Onions and Peeling Potatoes–Cooking at SCOL

 “The way to the star

can often be

to pick up a stone.”

Roger Housden, Risking Everything

20141025_172251_Android-crop2For a bunch of years I would spend at least a week of my summer break away in silence. Usually to Cloud Mountain, in Castle Rock, Washington, I would attend one of the Buddhist retreats. Though I hadn’t identified as Zen, Tibetan, Theravadan or even Buddhist, I loved the deep quiet.

Besides the stillness and gentle guidance, scrumptious vegetarian meals were served, and it was a luxury to not worry about feeding myself or anyone else. I simply showed up to the table and filled my plate.

Those “vacations” from the whirl of the world nourished: Besides the food, I could witness the wildness of my very own mind making a big mess of things with no danger of doing further immediate damage. I didn’t need to figure out what to say to anyone.

Odd as it may seem, I’d return from my days away more refreshed than from most beach-vacations. Many times, some trouble I was feeling had worked itself out–or didn’t seem such a big deal. Some crazy relationship with a colleague, a neighbor or someone in my family didn’t seem quite so impossible. The luxury of quiet allowed me to observe how my own mind creates the chaos, drama, and constant travels back in time and hops into the future. Continue reading “The Other Side of Silence: Chopping Onions and Peeling Potatoes–Cooking at SCOL”

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”

“Kindness”–A Poem For All Times, by Naomi Shihab Nye

“I write to learn rather than to spout off what I already know.”

Ellen Sussman

naomishihabnyeI learn a lot when writing these blog posts–usually when writing anything. This week’s musing on the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye led me to new places. I had to think about why I’d been drawn to the poem so many years ago, and I also learned what led her to write the poem. It had been too long since I read “Kindness” out loud, and then I listened to her reading–which you can find at the end of this post (the 3 min. video where she tells how she came to write this and another poem!)

When Ludger and I got married, it wasn’t fancy, and it wasn’t long-thought-out either. Invitations were sent a few weeks before the late-December date because his parents and brother would be visiting from Europe.  My father canceled his plans to take his family to Arizona, and they drove down, the almost-two-hours, to be with us on our marriage day. My sister threw me a wonderful shower sometimes that December , and we found a dress, special earrings–and spent the night at a bed-n-breakfast sort of place the night before.

The most fun I had preparing for the ceremony and reception involves the poem “Kindness”: It was one of the poems I chose to include in a collection we put together. Ludger translated some of the poetry into German so his parents could read, and we hung the poems around the room. After our wedding day, we bound them between purple cover pages, for keepsake. More than photos to remember the union-day, I have the poetry to remind me of our vows.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye was read aloud–by my friend, Najeea. It had been an important poem. I discovered it when a teaching colleague lent me the collection Words Under the Words (isn’t that a super title!?!) Those were the years just after I’d lost my mother. This was a poem I read and reread, and it gave me comfort. Then, when I moved to a small town where I felt alone and out of place, I read it as meditation and often to students those years when I would begin every class meeting with the reading of a poem. Continue reading ““Kindness”–A Poem For All Times, by Naomi Shihab Nye”

Glenna Cook: Gentle Voice Telling Her Truth

“Finding beauty in a broken world may be creating beauty in the world we find.”

Terry Tempest Williams

 

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Poet, Glenna Cook, visiting us in Portland

Almost twenty years ago, I met Glenna Cook in a poetry workshop. Six of us gathered round a dining room  table in Tacoma, Washington. We talked and wrote, wrote and shared. Glenna was twice my age–literally–and back then it seemed a lot of years–a huge gap.

To my younger self, our life-experiences and concerns seemed unalike. Nonetheless, outside of our poetry workshop, we met up at the local Borders Bookstore, swapped a poem or two and traded stories. We witnessed each other’s writing struggles and stubbornness, and once went to the Skagit Poetry Festival together and shared a room at a motel in Mt. Vernon. When I moved two hours south for a full-time teaching gig, we stayed in touch.

Those thirty years between us don’t seem to matter much anymore: The truth is, I appreciate Glenna now more than ever. A lot’s happened since I was 30, in that poetry workshop writing some of my first poems: Loss and gain, birth and death, anniversaries and marriages–sharing stanzas by email most of the time.

Our friendship is a gift which gives me a glimpse into life from a woman who’s lived a few decades longer Continue reading “Glenna Cook: Gentle Voice Telling Her Truth”