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Posts Tagged ‘the practice of gratitude’

Mr. Stripeypants wraps his feline body, a curled half moon in front of the space heater. Liz is still sleeping. Out on the deck, the bear chimes I purchased in Ely last July ripple with the wind. The sky is dark. It’s 50 degrees. Later in the day, the wind will pick up, the air will drop into the twenties. November darkness refuels my passion for the Arts. It’s a chance to reflect, to take stock of my life. Not the long term dreams and goals I harnessed as a twenty-year-old. But the smiling clerk in the grocery line at Byerly’s, lunch alone at Como Park, the smile in my lover’s eyes — minutes that end up creating years. I am grateful for each moment.

I used to dread change. I thought it meant the loss of loved ones, the fleeing of love, abandonment. Now I welcome what is fresh and new, the unplanned. Change means I don’t have to cling to what I have lost. Change means I don’t have to stay stuck where I am — emotionally, spiritually, physically. Change means I am willing to face the future. Change means I don’t have to like something or someone to accept them, or forgive. Change means the body breaks down, the mind remains stubborn, the heart swells with appreciation. Change. I am grateful for change.

Thank you to family, friends, readers, teachers, patrons of the Arts. Because of you, my life feels rich and full. Happy Thanksgiving.



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Gratitude Writing Practice 2012


A is for altitude, the steady climb before the peregrine’s dive. B, let me not be brittle, but open to the opportunities life has to offer. C is for centered, concrete, creative, cushion. D, that last cool drink of water from a mountain stream. E, grateful for all the Elizabeths in my life. F will always be for family and friendships, for those who have stuck with me, even when I hit my bottom. G, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So much to be thankful for. H reminds me not to hurry. Slow down. Watch for the edges. Hypocrisy, emerald hedges, the hollow bone. I, irresistible words. Letters, dots, dashes, the incurable love affair with language. J is for justice, judges, journey work. The realization that I can’t control what is just and fair. Acceptance of the slow turn of arbitration. Solomon. Did he have it right? K is for the keys to the passage, low island reef at high tide. Keystone, quoin, foundation, groundwork. L for the lionhearted, those with courage, grace under pressure, the fearless who inspire me. M, morgue, decay, melodrama, the things we leave behind. Laurie Anderson reminded me, it is in times of death that we experience the most intense feelings of love. Anyway, N is for nesting, nudging noxious thoughts away, purging what is not useful to living a full-hearted life. O, owing a debt of gratitude to those who serve humanity. Out-of-the-way places where I can be my true self, unmasked, unafraid of a face-to-face with my own shortcomings. P is for play, paper, Mr. StripeyPants, Kiev, parables forming nuggets of truth. Q, there are Questions, there can never be too many questions. Quandaries, crossroads, quagmires, quests. A call to action. R, rest, solitude, unconnected, unavailable, alone. Remember, reverberate, don’t be too rigid. S, steady, slow, steadfast. Grant me the serenity. Sugar, shug. T, the topple of empires built on shifting sands. Trounced by the tough and true-hearted. U is for unburden, unbroken, unbound. Underdog, under the weather, underestimated. V, vivacious, high-spirited, don’t play your cards so close to the vest. W, the winsome and wise do not dismiss what is wistful and wintry. A windfall comes your way. X is for seeing through the xenophobic, just in the nick of time. Y, yearning for solitude, receiving a yen, unwilling to be the yes woman, corralling the yowling, howling courage of my youth. Z, life is a zigzag of faithful moments laced with bad decisions, and wretched zaniness. A short walk through zoological gardens of wonder, a long conversation. Listen. Listen.


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-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks, This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal, A Simple Gratitude List, gratitude haiku (orange), The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List

-posted on red Ravine, Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2012

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cool auto p20111126-115412

Cool To The Touch, by the Thanksgiving fire with friends, Droid Shots,
edited with Little Photo, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, November 2011, photo
© 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Gratitude unfolds,
hot fire in the belly
cool to the touch—
River of self-doubt,
I carry the light
all the days of my life.






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 27th, 2011

-related to posts: haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks

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Gratitude Mandala

Gratitude Mandala, Dymo LabelWriter 1895, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Prang Metallic Markers, Tul Permanent Markers, Black Sharpie, Crayola Colored Pencils, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Inspired by ybonesy’s journal post (This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal), and with a little Holiday time on my hands, I took a different approach to my yearly Gratitude List. I still used the alphabet as a jumping off place. But instead of making a vertical list, I wound around the first page of Gratitude List, Journal Style the journal I’ll be using for my Journal Practice 2011. Then took the major categories of that list and incorporated them into a November mandala.

I always feel full and abundant after making a Gratitude List. The passing of time can be difficult, scary, life-threatening. But remembering what I am grateful for eases whatever pain I have felt. It tips the balance.

I want to move into the New Year giving thanks. Christening a new journal with a Gratitude list comes from a place of wholeness, leaving feelings of scarcity and lack in the dust!

Thanks for the inspiration, ybonesy. And I have so much gratitude for our red Ravine readers. I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving weekend.



At The Mandala's Center

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 28th, 2010

-related to posts: The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, A Simple Gratitude List, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-), Coloring Mandalas, On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Loteria Journal

Lotería Journal, altered Moleskine cover with ybonesy doodles (plus Caran d’Arch, gouache, and ink pen), design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




I love journals. I’ve written about my love of journals. I have doodle journals and writing journals, and I even have my first ever journal, a gift from my sister Bobbi, who got it for me as part of a Scholastic book order she made for her new class. She gave it to me about the time she started teaching: 1974. I was 13 years old, a newly minted teen, and my journal (it was actually more of a diary, although I’m not sure what the difference is) was the perfect place to log news of piddly babysitting jobs (for which it was not uncommon to make 75 cents!), swim lessons, and crushes. That early journal got me believing that any life—even one so boring as my own—was worth recording.

That’s the beauty of the journal. That it might collect the ordinary and occasional extraordinary goings-on of your existence. And that someday you might look back on it as one experiences the family photo album. Memory, insight, a looking glass into your world, or at least a snippet of it.

So it is not surprising that I’ve recently discovered the joy of making journal art. I’m not sure what else to call it. I take blank journals—the basic Moleskine works great—then figure out designs to create on the covers. It’s a fun project, one that can easily be done over a long holiday weekend.


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loteria journal in process (one) loteria journal in process (two)



To make the Lotería Journal, which I fashioned after the Mexican Lotería cards, I used the following items:

  • Moleskine or other journal – I like the Moleskine brand, but it is a bit pricey. Any simple journal will do; for this project it’s best to stay away from leather or cloth covers.
  • Gesso – to apply to the cover so that you can color or paint the cover (the gesso acts both as a whitening agent to better absorb and reflect light in color, as well as a primer so that whatever you apply bonds well to the surface).
  • Evenly sized images – for this journal I used my own, but you could cut images out of magazines or tear out cool papers and draw different designs on each one.
  • Mod Podge – to glue the images to the Moleskine cover, and later, once the piece is completely done, I’ll paint the entire cover with Mod Podge to seal the design and give it a glossy finish.
  • Paints and wax crayons – to add color.
  • A black pen, preferably permanent, but if you use an impermanent one, just make sure it is completely dry, and when you do your final paint with Mod Podge, do a quick brush; don’t go back and forth or linger else the black ink will smudge.
  • Brushes – a one-inch one for the Mod Podge and a small one for my paints (both of which I keep in water while I’m not using them).


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And given that we are in the Thanksgiving season, I can’t think of a better use of a lovingly created journal than to transform it into a Gratitude Journal. Now, folks out there may practice daily Gratitude, but for my part, this is an area that I’d like to improve. I want to spend more time giving thanks for what I have and less time wanting whatever it is I don’t have.

A Gratitude Journal can take several forms. One idea is to use it as a way to say Thank-You to someone in your life. My sister Janet once created this type of Gratitude Journal for me, although we didn’t call it that back then. But now as I think about it, that’s exactly what it was.

About thirteen years ago I organized a trip to Spain for my dad, Janet, another sister, and my sister-in-law. The five of us spent two weeks traveling all over the country, staying in unique and at times quirky places. An olive-farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast, a renovated monastery, and a former brothel, for example. We had a wonderful time, and afterward Janet made me a journal as a memento of our experience. Handmade paper adorned the front and back covers, and inside on a long single sheet of paper that she folded like an accordion, she made a collage of different scenes from the trip.

You could create a Gratitude Journal and inside turn it into a personalized Thank You to someone close to you. I know I often pull out the journal my sister made for me. It’s so much richer than a Thank You card.



gratitude journal (one)
gratitude journal (two)



A Gratitude Journal could also be something you keep for yourself over a certain period of time—say, the upcoming year—to help practice gratitude in your life. There are a lot of ways you can do this. For example, each day you could think about what it is you’re grateful for and then write about that particular topic. Or make a doodle about it, or do a collage on that page.

QuoinMonkey wrote a post at the end of 2007 titled Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List. She made her list at the end of the year, as has been a tradition of hers for several years now. Here you can see her Gratitude List from 2007 looking forward to 2008, along with mine. And here are QM’s Gratitude Lists from 2009 and 2010. You could follow QM’s example and dedicate a sheet of paper to each letter of the alphabet and see what flows onto the page.

Or maybe your Gratitude Journal project is more about simply focusing this weekend on creating a beautiful cover for your journal. Maybe that in itself is the act of Gratitude, giving Thanks by allowing yourself to spend a few hours making art.

And speaking of giving Thanks, QM and I are immensely grateful for the community and inspiration we’ve received over the years from working together and from all of you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!



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love journal



prayer practice journal

Journal Art, mixed media journal covers—washi paper, Caran d’Arch, collage, small wooden canvases top two), postage stamp (third), stickers, etc., design © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.


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-Related to post On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Gray Spring day in Minneapolis. Rain pings the windows of my Casket Arts studio, wind rustles the frayed telephone wires. I’m staring at a city shrouded in fog. A Westclox Big Ben on the table next to me ticks away the minutes; the first quarter of 2010 is history. March in Minnesota was one of the warmest and most snowless in 100 years.

In the context of a whole century, the 90 days I’ve persevered with the BlackBerry 365 Project seems like a small effort. In busy human terms, it feels like forever. Some days, the photographs are grayed out snapshots with little focus. Other days, I can see the image framed and hung on the wall. It’s the nature of creative effort. And the boundlessness of living.

Once a quarter, I’d like to acknowledge this strange little body of work with a slideshow of my favorites. The project makes me keenly aware of the passage of time. Endings. New beginnings. I am learning patience, the consistent ability to show up for myself, progress not perfection.

I am grateful for the support. Thank you. And if there is anything you notice about the photography — subject matter, framing, content, I’m all ears. What seems lacking, what’s appealing? Sometimes we are too close to projects and practices to see them clearly. Hearing from others can help tap into new veins of work.



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Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter, favorites from 90 days of shooting & posting a phone photo a day, January 2010 – March 2010, all photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Note: the full BlackBerry 365 set is posted on my Flickr account. Along with a daily commentary of little details about the photograph, where I took it, what I was doing that day. I’m excited to be heading into Spring. Expect days to move from white, ice blue, and gray to seaweed, azure, and copper green.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, April 2nd, 2010

-related to post: BlackBerry 365: Things Loved, Things Learned

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Letter From Elizabeth Alexander, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Our Poetry & Meditation Group began meeting again in January. We celebrated new beginnings with the poetry of Ruth Stone (the poet mentioned in Carolyn Flynn’s piece An Evening With Elizabeth Gilbert & Anne Lamott). This Friday we’ll read the work of Pablo Neruda.

It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago when we gathered to learn more about poet Elizabeth Alexander. We went around the circle and read her poems. Then, in gratitude, sent a card thanking her for her work. A few weeks later, she would be reading at the inauguration of Barack Obama.

A few of us met in South Minneapolis that historic Winter day to watch the inauguration on the big screen at Sabathani. When Elizabeth got up to read, we knew a little about her life; we had read her poems. We never dreamed the poet would write back. Then, one frosty day in March, her letter arrived in Teri’s mailbox. We passed the parchment during poetry group:



My dear friends in Minnesota,

Thank you for your lovely card and my apologies for my late reply. I’ve found myself in an unusual whirlwind for the last few months.

It was indeed an honor to speak at the inauguration. One of the wonderful gifts that comes from reading is hearing from people like you. What a precious group you have! I hope it continues to flourish.

Yours,

Elizabeth



Last week I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation. At the end of the segment Henry Louis Gates Uncovers ‘Faces Of America’ I was surprised by the voice of Elizabeth Alexander. She was responding to what Gates had uncovered after he traced her ancestry back to Edward Honeywell and Esther Power and King John of England. I thought of Elizabeth at the presidential podium. And I thought about her taking the time to respond to a card from a small Minnesota poetry group. How a letter from a young poet transcended the political. It meant the world to us. The card, the letter, the poems — the poet’s lineage.


Elizabeth Alexander At The Inauguration, Yale University, Letter From A Young Poet, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January & March 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

-related to posts:  Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), The Poet Writes Back — Gary Soto, Which Came First, The Grasshopper Or The Egg?, The Poet’s Letter — Robert Bly, Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month

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Night Fog (0) Emptiness – 19/365, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

One seagull feather
hairy sculptures of seagrass
piled up on the dunes;
lady bugs and beetles land,
shelter from the cold, coarse sand

found in the sand
someone lost a loved one–
this wedding band,
years of what could and could not
happen in a span of life

life’s changing seasons
happy, sad, up, down, laugh, cry-
stay or go away;
underneath the roiling waves
calm moonlight draws me back in

breathing in bath salts,
I think of the tears I tasted
when you said goodbye
bitter wind off oceans spray
turns my heart cold like that day

bare truth, bald faced lie,
why does nothing satisfy?
how fickle my heart
swinging between trees
like a hammock

creaking bending trees
crying out pains agony-
red eyes of grief’s lava tears
into the wind I let it go
a feather across the sand

between power lines
the crows can’t decide whether
to leave or stay
feet hold fast to whir of wire
head says run to shifting ground

from the earth
a crack
of fresh earthworms
slither through the pouring rain
clinging to last bits of life

the soccer field–
a marshland for herons
after the rain
reminds me of Nebraska
slow drum of Janis Ian

naked oak and birch
still in the November wind
haiku for the sky
only my breath caught
in the branches

birdsong–
my dog echoes the warbler
with her sore throat;
the trill can be heard for miles,
is the bark worse than the bite?

from the birch tree
I peel away the bark
and write this haiku
I find the sap sweet, congealed
While my tears remain bitter

The backyard rubble
Holds wisps of waylaid dreams It’s
Slim pickings for birds;
they are dreamcatchers
tying each nightmare to bare branches.

crows light on the wing
Raven holds November court
while hummers fly South
dipping in the sunlight
they pull away the clouds

Sun sextile Saturn
Thanksgiving relationships
may take a quick turn
family feuds holding still –
peace returns, if just one day

on the corner, the Raven
returning for a quick meal
dissolves into night
The autumn also takes wing,
A snowflake heralds winter.

trees crawl toward the sky
ochre moonlight silhouettes
dreaming of Solstice
The nights are long and heavy
but soon the light will lift us.

trenches around fire
reflected deep in your eyes
labyrinthine pools…
I think of the night we held
each other from our own shadows

Your softest caress,
each tremble and kiss of tress,
a single raindrop,
creating dry dust devils
littered with blurred distinctions.

on the windshield
cracks become softer
in the fog —
-1 freezes in place,
fingers draw cold words–your name.

linked crescents–
I fitted your faded last name
around my lip print –
morning sun, and it’s still there,
remnants of what used to be.

the future so uncertain
as I drive through
the Monday car wash –
when I pay, their parrot talks,
Cackles “I love you” out loud.

 
 

________________

 
 

for every life
there is a reason to live
and there is an end
And in this divine resort,
God grant us late, quick checkout.

soulful salvation
a rest of quiet peace; not
exasperation.
Still, I wonder what happens
to our dreams after we die?

Perhaps they live on,
in the hearts and minds we touch,
then eternity.
Or disappear like the wind,
ideas whose time never came.

All is illusion.
so say the masters of Zen,
and whispers the wind.
Monkey Mind clings to what’s “real”
while life passes by in zeal.

Our earthly moment,
gestation for mind and soul,
to transcend mere time.

 
 

________________

 
 

devouring time
underneath the work ethic
wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Toss a coin into a pond,
the ripples subside quickly.

That which glimmers bright
quietly fades from our sight,
we race the sunset.
Full throttle, going nowhere –
What remains? An empty shell.


________________


It has come to this:
An ad on a vomit bag.
Is nothing sacred?
Sacred cow branding?
Or designer-stigmatas?

Open your hands and hearts,
Brand all with love and kindness,
lest they wander lost.
Besides, emetophobes won’t…
I repeat, won’t read puke bags.

Suggestive powers,
A greasy pork chop and fried octopus,
from dirty ashtray.
These are mental images,
to cure one of mal de mer.

Yet, on second thought
one might not regain sea legs
while eating frog’s legs.
And speaking of splayed legs,
we’re covering quite a spread.

jumping through mind hoops
e.e. cummings comes to mind;
humor of Mark Twain
Whole lotta jumpin’ go’n on
In Calaveras County.

Sliding through worm holes
Ol’ H. G. Wells comes to mind;
Brakes would be handy.
Invisible man flees scene,
hoping someone will see him.

Twain is consarned wry,
“Such happy rascality”,
is his catchphrase child.
Left to fend laughs for itself,
in his novel “Roughing It”.

Or Aldous Huxley,
Seer of socialist folly,
Eyeless In Gaza.
A voice for Albert Hoffman
or at least his Problem Child.

Aldous knew O’Keeffe
typed books at Kiowa Ranch
under Lawrence Tree
Look up! Reach toward the tree top
but don’t forget the journey.

A naughty dream date,
Aimee Semple McPherson,
and Sinclair Lewis.
She was Sharon Falconer,
penned in “Elmer Gantry”.

Another Sinclair
was also interested,
He was an Upton.
Then there was Pete Seeger whose
ballad belied her scandal.

‘Twas Seeger’s refrain,
that “the dents in the mattress
fit Aimee’s caboose.”
and bared the dented psyche,
of our “modern” pop culture.

they’re turning in graves
What’s with Dylan sings Christmas?
he does what he wants.
And much like a rolling stone,
‘becomes a complete unknown.

disjointed puzzle
Springsteen’s Santa comes to town
all dressed in bright red
Hark! The Big Man’s ho-ho-ho’s
Crack The Boss up near the close.

Lady Greensleeves sings
‘Twas the night before Christmas –
hot broadside ballad


________________


New Year’s Eve Blue Moon
cookin’ up the black-eyed peas
always takes me back
Lawd, thas’ whole lottah peppah,
this etouffee gonna hurt.

need that New Year’s luck –
in the North, it’s pork loin
sauerkraut in tow.
Comfort food takes time and love,
so keep stirring and we’ll drink.

Oh tiny bubbles,
like the kiss of a hot fist,
you knock me out cold.
Milk goes with chocolate cake,
champagne, with everything.

Milk lovers unite!
milk fluffs the mashed potatoes
wraps the egg in nog.
How about slow-cooked grits?
A hominy homily.

All GRITS learn to love
hushpuppies fried in hot grease
not a dog in sight
“What are grits?” asks a Yankee.
Honey, it’s like hot ice cream.

Southern scratch biscuits,
then, there’s the red-eye gravy
smothering the plate
‘Jes add a chonk of cornbread,
and a ‘lil “Who Shot Sally”.

Lawd I am hongry,
‘Looks like the rooster dies tonight,
Chicken on Sunday.
Not if Foghorn Leghorn crows,
Or Looney Tunes Barnyard Dawg!

Oh Creme Brulee,
Immortalized in menus,
struck down by the spoon.
How fallen are the mighty,
The weapons of chefs perish.


________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Part II of community poetry — the nature of renga. Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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early laughter-green
grows between a warm change
time never walks past love
it is written in the skies
a heart shaped moon in your eyes

I think of your eyes:
like the winter sea, and shape
my heart by the moon…
sirens wake to crashing waves,
eerie melody haunts me.

heartstrings cut shorter
the distance of your voice
alluring in charm, bliss
will I know, upon some far,
galactic shore, surfing still

nights I write away
damp smudges sealed in bottles:
puckered fish in nets;
the loss is too much to bear,
floating behind hollow eyes.

weaving from afar
is how we travel through dreams–
koi in silver lakes


________________


the darkening sky
carries the promise of rain
with each shade of gray,
the sun shines from the center
of a wounded cottonwood

wrapped around hands,
one finds rings of promise
broken tree bark;
skin wrinkled and creased with age
releases bountiful seeds

buried deep,
seeds take root and stretch,
circling a pond
February snowstorm drips
concentric rings, wheel of life

lonely morning fish
ripples the quiet pond,
breaking sunlight


________________


chasing jackrabbit
tan mongrel trots through sagebrush
following its scent
the seeking can offer more
peace of mind than the finding

cave bear hibernates
two cubs spring from her loins
February birth
cycle of life continues
once again, all life reborn

fresh perspective
between gnarls of trees, sieves of leaves
sunrise meets the lake


________________


heavy snow, strong winds
just last week the smell of spring
winter packs a punch;
thawed dreams of black-eyed susans,
restless thoughts of wanting more.

dreams of longing
tucked under lashes and lips–
words run towards margins,
black and white letters jump off,
mind stops — scrambles to make sense.

following signs (blindly),
racing around cul-de-sacs
the mind, unnerved
reaches for a sense of peace,
silent shelter from the storm.

faint rainbow
storm leaves the sun in its wake
upon the relieved brow;
blue sky streaked with rainwater
prism changes everything.


________________


vernal equinox
morning freshness through the soul
sunburst in our eyes;
New Moon, stars out of hiding
blink across the Milky Way.

tangible yet far,
fantasies pinned on a star
like spilt milk…
crying for what has been lost,
yearning for that yet to come.


________________


dark and overcast
day before the holiday
a lawnmower growls;
clouds perch on the horizon
wanting nothing more than rain

storm clouds tease us
passing through the jeweled trees
on this side of life –
nothing taken for granted
will stay with us very long

cool sun at midday
life is full of suffering –
followed by moonlight
but then comes the promised dawn
when life is full of wonder


________________


black cat sleeps on couch
shadows fall near the full moon
eyes droop with the weight–
these heavy bags
that the heart carries

sun hides behind gray
burdens are what we make them
dark hinges on light

a forty watt sun
brings only hues of comfort -
false hope arises;
100 ways of seeing
the unpaved roads less traveled

on this journey
I collect many sticks and stones–
all for a bonfire
trailing in the wake of stars
yet untouched by human hands

on a stargazer lily–
a mantis praying
to the sun…
is it that I am not worthy
enough to touch the heavens?

winter sun–
snow angels catching
the snowman’s tears;
drops glisten, Icarus wings
doused by the cries of children


________________


opaque midday moon
creates halo above earth
yet darkness falls fast –
what’s lurking in the shadows?
Fear numbs, leaves no time to dwell.

fierce wind starts and stops
returns cold and leaves no doubt:
summer is over;
biting frost wilts the Spirit,
reflection ignites new spark.

by the fireplace,
the candle and I
dance to pages in my notebook —
letters expose obscure words,
teach me to read between lines





_______________________


haiku, senryu, tanka, & renga


Year two of our Daily Haiku explored the intimate connection between haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. In gratitude to all who participated, we wanted to post the year in renga. Renga is a form of collaborative poetry, written in community.

At the beginning of the year, the poetry leaned toward haiku, senryu, and tanka; renga was slow to develop. By year’s end, the renga spanned weeks, and the trend moved to longer strands of poetry. For that reason, we are dividing a year of renga into two posts, in the order they were written. Part 2 will follow this week.

You can find helpful links, definitions, and read more about the relationship between the poetry forms in haiku 2 (one-a-day). Deep bows to Natalie and Clark. And to the poets who visit red Ravine, and help keep poetry alive.

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Blue Moon Over Ice Skating Rink – 0/365, BlackBerry Shots, Full Blue Moon on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2009-20010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Through The Looking Glass


season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass


–tanka from hindsight haiku — pink cadillac (on the road), October 25, 2009





Writing Practice — Looking Back – 15min


Looking back I see hot hazy days when I didn’t have a job. What seems like the best opportunity to work on writing, art, photography, becomes consumed with worry. Looking back I see that Chaco died. He didn’t just die. We made the hard decision to put him to sleep. An odd turn of phrase, put him to sleep. It’s the second cat where I’ve had to make that hard decision. The first was my cat Sasha; it was years ago. Looking back I feel gratitude. For Liz, Kiev, Mr. Stripeypants. For my writing group, for Roma and her partnership with me on red Ravine. I feel grateful I have my health. Age, I’m aging. But overall, I have survived another year. The gray hair is multiplying.

Looking back, there were visits with Amelia, visits with Marylin. Mothers are important to me. Time with mothers. Time with my mother. How much time do we have? One never knows if they will live into old age. I like the yearly trips I take to the South and this one was no exception. There wasn’t enough time but the time we were in Georgia and South Carolina was relaxed. The reconnections I have made there the last three years are invaluable. Links to what was, links to what might be.

Looking back, I feel like I don’t do enough, don’t accomplish enough of my yearly goals. I hate setting them anymore, but I must. I feel like I get so little done. Recently a friend called and mused that we might feel an urgency to get more done because of our age. We are not spring chickens, not in our twenties, not even in our thirties, and here we are trying to make some kind of alternative life work out. Looking back, my car Greta made it through the recession with only the need for a radiator and some new wiper blades. Sylvia the Saturn made it, too. No new car payments — yet.

Looking back, I am happy where I live. Indria is humble, tiny, small. But every day I wake up and look out over the oaks, ash, and cedar. I feel happy to come home and watch the moon rise behind the cottage. I wish it was larger, that we had two more bedrooms, one to write, one for art. Hers and hers. Should we build on? Or buy a new house? Is it ever in the cards to have enough room? Small is good, too. I’m used to small, crowded houses. That’s the way I grew up with 5 younger siblings. There is something comforting about small.

Looking back, I don’t want to trade my life for anyone else’s. My mistakes are my mistakes. I can live with them. I have to. I don’t often remember the bad that happens in a year, mostly the good. And the gratitude I feel for the richness in my life, no matter how much I might be lacking. Is that keeping me from going forward? Have I gotten lazy. Or am I simply tired. Looking back, I’m happy to have a job, though it takes a toll on me. If you had asked me even a year ago, I would have said, “No, I’m never going to be driving truck.” But here I am. Never say never.

There is an opening in there somewhere. Gratitude for the abundance of having a job. Money coming in. So many are without work. Yet my work is my art, my writing, my photography. It will be the dilemma of every artist — how to make a living while being a creative soul. Our world does not support it. We have to. We create our own worlds, surround ourselves with people who help hold the dream. People matter. But it is each of us who has to do the work. Am I doing the work?



_____________________________________________


Post Script: I wanted to combine several of my yearly practices in this post on looking back. Above is a tanka I wrote on the trip to Georgia this year, the Reflection part of my Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION, and a photograph of the Blue Moon from my photo practice. Below is my yearly Gratitude list. I do one at the end of every year, a result of peering through the looking glass, looking back on the good things in life.


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A – Accept loss forever. Learned this from Kerouac, then from Natalie Goldberg.  Easy to say, hard to do. Makes the world a much better place to live.


B – Breaking free. From the ties that bind. I am the one who keeps me back. It was a constant battle over the year to let myself be. To do nothing when I needed it. To sit and stare into space. To break free from old worn out habits that are keeping me back.


C – Cats. These 3 bundles of joy brought much happiness to my life in 2009. Chaco has moved on but we don’t forget. We scattered his ashes this year around the fire at Winter Solstice. Sometimes I still hear him pattering through the house, keeping night watch on the back of the couch. Chaco was a Nightowl.


D – Dead of Winter. I love Winter. It makes me feel alive. January to January, the Midwest Winter is nothing to sneeze at. It was -21 this morning. It’s warmed up to -8. Sometimes the Dead of Winter is when I have the most ripeness going on inside.


E – The letter “E”. I’m thankful for the vowels. They hold up a lot of words. Like Elizabeth. I thank my lucky stars every day that she’s my partner, that she’s in my life.


F – Fathers. I have a new respect for the role that fathers play with their children. Young children. Adult children. I have learned from reconnecting with my step-father in the South that it is never too late to heal. Never too late to realize the love. I have learned from my brothers who are good fathers how important it is to be there for your kids. I have learned from ybonesy and Jim how good fathers make a difference.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective. Sometimes I feel great loss. I try hard to get back to Gratitude for what remains.


H – Humble Pie. I’ve eaten a lot of it. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Humility always takes me back to center — Home. (Oh, and wasn’t Humble Pie a band from the 1970’s?)


I – Itches, those nagging, pesky things that make you want to jump out of your skin. You can’t scratch every itch. But don’t the itches raise the most important questions?


J – January. Some years I’m glad to be starting over, to walk into the clean slate of a New Year. This is one of them. Time may be boundless but the calendar offers a structure. Something that helps keep me on track.


K – Kindred Spirits. Make the list again this year. Not just community or people who are alive. But those who travel with us across the Ethers. And animals, like our cat Kiev. She’s solid as a rock. There are so many life forms that walk the Earth with us. The veil is thin.


L – Love. Love is underappreciated. The word is thrown around loosely. There are so many kinds of love, I have lost count. But the feeling of giving or receiving love — I would not trade it for money, fame, or fortune.


M – Mothers. Most of the nurturing of the world falls to women. This was true when I was born, it may still be true at the end of my life. I wish I could say it’s different, that all nurture the world. But it doesn’t seem to be women that take us into war. Or perpetrate most of the violence in the world. If I was wrong, I’d happily admit it. If I’m right, I pray for more balance. That’s too heavy a weight to carry.


N – North Carolina. I know it seems odd. But driving through North Carolina, it seems like one of the most beautiful places. I’ve also discovered that many of my relatives come from North Carolina, something I didn’t expect. This is true on the paternal and maternal side. I am rooted in the South.


O – Overdrive. Wait, I guess this is something that should go on my future Intentions list. But it popped into my head. People who run on Overdrive teach me about reaching goals. I don’t want to be a Type A personality–I only want a pinch of their drive.


P – Pants. Mr. Stripeypants is over a decade old; he acts like a kitten. I can’t explain the joy this cat brings into my life. He plays fetch with me in the morning, drapes over my arm when I write, greets us at the door after a hard day at work, follows us around the house in a constant state of curious abandon. I learn a lot from Mr. Pants.


Q – Quest. I’m always questing. Like a Knight but not in shining armor. I’d be one of those Dark Knights. After all, you need them, too. The ones that sit at the Round Table contemplating, one foot underground, one foot in the sky. They are all searching for the Grail. I think curiosity is an asset. I just wish it would quit jumping around. Hopscotch, 1-2-1-2-1-2-1, back again. Once in a while I wish throwing the rock was enough, just to see where it lands.


R – red Ravine. It makes the list again. Every year there is something different. It’s a practice in the collaborative spirit. Sometimes it’s the thing that keeps me going when things get hard. Where will it lead? Right here, right now. I’m grateful for every single person who has ever visited red Ravine.


S – Snow. It’s practical and romantic. A water reserve for dry summers, a heart bouncer for Winter rides on the horse-drawn sleigh. We got a boatload in December. It snowed like a banshee over the Christmas weekend. I used to ski but these days I’m happy to get out and walk in the snow. I don’t mind shoveling. But I have to admit, this year I thought about buying a snow blower.


T – Tracks. Animal cairns. We follow tracks in the snow in our front yard. Raven, crow, moles and voles. Rabbits, squirrels, raccoon. Tracking takes patience and an eye for detail. I’m not that good at identifying which tracks go to what animal. But I love to guess. Then check my tracking book for the right answer.


U – Understanding. It’s the brother of forgiveness. I had to live a while before I understood what it meant to forgive. Not everyone can be understood. But it helps to try. I understand that not everyone is perfect or impeccable. I forgive myself for not being those things either.


V – Veracity. An unwillingness to tell lies. A propensity for the truth.  They even made a movie about it — The Invention of Lying. Is telling the truth always the best route? What truth? Whose truth? I like looking at the Underbelly — the unwillingness to tell lies seems more realistic.


W – Woodpeckers. We had two sightings of the Pileated Woodpecker on our property this year. What a joy it is to see them. They’ve got to be the closest thing to seeing a prehistoric Ivory-Billed. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is a lot like the Loch Ness monster — now you see it, now you don’t.


X – X-Ray Vision. The absence of it. I’m thinking if I had X-Ray vision, I could see into the future. But I wouldn’t want to know. I’d rather take my chances. And make small decisions along the way.


Y – ybonesy makes the list again. She’s made leaps and bounds with her art this year. That inspires me, fires me up for my own creative endeavors. She’s a woman who seems to be able to do it all. I admire that. And feel so much gratitude that she’s collaborating with me on red Ravine.


Z – ZigZags. Like lightning. I’m grateful for zigzags because they are the way I live my life. Cancer the Crab rarely takes the straight line anywhere. Back and forth, testing the waters. She does finally land. Solid. For a day or two. Then off again on her quest. You can’t have a zig without a zag.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude: Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-), Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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Ode To Joy & Christmas Eve, snapshot of my art studio desk, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




savor the small things
the joy of writing haiku
in the dead of night;
the silence of snow falling,
calms the chatter in my mind


circumspect darkness
relative humidity
what matters to me?
seeing clearly with the heart
things invisible to the eye


Holiday blizzard
thank you for braving the storm
following footprints
of those who walked before us —
Joy hides in the strangest places




It’s the dead of night. I’m staring out the window at snow falling on cedars, oaks, and ash. A Holiday blizzard. I’ve always liked Christmas Eve almost better than Christmas. When I was growing up, I’d stay up way past the time when my five younger siblings were in bed, rocking in the leather recliner, bathed in the glow of firelight and candles. Some years the living room would be blue from head to toe, my mother’s favorite color, with a tree dressed in angel hair and the front door wrapped like a package with pine cones and ribbon. Do they still have contests for best door decorations?

I can smell Amelia’s fruit cake and rocks, ladles of egg nog, cloves spiking the Christmas ham. It’s the time of year when I count my blessings. I’m grateful for family, friends, and lovers, for blog partners and red Ravine readers, for puffy orange coats and wet mittens. Thank you for walking with us through murky and uncertain waters. Thank you for running through rain. And pausing in the darkness of Winter. There is so much joy in the silence.


Happy Holidays from red Ravine, December 24th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Poem For The Trees (Keepers Of The Light), A Few Of My Favorite Things, On Eating December Snowflakes, Tamales — A Christmas Tradition, Merry Merry, Happy Happy, A Partridge In A Pear Tree, A Christmas Gift From Dad, On Collecting Pigs Against Your Will

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Postcard From Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In February, we read the work of Billy Collins in our monthly Poetry & Meditation Group. Though he was the United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, I had not been introduced to his body of work (with the exception of his popular poem about mothers and sons, “The Lanyard“). But after reading “Japan” and “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” out loud, and listening in silence while others read his poetry, I became a big fan. 

As is our custom, at the end of the night, the founder of our Poetry Group passed around a card for us to sign, a token of our gratitude to the poet. Each month, she addresses, seals and stamps the envelope, then mails our card off to the poet the next day. We don’t have expectations; it’s enough to share their poetry.

But once in a while, the Universe responds in kind. When we arrived at the March Poetry & Meditation Group, here is what we found:


___________________________________________


Liu Yung By Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To the Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group!


Liu Yung

This poet of the Sung dynasty is so miserable.
The wind sighs around the trees,
a single swan passes overhead,
and he is alone on the water in his skiff.

If only he appreciated life
in eleventh-century China as much as I do —
no loud cartoons on television,
no music from the ice cream truck,

just the calls of elated birds
and the steady flow of the water clock.


Billy Collins


Poem reprinted with permission of the author,
Copyright 2006 Billy Collins.


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Billy Collins describes poetry as “the only surviving history we have of human emotion.” We were thrilled and honored to hear from him. And it seems like a great way to kick off National Poetry Month on red Ravine. I am continually surprised by the generosity of famous writers to give back to those of us who find ourselves at humble beginnings. Maybe it’s a lesson to pay attention to — that no matter our status, we are all at the beginning. Every poem, short story, essay, and blog post takes us back to Beginner’s Mind.


National Poetry Month at The Academy of American Poets

We hope you will join in the celebration during National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and is a month-long national celebration of poetry.

According to poets.org, the concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media — to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. The hope is to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.


The goals of National Poetry Month are to:

  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
  • Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
  • Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
  • Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry


On April 16th our Poetry & Meditation Group will be reading the poems of Yusef Komunyakaa. Maybe you’ll want to start your own poetry group. Or purchase “Ballistics,” the latest from Billy Collins. Poem In Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 30th. And here are 30 more ways to honor poets and poems. Whatever you choose to do, celebrate poetry!


To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  USA 42 --- ALASKA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

-related posts and links: NPR: Reading List & Interview with Billy Collins, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), Billy Collins Reads “The Lanyard” on YouTube , PBS Online NewsHour: Billy Collins Interview, December 10th, 2001 – the week following his inaugural reading at the Library of Congress after becoming U.S. Poet Laureate, Poetry 180 — a poem a day for american high schools

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Bursting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bursting, purple coneflowers in the summer garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




It’s hard to believe, but the years are ticking by on red Ravine. We are well into 2009. If you missed any of the writers and artists who published with us in 2008, links to each of their pieces are below. Please feel free to revisit their work. Or if you are reading for the first time, new comments are welcome; let them know what you think.

ybonesy and I extend our gratitude to our dedicated readers, to our haiku poets, and to all who have published with us on red Ravine. It is our honor and pleasure to have gotten to know you better through your work. We look forward to future submissions.

Thank you!



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January 2008


My Totem Animal by Sharon Sperry Bloom

CIRCLES – A Free Write by Carolee



February 2008


A 10-Minute Free-Writing Practice by Christine Swint

Hair – 15min by Robin



March 2008


A 40-Year Love Affair by Teri Blair

Hands by Bob Chrisman



April 2008


An Evening With Elizabeth Gilbert & Anne Lamott by Carolyn Flynn

Interview With Author and Artist Natalie Goldberg



May 2008


Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group
by Teri Blair

Growing Older by Bob Chrisman

Growing Old by Bo



June 2008


The Face You Wore Before You Were Born by Linda Weissinger Lupowitz

“Goat Ranch” by Bob Chrisman



July 2008


The Art of My Self-Publishing by Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager



August 2008


Rollin’ Easy by Marylin (aka oliverowl)

A Lesson By Example by Bo Mackison



September 2008


Stephenie Bit Me, Too! by Bob Chrisman

Crisis Changed My Life by Robin

The Shamanic Series by Carol Tombers



October 2008


The Law Of Threes by Bob Chrisman

Why I Vote by Teresa Valle

Ink Illuminations by Katherine Repka*



November 2008


Mystery E.R. by Judith Ford

In Memoriam by Bob Chrisman



December 2008


haiku (one-a-day)– a year of collaborative haiku practice from our visiting poets 



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-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

-related to posts: Piglet Bearing Gifts (red Ravine’s 2007 Guests) and haiku (one-a-day)

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Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Birthday, Mabel Dodge, Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







tombstone in winter;
knowing Mabel’s ghost lingers,
we write for our lives







I’ve felt the ghost of Mabel Dodge Luhan. She walks the adobe halls of the house at night, creaking on the steps leading down into her bedroom. It was pitch black the night of her visit. The dogs of Taos were howling in the distance. I didn’t look up from the hand-carved bed frame. The frame that I once read Dennis Hopper wanted to chainsaw into pieces and remove from the room. Someone must have stopped him.

Mabel would have turned 130 years old on this day. Those who benefit from her artistic vision sit on black cushions in silence; it’s the first week of what will be a year of study with Natalie. Whatever you think of Mabel or Tony (and you can hear an earful from the locals around Taos), together they created a pulsing creative space at the foot of Taos Mountain. One large enough to hold them both — and the rest of us, too.

Mabel’s grave is in a lonely corner of Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery. I visit there every time I am in Taos. Below is an excerpt from an article by Henry Shukman when he was hot on the trail of the ghost of D. H. Lawrence. It’s a fitting tribute to Mabel. Sometimes people are remembered most for the things they leave behind. Happy Birthday, Mabel. I hope you didn’t think we’d forgotten.



It was from the foot of Taos mountain that Mabel Dodge Luhan — heiress, patroness, columnist, early proponent (and victim) of psychoanalysis, memoirist and hostess — planned the rebirth of Western civilization. She moved to Taos from the East Coast in 1917 and fell in love not only with the place but also with Tony Lujan (later anglicized to Luhan), a chief in the nearby pueblo. She promptly left her second husband, married Tony and expanded a house on the edge of town, turning it into an adobe fantasy castle (what Dennis Hopper, who owned it in the 1970’s, would later call the Mud Palace), and began to invite scores of cultural luminaries. The idea was to expose them to the Indian culture she believed held the cure for anomic, dissociated modern humanity. After dinner, drummers and dancers from the pueblo would entertain the household.

Today her house is a museum, guesthouse and literary shrine all in one. For anyone on the trail of Lawrence, it’s the first of three essential ports of call. As I make my way up the groaning narrow stairs, the sense not just of history but of peace hits me: no TVs, no telephones. Instead, the deep quiet of an old, applianceless home. There are a bathroom with windows that Lawrence painted in colorful geometric and animal designs in 1922 to protect Mabel Luhan’s modesty, and floorboards across which Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Wolfe creaked. (In fact Wolfe stayed only one night. He arrived late and drunk, decided he didn’t like it and fled the next morning.)

- D.H. Lawrence’s New Mexico: The Ghosts That Grip the Soul of Bohemian Taos by Henry Shukman, from the NY Times, Cultured Traveler, October 22, 2006



Winter In Taos, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Winter In Taos, grave of Mabel Dodge Luhan, born February 26th, 1879, died August 13th, 1962, Taos, New Mexico, November 2001, C-41 film print taken at my first Taos Writing Retreat at Mabel’s House, photo © 2001-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In a cold like this, the stars snap like distant coyotes, beyond the moon. And you’ll see the shadows of actual coyotes, going across the alfalfa field. And the pine-trees make little noises, sudden and stealthy, as if they were walking about. And the place heaves with ghosts. But when one has got used to one’s own home-ghosts, be they never so many, they are like one’s own family, but nearer than the blood. It is the ghosts one misses most, the ghosts there, of the Rocky Mountains. …because it is cold, I should have moonshine …

— D.H. Lawrence from Mornings In Mexico


-posted on red Ravine for the 130th birthday of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Thursday, February 26th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day)WRITING TOPIC — HAUNTED, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home” (with photos of Mabel & Tony and links to many of their contemporaries)

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Summer Tea Rose, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Summer Tea Rose, from our summer garden, forms a perfect natural mandala, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I try to end the year with a Gratitude List. I find it a good practice to honor having lived another year. And to equally honor the people, places, and sentient beings who make life rich and worth living.

Last year, I used the ABC’s as a format for a 2007 Gratitude List and liked that structure, so I’m going to continue with it this year. I kept it simple, and I’m sure have only touched the surface. If I’ve forgotten anything or anyone, please know you are in my heart.

What are you grateful for? For many, 2008 was a hard year financially, emotionally, and physically. I find that a belief in something bigger than me, and faith, keep me going in the down times. I want to try to remember to live one day at a time.

On the 2nd day of 2009, it is sunny, blue, clear, and I woke up to exactly 0 degree temperatures, a perfect circle — the best of winter in Minnesota. Winter is all whites, blacks, blues and grays and makes me feel alive. And, for some reason, Winter always reminds me of the color of Spring.



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A – Afterglow – making Art, making love, walking in the sun, glistening humidity on the face of a July Savannah day


B – Building & Blooming – a writing life, a life together, a community, a garden, a studio space, a spiritual foundation


C – Chaco, Cravings, Creating – creating anything: a photograph, a piece of writing, a mandala, a clay set of Runes, a painting, a community, a blog. Chaco — I’m so grateful he is alive to take us into the New Year, our little miracle. Cravings – what do you crave? That’s where your passions lie.


D – Death & Dying – the threat of death wakes us up; the death of dry summer flowers makes way for next year’s Spring blooms; the death of one career makes space for the life of another; the death of a loved one or pet leaves us grieving, sad, yet appreciative at the miracle of one more day.


E – Eating! – food, food, food, all kinds of food. Don’t like to cook but love to try new foods and savor the old Family Recipes.


F – Friends & Family & Fathers – circles of closeness, moving out from center. Different levels of intimacy, all important to a thriving life. It would be lonely without family and friends. Fathers — I have had quite a few. I’m thankful for what they have each brought to my life, and the chance to rebuild broken bridges.


G – Gratitude – humble gratitude for others, those who came before us, those who run parallel, the children of the future, all teach me perspective


H – Humility & Home – it’s a gift to be alive. Humility helps me remember — Do not waste this precious life. Home is the place that holds history, the place I feel safe.


I – Introspection — most comfortable in the cave of Bear, what I learn there can make me a wiser, better person when I go back out into the world


J – J. & January – I’m grateful my brother walks with us into another year after spending time last summer in the ICU. It’s always scary when family members are gravely ill. January offers the promise of a New Year.


K – Kindred Spirits – those who travel beside us. They change faces from time to time, but that is to be expected. Endings lead to new beginnings.


L – Love & Liz – sappy, I know, but love is a wondrous thing. It heals many wounds. Was it in Bucket List where the narrator said, “We are not the things that love us; we are the things we love.” Giving is better than receiving.  Love lost brings the opportunity to love again. You never know when you will fall in love.


M – Mothers & Grandmothers – mothers continue to provide much of the nurturing in this world. My mother is my biggest fan and offers loving support to me in this crazy writing life. Thanks for traveling with me and continuing to answer my endless questions about family history. Thanks for believing in me. And for instilling into your children permission to follow their dreams. Thanks to my Grandmothers who walk with me every day.


N – Noses – medium, broad, ski-jump, upturned, and small. Noses hold glasses close to the eyes. Smells are the best connectors to memories. Think of your favorite smells. A keen sense of smell leads to a keen sense of detail.


O – Optimism – I tend to see the glass half-full. I am of the belief that setting positive intention creates cairns that guide through the tough times. Right or wrong, it helps me through sadness and grief and is the philosophy I live by.


P – Passion & Peace – do they go hand in hand? Maybe not. It’s hard to believe the things people do to each other out of passion. It makes it hard to keep the peace. Still, I believe it is possible.


Q – Quagmire – one of my favorite words. noun:  a soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot. What would life be without the uncertainty of sinking quagmires that eventually lead back to solid ground.


R – red Ravine – so grateful for the community who visits here. And for the creative practice that has developed around red Ravine. Every day offers new surprises. Thanks for dropping by, for what you have given to creating this space.


S – Summer — the longer I live in a Winter climate, the more I appreciate Summer and the Southern roots I grew up with. When I lived there as a child (and now when I visit) I never stop sweating!


T – Teachers & Time – the gift of time. Every moment is a gift. The next could be our last breath. Or something could happen that changes our lives forever. There is no way to prepare except to honor each moment. Teachers, mentors who are wiser than I am. If only I would remember to keep listening.


U – Underwear – it’s a simple thing, isn’t it, underwear? Some people don’t wear it but I can’t imagine not having it. Cotton, all cotton, please, and I only wear Jockeys For Her. More expensive but they last longer. So worth it!


V – Vacations – oh, how I long for another vacation where I sit on a beach somewhere and do nothing. No writing, no thinking, no work, no nothing. Simply being still and silent and listening to the ocean, Zen heartbeat of the Universe.


W – Writing & Art Buddies – they take many forms. Writing Practice groups, community on red Ravine, writing retreat friends, local writers, regional writers, artists who inspire, writers and poets who have written books that changed the world. It’s too lonely to try to do this alone.


X – X-Treme Living – life goes on with or without us. It can be an extreme act of grace to make it through another day.


Y – ybonesy – I couldn’t do this without her. The creative collaboration of red Ravine has led down many fruitful, winding roads. And it all started that day in Taos after a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg. I have so much gratitude for Natalie who taught me about the practice of writing and helped me believe in myself.


Z – Zest for Life – passion and doing what we love keep us from becoming complacent. Please, don’t let me take life for granted. (Plus, Zest is a fun word to say!)




Raindrops On Roses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved   Rose Mandala, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Rose Mandala, Raindrops On Roses, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, January 2nd, 2009

-related posts and to read more about the practice of Gratitude:  Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet ;-)

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The Poets Letter, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Poet’s Letter, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



One of the highlights of a busy week was our Poetry & Meditation Group on Wednesday night. There was homemade banana bread and a lively discussion about the Presidential election framed by Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.

There were antique Christmas lights and maps and readings of two poems each. There were gifts of pocket journals and stories from a woman who had just returned from a trip to India and Nepal.

Then it happened, that little surprise. Once again there was a return letter in the mail from one of the poets to whom we had sent a thank you card.

This time it was Minnesota poet, Robert Bly. Now in his eighties, Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first poet laureate in February of 2008. The fact that he is a hometown favorite who has authored more than 30 books of poetry made it all the more sweet. Teri asked in the thank you card about a poem the group had listened to, but was unable to locate in any of his books.


Here’s what he wrote, tapped out on the keys of a classic typewriter:



October 21st, 2008


Dear Teri Blair,

Thank you for the sweet note you wrote signed by so many other people. It’s very touching that these poems were sweet to you. The poem you mentioned called “The Two Rivers” goes this way:


Inside us there is a river born in the
        good cold
That longs to give itself to the Gulf
       of light.
And there is another river–more like
       the Missouri–
That carries earth, and earth joys, and
       the earthly.


I’m sending you a new CD you might like.

With warm wishes
and thanks,

Robert Bly




The CD was a translation of the mystic poet and philosopherKabir (1398 – 1518), arranged by Robert Bly, in his own voice, and accompanied by music. I felt so much gratitude that the poet took the time to write back.

At the end of the night, in low-light conditions, I shot these few photographs. They are dark and tinted from the reddish-yellow glow of a string of giant Christmas bulbs. Teri shared a story about how she inherited the lights found hidden on top of a rainwater cistern in the basement of a Minnesota farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. I like the graininess and hue; it captures the warmth of the evening.

We become more grateful as each month goes on. Once again, thank you to the poets, and for the poems and groups that keep them alive. I feel thankful to have this place in which to share the poets’ letters.

It’s getting late. I’ll end the post with a Robert Bly poem from the American Life In Poetry series with Ted Kooser (another poet who was gracious enough to write back). May we all be blessed with such humility and grace.




American Life in Poetry: Column 165

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006


In “The Moose,” a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to “we,” the group, not just to “me,” the poet.



Seeing the Eclipse in Maine


It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents–made the same way–
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
 A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere–at our feet.



American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem (c) 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy,” Harper Perennial, 2006.

Poem reprinted from “Music, Pictures, and Stories,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.



The Essence Of Poetry Group, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Letter From Robert Bly, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Hand To Hand, After Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Essence Of Poetry Group, Letter From Robert Bly, Hand To Hand, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 7th, 2008, with gratitude to Teri, the members of our poetry group, and all other writers and artists groups out there keeping our dreams alive

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Passing Of Time, Robert Frost as a young man, from Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Passing Of Time II, Robert Frost as a middle-aged man, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Passing Of Time III, Robert Frost as an aging man, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Passing Of Time, Robert Frost, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s November 4th, 2008 and history is being made in the United States of America. Liz and I voted this morning at our local precinct in Minneapolis; ybonesy is out in New Mexico continuing her good work. I take comfort in the realization that we all contribute to the process in the ways we are able. Some are out canvassing, some write articles for the newspaper or on their blogs, some work at the polls, some pray and hold the space, a kind of quiet peace.

All contributions matter in times like this, from the most subtle to the most vigorous. And I have a great deal of gratitude that we live in a democracy that allows us to have a voice, to vote our conscience, whoever that may be. Yet it occurs to me that the ordinary day-to-day things continue to go on around us. We don’t stop living our lives.

Yesterday, we got a new roof on our house, called the dentist office, cleaned the living room, folded laundry, stocked up on groceries in preparation for a long and busy week. Tomorrow night we’ll attend the next Poetry & Meditation Group with Langston Hughes. Yesterday, ybonesy and I celebrated 2 years of writing together on red Ravine. Tomorrow we’ll know the results of the election and a long, tumultuous, political process will come to an end.

The extraordinary lives by the ordinary. Practice continues. Writing continues. Life continues. Someone will be born; someone will die.



In our last few Poetry & Meditation groups, we continued with the Dead Poets series. Since we can no longer send the poets postcards, Teri addressed cards to the directors of the Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson homes, thanking them for their Great Effort in keeping poetry alive.

We all signed our names in a gesture of gratitude and kindness. Because in moments when we are unsure, or times when we want to give up, these people, places, and books become our mentors. The preservation of literary places is vital to our creative livelihood.

So on this electric Tuesday, I’m celebrating the historic; I’m celebrating the ordinary. November 3rd and 5th are as important as November 4th.  Every day counts. If you feel anxiety about the election results, sometimes it helps to go back to basics — writing, journaling, a practice. Both Frost and Dickinson wrote about everyday events in their lives.

In times of uncertainty, I find peace in expressing gratitude for the people who came before us — because they pave the way for the history being made today. A prize-winning American author of children’s literature, Virginia Euwer Wolff (not to be confused with British novelist, Virginia Woolf) shows her love of Emily Dickinson in the Introduction to I’m Nobody! Who are You?, a children’s book about Dickinson’s poetry.


Here’s an excerpt from Virginia Wolff’s tribute to Emily Dickinson:


In my studio I have a quotation from Emily Dickinson: “My business is Circumference.”

Near my desk I keep a photo of Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and writing table. The photograph reminds me that writing — yours, mine, ours — is important in our relationship with the world, even if no one else ever sees it. Even if it was to stay in bundles in our bedrooms, it would still have pungence, spunk, and heart — if only because we had the courage to put it on paper.

In our time, this secret woman who thought of life as “mystic territory” is listed in the Academy of American Poets and crowds of eager tourists visit the large brick house she lived in at 280 Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Some thoughts on what to call her. I feel that calling her “Miss Dickinson” shows respect for her dignity and her veil of seclusion. But in the privacy of my own Home, looking at the picture of her writing table on my windowsill and reading her “Circumference” statement on my wall, I call her Emily. You’ll decide what seems right for you. I think she would want it that way.

-Virginia Euwer Wolff



What strikes me is that it’s not a photograph of the poet herself that Wolff holds close to her own writing life. Instead, it’s a place, an ordinary object, a moment in time — an image of Dickinson’s bedroom and her writing table — the place Emily rested her hand when she penned her last poem.



–posted on red Ravine, Election Day, Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, historic day, ordinary day, with gratitude to all who have led us here

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Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty, cover of Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s been a long couple of weeks. Sometimes it feels like the world’s gone mad. Where do you go to find ground? Go to what soothes you. For me it is my practices. One of those practices is gratitude.

When I was thinking of what I wanted to post at week’s end, I returned to our Poetry & Meditation group of a few weeks ago. After Robert Frost, homemade rhubarb cookies, and chamomile tea, I asked Teri if I could take another look at her postcard from Ann Patchett.



The Box & The Egg, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ann & Lucy, back cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.[a friendship], cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



See the hardcover of Truth & Beauty, the one with the box and the egg? Well, there’s another cover, a paperback, with an illustration of a grasshopper and an ant. Teri wrote to Ann, thanked her for her work, and asked — why two covers? And what’s the meaning behind the box and the egg?



Ann wrote back.



Sunset Produce, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Nashville, TN, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Here’s what she said:




Dear Teri,

Sorry to be so slow in answering your question about the cover of Truth & Beauty. I had nothing to do with it but I like it a lot. I think you’re right — fragile egg, protective box = Lucy + me, but I like the fact that it’s open to interpretation. It’s a cover that makes you think instead of being an illustration. Also, I love the paperback cover of the grasshopper and ant.


Thanks For Reading!, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Thanks for reading!

Yours,
Ann Patchett





 
I read the postcard again, turned the handwriting over in my hands, and felt immense gratitude at Patchett’s willingness to give back to a fellow writer. Perhaps it’s a small thing. But I don’t think so. She probably gets hundreds of postcards. A writer’s time is valuable. She didn’t have to write back.

And so, it is with gratitude I end the week. On one of those Fridays when I’m sure the world has gone insane, I’m happy to express my appreciation for one of the writers who came before us. And raise a glass to a few moments of peace.



Jumbo, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We are big fans of Ann Patchett on red Ravine. To read more about this accomplished author, check out these posts:




Post Script: Is there anything you’re grateful for this week? It helps me to make a list (the little things count the most). Gratitude to Teri for sharing her postcard with us. And for taking the risk of writing it. It was almost exactly a year ago (October 16th, 2007) when we sat in the Fitzgerald Theater together to hear Ann speak.

It’s been my experience that many famous writers are generous with their time and energy, and encouraging to fledgling, up-and-coming writers. If you have a favorite writer or poet, maybe you’ll want to take a chance — write to them. You might one day open your mailbox to a pleasant surprise.



Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty II, Handwriting, cover of Truth & Beauty, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 3rd, 2008

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