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Posts Tagged ‘writing friends’

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Walking The Bluff, last Midwest Writing Retreat, Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Grafton, Wisconsin, March 2013, photo © 2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Writing friends are hard to come by. Friends who are good practitioners of writing, even harder. The last time I saw Bob was at the Milwaukee airport in March 2013. He smiled and gave me a hug, then we walked to separate gates after five days of Sit, Walk, Write with Jude and Teri. We met many years ago at a Natalie Goldberg writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico. The Midwest Writing Group we formed has continued to meet every year since to practice writing. To honor silence.

For me, Bob was one of the pillars of our writing group. He held the space, led the slow walking, kept time when we wrote, engaged in lively discussions at the dinners he prepared. He was an excellent cook. I will never forget his laugh. Bob contributed work to red Ravine and continued to post practices with me after others fell away. I could count on him. Today, Sunday, August 4th, 2013 at 3:30pm, a memorial service for Robert Tyler Chrisman will be held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 4501 Walnut St., Kansas City, Missouri.

Bob Chrisman, born Robert Tyler Chrisman on May 3, 1952 in St. Joseph, Missouri, passed away peacefully Friday, July 12, 2013, at Kansas City Hospice following a massive stroke. He was surrounded by family and friends who sang to him until his final breath. When I was reading back through Bob’s writing on red Ravine, I realized we had done a Writing Practice together in 2011 on Death & Dying. I find comfort in his words:


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Why all this focus on death at a time of year when the world screams with life and beauty? Why must death occur during these spring months when the earth bursts forth in new life and beautiful shades of yellow-green, when flowers of all colors open and scent the air, and when we can say, “Winter is gone for at least seven months”? Why?

Maybe all this life and beauty replaces the darkness and depression of the winter and I want no more of it. Give me life in all of its forms and beauty. I suffer enough during the winter and I’m over it, but I’m not, it seems.

I notice the beauty and revel in it because I know the bleakness of winter. Joy returns to my life because I know that the good times may not last forever. The friends I carry in my heart as the treasures of a lifetime will die. I must rejoice in their being while they are with me and not put that off for a change in the season or the approach of death.

How is it that the richness of life requires us to know the poverty of despairing times? Does it work like salt on cantaloup or watermelon? The saltiness makes the sweetness that much sweeter as death makes life more precious.

If I could stop death and dying, would I? No, I would let things happen as they must. I might even bring death to those I love earlier if they desired it, but that’s not my place in life. Sitting next to the bedside of a friend who’s dying makes me aware of the value of the time we had together and what a loss their death will be. If they must die (and they must), I can spend the final days and hours with them and carry them and those times in my heart until I pass from this earth.


-Bob Chrisman, excerpt from a 2011 Writing Practice on the WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING.

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GATE GATE PARAGATE
PARASAMGATE
BODHI SVAHA

Gone, gone, gone beyond
Gone completely beyond
Praise to awakening


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 4th, 2013. I miss you, friend. And I carry you in my heart until I pass from this earth. I believe..

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Sunrise Undercover, Droid Shots, original photograph edited with Paper Camera, sunrise at a writing retreat in a small town outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







The Fallow Field


The master gardener
tithes and tills,
never forgetting to bury her dead—
broken bones rise from the fallow field
odorous compost, grist for the mill.








-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 6th, 2012, at a self-propelled silent writing retreat outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With gratitude to my writing friends. For more on composting and how we structure these small silent retreats see:  Sit, Walk, Write On Lake Michigan, I Write Because…, and Make Positive Effort For The Good.

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Mandala For A New Year, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A Downy pecks at the suet feeder. Black-eyed peas simmer in a vintage crock-pot in the kitchen. Temperatures hover around zero; it’s 3 degrees and windy. Gifted with unexpected time alone on New Year’s Eve, I wrote in my journal, checked in with the Midwest Writing Group, worked on a mandala, completed the BlackBerry 365 practice, made plans for the New Year. It felt positive to me, this forward thinking.

I am one of those people who mines for specks of gold in old and burly mountains, drags silvery threads of the past forward. Lineage. Writers, artists, photographers. Process. Birth, death, old age. What makes something work? Like The Fool archetype in Tarot, it is with great humility that I embrace the unknown and begin again. Beginner’s Mind. I will miss ybonesy and her free spirited and vibrant creative fire on a daily basis at red Ravine, but I know I have to face forward. It’s one of the things she taught me — take risks. Move into the future. When you collaborate with a person who strikes a balance, one who possesses the qualities you lack, it’s easy to become complacent about that which needs strengthening inside.

I need a strong back, flexible muscles. I will build on the Bones of red Ravine. I have so many dreams I want to pursue; they have not gone away. I will have to be diligent. Courageous. Disciplined. It takes courage for ybonesy to leave to spend more time with her family; it takes courage to stay. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There are days when the work of blogging feels like it needs a whole army of writers and artists to move it forward. But I believe in the mission and vision of red Ravine and am excited to steer her in a new direction. The winds may be stiff; I will follow the structure we put into place—teacher, practice, community—and see where red Ravine takes me.


Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year Mandala For The New Year


I am forever grateful to Roma who walked up to me in Mabel’s dining room after one of the silent retreats, and asked if I wanted to write together. I would be returning to Minnesota, she to Albuquerque, 1200 miles between us. The Turtle in me had to give it some thought; not for long. The seed for red Ravine had been planted. Now this space is Home, a strong cottonwood by the Mother Ditch, in her adolescent years, still growing. But nothing can thrive without nurturing, play, attention, and time. I have to plan carefully, regroup. Thank you for standing by me.

I am grateful for the 5 years of creative collaboration with ybonesy. She is a strong, gifted woman, a dear friend. I am grateful for a community that keeps coming back. I feel supported. I’ve committed to keeping red Ravine alive through another year. It’s one of my practices. I draw on what Natalie taught me: Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good (adding under my breath, Cross your fingers for Good Luck!).

Back to the moment. Time to feed Mr. Stripeypants and Kiev. Liz will be rising soon. We spent part of New Year’s Eve watching Lily and Hope on the NABC 2011 DenCam. They aren’t worried about such things as red Ravine. They are busy being Bears. I focus on my new practices for 2011: (1) a daily Journal entry 365 (2) a BlackBerry collaboration inspired by Lotus (one of our readers) (3) a year-long Renga collaboration. I’ll write more about these practices in coming posts. Happy New Year, ybonesy. Happy New Year to all red Ravine readers. Happy New Year, red Ravine. New Beginnings. The Promise of Spring.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 1st, 2011

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letting go
Letting Go, one of the themes at the Natalie Goldberg silent retreat in Taos, December 2010,  collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

It was strange to find myself sitting in the zendo at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, our teacher Natalie Goldberg urging us to Let Go. I had just a few weeks before made the decision to leave red Ravine, although QuoinMonkey and I had agreed to wait until the end of the year to make the announcement. Though not intended as such, the week in Taos could be a test of how ready I was to let go of this special virtual space that had inspired and sustained me for so long.
 
mabel's houseIt was in Taos, after all, that red Ravine was born. The year—2006. QM and I, having already written together for some time, are both participating in a four-season Intensive with Natalie Goldberg. This Intensive is part of a bigger plan I have for myself, a wannabe writer-and-artist withering away inside the body of a corporate manager and breadwinner for my family of four. I am bored and unhappy. I want to write and do art, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to do much with either except to dream about it. QM and I and a couple of others hatch red Ravine over intense working sessions in Taos and through the phone lines while back at our respective homes. Setting up a blog is hard work, but it is also real. For the first time, I am motivated to do more than fantasize about writing and making art. red Ravine promises to be the impetus to actually producing. 
 
Those first two years of creating red Ravine, QM and I worked our butts off and had a blast doing it. The blog was a perfect outlet for the deep, low creative growl that the Intensive seemed to unleash within us. Some days we posted more than once, and often we had to make sure that we weren’t publishing over one another. For my part, I was making art like crazy. After years of being fearful of the lack of control inherent in a brush (as compared to a pencil), I took a workshop at Ghost Ranch and learned to paint. My corporate job changed around the same time, too. I landed an assignment that took me back and forth to Vietnam. I bought myself a slew of different colored inking pens and began using the long trips back and forth as opportunity to take on a doodling practice.

QuoinMonkey and I worked surprisingly well together. We were both committed to the idea of a creating a space where we would each be inspired and where we might inspire others. She brought to red Ravine and to me her strong values around Community and Giving Back. Her thoughtful and thorough turtle complemented my quick and often irreverent spirit. (What animal am I anyway? The brown bird, I guess.) We found ourselves in synch whenever we wanted to try something new or make a change. We pushed each other to do our best.
 
 
what I learned

 
mabel's house 2 for red ravineOne of the things I love about Taos and Mabel’s place is how they never seem to change. Here I am, early December 2010, and I’m crossing the same flagstone patio that I walked those years ago back when red Ravine was still an infant. Over the past several years, I’ve brought my daughters here, and my husband. I bring my father back each year after we clean his parents’ graves in Costilla, 42 miles north. One summer he laid some of these very flagstones,when he was about 16 and living on Morada Lane in a house with a storefront.

It doesn’t matter what I have accomplished, what roles I have taken on in the years since I’ve been back. Inside the zendo, Natalie reminds us to Let Go. For me this means letting go of my responsibilities, my ego, any self-assigned self-importance. Here, in Taos, I am zero. In my raw, stripped-down state I feel my sadness. It is deep inside me, under everything else I carry. 

My heart breaks open.
 
Letting Go in Taos means being able to clearly see that red Ravine was, in fact, the catalyst for change in my life. It means being grateful for everything I’ve learned as a result of opening up to others. Because of red Ravine, I’ve had a place to publish my writing, to experiment with and share my art, to meet other writers and artists. red Ravine has been Muse, sounding board, supportive audience, friend, family, mentor.

I started a fledging business because of the creativity that flowed out, thanks to red Ravine. Because of this blog I’ve learned to commit to and follow through with my practices; to make jewelery; to turn unpolished writing into finished pieces; to put my creative self out into the world. I used to think I couldn’t finish anything; it took having this blog to realize that I’m an actualizer at heart. 

Of course, there are downsides to setting and realizing intentions. Jim long ago gave up complaining when I’d spend hours socked away in my writing room. But I don’t take for granted any more, not since April of this year when he collapsed on the bed clutching his heart, that he will always be there waiting when I need to take a break. And my daughters—full-fledged teenagers! Just today I accompanied my oldest for nearly an hour while she drove us all around town, adding experience under her belt in preparation for graduating from learners permit to drivers license. I don’t have much time left to influence their lives.

 
 
letting go

 

la morada (taos)At the December retreat, we walk the dirt trail out at the morada, just down the way from Mabel’s place. Natalie often takes her students there. The day we go, boys and men from Taos Pueblo run past us in the cold air. I feel alone and sheltered in my layers of warmth, and for a moment I am homesick for family and our traditions

My parents are old now. They’ve passed from the stage of old-yet-mostly-healthy to being old-and-frighteningly-frail. I visit them every Sunday. All year long I struggle to keep up with everything I have on my plate. Some weeks it feels impossible to eke out even the simplest of posts.

QM is a rock. Her posts are—like her—consistently high-quality, thorough, and deep. I am honored to have worked with her for this long.

A good friend of mine who a few years back started up his own blog had this to say when I told him I was thinking of leaving red Ravine: “Blogging has no exit strategy.” Which is another way of saying that unless you’re getting paid to do it, blogging is a labor of love. This particular labor has born much fruit. 

It has so much more potential, so much yet to become. I’m going to be here, on the other side of the screen, cheering on QM to keep moving it forward. I know I’ll always be proud to say I was a part of creating it.

Thank you for everything you’ve done, QM. Thank you to the friends I’ve met here. So long for now. See you in Comments. 8)
 
 

 

self portrait
Self Portrait, December 2010, collage made of magazine paper, wax crayons, and pen and ink in Moleskine journal, image © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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Happy 3rd Birthday, red Ravine!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 7th 2010, doodle © 2010 by Lizzie Bee. All rights reserved.


It was November 2006 when ybonesy and I started planning and writing for red Ravine, fruit from a seed planted in Taos, New Mexico at a writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg. In April 2008, red Ravine celebrated her 1st birthday with the post A Year Of Living Dangerously. When I saw that ybonesy and I were approaching our 3rd birthday, I went back and read some of the comments from 2 years ago. One of the most fun, from Sam, about red Ravine’s Zodiac sign (Aries) sparked a whole conversation:


QM, I looked up a make-shift chart for red Ravine. I went back to the April 7th post, and didn’t see a timestamp, so I used 9am, with San Francisco (WordPress) as the birthplace. That put the Moon in Sagittarius, Mars and Mercury in Pisces, and Venus in Taurus.

But I’m betting that you and YB have more accurate data. You should swing by Cafe Astrology for a free natal chart, AND you can get free compatibility readings while you’re there, too. Then, let us all in on the results.

In astronomy, the zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός) is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the sky over the course of the year. The Moon and planets lie within the ecliptic, and are also part of the constellations of the zodiac. In astrology, the zodiac denotes those signs that divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude.

When I was in high school, I belonged to a Tri-Hi-Y named The Zodiacs. My Sun is in Cancer, with Taurus Moon and Taurus rising. My ruling planet is the Moon. ybonesy and I haven’t done compatibility readings, but after 3 1/2 years of publishing red Ravine, I’d say our Gemini/Cancer combination seems to be working.

I thought it might be fun to take this opportunity to poll our readers (as ybonesy mentioned in the comment thread on the 2008 post) and see what signs they are. ybonesy thinks we have a high percentage of Gemini readers on red Ravine. But I’m not so sure. What sign are you?





In Gratitude: Here’s to another year of red Ravine. With much appreciation to our readers and guests. You keep the community energy flowing, and help us keep going. Special thanks to ybonesy, my blog partner, an inspiration. And to Liz, my partner in life (who also created the doodle in this piece). I could never have kept going on this project without the two of you.

-posted on red Ravine, in celebration of her 3rd Birthday & Blogiversary, Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

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Moon over Kitchen Mesa, the moon at dusk at Ghost Ranch, August 1, 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved
Moon over Kitchen Mesa, moon at dusk at Ghost Ranch, August 1, 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










silent Moon hovers
dreaming of New Mexico
she sits for us all




off in the zendo
friends dancing in the middle
slow walk to the end




irrational mind
each day a new beginning
Summer wears your face









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In honor of our friends sitting in Taos with Natalie this week and last; photo by ybonesy and haiku by QuoinMonkey.

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-related to too many posts to mention them all, but here are few: Birthday Of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Sunrise On Taos Mountain (Reflections On Writing Retreats), Sitting in Solidarity, A Taste Of Ghost Ranch, and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

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Bobs Scalloped Oysters, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bob’s Scalloped Oysters, dinner at a writing retreat in Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

Last weekend I was in Kansas City, Missouri for a short writing retreat with three other Midwest writers. We did Writing Practice, slow walked, sat in silence, and recalibrated our project goals for the next 6 months. There were a couple of breakthroughs and much clarity. I met two of these writers at the last year-long Intensive we attended with Natalie in Taos. We try to meet every 6 months, check in on our goals every two weeks. No one should have to do this alone.

I also met ybonesy at a Taos writing retreat and we are still going strong. We created red Ravine because we didn’t want writers and artists to feel like they had to do this alone. We wanted a supportive place people could visit 24/7. We didn’t want to be tossed away. I feel grateful for the online community, and for close writing and artists friends, and try to cultivate those relationships. I encourage writers to connect any way they can.

It wasn’t all serious over last weekend though. We laughed a lot. And Bob gave us a whirlwind tour of beautiful Kansas City, Missouri. He called it “the nickel tour” but I think it was priceless. I loved the fountains, the art museums, the sycamores and the blooming redbuds. We stood by the Missouri River, drove past hundreds of limestone houses (including Hemingway’s), and ate 50 pounds of Kansas City barbecue. The Spring weather was perfect; everything was in bloom.

For dinner one night, Bob cooked Hamburger Splatter and baked his Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, made famous in his March post on red Ravine. If you love oysters, Aunt Annie’s are to die for! Gratitude to Bob for putting up with all of us in Kansas City (it’s a great place to write). Gratitude to ybonesy for holding down the fort on red Ravine. Gratitude to Liz for taking care of Chaco while I was gone. Look for more of Kansas City in upcoming posts.

 

Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Dish Up The Scalloped Oysters, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writers' Feet, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

 

Dish Up The Scalloped Oysters!, Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Writers’ Feet, April writing retreat in Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

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