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La Vía Poética

How is poem born on a pilgrimage to the homeland of Pablo Neruda? I’m happy to say you can find out in the inaugural issue of Hidden Compass, where my essay & illustrations await you!

A Thousand-Word Morning

I wish I’d written a thousand words sitting by the bank of the Chetco River that morning, wrapped in a red-wool blanket. And though a picture is worth that word count, I heard a thousand word-songs. The birds singing to the dawn, my own voice reading Annie Dillard, the riffle of water around the bend, and the chalky clack of stones as a friend walked down the bank to bring me coffee. May our summers always share moments like these.

For the Love of Summer: Paintings by Anna Elkins at GoodBean Coffee

&, painting by Anna Elkins, Jacksonville, Oregon
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For the Love of Summer: Paintings by Anna Elkins 
 
Summer is celebratory in Jacksonville! With the warm weather and cold drinks, Goodbean is one of my favorite spots to meet friends. It’s a treat to have my art on these historic brick walls again.
 
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Poets & Painters Workshop with Mindy Carpenter & Anna Elkins

poets and painters workshop with Mindy Carpenter and Anna Elkins 6/24/17 at South Stage Cellars

My talented friend Anna Elkins and I are hosting an upcoming workshop on Saturday, June 24th! It’s called Poets & Painters and will combine our love of writing, painting, words, color and imagery. We will paint an 8″x10″ very simple, loose still life, write freestyle prose poetry around the piece, paint the words into the painting, around or underneath so only you know they are there or a combination of both. Still life objects and “mise en scene” will be provided. The class will be fun, nurturing, a creative jumping off to both your writing and your art.

ALL SUPPLIES PROVIDED, including light snacks. Wine available for purchase as it will be held in the lovely outdoor patio at South Stage Cellars. Class size limited. No experience necessary. This is an expressive fun workshop with no rules, just showing up for yourself.

 

The Wordbody Blog Turns Ten

Sunrise, Sunset:

Today also happens to be summer solstice—
a great reason to watch the sun set!
Ten years ago today, I started the Wordbody blog before flying off to a tiny island in Micronesia. To celebrate, I compiled an entirely random assortment of things I learned between then and now.  

1) Earplugging fear. Might as well start with the main event. Ten years ago, I flew to Saipan to teach public high school because I was afraid of public speaking. I decided it was time to face that ol’ fear. A wise man once said, “The dogs of doom bark at the door of your destiny. But when you step through the door, you usually find a Chihuahua with a megaphone.” Truth. Today, I teach locally and globally. And I do love it. It is part of my destiny. When those dogs start barking, plug your ears and keep walking.

2) Own compassion. We’ve all heard it before: we can only be as compassionate (or honoring, or respectful, etc.) to others as we are to ourselves. But it’s really, really true. We can’t give what we don’t have. Speaking of giving….

3) Give like a river. I read this somewhere, once upon a time. What you put in from where you stand on a river’s shore will likely be carried downstream. And what you receive may come to you from upriver—from an entirely unexpected, unseen source. As I continually learn this, I’m getting better at releasing the illusion of reciprocity (bonus: this is a great antidote to bitterness).

4) Some reflexes & assumptions can kill you: While driving over the Siskyou Pass in sub-zero winter behind mud-spraying semi trucks, don’t reflexively squirt the cleaner fluid on your windshield. (If you do, you have about two inches of visibility beneath the wiper line to see enough to pull over!) Assumption scenarios with fellow humans can be equally dangerous.

5) Happy day. Years ago, while traveling in Asia, I read Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss. By that point, I had lived and worked on several continents, and all but North America knew to take more than two weeks of vacation a year. In Weiner’s search for what makes people happy in Thailand, he found that the Thai people are less likely to take big, long vacations. Instead, they have learned how to build breaks and rest into their everyday lives. I loved that idea. Since reading that, I’m constantly reminding myself to intersperse my freelance work day with hammock time, cups of tea, reading poetry, or just staring out the window. Happier (and more productive) me.

6) Metaphors for the “Big Lessons.As a writer, I love metaphors. As an artist, I also love visual ones. You know the adage about giving people a clean slate? I remind myself of that figurative clean slate by keeping a literal slate (aka a mini chalkboard) above my door. It’s clean—nothin’ on it. A nice reminder.

7) Low fat! Low carb! Paleo! No! While standing in a wedding buffet line in my early thirties, I picked up a piece of bread. One of the women across from me noticed and pointedly said to her friend how great she felt when she avoided bread. That comment felt like a slap on two levels: it felt shaming, and it showed me how my own “didactic diet” had likely annoyed or even hurt others. Sure, if a person has a serious disease or food intolerance, it’s wise to let people know. Otherwise, food trends come and go. Unless someone asks, it’s probably better to figure out what works for ourselves and eat it—not preach it.

8) We are spirit, mind, and body—in that order. I wrote about that in a 2011 post called “Bikini Season for the Spirit.” Reading it again was a good reminder. 

9) The best investment. As a poet/painter, I’m not exactly a Fortune-500-level investor. But a couple of years ago, I decided to give up financial insecurity for Lent. For 2-3 hours a day after work, I read books, watched instructional videos, and navigated websites to figure out how to build a nestegg. When friends asked me what I was up do, I would tell them, and we’d end up sharing our good and bad financial adventures. Over those 40 days, I realized something. The best investments are relationships. My Roth IRA may fluctuate, and the few stocks I bought certainly will, but investing in people—regardless of reciprocity (see #3)—is always savvy.


10) Mistakes are often creativity in disguise. When I first returned home from the island of Saipan, I missed the 180-degree views of sea and sky. I had watched most sunrises and sunsets. One afternoon back in Oregon, I wanted to paint with some leftover red wine. I made myself a cup of coffee but bumped into something as I went to set it down. I splashed just enough over the rim to leave a coffee ring on my paper. At first, I was annoyed. I wanted to use that sheet of watercolor paper to paint! But then, as I looked at the common “mistake” of the ring, I saw the beauty in it. I dipped the cup in wine, and voilà: a tribute to watching sunrise with one beverage and sunset with another. Here’s to seeing coffee rings and other mistakes with new eyes.
 

The Wordbody Blog Turns Ten

Sunrise, Sunset:

Today also happens to be summer solstice—
a great reason to watch the sun set!
Ten years ago today, I started the Wordbody blog before flying off to a tiny island in Micronesia. To celebrate, I compiled an entirely random assortment of things I learned between then and now.  

1) Earplugging fear. Might as well start with the main event. Ten years ago, I flew to Saipan to teach public high school because I was afraid of public speaking. I decided it was time to face that ol’ fear. A wise man once said, “The dogs of doom bark at the door of your destiny. But when you step through the door, you usually find a Chihuahua with a megaphone.” Truth. Today, I teach locally and globally. And I do love it. It is part of my destiny. When those dogs start barking, plug your ears and keep walking.

2) Own compassion. We’ve all heard it before: we can only be as compassionate (or honoring, or respectful, etc.) to others as we are to ourselves. But it’s really, really true. We can’t give what we don’t have. Speaking of giving….

3) Give like a river. I read this somewhere, once upon a time. What you put in from where you stand on a river’s shore will likely be carried downstream. And what you receive may come to you from upriver—from an entirely unexpected, unseen source. As I continually learn this, I’m getting better at releasing the illusion of reciprocity (bonus: this is a great antidote to bitterness).

4) Some reflexes & assumptions can kill you: While driving over the Siskyou Pass in sub-zero winter behind mud-spraying semi trucks, don’t reflexively squirt the cleaner fluid on your windshield. (If you do, you have about two inches of visibility beneath the wiper line to see enough to pull over!) Assumption scenarios with fellow humans can be equally dangerous.

5) Happy day. Years ago, while traveling in Asia, I read Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss. By that point, I had lived and worked on several continents, and all but North America knew to take more than two weeks of vacation a year. In Weiner’s search for what makes people happy in Thailand, he found that the Thai people are less likely to take big, long vacations. Instead, they have learned how to build breaks and rest into their everyday lives. I loved that idea. Since reading that, I’m constantly reminding myself to intersperse my freelance work day with hammock time, cups of tea, reading poetry, or just staring out the window. Happier (and more productive) me.

6) Metaphors for the “Big Lessons.As a writer, I love metaphors. As an artist, I also love visual ones. You know the adage about giving people a clean slate? I remind myself of that figurative clean slate by keeping a literal slate (aka a mini chalkboard) above my door. It’s clean—nothin’ on it. A nice reminder.

7) Low fat! Low carb! Paleo! No! While standing in a wedding buffet line in my early thirties, I picked up a piece of bread. One of the women across from me noticed and pointedly said to her friend how great she felt when she avoided bread. That comment felt like a slap on two levels: it felt shaming, and it showed me how my own “didactic diet” had likely annoyed or even hurt others. Sure, if a person has a serious disease or food intolerance, it’s wise to let people know. Otherwise, food trends come and go. Unless someone asks, it’s probably better to figure out what works for ourselves and eat it—not preach it.

8) We are spirit, mind, and body—in that order. I wrote about that in a 2011 post called “Bikini Season for the Spirit.” Reading it again was a good reminder. 

9) The best investment. As a poet/painter, I’m not exactly a Fortune-500-level investor. But a couple of years ago, I decided to give up financial insecurity for Lent. For 2-3 hours a day after work, I read books, watched instructional videos, and navigated websites to figure out how to build a nestegg. When friends asked me what I was up do, I would tell them, and we’d end up sharing our good and bad financial adventures. Over those 40 days, I realized something. The best investments are relationships. My Roth IRA may fluctuate, and the few stocks I bought certainly will, but investing in people—regardless of reciprocity (see #3)—is always savvy.


10) Mistakes are often creativity in disguise. When I first returned home from the island of Saipan, I missed the 180-degree views of sea and sky. I had watched most sunrises and sunsets. One afternoon back in Oregon, I wanted to paint with some leftover red wine. I made myself a cup of coffee but bumped into something as I went to set it down. I splashed just enough over the rim to leave a coffee ring on my paper. At first, I was annoyed. I wanted to use that sheet of watercolor paper to paint! But then, as I looked at the common “mistake” of the ring, I saw the beauty in it. I dipped the cup in wine, and voilà: a tribute to watching sunrise with one beverage and sunset with another. Here’s to seeing coffee rings and other mistakes with new eyes.
 

Six Celebrations of Poetry

“A poem is not simply words on a page but a way of touching the stars and having the stars that have fallen into the sea touch us.”—Sawnie Morris
“I don’t think that art or poetry needs to set out to change the world but I think that it can change the world and make us more compassionate, more just, more aware.” —Michael Wiegers
“The struggle of the poet is to reach the natural sensations, emotions, and feelings that are often concealed or hidden by the mechanisms of civilization.”—Donald Hall
“My feeling is that poetry is also a healing process, and then when a person tries to write poetry with depth or beauty, he will find himself guided along paths which will heal him, and this is more important, actually, than any of the poetry he writes.”—Robert Bly
“A poem, like an oar, extends inner life into the waters of story and things, of language and music. There we in turn are changed, moved by the encounter’s supporting buoyancy, and also its useful resistance.”—Jane Hirshfield

“Poems are really messages to me whispering, Be calm, go deep, go slow.”—Susan Goldsmith Woldridge

Six Celebrations of Poetry

“A poem is not simply words on a page but a way of touching the stars and having the stars that have fallen into the sea touch us.”—Sawnie Morris
“I don’t think that art or poetry needs to set out to change the world but I think that it can change the world and make us more compassionate, more just, more aware.” —Michael Wiegers
“The struggle of the poet is to reach the natural sensations, emotions, and feelings that are often concealed or hidden by the mechanisms of civilization.”—Donald Hall
“My feeling is that poetry is also a healing process, and then when a person tries to write poetry with depth or beauty, he will find himself guided along paths which will heal him, and this is more important, actually, than any of the poetry he writes.”—Robert Bly
“A poem, like an oar, extends inner life into the waters of story and things, of language and music. There we in turn are changed, moved by the encounter’s supporting buoyancy, and also its useful resistance.”—Jane Hirshfield

“Poems are really messages to me whispering, Be calm, go deep, go slow.”—Susan Goldsmith Woldridge

Beauty

 A staircase at Royal Château de Blois, France
Beauty is a bank of clouds and the riverbank
Beauty is the fine tip of your favorite pen
Beauty is the butter churn, the salt mine, and the breakfast plate
Beauty is a dozen eggs, a dozen cookies, a dozen months 
           each year
Beauty is an infant’s hand grasping your ear lobe
Beauty is the osprey nest, the eagle’s nest, and learning
            the difference between them
Beauty is primary—a blue stamp, a yellow letter, a red mailbox
Beauty is bare feet on a warm beach, toes sinking slow
            in the surf-soft sand
Beauty is the Moroccan orange tree and the Californian lemon
Beauty is the cat purring, and beauty is the cat
Beauty is the grandmother’s garden of tended and amended soil
Beauty is the hemisphere and the blogosphere
Beauty is a screen of pixels shaping the face of your love,
            and beauty is your love
Beauty is quick—a glimpse through the train window
Beauty is slow—a dinner with as many conversations as courses.  
Beauty is a pair of dancing shoes with holes worn through,
            and beauty is the music that wore them out
Beauty is the staircase and every shadow ever cast across it
Beauty is a sink on a second story, water piping up
            from deep below the earth to wash your hands
Beauty is a hot shower
Beauty is a sky of stars and planes and satellites
Beauty is the embroidered pillow and the night full of dreams
Beauty is the truth, told straight or slant, with pen or brush 
            or body or sound or tongue or hands or clay or glass
            or stone or flowers or tile or might
Beauty is Creator and created
Beauty is here 
           and beauty is now

Beauty

 A staircase at Royal Château de Blois, France
Beauty is a bank of clouds and the riverbank
Beauty is the fine tip of your favorite pen
Beauty is the butter churn, the salt mine, and the breakfast plate
Beauty is a dozen eggs, a dozen cookies, a dozen months 
           each year
Beauty is an infant’s hand grasping your ear lobe
Beauty is the osprey nest, the eagle’s nest, and learning
            the difference between them
Beauty is primary—a blue stamp, a yellow letter, a red mailbox
Beauty is bare feet on a warm beach, toes sinking slow
            in the surf-soft sand
Beauty is the Moroccan orange tree and the Californian lemon
Beauty is the cat purring, and beauty is the cat
Beauty is the grandmother’s garden of tended and amended soil
Beauty is the hemisphere and the blogosphere
Beauty is a screen of pixels shaping the face of your love,
            and beauty is your love
Beauty is quick—a glimpse through the train window
Beauty is slow—a dinner with as many conversations as courses.  
Beauty is a pair of dancing shoes with holes worn through,
            and beauty is the music that wore them out
Beauty is the staircase and every shadow ever cast across it
Beauty is a sink on a second story, water piping up
            from deep below the earth to wash your hands
Beauty is a hot shower
Beauty is a sky of stars and planes and satellites
Beauty is the embroidered pillow and the night full of dreams
Beauty is the truth, told straight or slant, with pen or brush 
            or body or sound or tongue or hands or clay or glass
            or stone or flowers or tile or might
Beauty is Creator and created
Beauty is here 
           and beauty is now