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Big Gratitude for All the Little Things

Happy Gratitude!

Little things can bring such big delight. Like receiving photos of my new book, Living Large on Little, trotting the globe from New Zealand to Kansas (with a few furry bibliophiles, too!) 

Thank you, thank you to all the readers! Another delight: reading reviews. Here are teasers from a few that have come in so far:

“At the end of this little book I was happier and more hopeful…Finished the book feeling inspired and amazed…As I closed it I felt richer!”

“What a delight! I read this short but powerful collection of anecdotes in a single evening! So much heart and depth tucked in these pages. I will read it more than once, surely. Love!”

“I finished this book feeling hopeful, appreciative, optimistic and grateful. It’s full of insightful personal stories about wealth, the actual money kind, or the “feeling wealthy”, the internal abundance kind that comes from within (which is no small thing! it’s actually THE THING!!!)…”

Of course, I’d also be immensely grateful if you want to add to the reviews! You can find the book here. It brims with gratitude and grace—good for every season, but especially this one. 

Thank you for reading & blessings of delight, 

Anna

Big Gratitude for All the Little Things

Happy Gratitude!

Little things can bring such big delight. Like receiving photos of my new book, Living Large on Little, trotting the globe from New Zealand to Kansas (with a few furry bibliophiles, too!) 

Thank you, thank you to all the readers! Another delight: reading reviews. Here are teasers from a few that have come in so far:

“At the end of this little book I was happier and more hopeful…Finished the book feeling inspired and amazed…As I closed it I felt richer!”

“What a delight! I read this short but powerful collection of anecdotes in a single evening! So much heart and depth tucked in these pages. I will read it more than once, surely. Love!”

“I finished this book feeling hopeful, appreciative, optimistic and grateful. It’s full of insightful personal stories about wealth, the actual money kind, or the “feeling wealthy”, the internal abundance kind that comes from within (which is no small thing! it’s actually THE THING!!!)…”

Of course, I’d also be immensely grateful if you want to add to the reviews! You can find the book here. It brims with gratitude and grace—good for every season, but especially this one. 

Thank you for reading & blessings of delight, 

Anna

Living Large on Little: Part 3

And one more installation from my forthcoming mini book: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. This vignette is from the section on patience….

When I taught high school on a tiny, Micronesian island, far, far away, I learned to make weekends sacred. I tried to get out and enjoy the ocean, which was my favorite thing to do there. 

One Saturday morning, I stopped at the local outdoor market and bought a coconut to take to Wings Beach. With any luck, I’d have that northern nook of the island to myself. It was an  unprotected beach, as in: no coral reef to create a lagoon and keep the sharks out. I was always a bit afraid of swimming in those waters, and I would force myself to do it.

My car lurched down the pocked, coral road, and I arrived to—delight!—a deserted beach. 

I laid out my sarong on the sand and sipped the coconut juice through the straw sticking from the hole that the man at the market had machete’d open for me. When I finished the juice, I thought: I want to eat the coconut meat inside. But this was the entire coconut—thick, green outer casing and all.

Limitation: I had no machete. 

Invitation: How else can I open it?

I will not admit how long it took me to break that thing open. It involved much hefting and not a few rounds of bashing against rocks. I’m glad there were no witnesses but the coconut crabs, scuttling for cover. 

When I finally heard that shell crack in half, I felt an ancient thrill that no modern equipment of convenience can give. 

I sat on my sarong and scooped out the coconut meat. I ate it with revelry, facing the sea and sky in their many hues of blue. 

When I had scraped out the last of the sweet fruit, I stacked the two shells and ran my hands through the sand—sand that had once been stone or coral and was now soft enough to comfortably sit on. 

So much is worth waiting for. 

Sometimes, that waiting is passive, but many times, it’s a muscle’d waiting, filled with sweat and repetition like the tides. Or the sound of continuous thudding of coconut on stone. 

PS: The official book launch is November 9 at The Miners’ Bazaar in Jacksonville, Oregon, from 5-7 PM.  More info here. 

Living Large on Little: Part 2

This month, a second installation from my forthcoming mini book: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. It is divided into sections of vignettes, and the following bit appears in the “Joy” section….

The idea that an apple a day keeps the doctor away only works if we choose to eat the apple.

Joy is an active choice we make. 

I like to distinguish happiness from joy. To me, happiness depends on a certain outcome or circumstance, but joy is independent of any externals—it’s a heart-set. A choice. 

This means I can still have joy in the midst of grief, but I probably can’t be happy. I can be happy when I buy a new pair of boots, but not necessarily when I splatter paint all over them—and joy doesn’t require any specific footwear.

But then, I sometimes forget my own theory and use happiness and joy interchangeably. 

Sometimes, joy is taking a moment to laugh at ourselves and all of our theories.

(PS: If youre in Southern Oregon, save the date for the book launch on the evening of November 9…more info soon!)

*Living Large on Little is now available here

Restful Productivity with Anna Elkins

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

This holiday reminds me of my goal of restful productivity. I still fail at it—often and miserably—but I keep practicing.

In early spring, I was trying really, really hard to take one day off each week. One chilly, Sabbath afternoon, I cozied up with tea and a stack of art books, and I had an idea. That idea became The Word-Painting Project: a subscription series of ten little poem-paintings of encouragement. I created one each day during a June writing retreat, made prints of the ten designs, and then mailed each batch to subscribers every week for ten weeks over the summer. Despite some postal glitches, it was fun to do, and I was heartened to receive photos of people’s prints lining their window sills and hanging on their walls. It was like one, big encouragement loop!

That project culminated in a salon & exhibit at the end of my recent writing residency in San Francisco. In fact, I mailed the last batch of prints from the mailbox on the street corner near the Noe Valley studio where I stayed. That was a lovely feeling.

I often have to encourage myself to rest. Paradoxically, from that place of rest comes the ideas and energy for the work that I love and love to share.

In the spirit of sharing, I’d like to give you a free print—that Word-Painting at the top of this newsletter. You can download it here. Print it, share it—whatever you like!

My residency was at the wonderful, new WordSpaceStudios in San Francisco. While there, I was able to finally gather together the ideas for a little nonfiction project that had been simmering away in a file for years. And so, while my poetry manuscript is off looking for a home, I am finishing up Living Large on Little: How a Poet Sees Limitation as Invitation. You can find a teaser from the intro on my Wordbody blog. And save the date this November 9 for a multi-level celebration (5-7 pm at Miners’ Bazaar in Jacksonville). More info to come.

And then…

…last but certainly not least, we were thrilled to release the anthology, Deep Travel: Souvenirs from the Inner JourneyWe held the launch the night before the annual Travel Writers & Photographers Conference at the flagship BookPassage in Corte Madera, California. The book compiles writings from five years of workshops and 44 contributors…16 of whom traveled to read for the launch (they’re pictured above). It was a big labor of love to help gather these voices together, but so very worth it.

I could sum up this summer in two words: labor & play. Here’s to creating space in both to rest and dream.

With joy,

Anna

Upcoming

Vignettes in the Vineyard

Friday, 11 October, 3-5 pm at Red Lily Vineyards (Applegate Valley, OR) This third annual writing workshop is back! I’ll be teaching the same course, so if you missed it in the past, join me this year during the peak of autumn leaves in the iconic Red Lily barn.
 Deep Travel Mexico

16-22 January 2020 (Yelapa, Mexico) It’s a winter tradition! This will be our fifth workshop of writing and practicing the art of tranquilo in a car-free village on the Bay of Banderas. Register at DeepTravelWorkshops.com.


Deep Travel Paris

4-10 April 2020 (Paris, France) We’re thrilled to hold our first workshop in the City of Light! Get ready to spend time in the parks, museums, and cafés of this delicious city that always inspires the artist’s life. Register at DeepTravelWorkshops.com.

 

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Living Large on Little: Part 1

WordSpaceStudios, San Francisco 
It was such a gift. Time and space in San Francisco to write. While there, I was able to work on a nonfiction project that’s been growing in a Word document for a long time: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. This is the first of several excerpts. From the introduction: 

I grew up mostly in rural Montana. At the edge of our field grew a young plum tree. I loved this tree. I whispered my hopes to it and sat in its shade and…I was probably reenacting Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I was a bit of a romantic.

Beneath that tree, I dreamed what my life would be like when I grew up. Though I can’t remember all of those dreams, I do remember that my imagination sustained me. 

The farmhouse my parents rented was beautiful and old—over a hundred years at the time. It had no central heating. In the winter, our pipes would consistently freeze. The spigot mounted to the fence leaked enough water to create fantastical, three-foot-high ice sculptures. 

Winter mornings, my brother David and I would don our scarves, coats, hats, mittens, and Moon Boots and plunge through the snow to see what shape had grown in the night.

One year, the spigot dripped into a being an ice chair worthy of the witch of Narnia. It was so big, we could sit on it, and we did—taking turns being King and Queen, reigning over the white and gray landscape, ours to the edge of the visible world.

More to come next month…. 

*Living Large on Little is now available here

Beyond the Visible

At the start of my walk…

I was grateful to spend the last week housesitting near Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon. I walked the long beaches usually twice a day, in between overlong work sessions.

One afternoon, as I headed north, I noticed that Face Rock was barely visible in the fog. In fact, if I hadn’t seen her before, I wouldn’t have even known she was there.

On my return, the fog had cleared, and the namesake rock was in her usual pose of looking up at the sky from the waters. I couldn’t help but wonder: how many things do we walk past in the fog of our limited perception, not knowing the presence of beauty just beyond the visible conditions of our lives?

…and on my return.



I spent a good chunk of the week’s work on a new possible adventure–one that would require new ways of seeing, thinking, and dreaming.

We shall see (and I do hope with more than my natural eyes).

With love from the fog & the sun,

Anna

What will we send out?

When I created the Word-Painting Project, the idea was to do something that could encourage others…and cover my grocery bill while chalet-sitting for friends in Switzerland (I’m a practical poet!). 

Though I thought I was making time for the project, the project made time for me. It gave me time to watch the light on the Alps and the clouds catch on their peaks. It gave me time to listen to the symphony of cowbells on the Holsteins munching wildflowers on the slope of the next-door chalet. And it was a joy to share that time in words and images by creating a word-painting every day for ten days. 

Back home, the prints of those originals already arrived, and I’ve hand-addressed the first of ten batches to go out over the summer. This week, a stack of Word-Painting No. 1 prints began their stamped way through the postal system to their recipients, and I blessed them as I dropped them into the post-office slot.  

This was the last image I created for the Word-Painting Project. It seemed appropriate to end with a question: What will we send out into the bright world beyond us? Some days, the world is bright, as in sunny and good—like this summer solstice day. And some days, the world is bright, as in the harsh glare of a world in need. Regardless of the natural or emotional weather, I choose to send out something encouraging. And with it, a big dose of gratitude. 

So, in each of Switzerland’s three, official languages, thank you for being part of the Word-Painting journey: danke, merci, grazie.

The Poet & the Bloodstone

Detail of Bloodstone Pillars, Catedral de Ávila, Spain
I am happy that this poem will be  published in the forthcoming Deep Travel anthology.  A bit of backstory:
Saint Teresa of Ávila and Charles-Axel Guillaumot never met. She was a Spanish nun who lived from 1515-1582; he was a French architect who lived from 1730-1807. Each of them built and left a largely invisible legacy. Hers was a vision of the interior castle of the spirit within us. His was to save Paris from collapsing back into the quarries beneath it by building a support city belowground. Today, you can read what Teresa built with her words, and you can visit a fraction of Paris’ abandoned quarries open to the public. In the poetry collection, Hope of Stones, you are invited to enter a cross-century conversation among The Nun, The Architect, & The Poet. This poem is from that collection, which was a finalist for the Tupelo Press 2019 Dorset Prize.

     The Poet & The Bloodstone 
     Ávila, Spain

Today is research day. First, The Nun’s museum. 
It brims with depictions of heaven speaking 
to the saint. In paintings, doves & rays of light 
descend & suspend above her upturned face. 
Speech ribbons unfurl toward her from angels. 
The saint was known to levitate, so I half expect
the painted words to lift from their composition 
& twirl about. They stay put. 
                                                   Next, the Catedral 
de Ávila. Here, I see the grandeur The Nun left 
behind. This church was built with bloodstone—
granite shot through with iron. It looks like 
history has bled across the walls. The stone came
from a nearby quarry, & I think of The Architect. 
What we pull from the earth & what we do with it. 
I sit a long while on a hard pew, but my most 
profound thought is how best to get to the train 
station tomorrow. 
                                 Time to search for gazpacho 
Rioja—things that don’t last for centuries. I keep 
forgetting that in this country, I’m an outsider 
trying to dine before nine. 
                                               The Nun founded 
her simple convent outside the city walls. 
Paris thought The Architect an outsider 
for not being born in France. I am always looking
for what lies outside—even dining hours. 
                                                                         I find
an open café & order wine the color of bloodstone.


Poetry in Five Minutes or Less

For this year’s National Poetry Month, I shared lickety-split bits of micropoetry each day on Instagram. My rules: use photos I took each day and write the poetry in five minutes or less. (This was a fun break from my norm of a bazillion revisions!) Here are six of my favs….

1.
Orange marries mint
where the berries lie
on tile blue as night sky
before dreaming begins.



4.
If perfection exists,
might she don the disguise
of wild flowers in a little 
glass on a rainy day?




8.
We know every exit
is an entrance elsewhere,
but we don’t know the where—
else how would mystery visit?



10.
We dwell all the way
to the horizon of our lives. 
May the view from the sill
of our hearts be vast.




25.
Everywhere, beauty
shines her light—
unfurling petals,
greening leaves.
Even the shadows smile 
at her bright excess.



28.
The constant fight with self—
who thinks she’s beyond 
rest—is gladly lost 
each time my soul
insists on a Sabbath, 
& my body’s eyes
watch leaves grow
on page or tree,
& my spirit eyes
see all as new enough again 
to return to—with 
better work & world.