grateful days

VI holiday card

artwork by assistant victoria irwin from 11/19/15 group

We have so much to be thankful for, even though it may not always appear thus. Both inside and out, for instance, this year has brought an abundance of support for writing inside VT.

Our first-ever individual appeal has almost hit its target of $6000 toward our annual operating expenses, the balance of which will be sought in grants. We are so very grateful for your belief in our work and your financial support to continue it into our seventh year.

We have added an advisory board of seven wise and thoughtful women who bring a breadth and depth of experience and passion to guiding us forward.

We have increased our facilitation team by two assistants and a guest facilitator.

Most of all, we have managed to continue to hold weekly writing groups inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, VT — despite a hiatus in funding support and several personal issues that have taken some of us out of the picture for periods of time this fall.

Inside, the inmates have continued to produce soul-searching writing and artwork; and are even contemplating a new book of their work. It seems everywhere leaders are emerging and creativity is blossoming.

May the coming year bring its own abundance and unity to you, in your heart, your life, your work and your world community.

poverty and its opposites

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. – Mother Teresa

We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination. – Nelson Mandela

This week, we asked our circle to discuss the issue of poverty. I want the writers to speak for themselves. In the stories below, you’ll hear three writer’s experience with poverty and how they few its opposite: abundance, love, and rebuilding from trusting one’s self.

To Rebuild

A moment in time
when things were
alright,
once loved,
once care for, waked for who I was.

A home
full of happiness
and family
turned in a blink
of an eye.

Poverty, grief-stricken, a lasting
effect down
to the inner core
of oneself.

Unwaked, unloved, hated, 
a darkness
I never thought
to re-enter.
Now to rebuild
a new me, a
new life,
to learn to be me again.

DH

*** Continue reading

moving toward gratitude

gratitude saying

credit – dr christina hibbert

Perhaps it’s the time of year. People gathering family and food to celebrate the abundance in their lives as if it were the norm.

Perhaps it’s because, this year, I will be without my family. I’m feeling a ragged hole in my heart without anticipation to soften those sharp edges.

Perhaps it’s because the reality is, many people do not have family around them this week. I’m thinking of a few women who, in their post-prison-release reality, are sinking into their own variations of scarcity. Scarcity of food, family, money. Scarcity of support. Scarcity of internal resources. Scarcity, period.

As the holidays approach – with their weeks of preparation, hype and inevitable let-down – I am more reminded than ever of those whose reality is scarcity. Even when their imaginations can conjure alternate story lines or comforting memories. Continue reading

reach for more

'Winter Beauty' hybrid honeysuckle

‘Winter Beauty’ hybrid honeysuckle

As is my custom, each week I create a ‘found poem’ from lines written the previous week by women participating in the writing inside circle. This is a particularly interesting challenge for those weeks when I am not present as facilitator. Reading these lines ‘cold’ and out of context simply prompts me to find the thread that will tie them together. Perhaps the result is a narrative, or perhaps, a mood-setting vignette of condensed and coalesced memory. Either way, I am as eager as the dozen or so expectant faces turned toward the reader of those combined lines to gauge the pulse of the resulting piece. Did I capture something? Does it speak to them? Does it resonate with their original intention(s) or distort their individual voice so much they cannot even recognize their own words?

It is important to understand that, for these women, this is much more than an exercise. It is an opportunity for them to shine; for their words to mingle into a mixed message of hope, longing, despair; for them to see themselves, through their words, as part of something bigger than their own thoughts and feelings, to become part of a communal tapestry of experience. A slice of life, if you will.

So when a long-time writer with the group pronounced the following ‘found poem’ “just beautiful” as she asked to read it last Thursday, I listened with extra attention to sense how it would hit her sister writers, now prepped to receive with her assessment. What I heard was the gentle hum of mmm’s around the table as they recognized both their part and the whole they had become part of creating, a brand-new expression of love, loss and longing that started with individual’s writing on Valentine’s Day one week prior.

Hear the clock –  tick, tock –
it’s time I must go
retrace the steps of everywhere I’ve been:
the drugs, the crazy nights, the binges;
back to the 15-year-old version of myself
I was taught and shown in a strange way.
If I were able to erase all the scars,
I’d be able to open my eyes and see
we outspent the repercussions. Continue reading