“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.”

As we enter the season of Advent, there is little to cheer on women incarcerated at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. Waiting and preparation are what their time is made of; and for many of them, the hope that originally wove through the fabric of time has simply worn thin.

Holidays can be a particularly tough time inside, as they remind us of family closeness and the warmth of special traditions. Yet in spite of all that seems to separate us from one another, our weekly opportunity to sit together, pen our thoughts and share them openly brings a measure of relief, of closeness … even of hope.

A sampling of the writing from this week follows, written by the artists whose work appears above:


Hope has no goddamned wings. Perhaps she had them once, a shining Christmas angel full-feathered. Now she staggers wet cobblestones dripping bloody stumps, stray feathers mutilated with her blood. She weeps and wails, sorry for herself or sorry for me. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t wear a sparkling samite sheath. She wears tattered rags, too worn and stained to be black, too mottled to be gray. Her muddy petticoat bares torn lace, my Freudian slip showing. Hope has no goddamned wings. Her feet bleed with every halting step, the mean and bitter earth cutting and snatching, tearing and rending tender, once-pristine feet. Hope has no goddamned wings. She was shot down long ago, if she ever flew at all on wings made of the dreams of fools. Hope has no goddamned wings. I’ve never seen her face shining with holy light, only wet with sweat and tears, folded like a Japanese fan with effort. Hope has no goddamned wings. She doesn’t sing a victory tune. She compels me on with a fucking dirge – mine – if I don’t work harder, faster, longer, better … mine, if I’m lucky. Hope has no goddamned wings.



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the value of personal art

From time to time we augment our writing circles inside prison with art-making. These mini-projects take many forms; yet, however simple, they have one feature in common. Art in any form allows women to access feelings that often sit deeper than words, even deeper than conscious awareness of their existence. Almost universally, sharing the artwork around the circle at the end of our time together permits an ‘aha’ connection. The experience has taught the woman something about her inner process or her world view. And more often than not, this ‘aha’ leads to a new understanding of what is needed, now.

The mandala below, completed by NL during a recent session, places into focus the whole of her intentions in response to this prompt: ” A mandala is a sacred circle containing an image or message of wholeness for your life – to inspire you, to live by. Use words that feel strong and true, that remind you of the possibilities of living a whole life, neither in the box nor given entirely up to fate.”