where home is

home is where the heart is


There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home. – Rosalynn Carter

The cause of homelessness is lack of housing.  – Jonathan Kozol

It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home. – Rumi



Between everyone in our writing circle, there has probably been hundreds of houses, apartments, sections of street, hotel rooms, and other dwellings. There have been places we’ve slept, ate, read books, cooked meals, and fed children. There are places we’ve lived for years or for days or for a couple hours. But if you ask anyone of us where our home is, we’ll probably name one, maybe to addresses.

These places are what we’ve been examining – what makes a home and what grounds us by having one. We can feel it in our bones, the placement of this home, and the tether that ties us to it  is a string continuously played on the bodies and spirits of the writers. The strain of being away is apparent. It is a song that almost never stops, except maybe when we are writing.

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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
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.


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defining survival

At the most basic level the need to trust implies one basic fact: you’re vulnerable. The ability to satisfy your needs or obtain the outcomes you desire is not entirely under your control. – David DeSteno

The writers we work with define themselves, consistently, as survivors. According to the American Jail Association,

“Women entering jails are much more likely to have experienced poverty, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and/or other forms of victimization often linked to their offending behavior. (http://www.americanjail.org/10-facts-about-women-in-jails/)

In our writing this week, we wrote reflections on our experiences of past abuse. We don’t often ask such pointed questions or ask writers to speak directly about trauma in their pasts. The purpose of this work was to 1) to tell and retell our stories, offering multiple viewpoints from our own individual perspectives. Essentially, what we knew then versus what we know now. And 2) to chart our narratives from something done to us to what we do next, from victim to survivor, from here to now and how incarceration weaves into and/or reinforces an abusive narrative. How does one feel human even if treated inhumanely?  Continue reading

mirror image

cloud mirrored in a lake


A circle of women is a multifaceted mirror in which each sees herself reflected. What she sees of herself in the words and faces around her depends upon the capacity of each woman as mirror to be clear and compassionate.  What we see in ourselves, we can work on changing. –    Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Millionth Circle

Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.  – Mary Kay Ash

Each week, we ask the members of our group up to reflect on their experience in prison. In discussion and on the page, writers have an opportunity to hold a mirror up to their experience both within themselves and inside their units and cells. Our dialogue centers on the prison’s impact on their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Within the circle of our writing, notions, challenges, fears, and growth are affirmed.

Below, you will find the experience of one woman as she looks into the mirror. This reflection serves as a prelude to the continued conversation she has with herself and with us about the impact of prison on her sense of self.

The Looking Glass

Sometimes I think one of the hardest questions to answer is, in fact, what I see, in me, when I look at myself. Do I see my soul for what it is, or do I impress upon myself the ideals and principles of those around me? When I am not judging my complexion or searching my eyes for more than the shade of brown they always seem to be. A mere piece of glass and bend of light has captured me. I am helpless to restrain it. Only with the dark can you combat a mirror. We think of dark as a foe. But in it is where we feel what we have seen. I’ve heard that if you have never seen, then there is nothing to see. I don’t need to look on my face to know the curve of my lip, or the shape of my eyes. The complexity of sight is unaccomplished. It will never be mastered. Continue reading

left to our own devices

summer day under a tree


“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” Clarissa Pinkola Estés

As the doors closed behind us last week, we had no idea when we’d be let back in. We were left to our own devices, left the writers to theirs with the arts supplies, paper, and promise to come back when they let us. We sat in the lobby and waited, chatted about the state of the world and how official the CO’s looked. They were doing a fire drill at CRCF and all the volunteers had to be evacuated.

As we sat on the other side of the wall, waiting to be let back in, I thought about what I’d wanted to do with the group that night, what I had expected, and how strange it felt for the small world of the group to go on without us. We’d gotten a letter that evening from a former inmate. She wished us well and thanked us for the safe space. That was the space I wanted to be in. We were doing an art project that night, making paper doll representations of the intuitive voices that guide us. My voice called both from the inside of my chest and the prison, back to the circle of writers while the CO’s mimed fire and the women wrote and crafted.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes would call this wanting a door, my own device to be tinkered with until it revealed a lesson, a lack of presence, the cogs turning in my experience. It is a privilege to want to go in the prison knowing I would be let out, a privilege to be witness to another person’s words and process of struggle and growth. I’ve grown accustomed to the mechanisms of hope in their writing and conversation. I bring paper, pens, a handful words and receive their stories. By the time we were let back in, I was hungry for them, hoping to see what they’d made. We share something as nourishing as a meal in this emergent creative space. We can only make it together and, this time, I was barred from it.

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