vantage points of love


Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes. – Antonio Machado from Last Night as I was Sleeping


After echoing these lines back and forth one of the women wrote, Love: an ancient concept. Love don’t love nobody. From our differing vantage points, we wrote on love from its sharpest angles. We each sat on the keen lip of prism side looking in, waiting for whatever light would shine through. Machado made us believe that kind of fire was possible and with every written breath we questioned it, reveled in it.

In the writings below you will find the grind of love, the painful bind of love, the hope for freedom that breeds self-love, the challenge love offers, and the gauntlet these women are willing to take up. And further, in the negative space between the words, you’ll see what was created: witnessing as an act of love. In the split between love and fear, here, fear feels derivative, a feeling only felt when love is threatened or taken away. In the end, it is all love. It is just like she said: Love loves everybody.

So what if he eats his ice cream upside down or his mushy oatmeal by turning over his spoon just before it gets in his mouth? Why does this irk me? And if he doesn’t like the same music as me, is he somehow defective?

These may seem like small things, but when repeated they feel like pushing fur backwards on a cat with tacky glue on my hands. Something in my nervous system has taken notes for year and tells me he’s weird. I judge him. Then I pull away. My soft heart becomes cooked, hard-boiled. And I don’t give the extra hug or speak with open eyes.

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‘for a new beginning’

cliff jumpingIt is a new year. Inside Vermont’s women’s prison, the sense of change, of review and renewal, permeates the circle as we meet for the first time since the holidays. We open with John O’Donohue’s powerful poem, “For a New Beginning” (see Prompt of the Week for full text). The women nod vigorously, underline phrases that hold their attention, vie to be first to share their understanding of the poem. Clearly, they are eager to grab their pens and spend 20 minutes writing their hearts out. And they do. After which we read our writing around the circle.

Each face tells how spellbound its listening owner is as we take turns sharing our desires for our own new beginnings. One of the women observes how everyone has something they want to change; and yet how different the things are, how differently they are written about.

Waiting moment by moment to hear “today!,” JL continues to bide her time prior to release – a day she has been anticipating for a couple of weeks now. Meanwhile, she joyfully joins the circle which, in her words, ‘opened a lightness and ease of the anxiety I had been holding for the unknown.’ Below, her writing from the evening’s group:

            from ‘A New Beginning,’ by John O’Donohue

How is this possible? Doesn’t the word ‘risk’ itself evoke feelings of danger, insecurity, and fear? It’s risky to dive off a cliff into water below. How do I know I won’t be crushed by rocks unseen beneath the surface of blue?

Holding nothing back is still, however, my greatest desire for this year. I want to live in this skin, this beautifully tangled mess of eccentricity, imperfection, and emotion. I want to let my light shine. I can feel the glow growing, warmth, humor; a spectacular array of characteristics that have made me the person I am today.

I want to risk things larger than a cliff-dive into the ocean: living my dreams, allowing myself to accept that I am a writer, growth without a man to fall back on (or to have to hold up, which has generally been my life’s scenario). I want to be at ease with the fact that I love myself, and don’t need or care about the way others perceive me.

I want to be courageous and prove the doubters wrong. I have been burning for far too long; I have scars so deep they reach my soul. With all that burning, there must be a light of some kind and I see it . . . through my sober eyes, through my laughter, through the reflections of loved ones beginning to see possibility in me once again.

So, how is this possible? I may not have all the answers yet; but ask me again next year, because that is exactly what I intend to do . . .  release, unclench, believe that anything is possible. This is my new beginning.


saying goodbye

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(Photo credit: wakingphotolife:)

Last night, we had two extremely powerful writing circles inside CRCF. Opening with Maya Angelou’s poem, ‘STILL I RISE’ set the energy level for the night. To a woman, each in the circle rose to the occasion, producing powerful words and revelations. A second writing challenged each woman to condense her longer piece to a haiku-style three-line verse. JD entered into the spirit of the evening with characteristic determination – the more so, perhaps, on this eve of her departure from the facility. We wish her well as she prepares to re-enter life back home, without her ‘dear’ drug habit.


‘Leaving behind nights of terror and fear,’
I say goodbye to you, my dear.
It will be a long hard road, I’m sure;
as long as I keep going, my mind should stay pure.
I’m sorry our relationship has come to an end
as well as all the bad energy you send.
Our relationship one-sided, you controlled it all
and every step I took, all I did is fall.

‘I rise into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear.’
With that empowering moment, I have no fear.
I won’t let your trickery drag me down anymore.
Now I’m the one that has tricks in store.
Just like the rest of life, darkness is broken with shining light
and I will always continue the everlasting fight.
If in life you get back up every time you fall
you know with certainty that you can have it all.
– JD


I say goodbye, dear;

that empowering moment
light broken darkness.

– JD