who we have become

surrender - susie scarborough copy

mandala by Susie Scarborough

I believe the lasting relation comes from deep changes in ourselves which influence our collective life. – Anais Nin

Life is change. Growth is optional. – Karen Kaiser Clarke

At our final group during Women’s History Month, we synthesized material explored in the first four. The model for our approach was May Sarton’s ‘Now I Become Myself’ along with the epigraphs listed above. We ended the group with collage-making. And our weekly ‘soul cards’ in which we share reflections about the evening’s group. One in particular stood out – from a participant who will be leaving this week. She wrote:

I have truly enjoyed this class. Please continue your great work. I feel that I have been able to look inside myself, not just inside but deep within. I have written things that I am proud of and shared one that I wrote for my mother called “Security” She told me it made her cry. Mom’s never change. Thank you again, DN

What powerful closure to a month honoring the women who have gone before, on whose shoulders we stand, to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude! The strong, the invisible, the challenging – all impact us and influence who we in fact become.

Read on for a sampling of writings from the 17 inmates in the circle.


What have I become?
a number

What have I become?
an animal
chow, come and get it.

What have I become?

I once was a girl
but I was scared to go to bed.
I once was a teen
but I got scared about the epidural.
I once was a mom
but I got scared they’d feel my pain.
I once was a carpenter
but I got scared of success.
I once was a booster
but I got scared of getting caught.
I once was a dealer
but I got suspicious of everything.
I once was an active addict
but I got scared of death.

I once wasn’t scared of anything
but I got to grow up. Continue reading

weaving women’s lives

large weaving with words

credit – progressonline

March is National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” And that is just what we do each week inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. We weave the stories of women who find themselves in the same physical place. But their emotional, historical and future places are, literally, all over the map.

In the 90 minutes we sit together writing our stories, a world unravels through memory and is reassembled in a tapestry of words that envelope the table shared and reassembled. Likewise the ‘found poem’ created after every session. Each line has come from the pen and heart of one of the six or eight around the circle. Gathering these phrases into a single weaving both highlights the emotional urgency of each woman’s particular story; AND creates a composite communal story still more powerful than the already-moving individual ones.

I love the idea of women’s insight and wisdom,
our vast emergent experience
commanding compassionate presence
by listening with a full heart.

Take our herstory: women who stood up
fire in their eyes and passion in their voices
even walking through a dark doorway alone;
to laugh, let go and let silliness reign;
stirring the pot with one hand,
pounding the dough into compliant loaves
weaving their stories into ours and out again.
I am more than grateful
for a support system of strong women
daily working in a state of grace.

Before I didn’t care about these things;
it was a firm line we dared not cross,
a mockery of the possible strung with pain.

Ash is no match for the spark
of collaborative intimacy.
The love and loyalty we all deserve –
a seed growing, held, encouraged –
are our most outstanding features
working together hand over hand.

I know I am not weak or delicate;
I am a survivor, and one day my voice will be heard.