what we remember



I don’t need a holiday or a feast to feel grateful for my children, the sun, the moon, the roof over my head, music, and laughter, but I like to take this time to take the path of thanks less traveled. – Paula Poundstone

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance. – Philip Andrew Adams

The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory. – Gary Zukav

Group this week was not easy. It is no secret that this time of year is difficult for many. Our theme this week was celebration and solstice and while it was appropriate, another implicit theme of the evening was remembrance and a somber honoring. Our writers miss their families and their children. Bringing up memories is complex. It is painful and joyful at once. It triggers both happiness to share these memories and a visible sadness.

Writing can hold that. By the end of our group, we concluded there. We worked through some of the most complex and challenging realities we experience throughout the year. We had it on paper and then held it in the open space of of the circle. We made room to witness each other and ourselves in the winter quiet.

Below, you will hear their stories. I hold them next to my story this season. I hope you do too.


Giving birth to a verdant future.
That’s my hope.
Time of pain, I did have a lot and it’s kept going.
I wish that it produces something, hopefully,
Fall yesterday, winter today, with the snowflakes
like a clean, white lace, so gorgeous.
That’s joyful, don’t you think?
Laces, snowflakes, I love the complexity of those. It attracts
me, my eye like the monarch butterfly.
I can’t stop looking at those silhouettes, one so white
and fragile, the other one so fragile and colorful,
both so “light” that they can stay in the
space for a period of time. Determination!
So special!

It’s bringing me happiness just to look at them.
Some in winter, some in summer,
spring, and fall. I’m going to continue to be
more hopeful for my future.


*** Continue reading

shared freedoms

When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. ~ Brené Brown

All my life I’ve thought I needed someone to complete me, now I know I need to belong to myself. ~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

We listen for guidance everywhere except from within. ~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

We started our new semester last week. We asked the question: What could happen if you believed in your own worthiness? A fair question to start the year. It’s a difficult question for many of us. So many things happen to contradict our sense of self-worth. In our group last Thursday, we entertained the idea in writing that we possess worth and that, perhaps, we could claim it.

It is always extraordinary how themes emerge across everyone’s work despite the fact that we write independently and in silence. As each writer read her work, the rest of us were emboldened, feeling stronger with each reading. As one of us claimed our worth, claimed what drives us and defines us, the others had implicit permission to do the same. Also, the belief emerged that our self-worth was tied to our passions and how thoroughly we are able to work towards them, to pursue them.

In the following pieces, you will read writers claiming and discussing their worth and, also, what happens when it is claimed, when each of us claims ourselves.

What if I’m Worthy?

If I find my worth and could shake the cold from my skin, end the endless shivering. If I find my worth and could let my hair down to flow freely with the wind. My pale face would blossom with soft color. Perhaps even my eyes would never again lose their sparkle and could break these weighted chains from my ankles and the cuffs from my wrists would finally break free, their grasp of oppression against my bones. A light would once again shine from deep within my spirit and my soul would warm itself with love and self want. Oh what a moment this would be, healing myself from the inside out gaining back the faith I’d lost so many years ago. A joyous rebirth and would consider this to be escaping from a life of darkness – the light of a thousand suns would burst through the darkness and breathe life back into my once barren existence for love (even self-love) grows in the barren fields of a broken heart and self-kindness can heal it all. A sweet dream to believe in; if this dream where a flower I would breathe in its scented beauty until I was made dizzy with pleasure, this dream turning slowly into sweet reality, something all my own. Daring me to ask myself…what if I’m worthy?



I am, I would, I belong

I would rather be alone.
I belong to myself, that is my birthright.
No one has the right to control me.
No one has the right to abuse me.
Verbally, mentally or physically,
keep my distance from evil people
who think everything is about them.
Are they angry? Are they guilty?
Don’t include me in your weakness.
I am not the enemy.
I have faith. I have feelings.
I feel love. I feel hate.
Words have power.
Truth has power and people are afraid.
Let there be peace on Earth.
God will prevail.
Let the war be won.



Let it Be

Let there be love like blossoming flowers
in the grassy green fields.
Love like it’s the last thing you do in this world.
Love hard, love deep, love with all your heart.
Love is strong. Love is great. Love is pure.
Let love free you from all the stresses
in life and let you escape from this
horrifying world.
Don’t ever hold yourself back from giving
or receiving love for you will be
missing out on such a beautiful thing.
Love hard, love deep, love with all your heart.


inner voices

We need to walk to know sacred places, those around us and those within.  Abenaki native poet Joseph BruchacWe

What is the real thing, the thing for which [woman] longs? The love affair with her own spirit, the inner marriage that commits her to her destiny, the rituals of soul that feed her deepest hunger,  and the sense of being pregnant with her Self, her creative essence Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick, Coming Home to Myself

In the past few weeks, we’ve been reading “Sealskin/Soulskin” in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book The Women Who Run with Wolves. Our conversations have led us through so many subjects. We land again and again in the knowledge that learning the sound of our own inner voice in important to know where to go, what to do. In the story, seal soul of the selkie travels across the ocean to find hers. She hears who she is through ocean waves, years away, and cruel words thrown at her in anger. There is a lot standing between our writers and the sound of their inner voice. A writing practice can be a method to get that voice in on stereo. Below, you will read the work of women engaging in that practice and we all hear them, loud and clear.

In the End, It was I…

In the end, it was I
with my chin to the sky,
my head held high,
feeling like I could fly
indescribable freedom
has overcome
can’t bring back the past,
what’s done is done,
when I didn’t have the strength.
I found it within myself.
I did it all alone
and I didn’t ask for help.
It breaks me in two
but I’ve gotta be strong.
As history tells it,
the pain won’t last long.
It’s an empowering sense
to stand on your own two feet,
get the crowd roaring,
not a soul left in their seat.
I know that I need nobody,
the future is to be told.
I may still be a child but my soul
is very old. I count the cost
of losing but life is a losing game,
can’t take luxuries with you.
What’s the use of all you’ve gained?
Try to remember to be subtle.
Don’t exert yourself.
Courage is not spoken,
it’s an energy that’s felt.
Take your God-given talents,
share them with the world.
Don’t keep those secrets bottled up.
Let them all unfurl.


*** 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

put it in writing

“We live and breathe words. …. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them. Reading your words, what you wrote, how you were lonely sometimes and afraid, but always brave; the way you saw the world, its colors and textures and sounds, I felt–I felt the way you thought, hoped, felt, dreamt. I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. ”Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

There’s a weird paradox about putting something in writing. Many of us feel like it gives our ideas permanence. Suddenly there’s a record of our mistakes, vulnerabilities, and histories. It’s like we imagine some dour office somewhere where our bad writing or, worse, imperfect moments will be filed away, remembered, or even filtered through and fanned out by a swift-fingered administrative assistant. We don’t want our sadness sorted with delightful efficiency. So we often don’t write it or don’t write at all.

Then you have more practiced writers like the regulars in our group. We don’t talk about it all the time but there’s an implicit understanding that often, your writing knows something before you do. You go digging with a pen and you find the daily things: lines of breakfasts and med schedules, every time the metal doors slam shut. And the loved things: children, spouses, pets, old jobs, that first cup of coffee on Sunday morning. There’s the remembered things, the unusual things, the known jokes, and solid anecdotes, what sly turn-of-phrase that will get you out of just about anything. But then there’s the unknown knowns -the stuff you’ve got in your bones, what lines the path to the interior that you can’t speak because know one knows to ask. Writing these is the risk you can’t help taking.

This week, we completed our unit on letter writing. We wrote to younger and older versions of ourselves, our regrets, wants, and condolences. Below, you’ll find the work of one woman who travels further inward with each letter, arriving at vulnerable knowledge it was a privilege to hear.

Dear Animals,

I love my dogs and cats. They bring me joy and happiness. They are my babies so soft and lovable. I never feel alone when they are with me. To you, my beautiful, loving companions, always so faithful and willing to please me. They keep nothing from me, except maybe a little pee or poop in a hidden spot. I don’t know what I would do without you, my furry little family. You all mean the world to me.

Dear House,

I love my house. I miss you so. Just waiting for the day I will return to you. You bring me pride and joy. I love the rain coming down when I am on the deck, the pitter patter of soft and heavy rain, the scenery of your land, trees, grass, cat o’nine tails, and lilac flowers. I will always be happy there. You make me feel safe.

Dear [me] at 45,

You always try to please everyone, give love to anyone that needs it. You were very unaware of what your life was about to go through. Mike came along and I fell in love. He had a hard upbringing and I wanted to show him the beauty of little things. YOu thought you could change him, give him some class. Then, little by little, you were getting scared, he showed signs of anger. I will calm him down, I told myself. That never happened. He started to control me, my life. I was trying to adjust, not really knowing what to do. Why didn’t you tell anyone he was abusing you? You didn’t listen to anyone. Everyone saw what a leech he was, except you. They told you to get away. Why didn’t you listen? I was fooled like by the devil. You were afraid and ashamed.

You should have told your family and friends, they would have understood. He was the biggest downfall in your life for 14 years. What was wrong with me? Why was I so stupid? It was because he told me I was stupid and ugly. I am glad he is out of my life now. But his pathological lies got you time in prison. Be smart and beautiful now, you are going to make it and become someone you love again. Good luck.