Deep-Sea Dive with Words

By Diane Glass

Spiritual directors use the power of words and images to help others develop self-awareness, a relationship with what they consider sacred, and meaning and purpose in life. Rather than “direct,” spiritual directors listen, reflect, question, and affirm, calling upon the Holy to be present in the conversation.

I describe it as deep-sea diving with words. In listening to people describe their life experience, I note words that shimmer with possibility and hint to greater depth. They serve as portals to the interior life of the person.

Let me give you examples.

*A “directee” used the word “pioneer” in one of our sessions.
“Hmmm,” I said. “What does ‘pioneer’ mean to you?”
And as the conversation continued, “How are you a pioneer?”
And, “What does this say about how you experience the sacred in your life?”

*Another directee came seeking to restore a relationship with her mother, who objected to her daughter’s lack of belief in God. Turned off by what she experienced as an abusive childhood in a fundamentalist church, the directee said she takes refuge in her garden. Our conversation took off from there.

“Describe what you mean by garden,” I said.
“What is a refuge like for you?” I asked.
“How does it soothe you?” I continued.
“How does your love of the soil connect you with others?”
“How is gardening a sacred experience?”

Her mother is an avid gardener. Equipped with some new words to use, the daughter approached her mother to talk about the gifts of the soil and the virtues of caring for it. They bonded over the earth as a sacred trust given to them and all of us.

*A third directee reported she did not like the word “God.” The God of her childhood was a judgmental, stern and punitive father. She could not imagine praying to
such an entity.

So the deep-sea diving began.
“What comes up for you when you hear the word ‘God’”?
“What words do you use to describe something that is loving, comforting and safe?”
“What experiences have you had that made you feel that way and that connected you with others?”
“What words do you use to identify what is sacred to you?”

We read poetry and Scripture that offers alternative imagery for God. Women may be attracted to God as a nurturing feminine entity, but the possibilities are unlimited. My own search for God led to envisioning the Sacred as a dance partner. Together, we create and improvise steps to a joyful and meaningful life.

So what are the jewels, the gems of the sea, we seek in using words as portals to a deeper reality?

We seek the true self apart from cultural and family expectations of who we are and how we should act.

We seek assurance that a divine spark exists within each of us, placed there by a caring creative force.

We seek deep self-understanding of our values and guiding principles, important in making life choices.

We seek a sense of belonging, that we are part of something bigger and precious.

We seek the confidence that we have what we need to be happy.

Spiritual direction is a transformational language tool for emerging from the depths of reflection and discernment with a sense of purpose and direction.

Editor’s note: This is Diane’s third blog in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.


dianeDiane Glass serves as a spiritual director, helping individuals find meaning and purpose in their lives by deep listening and companionship. She teaches at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center on the role of the body in revealing our significant life stories. In October 2015, she published a memoir, This Need to Dance: A Life of Rhythm and Resilience (Amazon).

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Making the Leap into the Work You Love with Scott Youmans

Youmans_2012March_SmallScott Youmans knows his way around Right Livelihood, having left a lucrative career in the corporate world for the work of his heart, which turned out to be its own winding rock trip. He’s also a superb facilitator of helping others find not just their dream work, but how to make their present work richer with meaning and joy. Here’s an interview on his upcoming online class, “Making the Leap into the Work You Love,” which runs June 29 – August 9. Sign up before June 10 for the Summer Buzz sale and save 10%.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: What in your life led you to design and develop this class?

Scott Youmans: Over a decade ago, when I facilitated the first incarnation of Making the Leap into Work You Love, I was in the midst of transitioning out of the corporate world and into something … unknown. I was about to complete my Individualized Master of Arts program at Goddard College with a concentration in Transformative Language Arts, and at the same time leaving my full-time job to start a web consulting business. The thoughts and emotions were swirling: fear and uncertainty, joy and curiosity. What would happen next? How would I make a living doing what I loved on this new path?

In the midst of all of this, the TLA Network had come into being, and we noticed that our members were interested in learning more about the practice of Right Livelihood, and in particular, many of us were asking, “how do I make a living doing what I love?” The Network began to consider how we might create space for practitioners to approach this question. Drawing from the whole of my life experiences, including experiential workshops and my own writing practice, certain threads––poems, exercises, videos––began to tie together to help guide me in exploring answers to this question. It was easy to see how these could serve others on the journey. After a little encouragement from the chair of the Network, I set about building this class to be part of an early Power of Words Conference. It has since become a recurring staple of the Network’s offerings.

CMG: What can people expect from this class?

acrobatic_shadows_croppedSY: At its heart, this class is a journey into one’s self. My hope is that it is a gift, a space for being and becoming, with a focus on career and right livelihood. Each week will have a primary focus and exercise, along with accompanying readings, videos, and activities. The participants will form a community around the course, offering feedback and support, and asking for support in return. The class will begin by examining each participant’s journey by looking at the choices and beliefs that brought us to this place and time. We’ll then begin crafting a vision, informed by our past, and rooted in our heart’s desires. The class will end with specific community-supported steps to advance our vision.

CMG: How does this focus on the leap into the work you love manifest in your own life, art and work over the years?

SY: That word, leap, has a certain ring to it in my mind. When I first left my job in the corporate world, I imagined myself leaping off of a spinning carousel. I had a belief that the carousel was built by someone else, that it was spinning too fast to see any other path, and that I had to stay on it for survival. Leaping off of the carousel meant leaving the security of a full time job with benefits, it meant leaving a career path that seemed inevitable.

Since leaping, both professionally and in offering this class, I think I’ve been able to hold onto the possibility of finding a way to be in the world that allows me to share my gifts in a healthy and fulfilling way. By holding on to this possibility, I haven’t really stopped leaping. I continue to find enjoyable ways of earning a living that meet my needs in that moment.

Not everyone has a job that they love. I know many people whose jobs merely facilitate their passions, whether it’s their family, a hobby, or a side business. In many cases, to fully leap into this other hobby or side business may not be healthy, but it may one day be sustainable. Often, these extracurricular professions provide the joy and satisfaction that can sustain someone through their workday worlds.

Primarily, this focus means that I keep the idea of “work I love” present in my heart. I use it both to seek the work that I love, and to make the work that I’m doing loveable, or worthy of love. How I show-up at work, the tone I set, the language I use, impacts both my job and the work environment of everyone around me. If I make my job one that I love, then perhaps those around me will be able to better love their jobs too.

One of the ways this focus has manifest in my life has been though my most recent job change and move. There was a time when I recognized that my current job wasn’t as healthy for me as I wanted it to be. For example, I worked alone at home and I missed having daily in-person connections with my co-workers. From this realization I began to imagine and to write about ways I could earn a living using all of my gifts. I created an elaborate plan––we’ll call it “Plan A”––to transition into Unitarian Universalist Ministry. It would take six years of part-time education along with internships and credentialing while I continued working. A year into this plan, I was laid off, disrupting everything and creating an immediate need for income. Now, I also had Plan B, which involved a degree and credentialing in the field of Marriage and Family Counseling, and Plan C, which was to work for a company where I could combine my technology skills and my spiritual path. The layoff forced me to look again for companies that matched Plan C, and this time, within a month I found a job with a company whose mission is to disseminate spiritual wisdom. No extra degree needed. No additional credentialing. From this experience, I learned to not overcomplicate things. Sometimes holding on to a vision means letting it go. You might just find that you get something better than you could have imagined.

Learn more about Scott’s upcoming class here, and consider registering by June 10 to save 10%.

Coming Home to Body, Earth, and Time: Writing From Where We Live with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

vistaI’m delighted to be offering an online class about writing from where we live, from our bodies to the cosmos, as part of the Transformative Language Arts Network. Since I usually interview teachers about their upcoming classes, here I am interviewing myself about the details and impetus behind “Coming Home to Body, Earth and Time: Writing from Where We Live,” which runs from June 29 – Aug. 9, all online, so you can engage with the class from anywhere at anytime. Register by June 10 to take advantage of the Summer Buzz sale, and save 10% on the class (and all other upcoming class this summer and early fall).

Caryn-the-Interviewer: So Caryn, and by the way, I love the way you spell your name, what led you to develop this class?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Thanks, Caryn, and yes, I like the spelling too. My mom found it in a novel she was reading when pregnant with me. As for the class, I’ve been grappling with what it means to live in a body and in a place forever, it seems, and some years back, it became very apparent to me how our bodies are our most local address. Where I live sparks a great deal of my writing and my understanding of how seasonal tilts around us speak to seasonal tilts within us. So I wanted to offer others gateways into exploring what inspiration, ideas, breakthroughs and meanings we can find by sinking our roots further into where we live, starting with the body, and rippling out to explore the home, watershed, ecoregion, earth and cosmos.

CtI: Interesting, and you know, my mom found the spelling of my name in a novel too when she was pregnant. So what can people expect in this class?August2505 026

CMG: Each week will include ample writing prompts and discussion about ways to engage with embodied writing that truly homes in on where we live and who we are, so it’s very much an exploration of how we name and claim ourselves, and what stories we tell ourselves and are told by our culture about, based on where we are, who we’re supposed to be.  A lot of the writing prompts are aimed toward greater liberation and awareness, which obviously go hand-in-hand. For example, in week three, we’ll look at watershed moments in our lives — moments that changed everything for us or at least one big thing — and from those moments, what greater possibilities opened out as well as what stories ended or very much changed. By honoring how our narratives have shaped our lives, including what stories we needed to hold tight to as scaffolding to get to the next place, we can cultivate greater freedom to change what no longer serves us.

Each week will also include a visiting writer via his/her writings, interviews, and a little essay I share about the writer, and these writers span genres, such as essayist David Abram, novelist Barbara Kingslover, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, and poet William Stafford. We’ll also have a short discussion on the craft of writing powerfully since we can best understand and evoke the places we are when our images are vivid, our rhythms strong, and our stories evocative.

CtI: You’re someone who writes in many genres. Would you say “writing from where you live” is evident in all your own writing?

13217411_10103624025251309_7965765541683291477_oCMG: Good question, Caryn, and of course, as with most things, the answer is “it depends.” I’m very focused on the physical place of where I live and travel because I find such sustenance from where I am at this very moment, particularly the living earth. Right now, I’m writing answers to your questions from my front porch, and I live in the country with an up-close view of Osage Orange and ceder trees filled with songbirds broadcasting their love and fight songs. Most of my poetry, if not all, finds grounding in images of place, but then again, just about all poetry uses images, and images always evoke the senses: what we can see, touch, taste, hear and smell. Plus, I see the poem as a house of its own that readers enter, find a good sofa to lie down on, and then spend a little time in, listening to the voices of this place. My two memoirs, The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir of Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and Poem on the Range: A Poet Laureate’s Love Song to Kansas are both very place-focused, and Sky is also speaking from the place of the body in a time of great change. My novel, The Divorce Girl, and novel to be published next year, Miriam’s Well, are stories in which the protagonist is shaped and infused by her place — where she lives and travels, and how her internal landscape shifts as well.

Yet what draws me to this class isn’t just what I write but more so, what I live. As a longtime bioregionalist — someone who keep learning how to live from where I live — I see the body, the landscape, and the night sky as well as the shifting eco-community of what David Abram calls the “more-than-human” species among us as continually showing me the way through the crazy losses and wild joys of this beautiful life.

CtI: Thanks, Caryn, and it’s interesting that you’re writing from a porch with a view of those trees and birds because I’m on a porch with the same view. Maybe we should meet up sometime for tea.

The Five Senses and the Four Elements: Connecting with the Body and Nature Through Poetry with Angie River

10999971_10207183679692038_1273670405101342328_nAngie River is a writer, educator, activist, and performance artist who is teaching a dynamic online class for the TLA Network, “The Five Senses and the Four Elements: Connecting with the Body and Nature Through Poetry.” She has taught writing workshops and done performances in various states across the country, and is published in “Tidepools Literary Magazine,” “Reading for Hunger Relief,” The Body is Not an Apology webpage, and the upcoming anthology “Queering Sexual Violence,” as well as having her own blog (https://nittygrittynakedness.wordpress.com/) and zines. Angie fully believes in the power of writing to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Special discount for registering for the class by the end of the year!

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: What inspired you to put together this class?

1796496_10207655113717594_91051899620670155_nAngie River: I have always enjoyed the experience of writing in and about nature. In my undergraduate work, I took a class from a wonderful professor, Bruce Goebel, who talked about incorporating “small noticings” into our poetry, and as a foundation for our writing. Being able to see the world through these small noticings has impacted how I experience the world. More recently, in doing reading and work around mental and emotional well-being, I learned a very helpful grounding technique in which you notice, using each of your senses, something in your environment. Reflecting on these things I was moved to put together this class, in which participants will practice “small noticings” using each of their senses, in various realms of nature, and then incorporate those into their writing

CMG: This sounds like a splendid way to help students open up their writing to greater vitality. How else do you see this class speaking to people’s lives?

AR: Not only will this class help students enhance their writing, but I think that it will also enable them to practice being present in the world in the small moments. This can be a vital practice when living in a fast-paced and often overwhelming world. Personally, I have found the practice of slowing down and intentionally noticing the details around me to reduce my anxiety and help me ground myself. I hope that students will experience something similar through their practices in this class.

CMG: Tell us more about how this practice has helped you and can help others develop their art of words, and a better sense of how to live meaningfully.

AR: The act of slowing dow11990506_10207375504847547_952140599183553748_nn, using all of my senses, and paying attention to the various elements of nature and the world around me has helped me to be more detailed in my writing. It has also allowed me to connect more to myself and better understand the way I move through this world, which translates to me being able to write more grounded and personal poetry and narratives.

CMG: What do you love most about the practice of writing?

AR: There are two main things I love about writing: the ability to transform often jumbled thoughts into meaningful art, and the ways in which writing connects me to others. 

CMG: How did you find your way into your TLA passions?

AR: I didn’t know it was TLA at the 11025859_10205844721218913_2721645719349275530_otime, but I’ve been writing since the 4th grade. For me, writing has always been an outlet where I could express the ways I felt and the things I thought. For me, as a very shy child and teen, this was essential. Without writing I don’t know how I would have managed my difficult times. The same holds true today; I write to heal, to process events in my life, to connect with my self and others, and to further experience the world around me. My love for writing transformed into a love also for performance poetry, which then transformed into a love for performance in general. My Transformative Language Arts practices have done just that – transformed me! Because of the huge impact writing, poetry, and performance have had on my life, I try to share these passions with others as much as possible.

Learn more about Angie’s online class here.

We’re Having Powerful Conversations – Will you Join us on Let’s Talk TLA?

Were you at our Power of Words Conference this year? Our annual conference brings us into deep conversation and exploration once a year. If you made it or missed it, Let’s Talk TLA is one way of staying connected by creating powerful conversations all year round. Whether it’s in person or over the phone, as members of TLAN, when we do meet, we instantly have a powerful conversation. Why? Because we belong to an artistic community grounded in words.

Call in on Wed., Oct. 28, 8-9 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. CST/ 6 p.m. MST/ 5 p.m. PST. Let’s Talk TLA! Free Phone Conference Q&A and Poetry Open Mic with Kelly DuMar and her special guest, Callid Keefe-Perry, educator, minister, advocate for the arts, TLAN Council Chair, and POW 2016 Keynoter. Let’s Talk TLA is free and open to the public, and you can join from your by phone by calling 1-857-232-0155, code #885077.

We love language and the expressive power of the written word.

We love singing, speaking, and writing to help and heal, ourselves, and others.

We Can Learn From Each Other All Year Long

As individual artists and healers, we have unique ideas and experiences to share about how we use words to change ourselves and the world. And Let’s Talk TLA is our bi-monthly, long distance way to connect and discover the fascinating, life-changing ways that other TLA artists are applying this passion for words in their own communities. Let’s Talk TLA Blog October 2015

Our October Let’s Talk TLA conversation will feature Callid Keefe-Perry, someone essential to TLAN for many years, who was unable to attend Power of Words conference this year. Callid is our TLAN Chair and 2016 Keynote speaker, an educator, minister, and advocate for the arts who is based in Boston, MA. As my interview guest for Let’s Talk TLA free teleconference on October 28, this is your chance to have a powerful conversation with him – wherever you live. Callid’s focus during the call will be on his passion and concern for the state of arts in our educational system. The title for his talk is: The Imagination in Public Education: Learning Ourselves into Boredom.

If you have not yet had a chance to join us, the format of our teleconference is that I will interview Callid for 20 minutes about his practice of TLA and his concern for the arts in public education. Listeners on the call will then have about 15 minutes to ask questions of Callid & discuss TLA, your own practice, goals, or vision. There’s more.

A Writing Life Can Be Lonely – At TLAN, It Doesn’t Have to Be

Another essential element of Let’s Talk TLA is to create an opportunity for those of us who are writing poetry to share our work with each other in an impromptu poetry open mic. Whether you’re reading your poetry aloud for the first time, or you’re a seasoned reader, this is a chance to share your writing in the supportive presence of appreciative listeners. It’s a remarkably fun and moving experience. As one recent participated said:

Great phone call last night. Thanks for providing this to us. . .

I really enjoyed hearing the interview with Laura and the lovely poetry after.

Learned a lot, as well. Thanks again to all involved.

So, On Oct. 28, at 8 p.m. Eastern, bring your questions for Callid about how he uses Transformative Language Arts to advocate for arts in education, and an original poem for the open mic. I look forward to the powerful conversation we’ll create with each other!

If You Can’t Make the Call – You Can Listen to the Podcast!

We’re recording our calls to make them available all year long to members. So, in case you missed our last call with storyteller and coach Laura Packer about Creating Your Sustainable Story: How to Pursue Meaningful, Creative Work as a Business. Click here to listen in!

About Callid Keefe-Perry: Callid is a husband, father, and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers working toward his PhD in Theological Studies at Boston University’s School of Theology. His work focuses on the intersection of imagination, spirituality, and creative practice in education. He is the author of Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer and one of the founding members of the journal, THEOPOETICS. He currently serves as the Chairperson of the Board for the Transformative Language Arts Network and he is one of the co-hosts of the progressive Christian podcast, Homebrewed Christianity.  You can learn more about him on his website, http://callidkeefeperry.com

Let’s Talk TLA Blog October 2015-1About Kelly DuMar: Kelly is the membership chair of TLAN and a poet, playwright, and creative writing workshop facilitator from the Boston area. Her award winning plays have been produced around the US and Canada, and are published by dramatic publishers. She’s author of a non-fiction book, Before You Forget – The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, her poems are published in many literary magazines, and her award-winning poetry chapbook, “All These Cures,” was published by Lit House Press in 2014. She founded and produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights at Wellesley College, now in its 10th year. Kelly is a certified psychodramatist and a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and psychodrama, a board member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, and a member of Playback North America, You can learn more about her at http://www.kellydumar.com

Imagine Yourself a Place of Unsurpassed Beauty: The Power of Words Conference on the Coast of Maine

img_13241-cropped-belownav-cropped-photoDeb Hensley and Martin Swinger, the dynamic duo co-chairing the Power of Words conference, Aug. 12-14 at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, share this invitation to our 13th annual conference. Read on, and register by Nov. 15 to catch the super early bird rate. Find out more and register here.

Imagine yourself a place. Imagine a chair on a wide porch next to a beach where you bask in the afternoon sun. Imagine a morning walk through a grove of sunlit trees. Imagine joining brilliant vocal improvisation sessions under a bright moon, filling yourself with poetry, storytelling around a campfire and choosing from 25 workshops on the transformative 3058162_origpower of the written, spoken and sung word.

Imagine a loving community of people, healthy, delicious food, good coffee, lots of music, time for reflection and an after dinner frolic in the surf. Imagine Ferry Beach on the coast of Maine at the Power of Words Conference, August 12-14, 2016.

I don’t know which excites me more, this fabulous conference we’re putting together or the amazing place where we are holding it. With world renowned Vocal Improv Artist and Activist, Rhiannon, Award 8117810_origwinning Poet and Author Seema Reza, Afrilacian Storyteller Lyn Ford and Quaker Minister, author and educator Callid Keefe-Perry as our keynoters, this conference promises to embody spontaneity, humor, comfort and joy. And what could be more a more gorgeous location to gather singers, poets, authors, activists, and a host of other transformative language artists than a coastal paradise only 20 minutes from the Portland International Jetport?

Ferry Beach is a retreat community with 900 feet of beachfront in Saco, Maine offering respite away from the everyday world. It is a collection of meeting spaces, wide porches, an art and pottery studio, an outdoor chapel, a performance space, many gathering places and a wonderful dining hall.2459481_orig

It is a place of unsurpassed beauty where you will experience the joy of community, challenge assumptions, celebrate, reimagine, and commit your own language artistry to nothing less than global transformation. It is a place for renewal and rejuvenation where a small but mighty group of all ages and races, for one glorious weekend in August of 2016, will lovingly and boldly explore the Power of Words. I’ll be there! You?

See more about Ferry Beach right here.

 

A Lovely Way to Start the Day: Morning Flow

IMG_0363

by Kelly Hams-Pearson

Each day begins with a moment of mindfulness. Instead of clamoring out of bed, I pause for a moment in that fleeting nocturnal realm, that place where sleep is twilight and the corner of wakefulness has yet to be turned.  Here fresh wisdom and clarity are found around lingering issues that have tugged at my life spirit. Here I am provided the answers to questions that have festered.  This state of mindfulness at the brink of waking, while not easily attained, can be acquired with patience and practice.  Over the years I’ve trained my body, mind and sensibilities to wake naturally most mornings, well before the alarm, even before the brightening of the sky.  I linger in this sacred space for merely fifteen or twenty minutes, rarely more, but this has become the most important time of my day.

In this period of quiet contemplation, this time of pause I’m always gifted with a simple word or phrase to meditate and reflect upon.  Carrying it with me into the day as a token, a prayer, a mantra, it turns over and over in my mind, providing me with greater clarity and understanding.  This exercise has allowed me to find my true voice.  Through this discovery my writing, speaking and living practice has been formed.

Once up and out of bed, I shower and dress, eager to complete tasks that comprise morning ritual, tasks that allow me to walk upright, vertical on the solid ground of the day.  Moving from the comforting cocoon of bed, the sanctuary of bedroom I go in search of my writing space.  Currently, that is the perch at the end of my kitchen breakfast bar.   Through the years I have created writing space all over the house: an oak partner’s desk in my bedroom, a book lined loft on the second floor, a corner hallway desk crafted by my husband’s hand, even a writing room converted from the bedroom my daughter vacated. She never looked back as she departed for college, deployment to Afghanistan, marriage and ultimately West Texas residency.  Over the years, in bursts and spurts of what I thought to be inspiration or divine vision, I’ve created half a dozen writing enclaves in my house but it is that corner at the edge of the breakfast bar that is my “sweet spot.”  My point?  Seek and you will find the piece of creative real estate that is right for you.

I write every day, something; anything.  It doesn’t matter how little, how much, what genre or whether it is “good,” worthy of showing or even re-reading.  Words are always worth the invested time.

No matter how dark the previous night, morning is a time of renewal. Senses and sensibilities are keen. It is the perfect time to practice flow writing: writing from stream of consciousness, devoid of the preoccupations of studying, reflecting and perfecting words.  This is a writing process that allows initial thoughts to tumble uninhibited upon the page.  I have found what is most helpful during this process is to reflect back on the brilliant diamonds gifted to me during my morning meditation; that simple word or phrase that was placed upon my spirit at the cusp of the day. Often times to make a connection, to glean greater meaning from the meditative phrase I reach for a companion prompt by scanning the stack of poetry, philosophy and world theology books stacked high on my kitchen counter top, selecting a random passage for inspiration.

After five or ten minutes of reading, I put the book down.  Jotting the date and time across the top of my journal page I begin the write.  There is no need to time myself. Instead I write the length and width of an entire notebook paper sized, narrow-ruled page.  Through this practice I have discovered that even in the “flow” I am able, to develop natural closure with a symmetry that creates an “essay of the day”.  Reaching the end of the page I close the cover, letting the words, the musings incubate anywhere from a few months to as long as half a year.

My final step is to revisit a previous journal entry. Here I review, revise, and rework my thoughts from an earlier morning.  It is during this reflective process where the previous entries take shape as poetry, essay, fiction or in some cases, nothing more than cathartic rant. Even at this stage there are many revisions ahead, but I’m rarely disappointed and often surprised by the force of my raw emotion, the vivid imagery and expression.  This process is much like peering into a mirror; viewing a simultaneous image of who I was those months before and who I have become.

It provides an awareness that while difficult to articulate, is quite liberating and healing.  It is the power of words as witness manifested through a dedication, a perseverance to simple and sustained morning ritual.

 

Kelly Hams-Pearson writes and performs poetry, creative essay and original theatre from her woodsy perch along the river in Parkville, Missouri. When she is not working as one of the directors for a local government agency or as a volunteer hospice counselor, she facilitates workshops and writing sessions. Possessing the belief that everyone must be given the ability to affirm their creative voice, to share their life story through the open, equal opportunity mediums of artistic expression, she focuses on sharing her craft with youth most at risk for entering the juvenile justice system.  Working in the genres of poetry, creative non-fiction and story-telling, she has won several writing fellowships and state contests with her most recent work appearing in The Crucible, Origami, The Black Chronicle and Splendid Table. Channeling the spirit of the late great June Jordan’s revolutionary blue print, Poetry for the People, Kelly stresses to inexperienced, often tentative artists the simple truth that hope floats not on air and expectations but through the power of words.

How Writing Truth & Beauty Helps Us Accept What We Can’t Change

Kelly & Dad

by Kelly DuMar

Our family’s plan to move my father with Alzheimer’s from an acute hospitalization into Hospice care recently did not go as planned.  We’ve all been there many times, right?

There’s what we expect will happen.
There’s what actually happens.
There’s the struggle to accept what is happening.

Coping with my father’s Alzheimer’s continues to bring lessons in letting go of my expectations, accepting reality on its own terms – and writing poetry is one way I find meaning, discover truth and beauty and, sometimes, even humor in the process.

My father’s not ready for hospice, but he can’t return to the memory care assisted living residence we’d grown fond of – where we’d grown comfortable with his caretakers What has happened is that he is now living in an Alzheimer’s Nursing Care facility. Not exactly like the one depicted in the HBO comedy, Getting On – but I relate to most of the experiences the writers depict in the show.

The other morning on my run, I listened to a podcast of Fresh Air, an NPR radio program hosted by Terry Gross, with the creators of Getting On, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer. I’m a fan of the show because in Getting On, these writers are making meaning, finding truth and beauty, and sharing humor inspired by their experiences with their own mothers, who were both in extended-care facilities at the ends of their lives.

As a daughter, I’ve been afraid of going to the places where my father’s Alzheimer’s is taking him. But, I can really relate to Scheffer when he shares:

“I think what caring for our mothers really taught us — all the way up through the hospice experience — was that. . . . ‘Gosh, I was so afraid of this, I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to be here.’ But being here is starting to feel like a good thing, a good part of life — something that we avoid in this culture. That actually is a rich experience, albeit painful; it’s actually so much a part of life.”

In “Getting On,” Olsen and Sheffer have found humor and humanity in their experiences of loss and love. Writing about how we feel about our painful experiences, and sharing that writing in any way we choose, is a way of finding truth and beauty in the moments we have with our loved ones who are aging and living and dying in ways we cannot control. As Olsen says:

“When my mother finally lost the ability to speak. . . it saddened me tremendously. . . [her caretakers] would never know who this woman was. . . It hurts on a deep, true level that we really didn’t know what to do with it except put it in a show. . .

Writing about it helped. This is how I feel about taking care of my father and writing poetry. My poems about my father’s memory care and Alzheimer’s are growing into a poetic memoir that is helping me be where I didn’t want to be. A poet friend suggested I submit some of my memory care poems to the editor of Tower Journal, who accepted all seven of them, published this week. I’ve listed them below with a short excerpt from each. I hope you’ll read them in full here. I hope you’ll write your way to truth and beauty and share it with all of us who need to know what you learn.

The Color of Her Eyes

…She looked at me. We must have remembered
something like love, and then she closed her eyes
and I was gone…

Absence

Stay put I tell my dad, like a parent
warning an impulsive child to behave
in her absence. I leave the car running,
heat blowing, knowing he can’t follow me…

What This is Called

…You can hold a bright white world called
something beautiful in your hand.

Who Does Not Love a Wall

In the unit called Memory Care he grows
wild and young as a colt restless to sow his
oats and goddammit he will find the exit or
die trying, there’s a wilderness out there…

Cornered

Somewhere there’s a door but it’s locked. They paint you into a place like this
but any way you look at it there are only two sides to a corner…

Mystery Shopper in Memory Care

…My money must
have slipped my mind into your bank account and I need
to make a deposit. Will you remind me what do I owe and
what I don’t own?…

How He Asks (After Alzheimer’s)

…How did you get here? By this I mean tell me how I
brought you into this world and what you are doing
with the life you’ve been given?…

Kelly DuMar is a poet and playwright whose chapbook “All These Cures,” won the 2014 Lit House Press poetry contest. Her award winning plays have been produced around the US and she produces the Our Voices Festival of Boston Women Playwrights & Poets, now in its 9th year. Kelly’s certification in psychodrama and passion for Playback Theatre inspire her creative writing workshops with transformative energy. Visit her website www.kellydumar.com, where you can download her free 50-page guide, Writing Truth & Beauty – Using Your Photos for Poetic Inspiration. Kelly is a member of the TLA Network.