I am overjoyed to begin this year as your new TLAN coordinator and am grateful for your kindness and grace as I transition into this new role. Joining TLAN is especially important now as we frequently witness words evolve and change in our society saturated by incessant information. Thus, I am excited to serve you and the vision of TLAN, and I look forward to what this new year brings…
Like workshops and classes! With your time divided among so many different things, why not dedicate some of it to igniting your passions and nourishing your hopes? This year, TLAN is offering a variety of opportunities sure to benefit you personally, professionally, and communally. Start the year off with one of our January offerings:
Pathways To Wholeness: Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps Of Meaning with Marianela Medrano
Flash Fiction Forms: Exploring Elements Of Craft Through Archetypes & Metaphors In Dreams, Tarot, & Fairy Tales with Riham Adly
This Is Who I Am: Exploring Personal Identity Through Poetry And Art with Angie Ebba
What Next? Launching Your Work In The World with Caits Meissner
Save 20% off the regular fee on each of these New Year’s offerings – three amazing classes taught by a trio of transformative language artists, plus a brand new weekend retreat with master teacher Caits Meissner and a wonderful weekend retreat with TLAN favorite Jennifer Browdy.
Medrano is a Dominican writer, poet, and psychotherapist, with aPh.D. in psychology, whose practice includes Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Transpersonal & Integral Psychotherapy. Medrano has extensive training in Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli, and Mindful Eating with Jan Chozen-Bays and Char Wilkins. She has taught at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, now Sophia University, in Palo Alto, California, and as a visiting scholar at Goddard College.
Her work as a poetry therapist was recognized with an outstanding award from the National Association for Poetry Therapy. in 2007. She is also a mentor/supervisor for the International Federation of Biblio/Poetry Therapy.
Through the Palabra Training Center, she offers on-site and remote programs for individuals and groups in poetry therapy, applying literature and psychology to help participants forge their own paths to wholeness. She also presents, with poet Annie Finch, Woman, Poetry, and Spirituality at the Garrison Institute. Her Four Pathways to Wholeness workshop has been presented at the Expressive Therapies Summit in NYC, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Studies World Conference in Seville, Spain in 2017, the National Association for Poetry Therapy Annual Conference, and the Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, India.
Her individual publications include: Oficio de Vivir (Buho,1986), Los Alegres Ojos de la Tristeza (Buho,1987), Regando Esencias/ The Scent of Waiting(Alcance,1998), Curada de Espantos (Torremozas, 2002), Diosas de la Yuca, (Torremozas, 2011), Prietica (Alfaguara, 2013). Rooting (Owlfeather Collective, 2017). Her poetry has been translated into Italian and French. In 2015 she did a TEDTALK at Ursuline College.
In 2013 Adly’s story, “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the MAKAN award. She was short-listed several times for the Strand International Flash Fiction Contest. Riham is a Best of the NET and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work is included in the “Best Micro-fiction 2020” anthology. Her flash fiction has appeared in over fifty journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Menacing Hedge, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, and New Flash Fiction Review among others. Riham has worked as an assistant editor in 101 words magazine and as a first reader in Vestal Review magazine. Riham is the founder of the “Let’s Write Short Stories” and “ Let’s Write That Novel” in Egypt. She has taught creative writing all over Cairo for over five years with the goal of mentoring and empowering aspiring writers in her region. Riham’s flash fiction collection “Love is Make-Believe” was released and published in November 2021 by Clarendon House Publications in the UK.
Ebba is a queer disabled writer, educator, and performer who has taught writing workshops and performed across the United States. She has poetry published in Closet Cases, Queering Sexual Violence, and several literary magazines. She’s also a published essayist with a focus on writing about health and disability, body positivity, and relationships. Angie teaches poetry and writing online and in person. Angie believes strongly in the power of words to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Angie can be found online at rebelonpage.com.
Caits Meissner is running a very special offering for the Network in late January – don’t miss her weekend workshop (space is limited), What Next? Launching Your Work in the World. Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016), and The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (Well&Often, 2012), co-written with poet Tishon Woolcock. The recipient of multiple artist residencies and fellowships, including the BOAAT Writers Retreat and The Pan-African Literary Forum, Caits is widely published in literary journals including The Literary Review, Narrative, Adroit, Drunken Boat and The Offing. She has taught, consulted, and co-created extensively for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of communities, with a special focus on imprisoned people, women, and youth. Caits holds a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. She currently serves as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Manager at PEN America.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD is the founder of Transformative Language Arts, the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. A beloved writing workshop facilitator and writing and Right Livelihood coach, she offers writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness, adults in transition, humans looking for greater connection with the earth, and poets and writers seeking their most courageous voice on the page and in their lives. She loves life-giving collaborations, including YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. She offers weekly “Care Packages for a Creative Life” through her Patreon page, and her long-time blog, “Everyday Magic” at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com.
Born hard-wired to make something (in art, music, and especially writing), Caryn’s long-time callings include writing as a spiritual and ecological path, yoga, cultivating a loving marriage, family, and community, and helping herself and others make and take leaps into the miraculous work of their lives. For over three decades, Caryn has worked with many arts and ecological/bioregional not-for-profit organizations as a grant-writer, fundraiser, staff or board member, and consultant on collaborative and community arts, group process, and better meetings. She lives in the country on land she and her husband, ecological writer Ken Lassman, have put in a conservation reserve and are restoring as prairie and woodlands.
Jennifer Browdy PhD is a professor of comparative literature and media arts at Bard College/Simon’s Rock and the Bard Open Society University Network. She coined the term “purposeful memoir” in her award-winning writer’s guides, Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future (2022 Nautilus Gold Award) and The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir: A Writer’s Companion (2017 Nautilus Silver Award). Her memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered, was one of six memoir finalists for the 2018 International Book Awards. The editor of three anthologies of global women’s writing and the online magazine Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times, she offers workshops in purposeful memoir along with coaching, manuscript review and publishing services at Green Fire Press. She is also the co-founder and host of the online community for writers, Birth Your Truest Story.
Join us in early December when TLA Network founder, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and her colleague Kathryn Lorenzen offer an intimate, two-hour workshop focused on supporting you to make a living from the transformative language arts. Register now for Your Calling, Your Livelihood, Your Life: Making a Living from TLA, offered on Saturday, December 3, 2022.
Transformative Language Arts can be your way to make a living, follow your calling, and fill your life with meaning, connection, and even joy. You’ll write and map what’s calling at large and in particular, how to focus in on what the timing is right for now, and what next steps to consider. You’ll also explore what self-care and a community ethic of supporting each other can look like for you and yours. Finally, there will be time to talk about your questions and possibilities.
This wonderful workshop is sliding scale and has been offered as a fundraiser for the Network – your generosity will make a difference!
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD, is the founder of Transformative Language Arts, author or editor of 24 books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and more, and with Kathryn Lorenzen, she leads Your Right Livelihood: The Work Art and Service You Love (YourRightLivelihood.com). A long-time community workshop facilitator and coach, she makes her living working with many communities and individuals, giving talks and readings, and collaborating with other Transformative Language Artists. Her other projects include Art of Facilitation classes with Joy Roulier Sawyer and Brave Voice writing and singing retreats with Kelley Hunt. More and her blog at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com
Kathryn Lorenzen is a career coach, creativity coach, songwriter, and poet. Her songs have appeared in feature films and TV series, and she writes for both self-expression and social change. With an earlier career in copywriting and marketing communications, she is now a career coach to freelance writers and artists seeking livelihood in support of their art. Kathryn now partners with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg as co-leader of Your Right Livelihood (YourRightLivelihood.com), and you can find more about Kathryn at KathrynLorenzen.com.
Presenting a showcase of recent work created by Kelly DuMar’s TLA Network class, Your Memoir as Monologue. We hope you will join us tomorrow, Wednesday, October 12, 2022, from 7-8:30PM EST.
In writing monologues for the stage, a story begins as words on the page. The next stage of development is to have the monologue performed by an actor in front of an audience. In this monologue showcase, class participants who have been developing monologues over six weeks will have the chance to see their writing performed by an actor for an audience––you.
Stella Adler called theater the “seeing place”––the place we come to see the truth about our lives and social situation. Oscar Wilde called theater “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” And August Wilson was, “fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.” We invite you, our audience, to share in making dynamic theater with us, by being present for this showcase of brand new stage monologues. This intimate and powerful experience will present writing by class participants––read by actors––is part of the critical page-to-stage development process that all new plays need. Please join us, and share the vitality of your presence and your witness as our much-appreciated audience.
The show is free and open to the public – although donations are always welcome! – and will take place via the online video conferencing platform Zoom. A link to the show will be sent out the day of the event.
Riham is an award-winning fiction writer and editor from Giza, Egypt. In 2013 her story “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the MAKAN award. In 2019 she was long-listed in Brilliant Flash Fiction’s food-themed contest and in 2020 her story “How to Tell a Story from the Heart in Proper Time” was a winner and was included in the 2020 Best Micro-Fiction Anthology. In 2022 her story “Two Peas in a Pod” won second place in the Strand International Flash Fiction Contest.
Riham was nominated for the Pushcart in 2019 and was nominated for Best of the Net in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Her flash fiction has appeared in over sixty journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Menacing Hedge, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, and New Flash Fiction Review among others.
Riham’s was the first female from Africa and the Middle East to have a debut flash fiction collection published in English. Her collection “Love is Make-Believe” was published in November 2021 by Clarendon House publications in the U.K.
Riham has worked as an assistant editor in 101 words magazine and as a first reader in Vestal Review magazine. She’s worked as a writing coach and developmental editor accepting mainly manuscripts by local writers for whom English is their second language.
Riham offers her signature workshops “ Flash Fiction: Writing From the Subconscious” and “ Flash Fiction: Writing From Where We Dream” through various platforms, including the TLA Network. She is also the founder of “ Riham’s Cairo Book Club” and the “Let’s Write Short Stories” workshops in Egypt.
My colleagues at the gallery find it amusing that I stand in awe and silent dialogue before Majd Kurdieh‘s paintings or look around for new ones each week. The merchandise promoting his work has grown from cards and mugs, to include fridge magnets, coasters, and now T-shirts, which are all displayed at the entrance of the quaint café attached to the gallery. Kasha who works there informs me when new products arrive and translates the Arabic script for me.
Kurdieh is a Syrian refugee and currently lives alone in a small house with just two rooms in the mountainous area of Lebanon, close to the Mediterranean Sea. His art practice dominates his life and in his free time, he enjoys fishing. His images are whimsical and childlike and include Arabic text inspired by his love of books, poetry, and music.
The animated characters Kurdieh created, the Fasaeen – which means ‘tiny people’ in Arabic – are a boy (Fasoon) and a girl (Fasooneh). They look deceptively innocent and have an unusual gang of friends, including a hyena and a monster. Kurdieh calls the gang ‘the very scary butterfly gang’ and each painting offers a narrative of how they work together, to steal sadness from the world and replace them with flowers. The butterfly, Kurdieh explains, is a fragile creature, so our instinct is to approach it delicately, afraid to harm it and in this context, he uses the word ‘scary’. His message is that we should approach each person in our lives with that kind of fear – of knowing that unless we are cautious, we can do them harm.
The Fasaeen are often painted with missing arms, which to me suggests a feeling of helplessness and perhaps the artist’s as well, but Kurdieh’s intention is to portray connection; that when two people truly connect, they must connect with their hearts. The little girl is the leader of the pack and he relates most with her. The characters act as a conduit through which his stories flow and he says that they seem to control him. The narrative develops as the painting progresses and he does not begin with the end in mind.
I am unsure exactly what it is that draws me to his work. I wonder if it is my Syrian roots on my father’s side or the simplicity of his work that makes one feel that if he can paint, well then, so can I. Perhaps it is the stories of war, displacement, and trauma that have come knocking on my door since I began my clinical placement as a student of Art Psychotherapy. Something in me awakened as they revealed their stories, the impact of war, the senseless loss of lives, and the strength of the human spirit to survive. They had left in a hurry and were not prepared for what lay ahead.
Irrespective of our circumstances or where we live, there is a need to know in our innermost being, who we are, and where we belong, and in the comfort and safety of that knowledge we no longer just survive, but we begin to thrive. Majd Kurdieh stays anchored to his roots through the stories and poems of his favorite authors. Books occupy a big part of his home and are a tangible reminder of where he came from.
The initial paintings of Kurdieh seem hurried and the words of the poem look as if they were placed without much thought of alignment. Some of the words in a few paintings have even been crossed out with a line running through them, as if the artist is granting permission to make mistakes. The rawness of his work is appealing. I was intrigued to learn how his method of drawing the monster morphed intentionally from the way he draws the dove. Nuances like this draw the viewer in for a closer look at Kurdieh’s work, and new layers of meaning are revealed.
The first series, ‘Stealing Sadness’ showed the characters outlined with bold black lines. The removal of those boundaries in his second series ‘Surrender to Love’, was a simple but inspired way to visually free the characters of the restrictions they faced, and empower them to do more.
For the past two years, I have been facilitating creative art and writing workshops in collaboration with an art gallery in Dubai, and of all the artists I have seen exhibited here, Majd Kurdieh and his series ‘Stealing Sadness’ remains my favorite.
Kurdieh’s poems written in Arabic on the paintings are replaced in later work with more concise statements like “the country is the wound and you are the honey”. Other than the motley crew of animals, most of the repeated motifs in his paintings are from nature and include the sun, moon, clouds, flowers -particularly the poppy.
There is an invitation to look at what is within us in his paintings and the condition of the heart appears to be a popular theme. An elephant with the heart of a butterfly has the message, “If your heart is as light as a butterfly, anyone can fly”. In another, the elephant is seen to have the heart of a fish.
Kurdieh is in no way bitter about the path that has led him to Lebanon. Art making and poetry have served to channel his pain through the Fasaeen, transforming it into a message of hope and optimism. He is the best-selling artist at the gallery here in Dubai and his work is gaining global attention and popularity.
The very scary butterfly gang Kurdieh says, lives in the hearts of each one of us and the artist poignantly tasks us with the responsibility of finding ways to take away the sadness from the lives of people and make the world a better place.
Renu Sarah Thomas is an Art Psychotherapist (British Association of Art Therapists – BAAT) and workshop facilitator. She has several years of experience in introducing and conducting programmes that promote the personal, social, and emotional well-being of individuals in Dubai, India, and Scotland and adapting these programmes to suit the cultural climate of the region.
She is a self-taught artist and although Renu finds pottery making and acrylic painting centering and enjoyable, it is through writing that she has found liberation and empowerment. Her growing areas of interest include displacement and trauma and through her spontaneous creative art and creative writing workshops, she passionately encourages people to pursue some form of creative expression, embrace their authentic selves, and intentionally find their purpose.
Born in India and raised in England, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, Dubai has been her home for the past 20 years.
In the midst of a very hot summer here in the eastern continental United States, it is ever more clear how needed and significant our collective voices are in this time of increasing political turmoil, attacks on our constitutional rights, escalating war, and the climate crisis.
The decision to remain hopeful in the face of so much challenge is a powerful tool – as radio host Krista Tippett recently shared in a New York Times interview: “I talk about hope being a muscle. It’s not wishful thinking, and it’s not idealism. It’s not even a belief that everything will turn out OK. It’s an imaginative leap, which is what I’ve seen in people like John Lewis and Jane Goodall. These are people who said: I refuse to accept that the world has to be this way. I am going to throw my life and my pragmatism and my intelligence at this insistence that it could be different and put that into practice.”
We invite you, the poets, journalists, writers, novelists, songwriters, playwrights, and other brilliant wordsmiths, to join us as we set our sites on hope, speak truth to power, and harness our collective courage to step beyond what has been familiar and comfortable to move much more quickly and in much bigger ways. The time is now.
You’ve seen the iconic poster—a woman in profile, her head turned to look boldly at the artist, her right arm raised in a fist while her left hand rolls up her sleeve. She wears a blue work shirt and a red, polka-dot scarf tied around her temples. Eyebrows immaculately sculpted, eyelashes done up, red lipstick topping it all off.
During the height of the pandemic, my cousin sent around a photo she’d unearthed, of our grandmother with a work crew, wearing that same blue shirt. When I asked my mother about it, she said my grandmother was part of a World War II “ladies’ crew,” and that her work had to do with ball bearings or something. My mother would have been four. I’d seen the poster a million times, but never knew my grandmother had been a “Rosie the Riveter.” I set out on a mission and eventually found a mug online representing her in this role.
My grandparents were part of the “The Great Migration” of Black people from the Deep South to the northern and western states that took place in the early 1940s. Although their movement was within the same continent, when I think about it, I get the feeling of something epic, and it is, because their choice to undertake the journey deeply impacted my quality of life, even though I wouldn’t be born until decades later. I heard about this journey in detail from my grandfather, with whom I was very close, yet I recently wrote about it from the perspective of my grandmother, who I never knew—she passed away well before I was born. In “Departure,” I take on her voice, describing how my grandfather came to California, started working on the naval shipyards, set up house, then sent for her and their two girls—my mother and my aunt. “The air is different here. Lighter. It could be that I’ve never been this close to an ocean, never felt the calm mist tickling my skin. Or maybe this is what it feels like to breathe easy, and free.” Those lines were my attempt to capture the emotional journey, the change that seems to be coming from outside conditions but is actually burgeoning from within.
Because while my grandparents’ movement was definitely physical, through numerous states from one end of the country to the gorgeous Pacific Coast, I know that faith, perseverance, and fortitude were the true inner gifts of the journey, the qualities they silently nurtured and developed in their own hearts to have the fortitude to make the trip.
Although the narrow definition of a journey is geographical, a movement from point A to B, we know an emotional component is always present. The richness of the inner adventure compels us to see the journey as a metaphor for countless situations, no physical change of place required. We face challenges, find allies, and overcome obstacles on the way to a final destination. We experience personal growth and development, chances to rise to the occasion, and strength arising from finding our innate gifts. We triumph, determining for ourselves what success truly means.
Joseph Campbell described the well-known archetypal pattern of the hero’s journey in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. While Maria Tatar’s recent The Heroine with 1001 Faces might be seen as a response to that work, it goes beyond it by expanding our view of heroism to include qualities and narrative arcs centering the power of women to effect change. Similarly, the journey of the healer and seeker, along with the journey of integrity, offer fruitful ways to view the universal struggles and joys we face on life’s trajectory. On each of these paths, even if there is physical relocation, the deeper journey always takes place within. The process may be as silent as caterpillars transforming within the confines of silky, stationary cocoons. They emerge exquisite and renewed—altogether new creatures—as a result of the inner journey. Containing invisible remnants of the past yet exploding with flight into the future, they affect their own destiny and that of those to come. We are those butterflies.
6th Century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Through the lens of the heroine’s path and other narratives, the thousand-mile journey becomes our lives, splayed out across the years of our existence. We look back to see where we’ve been and how far we’ve come, then venture on, knowing that just as fog clears when we move forward, our next steps will be revealed.
Last year I cut and pasted this quote, author unknown, to a vision board: “Take every curious little opportunity and own it.” A flyer that read “Jobs For Negroes” was the curious little opportunity my grandparents seized in the mid-twentieth century, buoyed by hopes and dreams for safety, security, and larger, more fulfilled lives. They didn’t know the ultimate outcome, but had faith that if they took the leap, a net would surely be there. As musician Jan Garrett sang: Fight to stay awake/Choose the path you take/Even if you don’t know where it’s going/Trust your own unknowing. Like my grandparents, we don’t need exact certainty to enter uncharted territory. Whether our movement is physical or centered on the journey within, we only have to believe in the possibilities and stay awake to the signs that illuminate our path, guiding us to precisely where we need to be.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey: Exploring the Paths of the Heroine, Healer, and Seeker, with Kimberly Lee, runs from September 14 to October 26 on the TLA Network. Join Kimberly for an engaging exploration of long-established and recently-outlined journeys in literature, film, poetry, videos, podcasts, and the lives of public figures. Through creative writing prompts, SoulCollage®, and other interactive exercises and activities, we’ll discover how aspects of these paths exist within our own lives and can be used to inform and enrich our work with others.
Kimberly Lee (@klcreatrix) left the practice of law some years ago to focus on motherhood, community work, and creative pursuits. A graduate of Stanford University and UC Davis School of Law, she is certified as a workshop facilitator by Amherst Writers & Artists, the Center for Journal Therapy, and SoulCollage®. She has led workshops at numerous retreats and conferences and is a teaching artist with Hugo House and Loft Literary. She serves on the board of the Transformative Language Arts Network and is actively involved with The Center for Intentional Creativity. A former editor and regular contributor at Literary Mama, Kimberly has served on the staffs of Carve and F(r)iction magazines. She holds a certificate in copyediting from UC San Diego Extension and is an active member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and ACES: The Society for Editing. Kimberly’s stories and essays have appeared in publications and anthologies including Minerva Rising, LA Parent, Fresh Ink, Words and Whispers, Toyon, The Ekphrastic Review, Wow! Women on Writing, Read650, Quillkeepers Press, I Am Woman: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America, and elsewhere. Kimberly trusts in the magic and mystery of miracles and synchronicity, and believes that everyone is creative and has unique gifts to share. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
This fall’s classes include four of exceptional quality and strength, and more are in the works. Don’t miss our annual Summer Sale of 20% off all classes, now through August 15!
Kelly DuMar (@kellydumar) is offering her Memoir as Monologue class, which includes the rare opportunity to see each participant’s monologue performed by trained actors at an online performance. A longtime supporter of our work, Kelly has recently rejoined the board as part of our leadership team. Her care, attention-to-detail, and dedication to fine teaching are a rare and special set of gifts, and we are lucky to have her engaged in leading this organization, and teaching for us again.
New-to-the-Network teacher, Kimberly Lee (@klcreatix), is offering an exciting opportunity to take a deep dive into reconfiguring the concept of the hero’s journey. An attorney-turned-facilitator/editor/writer, Kimberly brings thoughtful, generous, and expansive perspectives to her roles as Network board member and workshop leader. Read her recent blog post about her class here. We are thrilled to offer this exciting new class, and welcome Kimberly to the heart of our TLA community.
Renu Thomas is new to teaching for the Network, hails from India, and has spent much of her adult life in Dubai. She combines a deep knowledge of west-African, south-, and west-Asian cultures, and brings significant professional experience as an art psychotherapist and facilitator to her role on the Network’s board, and to our teaching and learning community. Don’t miss finding a spot in her brand-new class, Identity and Belonging, as it is filling quickly!
We are so lucky to have poet, therapist and community activist Marianela Medrano (@palabracounseling) offering Pathways to Wholeness to our community again this fall. Students love this class, and we are excited to provide the chance for more people to learn from this incredibly talented and brilliant change agent. Marianela recently wrote a bilingual book of poetry titled, Journeys/Viajes, and is completing a new non-fiction book, Pathways to Wholeness: Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning.
Take advantage of our Summer Sale, available now through August 15, and take 20% off the regular registration fee for any of these wonderful classes.
Robbyn Lane McGill’s two-part class, Kissing the Muse [offered again July 2022], is a wonderful circular journey through the ups and downs of life. On this great adventure, I had the privilege of meeting interesting characters such as the Seducing Siren, the Reluctant Rebel, and the Magical Guru. These wise messengers communicated with me through a variety of creative prompts, and I especially enjoyed meeting the Magical Guru who introduced herself to me as “Vision.” She helped me to see my surroundings in a new way.
During the autumn when I was enrolled in the Kissing the Muse course, I found myself in need of some rest and relaxation one day, so I went to the nearby nature sanctuary with my camera. I was sitting quietly on a bench near the bird feeders waiting for the wildlife to appear. From previous visits, I had learned to be still so that the animals would not feel threatened. My patience was sometimes rewarded with visitations; on one occasion, a jackrabbit appeared and on another, two possums. Various birds stop at the feeders – woodpeckers, blue jays, wrens, and my personal favorite, cardinals. On this particular visit, a male cardinal was perched in a tree on a branch above me. I took several pictures of him, and afterwards I sat in silence simply enjoying his company.
My peace ended abruptly when two women walked by. One of them stopped near the bird feeders, complaining in a loud voice about the sanctuary, “There’s no color here. Well, it’s green, but there’s no color. I mean, it’s pretty, but it needs some color.” Her friend, probably tired of listening to her criticism in the midst of this oasis, kept walking, leaving the grouch behind. Her loud voice now aimed in my direction, “Where’s the red?” I replied with a tinge of sarcasm in my voice, “Welcome to Houston?” If she wanted fall colors, she was in the wrong city. Failing to get the response she wanted from me, she moved on.
As she walked away, I realized that had she just looked up 20 feet, she would have seen the vibrant red cardinal above her head. Beauty was visible, but only to someone with open eyes and not an open mouth. Later, as I walked around the sanctuary, I was extremely aware of the pops of red all around me. Here was a spiky red flower. There was an autumn leaf on the path. A couple of bright red berries hung from a branch. Another cardinal appeared. Red was all around me, and it was magnificent. It wasn’t the shade of anger and it was strategically placed for those who take the time to look.
I felt deep gratitude towards my Magical Guru named “Vision,” and I felt even more connected to my cardinal friends, grateful that I have the patience to sit with them in quiet solitude and receive their unspoken but powerful messages. On this day Cardinal said to me, “Beauty is all around you. Just open your eyes.”
Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.