strong offer Friday : come, retreat with me.

I must think more clearly when I am near the sea; all my 2016 and 2017 retreats are planned near water. June 2016 Do you falter when people ask what you do? Do you yourself know your own gifts and how to best live into them? This retreat, Clarify Your Strong Offer, will give you the tools to answer those questions–for yourself and others. Held on beautiful Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest and cohosted with author and artist Mary Anne Radmacher, this small retreat brings the best from our two toolkits to bear on your specific needs. September 2016 This special 5-night retreat focuses on loss and grief. Using my book, The Geography of Loss, as our toolkit, we will explore many different kinds of loss to help us embrace what is, honor what was, and love what will be. You will use writing, silence, and art-making to forge a new journey with loss and grief. Limited to 10. January 2017 Come, write into the New Year by the sea. For women who want to explore healing and discernment. You need not be a writer to come. We will explore healing and discernment through words and silence in this 5-night retreat. Seven spaces remain.  ...

thinking thursday : books, cardamom, anger, dying, presence, and Prince

MIND A story of Meryl Streep‘s strength. What does it mean when we say a book is brave? “I sometimes wonder if what we’re really trying to praise is not the subject matter or the politics or even the aesthetics of the book, but the author’s ability, or even just willingness, to be impolite, to be messy, to be extravagant on the page. A novel can be perfect in its structure, in its logic, in its composure, but the most memorable novels, the most electrifying, are the ones that understand the necessity of imperfection, of ragged edges, of being distasteful, of making mistakes, of being demanding of the reader…. as readers, don’t we read fiction exactly to be upset? A novel, in its truest form, is a questioning of what it means to be human, of what a life is. But what makes it different from, say, a work of philosophical inquiry is, among other things, the way it uses (or misuses, or differently uses) language and, second, the particular sense of discomfiture it can provide.” And then, the art of the short story, the most delicious of forms (to my mind). Mark Haddon on writing the short story: “‘Everything Ravaged’ is not a short story. It is a huge story compressed magically into 20 pages. It convinced me that authenticity had nothing to do with the facts, and it convinced me that the last thing you should do when sitting down to write a short story is to think small.” BODY It’s all about the cardamom. Is there anything better than olive oil cake? Perhaps, but at the moment I can’t think of what it might be. Ships well....

poetry wednesday : come into the presence of still water

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am...

In a world of danger, we use what we can.

When I was little, I thought that if I held my tongue up over my front teeth, nothing could happen to them. So, for example, if I fell down the stairs at school (not at home, silly; only rich people had two story houses), and got my tongue up there in time, even if I hit my mouth on the cement stairs, nothing would happen to my teeth. It didn’t occur to me until much later that likely my tongue would have been severed in that maneuver. I also believed that if I swooshed milk around in my mouth, it would make my teeth look whiter. I can only imagine the elementary school teachers on duty in the lunch room watching my elaborate endeavor for pearly whites, freckled cheeks puffed out, moving my mouth from side to side, a faint sloshing sound emanating from closed lips. “Patti Digh,” Mrs. Goins usually said, “food is not a game.” So I tried to hide it from her when I used white bread smooshed against my upper front teeth to make braces. The world seemed placid enough. It wasn’t like I was in immediate danger of tumbling down the steps, but I wanted to be prepared, just as I put my hand on the crank to lower the car window any time we approached a bridge. As an adult now, I can see that I learned my catastrophizing from my mother who, if she didn’t hear from us the moment we should arrive home, not only imagined me and John thrown from the car that had tumbled down an embankment and into...

What I learned about Prince from tuning my piano

The cherry wood is likely a faux finish. It didn’t matter. This was the spinet piano I grew up playing, taking lessons from Mrs. Myrtle Muench from the time I was four and my feet didn’t hit the pedals, to when I graduated from high school. I walked to her apartment every week for almost 15 years, some 750 one-half hour lessons, money in hand to pay for the class, and a lesson book under my arm. Some weeks, I had practiced; some I had not, and both situations were clear to her the moment we started, like she was all-knowing, a seer. We began our journey together with big notes and progressively they got smaller until they looked like tiny armies of hurried ants covering the page, my left hand–as always–dragging just a bit behind my right, even though I am left-handed. In my living room, amidst the fancy furniture that no one sat on unless it was the preacher or someone had died, sat the piano with its shiny red wood finish. As I got older, I moved from those single easy books to an entire encyclopedic set of classical music that Mrs. Muench somehow got my parents to buy for me; no doubt it was far too expensive for them, but they did it anyway. And I made my way through, learning Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition” and beyond. John made sure I had that piano with me when I lived in D.C., taking charge of getting it moved from North Carolina to our house there. But with my travel schedule, I just didn’t play much, and it went...