Heard Last Night

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We’ve had a wonderful Spring Series this year, and last night was an especially inspiring session for me. Therefore, I feel inspired to share this morning just a few things I heard at our session last night, for your reading pleasure. :-)

Opening Poem

Resilience.
Communicate slowly.
Awaiting.
Never let it starve for lack of what it needs.
Love.
We therefore have an obligation to each other…not to gaslight each other.
Friendship.
How do you know when you are done?
Awaken.
We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each other’s sense of reality for the sake of expediency.
Help.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
— Group poem, based on the poem, “How to Be a Poet”

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Favorite quote last night:
“My computer at home doesn’t have an “n” or a “b.”

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Word we learned:
“Prosody,” which means, from a reading teacher’s perspective, reading with ease and smoothness, but, do look it up in the dictionary if you get a chance. (Thanks, Meg!)

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Favorite Readback lines:
One big fat ringlet.
I’ve been forced to look at my relationship with boundaries.
I felt like I was flying through the palm tress.
They began to moan and dance.
“It’s my passion.”

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IMG_5516Did you know it’s National Poetry Month? You can write a poem a day by going to the NaPoWriMo site.  Here’s my 3-minute writing to the prompt of, “I’d love to be a… [name an insect]:

I’d Love to Be a Ladybug

I’d love to be a ladybug.
Their wings are so tiny, so precise, yet strong.
I like the way they fold in when they land,
in several layers of red and white and black.
Their wings don’t always fold back completely,
as if their slip is hanging out a bit
and they just don’t care.

Ladybugs are sure of themselves, of their femininity,
of their purpose (but what is it? Eating bugs, I think!)
They don’t care if their skirt is a little rumpled for a minute.
But then they fold everything back in, neatly.
Unless, of course,
they suddenly, determinedly, take off,
which always surprises me.

Journal prompt: “I’d love to be a [name an insect, set your timer, and write for three minutes.]“

What’s THEIR Passion?

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IMG_4992Part Three of Three

On February 25, I attended PechaKucha Night here in Jacksonville, which was organized around the theme of “What’s Your Passion?” I was moved by what I saw and heard.

  • I heard a father, Carl, speak passionately and proudly about his daughters, how fearless, determined, and free they are.
  • I heard Jessie talk about how writing, at age 12, transformed him from victim to survivor.
  • I heard Cole talk about his passion for “authentic” expression.
  • I heard Cathleen inform us that the #1 litter in the world is cigarette butts: 2 billion butts are thrown away EVERY DAY!
  • I saw the tears of Amy, who authentically spoke of her love and respect for her mentor, Paul.
  • I heard Kathy ask an important question I love to ask: “Hey, what’s cool about you?”
  • I heard Joe say his passion is “to help creators grow,” and then he reminded us to “be the change,” to be the “one spark” that changes everything.

These are powerful passions, and each one spoke to me.

Which is why it is so gratifying for me, as the facilitator of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, to do this work. It is an authentic transformation process that is working, right here, right now, helping women to do all of the things listed above:

  • to be fearless and free,
  • to transform from victim to survivor,
  • to be authentic,
  • to speak up about what bothers us,
  • to cry our tears,
  • to ask important questions, and
  • to help creators grow.

It takes hard work, and dedication, and resilience.  And passion. Like gardening, as I learned from my 10-year-old gardner friend, Evan.

I am grateful for the seeds that are sprouting here in Jacksonville. And I want to celebrate that today.

Here.
In the garden.

Journal prompt: So…what’s YOUR passion?

p.s. If you’d like to celebrate the passionate, authentic women of Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, please come to our Public ReadAround on Sunday, May 18, from 2-4 p.m., at the fabulous Coastal Occasions in Jacksonville Beach!  More details here.

What’s MY Passion?

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Part Two of Three

So, if my friend Evan, at 10 years old, already knows his passion, it begs the question: What’s MY passion?
Let’s see.

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The bluebird appears on the old nest box.

Yes, I also love gardening.
And bird-watching.
And ballroom dancing
And singing on my ukulele.
And of course, I love writing, especially women writing, especially Women Writing for (a) Change.

But, if I had to say it in one word, my current passion is, “change.” That’s pretty funny, since it’s also the thing I fear the most!

Example: About 10 years ago, my family and I were rafting on the Nantahala in North Carolina. (Of course, the river is a great metaphor for change.)  In the photo snapped at the end, the look on my face as we are about to descend into white water is pretty much pure terror.  BUT I made it through.  And since then, I’ve learned to love the tumult, knowing there is smooth water just around the bend.

I do love to see how things evolve, and grow, and shift, and transform.

In fact, I now believe passionately that change is necessary, and that it begins, first and foremost, with ME. If I want to change the world, all I have to do is make one small, tiny shift, and that changes everything. Here’s what I do know about chemistry, dear Evan: If you change one variable, the entire composition changes and creates something new.

It’s alchemy.
It’s magic.
It’s a miracle.

Like the way my garden is currently transitioning, from winter brown to bright green.
Like the way my son is transitioning, from “car pool kid” to “new driver.”
Like the way my daughter is transitioning, from high school student to college student.

I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out, and I am even biting my nails a bit as I look ahead to the tumult. Nonetheless, I am passionately glad to be in the middle of it.

Next entry: Inspired by PechaKucha Night in Jacksonville: What’s THEIR Passion?

What’s Your Passion?

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Part One of Three

photo 1As I cleared winter debris from my garden this weekend, I was reminded of a gardener I know in Austin, Texas.  While visiting a friend there last summer, I decided to stop by a community garden. That’s where I found 10-year-old Evan and his dad sitting in a shady area by the compost bin.

I asked the dad if he would give me a tour. “Oh, he’s your best tour guide,” the dad said, pointing to his son. Honestly, I was a little doubtful. What could this kid tell me?

Then he opened his mouth and blew me away. Scooping up a handful of compost, he said: “There are more bacteria in this handful of compost than there are people in the world.”

“Seven billion?” I was surprised.
“Yup,” he said, firmly.

He went on to explain that the compost was warm because all those bacteria are working together to break down the material. “Just like a fever,” he said, patiently, kind of like I was a small child. “You’re warm because the bacteria are moving around, trying to fight the infection.”

I suddenly realized that at age 10, his knowledge of biology and chemistry probably already exceeded mine.

photo 3He introduced me to more fun facts, such as, you can tell if a plant is in the mint family if it has a square stem. And, tomato caterpillars, which are as big and thick as a man’s pointer finger, burrow into the dirt before transforming into hawk moths.

Then he recited a poem he wrote about a hawk moth. “It’s a quatrain,” he informed me.

He pointed out many more plants: spinach, cucumbers, grapes; plus butterfly plants for pollination and marigolds for repelling insects (one marigold per square foot, please, and be sure to use a variety of plants in a garden to attract various insects and pollinators).

When I asked how he had learned all this stuff, he explained that he and his dad were fans of the book, “Square Foot Gardening.” Apparently his dad had read this to him every night before bed for quite some time. He said, however, that I should buy the second edition, and repeated this advice to me carefully several times.

photo 4Back at the compost bin again, he let me take his picture, and I said to him, very seriously, “Thank you so much for giving me this tour. I’ve learned so much about gardening.”

And he said, just as seriously, “It’s my passion.”

Wow.

Tomorrow: Part Two:  What is MY passion?

Claiming our voices, as individuals, as a nation

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Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. — Rumi

Claiming Her Voice Again

IMG_4677Last week I was thrilled to rediscover Elizabeth Cotten, a woman who wrote her signature song at age 11, taught herself to play the banjo and guitar left-handed, and then put down her instrument for decades…until she became a part of the Seeger Family, and was inspired by their music. She took up her instrument, and her voice, once again, and began a new career.

I heard her singing Freight Train 20 years ago on a radio station and instantly loved it.  This past weekend, while I was playing in a bluegrass jam in New York City with my sister, someone played it again, and I was inspired.  When I got home, I learned how to play it on my ukulele!

Here’s to women that claim their voice and their talent, even if it takes a lifetime.

Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-UUeCa6Jw

Journal Prompt: Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence becomes a betrayal.” When have you been silent and betrayed yourself or others?  How did you learn to speak — or sing — or play your instrument — again?

“Now You Sing It!” — Pete Seeger

IMG_4647It turns out that Elizabeth Cotten worked for Pete Seeger’s stepmother and father, and was inspired by their music.  As I read the articles about Pete  in The New York Times last week, one headline really caught my attention: Pete Seeger: A Folk Revivalist Who Used His Voice to Bring Out a Nation’s.”

Although Pete was a fabulous musician and enjoyed performing, it seems that what he liked to do best was to not only capture the songs and stories of the past and bring them alive in the present, but also, and most importantly, to teach those songs to others and encourage them to sing.  It was  singing WITH people, not FOR people, that gave him his greatest thrill.  And, he taught us, as a nation, how to stand up to injustice when he sang the songs that helped raise our consciousness about what was wrong, and right, about our country.

Pete’s Local Connection

IMG_4648While Pete’s stepmother was also a musician, it was his mother that apparently first taught him to love and appreciate music.  Pete’s mother actually attended church here in Jacksonville, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, and Pete himself performed there.  He gave the church a signed copy of his autobiography, in honor of his mother, and I saw it after the service last week.  It had an inscription, his signature, and a pen drawing of a banjo.

Journal Prompt: What makes you sing? How can you use music to bring out your own voice? And how can you share your voice with others?

Happy writing, and singing.

What’s your word for 2014?

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I picked “embrace.”  It came to me, in a conversation with my journal.  I’d had a dream about grains, and, when I looked up the symbolism, it was all about prosperity and happiness.  So, my journal suggested I “embrace” this idea.  Then I looked at the cover of my journal, where it said, “Embrace The Day.”

Hmmm. Is that clear direction from the Universe, or what?

Emerging "embrace" collage for 2014.

Emerging “embrace” collage for 2014.

I like the idea of “embrace.”  It’s not…grab. Seize. Snatch. Just…gently hug.  To hug the day. Am I willing to do that? Can I embrace my life, and everything around me, without clutching it? (This was a necessary skill I used last night when I agreed to my teen-agers not being home with me for New Year’s, but “out” with their friends. Breathe, Jennifer, breathe.)

Somebody asked me today if I make “resolutions.”  The answer is, not anymore.  It seems too direct.  Too demanding.  Too much of a setup for failure! Instead, I’d rather do a diagram, or write  in my journal, or make a collage about what I hope will manifest in the new year.

Which, in fact, I did today.  All three of those things!  And I like what’s emerging.

When I asked some of my friends what their word for the year was going to be, they came back with “Risk.” “Faith.” “Trust.”  Then one of them sent me a text about what she had done to usher in the new year (and I quote):

“You girls will laugh but I’m insisting on a successful and blissful…. That being said, my friend Christy and I looked up all these crazy New Year’s rituals from around the world….The cliff note version of our night included eating beans for dinner (mex food). Taking our dogs to the park while wearing lots of different colored underwear where we then burned all the things we want to let go of and sent them away with love in red paper lanterns, came home and threw orange peels and money in our entry ways, opened up all our windows to let out old and in new, walked in our doorways with our right foot first, then watched some tv while eating 12 grapes -making a wish for each one!! Today we will eat all round food and black eyed peas, avoid cleaning, poultry, using sharp objects. We will take a walk, bury our wishes for 2014 and open up our brand new clean calendars for the year! If this doesn’t cover All the bases then I don’t know what will!!”
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New Year’s Eve dinner soufflé

I did laugh.  And, I opened my windows, stepped with my right foot into the door, and plan to eat all round things for dinner tonight!

Journal prompts:

  • What is your word or phrase for the coming year?
  • What is the biggest risk you took back in 2013, and, what did you learn from taking that risk?
  • Who are you most committed to being in 2014?

Feel free to post your responses in the comments below. I have more prompts for the new year and to wrap up the old, if you are interested. Contact me.

Ready to invest in yourself this year?  Register for the first ever Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville, Core Class, beginning January 15.  I have four spots left as of today. 

Each day of this year is a blank page.  Consider writing your story in a circle of supporting women. I’d love to welcome you into the circle with a warm embrace.

What We’re Manifesting This Year!

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January 2014 Newsletter

Happy New Year!
It’s a brand new year, and, as I watch the birds and write
in my journal this morning, I’m curious to see what will
manifest in my life this year. How about you?

Four Spots Left for Spring Series!
Perhaps a women’s writing circle is in your future!
If so, I’ve got 4 spots left for the first ever
Women Writing for (a) Change, Jacksonville,
Spring Series, starting January 15.
Only one week left to sign up! You can register here.

I know. You’re scared. Yes, it does take time
to build community. Yes, it does take time for themes
to emerge, for trust to be built, for the voice to be revealed.
And yes, for so many of us, it has been well worth it.
If you are ready to manifest something new
for yourself this year, please join us.

Have You Picked Your Word?
Speaking of manifesting your future, have you
“picked your word” for the year?
I’ve picked mine: Embrace! And I’ve posted some journal prompts
to help you use words to shape your year:
http://www.womenwritingjacksonville.com. Check it out!

Planned for 2014
In 2014, we’ll be conducting a Spring Series and a Fall Series,
leading a workshop at MOSH in February, offering
the Journal-To-The-Self workshop in May,
and planning women’s writing circles at the jail
as well as the Women’s Center. I also intend to support
the work of Hope At Hand and create and exciting art/writing event
with artist Sarah Crooks Flair in her new studio space.

Outreach: We Made A Difference!
We raised $1,000 for Rethreaded through donations from our
Sampler Series in October! That means through writing,
we helped women coming out of the sex trade
find dignified work. Thank you, Women Writers!
Also, thanks to the Women’s Center for allowing me
to lead their Bosom Buddies Support Group
in a garden-themed writing circle.

Special Thanks
I want to especially thank the three women
who sponsored seats for our Fall Sampler:
Beth Horn, Darlene Goetzman, and Karen Knight,
all of whom are changing the world their way.
Thanks also to Rethreaded’s Kristen Keen
for helping to promote the Sampler.
p.s. check out Darlene’s 20-minute Busyness Break at 1 p.m. EST Wednesdays!
http://www.darlenegoetzman.com

It’s Official!
WWf(a)C Jacksonville is now officially licensed,
as I signed the final papers in December at the headquarters of
WWf(a)C in Cincinnati during my graduation from
the Conscious Feminine Leadership Academy.
More info on WWf(a)C activities: http://www.womenwriting.org

In The Garden
I’ve been writing quite a bit so far this year, including how
the bluebirds came to visit me on the first day of the new year.
Please take a look at this and my other blog posts.
I would love your feedback.
http://www.inthegardenofthedivine.com

A Final Word
It’s taken me a long time to find my voice,
and to begin to listen to it. I found that voice in the pages
of my journal and in my women’s writing circles.
I hope that you, too, will find the time and the resolve
to listen to your own inner voice this year.
If you hear the call, register today for the Spring Series.

Blessings on you in the new year.
Cheers,
Jennifer Wolfe
http://www.womenwritingjacksonville.com
http://www.inthegardenofthedivine.com