The Poetry of Ikebana

ikebana

I watched this short video about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, three times.

Years ago, when I was a teacher, I met a poet, Skip, who insisted children read poems three times to unlock the meaning. He asked them to experience a poem these three ways:

– Read it silently.
– Read it aloud, focusing on the sound of the poem — listening for rhyme and rhythm.
– Read the poem aloud, again, as if it is a blooming flower.

Ikebana is more than the creative expression of putting flowers in a container. It’s a disciplined Japanese art form that brings nature and humanity together. Steeped in the philosophy that being close to nature provides relaxation, the living branches, leaves, grasses, moss and seedpods produce natural shapes and graceful lines.

“In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects … The remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. People in all countries appreciate natural beauty, but in Japan, the appreciation amounts almost to a religion.” ~ Ikebana International

Like poetry, watching this three times made it bloom for me.

Spring is a tender time. There’s a youthful vibe in the rhythm, changes and order of nature as life pops. What’s blooming for you?

Photo: Shutterstock

Desert Light

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“My first memory is of light — the brightness of light — light all around.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

It struck me the minute I stepped off the plane. That light! After spending hours in airless airports, I thought I landed in a foreign country. At first glance, the Albuquerque landscape seemed barren, thirsty dry and dramatically not green, like my east coast home, that had finally begun to recover from the depths of winter.

Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O’Keefe

Unlike Georgia O’Keefe who came to the desert of New Mexico on a vacation and felt an immediate affinity, I landed in the desert for a conference. Inspired by O’Keefe’s enthusiasm for brightly colored paintings of the earth, sky and mountains, before dawn each day of my NM trip, I grabbed the down jacket I hoped to retire for a few days, and stepped out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise over jagged mountains. It was easy to imagine O’Keefe’s desert abstractions as the day crept in. The sunrise was dramatic, but nuanced, as it revealed colors in contrast to the dusty groundcover. Moments before sunrise, coyotes, dogs and rustling creatures I could only hope were elusive roadrunners, sounded a wake-up call in unison.

Santa Ana Pueblo

Santa Ana Pueblo

I knew it would be dry, but was it supposed to be bone-dry?

As drought bakes California, we tend to forget climate change is also ravaging other areas of the west. Changes in New Mexico’s climate are taking a toll.

“In this parched state, the question is no longer how much worse it can get but whether it will ever get better — and, ominously, whether collapsing ecosystems can recover even if it does. The statistics are sobering: All of New Mexico is officially in a drought, and three-quarters of it is categorized as severe or exceptional.” ~ LA Times 

After the last conference session, I decided to see what was beyond the Santa Ana Pueblo. I wanted to catch a glimpse of a roadrunner and was told by a conference attendee who lived in the area, the highly adaptive bird can survive on very little water. But it’s been unusually dry, even for NM, even for roadrunners, which is why they have been spotted along the path leading to the Rio Grande River behind the pueblo.

Rio Grande River

Rio Grande River

adobe_shadow_smI hiked the path down to the river slowly because the heaviness of the high altitude was beginning to take hold. Dry heat is deceptive. While I didn’t spy a roadrunner, I did stop to catch my breath and marvel at the Rio Grande in all its muddy spring glory.

Unlike other places I visit for work, New Mexico is a wistful dream I can’t seem to get out of my head…and I don’t really want to.

Photos: from my iPhone
Painting: Georgia O’Keefe Museum

Come Write With Me In Vermont!

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Just close your eyes and imagine the writing possibilities of riding out a snowstorm snuggled in a 1809 farmhouse next to a crackling fire, while peering out upon acres and acres of powdery landscape. Nestled in the quiet hollows of the Green Mountains, with the demands and distractions of life falling away, I enjoyed an incredible writing opportunity — a few days at an intimate writer’s retreat in Vermont.

It was pure writing heaven. I even went snowshoeing each day when I needed a brain boost. With the ‘ol heart pumping goodness to my muscles, I rediscovered how my writing gets a mega-boost from outdoor exercise.

While I was readying my book for the next phase of its publishing path — to meet and greet publishers, I met the writer-in-residence of Where Words Count, Marie White Small. We became instant friends. And when she read an excerpt from her soon to be published novel, Stony Kill, I was captivated by her literary voice and compelling subject — a family experiencing a child’s senseless death due to irresponsible gun owners. Marie is also a writer’s workshop leader — and she invited me to teach a blogging workshop at the retreat!

wwc_retreat_smWhether you want to create a “blog-to-be” and need to demystify blogging, or already have a blooming blog and want to juice up your writing, I would love you to join me!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the food. Chef Aaron cooks up a gastronomic feast. Each meal served was inventive and indulgent, using locally-sourced ingredients to the max. Think New England comfort food with a gourmet twist. Even cocktail hour was a scrumptious event.

Here are all the particulars for the So You Want To Blog? workshop. And please let me know if you have any questions.

See you in Vermont?

Doggone It: A Holiday Shopping Tale

woman_dogI am a dog lover. We have two big labs and my daughter just left my holiday nest with the first “grandpuppy.” So I know dogs. I know they target the one person in the room who is not a dog lover and make sure to lick their hand. I know they sniff people in places they shouldn’t. I know they use their eyes to beg for food and win treats. I know my dogs have good manners. But I also know they can be impulsive.

Needing a break yesterday — away from the home scene, I decided to go shopping — alone — no husband, no kids, no dogs. I headed to Woodbury Commons, an outdoor outlet shopping bonanza. It’s about an hour drive from my house. When I arrived, there were hoards of happy tourists enjoying the after Christmas sales frenzy. I meandered into MaxMara. Fancy. I own one of their warm, beautifully-crafted coats and I love it. Although there would need to be a massive sale for me to purchase a new one, I decided to humor myself and try on a black number (surprise). I place my bags and my short wine-colored Patagonia down jacket beside the mirror. I shrug into the coat. Soft cashmere. Nice. Very nice. There was a woman next to me trying on the same coat and we smile at each other as only two women who enjoy fine frocks and don’t speak the same language can. It’s obvious the coat will cozy up her seat on the plane ride back to Italy. Her husband smiles and nods in my direction. He likes the coat too. I smile back.

After checking the sticker price, I carefully hand the coat to the saleswoman. Thank you, but no thank you. I grab my no-slouch-of-a-coat that now looks more like a bruised eggplant than a fine Cabernet, and when I bend over to zip up, I gently knock into something or someone and feel a sharp pinch on the top of my hand, near the cuff of my coat. OUCH! I look down and see a Snugli wiggling — you know, one of those front baby carriers. Peeking out of the pack is a fluffy little gray dog with a red bow. Service dog? I don’t think so.

Looking at the red mark on my hand, I notice the cuff of my coat is sopping wet.

Holding my hand up, I say to the man, “Your dog just bit me.”

“Are you sure? Dog does not do that.”

The saleswoman is now all over me.

“Are you okay? Can I get you some water? Would you like to sit down?”

She seemed genuinely concerned that I may be hurt.

Pulling back my wet cuff, I showed the man the red mark on my hand. “I felt it. See, right there.”

“Dog no bite. Not a bad dog, ” the man says pointing to the dog now secured tightly to his chest.

Although absolutely fine, I am stunned the couple did not apologize. Unable to contain myself I followed them over to the register.

“Excuse me, I am a dog lover too and I understand these things happen. Your dog bit me and I think you should be concerned and at least apologize.”

He looked down at the dog, grabbed his wife’s hand and credit card, and briskly walked out of the store. The saleswoman’s face dropped.

I am reminded of what my son, a fan of Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer show, recently told me, “There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”

Illustration: Shutterstock

Gray Matter

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This is a hard post to write. How do you put into words something you’ve held so close for so long — something you’ve worked on when you weren’t working — when your time was yours to play and you reset time and space to write?

I used to think in blog posts. There was this voice in my head that kept the blog gears churning hard and fast. Something would strike, visual or visceral, and it would send me coveting, needing to share. Without filling up pages and pages, I marveled at how a small bite-sized morsel could be so satisfying.

Then my time filled up with work. My last unpublished post titled, “No Time To Blog,” seemed frivolous and obvious. Why would anyone want to read about not posting? Life happens. Everyone’s busy. Give it a break. Delete.

Now I wonder how to answer people who say, “Where do you find the time to write a book?” You get up early. You write on weekends, holidays, on the train. Once it’s woven into your fabric, you flesh it out and wear it any which way you can. Writing a book has become both muse and craft. I’ve fallen in love with the process.

So why share news of my upcoming book now…in its gestation? Because a 21-month milestone was hit and the editor I’m working with sent this newsletter to her publishing network today…

“One day a friend called to say she was going to let herself go gray…finally…after being gray for a decade, and the next day I received a phone call from Ronnie.

I’m thrilled to be helping Ronnie Citron-Fink, journalist and managing editor for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie has written and published thousands of articles about the environment, health, politics, green living, and beauty for websites, books, and magazines. Yahoo named her one of the “Top 10 Living Green Experts.”

It was during a Moms Clean Air Force business meeting in which a scientist from the Environmental Defense Fund was discussing what products consumers use that are detrimental to their health when she found herself at the tipping point; she could no longer ignore the curtain of headlines that broadcast how dangerous toxins lead to disease. At that moment, she decided she would stop subjecting her body to hair dye. UNCOLOR follows Ronnie’s hair trajectory as she comes out as openly gray. The manuscript will take an investigative look at the history of consumer advertising, feminism, health, mothering, hair care, men, money, our warming planet, and how women of a certain age can redefine beauty without hoisting the surrender flag. Unlike other literature on going gray, UNCOLOR takes a rigorous look at the ramifications of hair dye on our bodies and on our earth.

Ronnie’s book is an important addition to a cutting-edge discussion on how female boomers are redefining themselves. Let me know if you’re interested in taking a look at Ronnie’s book proposal.”

Gulp. For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when I read this was, “La-di-da.” Like Annie Hall’s nervous romance, publishing is a wobbly adventure. Not that I would know about this yet because I’ve just cracked the mystery of writing a book proposal. Along with creating a better book, writing the proposal helped me make peace with my true roots.

Photo: Junya Watanabe, “Techno Couture”