7 Minutes: Wolf is Your Shadow

photo2How do you hold innocence,

when the wolf is your shadow?

Hungry and wild, poisoned pawed, but calling you to run toward your honest self?

How can your tongue not lap at the blood of the rabbit, find the sweet snap of bone so enticing?

What is in your belly but the embryo of the haunted child, the small furred one who lost the true language of foraging,

the deep blue trust of the noon sky, and the savage hope that she was loved?

7 Minutes: Poem For Tomorrow

mermaid swirl

My body is a prism.  In tomorrow’s dappled light,

holy ghosts are hunting, their guns so glorious bright.

We take the ache we forged in the waters of our birth,

the explosions of our spirit, the suicide of dreams,

the radiance of failure, cast breaths that never breathed,

the half-life of lover’s whispers, the political machine.

Our bodies swim in swirling light, and half an age away,

sapphire boats of glory open our turtle shells.

Doppler speed extends the spectrum of our souls.

We stretch beyond our sighs into a sway of jewels.

7 Minutes: Sensitive Skin

Day of Creation

There is a buzzing in my ears,

blending with the indigo of fears,

tears are copper tacks, rusting under trees,

my heart so far away from me.

Yet, I call, I still believe,

ten thousand mornings await.

We are flowers that fly in the wind.

You breath on my sensitive skin,

Is the forever I hold within.

7 Minutes: Bay Leaves


Bay leaves.  I need to write about the bay leaves that have been in my pocket for the last day. Gail and I hiked on Boggs Mountain yesterday, ending our walk along the Creek Trail, talking about healing our spirits, Course in Miracles, how we don’t understand it’s “magic” in problems of work or husbands.  We climbed down from the trail to a little beach….best word to use, I guess, next to the creek, sat on rocks until our yonis were numb, and then I looked up.  Sunlight danced on the upper branches, on the leaves of the bay trees, birds were singing–our ears were blocked by our anxieties–and the creek was alive and flowing, making music.  We stopped talking and just let ourselves really there, nowhere else.  There was nothing to fear or regret and we remembered to accept that our spirits just needed our egos to get out of the way.  Then her phone rang.

But I grabbed bay leaves as we left, rolled them in my hands, inhaled.  I put them in my pocket to remember the moment to write my 7 minutes today.  Just remembered them.  Just pulled them out.  The sweetest perfume on my palms.

Art and Writing #5: I Ching Paper Bag Paintings

hexagram 1

On Valentine’s Day, the Art and Writing class met again.  The focus was on casting the I Ching and painting paper grocery bags with the hexagram that the coins created.  I’ve painted bags for years, ready made wall hangings.  I got this particular idea for the bags from a “botch” project.  As I was trying to deal with a blobby mess, lines began to appear and I realized I could turn them into a hexagram.  After I was done, I looked up its meaning…patience…which I sorely need with writing projects.

The hexagram above emerged in a backward’s fashion; I had no idea what the lines meant when I painted them. The flowers were added later from another project that I wasn’t happy with. But I cut them out, and they immediate found their home. Once the flowers were glued to the bag, I had that settled feeling that tells me a piece is done.

In class, we threw the coins.  We looked up their meanings using this link.


Some of the participants did collages as well as paintings.  Robin Shrive-Fogel completed La Mer while paint was drying on her bag.  She mentioned that she needed to paint vast quantities of blue.

The past two sessions we’ve completed Writing the Present exercises, 7 minute writings as the ones I’ve recently started began here at The Heron’s Path.  (I’m looking forward to the 7 minutes for today after I post this.)  Pat Giacomini wrote this beautiful poem at the end of the session.  It always is amazing to me how there can be nothing, and then such profundity born from a short timespan. When a space in life is set aside, small miracles can occur.

The Present

The present is a blur from a rocky night

The morning rose in me to silence and peace

Thoughts still echo from my twisted and thrashing night

I rise to meet the day.

I rise to the meet the day

My peace encompassing the dawn

Dawn prayers bring focus and introspection

My prayers go out to meet my God.

My will struggles to bend to the present

My world begins to erupt to the joy of color

My world struggles to find balance

God’s grace will lead me to my peace.

My God beside me, My God above me

My God to the left of me, My God to my right

Grace leads Hurt bleeds

Trust shapes Faith leaps

IMG_1057patHere is Pat with her I Ching painting, as well as a close up shot of it.


Patti Jahsman made a delightful discovery.  Another participant moved to a new place, and there was paint left on the newspaper.  Patti used this as a print, the newspaper came up and provided text for the painting….the writing was backwards, but that made it all the more fun.  Her used of pastel colors contrasting with the brown paper of the bag gave her work added depth.

IMG_1062 IMG_1063

Fran Ransley is above with collage and hexagram.  Fran is famous for her prolific gardens. The flowers on the purple paint were joyous, celebrating the early spring we’re having here in Northern California.  By the way, I recently reviewed Fran’s book This House Protected by Poverty, a few entries ago.  READ THIS BOOK!  Get your copy on Amazon.


The painting above is mine, a sort of Valentine nature flirting thing.  A quick sketch with acrylics on cardboard.  I wrote a short piece in the 7 minutes called Ominous Bird (the male fluffing its feathers was much more ominous looking as the painting started off….he was a huge raven and more menacing until my paintbrush slipped).  I hope the piece is still on my school computer.  If I find it, I’ll add it here.


Here is Saro Deacon! Saro teaches child development classes at Mendocino College and Sonoma State Univeristy and says she’s going to use some of these ideas with her students.  In the previous Art and Writing post, Saro started the mandala that she’s holding and continued to work on it.  She started a hexagram too.  Saro told me that as she worked, she “felt” the energy of the painting in her body.  That is so much of the key of this process: intuition guiding, using the visceral, going within, and allowing your light (or darkness) to emerge as art.



This is Ali Matson soon will finish high school. She said she hates pink.  Really really hates pink.  But it was the perfect color for her hexagram New Beginnings, and she went ahead and used it because the color wanted to be chosen…and the then it turned out to be the perfect choice.  She also created the affirmation collage.


The image on top is a detail from Peggy Thompson’s hexagram, a Celtic theme interposed upon Chinese divination.  When she showed it to me, I immediately thought of this image below of Coyolxauhqui, a dismembered Aztec Goddess that was excavated in 1978 at a construction site in Mexico City.  There could be a novel or two contained within these pictures.

220px-Coyolxāuhqui       .

The Middletown Unified School District sponsors this class.

7 Minutes: Sacred Art

patti angel

Typing around my cat’s tail until she moves to make biscuits

on my gray sweater that rests on the table next to my desk.

There is a jungle of my husband’s papers and maps,

his bottle of Dr. Stringfellow, a stack of blank DVDs he has never opened,

a basket of used pens and dull pencils, a metal filing case,

and a tape dispenser ready to fall to the floor.

Black coffee bites my tongue.  Poetry isn’t awake.

If I had written this yesterday afternoon, I would have entitled it Christians Who Cuss,

but now I’m looking at an angel a friend made.

A leaf grows from her belly above flowers I drew

as a lake made ripples beneath the deck.

I need to follow it, moving downward, brushing the head of a blue iris.


The point is to write.  I did not write the prayer below. The same sweet Sister who made the angel did, but it’s the day to share:

I offer my art as sacred art.

I do it for Happiness, not for self-glorification.

I do it for the art of love, not to get love.

I do it for the enjoyment it brings to myself and others.

I do it for excellence.

I do it for sadhana.

I freely participate with all my heart

in the work of practicing my sacred art.

7 Minutes: Winter Maple

IMG_1071This is my present.  Early in the morning on a late winter day, which will be too warm for winter, and a maple tree growing too big for its space, sadly doomed.  But its death is still in the future.  Right now there are other things to do than to cut down a tree whose limbs have not quite threatened the power lines, though they begin to hang over our roof thumbing their noses at fire regulations.  I do like this four season tree.  It’s behind all the other naughty plants that are already showing off a month too early.  The redbud that lines the highway is dressed in April.  But it is still winter, still early in the morning, and the smoke from our neighbor’s wood stove is smogging up the street, making fake clouds behind the maple.  Squinting my eyes, I see the tiniest of buds on the edges of its smaller branches.  One more year of the yellow death that falls on our driveway and cars and clothes.  Maybe one more leafing.  One more fall when the leaves really show off before they turn brown and drop with the wind and the first storms, if we have them. One more winter, maybe, where we can peer through the tree across the valley.  I have a minute left in this interval of presence, not to be returned to me.  I stop clicking on my keyboard and hear a morning bird, out of the frame of the window, and traffic on the highway at the root of the mountain.

7 Minutes: Challenge

What is my present?  I love how the word has double connotations, like the cliche “The present is a gift you give yourself.”  I hope to do a “challenge,” my way to construct habit, to write here for seven minutes a day what is present for me.  The idea is stolen from Clive Matson, San Francisco Bay Area poet who leads Let the Crazy Child Write workshops.  I’m always more centered and feeling more real when I do these exercises.  My big goal is to do one a year…or maybe just for Lent…or maybe for the rest of the my life.  Or maybe just today. I will do anything to keep myself from writing.  Another ulterior motive: to use these as warm up, the get back into my messy scary novel, to push past all of my head fucks about who will read, how much I hate promoting my work, how I suck at it, how the novel is too….put your choice of self limiting adjectives in the blank.  My house is squeaky clean…I’m on a week off from teaching…it’s Wednesday morning…my husband is off working on his spiritual art, putting in a driveway stone by stone by hand in our other house.  No excuses.  And what happens if I just start writing?  I fall into it, fall in love again. One minute left today.  My cat Jinxy is crying in the living room.  It’s going to be 80 degrees here in Northern California…yellow daffodils and sunlight are calling her. I will stay here in my room, listening to the refrigerator, shutters closed, and write.

Triumph: This House Protected By Poverty by Fran Ransley

franThis is an important book. This “creative nonfiction” journey of the author’s brave journey out of poverty in a rural Northern California county should be a staple in feminist studies and sociology classes at colleges and universities around the country. Ms. Ransley’s honest portrayal of raising four children while single handedly maintaining a small farm, a 20th century look at subsistence living in America, is a brave testament to her resiliency, intelligence, and talent. Most noteworthy is her portrayal of the entrenched prejudices our society has against poor single women and the bureaucratic nihilism and incompetence that could be considered downright evil. She describes a system so heavily weighted down with paperwork, byzantine regulations that change on a whim, and workers who project their own futility upon their clients, that it creates hazards and stumbling blocks for the poor who are desperate for better lives. Saying this, Ms. Ransley also portrays heroes and heroines, also part of the system, who rise above the morass and help her navigate the difficult path to finding a job that pays enough to support her family. The amazing thing about this book is that she writes about these topics with both humor and humility, inserting tales of getting a turkey drunk before dispatching him to Thanksgiving dinner, her mentoring and receiving true, not romantic, love from a horse dealer, and of being severely hard of hearing, which complicated her search for employment. Please read this book!

Art and Writing Class #4 Healing Mandalas January 10th, 2015


The Art and Writing Class is growing, with both numbers and a range of ages, 7 to 76!  I keep thinking I’ll come up with a sexier name for the class…and each blog posting I’ve done has had a slight variation…but maybe just the simple Art and Writing will do. The emphasis for this class was healing mandalas.  We used a format suggested by Richard Rohr, thinking of four areas of our lives or in the world that needs to be healed.  Journaling, making lists, doodling ideas to represent these areas.  We then painted and/or made collages to represent these.  

Pat Giacomini created the beautiful collage above, as well as the one below, the first page of an art journal she has started.


IMG_1003Participants in the process of creating

Saro Deacon started this mandala.  Her method is a very precise.  Notice the details of the paintings she included, including one of a lifelike human heart.  I hope she finishes this at home, or brings the piece back next month.


The Montanez and Espinoza families joined us.  The first picture is of Maria and Maria, mother and daughter.  Abuela Maria wrote eloquently of missing her children in Mexico and worked on coloring a mandala.  Maria Montanez, mother of Kelly, Nicholas, and Regina began a painting of colorful orbs…representing herself and each of her children. Briana (in blue) and Kelly (in black) joined us after their soccer game, deciding to fingerpaint. IMG_0998(null)-7 

Rosa Espinoza explained the meanings of the colors she chose for love, happiness, and her family.


(null)-6 Jennifer Kelly created this fascinating mandala, using circles to represent the strengths she finds from areas that might be considered points of growth.  We discussed that this is what it’s all about!  Our supposed places of “weakness” or places in us that need healing are the exact places we find our greatest strengths, compassion for ourselves and others, and are what stretches us emotionally and spiritually.

Fran Ransley is here contemplating her project, which is finished on the right.  Her collages are complex and team with symbolism and story! IMG_1001IMG_1009

Alexis Mattson, who is nearing completion of high school, created the mandala on the right.  The flower made of paper celebrates the love and support she receives from her family.


We started our session with an exercise called Writing the Present, which I learned through participating in Let the Crazy Child Write workshops offered by Bay Area poet Clive Matson.  As people were coming into the class I noticed a lone blackbird sitting on one of the barren limbs outside my classroom window.  That was the present I began with. The blackbird was resting on the barren tree branch outside the window under the shadows of the quiet gray morning. I am thinking of circles, of pure white spaces that need to be filled with color, with words, with the scattered moments of the past, of the future and discover how they collect to create Now. They are shadows, ephemeral as clouds. In the center of my being, I find the spinning nexus of life. It pulses, deeper than my heart, along the ledge of all the tomorrows, the gifts of spirit, wholeness, transformation. They each are a blackbird that surprises me, perched on the tributaries of my journey. Come beautiful words. Come visitations of what is possible. Come love. Come divinity within me, circling, circling.


I’m still trying not to be in a non-judging place about my collage above… I do like to work messy at times…hmmm….whether or not I like to is not the point, I guess…it’s what happens.  But in the mess I find a lot of meaning, most of the time, after I’m done playing.  I’ve been under the weather this weak, so haven’t written about what this is trying to tell me…but it did start off with the idea that our imperfections can be places of beauty within us, echoing the sentiments of Jennifer Kelly.    

Patti Jahsman’s creations have had mysterious open spaces in their centers.  Look at the color spectrum she uses in her mandala, how the colors pulsate with life and energy.  I thought this seemed like a sun or a star as she was sharing, and then she sent this….it’s the universe!


At the heart of the Universe,

Love. At the heart of Everything,


At heart we are All One.

Peggy Thompson created two wonderful pieces.  Her mandala is below.  This piece features hers son tuning his guitar before a gig he was playing in San Francisco.   Her writing is full of life, capturing a moment in time, bringing right into it. IMG_1006


The guitar player steps outside the stage door into the city, seeking to find a quiet place to tune his axe away from the excited crowd inside. A child sings Ring Around the Rosy on the playground as she spins, and spins and then falls down with glee. A young couple drinking Irish coffee in a waterfront bar join hands and gaze at each other when the piano player starts to play, their song. The elevator music love song mocks the heart of the women headed upstairs to state her case in divorce court. A street sweeper whistles an upbeat tune from his native land as he goes about his job, and the work seems less tiring. The church bell chimes out across the city and the atheist stops to remember the faith of his grandmother,and her sweet familiar smell of candle wax and roses.


Here we all are!   IMG_1019

Closer to the Spirit


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