How to Build Your Own Veteran Writers Group
Edited by Maxine Hong Kingston
Letters of Invitation
two weeks before the veterans writing group gathers, the leader sends
a letter of invitation to each participant. The letter suggests a
theme for us to be contemplating. The leader usually chooses a
subject he or she is concerned with at the moment. The letter also
gives a schedule for the day. Some leaders include poems and stories.
Later, just before the writing session, the leader speaks further
about the theme he or she has chosen for the day’s inspiration.
Here are some letters that leaders have written through the years, in
no particular order.
Writing Group Letter
speak for myself, but in so doing, I make an assumption that what I
say will resonate with many, veteran or not, in the group: my
experience of war, my experience of resisting war and survivors guilt
have often curtailed my experience of joy.
in everyday American life; driving, watching TV or movies, eating
out, all hold some guilt; if for no other reason than we acknowledge
the “bottom line” of war. So, the theme for this meeting is
happiness, mirth, unbridled joy. Remember it takes more muscles to
frown than to smile.
for the june 3, 2006,
- 10:00 beginning
- 10:15 check in
- 11:15 report
from those who went to Hawai‘i
- 11:45 meditation
- noon writing
- 1:30 eating
meditation [first 15 minutes in silence]
- 2:15 reading
[those who did not read last meeting first]
- 4:00 feedback
- 4:45 announcements,
- 4:50 ending
m i l e
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Does Writing Change Anything?
I wrote up a sketch of what we might do in the way of writing at our
next meeting, and as I often do, planned let it alone for a day
before I sent it off to you. The topic was on courage, especially the
new and surprising forms of courage our own quite troubled times are
calling forth. But as the day passed into the evening, I became very
glad I hadn’t sent that one off to you, as another topic started
coming to mind with startling clarity, lovely timeliness, and bearing
with it a kind of liberated feeling. So today, as I write this to
you, I am not saying goodbye to courage, but I am shifting gears
toward something I am guessing is already on (or soon will be) on all
question I would like to pose to us all and have us write about at
the next meeting is this:
writing change anything?
subdivisions of that question might be:
so, what is changed?
not, why not?
so, how important are those changes, and how do we recognize them.
these are huge questions, with lots of corners and alcoves and
grottoes in which one can ponder the individual way in which the
overall question may touch or move or otherwise be meaningful to you.
And of course I am sure there are scores of other related questions
that might arise, and I would urge you to feel very free and
associative as you ponder these. Let these questions take you where
they may. Don’t feel obliged to answer all that come to mind, but
feel free to hone in one or a few if you want. The main goal,
however, is to come from our different angles at the basic question: Does writing change anything?
practical tip, perhaps there are stories to tell about how writing
changed you or someone else. Perhaps also a certain writing changed
something situation in the world, or did not. Tell those stories. On
the other hand, maybe your imagination wanders in other directions,
and you want to think about the exact ways in which written words
live in our world or within you. Or you may want to reflect on what
makes you write, or on what you believe writing should or should not
do. As I say, I don’t pretend to exhaust the possibilities here.
Please feel free to explore this question in the most rewarding ways
you find, and that includes, of course, in either poetry or prose, or
some combination of the two.
would, however, like to tell you a little bit more about the origin
of this question. Interestingly enough Ted Sexauer and I have had
something of an ongoing dialogue about it, and that is what prompted
my poem “ars poetica” of a few years ago, a poem I wrote with him
in mind when he was a Witness for Peace in Baghdad. (It is a poem I
think I distributed at an earlier meeting, but in any case, I will
bring copies of it with me.) And of course we are all on the verge of
shepherding a book of our writings into the world. This occasions all
the natural anxieties associated with going public and being read by
strangers. Our publication of this work has behind it, the fact that
we all at one level or another have some tacit engagement with the
question I have raised. To bring the question home to us, I could
even imagine it being phrased in this way: Does our writing change
anything? Will it? Has it already? What do we hope for with Veterans
of War, Veterans of Peace? What do we
know in our bones are the ways in which this book might change
anything? Or putting it most bluntly, why are we publishing this
work? These local questions might be doorways into the larger one I
posed at the beginning of this letter. Does
writing in general change anything?
in the past year PEN American Center in NYC, the national
headquarters of that international organization, sponsored a panel of
several well-known writers and asked each to address the questions I
have posed to you. Their comments are published PEN
America #7: World Voices. I will bring
photocopies to our meeting, but for now I’d like to close with
something that Salman Rushdie said in that symposium:
fear the truth of books because it’s a truth that’s in hock to
nobody. It’s a single artist’s unfettered vision of the world.
They fear it even more because it is incomplete, because the act of
reading completes it, so that the book’s truth is slightly
different in each reader’s inner world. These are the true
revolutions of literature, these invisible, intimate communion of
strangers, these tiny revolutions inside each reader’s
imaginations. And the enemies of the imagination, all the different
goon squads of gods and power, want to shut these revolutions down
and can’t. Not even the author of a book can know exactly what
effect his book will have. But good books do have effects and some of
these effects are powerful and all of them, thank goodness, are
impossible to predict in advance. Literature is a loose cannon. This
is a very good thing.
look forward to seeing you all again on September 16, and wish you
all the best of the end of the summer.
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Ted asked me if I would facilitate the December 2 retreat, I
hesitated, then thought of a poem that led me to some questions, to
an idea, and finally, led me to say yes.
December meeting feels for me like a special preparation for the dark
time of the year. Whether it is a day of rain, or crisp, misty air,
or unseasonable warmth, I take home with me a sense of communal
light, of patience with darkness. Marg and Bill’s garden is pretty
much done for the winter. Sometimes we’ve been without power. We
are planning for the next year.
year, as we approach our (almost) winter meeting, what comes to me
are images of childhood winters in the northeast, where winter strips
the landscape bare. Sometimes this stripping comes gently, gradually;
sometimes it comes in violent storms and harsh winds. In any case,
what is left behind are stark branches, fields emptied of all but
stubble – undressed bones of a landscape. Wintertime is lean. The
usual resources for nourishment lie dormant. There is death in winter
– but also the hope of change, of rebirth.
fall, I found myself stripped down by the deep and sudden loss of a
love; my body resonates with the starkness of my childhood winters.
I’ve found myself drawn to (and searching for) writings that give
me clues about how to transform this raw state. Let me share with you
a favorite poem of mine, Perhaps a
Glimpse, by Lauren Rusk (from Pictures
from a Firestorm, 2006,) which grows
from a common winter image.
way winter absolves the trees of foliage,
way, especially at night, it picks out a denuded bush,
in summer punctuated a stretch of lawn with common bloom,
reveals that it too is a tree, the brief trunk
braid of roots untwirling into reaches
sinew and praise,
way the spindly branches hold up like ornaments
few brownpapery clusters of blossom,
piled with snow, precarious–
there’s no wind now–
me of Gandhi, the bare limbs,
shadow long uphill–his proposal
be harmed but not fight back.
through the fear,
resist: to love.
sky falls slowly down in fragments
a blasted flower’s head,
Gandhi might cradle, observing how
the snow traces the contour of its brow.
strikes me each time I read the poem is the way the poet manages to
leap from one concrete image to a second – which opens up and
shifts our vision to larger, deeper realms. As disparate as the
images seem, I can see Gandhi’s robes draped over those branches, I
can feel the power of love in the cradling of the dead flower head.
In this poem, winter not only strips us down, but also provides
opportunity for a powerful, almost magical, transformation.
would like to suggest that we frame our writing practice in December
with these questions:
happens when we’re stripped down to the essentials, without our
usual protections and resources? What happens when we are left
without pretense or cover, without anything that softens the bones of
can we draw on the images of lean times and spare places to help us
discover and share what we know about transformation?
a possible exercise: Over the next week or so, observe the changing
season. Try to bring with you – or discover in the Sebastopol
landscape, or remember from another time and place – a concrete
image to work with. It might be an object or a place or something
completely unexpected. Look for "something that changes your
breathing," as Lauren said when I asked her about writing the
you write on Saturday, look carefully at that image. Examine it,
describe it fully, get to know it inside and out. Then allow yourself
to see what else it might become, where else it might take you, what
it might teach you. Make big leaps. Explore and play. Dig into your
own knowledge, experience, and wisdom.
usual, we will gather at Marg and Bill's (8915 Barnett Valley Road,
Sebastopol, 707-829-6796.) Try to arrive by about 9:30, so that we
can start at 10 a.m. with meditation. We'll spend the morning with a
check-in and writing, the afternoon with sharing, walking meditation
and feedback. For lunch, bring potluck vegetarian dishes to share.
This is also our day to pick dates for the coming year, so check your
look forward to seeing you on December 2. Have a peaceful
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Friends in the Veterans Writing Group:
Book VI of Homer’s Iliad there is an incident that has always stayed with me. It occurs in the
heat of a battle before the walls of Troy. Menelaos, the wronged
Greek king, and husband of Helen, begins fighting with Adrestos, a
Trojan, but a man who is also the son of one of Menelaos’ father’s
oldest friends from way back, before there were any hostilities.
Menelaos bests Adrestos, and the fallen man clutches the knees of the
Greek conqueror, pleading for his life, and noting the old friendship
between their forebears. Menelaos hesitates, and for a second
contemplates letting Adrestos live. At that instant his brother
Agamemnon, leader of the Greek armies, comes up and says in effect,
“What are you waiting for? Kill him. Not even a child in the womb
is to be spared.” Agamemnon pushes his hesitating brother out of
the way and stabs Adrestos through the chest with a spear.
us flash forward to the first year of World War II. A young French
philosopher named Simone Weil is writing an essay called “The Iliad or The Poem of Force.” In it
she argues that the true subject of that epic is force itself. She
defines force as anything that turns a person subjected to it into a
thing. It is the exercise of force, she writes, that “is a
spectacle the Iliad never wearies of showing us.” Weil’s also notes those who
exercise superior force always forget that it will sooner or later
pass to the opposing side. Somehow those who conquer always think god
or the gods are on their side. Those who exercise superior force also
think they deserve to win, and that there is no limit to what they
can and should do. These observations surely reflect Weil’s
response to the appalling rise of fascism in Europe in the thirties,
and the first Nazi military victories of the war.
is, however, another insight that Weil offers us, and it is the one I
would like us to consider for our writing in the upcoming meeting.
Here is the sentence that contains the thought; the italics in
parentheses are mine, and are intended to help make the
out-of-context sentence a little clearer.
other people do not impose on their (the
conquerors) movements that halt (a
pause), that interval of hesitation,
wherein lies all our consideration for our brothers in humanity, they
conclude that destiny has given complete license to them.”
since I read this sentence this past summer I have been pondering
that part where she says a person’s halting, hesitating, pausing,
and so on are valuable because they allow a consideration of our
connections to other human beings. I literally love the way she
describes that “interval of hesitation” wherein lies the space
for an ethical path to be seen and chosen. I am reminded in a
negative way of our President who, for example, says he never made a
mistake. Who thinks it is good leadership that he never hesitated,
never paused, never halted. It was his decisive, forceful,
straight-ahead action drove us right to Baghdad. It seems now
literally mindless, without thought of what this would mean to
Iraqis, to American citizens, to our respective nations and their
place in the world. It was the lack of a pause that has brought us to
this terrible and bloody moment in our history as a people.
want to take a moment and praise hesitation. I want to write about
pauses wherein one might have felt some consideration for our
brothers and sisters in humanity. I don’t believe the old adage
about “he who hesitates being lost”! In fact, I think it is how
we might be saved. I think at their best pausing and hesitating can
be signs of mindfulness, as Weil suggests. So perhaps you might want
to write about such a pause or hesitation or halt you have
experienced in your life. What do you think? Tell us about it? Was it
a mindful pause? A helpful hesitation? Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe
you might wish to argue for some other way of seeing hesitation.
Perhaps too you might want to bring a favorite poem or other short
piece of writing (multiple copies please) for reading aloud and
sharing. The one that comes to my mind right away is William
Stafford’s “Traveling through the Dark.” It’s a poem you can
find easily online. Take a look at it. The climax it seems to me is a
moment when a person hesitates, pauses, reflects about our
you soon. In peace,
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Walking Poem, or Prose Vignette
Vet-Writer Friends, new and old.
am sending you the prompt that has been bubbling up in me for a
while. But I also include this message from Maxine, aimed
particularly at those who have been with us for a while: “I'd
like to suggest an alternate writing
assignment for them. (the veteran veterans) They could work on the
‘prompt’ that you give them, and/ or write something for the
manual/handbook on How to have a veteran writers workshop. I'd like
to get that manual/handbook going.”
fact, it might be possible to do both at once. Read below to see what
my readings, I have been struck lately with how some poems and
examples of prose, too, have a contemplative, walking rhythm. In
fact, on the Thistle and Shamrock last
week I heard some walking songs from the Celtic tradition.
Solnit in her book Wanderlust asserts that the mind travels at about the same speed as a human body
while walking. Not as fast as driving or the internet. “Modern life
is moving at a speed faster than thought or thoughtfulness.”
our reading, writing, thinking, can we recapture that more organic
pace? I’d like to share with you several examples. In some, the
speaker is literally taking us along with him or her on their walk.
In others, it is more just the sense of gradual unfolding or
discovery. In either case, it seems to be a pace conducive to
the reading and then think of writing a poem or prose vignette, (or
contemplation of how others might create a group that would provide
the healing and creativity we have found in ours.) In any case,
consider moving at the speed of walking. It can be a walk remembered,
an exploration of your setting with your eyes, an amble through your
thoughts, noticing things along the way, reminiscing, predicting,
being open to insights. Do not rush yourself or the reader.
the year has turned on its mountain as the summer
begin to grow faint and the wren wakes into
I am waiting among the loosening stones
the enclosure beyond the lower door of the far barn
green stitchwort shines in the new light as though it
still spring and no footprint leads through it any longer
one apple tree has not grown much in its corner
ivy has taken over the east wall toward the oak woods
crept into the bird-cherry here I listened
the clack of the old man’s hoe hilling the potatoes
his dry field below the ash trees and here I looked up
the quince flowers opening above the wall
I wanted to be far away like the surface
a river I knew and here I watched the autumn light
thought this was where I might choose to be buried
I struggled in the web and went on weaving it
every turn and here I went on yielding
much credit to an alien claim and here I came
myself in a winter fog with ice on the stones
I went out through the gap in the wall and it was done
here I thought I saw myself as I had once been
I was certain that I was free of an old chain
Entered the New Year in an Empty Train
from Days and Nights of Love and War
left the home of a Chilean who had just died. He had died far from
his own country.
air would soon be gray, announcing the first day of 1976. Ariel was
also far from his country and the coming daybreak in France would be
meaningless to him. In Ariel’s country it was another time, Chilean
time. Around the tables in Chile there were empty chairs and the
survivors were raising their wine glasses and just beginning to
celebrate the end of a lousy year.
Dorman walked, slowly, through the streets of this remote suburb.
sank into the train station. He listened to the echo of his own
footsteps and looked for some other human being in the empty train
found the only other passenger and sat down in front of him.
of his pocket Ariel pulled the novel The
Clown and started to read.
train departed and a few moments later the man said,
like to be a clown, “ looking at the black window.
Ariel did not look up from his book.
be a sad profession,” he said.
he said, “but I am sad.”
they looked at one another.
am sad, you are sad,” Ariel said.
man said that together they could make a fine pair of clowns and
Ariel asked him where, at which circus.
any,” said the man. “At any circus in my country.”
which is your country?”
the man said.
Then I can talk to you in Spanish!”
they flew into a conversation about their lost lands as the train
slid toward Paris.
am sad,” said the man, “because I want us to win, but in my heart
I don’t think we will.”
they said goodbye, with raised fists.
was my thirtieth year to heaven
to my hearing from harbour and neighbor wood
the mussel pooled and the heron
water praying and call of seagull and rook
the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
to set foot
the still sleeping town and set forth.
birthday began with the water-
and birds of the winged trees flying my name
the farms and the white horses
walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
tide and the heron dived when I took the road
the town closed as the town awoke…
were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
in the morning where I wandered and listened
the rain wringing
the wood faraway under me…
could I marvel
but the weather turned around.
turned away from the blithe country
down the other air and the blue altered sky
again a wonder of summer
and red currants
I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
mornings when he walked with his mother
the legends of the green chapels
there could I marvel my birthday
but the weather turned around. And the true
of the long dead child sang burning
was my thirtieth
to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
the town below lay leaved with October blood
may my heart’s truth
this high hill in a year’s turning.
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looking forward to seeing you one week from today.
you are traveling by plane, bus or train to be
us, do try to pack plates and and silverware so
we don't have to use disposables.
don't forget that making a commitment to spend the
day together greatly enhances everyone's
Here is an approximate schedule:
Hellos and settling
Brief check-in from each of us
Introduction to the writing
- 1:00 Writing in silence
Eating a potluck lunch, 1st half-hour in silence
Reading aloud and listening
Responses to writing
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Writing from Story
are story. I am story. We all flow in a river of stories. We live
inside them, see through the windows of their perspectives, are often
certain that they are true.
stories rise like great trees out of roots of human experience, and
carry in their shape and language what all humans know to be “the
way it is.” We can recognize ourselves reflected in the characters
and events of these universal tales.
Boy,” from the Northwest tribes of the United States, is just such
a story. In its creatures and its movements, we can find situations
that are familiar to us through all times, including the 21st
century. It is a story about communication and the neglect of
communication. It is about the consequences of taking relationships
for granted. It is about conflict and what helps brokenness heal.
told to Barry Holstun Lopez in River
Notes, Andrews & McNeel, Inc., Kansas City, 1979, pages 74-75.
there were any people walking around this valley, there were Bear
People. They had an agreement with the salmon. The salmon would come
upriver every fall, and the bears would acknowledge this, and take
what they needed. This is the way it was with everything.
lived by certain agreements and courtesies.
the Salmon People and the Bear People had made no agreements with the
river. It had been overlooked. No one thought it was even necessary.
Well it was.
fall, the river pulled itself back into the shore trees and wouldn't
let the salmon enter from the ocean. Whenever they would try, the
river would pull back and leave the salmon stranded on the beach.
There was a long argument, a lot of talk. Finally, the river let the
salmon enter. But when the salmon got up into this country, where the
bears lived, the river began to run in two directions at once - north
on one side, south on the other - roaring, heaving, white water, and
rolling big boulders up on the banks.
the river was suddenly still. The salmon were afraid to move.
bears were standing behind trees, looking out. The river said, in the
middle of all this silence, that there had to be an agreement. No one
could just do something, whatever they wanted. You couldn't just take
someone for granted.
for several days they spoke about it. The salmon said who they were
and where they came from. The bears spoke about what they did, what
powers they'd been given. And the river spoke about its agreement
with the rain and the wind and the crayfish and so on.
said what they needed and what they would give away.
a very odd thing happened. The river said it loved the salmon.
one had ever said anything like this before. No one had taken this
chance. It was an honesty that pleased everyone. It made for a very
deep agreement among them. They were able to reach an understanding
about their obligations to each other, and everyone went their way.
remains unchanged. Time has nothing to do with this. When you feel
the river shuddering against your legs, you are feeling the presence
of all these agreements.
Writing Process for Salmon Boy
use writing and story in my work as a psychotherapist. From my point
of view, all of the characters and events in the story are like parts
of our inner life. Any of us could then say, I am like the salmon,
the river, the bear people, the trees, the white water, the
agreements. Each part of the story has its own voice. Each part can
speak with us through our pen.
it. Choose a part—the one that has most energy for you. Then talk
to it. Listen to it. Let a dialogue unfold. Read it aloud. Write some
more. Read it again.
sure the voice that you call "I" begins and ends the
exchange. That way, you'll remember that you are not only the part
you're talking with, but you are also all the parts in the story -
and much more.
experimental. Put the pen you use for your own voice, the one you
call "I", in the hand with which you usually write. Now put
a second pen in the hand you never use for writing, and let it write
whatever words come from the part with which you are dialoging. You
might feel awkward, and the writing from the untrained hand may look
like a kindergartner's. Don't worry. Keep going.
can also write your own version of the whole story. How is it like
one of your own memories? When have you left out, or taken for
granted, a significant dimension of your life? For example many
people neglect, or aren't even aware of, the body's needs. Is this
true for you? If not, what else might be unappreciated? What happens
when a part of yourself is excluded? - apparent draught? - white
water running in opposite directions?
might want to write the story of Salmon Boy from different points of
view. Imagine into how the trees would tell it. What might be the
river's tale, as the other creatures use it, take from it? What is
the voice of draught? White water? How might each character play a
role in the drama of your life?
about "agreements"? What does the word evoke in your
experience? What memory stories do you have of agreements made,
unmade - or not even thought about? When have you known the healing
power of the many ways of saying "I love you"?
used Salmon Boy for a prompt in the veterans writing circle one
Saturday. As I sat in the presence of the story, and the people
around me, a memory came. In it, I experienced a strong connection
with water, moss, a redwood forest and a spider. I think of the event
often, and feel gratitude for its simple drama. I decided that the
memory wanted to inhabit a few words, as a response to the story of
by Curly Creek
leave the harbor village and tourists
wooden sidewalks. I leave the stalls
prints for sale, images of what can't be caught.
leave the smell of crab, shrimp, coffee, tobacco.
walk into redwoods and quiet. I walk into alone
the banks of Curly Creek, and listen
its water speech, story-telling as it flows.
hear it tell of springs, trickles, drips and seeps,
rain, drought, floods and falls, of where it has been
sprinkled, spat, bled. It sings of giving
all who thirst.
long I stop I do not know. Time vanishes.
become forever, Curly Creek and I, here, now,
to a redwood tree. What the water tells rides
breath, travels my blood. What it knows, I know too.
bridge the banks as time returns. I must go,
say, down to the sea before dark. I move slow,
my body piece by piece. Then I see
single strand, silk in the afternoon sun. A spider
spun itself from the redwood tree to my shoulder,
I would be still, could be trusted.
rise, the swaying thread lets go, floats free.
turn toward home, taking with me the water's flow
does not cease, the shining thread that does not break.
Drama — Infinite Variations
attention to the different ways stories come to meet you. They appear
in dreams at any time of day or night. They tantalize in snippets of
conversation overheard. They are written on faces, told in body
language, heard in all sound and voice.
and everything tells its own tale. We are as one world, circled
around a campfire, telling who we are and how we live our being, our
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writing this invitation from Ghana, where I have been since Monday
and will be for another week as part of my work. I have been on the
road since April 24, coming home on May 28. It’s hard to imagine,
while here, that three days later, on May 31, I will be together with
all of you in Sebastopol.
have been reflecting on our time together, this poem by Dawna Markova
kept coming to mind.
will not die an unlived life.
will not live in fear
falling or catching fire.
choose to inhabit my days,
allow my living to open me,
make me less afraid,
loosen my heart
it becomes a wing,
torch, a promise
choose to risk my significance;
live so that which
to me as seed
to the next as blossom
to me as blossom,
on as fruit.
do we overcome fear? What allows us to choose life? How do we turn
not only the seeds of transformation, but all of what we have
experienced into blossom? What helps us risk our significance?
mystery of the day will unfold in its own rhythm, as always, with the
following schedule to guide us:
Kitchen chats, morning munchies, hugs
Writing in community
Sharing our writing
Feedback or more reading
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Letter from Maui
I am writing to you from the aloha-filled home of Therese Fitzgerald
and Arnie Kotler, who helped us begin our sangha almost eleven years
ago. Today, they showed me how to dive into the ocean, stay under,
and listen for the sounds of the whales. I kept popping up without
hearing them, but did see them —a row of water spouts along the
reminded of the discipline we must practice to live life truly. On
March 12th, I want to teach again the basic principles of writing and
meditation. As we Veteran Writers and Writer Veterans have become
comfortable with our meetings and with one another, we have relaxed
and forgotten to be rigorous with each and every event that takes
place during our day. A day together is seven hours long:
“Checking in” - Introducing ourselves
Reading and listening
Walking meditation 30
Responding, Mindful speech
notice that the day is made up of rhythms of silence and speech. We
have an experience, and then time to live with that experience by
oneself, then with others. We express ourselves, and we listen to
others. We tell our troubles, dive deeply, and by day's end may hear
the whales sing. The day culminates with the sangha in harmony. If we
arrive late, if we leave early, we deprive the group of the benefits
of our presence. We need to dedicate the entire day to one another,
to sing, and to listen to others sing.
Kotler is re-entering publishing, and invites us to submit our
anthology of veterans’ writings. Let’s concentrate on putting
together a clean manuscript. Everyone, including those who’ve
already sent me their work, please make a hard copy of the writings
you want in the anthology. Give me a story or poem or essay from your
early writing, and a piece of your latest writing. That way, readers
can see your progress. And write a biographical note, about a
paragraph long. Double space everything. What an important
contribution this book will make in this terrible war time.
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Veterans Writing Sangha
June 7, 2008, Mike Wong (featured in the film Sir,
No Sir!) will come to Austin to aid Austin VFP in conducting the inaugural
session of the Texas Veterans Writing Sangha. Fifteen years ago,
Maxine Hong Kingston began an experimental writing group for veterans
based on the Zen Buddhist teachings and meditative practices of Thich
Nhat Hahn, that would lead to Veterans
of War, Veterans of Peace (www.vowvop.org) and to the truly remarkable healing experiences of
scores of military veterans and their allies in the Peace Movement.
Here in Central Texas, we are close to Fort Hood and there are
literally thousands of soldiers who have served in the Occupation of
Wong was a 1st Lt. in his High School ROTC and later a U.S. Army
soldier who, after learning of the massacre at My Lai village in Viet
Nam and the lies and manipulation of the U.S. government in creating
and waging the war, deserted to Canada where he “was a member of a
hippie counterculture community known as Rochdale College ... We were
a world unto ourselves, with our own government, a free medical
clinic, a movie theater, a library, a health food restaurant, a
store, a dance studio, and a host of other features of a community.”
During the first Gulf War, he was a GI Hotline counselor and joined a
veterans antiwar group that would evolve into the San Francisco
chapter of Veterans for Peace.
will lead the meditation and teach us the writing and deep listening
skills required to provide a safe environment for veterans' and
others who have experienced extreme violence in their lives. Veterans
who are heard in this way are able to tell the stores that they have
suppressed for years, thereby beginning the healing process. Military
veterans will have the first priority, but please do not hesitate to
join us if you have not served in the military. The original sangha
includes combat veterans, medics, and others who served in war; gang
members, drug users, and victims of domestic violence; draft
resisters, deserters, and peace activists.
Texas sangha will be the first, we hope, among many such sanghas
across the country. All military veterans and their allies are
welcome to participate in the sangha. Please call Doug Zachary at
512/581-0372 or Cell 791-9824 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to
reserve a spot.
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Meeting on Sunday, September 21, 2008. Beginning at 9:30, ending at
4:30. William Stafford will be with us at
least in spirit in our upcoming meeting. I have a poem of his in
mind, one that raises matters that might prompt us in our meditations
the late night listening from bed<
have joined the ambulance or the patrol<
toward some drama, the kind of end<
Berky must have some day, if she isn’t dead.
wildest of all, her father and mother cruel,
out there beyond the old stone quarry
highschool lovers parked their lurching cars,
learned to love in that dark school.
her face was turned away from home
any hardworking place; but still her soul,
terrible things to do, was alive, looking out
the rescue that—surely some day—would have to come.
nights, Berky, I have thought for you
no matter how lucky I’ve been I’ve touched wood.
are things not solved in our town though tomorrow came:
are things time passing can never make true.
live in an occupied country, misunderstood;
will take us millions of intricate moves.
will hunt down Berky, you survivors in your beds
through the night, so far and good.
From Traveling through the Dark,
1962, and in The Way It Is: New and
Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1999).
and Reflections. This poem makes me think
of the following sorts of questions that might prompt some writing,
either in prose or poetry:
A Lost But Significant Other. Think back to
someone in your past, not necessarily someone you were close to, but
someone you cared about, perhaps from afar as in this poem. Think
back to someone who never seemed to have a chance, someone who seemed
to be fated for trouble, someone against whom the cards seemed
stacked. What did happen to that person? When and why do you think of
that person now? What thoughts and feelings does that memory prompt
in you? Tell the story of that other person, and why he or she is
important enough to you to still resonate in your memory.
Occupied Countries and Intricate Moves.
The memory and anxiety about Berky in this poem prompts Stafford to
say that we live in an occupied country and that justice will take
millions of intricate moves. I wonder how those ideas resonate for
you in our present tense lives. Do we live in an occupied country?
How can justice exist in and among us? What are the “moves” that
are required of us? Are they millions or more? Or fewer? Are they
intricate or simple? Tell a story from your own life about the time
or times justice made its presence felt and known.
Other Trails, Happy or Not. I think this
Stafford poem might prompt you to write in ways not addressed by any
of the categories I propose. If so, by all means take this
opportunity to follow the trail wherever it leads.
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Spring Equinox Veterans Meeting 2009
Joanne Palamountain and Earll Kingston
Our next meeting is two weeks away, on March 21. I know that some people will have a conflict with the peace demonstrations going on that day. Follow your best lights. We have two, count them, two, dynamite facilitators in Joanne Palamountain and Earll Kingston.
Personally, I'll be at the Writers' Group soaking up that wisdom and erudition. Here is the prompt.
Spring Equinox Veterans Meeting 2009
Spring invites us to look around, to see (and listen and smell), to observe the new being born. But this time, we're going somewhere else. Maxine tells her students at Cal that fiction is a compassionate form because it causes us to get out of ourselves, to see the other. Let's do that, and in this way: Look at other people, see them, bring them to life on the page.
Populations of characters tumbled out of Shakespeare's magic box. Let's try for one (or two). Today we listen to the voices of our fellows. Breathe them and their stories in. Yesterday we did the same, and tomorrow we will too. Let's turn our experience of others into words, get out of ourselves as Spring invites us out of doors.
Get someone else into your poem, your dream, your vision. Any form or combination is fine. (But nature people may not cheat, a la "Ms. Owl" or "Mr. Tomato Plant.")
- 10:00 Meditation
- 11:30 Writing Prompt
- 11:45 Meditation
- 1:15 Lunch
- 3:30 Walking meditation
- 4:00 Feedback
- 5:00 Announcements
- 5:20 Meditation
- 5:30 Put space back in order, and say goodbye.
1 Calitornia, riding through Chinatown
At the Powell stop, doors bump open.
Thirty people wait to squeeze inside.
An Asian woman climbs on first,
carrying groceries and a live chicken.
"Lady, you can't bring that bird on the bus."
"Fine, but you can't get on with that chicken."
"You have to get off - now."
He stands up.
She backs down the stairs.
She swings the chicken at a lamp post.
She's still first in line.
She climbs on again,
chicken limp over one arm.
- Clare Morris
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1. from Gary Gach,
Attached herewith is a poster for the upcoming Mutanabbi Street reading which marks the 2nd anniversary of the Mutanabbi Street Bombing in Baghdad, Iraq. We don't want the world to forget this tragic event and we want to share the poems and essays written by Iraqi and American poets and writers on March 11, 2009 at the Great Overland Bookstore in San Francisco at 7:30 pm. We are featuring the work of Iraqi poets and writers whose work has been translated into English and will appear in the forthcoming anthology, Mutanabbi Street Starts Here (Red Hen Press, October, 2009).
Poems and Essays by Iraqi poets and writers will be read by:
- Deema Shehabi
- Hayan Charara
- Beau Beausoleil
- Esther Kamkar
- Summer Brenner
- Persis Karim
and other friends . . . Please join us for evening of remembrance! See attached poster and please pass it on!
". . . Don't live in the world as if you were renting or here only for the summer, but act as if it was your father's house. . ..Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea, but people above all. Love clouds, machines, and books, but people above all." Nazim Hikmet, 20th century Turkish poet
Persis M. Karim, Ph.D. ([email])
English Dept., San Jose State University/1 Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192/[phone number]
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IVAW Winter Soldier event
Subject: IVAW Winter Soldier Berkeley
WINTER SOLDIER BERKELEY
Testimony from veterans of the Global War on Terrorism of theirexperiences from within the military.
Date: Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: UC Berkeley, 150 Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP)
The GSPP is at Hearst and LeRoy along the north edge of the campus, one block up from Euclid, and right next the parking garage, in grid A5 on the attached map.
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Fred Marchant Sept. 12, 2009
Questions and Thoughts
What is conscience? How
do we know it or get to know it? What does it mean to live or act
according to one’s conscience? Why should we trust it? What is a
“good” conscience? Is conscience the supreme example of the
sacredness of the individual? Or is conscience somehow connected to
our relations with others? What are some acts of conscience you know
of, in your life, in the lives of others close to you? What do these
acts tell us about the nature of this that we call conscience?
These are some of the
many questions I have about this word that has been with me all my
life, and yet still remains a source of strength and an ongoing
puzzle. So I’d like to propose we meet to write, to discover, to
forge and try to say what we can about conscience.
Prominent in my mind
these days is the possibility that conscience is more than an
individual matter. As the structure and etymology of the word
suggests, maybe it is con-science, a “knowing with.” To me this
suggests that conscience might be an ongoing effort, process of
trying to be in right relation with one another, with the world
around us, and with ourselves.
How does one know what
those right relations are? Well, I suspect they are perhaps there to
be discovered via careful, sustained attention and response to
ourselves and others around us.
Our writing might be
thought of as exploring such ideas and questions as I have listed
above. The writing as always could come in the form of poetry or
prose. Our goal instead will be to extend the horizons of our
thoughts and feelings about the given topic topic. If anyone would
like a more specific prompt, I offer the following: think of this
writing as an examination of some aspect of conscience. Maybe tell a
story of when you felt it stirring? Maybe recount how you began to
listen to it? Maybe tell us what it says, or sings to you? Maybe tell
us how it feels to have a conscience, or—and this is just as human
and valuable as anything else, a time when conscience was abandoned,
forgotten, or neglected and in need of rebuilding.
II. The Day’s Plan
We will meet at Marg
and Bill’s at 9 a.m., and work until 5 p.m. in our usual manner. If
anyone has a particularly favorite text on the subject and would like
to bring it for discussion and/or distribution, please do so. I will
do the same. Along with this letter there should also be a two page
poem of mine from The Looking House. Perhaps a line or
two of it might prompt or other wise help. See you soon.
Yours, in the work
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The Salt Stronger
I have seen the legislators
on their way,
the jacketless men
in mid-winter who will cast
their votes like stones for this war.
Men who have to cross the street
and over gutter, their cuffs
now vaguely blued with a salt
that dries in dots where it splashes,
and mingles with the finely
of the chalk-stripe suits,
you can see them now tiptoeing,
now leaping, balletic, windsor-knotted,
they pass, they pass
the window of the Capitol Deli
wherein I am writing to my friend
he a “witness for peace,”
a poet who for years has wondered
what good poetry is or has been or does.
I compose today’s answer from here,
I think of poetry
as a salt dug from a foreign mine
that arrives like a miracle in Boston
as pellets to break underfoot
the dangerous plated ice
and cling to the acknowledged lawmakers,
to stay with them in their dreams,
(over, new stanza)
to eat at the cloth and reach down
to the skin
and beyond the calf
into the shin. I think the soul
is equivalent to bone, and that conscience
must hide in the marrow,
float in the rich fluids
and wander the honeycomb at the center.
There, and not in the brain,
or even the heart is where
the words attach, where they land
take root after the long
passage through the body’s by-ways.
I write, of how some poetry rolls
off the tongue, then try to see the tongue
in the case
that faces me, a curious,
thick extension of cow-flesh
fresh from a butcher’s block, grainy and flush.
I think that if my tongue alone could talk
it would swear
in any court that poetry
tastes like the iodine in blood,
or the copper in spit, and makes a salt stronger than tears.
--Fred Marchant, The Looking House, Graywolf
Press, June 2009
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Letter to My Enemy
Maxine is a tough act to follow and I am a FNG (new guy), please bear
with my ideas for our June 4th meeting. Of course, we will heed
Maxine’s call at the last group to follow the basic principles of
writing and meditation, and so I urge you all to arrive before 10
a.m. to give you a chance to put away your vegetarian contribution to
the lunch potluck and begin decompressing from the beautiful drive to
Bill and Marg’s. Plan to arrive early to park and greet each other,
and then plan to stay until the end of the day at 5 p.m. Let us
remember to maintain silence in our writing, the first part of our
meal, and our walking meditation.
has impressed on us all the importance of compassionate listening,
which to verbal people like me is a challenge to shut my mouth and
truly hear what others are saying, and trying to say. My challenge to
you comes from Creating True Peace, by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, from the chapter "Peace Begins
With Us: Taking Your Practice Into the World."
a Love Letter: People often think, If only I had a chance to express
my frustration and pain, I would feel better. Yet many of us have
tried this in the past, and it has not helped. We have vented our
frustration and anger, our pain and our complaints many times, and
still we feel unsatisfied. There is a better alternative.
you have practiced transforming your own inner pain, you can begin to
learn how to express yourself in a way in which the other person can
listen, so that he or she can really hear what you have to say. If we
only insult or condemn, our speech will be of no use. With
mindfulness, we practice to be honest and to be skillful at the same
time. Many people are capable of writing a letter of protest, a
letter of dissatisfaction or a complaint, but not many of us are
capable of writing a love letter. Expressing yourself with love is an
idea is to write a love letter, be it to your enemy or some one you
love. It could be a poem or an entreaty to an enemy. Let your love
show through. Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say that if you act with the
Mind of Love, "Your letter will reflect your calm, your clarity,
and your compassion, and the other person will receive what you want
look forward to sharing your compassion and listening to you on June
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The Crescent Moon Bear
by Clare Morris, based on a telling by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
For December 5, 2009
As winter approaches and the nights grow
long and cold, many of us experience memories and feelings we had
easily pushed aside in summer’s warmth and sun. What angers and
sorrows do we carry as a counterpoint to December’s season of
festival and rebirth?? How can we wisely work with what we feel?
In response to these questions, I want to
tell you a story. It is an old tale, which, like all stories, we can
assume describes happenings within us, as well as around us. All the
persons, animals, objects, landscapes, weathers and situations are
parts of ourselves. Read the following story with that perspective.
THE CRESCENT MOON BEAR
Based on a telling by Clarissa Pinkola
There was once a beautiful young woman
who lived in a little house surrounded by a fragrant pine forest.
She and her new husband built it before their marriage, and moved
into it after their honeymoon.
While they were still newlyweds, her kind
and gentle husband was called to fight a war in a far off land. He
was gone for several years.
One day, she heard he would soon return.
She rejoiced, and immediately began to cook for him. She filled her
cupboards and cellar with every one of his favorite foods. While she
chopped and stirred and baked, she imagined what their meals would be
like together, and their long delicious moments of intimacy. It
would be a second honeymoon.
Every day she went to the brow of a
nearby hill, where she could see the the curving road through the
forest. She would wait there for a while, hoping to catch the first
glimpse of her beloved.
After many weeks of looking, cooking,
waiting and hoping, she saw him. How slowly he walked. How bent.
He limped, as though in great pain. His clothes were in shreds, his
shoes only rags and rope. He was covered with mud and dried blood.
She ran toward him on the road, her heart
beating a welcome. Oh how she had waited for this day. She opened
her arms to embrace him, but he lunged toward her, pushing her away.
"Get away from me!" he shouted.
"All I want is to be left alone!"
Dazed, confused, she could do nothing but
turn away and walk toward their home. When she reached it, she
called out to him, "Come inside, sit by the fire, eat some hot
food, drink a fine wine, sleep in a warm bed!"
"No!" he answered. "My home is in
this forest. I will sleep on branches and stones, eat grubs and
squirrels, berries and roots."
In the days and nights that followed, his
raving and wailing could be heard through the forest, the sky above
it and the hills all around it.
Day after day, his wife would bring trays
and boxes of aromatic food and drink for him. Gently, without
intruding, she would kneel near wherever she found him, and lift the
lids of the plates and bowls to show him what she had prepared.
Again and again, he would spring to his feet and kick at the feast,
spilling, ruining, stomping on the fresh bread, eggs, meat, pie,
milk, fruit–whatever she had laid before him.
"Let me be!" he would shout. Then he
began to shake his fists at her, and finally, one day, he brandished
a rusty knife, and brought it close to her face.
Her fear grew to terror, and she stopped
coming to feed him. Instead, she found her way to the cave of a
healer who lived not far away. He was a good man of many years, and
could be trusted.
She told him her story.
The healer saw how distraught she was,
and felt compassion for her. He said, "I can help you, my
daughter. But I need you to do something for me. You see, I am
completely out of a special ingredient for the remedy. It’s a
small thing, but I must have it.
"Of course, anything!" she said.
I need a hair from the crescent moon
bear. So, would you be so good as to climb the mountain to the east,
find this hermit of a black bear, and pluck a hair from the white,
crescent moon patch of hair at his throat? Then you will have what
Now some women would have drawn back from
such a request, some would have thought it was impossible, or too
dangerous. Not this woman. She was, above all, a woman who loved.
So she said, "Now I know that something can be done, that I can
help. I will do it!"
She went home, made a few preparations
for her journey, and set out at dawn the next day for the mountain in
the east. As she walked and climbed, walked and climbed, she sang to
the earth, as was the custom of her people: "Thank you for letting
me walk and climb upon your body."
Her ascent was difficult. She
encountered boulders she had to crawl over, thorny thickets that tore
at her clothes and skin, and trees with long tangled moss. Still,
she climbed and sang her thanks to whatever crossed her path.
Once, clouds of dark birds flew at her.
She knew they were souls of the dead who had no one to remember them,
so she sang for their rest and peace, as she went.
She climbed so high that she came to the
mountain’s snowy peaks. A storm gathered there, and snow and sleet
fell in great swirls of icy needles that blew straight into her face
and deep down into her ears. She was almost frozen, and could barely
feel her feet. But she went on, singing to the storm as she inched
her way forward. Truly, she was a woman who loved.
She found a cave, pulled herself in,
rolled in a blanket she carried on her back and slept.
In a few hours, morning sun awakened her.
She sang her thanks and turned her attention to finding the crescent
She searched all day through the snow
fields, and near dusk found thick cords of scat, as well as deep,
enormous paw prints. Then she looked up and saw a gigantic black
bear lumber over a pile of rocks. The crescent moon bear roared,
scented the air, and disappeared into his cave-den in the
She took the bundle from her back, found
a bowl in it, measured out some of the food she had brought, and
carried the bowl up the mountain to the bear’s den. Then she set
the bowl down near the entrance, and ran as fast as she could to a
boulder far enough away to be safe, and near enough to the den so she
The bear smelled the food, came lurching
out of his cave and roared so loud that icicles and cornices on the
frozen mountainside came tumbling down. He circled the food, scented
the air several times, and ate it all in one gulp. Then he reared up
on his hind legs, stretched, and returned to his den.
This feeding went on for many evenings,
and each time the woman came a little closer to the den. Then one
evening, she felt brave enough to stand right by the cave’s
As usual, the bear lumbered out, lured by
the food smell, but this time, he saw a human woman standing by the
bowl. He reared up and roared so loud it made the mountainside and
the woman’s bones hum.
Bus she didn’t move. The bear roared
and roared again, opening his huge mouth so wide she could see his
teeth and tongue and ribbed mouth roof–a mouth big enough for her
whole kitchen to be put inside it. She shook and shook at the sight,
but did not move.
Then the bear reared up and circled her
head with his forepaws. Their claws hung like knives close to her
scalp. She trembled, but did not move away from the magnificent
"Oh please dear bear," she called in
a voice like singing. "I have come all this way because I need a
cure for my husband." Then she told him her story.
The bear brought his paws to earth with a
mighty thud, spraying snow over her entire body. He looked straight
into her determined eyes. For a moment, the woman thought she could
see entire mountain ranges, rivers, forests, skies and clouds in the
bear’s ancient gaze. She felt a deep peace being near this immense
"Please, dear bear. I have been
feeding you these many nights. Would you grant me the gift of a
single hair from the crescent moon at your throat?"
The bear paused and thought. She would
be easy food all right, but he felt a wave of sadness for her. "It
is true," he said very slowly, not moving his claws away from the
hairs on her head, "You have been good to me. You may have one of
my hairs. But take it quickly, then leave and return to your own."
The bear raised his great snout, so that
the crescent moon on his throat showed, and the woman could see the
bear’s heart pulsing there. She put one hand on his neck and with
the other pulled out a single white glossy hair. She pulled it
quickly. The bear roared, as though wounded.
"Thank you, thank you," she cried.
The bear roared again, and took a step toward her, growling in a
language she had somehow known all her life. She turned and ran down
the mountainside as fast as she could. She ran through snow fields
and sang to them. She ran through the tangled trees, the thorny
thickets, over the great boulders, and sang to everyone and
She ran to the cave where the healer
waited. "Look–look–I found it, I have it!"
"Ah, yes–I see!" And he held the
hair to the light, measured it with his finger and declared, "Indeed,
this is a hair from the crescent moon bear." Then he threw the
hair into his fire, where it popped, crackled and exploded into an
"No! What have you done?"
"All is well, my daughter," he said.
"Remember each step you took to climb the mountain, each move you
made to capture the trust of the crescent moon bear, what you saw,
what you heard, what you felt?"
"I remember it well," she said.
"Go home now with your experience and
understandings. Proceed in the same way with your husband. Slowly,
very slowly, healing will sprout, grow and bloom between you. Wounds
may be life-long, but healing is always available to you.
You have learned how to stand before your
own wild and roaring rage–all that you held inside after your
husband returned. What you have done for yourself, you have done for
The story offers a way to integrate the
energy of any difficult feeling.
- - Realize the need to regard the feeling
as a teacher.
- - Ask a wise someone, or a wise healer
within you, for help.
- - Take with you provisions for the
journey (food, warmth, light)
- - Climb the mountain, through writing,
painting, (any art form) walking, reflecting, offering gratitude
for the privilege of walking on the mountain’s earth.
- - As you climb, meet each difficulty as
best you can, remembering each apparent obstacle is a way of
knowing that is needed for the journey. Sing to whatever comes
across your path.
- - When you have a chance to earn the
trust of your crescent moon bear, slowly learn to relate to it.
Look into its eyes. Be seen by it.
- - Take what you learn down the mountain,
make it practical, apply it.
As always during our writing days, do
what you need to do, write what you need to write.
Our schedule will be as usual:
- 9:30 Arrival
- 10:00 Opening meditation and
- 11:15 Writing prompt review
- 11:30 - 1:00 Writing
- 1:00 Vegetarian potluck (1st
half hour in silence)
- 2:00 Readings
- 3:30 Walking meditation
- 4:00 Responses to writings
- 4:40 Closing meditation and
- Joy and I are looking forward to being
- Clare Morris and Joy (wag-wag-wag)
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The Current That Brought Us Here
by Nancy Brink
I started to think about the writing prompt for our Saturday, June
12, meeting, I was handed an unexpected gift. After a perfect day on
the North Fork of the American River, I was sitting on a hillside
watching clouds form, vultures soar, and hawks circle (you know me,
can't take my eyes off the birds!). My kayak buddy, Steve (the "fine
teacher" of the kayak lesson poem that sprung out of the March
meeting, those of you who were there might remember,) began to
explain the winds in the valley, how and why they change direction,
how cumulus clouds form and break apart. I was enchanted. Although I
had heard explanations before, I had never heard it like that. I
could see it. Currents in air took on form and life that I had never
thought about being at Marg and Bill's home -the broad valley, the
eucalyptus grove, the distant hills, the hawks and vultures and birds
that always seem to join us (and often seem to fly into my poems, no
matter how hard I try!) I could take what my fine friend had shown me
in the Sierra foothills and transpose it to our valley.
I started thinking about the currents that have brought us all to
Marg and Bill's, how they resemble the currents in air, the currents
in water (which I had been learning about all day on the river -
reasonably successfully, I guess, since we didn't end up upside down
in the river.) How they swirl, change, come together, move apart,
cross and create disturbance and power and waves.
my suggestion is today, look more closely at the currents that move
in the valley, examine them as you look off the back deck, feel them
as our walking meditation moves out of the eucalyptus grove. Feel the
breeze rustling grasses as it goes one way or the other along the
hill. Let this extraordinary natural phenomenon be a springboard for
playing in our writing with currents in our lives that have led us to
one another, to Marg and Bill's, to the stories and poems that we
share during our exquisite days together.
have permission to share with you Steve's story of air, wind, and
clouds, which he kindly wrote down for me when I was trying to
remember the names of the upstream and downstream winds. I hope you
enjoy it as much as I have. Take a few minutes now and again when
you're standing outside on Saturday to feel and "see" the
currents in the air:
upstream wind caused by solar convection is Anabatic flow.
wind is the evening/afternoon subsidence.
can be valley winds.
air wanting to rise directly but managing only to trickle uphill,
clinging until it reaches a cliff, or a hilltop. Or maybe the trickle
is sucked towards a patch of dark rock baking in the sun.
continuous stream of super-buoyant air makes the break. If the air is
humid enough, a cauliflower cloud appears as the air mass cools to
dew point. The cloud grows. Along with its thermal umbilical cord, it
tilts in the prevailing wind. That wind meets the cloud and the
thermal, swirling around and over them as if they were a rooted tree.
Finally, the cloud's tether stretches too thin; the thermal breaks
and the cloud becomes flotsam, slowly disintegrating (or maybe not
depending on other factors.)
on the ground, maybe there is a little protected hollow. As the day
matures the air puddle slowly warms until it reaches critical mass.
The whole bubble lifts off, pulling air from every direction, but
mostly from downhill. It's gusty midday in the mountains, isn't it?
The bubble is depleted for now, but it's early enough to pulse again
in the afternoon some of the dark rocks lose direct sunshine and stop
producing their energetic, sharp-edged plumes. Meanwhile, the forests
have slowly heated. The trees don't get very hot in the sun, but as
the ambient air cools, the trees also reach criticality, and bleed
off their heat: much slower than the rocks, but more continuously.
The uphill wind is still strong, but it's steadier for awhile, as the
forests slowly deplete themselves. The heating stops, but it takes
awhile for the upward, westward moving mass to lose its momentum.
Finally it does. Hotter topography averages out the cooler, but
locally the winds are light and variable due to differences.
slack tide is a prelude to its change. The momentum of all that hot
air lofted high in the sky made a hump in the atmosphere. The hot
plumes mixed and yielded their heat into the atmospheric ocean.
Convection stops, and gravity levels the hump. More air moves down
now than up, and if global wind patterns don't oppose it too much, a
gentle downward breeze materializes. The coldest, heaviest air finds
its way to the most direct, unobstructed routes downward. Maybe we're
lucky enough to be sleeping there with water and air in harmony.
Eventually the big bump in the sky flattens. The air is still: all
the better for hearing a slight murmur from the stream.
courtesy of Steve Rock
usual, the prompt is there to use or not, as you need. As for the
day, try to arrive early enough to settle in and be ready to come
together at 10 am for meditation and check-in. The day will follow
the usual order, with the usual approximate times:
Arrive and settle in
Meditation and check in
Meditation, and time to write, in silence...
Lunch (Potluck, vegetarian, and always incredibly delicious;
the first half of lunch is in silence)
Sharing of the day's writings
or so, Walking meditation (in the eucalyptus grove or inside)
Sharing of thoughts, reactions, and feedback to other's
Put things back in order in the space, help clean up, and take
the extraordinary energy of the day back out into the world.
peace and anticipation, Nancy
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