Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is a poet, writer, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College (where she teaches) writes poetry, fiction, memoirs, and songs. She leads writing workshops widely, offers one-on-one writing coaching, and roams the prairies as a visiting scholar. Catch Caryn's free monthly newsletter here. She pictured here with her administrative assistant, Shay.

Connect with Caryn

Read Caryn's Words in Everyday Magic, her blog, essays and interviews, and books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and anthologies, including her newest book, Miriam's Well.

Join a Writing Workshop: Caryn bi-monthly retreats for people living with serious illness (as patients or caregivers) through Turning Point in Kansas City, take an online writing workshop, or attend "A Leap Forward Workshop."

Come to an Event: Caryn teaches classes through the Osher Institute, leads talks through the Kansas Humanities Council, and meets with people widely.

Find Your Brave Voice: Join Kelley Hunt and Caryn for Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life.

Coach with Caryn: Caryn offers coaching on writing, the writing life, and right livelihood, and finishing your book.

Create Your Own Right Livelihood Through the Arts  through the Transformative Language Arts Network's Right Livelihood Professional Training with Laura Packer and Caryn, July - Oct., 2019.

Earn Your MA at the Goddard Graduate Institute where Caryn and other fine people teach students in self-designed, low-residency (study from your home community, and attend two week-long residencies each year) degrees in Transformative Language Arts, Health Arts & Sciences, Social Innovation and Sustainability, Consciousness Studies, and Individualized Studies

Bring Caryn to Your Community: Have Caryn present a workshop, talk, reading, or collaborative event in your community.

Catch Caryn's NewsletterReceive a pithy newsletter each month with a writing prompt, featured writer, and news of upcoming workshops, readings, and happenings.

Grief is Not What We Think It Is: Everyday Magic, Day 958

Finding strings of light

Very little in life is what we think it is, especially grief. In the three weeks since my mother-in-law died, I’ve ridden a pack of panoramic emotions in between sudden bursts of phone calls, crazy-dreamed-nights, bouts of exhaustion no coffee can conquer, plus external the wilds of weather and circumstance. We had a blizzard that knocked out our electricity for 9 hours about a week ago, my son and some other people I love each lost their jobs, and a number of friends have been struggling with illness, grief, and loss. In short, it’s been a time.

While I’ve had experience traversing the giant, naked parking lots of grief — where it’s impossible to remember where I parked my car, why I ordered the wrong thing for breakfast, or how to adult-up in the morning when there are lush blankets and a sleeping cat — landing here again is still a kick in the gut. I pad the hard edges with creature comforts — movies, books, making big soups in the crock pot, more episodes of The Great British Bake-Off, and most helpful of all, talks with Ken and friends. I dye socks and t-shirts as I had planned. I work in fits and starts, seriously consider power-cleaning the bathtub, and then decide it’s too much work.

I don’t have adequate words for where I am although one image keeps coming to mind: a rowboat without oars in the middle of a cold, foggy, overcast lake. This makes particular sense to me since my mother-in-law was such a daily part and anchor of our lives, living almost near door and needing a lot of home care, even if it translated most days for me into simply dropping by for a minute to say hello or picking up one of her many prescriptions. Trying to take my rowboat self into prime time is a little dicey at moments — to paraphrase a line from the film We Bought a Zoo, other people’s happy feels too loud at moment, yet working one-on-one with people or on projects in this computer seems to fit just right. So does watching the flicker bang the side of the cottonwood outside the bedroom window as well as holding the cat while watching an ungodly amount of movie trailers.

For the last three years, when my mother-in-law was on hospice (until they kicked her off for not dying), I alternated between freaking out that she was going to die, being at peace or in pieces over it, thrashing against then completely embracing the weight of our family being caregivers, and many manner of other responses. It seemed impossible her life would end after so many close calls, but what anything seems is sometimes just a dance of our thoughts and thinking.

I remind myself that this is a stretch of time that was always going to be beyond what I could have imagined, but then again, so many things are.  For years, I had feared us losing electricity and being snowed in, but when it happened last week, the house stayed just warm enough, the gas stove still worked enough for me to whip up (by candlelight) a great pork chops and mashed potato dinner, and Ken and I enjoyed blanketing ourselves with throws, good books, and phone calls from old friends. Then, when it seemed like we might have an increasingly cold night ahead, the lights returned, surprising me again. Grief is like that too; I can’t do much, but I can make a big pot of soup, find something to engage in, and keep warm enough until the lights come back.

In the meantime, there is Hanukkah, so I’ll take some comfort in striking a match and lighting a candle in the darkness, a reminder that life is much vaster than what I can imagine, and so is love.

Alice: Praising My Mother-in-Law: Everyday Magic, Day 957

Yesterday, we held the memorial service for my mother-in-law, Alice Elizabeth Wells Lassman (obituary here). After crowd-sourcing some of the details for this poem from her children (including my husband), here's what I wrote for the woman who was and continues to be so big in my life and heart. I'm deeply grateful for her raising some a wonderful son and being an amazing grandmother to my kids and all my nieces and nephews. Alice She was a fierce protector of all she loved, a passionate holder of babies and truths, and oil-painting and apple-pie-making devotee, who fell in love [...] Read More

Look for the Miriams: Everyday Magic, Day 956

The oneg (reception) afterwards with the delicious food Sue prepared A few hours after the Tree of Life shooting, we clung to each other -- singing, praying, crying -- at the Beth Israel Center in Madison, WI. Family members, old and new friends, and synagogue goers -- most of them elders, just like the people murdered in Pittsburgh while praying, gathered for a Miriam's Well reading preceded by a Havdalah service, a 10-minute Saturday evening ritual to close the Sabbath and welcome the new week. But with the pain we carried from the worst anti-semitic attack in U.S. [...] Read More

Holding Tight To Bliss Road in a Time of Climate Change: Everyday Magic, Day 955

One of the wonders of this world are mountains of maples at the peak of fall foliage, and I was lucky enough to dwell among recently at the Power of Words conference at Goddard College.  The big picture mind-blowing expanses are all around, from a distance golden variegated hazes that upon closer range become crazy quilts of red, rust, orange, yellow, and green. But what really grabbed my heart was the more narrow and up close light in action of the trees and sky, especially when driving up and down curvy and lilting country roads. The aptly named Bliss Road, [...] Read More

I’m Heartbroken for Our Country: Everyday Magic, Day 954

Yesterday, a woman spoke with great poise, integrity, and courage about how she was terrified that the supreme court nominee would accidentally kill her when he put his hand over her mouth while sexually assaulting her. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told a room full of career politicians and also our nation and world about the attack and trauma that derailed her life when she was only 16 years old, a moment when two men's laughter -- with all its scorn and privilege -- landed in her psyche in a way she could never forget. Recounting how a combination of Kavanaugh [...] Read More

Upcoming Events

February 2, 2019 - 10:00am
A private home in the country
Lawrence, Kansas
March 14, 2019 -
Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson, Kansas
March 29, 2019 - 8:00pm
Temple Sha'arey Shalom, 78 South Springfield Ave
Springfield, N.J.
May 19, 2019 -
May 24, 2019
White Memorial Camp
Council Grove, Kansas
June 27, 2019 -
September 20, 2019
Unity Village, KCMO, and online and by video
Wherever you are!
More Events

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,493 other subscribers