Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is a poet, writer, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. Author of more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, memoirs, and anthologies. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. Caryn 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, wild weather workshops through the Kansas Humanities Council, and other offerings (including a Nov. 3rd writing retreat!). More here.

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

Find Your Brave Voice: Join Kelley Hunt and Caryn for their annual Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life retreat each May in the glorious Flint Hills of Kansas. More here.

Coach with Caryn: Caryn offers coaching on writing, the writing life, and right livelihood. More here.

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. More here.

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. More here.

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

Catch Caryn's Newsletter: Receive a pithy newsletter each month with a writing prompt, featured writer, and news of upcoming workshops, readings, and happenings. Click here.

Rituals of Pause as the Big Rocks in the Jar: Everyday Magic, Day 950

“Your big rocks are the rituals of pause,” Dr. Neela Sandal told me a few weeks ago. I’ve been working with Neela for a few years to tunnel out (successfully too!) of some chronic health issues, and I had mentioned that I needed more rituals of pause through my day to check in with myself instead of checking off the next item on my endless list. I had also told him about the analogy of how you can only gets rocks, pebbles, sand, and water into a jar if you put in the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff to fill in the gaps. If you put the water in first, then the sand and pebbles, you’ll never get the rocks in.

What Neela, a marvelous integrative physician and founder of Atma Clinic, said rocked my world. Wait, what about all the things I need to do for my health — take supplements, swim and lift weights, rest, eat healthy food, get my ass to yoga class? “Those are the pebbles, Caryn,” he told me. As a person catapulted through my days by an overwrought sense of urgency  with the theme from the cartoon dog hero “Underdog” playing in the background (“Underdog will save the day!”), the idea of the big rocks being, well, just being blows me away.

Some of you may be raising your eyebrows and saying, “Just catching onto this now?” because you’re far more advanced as human beings than the ones of us too enmeshed as human doings, but hey, I’m starting to catch onto what I innately knew all my life. I was a genius at hitting the pause button and being with whatever the window had to show me about trees, clouds, and flitting robins in elementary school although it too often resulted in report card complaints about too much daydreaming.

Now I’m earnestly trying to be less earnest about the here and now.  I remember how, during the Right Livelihood Professional Training opening weekend, I shared with participants what I used to tell students in my English 101 composition classes when I started teaching at K.U. in 1986: “Pay attention. Expect nothing. Keep going.” I thought this just applied to  writing essays, but it obviously speaks to each moment as it comes. Not that I’m evolved enough to live there, but I’m making more space for the spaciousness of stepping outside of my mind’s eye of the world and into the world. Writing, good for so many things, is also good for returning to being: using our words to arrive where we already are.

Like right now when, on a high branch of a locust tree, 20 feet or so above my napping Honda CRV, and in time with Ulali singing “Mahk Jchi,” one of my favorite songs, a bird with a yellow breast calls, “chah chah chah.” A bee floats in  half circle below the hummingbird, dipping beak to feeder. A small leaf, saturated with sunlight, dips off the Osage orange tree. I pick up my mason jar of iced coffee, the big rocks of ice melted minutes ago, take a sip, and bow at the altar of this world.

“How Aren’t You?”: Hummingbirds, Rumi, and Twilight: Everyday Magic, Day 949

In my favorite Rumi poem, "Say Yes Quickly," I love these lines especially: Reach your long hands out to another door, beyond where you go on the street, the street where everyone says, “How are you?” and no one says How aren’t you? All day long, I've been pondering how I am not. I am not at Goddard College, finishing a long day of faculty meetings after, as goes my habit, a long night of fighting my travel-spun brain to calm itself enough to tip out of consciousness. I am not walking back to the dorm to get some snacks I [...] Read More

Surprise Lilies: Everyday Magic, Day 948

Here is a poem about this moment's offering all around where I live. May this election day bring us lovely and happy surprises too.   Surprise Lilies Green shots, pink ribbons in the alley lining the dumpster or the driveway around the broken mowers, past moving out date, before school buses in the open slash between the heat that levels us and the storms on the next page of the horizon. When you don't know, when you're lost, when there's nowhere to stand there they are, never bent or expected. They thrive on what you've forgotten about, given away or [...] Read More

From Your Alley to My Kitchen: Everyday Magic, Day 947

The last few days of July are truly Christmas for All in the Alleys. Because this is a college town with a whole lot of students, too-well equipped by their fretting parents with stuff they won't use, and these students move out in a hurry when much of our rental housing turns over August 1 each year, you can shop the alleys for home and hearth this week. Sometimes I know what I'm looking for and I find it: a new vacuum, easy chair, throw pillows, or various electronic equipment which may or may not work (if broken, I return [...] Read More

I’m in Love With a Great Lake: Everyday Magic, Day 946

I'm in love with Lake Superior, and the more I visit, the deeper I fall. Not only is this the greatest of the Great Lakes, containing 10% of all the fresh water on earth, but it's wildly ancient, mysteriously mutable, and stunningly gorgeous in all its colors and moods. Having just perched on the side of the lake in a cabin for a week, once again, I saw this inland sea turn pink, gray, navy blue, baby blue, black, brown, orange at the edges at sunrise, and purple in the center at sunset. Always in motion, the waves incessant, this [...] Read More

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September 5, 2018 - 6:30pm
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