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.

Looking for Patterns and Finding Them Everywhere: Everyday Magic, Day 961

A Mount St. Helens Vista

When Ken and I went to Mount St. Helens with friends several years ago, I was dazzled by the patterned forests full of checkerboard green across green. Ken explained that this pattern, so unlike all other mountains of forests I’ve ever seen, was because all the trees were the same age, starting anew together after the volcano blasted all this land clear and bare.

I’m a pattern-hunter, watching, tallying, and seeking to understand patterns that come through my life. This particularly appeals to me when happy things tumble together, like in the last 24 hours when a friend resolved a scary medical issue, my son got a new job, various friends and family landed on happy endings to challenging stories, and just this morning, several new freelance jobs of the Yes-I-Want-Them variety landed in my inbox. But sometimes a bunch of seemingly bad things happen at once: migraines, the sudden need for expensive car repairs, disappointing news about work, and loved ones getting bad or downright devastating news. Likewise, it seems that the old adage that deaths and/or other difficult news happens in threes often proves itself true.

Looking for patterns occupies me various ways, like counting how many Honda Fits and Honda CRVs I see each day because those are the cars we own (usually 2-to-1 on CRVs over Fits, but sometimes the opposite is true). If I run into three old friends in a week, that’s a pattern I embrace. If I have repeated nightmares involving looking for pay phones (remember those?) in strange cities when I didn’t have a dime to my name, I consider what this pattern may be saying to me (then again, dreams are the very stuff of patterns).

A Patterned Fern

Maybe I find the pattern, or I just put pieces of the uncontrollable mystery and chaos that is life into temporary patterns to explain it to myself, but I thrive on seeing the connections of one thing to another to another. Then again, the juxtaposition of like with not-like is at the heart of writing poetry and making all sorts of other art: it catalyzes new textures and possibilities, widens perspectives, and shines up each moment to be a bit more fresh and vibrant. Looking for relationships between happenings and sightings also helps me see the wild strands of the marvelous and miraculous in the everyday.

Then again, what isn’t a pattern? Nature is all about patterns of growth, decay, and regeneration. A plant, like this fern, grows in a patterned way, and so do we (although we can tweak the pattern with diet, exercise, or the lack of). Seasons pattern us in their patterned parade through, and life itself cycles through its patterns.

What we tell ourselves about being alive, our very philosophies, are often the bedrocks of patterns, such as  “Everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end” (repeated often in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). No doubt the flip side pattern will take center stage again….and again….but I choose to embrace the inevitable good, or at least not horrendous, ending.

Which brings me back to Mount St. Helens, one of the worst tragedies imaginable for people and other species caught in it, yet now that place is bursting with life, such a diversity of plants and animals reinhabiting the valleys and mountains, seemingly growing at the speed of sound. But new life is like that: it comes fast and with great promise, so why not take the time to consider its textures, shapes, colors, and meanings in our own life patterns?

Surprises From 2018: Everyday Magic, Day 960

"So instead of New Year’s resolutions, I drew up a list for 2019 of experiences that had already passed: a record not of self-mastery but of genuine surprise. 1. My oncology nurse became a dear friend. 2. Even in the hospital I felt the love of God. 3. Zach is under the impression that I never get tired. These are my small miracles scattered like bread crumbs, the way forward dotting the path behind me." -- Kate Bolwer Surprises around the bend In reading Kate Bowler's evocative essay, "How Cancer Changes Hope" and revising poems for [...] Read More

Lightening Up for the Solstice: Everyday Magic, Day 959

Tomorrow the world turns over: our shortening days stop in their tracks, and the light begins lengthening those days for months to come. Even the dreaded month of February, out there on the near horizon, will be far brighter light-wise as our long nights tuck into themselves. At the same time, this is a year I've been lightening up, not so much weight-wise (although certainly warranted by all those height-weight charts). I've taken a year-long unpaid leave from Goddard College, a place I love immensely but after 64 consecutive semesters of teaching there or elsewhere, I was ready for a [...] Read More

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 [...] Read More

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

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