Recipes From (and For) the Journey: Everyday Magic, Day 930

Okay, a confession: I wander through my days with great anticipation for the next meal. Even if it’s just a hot cup of strong tea and bowl of brown rice cereal, envisioning what I get to eat next is a great motivator for getting out of bed in the morning and getting off the computer in the evening. I just love food and always have, and eating is  surely one of the most fun things a person can do sitting down.

No surprise that food looms large in all my memoirs and novels, whether it’s the hunt for the best fried chicken in Kansas (in the memoir, Poem on the Range), or a vivid description of the magical rotating dessert case in a New Jersey diner (in

Meg Heriford and the Ladybird Diner always offer a dose of sunshine (and pie)

About a month before the manuscript was to mosey on over to my publisher, I couldn’t sleep at night because the idea of including recipes kept waking me up. Luckily, Steve Semken, owner of Ice Cube Press, said yes, and then so did some marvelous food geniuses in our community: Nancy O’Connor, educator director of our long-standing food co-op, The Merc, and author of The Rolling Prairie Cookbook; Jayni and Frank Carey, who have gathered and created many quintessential Midwestern recipes, particularly in The New Kansas Cookbook; Janet Majure, not only my weight-lifting coach, but a cookbook author with an eye for good dishes; and Lauren Pacheco, Kris Hermanson, and owner of the Ladybird Diner, Meg Heriford, who happens to make some of the greatest pie in the cosmos.

Close to 40 pages of recipes later, the cooking and baking in Miriam’s 40-plus-year journey through America becomes recipes for some of our journeys too. Here’s a sneak preview of two recipes, each named for a character in the book: Batty is Miriam’s mother, originally named Matilda, nicknamed Matty, and then called Batty for reasons you’ll see in the novel.  The Acadian Dream Inn is a resort on — where else? — Mount Desert Island of Maine where Miriam and her sister-in-law Cindy commandeered the kitchen to the delight of guests.

Please consider getting all the recipes and the whole novel through my Indiegogo campaign to help fund my national tour for the book — you can get advance copies of the book (and at a discount) here (other cool perks abound) until the campaign finishes on March 9.

My grandmother beholds the turkey, but she also beholded a whole lot of stuffed cabbage in her life

Batty’s Stuffed Cabbage

Batty learned this recipe from her parental grandmother, who died before Miriam was born. It was a dish the whole family, especially Miriam, loved, so Batty made it often. The smell of this baking filled the kitchen with such warmth and comfort that Batty was drawn to keep making on a regular basis long after she moved to the Southwest, and she even brought it to various potlucks, where others fell in love with the dish.

1 large green cabbage

1 lb ground beef

1 cup uncooked rice

1 large onion chopped into large slices

2 large cans stewed whole tomatoes

1 cup water

1/8 cup lemon juice

1/8 cup honey 

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional but highly recommended!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Boil or steam cabbage until soft enough to roll. While the cabbage is boiling, combine the rice and beef, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Lay out cabbage leaves, and roll in the meat/rice mixture, placing the meat at one end, rolling, then tucking in the sides. Place seam side down in casserole dish. For the sauce, brown chopped onions in pot until softened, add in stewed tomatoes and water, and mix well. Coat the bottom of a casserole pan with sauce mixture, place the cabbage rolls in, seam side down, and add in the rest of the sauce and water. Cover tightly with lid or foil. Bake for approximately three-four hours until done to your desire  Add in lemon juice and honey and  raisins in last half hour of cooking. Note: this dish can also be prepared in a crockpot.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe by Lauren Pacheco, based on a recipe from Caryn and Lauren’s grandmother, Molly Prusak.

The Acadian Dream Inn’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Miriam and Cindy together created this recipe one year at the inn when they had too much zucchini. It turns out that the zucchini made for an especially rich, even sinful-tasting, cake that everyone loved so much that they kept it on the menu until the inn went under. Both Miriam and Cindy continue to make this on a regular basis just because.

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups unsifted, all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups zucchini, finely shredded

1 (10-ounce) bag dark chocolate chips, divided

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Place the butter, oil, and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Beat in the eggs, vanilla extract, and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, dark cocoa, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, and blend until well combined. Stir the shredded zucchini, and half of the dark chocolate chips (5 ounces) into the batter. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured 13” x 9” baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire baking rack and, while still hot, sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over the top. Let them melt and spread evenly over the cake. Variation: dark chocolate frosting can be substituted for the chocolate chip topping.

12 to 16 servings

Recipe by Linda Wilson, from Jayni and Frank Carey’s The New Kansas Cookbook

More recipes and the whole enchilada of the novel, Miriam’s Well, available through the campaign here, and you can see early reviews here.

Making Stuff Up From Mrs. Potato Head to Eat the Earth: Everyday Magic, Day 928

My cohort in making stuff up

What to call a fictional women’s collective running a potato farm in Moab, Utah in my novel Miriam’s Well? What else but “Mrs. Potato Head” (yes, the Mrs. instead of Ms. is an ironic touch, which fits the women’s sense of humor). Likewise, when naming a L.A. non-profit organization that trains inner-city teens to grow and cook  their own food, Miyako the cat and I came up with the name “Eat the Earth.” Because this novel retells a biblical story, that of the Exodus but from Miriam’s point-of-view and set in Contemporary America, I named a North Carolina ecovillage “Garden of Eden” and a utopian Idaho community “New Egypt.”

Such is the thrill of writing fiction: you get to make up all kinds of stuff, and name towns, organizations, and projects, not to mention characters, which is a little like naming our children. Sometimes the name came to me easily, and sometimes in a dream, glimpse, or great suggestion from a pal. Of course, there were also many real places, plucked from travel guides and web searches, because of their names, such as Maine’s Mount Desert Island where I placed the made-up Acadian Dream Inn, and Idaho’s East Hope, sporting a fictional restaurant with the slogan, “Eat and get out!”  I even got to dream up an arts parade to benefit a San Francisco hospice at the height of the AIDS crisis, titled “Soul Train,” and stealing heavily from my own experience of once organizing an arts parade in Lawrence which also featured marching existentialists who regularly called out questions like, “What about the children?” and “What does it all mean?”

Along with this, since the book has 35 pages of recipes, I got to make up meals, then track down recipes from wonderful cooks and bakers I know (thanks so much to Nancy O’Connor, Jayni and Frank Carey, Meg Heriford, Kris Hermanson, Lauren Pacheco, and Janet Majure) or write out my own made-up recipes. Of course, this entailed eating real food from fictional impulses, but that’s all for the good.

Now that the book is about to go the printer so it can mosey on out at the end of March, I’m doing another kind of making-stuff-up-as-I-go, organizing readings and workshops in various states and states of mind. Although we live in a time when the real is seemingly far weirder than fiction, it’s nice to know there’s ways to immerse ourselves in fiction that I hope brings new slants of light on more universal truths.

You can see a short video about the book at my Indiegogo page, another way to make things up by selling books in advance to help fund the book tour, right here.

Miriam’s Well

Get your Copy of Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus here.

A novel to be released on Passover (March 30) 2018, Ice Cube Press.

ISBN: 9781888160970, $21.99, 586 Pages (including recipes). Click here to get your copy (free shipping).

In this modern day retelling of the Exodus, Miriam wanders the political and spiritual desert of a changing America, torn between her roots as the Jewish daughter of a Black father and white mother, her yearning for home, and her brothers Aaron and Moses. Beginning in the middle of the 1965 New York City blackout, when stuck in the pitch-black subway somewhere in the East River, Miriam's family encounters a mysterious rabbi, who persuades the family to go to Israel where the family is caught in the 6-Day War. The losses from the war break apart the family, scattering Moses to western Kansas to live with evangelical Christians, Aaron to New York City to practice corporate law, and Miriam all over America. An astonishing cook and singer, Miriam has a knack for showing up to feed and help people at at landmark events, including People's Park during the Summer of Love, the Wounded Knee encampment in South Dakota, the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the Oklahoma City terrorist attack, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. As she seeks the promised land, she shows her people, and eventually herself, how to turn the chaos and despair of our times into music, meals, and miracles.

The novel also includes over 35 pages of real recipes from the fictional cooking and baking Miriam does throughout the book, including delicious dishes from Nancy O'Connor's The Rolling Prairie Cookbook, Jayni and Frank Carey's The New Kansas Cookbook, Janet Majure's Recipes Worth Sharing, and Meg Heriford of the Ladybird Cafe.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's retelling of Exodus is a sprawling tapestry, woven of all the threads of a modern-day Miriam's ancestors, and her own present and future. From the Badagry Point of No Return and a sukkah in the Sinai Desert to a series of camps, communes, and cafes all across America, Miriam's Well delves into the mystery of how we find our place in the world, within our families, even within ourselves. ~ Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

I fell in love with Miriam’s wisdom and her sweet engagements with the people she meets along her lush and vibrant travels. I was plunged to the depths of her nightmares, soared with her song, and emerged blessed to have made the journey with her. Miriam’s Well is the latest terrific book by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.  ~ Jocelyn Cullity, author of Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons

Miriam’s Well is truly a hearty feast, and a song of life’s bounty, of its “fragile miracle,” of its sorrows and its cycling, its joy, its mystery, its sorrows, its journeying. The vibrantly moving and compelling storytelling is immediate, intimate, and resounding; bringing us into a complex weaving of tales, told and untold, from the Biblical epic to the painful legacy of United States, which frame the story of one brave woman with an inexhaustible well of caring. Daughter, sister, lover, neighbor, friend, mother, Miriam is one extraordinary ordinary woman whose life is emblematic of our absolutely interdependent web of relationships, physical and metaphysical, over the seasons of a lifetime and the histories of our own time. In Mirriam-Goldberg’s rendering of the web of story that is Miriam’s, Aaron’s, Joseph’s, Moses’, and our own, we are brought into the gift of tenderness and compassion in heartening human response to our historical conundrums. The work is big hearted, embracing, and wonderfully embodies love’s plenty and the power and the beauty of the story, the song, the telling, to remember and transform us. ~ Gale Jackson, author of Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman: Song, Dance, Black History and Poetics in Performance

Miriam’s Well is a page-turner that gently pulls the reader into the heroine’s quest while also chronicling the country’s cultural revolutions, gastronomic recipes, political causes, women’s communes, spirituality, the AIDS crisis, Oklahoma and Twin Tower terrorist attacks. A compelling writer, Mirriam-Goldberg’s Miriam’s Well captures a quintessential American story, its multitude of nations, of immigrants and indigenes, in the quest towards a meaningful national identity.  ~ Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Professor of Theatre, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas

This startlingly insightful and quietly confrontational novel by poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg courageously inserts the biblical prophet Miriam into many of the most daunting and provocative ethical conflicts since the early 60's civil rights revolution, as though we are Israel after the Exodus from slavery and before the Promised Land. Mirriam-Goldberg’s story calls on readers to consider "Have I done enough?" and "What is it that the Lord requires of you?"  A surprising page turner featuring multiple plot twists and turns, the moral challenges and clarity deserve more than attention, they demand debate. Do yourself a favor and share it with friends. ~ Rabbi Mark H. Levin, author of Praying the Bible

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg brings back the charged days of the 1970's revolutions and their aftermath in the decades to come in her novel Miriam's Well. For those of us who lived through those times, the book is a reminder of their importance.” ~ Thomas Pecore Weso, author of Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir.

Here's some special features of an expansive novel (more specials to come):

Blog Posts

Recipes From (and For) the Journey

Making Stuff Up From Mrs. Potato Head to Eat the Earth

When Miriam Finishes Wandering the Desert

Please Help Me Find Cover Art for Miriam's Well

Podcasts & Videos

Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus

Miriam and the New York City Blackout (excerpt from Chapter One)

Official Book Trailer Featuring Music From Kelley Hunt


Miriam's Well newsletter special edition (with a great recipe for rugalach)

Miriam's Well Excerpt

Upcoming Events

Here's the list in progress of events that will take place over the 18 months of the book tour. Please visit my events page for details. All events are open to the public. Want me to come to your community? Please contact me here.

April 28: Lawrence, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision our Lives: 4-6 p.m., Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., Lawrence, KS. A writing workshop based on Miriam's Well to unearth, explore, and revise our life's myths. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, The Merc, and The Raven Bookstore. More here.

April 28: Lawrence, Kansas - Miriam's Well Book Launch & Havdalah Service: 7:30 p.m., Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, 917 Highland Ave., Lawrence, KS. Join us for a reading from Miriam's Well, short Havdalah service (to welcome the new week) and reception. Sponsored by the Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, The Merc, and The Raven Bookstore. More details here.

June 2: Kansas City, Missouri - Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision our Lives: 2-4 p.m., The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO. A writing workshop based on Miriam's Well to unearth, explore, and revise our life's myths. Please register at the The Writers Place. More here.

June 2: Kansas City, Missouri - Miriam's Well Reading and Reception: 5:30 p.m., The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, MO. More here.

June 23: Topeka, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision our Lives: 2-4 p.m., Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th St., Topeka, KS. A writing workshop based on Miriam's Well to unearth, explore, and revise our life's myths. More here.

June 23: Topeka, Kansas - Miriam's Well Book Launch & Havdalah Service: 7 p.m., Temple Beth Shalom, 4200 SW Munson, Topeka, KS. Join us for a reading from Miriam's Well, short Havdalah service ( to welcome in the new week) and reception. More here.

June 30: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision Our Lives and Miriam's Well Reading: 10 a.m. Temple B'Nai Israel, 4901 N. Pennsylvania  Oklahoma City, OK 73112. Workshop and reading followed by lunch featuring recipes from Miriam's Well. More details here.

June 30: Wichita, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading: Watermark Bookstore, 4 p.m., 4701 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS.

July 8: Prairie Village, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading & Brunch:  Cafe Ohev at Temple Ohev Shalom,  5711 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, KS 66208. Brunch and a reading. More here.

July 13: Minneapolis, Minnesota - Miriam's Well Reading and Party: 7 p.m., Mojo Coffee Gallery -  2205 California St., Minneapolis, MN 5541. Reading with delectable treats made from the novel.

Sept. 27: Basehor, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading and Dinner Featuring Recipes from the Book: 6:30 p.m., Basehor Community Library, 1400 158th St., Basehor, KS.

Oct. 11: Montpelier, Vermont - Miriam's Well Reading:  7 p.m., Kellogg Hubbard Library, 135 Main St., Montpelier, VT. Sponsored by the library, Temple Beth Jacob, and Bear Pond Books.

Oct.  21: Lawrence, Kansas - Writing Jewish SymposiumSponsored by Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, 917 Highland, Lawrence, KS. part of a day-long symposium featuring multiple speakers and recipes from Miriam's Well. More here.

Oct. 27: Madison, Wisconsin - Miriam's Well Reading & Havdalah Service: 7:30 p.m., Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound St., Madison, WI. Please join us for a reading from Miriam's Well followed by a short Havdalah service (to  welcome in the new week) and reception. More here.

For Book Clubs

Would your book club like to read Miriam's Well? If so, just have your club buy six or more books (free shipping!), and Caryn will visit your club via video or phone conferencing or, if you're near where she is, in person. contact Caryn here. 

Kansas Time + Place

Edited by Roy J. Beckemeyer and Caryn Mirriam-Golberg. Published by Little Balkans Press, 2017. Available at Little Balkans Review, and at Amazon

Explore this collection of Kansas as a place, state of mind, dream and reality, and center of the heartland. In over 230 pages of poetry, this collection brings to readers the best from the collectively edited website, 150 Kansas Poems.

Strongly anchored by wonderful and memorable poems from veteran poets Kevin Rabas, Frank Higgins, Stephen Hind, Laura Lee Washburn, and Myrne Roe (“Udall, Kansas” is a standout here), this anthology shows us the wide range of talent and sensibility of poets currently writing in Kansas. ~ Jeff Worley, author of Driving Late to the Party: The Kansas Poems

I've been gone from Kansas for nearly 30 years but reading Kansas, Time & Place:  An Anthology of Heartland Poetry, returned me quite viscerally to a place I once called home:  the seasons, the landscape, the night sky and persistent wind and punishing weather, but more than that, the people, the voices of heartbreak, of struggle, of nostalgia, of mystery. “I've always felt that/ late at night in the bed of the truck,/ in a Kansas field:  we were/ at the center of the universe.”  Throughout these poems run the appreciation of silence, reverence for what outsiders perceive as “nothingness,” and the timelessness of prairie life, its ancient fossils found alongside abandoned demolition derby cars and plastic cups. Here, “Nothing is lost, but so many things have to be found.”  Memory is a powerful force in Kansas.   In Kansas, there is always another story to tell. ~ Anita Skeen, author of The Unauthorized Audubon

We nominatee the following six poems for consideration for 2018 Pushcart Prize awards:

  • "Phone Call from a Movie Set Somewhere in Kansas," by Pat Daneman
  • "Good Housekeeping," by Melissa Fite Johnson
  • "Bright River," by Stephen Meats
  • " I Try to Write It for You in My Head," by Julie Ramon
  • "How It Is," by Wyatt Townley
  • "After a Snowless Winter," by Patricia Traxler
Sea Birds

My car’s radiator broken, the engine overheat light on,

we pull off the road and look at the ocean,

two young Kansans on vacation, nearly to New Orleans.

Bea says, “Look at those birds,” and our eyes swift

to the grey-tipped terns, their wings lazy Vs,

they drift on the winds above the white-capped sea.

They float, and our hands come together, clasp,

as if taken together by wind, and our troubles dissolve,

like sugar into water, and I tell Bea, if the radiator

catches on fire, I’ll take our patch-work quilt, douse

it in our jug of water, smother, and, like that,

the fire of our lips is doused with a kiss.

~ Kevin Rabas, 2017-19 Kansas Poet Laureate

An Introduction: What is Time + Place?

For many years, I thought I was mostly writing poems about place. As a Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-raised Kansan, I've been drawn all my life to the talismans that convey sense of place, from the Maple tree outside the Brooklyn triplex where I learned to play “Red Light, Green Light, 123,” to the vast brome field morphing into native prairie outside my window now, where I live just south of the Wakarusa River.

Yet in recent years, looking at the poems I love by other writers and what I'm drawn to write, I see how much there is to say about time, which seems to me more like a vertical sense of what seems like horizontal views of place. We live in time, or as poet Stanley Kunitz writes in his poem, “The Layers," “Live in the layers,/ not on the litter.” In a sense, I think we're like trees, the heart wood our birth, and each year adding new ring of experiences, perceptions, realizations, losses, and loves.

But trees are rooted in real ground, and place also holds within it the seeds and signs of time: we can sometimes find remnant of shark's teeth on the high plains, reminding us of the inland ocean that once whipped up its own wild weather in this part of the world. The stars—burning and burning out in the ultimate infinity of space—might seem to be on an even playing field, but they bring us light that both as old as 200 million years and, in the case of our sun, as young as 8 minutes old. Likewise, our ways of inhabiting the spaces and places of our days and nights are composed of insights, wounds, memories, joys, and questions from the first time we tasted dirt as a toddler to yesterday's glimpse of the blazing orange around the setting sun.

This anthology, lovingly edited by Roy Beckemeyer, explores who we are from the angles of history, geography, personal and community stories, traditions and innovations, and the spirit of life from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

We can best find the poetic at the core of our lives through community, and so I'm deeply grateful to all the guest editors who brought poets and their poems to the three years of Kansas Time + Place: Roy J. Beckemeyer, James Benger, Dan Bentley, Annette Hope Billings, Maril Crabtree, Pat Daneman, Dennis Etzel, Jr., Jose Faus, Kat Greene, Melissa Fite Johnson, Kelly W. Johnston, William J. Karnowski, Denise Low, Lori Baker Martin, Eric McHenry, Stephen Meats, Ronda Miller, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Al Ortolani, Kevin Rabas, Thomas Reynolds, Tyler Sheldon, William Sheldon, Cody Shrum, Ramona Vreeland, Diane Wahto, Laura Lee Washburn, Israel Wasserstein.

Many thanks to Roy for his insightful and caring editing and book and cover design, Stephen Locke for the very time+place cover photo, and Little Balkans Press for bringing this book to life.

Dear reader, I hope this book will give you a wider perspective on both your sense of place and time, and through that perspective, deeper and more enduring vision of the possibilities, even miraculous ones, for your lives and for Kansas as its own state of mind as well as a state of surprises over miles and minutes.

Everyday Magic

Everyday Magic: Field Notes on the Mundane and Miraculous

Meadowlark Press, Release date: December 2, 2017. ISBN: 987-0-9966801-5-8.  422 pages. $24.99

Buy your signed copy from Caryn now.

Also available through Meadowlark Press here, and Amazon.  Also available in Lawrence, Kansas at the Raven Bookstore, and Signs of Life. 

Everyday Magic features the best of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's blog of the same title, exploring the mundane and miraculous unfolding around us, and how to live with greater verve, meaning and joy. Journey through whimsical, tender, and fierce explorations of travel and homecoming, beloveds and the art of loving, grief and resilience, the arts and politics, spirit and being a body, and many other glimpses of being all-too-human in an astonishing world.

Reading this book is like having a wise friend take you by the hand and walk you down a healing path. Thank you, Caryn, for showing  us how to embrace the beauty, joy and pain in everyday life. ~ Harriet Lerner, Ph.D author of NYTimes bestseller The Dance of Anger and Why Won't You Apologize?

Many thanks to Caryn for these beautiful lessons in living, really living from a poet laureate who reminds you of your best friend. It's wonderful to feel so deeply inspired by a world that feels so deeply familiar. ~ Dar Williams, Singer-songwriter, and author of What I Found in 1,000 Towns

Like Da Vinci, Caryn is in love with the world, knows its many ways, excels at all she does, and captures the hidden emotion behind what she studies. Those gifts and skills manifest in volume in this collection of essays, where Caryn meditates on her world in all its daily-ness. Miracles are to be found everywhere, and Caryn finds them and pins them to the page. My world opens up, when I read these. Yours will too. ~ Kevin Rabas, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2017-2019, All That Jazz

Enter the amazing world of genius writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg as she ruminates, rejoices, revels, and reflects. Her book Everyday Magic is a passport to her remarkable life as mother, wife, daughter-in-law, friend, professor, community leader, and writer. The author’s Wells Overlook homestead becomes as familiar as my kitchen table when I read scenes from her rocket-speed life. ~ Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009, author of Turtle’s Beating Heart

“It's not just a body, it's an adventure,” is the title of one of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's essays on the exceptionality of the everyday. This body of work is an adventure—not necessarily the roller-coaster-ride variety, but one of the turning of the moments of a life into opportunities for introspection, for sharing, for recognition that this instant in time is truly meaningful and lovely and deserving of notice. That Mirriam-Goldberg is a poet is evident here. Nothing gets by her, and she turns her observant eye to herself and those around her so lovingly that as we read we feel ourselves becoming a part of her community of friends and loved ones. Here we meet and grow to love a menagerie of people, dogs, cats, foibles, occasions of grief, days of joyous abandon, of all the ridiculous and sublime and ennobling and embarrassing things that enrich our lives and make our days worthwhile. Here is a paean to the human experience as is occurs: in the commonplace details and the nitty-gritty day-to-day unfolding of life, the individual seconds and minutes that make up what and who we are. After reading Caryn's book I found myself paying more attention, noticing those crystalline little orts of the day's events that so easily and often slip by beneath notice. And that is a precious gift. ~ Roy Beckemeyer, author of Music I Once Could Dance To

"Listening to another means learning a new language,” writes Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. This former poet-laureate of Kansas is absolutely present in the world. This book is an invitation to join her in a celebration of mundane moments illuminated by her loving presence. Wrap yourself in a warm embrace of words. ~ Sherry Reiter, PhD, Director of The Creative Righting Center, and Poetry Therapy pioneer

Once I read the first piece in this book, I couldn't stop. Each piece is a window into a room in the author's mind, each so enticing that I wanted to see the next room, and the next. This house is a well-lived-in home, filled with compassion, honesty, wit and humility. ~ Doug Lipman, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for storytelling, National Storytelling Network

In Everyday Magic, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg describes a spirit trip, her family’s drive to Colorado to visit a dying cousin. A spirit trip, she writes, is “usually sudden, regardless of what’s in the bank account or on the schedule, guided by a simple yearning to be with someone we love to say, hello, goodbye, I’m here for you.” With an open heart and often with sly humor, Caryn shares stories of bad vacations, burritos, family, faith, navigating a difficult childhood, and the passing of people dear to her. In these graceful essays I marvel, as always, at Caryn’s skill with language. Words are in her care and her command:  “a jewelry store run by paranoia and good taste,” . . . “slogging through the potholes of grief,” . . .  “The night smelled like roses, honeysuckle, car fumes, and popcorn.” As these essays journey through the joys and complications of life, Everyday Magic becomes a spirit trip in itself, a trip rich in depth and meaning, one that will remain in our hearts long after the last chapter is read. ~ Cheryl Unruh, author of Flyover People: Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State

This rich collection of 250 essays -- perfect as a gift, on a coffee table, or by your bedside -- explores everyday possibilities for magic and meaning with humor and tenderness.  There are tributes to Pete Seeger, Mexican food, bathrooms, Bruce Springsteen, playing the cello, Maxine Kumin, alleys, Adrienne Rich, Laura Nyro, making the bed, civil rights, the wonders of tea, wild weather, Marion McPartland, the desert, Ken Irby, Supertramp, installing a new toilet, Mary Chapin Carpenter, mothering hacks, and staying put in a community. Here are some other essays celebrating the glimmers of light in unexpected places:

  • The Glory of Failing
  • Satan Called: He Wants His Weather Back
  • Sorting Socks as a Rite of Passage
  • Dogs Are Better Than Us
  • Cats Taught Us To Lie
  • How Can You Not Love Kansas Basketball?
  • Lightning Bolt in the Rearview Mirror
  • How to Make a Decision About Anything
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Parenting
  • The Horror and Humor of Family Vacations
  • 9/11 Ten Years Later from the Vantage Point of a Subway Dweller
  • The Insomniac and the Hour of the Coyote
  • Dance Like Everyone's Watching
  • The Scandals of Our Lives
  • If You Postpone a Flight a Dozen Times and Then Cancel It, the Revolution Begins
  • Humor in the Bureaucratic Rings of Hell at the DMV
  • I Wanted An Enchilada, I Got a Prairie Fire
  • A Big Gay Wedding for Kansas
  • Catching Mr. and Mrs. Rattlesnake Right Now
  • Why I'm a Crazy Bitch Sometimes
  • A Bedroom Full of Fireflies
  • Calicoco, the Flying Cat, or Why You Shouldn't Put a Feral Cat in Your Bathroom
  • The Everyday Magic of Rainbows

This book, artfully designed by Tracy Million Simmons, features dozens of photos and innovative luna moth illustrations, accenting each story with greater delight, depth, and surprise. 

Excerpt: "How to Live?"

A steady question has circled me for years like a song I can’t shake: “How to live?” When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, it was as if someone turned up the volume on this question, and since then, I have been regularly landing in moments when I felt para- lyzed as to what to do with myself to live the way I should. I would stand in the middle of my living room, debating whether to put my feet up and read a book, practice the cello, revise poetry, catch up on emails, do some yoga, take a walk, or clean out an obscure drawer. “What to do?” became the back beat behind “How to live?”

In the land of my mind, “How to live?” is a number one hit, playing simultaneously as gospel, rhythm and blues, hard-driving rock and roll (complete with Bruce Springsteen- like howls), familiar Irish gigs, complex but haunting folk songs, and as a blaring musical (think “Oklahoma” meets “Rent”). While I’m learning the various notes and hues of this question, I’m finding—to paraphrase the poet Rainer Maria Rilke—that I can only live my way into the answers, or, more likely, more questions.

Ironically enough, one of the clearest answers I get is to try to try less, something almost impossible for my grasping mind to inhabit, given my you’re-not-alive-unless-you’re -doing-something ways. Being my father’s daughter, I carry within me the legacy of working passionately, but also obsessively, springing into doing something related to my brilliant and exhausting career at any given moment (2 a.m.? No problem, I’ll just start up the computer; weekends? Oh, just this one thing and then . . . Vacation? Let me check my email first).

Yet my father died relatively young after too many years of constant illness and workaholism to see straight. After my own list-carrying decades, delighting in crossing things off and feeling generally compelled to immediately do whatever I think up, my very smart body now refuses to tolerate being dragged around like a pull toy from one overwhelm to the next.

I didn’t just realize the obvious easily. I sailed under the skies of low-grade, but chron- ic, unidentifiable illness since finishing chemo. After visiting my oncologist, various other doctors, energy healers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, psychics, dear friends, the self- subscribed-to myths of my past, and all manner of big pills (herbs, vitamins, amino acids) that came in glass bottles, I had a breakdown of sorts. In a small hotel room on the eighth floor of a Boston Marriott, in the middle of a conference at which I was presenting and helping organize, and in the middle of a herd of small ailments, from a wound on my foot to a migraine in my head, I heard one clear sentence: If you want to heal your life, you need to change your life.

Since that Boston epiphany, I started giving up things I used to do: extra work outside and inside of my teaching position, over-functioning with friends and family (on the premise that if I couldn’t fix my own life, I could fix someone else’s), and activities, thought-mazes and habits that took me away from being here, with myself as I am, in the present, whatever the weather. I’m a slow learner in the art of surrender (ten years after writing this post, I’m still immersed in these lessons). Give me an urgent task and high speed internet, and I’m easily tempted to go galloping in my mind toward whatever is asked. Give me an excuse, and I can convince myself it’s fine to take on more work. But the imperative to live a life of meaning has been a patient and persistent teacher. My health, which tends to go south easily and for prolonged periods if I don’t listen to my body, reinforces what I need to do . . . or not do.

I’ve also been discovering something entirely thrilling and not so unexpected: Living with greater self-care, discipline and awareness makes me outrageously happy. In the fall, I love watching the deer empty our bird feeder, as I watch from inside the house, still under the weight of the motor-purring kitten. I love the winter’s open space and time that’s always been right here, like the sky—sometimes variegated in golden pinks and grays through the bare branches of the sycamore—when I’m waiting at a stoplight. I love long stretches at home, and because I’m still hard-wired to keep doing things, using these stretches to re-organize the linen closet, make collages, or stare at old pictures of my parents and siblings. There is such a profound joy in the simple and constant art of cultivating space.

How to live is no longer such a cross-blends of many stations playing at once, but more like a heart beat. Its rhythm is all around me. All I need to do is listen.