Writing With Wildlife: Everyday Magic, Day 1013

“Hello, are you writing about me?”

I just returned from writing poetry on the porch at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow to write poetry on the porch of our place. Being outside continually jolts me out of my inside-mind with its cast of thousands to make space for other beings who, if we just pay even a small smidgen of attention, will mosey on, fly, charge, or buzz through.

At Dairy Hollow, the most dramatic of these guests — although actually I was the guest in their home — was a young buck, racing about four feet from me on the other side of the porch railing. He was young, strong, handsome, crazy-fast, and once he got past the house, curious. But then I find a lot of the deer and other critters in Eureka Springs all-too-acclimated to humans, pausing easily in their grazing or romping to take us in, shrug their shoulders, and return to the grass or the path. The buck also seemed quite content to engage in a long photo shoot with me and my phone, posing with his perfected aloof-but-handsome gaze.

The next night, a slim fox stopped in her tracks just across the street. “Hello,” I said quietly. She seemed skeptical and slowly merged into the trees nearby. Dozens of brown morpho butterflies — often tinged in their middle with turquoise melting to brown — titled their dark wings on one diagonal or another into the low and high flowers to drink their lunch. There was also a bird I couldn’t see and had never heard before scream-chirping at me at regular intervals, so insistent and so loud that I would leap out of my chair to scan tree tops trying to see where this alarm was coming from. By the time I left Arkansas, much of this menagerie had made its way into the poems I was writing or revising.

Back home, it’s hummingbirds, monarchs, and at night, barred and great horned owls. At dusk, the changing of the guard from cicadas to katydids. Of course, there’s a lot of other wildlife here I try to avoid, namely Mr. Chigger, Ms. Tick and Overlord Timber Rattler. There’s also the somewhat domesticated wildlife — two sofa-like dogs who spread themselves out on the porch while I work, and a small pouncing kitty. At times, it’s a precarious balance; just last month, we lost our beloved big cat Sidney Iowa to what we suspect was an itinerant cougar. The packrats have discovered that their favorite food is it the innards of Ken’s Honda Fit although they also enjoy chewing apart every rat trap he sets for them. So we have to be watchful as well as budget a lot for automotive electric repairs.

In the balance, I know how lucky I am to draft, sketch, compose, revise, re-compose and otherwise inhabit poetry while co-habitating with the critters who live here. They continually nudge me out of my human-centric view of the world and show me the real ground, teaming with all manner of the wild we can’t even see most of the time. Here, even and especially as so many species are going extinct, is where we truly live.

Poetry Playhouse

An Online Adventure Without Leaving Home Jan. 9 - Feb. 26, 2023

Enter your house of poetry to  explore, experiment, play, rest, unearth, and renovate your writing. By drawing on memories, experiences, and dreams of where and how you've lived, you will craft a whole new body of poems in a welcoming and encouraging community. We'll use innovative writing prompts (including poems, questions, videos and guidance for creating your own bag of tricks all life long) to access poetic material from the interior rooms and external spaces of your life.

Note: This Poetry Playhouse has been renovated! Please feel free to join us again for new prompts and guidance and also because we all have so much much to write about in our house of poetry.

Each week we will:

  • Write about a different room in the poetry playhouse (and from a different pocket in your psyche), from the family room (writing childhood), through the bedroom (writing about dreams and the dark), to the front porch (writing in community) and up to the attic (writing ancestors and generational stories)
  • Explore new poetic forms, such as pantoums, or a group renga
  • Learn more about the craft of writing and revising poetry, including powerful imagery, engaging rhythms, effective line breaks and spacing, powerful beginnings and endings, and the romance of revision.
  • Read and watch a featured poet to to glean more opportunities for our own poems.
  • Contemplate the challenges and miracles of being a workaday writer.

Additionally, we have some wonderful ways to further connect:

  • Generous and positive feedback on your new and evolving poetry each week from me, plus supportive responses from peers.
  • Mini coaching session at your convenience to work with me on your poetry or talk over any aspect of the writing life.
  • Three Zoom sessions -- 7-8 CT/ 8-9 ET/ 6-7 MT/ 5-6 PT -- on Thursday evenings January 12 (to get to know each other), February 2 (to share our ongoing writing and discoveries), and February 23 (for a celebratory readings).

Format: This online class will be friendly and easy to navigate, hosted on a platform called Wet Ink, starting Monday, Jan. 9. A new lesson will start each subsequent Monday. Our three Zooms will offer you warm interactions with other writers and opportunities to share your writing, questions, and discoveries.

Who Is This Class For?: I've designed this class to meet you where are you, whether you just dipped your toe into the waters or have been swimming laps through poetry for decades. All the writing prompts, lessons, and resources embrace you unearthing more of your voice, refresh or shine a new light on ways you can work and play with language, and encourage you to write with guidance and abandon. 

Fees: Early bird rate is $290, which includes everything (regular rate is $330) and expires Dec. 1. You can register via Venmo (please drop me an email with your name, email, and phone number, and send payment to Caryn-Goldberg-2), or by check (email me for address), or on Square.

Week By Week

Each week, we explore another room in the Poetry Playhouse, each one designed to inspire your poetry. 

Week One -- The Playroom: Creating With Abandon: Find your creative magic and mojo through a more playful relationship with your poetry. The playroom helps us warm up for our writing, break out of old habits or mindsets that lead us away from experimenting with language, and take creative risks for fresh, alive, and original poetry.

Week Two -- The Living Room: Drawing From Real Life: By leaning into our life's experiences, we can find ample material for poetry. This week, we focus on what we've lived and are currently living as source material in the warm embrace of the living room.

Week Three -- The Family Room: Writing About Families of Origin, of Choice, and of Your Own Creation: "Anyone who survived a childhood has enough material to last him the rest of his days," says Flannery O'Connor. This week we'll turn to childhood experiences and perceptions as well as what we're called to write about the families we've created or chosen.

Week Four -- The Kitchen: The Nourishment of Intimate Exchanges: The kitchen is often the center of any party for a good reason: food, and the making and keeping of it, draws us together. This week, we'll be exploring intimacy and nourishment with those we connect with over food, drink and the kitchen table.

Week Five -- The Bedroom: Dreams, Sex, and Other Adventures in the Dark: By exploring what makes us wild and takes us beyond daytime stories about who we are, we can access new ways into our poems. Our bedrooms are the hotbeds, so to speak, of our dreams, sensuality, and unconscious meanderings.

Week Six -- The Basement, Attic, and Porch: Poetic Roots and Wings: The basements and attics are where we store a lot of stuff: what comes out seasonally or not at all, what we're inherited from our ancestors, and what possibilities we may use one day. The porch looks out toward what's in flight, including our own poetry. Altogether, we celebrate where we're come from and where we're going.

My Life Has Gone to the Dogs: Everyday Magic, Day 998

“It’s like an animal daycare here,” said my friend Laurie, here to give Shay some doggy acupuncture today. She was right, and with two dogs and two cats, it’s also a canine and feline exercise and mindfulness training program, continually interrupting what I thought I was doing to point my attention toward a higher power. Never underestimate the call of the dogs to go outside. Add in the cats, whose needs must be met whenever they arise because: cats, and you can imagine how much practice I get sitting down only to stand up again.

It wasn’t always like this. For years, we had a constant balance of three animals, mostly two cats and a dog, and occasionally a cat and two dogs. But the addition of Moxie — a border collie with a bit of rat terrier in her — to our trio of Shay the dog, and Miyako and Sidney Iowa, the cats — the balance has shifted even more from the two-leggeds to the four-leggeds. Working at home means I’m in the thick of Animal Kingdom much of the time, and wherever I am in or around the house, they must be also. I could be in my favorite chair, laptop fully engaged, or at the kitchen table meeting with a client over Zoom, or on the front porch, talking on the phone with someone to plan an event, and I will be interrupted. Repeatedly. Just about everyone I work with has heard barking, meowing, and doors opening and closing often.

The animals must of course situate themselves around each other and me. If I pace as I talk on the phone, sometime I’m prone to do, the animals must pace too. If I head to the kitchen to make tea, there they are, herding me toward the stove (particularly the border collie, who can’t help herself). If I need to concentrate — especially in the middle of composing a sentence, revising a poem, or editing a manuscript — someone will leap, hiss, yelp, or knock over something loud just as I’m struggling the most to find the right word or punctuation.

At the same time, I really like being part of a pack. Besides never feeling alone, the mammals do the same thing for me as the meditation bell I downloaded onto my computer, which rings every hour: they stop me in my tracks. I more or less have to look up from the bottom of my rabbit hole to see what else the world holds: three crows balancing on a branch of Cottonwood Mel, the wind picking up and clouds filling in, and a big, lazy cat in the window sill who wants back in. I use the meditation bell to make myself pause for five minutes, breathe and meditate, and check in with how I’m feeling and navigating.

Mostly, I discover that whatever I thought was set in stone or anxiously urgent actually isn’t. Instead, there’s fur-covered faces staring intently in my direction, saying, wake up as well as get off your ass and feed us! I do because I don’t want to be in the doghouse with these animals or with my own habitual deadends. Besides, there’s a lot to learn from surrendering to a higher power even if it does take the form of muddy paw tracks all over the house.

Please consider supporting me on Patreon, and get a whole lot more writing, writing prompts, and inspirations!

Nine Reasons to Give a Little (or a Lot): Everyday Magic, Day 978

One of the beautiful cards with Stephen Locke’s photography for patrons

As many of you know, I’m leaping from my day job of college-level teaching to creating more transformative writing, community-building writing workshops, and a podcast series on the power of words. I’m also asking for your help in supporting this leap. Here are nine reasons to consider being a patron through Patreon, a great online platform that helps writers, artists, innovators, and others do cool stuff in the world. You can see more here.

1. Perks: You get a signed book of your choice, gorgeous greeting cards with Stephen Locke’s photography and my poetry, and even a poem I write for you for a beloved.

2. Weekly Inspiration: All patrons get a post every Friday with something to spark creativity and magic in your life, art, and work, such as “The Care and Feeding of the Artist,” a podcast poetry reading, and tips on inventing your own inspiration.

3. Poetry Party!: Every time I cross the $100 mark each month (and we’re really close to another crossing), patrons get to call out (via the Patreon site or emailing me directly) words you want me to weave into a spontaneous poem I make up on the spot, record, and share with you. You can also watch the often hilarious and sometimes moving past poetry parties.

4. Satisfaction: Doesn’t it feel good to help someone live their dreams? Patrons get the satisfaction of knowing they’re helping me follow my calling.

5. Making Good Things Happen: Your contributions help me create new writing, workshops, and a podcast series (to launch this fall) on the power of writing and witnessing our truest stories.

I dress up a bit more than for the Poetry Party!

6. Ease: Becoming a patron is simple: You just click here, follow the directions, and within a few minutes, you’re in.

7. What a Deal!: For as little as $3/month, you can be a patron. Also, those little payments are easy to swallow each month.

8. Your Fellow Patrons: I’m not exaggerating when I say my patrons are exceeding passionate, innovative, and soulful change makers in this world. Come hang out with the cool kids;

9. The Power of Being a Patron: You don’t have to be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the work you love. You have the power to do that right now. Just wave the magic wand of your credit card over the Patreon page, and there you go!

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 break. I’ve just completed over 25 gigs — readings, talks, and workshops — to promote Miriam’s Well, my new-ish novel in many states (KS, MO, OK, WI, VT, NE, MN) and states of being. In further evaluating the many ways I make a living — “What do you do, Caryn?” “Do you have an hour?” — I’ve edited out work that’s too weighty in proportion to how it fits my callings, health, sanity, and need to make some moolah. Although our family is still grieving and will be for some time, the death of my beloved  mother-in-law also brings a little more mercy and light. And through two years of healing (still in progress) with my integrative physician, Dr. Neela Sandal, puzzling through anxiety issues with a great therapist, and guidance from other supportive humans and forces of nature, I’ve leapt into considerably better health which, as we well know, informs all else in a life.

So I have a lot of reason and reality to sense so much more light, both that bright blur, like right now in the sky emerging, and the easier to lift and carry kind of lightness. The sky we live in and the sky that lives in us will keep bringing us many manner of weather, change, surprise, and mystery, and of course, there is great beauty and discovery for us to traverse in the rich darkness and weightiness of life too. But for now, as the darkness and heaviness lifts some, I’m swimming in gratitude which itself is another kind of lightness.