Journal Writing- building a deeper relationship with self

I’m listening to Irish poet and philosopher,  John O’Donohue , his beautiful connections between our interior and exterior worlds to no end inspire me; concepts of how to be fully engaged with living a deeply creative life. This is not restricted to a few, more so he states (which I wholeheartedly believe) that we are all artists, gifted with infinite resources of imagination.

He offers journal writing as a way to build a deeper relationship with ourself but unlike the common practise of writing down everything under the sun he suggests clearer, more focused subjects. ‘Use a beautiful journal,’ he suggests. ‘Make a title that speaks to the heart of things.’ I have just finished creating a number of winter journals, I will use one for such explorations.

My dreams have always been a subject in my journal writing. How great to just have one area to explore this. O’Donohue says that our dreams are like invitations, ‘an unexamined dream is like an opened letter.’

Another area is the conversations we have with ourselves that we really don’t want to share with others. These are ones that make us uncomfortable, ideas that stretch our edges.

A third area is when I have moments of insight or inspiration. Sometimes they bubble up from some mysterious source, appearing as a flash. Other times it’s a result of a stimulating conversation that opens ideas with unusual possibilities.

This creative journal will be a place where I can continue my inner dialogue. O’Donohue says that as the entries build up, they will carry momentum and will reveal  deeper connections with living fully. ‘The act of writing itself creates change, in this way we can attune to our highest self.’ Thank You John O’Donohue for your riches, your light is brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Water Worn” Chapbook launch

Our writers group, in the spirit of staying close to the elements of living in Northwestern B.C.,  decided to choose the theme ‘Water Worn’ for our newest anthology of poetry. Water is ever pervasive in our rainforest. It is the giver of life, feeding our intricate river systems, and nourishing the abundance of vegetation that makes up our home. Water has many expressions. It is at times a constant fluid entity, soft and yielding. On other occasions, water is a torrent or a cold deluge.

Water is an elemental force. It has the power to dissolve, transform, or wear away. Water Worn speaks to the shape shifter, taking one body and changing it into another. It is both the undoing and the putting back together. The mystery of a new entity filled to overflowing with potential.

The poems in this collection speak to these things. They are finely tuned and yet hold a paradox in their entirety. They offer a fullness of expression in a wide variety of forms. Some will leave you soothed and refreshed. Others will evoke another way of being or may challenge your edges. Such is the nature of water. We invite you to open yourself to this flow.

 

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Altered Pages

Art Journaling is one of my favorite explorations
so I was thrilled to see this was the theme for Northwords Creative Writers Adult Retreat. What a fun day! Jesse Dafoe led us through some writing exercises, which we later incorporated in the visual aspects of the journal. Mo Hamilton, Prince George artist, shared a variety of techniques for  building up our pages.

 

I found a magazine article on Gardening in Winter, which became a theme for my explorations. I cut out a few paragraphs throughout the article and created Blackout or Erasure Poetry, leaving only the words that I wanted to form into the poem. It is a great exercise as well for writers block when you are looking for an extra source for inspiration.

One of the exercises that Mo shared was creating positive and negative images. I love how the snippets of poems work so well with these images.

From the many books provided I chose music sheets from a discarded guitar magazine. This became the background to add found words, mark making, texturing, photo transfer, and stencils

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From these pages I created an Accordion Book.Here are the front and back pages.

What an amazing team effort (Jess Dafoe – Terrace Public Library, Melanie Wilke- N.W.C.C. and Anna Beddie- Misty River Books) for creating these yearly camps; I believe this was the 13th annual. As well, what a fun day with Artist Mo  Hamilton. You can find her working at her studio above Books and Company in Prince George.
Happy Creating!

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Poet Lesley Strutt: A Soft Activist

I feel deeply enlivened after our intimate gathering in the studio
listening to Lesley Strutt, poet, blogger, essayist, playwright and professor. Lesley read her poetry as well as held a conversation on the poetic life; what poetry means to her and the power it can have in changing the world.

Lesley describes herself as a ‘soft activist’. She believes in the power of words and how they have the opportunity to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Lesley assures us that some things can be changed. Part of the process of change is to listen deeply. This first step offers an opening where we can enter into another place and grow as humans.

Lesley describes a poem as a concentrated, potent approximation of something she wants to capture. Inside of that is the importance that her poetry resonates with others. Lesley clarifies that she is not an ecstatic poet, nor is she interested in a rant. She instead invites the reader into places where we don’t have all of the answers, where we can ask ourselves the big questions; what is it like to be a human being, how do we feel about growing older, or about being a woman. Through poetry Lesley is interested in situations where we might not see around a corner; in our humanness we stumble, we are imperfect. Poetry offers the place to move from our positions of comfort and complacency into those rough edged aspects of our humanness.

Lesley is also the associate member representative for the League of Canadian Poets. In this position she is a mentor, encouraging poets to bring their work into the public domain no matter the form; whether it be self published, a blog or to established journals, poems must be read but more importantly, poetry must be listened to. It is through this exchange true change can happen.

 

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Spring Floods

This morning I visit the Skeena River in full flood. Its torrent of water heedless of all obstructions engulf the base of cottonwoods, whole trees uproot and whip down the channel in a highway of debris, whirlpools are wild and astonishing, walking trails sucked away. The very air quivers with Skeena’s strength.

It does not seem very faraway when  Terrace was declared a state of emergency in 2007. That year the river entered our home.

 

Terrace Flood 2007

i.)
The community of Terrace is largely isolated from the rest of the province… A mudslide and flooding have closed a highway and left the CN main line under water.

Rivers’ underground life expands,
the earths swollen cavities form veins and capillaries
fan their way beneath our home
three blocks from the main flow.

Water rises through the concrete floor,
jack hammer releases a geyser of spray
cold and clean as  deep springs,
drone of the pump a tireless grumble.

I had a  sanctuary along the riverbank,
nook of trees in cool relief,
feel water wrap around
like soft breath upon my face
whisper secrets of  her large body

River canyons compressed waters
open streams shift in complete surrender
my refuge gouged out with spring swell
In its place a steep slice of bank.

ii.)
The Skeena River is above flood stage. The discharge is the second largest recording measured in seventy-seven years. Substantial snow remains in the Skeena Basin.

The basement transforms into an underground cave,
frigid tendrils settle in walls and furnishings.
early morning mist saturates the upper rooms.
I huddle in blankets, drink green tea
remember my childhood home.

Stucco walls chipped around the bottom
like scabs continually picked away.
Wire mesh, a brittle skeletal shell exposes
fist sized holes that lead to a crawl space.

My mother alone with four small children
worn thin with this house

iii)
Water levels are dropping or at least not rising so fast. Cooler than seasonal weather has put the brakes on snow melt.      B.C. Environment Forecast Center, 2007

A thin skin of water envelopes the cement floor
trickles into sides of the hole, pump slows.
Silence fills the space with an eerie vacuum.

Months later I dream of Skeena,
a pool forms outside my door,
I dive in fully clothed,
swim out to the open river.
A shadowy presence moves alongside
swift and sure.

I am not alone

The river no longer quiet
waits just below my floor.

 

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Spring Bouquet Homemade Books

My bulbs are emerging from the earth and so, in anticipation for the colours of spring, I have created these homemade books for  journaling or gardening notes.

This style is dos-à-dos binding (from the French meaning “back-to-back). It is a technique where, in this case, three separate books share the same cover. I love this design because it  has different sections to organize  writing.

 

 

 

The dos-à-dos format dates back at least to the 16th century, though they were most common in England in the first half of the 17th century.

I love the button detail, so much fun to create!

 

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April: Poetry Month and a Welcome to Spring

April hails to spring with its bursting light. No wonder it is also the month dedicated to poetry. Like sap running after a dormant time, poetry finds its way into the landscape teeming with new life. The first flowering plant to appear after a long winter is Skunk Cabbage; a plant with an inner heat regulator, having the ability to melt snow around it. Like Skunk Cabbage, poetry dissolves the tough outer shells of our own protective layers, creating space for imaginal realms. Luxuriant leaves reminiscent of the tropics offer material that takes us to heady places. Yellow flowers illuminate the deep shade of winter memories. Poems become lanterns in the dark.

Feverish for spring   

Will you be there forever blossoming?
Birth the way like moose in early spring
with their mournful calls and dull eyes,
push you out all wet skinned and dewy eyed
ready to clamber towards what will surely feed you.

Can I count on you, the first to arrive forceful like a fist?
Grasping, squeezing every last charged particle
when you burst out of fecund mud
not unlike water lily,
better yet a lotus, you arrive ferocious in your golden gown
tucked inside a hooded leaf,
arrive foul stinking, grow like a B grade horror film.

Make no mistake!
I search you out fanatical with hibernation,
single minded in my intention.
A bear, all shaggy haired and skinny ribbed
plugged from the winter,
cleansing the way, for I too am fallible,
give up hope, forlorn in the endless grey
stumble about with no end in sight.
Locked jaw and monkey brain
striped of all decency,
your torch guiding the way

This poem is published in the Chapbook ‘Skunk Cabbage: poems of renewal’ which our writers group created in the spring of 2016. There are a limited number of copies still available.

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