South Carolina and Oregon couldn't be farther apart. One is a military state; the other has no military base. One is sunny most days and hot and humid; the other is mostly cloudy and full of rain and wind. One is conservative; the other lives and lets live.
Or so I thought. One of the reasons I wanted to do the book tour in Oregon, in addition to the fact that Earth Joy Writing's publisher, Ashland Creek Press, is located here, was to break down the walls of separation that divide us by region.
It seems that Nature is in on the deal: Oregon is currently experiencing a heat wave of temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s. So EarthJoyWriting brought South Carolina to Oregon.
For today's book tour blog, I'd like to introduce Oregon to South Carolina through July's Earth Joy Writing workshop video.
It was filmed the weekend after the confederate flag was removed from the SC State Capitol grounds.
When I told the events coordinator at the New Renaissance Bookshop in Portland last night what a revolution of compassion that was in our state, there were tears in her eyes.
It is my intention that EarthJoyWriting becomes a tool for readers to ignite their own revolutions of compassion for themselves and others and the earth.
Here's the video: https://vimeo.com/135012934
I'm on my phone so I can't do all the fancy embedding stuff, but please watch whether you are in South Carolina or Oregon or anywhere in between.
Speaking of please: Oregon's highway signs say Please don't drink and drive. Which is so polite, isn't it, y'all?
And I haven't seen one state flag here in Oregon. But they do love their ducks and beavers.
See you this weekend, Eugene and Ashland! Click on the book tour page for deets.
Yesterday on the Oregon coast, I decided to write with the earth. I had a vision of what I wanted to do, I gathered my tools-- a pen, a small piece of driftwood, and a log-- and I set out to begin.
Our writing projects often start out this way: we have an idea, we gather our tools and then we start.
But then it gets hard. It takes longer than we think. Our bodies ache, our minds get distracted, we become frustrated that this isn't turning out the way we dreamed.
At this point, it's good to pause. Step back. Honor what you've already done. Alter your original vision to fit the scope of what is do-able given your time constrictions and bodymindspirit capacities. And most importantly, ask for help.
This is how we write with the earth: listen to our bodies, which are made of earth-stuff. Listen to our bellies, which will tell us when we hunger for more and when we've had enough. Listen to the rhythm of waves, which sing endlessly of the need for coming and going.
And join me for EarthJoyWriting workshops today in Portland and Saturday and Sunday in Eugene and Ashland. Learn more on the Book Tour page.
If you're far away, you can click around this website to order the book, listen to audio meditations and watch mini-workshop videos.
And check out the virtual tour on Facebook and Twitter at #EarthJoyWriting
Here on the Oregon coast for the Earth Joy Writing book tour, I learned a lesson in perspective and time.
These rock formations, which I saw at low tide, beckoned to me.
As I got closer, I saw that they were not rocks but full of life. When we get close enough, we can see that there is life in everything.
And it is the intimacy of being with a thing that reveals the beauty.
And then the waves came in quickly. Just moments later, the ocean started covering the formations. I would have missed it if I hadn't been there to see it then.
Today, get up close to whatever rock is in your life. See the beauty in it. There is no moment better to do this than now. Time changes everything so quickly it can break your heart open like a shell. So rushingly suddenly. The only moment is now.
If you are in the Pacific Northwest, join me for Earth Joy Writing workshops in Portland, Eugene and Ashland. Details are on the Book Tour page.
"But sunrise is so special: My soul feels that we have always known each other. You are my brahma muhutra."
There's something about sunrise that allows us to breathe deep, lungs expanding into the new day but in a gentle way.
This is how I begin most days of Earth Joy Writing: by looking around me and breathing, and then writing down what I see around and inside me.
The quote above comes from my novel, Shamrock and Lotus. In the story, characters from India and Ireland and America make journeys from the east to the west coast of Ireland to heal their pasts through encounters with the land.
Here I am, this sunrise morning, having come from the east to the west coast of America with my brahma muhutra, whose birthday is today!
Such earth. Such joy. Such writing.
Such a lovely beginning of this new day.
May sunrise bring you gentle expansion as you breathe into the beauty of who you were born to be.
The earth is a castle of clouds
And loud rivers that hum
Quietly from above.
The moon is an eye
That follows our why
And sings a silent lullaby.
Every journey begins with between
The old and the next thing
In the courageous beauty of being seen.
Join me for the EarthJoyWriting book tour in Oregon this week! Click the Book Tour page to learn more.
This is my view right now. Facing north from the back porch of home.
Sometimes we leave home, as much as we love it, so our bodies, minds and spirits can grow.
Travel does this.
Long ago, I had a roommate from Iceland who told me that there is a word in Icelandic that means "stupid" and also "never left home."
The next time you hear from me, I'll be in Oregon. And a little smarter.
But there is so much about the South that I love. And I will take the wisdom of home with me to the Pacific Northwest and we will all be a little smarter then.
Let the EarthJoyWriting book tour begin!
I’m about to leave for the Earth Joy Writing Book Tour! I’ll be blogging here daily to share insights, discoveries, and images along the way. In the meantime, here’s your reflection for today…
When I was in my mid-twenties, I was part of a women’s group that met once a month in the evenings to discuss readings about politics, the environment, religion, women’s health, and our emotional lives. It was not the first women’s group I was ever in, nor was it the last, but it was very special because of its diversity—women from twenty-one to sixty-one, from different backgrounds, regions, religions, races, and classes.
I was one of the younger women, and I admired and appreciated the wisdom of the ones who had had long marriages, and children, and loss, and skills for living. Among them was a woman I’ll call Betsy.
Betsy’s birthday was coming, and for reasons I can’t quite remember now, I didn’t have time to get her a present, so I wrote her a card and mailed it.
A couple weeks went by, and the next meeting was at Betsy’s house.
After we had gathered our cups of tea and glasses of wine and plates of snacks, we sat in a circle in Betsy’s lovely living room, surrounded by art and pictures of her lawyer husband and beautiful children. I was feeling young, and poor, and underemployed. And then Betsy suddenly jumped up and said, “Wait! Before we begin, I want to read you Cassie’s poem!”
What, I thought to myself, is she talking about? What poem?
And she proceeded to take the birthday card I had sent her off the mantel and read it out loud.
What she read were the words that became the poem “Wishes.”
the wind across your porch
the rose and its cycles
your husband’s patience
your children’s laughter
how flowers prosper
a turtle in your yard
lizards on white wood
letters from friends
books you get lost in
how leaves come and go
the opposite of pain
wind from the North in summer
wind from the South in winter
wind from the West most days
wind from the East when we need rain
butterflies in daylight
moths at moon
I had not meant it as a poem.
But lovely Betsy saw it as a poem.
And so it became one: Later that evening, I copied the words from the card onto a scrap of paper so I could take them home and type them up and make them a poem.
This is how we co-create.
We allow people to see in us what we cannot yet see.
And we rise to their vision.
As I get ready to leave for the Earth Joy Writing Book Tour, I’d love to hear how co-creating with others has helped you over the course of your lifetime. Leave a comment below and let me know how Earth Joy Writing is helping you rise to a higher vision.
In just a couple days, I’ll be heading to Oregon for the Earth Joy Writing Book Tour! I’ll be blogging here daily to share insights, discoveries, and images along the way…
Today we continue our reflections on the 3 mistakes environmental writers make. (See the last two days’ posts for steps 1 and 2.)
3. Don’t look. Book.
As writers, we can have a push-pull relationship to the writing world. We crave community to a certain extent, and we certainly want recognition, but we hoard our solitude and can find ourselves feeling off-balance from too much openness.
Environmental writers have a particular paradox in this regard because we know that creating community is essential for environmental action.
But sometimes this leads us to track others’ writing and research like hungry dogs and we forget to do our own best work.
You are meant to write what no one else can write.
No one else has your particular story, your quirky list of 20 things you love about nature, your own way of observing what is around you through the lens of your own body’s history.
Stop looking at what others have written and begin to write from your own unique perspective.
Writing tip: Take a hiatus from reading for one day.
Instead, every time you reach for your phone or computer or tablet or book beside your couch, pick up a journal and write by hand instead.
Research shows that 20 minutes of handwritten journaling can lead to healing of chronic stress and create brain activity similar to meditation.
Try this for one day, and see what unique writing you can do.
I’d love to hear how journaling helped you write in new ways today. Leave a comment below and let me know how Earth Joy Writing is helping you be a better environmental writer.
In a few days, I’ll be heading to the Oregon for the Earth Joy Writing Book Tour! I’ll be blogging here daily to share insights, discoveries, and images along the way…
Today we continue our reflections on the 3 mistakes environmental writers make. (See yesterday’s post for Step 1.)
Step 2: Don’t fight. Write.
Keeping our focus on the “enemy,” whether it’s corporations or governments or technologies that contribute to the degradation of the environment, strengthens the parts of our brain that allow us to compare, criticize, judge, and edit.
But although these can be immensely helpful at later stages of writing, in the beginning, these can block us from our inner sense of connection to the intuition, feeling, and wisdom within.
Creativity comes from “long thoughts” and the connections between disparate things through which we create meaning.
Fighting against, though, can obstruct us from the new ideas and innovations that ultimately will lead to solutions and breakthroughs.
Writing tip: Make a list of 20 things you love about the natural world.
The smell of a Bradford pear that reminds you of a high school boyfriend?
The warmth that rises from the earth during a summer rain?
After making your list, see what new ideas you have for your environmental writing.
Make a note of at least 3.
I’d love to hear how you are paying attention to what you love in nature today. Leave a comment below and let me know how Earth Joy Writing is helping you understand the importance of beginning with love in your writing.
In a few days, I’ll be heading to the Oregon for the Earth Joy Writing Book Tour! I’ll be blogging here daily to share insights, discoveries, and images along the way… But in the meantime, I thought I'd share the 3 biggest mistakes that I see environmental writers make.
My earliest writing was done near a window. During my childhood in Minnesota, it was often too snowy to go outside, but my second-floor bedroom window was near a tree, and I sat by that tree like some devotees sit near their guru.
As a teen, I started writing outdoors. We’d moved to Washington, DC, by then, and I often sat on a bench near the Capitol waiting for my mom to finish work so we could carpool home.
It seemed to me that I needed that sense of a context – the tree outside my window or the birds in the trees in the middle of the city – to give me the courage to tell the truth in my writing. Nature was a witness that allowed me to feel heard even when the words had not yet been shared.
Over the years, I’ve published a novel and several poetry books with nature themes and I’m about to do a book tour for my book, Earth Joy Writing: Creating Harmony through Journaling and Nature, which was released on Earth Day, April 22nd.
Along the way, I’ve noticed 3 mistakes that I have made myself and I often see environmental writers making, and I’d like to share them with you over the next three days.
1. Don’t think. Sit.
Sometimes because of our concern for the earth, we begin writing with a premise. A goal. An outcome.
But as Hemingway said, “Remarks are not literature.”
It took me a long time to learn this. I had to learn to be patient and let the language lead me where it wanted to go. I had to step away from the statistics and the dire predictions and let imagination take the reins.
Writing tip: Go outdoors for 10 minutes and do nothing.
Don’t write. Don’t brainstorm. Don’t plan.
Just observe what is around you.
Be with the natural world in a way, perhaps, you’ve forgotten.
Then let yourself write. See what happens.
I’d love to hear how you are just sitting today. Leave a comment below and let me know how Earth Joy Writing is helping you understand the importance of being present to your writing.