I began October at a weekend writing retreat in southern Missouri at a place called Dawt Mill, a historic mill, now a resort. It’s a small retreat held in both the spring and fall, usually with visiting writers who lead workshops in poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing. But this fall it was a pared down version with just local leaders and no workshops. We had plenty of time for writing, creating our own workshops with writing prompts and exercises, discussing our projects and adventures in writing, socialization, and readings in the evenings. It was a good getaway for most of us in an environment of acceptance and camaraderie.

Dawt Mill is located in a beautiful setting right along a river, and most of our activities took place outdoors immersed in the sounds of the river bumping over rocks and flowing onto the shore, the sun creating diamond sparkles on the surface of the water. It was a perfect weather weekend with sun and warm days and cool nights, with a fire pit to warm us after the sun set.

Those who wanted to, read some of their work. I read a poem on Friday night and then another one on Saturday night. It was nice to get affirmation from fellow writers. Some of the attendees are in the process of publishing books, so it was great to hear about their experiences, and I think it was good for them to be able to express their joys and frustrations.

I am going to post one of the poems I read at the retreat here:

Womanhood

“I did not/find my womanhood in the servitudes of custom.” *
I found it in trial and error,
rebellion and compliance,
anger and peacefulness.
All these things led me
to where I am today,
alone, but satisfied with my life,
a solitary figure
casting a long shadow
in the setting sun,
still moving forward,
learning and growing,
as I will until my time is over.
My womanhood is strong and resilient,
and it has nothing to do with custom.
I go with the flow of my own stream,
clear but unpredictable,
bumping over rocks and sand bars,
smoothing into a run for the river,
knowing I will become
part of the collective of women
combining our wisdom and strength
to recreate the world into our vision.

*from “Against Love Poetry,” by Eavan Boland

© 2022 Dorothy A Joslyn

How do you express your individuality, your “separateness” from others, yet as a part of the whole of humankind?

Write about your life as it is now, it’s joys and sorrows, successes and failures, ups and downs.

What are you working on right now that makes you happy? If you’re stuck, how can you break loose and follow your dreams?

You may not think of September as a new beginning as you do January 1, the new year, but to me it feels like a time to take stock and maybe even do something different. The hot days of summer are receding into cool nights and warm days. I feel more like tackling projects and spending time outdoors.

Although I have no children in school, school starting up again feels like a fresh start. I live in a college town, and students are everywhere. Something about seeing young people out and about invigorates me. The promise they have kind of rubs off on me. I would love to be going back to school!

So, what am I going to do with my perceived fresh start? Hopefully, I will write more. I got great feedback from a piece I submitted to a literary publication even though I didn’t win the contest. It’s unusual to get feedback on non-winning entries, so I’m going to take advantage of it to revise the piece and maybe submit it elsewhere.

I may go to some parks just to soak up the fall air. I may find a labyrinth nearby and walk it for a spiritual boost. I can revisit some of my 2022 intentions and fulfill them. Now is the time!

September’s Hope

It is here,

that time of year when time feels fresh,

when the air is crackling with possibilities.

I can breathe deeply

and soak in the season.

I embrace the revitalization of my spirit.

There is a pause before whatever is to come

tempered by no promises

except change.

Soon leaves will be falling

in a rainbow of color,

and the grass will fade,

but I know they are only resting

and will return in the Spring.

I always hope for peace on earth,

but this year, especially, I send out peace vibes

on the crisp, cool air of autumn.

© 2022 Dorothy A Joslyn

 

Some people think of autumn as the dying season. What does it say to you?

Do you have projects for this fall that you’ve been saving because of the heat of summer? Write about them.

What is one of your hopes and wishes for right now? Send out the vibes!

I have been reflecting on many of the most recent happenings in our country and world and trying to take stock of where I am in all of it. Sometimes, all that I see and hear going on overwhelms me, and I want to retreat back into myself, push everything out of my mind, turn off the news, and just pretend everything is okay. But I can’t do that, really, in a world where news is everywhere, and everyone is talking about it.

It has been a difficult two and a half years, and it doesn’t seem to be going to let up soon. Covid-19 struck late in 2019 and became a disaster beginning in early 2020. More than a million people in the US, alone, died, as did many more millions worldwide. And here we are in mid-2022 still struggling with the different variants of the illness, more people contracting the disease, and no end in sight. I am back to wearing a mask most of the time when I’m out and about: in stores, movies, and other activities that involve other people. Most people have given up their masks, however, which is contributing to the spread of the disease, along with many who have not been vaccinated. This is one disease, I think, that will be with us even longer-term than it has already been, though hopefully milder as time passes.

Black people and police continue to clash, and many black men and a few black women have died in those confrontations. Somehow, we have to stop the carnage, and both sides have to begin to feel safe. It is fear that is fueling the fires of these incidents, I think, on both sides, and we have to find a way to quell that fear. I wish I knew how to be a part of that solution, but I don’t know what I can do.

Then there is the rise of restrictions on women, especially their bodies. Government officials want to take control of the most intimate activities of women, something that supposedly ended 50 years ago. They want to push it even farther and put women in untenable positions in many areas of their lives. We can’t allow this to happen to half the population of this country. The only thing I know that I can do is vote for people who want to keep men and women equally in control of their lives.

Gun control is another issue that we need to resolve. Mass shootings in public places everywhere, especially schools, plague our country. We can never get back all the guns out there, but we can surely restrict further sales of the most dangerous weapons going forward.

The insurrection that took place in our nation’s Capital is an incident that needs to be addressed, and it is being investigated and reported to all of us ongoing in TV hearings. Those who instigated and participated in that debacle should be prosecuted and made to pay for the damage and destruction of our public places but especially the damage to our democracy. I hold on to hope that it will happen.

Outside our country, the war in Ukraine rages on, and those brave Ukrainian people struggle to hold on to their freedom from Russian aggression. We must continue to support them in every way we can.

And in Sudan, the people are starving because of both floods and drought. No one in this world of plenty should be hungry. No One! There has to be a way for the rest of the world to get food to those people before it’s too late. Yes, there are people in this country who are hungry, too, and it should be even easier for us to be sure everyone has enough to eat here, as well.

Finally, climate change weighs on my mind as I watch the weather change drastically; fires rage not only in our country but in other countries, as well; record heat continues day after day, week after week; and flooding rains destroy property and people. Do we have the will to save our planet? I wonder.

So, those are some of the things on which I’ve been reflecting, with little in the way of suggested solutions. Are we going to save ourselves? Or will we, like the dinosaurs, disappear from the earth, and it becomes a wasteland, uninhabitable by our currents species? It remains to be seen, maybe not by anyone reading this, but in the not so distant future. It may be a grim projection, but maybe it is inevitable, maybe it’s the destiny of the human species.

One solution to the doldrums that I find myself in are the connections I have to others, the people I love and care about: friends, family, even the brief encounters I have with kind and gentle people. Whatever is in our future, these connections make my current life more than bearable – rich and satisfying. No matter the circumstances I find myself in, I cherish what I do have now, in the present moment, which is all I really have.

I’m including here a link to a poem by Ellen Bass, “The Big Picture,” that I’m reflecting on. I hope it will speak to you, too:

https://members.dodgepoetry.org/videos/ellen-bass-reads-the-big-picture

How does this poem speak to you? Is there a message that you detect? If so, what is it?

What have you been reflecting on? Write about it.

Write about your connections to other people that keep you sane.

As I am writing this, the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs Wade, taking 50-year-old freedoms away from women in this country. It’s about abortion, yes, but it’s about so much more, too. It’s about a group of people who want to impose their beliefs on everyone else. It’s about control. It’s about keeping women “in their place,” which is farther down the ladder than white men. I’m always amazed at women who subscribe to this type of control, who are willing to bow to whatever men and some religions want and demand. We are strong and able to control our own lives. Why would any woman want to be subservient to anyone else or ideology?

What is even more difficult for me to understand is the lack of care people give to unwanted children. Many are against any kind of social programs that might help families take care of their children or prevent unwanted births, like free child care and birth control. They only care that the child is born, not how it will be cared for in the long-term. I’ve heard the phrase, “pro-birth” not “pro-life” that describes those people. Some unwanted children have terrible, violent lives or not enough to eat. Many are homeless. Some end up dead from abuse. Where are these high-minded people when such need is so great?

This month also includes Independence Day, July 4. Somehow it doesn’t ring true this year for me. The rights of women have been diminished. Where is our freedom?

I wrote the following poem after Texas passed their anti-abortion law, but it serves to describe this new blow to women’s freedoms, too:

Her Voice

Her faith abides by the cycle of the moon.
See how perfect she is.
from “She Is” by
Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Her voice is swallowed by air rising. . .
from somewhere outside herself.
It takes her breath away; she is suffocating.

Waves of wind blow into her nostrils,
and she cannot do anything to stop it;
now there is no sound.
It is all silence;
then it is a cacophony of words shouted.

Then it is done. It is over; she has lost her voice.
It has been taken from her. . .
and her body.
Her mind is paralyzed.

She cannot believe words cried above the din of loss.
She is alone with nothing to hold on to.
She is sinking back in time, back when fear was alive.

It is alive again, even now in this age of awareness.

Darkness is falling fast into the closing window;
there is nothing to see.
It is all gone, taken away by the signing of a document,
hand-cuffing her to words she did not utter. . .
to which she did not agree.

She will fight though her mouth has been closed.
She will not let this stand.
She weeps in grief, in anger.
She rises to do battle and stands strong.
It will not stand.

She is the perfect storm. See how perfect she is.

© 2021 Dorothy A Joslyn

Write about your feelings that have come from recent legislative and court decisions regarding women’s rights, abortion, or other women’s issues.

What can you do to help keep more legislation from becoming law that demeans or denigrates women?

How can we make this a safer, more livable country for children so they don’t grow up abused, hungry, and homeless?

I just got back from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where I was the featured poet at Wednesday Night Poetry (WNP), a weekly open mic event at a great little coffee shop, Kollective Coffee + Tea. It is the longest running open mic in the entire country, begun February 1, 1989. I read for it often after it went virtual during the Covid pandemic but decided to drive down to Hot Springs and read in person, since it’s not too far away from Springfield, Missouri, where I live. Kai Coggin, the charismatic leader of WNP, invited me to be the featured poet, which meant I could read several poems for 20-30 minutes and offer my book for sale.

I enjoyed it, and it was good for me to stretch myself a little. The coffee shop was packed, and they were so receptive and welcoming. It made it easier for me to not be so nervous. A friend went with me, and we spent an extra day just being tourists. There are two bath houses still in operation, and we tried one out. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m glad I had the experience. We shopped and ate and enjoyed the company of each other and the wonderful audience a WNP. We also stayed in a great Airbnb, the Owl House. It was extra clean and bright and located in a beautiful area.

The visit was subdued, however, by news of the terrible school shooting in Texas. Kai teaches poetry to children in the Hot Springs schools, and she described the difficulty of teaching on Wednesday. I hadn’t planned on reading a poem I wrote several years ago, but I inserted it into my program at the last minute to focus for a moment on that tragic event. Even though it is an older poem, maybe dated, it shows that, unfortunately, not much has changed in the ensuing years. I am including a slightly updated version here:

For Days

For days we sat unmoving
watching the body of the Murrah building
in Oklahoma City,
its arteries gaping.

For days we witnessed
the spirit of Columbine
in Littleton, Colorado,
scarred by those with feelings of alienation.

For days we watched
the search in the rubble
of the glittering Twin Towers
in New York City
after they were massacred and
fell into their own dust.

Beyond our comprehension, we watch
our clubs, restaurants and theaters;
the streets where marathons are run
and people stroll on sunny days;
schools where children learn and play;
and churches open to whoever wants to enter
fall to guns and bombs.

We cannot shoot our way through our outrage
and expect it to repair the damage.
Slamming our doors shut is not the answer.
Thoughts and prayers are not a cure.
The answer lies within our conscious will
to disarm evil.

How are you dealing with the tragedies afflicting our country right now?

Reflect on these events and how they affect your day to day life.

What do you think the answers might be for stopping the violence?

Earth Day was on April 22, and there were many activities and celebrations designed to make us think about how we are treating the earth. Maybe this year on May 8, Mother’s Day, we can continue the conversations and actions to save Mother Earth. Climate change is real, and pollution is an issue we can’t put off any longer. Fires are raging in the droughts of the southwest and west. Blizzards keep popping up even at this time of year in the north. There are more tornados than there have ever been, and heavy rains and flooding are ravaging many parts of our country.

The whole country feels unsettled and wondering what will happen next. But still we carry on as usual, hoping it will all go away. Well, it’s not going to, not on its own without major changes on all our parts. We must find a way to save our planet and ourselves in the process. Some people don’t think climate change has anything to do with our human activities, even though the science shows differently. I wonder what it will take for people to realize the truth and take action to slow the progress of the destruction of the world.

What can we do? We can drive less, combine our daily errands into a single trip out; recycle everything that is recyclable; support the use of readily available energy sources, like wind and solar; conserve the natural resources we have, especially water. Contact your representatives in Congress asking them to support the current agenda for slowing climate change. We must do even the small things that can become larger things if more people are participating.

This poem came to me after I saw a picture of a polar bear starving on an ice floe.

Polar Bare

The Polar Bear’s full white coat is shaggy now,
and hangs loose on his shriveling body.
He paces on the thin strip of ice
that has broken loose from the main
and is floating free.
He has nothing to eat and nowhere to go.
He will die soon,
as will many others.
I can’t look at the picture any longer,
but it is too late;
the image is imprinted on my brain,
and I carry it with me.

Write about your feelings on climate change and how you think you can help change the course of our current lives to slow its damage.

What do you do now that positively affects the damage being done to our planet?

And, not to forget mothers, write about your mother and how she has impacted your life. (This could be about Mother Earth, too!)

We’ve already had the first day of Spring in March, but now it’s really beginning to show. Although, the sunshine and warmth have been welcome, here in Southwest Missouri those days have been interspersed with some cold, rainy, gloomy days. Up and down the temperatures free flow, and we never know what to expect when we get up in the morning. One thing the rain has done is green up my grass, planted in the fall, and now bursting forth brilliantly. I have high hopes of having a nice lawn this year.

But there’s a dark cloud hovering over this Spring, an invasion by Russia into the land of its neighbor, Ukraine. Russia is bombing and sending missiles into Ukraine without rest, and millions of people, mostly women and children, have fled to neighboring countries, particularly Poland, which have taken them in without question. Others are trapped, unable to leave because of the attacks all around them. Many are being killed, including children. It’s a terrible situation that doesn’t look to end soon.

It follows me in the news, and I don’t want to get away from it, actually. I need to know, want to know, how the brave people of Ukraine are faring, how they are giving up their lives to protect their country. And I want to hear the stories of how people are helping the Ukrainians in so many ways. It’s inspiring and tragic at the same time. This poem came to me as I watched and thought about the terrible war going on in that ravaged country.

Ukrainian Resistance

They flee,
women taking their children to safety,
terrified,
bombs following them
to the edge of their world.
They have lost everything,
except themselves.

They have to hold on
for the sake of those left behind
fighting with their lives and hearts
to save their country,
now being devastated
by an unprovoked war.

As I welcome spring into my world,
it is with a perpetual cloud over it.
I can’t help but be a little afraid
of what we are becoming,
what is happening to all of us.

We must, somehow, hold on to hope
and reach out to those who need us
in whatever ways we can,
their bravery our inspiration,
their hearts, ours.

Write what’s in your heart about our world, whether positive or negative. Let the words spill onto the page without forethought or judgment. After you’ve come to the end of your write, reread it and reflect on what you’ve written either in writing or in your thoughts.

March is upon us, the month that ends the first quarter of the year. What are we going to do with this month? What will it bring? Two things: spring and daylight savings time. But what kind of attitude will it bring? Or perspective? Will there be a shift inside us that may take us down a different path?

I am following Julia Cameron’s 12-week creativity program. We read her book, The Artist’s Way, write three pages in our journals every morning, do the tasks at the end of each chapter, and take a break in each week for an Artist’s Date, where we go somewhere or do something that gives us pleasure and breaks us out of our routines for a short time. I’ve done pretty well, so far, although I haven’t had a burst of creativity yet. I have written a couple of new poems during this time, though, so maybe creativity is creeping up on me without my recognizing it!

It’s a thought-provoking program, and the tasks can be difficult, but we’re trying to re-awaken what is already inside us, so it’s worth the work, I think. I’m doing it with a small group, and we meet weekly to check in and encourage each other, but it can be done alone, too. Julia gives plenty of encouragement and guidance in the pages of the book.

My sister and I are engaging in an artistic challenge with a new theme every quarter, too. She is an artist, so her challenge will be artwork. Mine is writing. Our theme for the first quarter of 2022 is “Begin Again; Something New!” On a light note, I wrote the following poem:

Something New

What will it be?
Jeans?
Hair style?
A trip to somewhere I haven’t been?
A new attitude?
Being alone most of the time
makes me wonder what I can do
to spice up my life.
And do I want that?
Really?
Maybe a new perspective.
On what?
My life?
Where this country is headed?
Covid-19?
I am restless,
but also comfortable where I am.
Can I be both at the same time?
Something new.
I wonder what it could be
that will capture my attention,
get me moving in another direction.
What might that direction be?
Up?
Not down.
To the right?
Oh no, not that!
What do I want that I don’t already have?
I don’t want to be content.
I want to balance on the edge. . .
without falling.
And I want to risk it anyway,
feel the adrenaline
coursing through my veins,
take a chance.
Yes, obviously this pandemic
has persisted too long! ☺

© 2022 Dorothy A Joslyn

1. What is something new you can pursue this year? Write about what you can do to accomplish it.

2. What are you willing to risk to get out of the doldrums? Give up? Add in?

3. Has the pandemic given you any new perspectives, goals, or plans? Write about them.

4. If only the sky was the limit, what would you do?

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day, the day of love, is celebrated on February 14, but did you know that it’s also National Donor Day (or National Organ Donor Day)?

The observance focuses on five different types of donations: Organs – Tissues – Marrow – Platelets – Blood. Many nonprofit health organizations sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups across the nation. Approximately every two seconds, there is someone in the U.S. who needs blood, which translates to the need for over 41,000 daily donations, and more than 120,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ donations.

Each type of donation saves lives. While we may be able to donate blood, platelets, tissue, marrow, and some organs at any time, most organs are donated upon death. A single donor can save up to 8 lives and help more than 75 people. A cousin of mine lost her son in a tragic accident many years ago, and she donated some of his organs to two different people. She has kept in touch with those two men throughout the years and finds her relationships with them to be very rewarding.

Some blood donors have been making donations as young as the age of 17. Donors can donate a pint of blood every 53 days. One pint of blood can save up to three people. If you’ve never thought about donation, you’re one of the 17 percent of non-donors. However, only 37 percent of the population of the United States is eligible to donate blood, so every donation is important.

What better way can you celebrate love for others than to become a donor!

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalDonorDay

If you’ve received the gift of an organ, tissue, marrow, platelets, or blood, share your story.

If you have donated blood write about why you do it and how it makes you feel. If you’re on an organ donor list, write about your process of deciding to donate.

Look into becoming a donor. Visit donatelifenw.org and organdonor.gov for more information on organ donation.

And for Valentine’s Day, write about love of any type: spouse, child(ren), pets, friends, family, favorite activities, or whatever you feel loving toward on this day!

So, what’s new? Isn’t there supposed to be a new beginning at this time of year? The key phrase is “supposed to be.” I try to not suppose anything, because it often just brings grief. We can hope for something new to begin this year, to flush out the old and then work toward the new. Or maybe you’re okay with the status quo. Nothing wrong with that – if you’re happy and satisfied with your life. I’m basically satisfied with my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for something even better. I just don’t know what that is right now.

Well, I avoided the mention of Covid in the first paragraph, but it really can’t be eliminated from the conversation entirely. It’s still with us, and we all hope it will die out, or at least die down, in the coming year. We can all do our part to make that hope a reality: get vaccinated, wear masks, stay away from crowds, enjoy life at home.

That last suggestion, enjoy life at home, is one I’d like to explore. I love my home and being in it. It’s where I feel the safest, the most comfortable, the happiest. It’s where I rejuvenate. As an introvert, it’s a necessity for me to spend time alone at home. Then I can go out in the world and enjoy interacting with others sometimes.

But others may feel trapped, or bored, or just lonely if they stay at home much. That’s a difficult situation to remedy, but maybe there are ways to enjoy being at home more. First, think about what you do for fun. Is there a way to adapt it to home life? If it’s being with people, maybe you can invite one or two friends to your home for an afternoon of tea and conversation. If it’s shopping, can online shopping work for you? You can still go out for walks, get fresh air, enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. If you have hobbies, break them out now and give them some attention. Play music, watch movies, clean out a closet. Oh, oh, I’m getting into dangerous territory now! But, yes, there are almost always tasks that get shut inside that closet, and maybe now is the time to find out what’s there and spend some time working on it. It will kill time and have the benefit of satisfying that nagging voice that’s been bugging you for a long time to get it done.

No matter what we do, our lives have changed, and there’s probably no going back. So, there’s only moving forward, finding a new way of living and being in what has become a new world. What we can do to begin this new year is: accept, adjust, adapt, but also be a force for changes that need to occur. Create in yourself an interest in exploring newness and difference. It will make you happier, I’m sure of it!

Writing Prompts:

How have the world changes affected you? Give it some serious thought, and write about it.

What is your “new normal,” if you have one. Write about the pros and cons and how you’re adapting – or not.

Make a list of things that you can do at home. Be sure some of them are just for fun. Then do them.