Together in the Woods


Remember when I said I am not alone on this journey?

It's true.

This past week I found new companions, Amanda and Julie (daughter and mom poets).

Me, Julie, Amanda

And I received comfort from someone I've known on-line. Oh, but wasn't it great to see, to put our hands together, Kathleen?

Kathleen n Me

Who knows where we'll keep traveling together after meeting at a conference, in the woods of California. Who knows...

Redwoods and Hands photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Going Bookless

All right. I did it. I went bookless for the week.

Cameron wanted me to do it. She said I would probably balk. She was right.

What was I supposed to do in lieu of reading? She suggested knitting (I used to do that; I find it tedious now), gardening, playing an instrument, and other things I can't remember. She promised I would find something important. I'm not sure about that. Though sometimes it takes a while to discover what has just happened in our soul unawares.

I did find two fire poems which I have been looking for a really long time (one still stashed away, waiting for the collaborative touch of Kelly Langner Sauer.) I found my guitar (again... I seem to lose track of it over and over, but I wanted something to put my voice to, so I found my guitar). I played piano, cleaned (a lot, a lot and can't believe how much I could still do if I were so inclined; if you are reading this, RM, know that I am terribly jealous of your clean, peaceful house :)

Mostly I found permission.

Reading is something I often feel compelled to do. It's even part of my job (I did read a little here and there on-line, but I curbed it as much as possible). It felt freeing to know I wasn't allowed to read, as much as it bugged me too (how many times did I reach for a book, then just sit down on my bed and do nothing, while I tried to re-envision who I am through what I do?)

I didn't much like going bookless. Yet I did find those things I may not have otherwise found. So I'm thinking I might do this again sometime.

Right after I read a few good books.

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Whimsy at My Feet

Candles at 56 Irving Place

Did I tell you about my purple toe nails?

I painted them dark pearly purple.

When I kick off my slippers at night, I swing my feet at the edge of the bed. And I look at my whimsical purple nails.

Cameron says that when we go through The Artist's Way, we'll see changes in ourselves. We might clean out our closets (hey, I did that already! How did she know?) Still, she forgot to tell me about the nail polish. I am SO not a nail polish kind of girl. But this seemed right. A private indulgence. An odd beauty, like keeping irises in the closet and not caring that no one can see them.

Is this why God made iridescent sea creatures that creep around the ocean floor, making the dark beautiful to no one in particular? If God were a girl like me, sitting at the edge of the bed, would God choose a lick of purple polish too?

Candles at 56 Irving Place photo by L.L. Barkat.

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5th Date

Inn at 56 Irving

I travel to New York City to attend IAM's Encounter conference.

foyer mirror

Where should I stay?

Any other time, I might choose a rectangular room, indoor-outdoor carpeted grey, with faux flowers on the desk (these rooms always have a desk, ask you to work while you are away).


But I decide that maybe I can find an Artist's Date in where I stay.

So instead of a hotel, I choose The Inn at 56 Irving Place.

When I walk in after dark and am greeted by a friendly host named Scott, when I smell the fresh flowers and see white orchids cascading in a peaceful bouquet, when I see the dark wood and high ceilings and antique furniture I know this was the right choice.


It is a place I can read poetry (and I do). It is a place where I can sleep deeper than I have in a while (and I do). It is a place that revives me. Leads me to write poetry...

56 Irving Place, Gramercy Park

for Sarah Haliwell and Neruda

I love your poems. I held them in a dark room, gardenia scented,
lit only by a candle bulb peering over an aged bed. The headboard
and the footboard were dark too, and carved. Sheets white and soft.
There were sirens outside, muted by plaster, old oak, a mirrored
wardrobe in the corner, tall and gently imposing. I took a picture
of me in slate blue nightwear that looked almost Japanese, loose
as the garb that strong men wear for taekwondo, but shirred like
a lily at the short sleeves. Before I took your words to bed,
before I dreamed.

crop blue

In the morning I sit by myself in the breakfast room. Vivaldi's Spring, or something like that, plays while I eat whole-wheat artisan bread, cheese, raspberries, blackberries. I use a whole pat of butter on my toast. Jasmine green tea warms my mouth, opens me with sweet fragrance.


And I feel oddly alone and whole at the same time. The way Sarah's poetry simultaneously retreats and surges...

how I long for a heartland
root-bound and simple
but then again oh

I do so love the deep

Inn at 56 Irving Place photos by L.L. Barkat. Excerpt from Sarah Haliwell's poem "watermark", used with permission.

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