SerenityGlimpse of Serenity, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014 

To listen to this post, please click hereGlimpse of Serenity

I found this carving of serenity among my brother’s things. It seemed he’d left her just for me. The watery heart below her was a gift from my friend Jean this week. She wrapped it in the festive paper floating like a dream above. They are gathered for you in the morning sun, a glimpse of peace and healing thawing our ferocious winter.

Have you found a piece of peace lately?

John Christmas

Christmas John, photo © Robin O’Brien, 2013, all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen, please click here:Sartre Was Wrong

The wedding was to begin in 30 minutes. I had just changed my clothes and was headed out the door to meet my husband so we could stroll together to his sister’s ceremony. OhI might want to take pictures of the happy couple. I turned back for my phone. Onscreen was a voicemail alert. “Call me when you get this.” The anguish in my sister’s voice froze my veins. I dialed her immediately.

That is when and how I found out that my older brother John had died unexpectedly at 65. Peacefully, in bed, on Valentine’s Day, and, according to my brother-in-law who found him, with a look of wonder on his face.

Genius, classical guitarist, peace activist, tournament bridge player, loner: just a few of the many truths about my brother. Ironically, I had just resumed work on a long piece of mine called Family Landscape, where eventually you can find more about him and other forces in my family.

What I want to share here, however, is that because he was single, the thousand dark decisions that must be made so rapidly fell to us siblings, the lion’s share to my sister who was closest to him emotionally and geographically.  The words “yeoman service” were spoken more than once, to more than one yeoman. It was deeply heartening to see siblings, nephews, in-laws, neighbors, landlord and luthier alike create a lovely, healing, fitting celebration of his life. Indeed, it was a reflection of an observation we found among my brother’s recently discovered writings: “Sartre was wrong. Heaven is other people.” He was less a loner than we thought.

Savory Valentine: A Writer Wednesday Post

February 12th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (3 Comments)

Shadow ValentineSavory Valentine, photo and all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Savory Valentine

Like a book-pressed flower, this image was cast on my living room wall one recent afternoon. Not a lace-doily, high-pitched, sugar-spun Valentine, but reflecting to me love over time–how it caramelizes, deepens, enriched by the salts of frustration and effort into a savory mystery where even shadow itself is a delicacy.

We are heading to a wedding in the South today, where these beautiful time-grown qualities will be much in evidence. This pair of lovers has discovered that even where light is obstructed, there’s grace. Here’s to Ann and José, and to you, to lovers, to memories of love, and memories in the making. Let us savor them. And one another. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

Door Of Light: A Writer Wednesday Post

February 5th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (7 Comments)

Door of LightDoor Of Light, photo and all text ©Irene O’Garden 2014

A day to be quiet here in the Northeast–a vast, puffy, nearly knee-deep comforter of snow muffling sound, movement, cumbering plans to a halt. Too quiet even to muscle my way to the cabin to record these few words. For today it is the picture that matters. This mysterious door of light recently appeared in my studio and I wanted to invite you through it. It’s always a joy when three dimensions delightfully remind us there are more.

 

St PeteSt Pete, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden

To listen to this post, please click here: Goodnight, Dear Pete

This week I planned to post about my experience with jury duty, but during our court-appointed lunch break yesterday, I saw the news. Pete’s gone? That’s like hearing the Big Dipper won’t be coming over the mountains any more.

Tributes to Pete Seeger are pouring forth all over the country now. Those of us who live in the Hudson Valley feel a special pang at his passing. Seemed like we were always catching sight of old Pete–at potlucks, jams or rallies, or just slinging his banjo case through Grand Central. He’d use his beloved voice and music and presence to help wherever he could: to unite communities, move people to action or simply share joy.

The year I swam the Hudson from Newburgh to Beacon, the first thing to greet my blurry eyes as I rose from the river was old Pete himself, by himself, picking up litter from the river’s edge. Helping wherever, however he could.

We were privileged to hear him locally last fall at the new Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon. He was giving their new venue a boost, warming the stage with Work o’ the Weavers, a tribute band, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Weavers’ first public performance. It was a grand night indeed, though I was frustrated trying to take a good picture of Pete. There was so much light pouring from that stage, I finally gave up.

But next morning, magically, in the shot above I saw the old image of a bodhisattva, a painting of an old saint with his symbol of deliverance. An icon, in more ways than one. I had to smile at the accidental truth of it.

Pete Seeger will always hold a special place in my heart for another reason, too. In the early 50’s a small boy received a 45 rpm record. To the consternation of his family, he played one side over and over and over again. You may have guessed that the song was “Goodnight, Irene,” and the boy grew up to be my husband.

Goodnight, Dear Pete, Goodnight Dear Pete, we’ll hear you in our dreams…

Consider the Dawn: A Writer Wednesday Post

January 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (8 Comments)

UntitledComes the Dawn, Photo and all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

In retreat mode my words are going elsewhere now, but my eyes remember you, dear Reader. On my way to an early yoga class this grace appeared. Retreat offers time to consider the dawn–the glorious humility of daybreak.

It made me reflect on the common phrase “Ushering in a new dawn.” Do dawns need to be ushered? Aren’t all dawns by their very nature new anyway? It’s never the same old dawn, after all. Yet dawn itself is very old indeed–perhaps our oldest earthly truth.

Whatever the answers, I do want to say that your ongoing attentiveness has helped occasion a new dawn for me as thinker, writer and creator. It is my joy to share light with you; know you do the same for me.

Straw into Gold: A Writer Wednesday Post

January 15th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (11 Comments)

Paper Tree by OrionPaper Trees, art and photo by Orion Langdon, © 2014

As I was considering whether or not to post from my retreat, this mesmerizing photograph arrived. It is a detail from an art installation created by artist Orion Langdon, who is also a gifted writer and musician. If he were your nephew, you’d post this, too.

Once I expressed my admiration, I asked him about the construction. “What did you use? Did you have to glue a lot?”

” No glue at all, actually,” he replied. “I cut my trees out of discarded books. Then I used a single piece of thread for each one and suspended them from a net, so there were even distribution options.”

Below, his installation:

Orion's Leaves in SituPaper Trees installation, art and photo © Orion Langdon, 2014

 

Simple, artful, elegant. Cost-free.

A pile of old books, a spool of thread, a net.  These are articles from fairy tales–to make beauty from them seems an impossible witch’s command. But with faith in the magical powers of creativity, Langdon has spun this straw to gold.

When we so sensitively re-envision and reclaim that which is discarded, it more than good for the Earth. It is good for the soul.

 

Did you look at anything with new eyes today?

FelicityFelicity, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

I offer you a quiet wish from my retreat: felicity.  One illustration of same is the image above, composed of two recent birthday gifts.

My dear friend Tracy brought me the hand-carved owl from Pipestone, Minnesota, site of an ancient quarry, sacred to Native Americans. The special red stone there has been used to create ceremonial pipes since prehistoric times. My father (a pipe-smoker himself) loved visiting this area.

The two knitted, felted bowls were made by my gifted sister Robin. You can feel her warm embrace as you hold them, soft as owl-down.

Two gifts, perfect for each other. Both relate to my family, about whom I now write.  Happy concord: the very portrait of a writer on retreat, seeking her wisdom, finding her nest. Felicity.

 

 

Publication News: Goodbye Fat Girl is a featured New Year’s title at the Untreed Reads Store. You can buy it here for 30% off – $2.79.

 

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 (fig 1)

Please note: I begin my three week annual writer’s retreat on Sunday. Like last year, my Wednesday posts may be intermittent, microscopic or even non-existent as I replenish the wellspring.

I am delighted to offer a guest post this week from dear friend and remarkable spirit Ann Strohmeier–teacher, writer and grandmother of Theo.  At a recent dinner, Ann shared the fetching picture above. I instantly saw The New Year’s Baby (even sans top hat) and promptly invited my funny wise pal to say a few words on this august and joyful occasion, New Year’s Day, 2014. Over to you, Ann…

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AT AGE 66

by Ann Strohmeier

I’ve reached an age at which I think may be done with resolving every New Year’s to do away with “bad” habits and cultivate “good” ones.  Happily, and just in time, I found a source of inspiration for a different kind of resolution–an adjustment in attitude!  The “presence” that follow are from the newest member of our family.  (The teacher always appears when the student is ready.)

1. Get excited, get involved! (See fig 1, above)

2. As Auntie Mame famously remarked “Life is a banquet and some poor suckers are  starving!”

Enjoy your food and do what you can to help others get their share.

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 (fig 2)

3. Things may not always work out the way you would like at first.

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 (fig 3, with Ann herself)

 

 

 4. But have faith that eventually they will!

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5. Silly is fun!

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(fig 5)

6. Sometimes you may have to be a tough guy.

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(fig 6)

7. Consult the wisdom of the ages.

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(fig 7)

8. Find work that energizes and excites you.

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(fig 8)

9. Love your fellow creatures.

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(fig 9)

10.Welcome what comes and embrace the experience.

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Happy New Year, everyone!

St NickHe Is Us, photo and all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2013

Just a couple of holiday smiles and happy publication news this week. Above is a Santa paper sculpture I made years ago. Though he looks as if he’s gigantically filling an armchair,  he actually finds his foot-high self on a doorknob every Christmas. What you can’t see is my little pencilled inscription. It became our Christmas card a while back, which sentiment I now share with my newer friends:

“I have met Santa, and he is us.”

On Friday, I received a recording request this week, and while unplanned,  I thought it an appropriate gift for you. Note our stockings hung with care as you listen to this classic: A Visit From St. Nicholas.

Writer Wednesday or not, no one needs email on Christmas, so I won’t be posting next week.

 

In Hopes In Hopes, photo ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2013

 

Happy Publication News:  Goodbye Fat Girl is now live! You can download and/or gift this e-version of my book Fat Girl in Kindle form here at Amazon. Both Kindle and PDF formats are available here at OmniLit.com. A dedicated iBooks version for iPad and iPhone will be released in January. Don’t forget to enter the signed first edition giveaway through the widget above.

Also, some of you know about my play Little Heart, based on the life of Corita Kent. I am happy to share that “Someday Is Now:The Art of Corita Kent,”a new book detailing her work was just named one of the NY Times ten best visual books of 2013. Interviews I conducted for the play are cited in the book and I am proud to be credited in this handsome volume.

 

 

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