Fabric of Change: A Writer Wednesday Post

August 29th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (12 Comments)


Rug Shop Truth, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden, 2012


Identity redux, this week–

To listen to this post please click here:Fabric of Change

Bittersweetly turning season. Fall promise crisp as a bosom of starched cotton; melancholy on the shoulder like a swathe of tulle.

Children we first knew as eye-gleams in the faces of our friends, are now off to college in dorm-crammed cars.  Other friends mend, ornament or discard their careers. Still others delicately extricate themselves from artful cozy nests they’ve woven over decades, carrying bright bits to smaller dwellings, leaving fluff and twigs behind.

“The hardest part of moving is getting over the idea of it,” says one friend. “So much of my identity has been wrapped up here.” Soon, I’ll shrug off an old kimono of identity myself.

Old wisdom surfaces with the ache and urge of incoming autumn: identify with exteriors–a job, a sports team, a house, even a relationship– and with every change, identity’s as slippery as taffeta.

But shifting seasons whisper true identity is changeless, interior, flesh to the fabric of change, not tailored but felt: the steady, ever-present watcher of change, whose costumes come and go and are to be experienced and appreciated and mourned and celebrated, but never confused with Self itself.  The more we sense our deep identity, the more smoothly change folds into the wardrobe of experience.


How are things changing for you this season?

Written in Stone: A Writer Wednesday Post

August 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (8 Comments)

Lava Spiral, photo & all text
ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2012

We enjoyed the Shaw Festival, but here is my promised Hawaii post. To listen, please click Written in Stone 

Broken crocodiles. Lizard tails. Altogether reptilian. Antediluvian. Elephant skin. Spiral. Wrinkle. Shatter. Blackened tortoiseshell. In the varying terrain of this wide petrified flow in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park, I like what lava has written.

Blasting sun above, rippled umber underfoot. Ninety degrees. On our way to Pu’u Loa, a petroglyph site, my husband and I hike baked lava trail, sanded by eight hundred short years of footfalls.

Eagerly we go.

Writing always has her challenges. For twenty-first century writers,  challenges are mostly internal: psychological or time-based. Our ancestors create both surfaces and implements before they even start to record experience.

We pick up a notebook, open a glowing screen. They slay animals, cure skins; pulp plants, layer and dry their tissues. We buy a marker, a ballpoint.  They hunt and excavate pigments; gather and soak oak galls for ink; find flight feathers, cut quills. We speak a memo to a phone. They journey with smelly torches deep into caves; hike barefoot, waterless, over adamant lava fields to a place sanctified by intention.

We crumple in our tracks. We doubt the worth of our experience. We thirst for faith in personal impulse. We shame ourselves with distraction, forget what can be sanctified.

Forty thirsty minutes later my husband and I arrive at “The Hill of Long Life, ” a rise in the landscape, towheaded with tufty dried grass.  A boardwalk rings an area. Fifteen thousand petroglyphs are carved below our feet. I like what the people have written.

Hill Of Long Life, ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2012

Spirals. Dots. Targets. Lots more dots. Compelling human forms. It’s said that sailing and animal adventures are told here.  But so many plum-sized dots!

An information board tells us parents traveled here in hopes of ensuring long lives for their children.  Each “dot” was carved to cup an umbilical cord which was then covered with a rock.  This hill shimmers with wishes.

Those who flourished returned to carve their stories, and their wishes. I love this old human impulse to inscribe, to write, to leave a mark. Whatever the challenges. I like what hope has written.

Wave Wake, photo and all text
ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2012


To listen to this post, please click here:Summery Remembrance

While we are in Niagra-On-the-Lake for our annual journey to the Shaw Festival, I offer you a summery remembrance: fishing with my Dad. This poem was first printed published in Compass Rose, a wonderful journal now online.

I’ll post again next week.



easy it enters

steady now
rocking from the dock
to the ribby chipped unbailed bottom
of the don’t forget the tacklebox
the coppertone the pipe tobacco
two pairs of shoes full of feet
a steady canvas gummybottom pair
two twirling bumptoed keds

bronze-red upturned outboard
sleek as a Zippo
as his Remington shaver
paddle dip paddle dip
tipping the propellor in
the gasoline rainbow spreading on the
surface of the pull and the pull
like a lawnmower cord
and the mixmaster buzz
and the gurglechurned duckweed
shoreline treeline timeline
shrinking in the sightline

shadowbottom clouds
the tremendous clouds in the breezeblue sky
and the snap of the sun on the wake
on the waves we make
as we fly through the watery way
to a shadowy bay
“looks promising today”

holler over the outboard motor
noisy as another set of siblings
persistent permanent clamoring yammery
finally stops
and the anchor drops


easy it enters

water softly
tapping reeds

tackle’s metal melody
plunge in the bucket
slithery wriggly minnows as
lively as fingers
hook him under the dorsal fin
so he can swim

the keds curl
the pierce of the hook in the heart

clickety whizz of the casting reel
ploop of the bobber
red and white
and red and white reflected
great wide glassy lake of nothing to be done

circling settling silt
round our shadows
on the water

skeetling skeetling
redyellow flash blackwing

scratch of a match
crackle of tobacco
draw through the stem
the flute blue sigh

wind through pines dragonfly

easy it enters

shadow twist light
love twist loss




Actions Speak Louder, lettering, photo
and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2012.


To listen to this post, please click here:TAPDANCE

While I hate to start with my punch line, it is this week’s photo…

This above-lettered phrase became the subject of this week’s post when I heard my husband laugh. The scrap of paper I’d scribbled it on had fallen from my pocket and he picked it up. It’s the locomotive and the caboose of a train of thought that runs this way:

It feels like an outright miracle that when we have questions nowadays, we have access to a beautiful instant mass of answers. I’m not even talking fumbling in fusty cubicles with microfilm and microfiche. Questions that might have occasioned a phonecall some years ago now only warrant not even a push of a button, but a simple tap for an answer.

Not a tap like one hammered into a maple tree, and the subsequent patient weeks as the pail fills.  Not a tap born of years of sweaty practice that result in a crackling-clickety-rhythmic Ruby Keeler number. Not even the effort it takes to pull a mug of draft beer. Answers appear with the softest of taps: fingertip on screen.

Everything’s on tap now—music, movies, books, pictures, communication, friends themselves, it seems. Hot and cold running information, entertainment, communication available round the clock at our slightest whim. The genie seeps out with less effort than it takes to rub a lamp.

It means many answers no longer have to be violently wrested from life. But this also means that I might not call my piecrust friend for advice on finessing a bushel of peaches. Why “bother” her when I can get the answer online without disturbing her day?

Of course the genie won’t fill you in on the first tooth or the polished manuscript or the quirky cousin.  The genie can’t pick up your child,  mix you a mojito when you’re tapped out, or make you ache with uproarious laughter. The genie won’t ask you for any favors, but it can’t do you any, either. And it can’t volunteer your time, either.

With all due respect to the genie, many of life’s most meaningful answers arrive only in physical action and interaction. I’ll have more to say about online-life. For now, as we tap, tap, tap, let’s remember to tap the many delights of three-dimensional friendship. Take an action. Call a friend. Volunteer. Remember, even websites themselves exist because people take action.


Have you tapped or been tapped lately?

INCIDENTALLY: You can now read my very short story Off The Grid at Green Hills Literary Lantern. It’s a Women-on-Fire-like monologue taking place in Alaska.

Back To The Petal, photo and all text c Irene O’Garden 2012

If you’d like to listen to this post, note that alas, due to file size limits, you’ll have to click again at the end to hear the poem. For the post itself, please click here:A Little Lettering

Poetry has been requesting my attention quite a bit lately. Above you see a fragment of a child’s poem, one of ten I hand-lettered on muslin for an upcoming event this Sunday at Constitution Marsh. If you look near the upper right corner of this page, you’ll find the link to my Calendar page, which goes into more detail about The Hudson Highlands Land Trust River of Words Poetry Trail (as well as the other upcoming poetic events which have buttonholed me.)

A moment of digression before the pith of my post: For the last few years, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust  has sponsored a regional River of Words program. River of Words is an national environmental literacy organization which seeks to connect children with their watersheds via poetry and art, and I am part of a great Land Trust team which offers free workshops in our local schools.

I was asked to choose ten poems from the hundreds generated in our programs and to help find a way to display them throughout  the exquisite landscape of the Marsh. I decided to letter them simply on large pieces of unbleached muslin, which will then be driftwood-weighted, twined and hung along the trail by my teammates.

I’ve had a sense of Christmas all week, knowing that the children who come on Sunday have a happy surprise in store. Seeing their poems floating in the trees and thrusting out of the ground will help them treasure their poetry and their landscape, and remind parents why both are so important.

It’s been a while since I have practiced calligraphy, and I’ve savored it this week. It’s been fun to be so close to fresh poetic imagination, and satisfying to letter the poems I midwived in the classroom. But the best part was this dawning realization: one of the fruits of age is the progressive retirement of the inner critic. In the heavenly silence that ensues, we can go back to enjoying the process, as children do constantly. I relished exploring the letters themselves. As designer Eric Gill said, letters are things, not pictures of things. Making them felt like putting forth little round berries and pointy leaves of my own.

My poem, Nonfiction, describes my earliest pleasure with letters. (This is the poem which recently won a 2012 Willow Review Award.) If you would like the written text of the poem, please contact Willow Review for a copy of the issue in which it appears.  If you would like to hear me read it now, please click here: Nonfiction


Is there a process you particularly enjoy?



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