While I’d planned to offer you a touchy-feely-back-in-the-saddle-after-my-retreat-post, I got a surprise a week ago.

My regular readers know I conduct poetry workshops for local schoolchildren through the regional River Of Words program sponsored by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. While I was away, I received an email from them asking when to announce my new children’s book, Forest, What Would You Like? (The book grew out of my work with them.) I understood the pub date was March 1st, but thought I’d doublecheck  online. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was already available!


I have a call in to my editor to see whether the still-listed pub date of March 1 means that is the date you can find it in your local bookstore (yay!) but if you can’t wait, here are some links:



Powell’s Books  Barnes and Noble  Amazon


My author copies arrived yesterday, and I am happy to say that I am deeply pleased with the book, especially with the delightful and evocative illustrations by  Pat Schories. She is  a wonderful and widely celebrated illustrator and author herself (you may know her bestselling delightful “Biscuit” series.) She’s also an enormously talented botanical artist. She did a superb job of capturing the flora, fauna, childra (!) and spirit of the book. And she’s a charming personal friend!


An additional gift this week was a lovely notice from Kirkus Reviews. I would link you to it, but you must subscribe, so, to save you a step, here’s:FOREST, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE Kirkus 2.1.13  (This link displays the review without your having to subscribe.)

Please note:  the lovely roses surrounding this book may not accompany your personal version of the book. They are from my beloved husband, John.

How can one be back in the saddle and at the same time in harness again? It’s where I find my post-retreat self. If I can further clarify this for you next week, I shall. For now, it’s a pleasure to know you are there, still reading.









Wintermist, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013


Here at my retreat last week, I took a walk in nearby snowy fields (note footprints above) and called my older sister. She’s in a friendly phase of Alzheimer’s, and I knew I could give her a definite moment of glee describing the snow. She’s overjoyed she never has to deal with it again in San Jose, and relishes every opportunity to say so.

After our conversation, while putting away my phone I felt a long thread inside my jacket pocket. I snapped it off and was about to throw it on the ground to let it biodegrade, when the thought arose that perhaps a bird would find it useful for its nest come spring. This field was ringed with tall spent weeds. I chose one close to hand and dangled from its frizzy head the long blue thread.

May not survive the winter blasts, I thought. But if so, it might prove useful to a fellow creator.

I went on my way a bit longer, then turned around. Dreamy winter mists were rising from the snow. A good day for a picture. I reach for my camera, scanning the scene with photo eyes.

There appears to be a white bowl floating deep in the brush. Too far into tangles and thorns to get a good shot, but it looks to be—yes—a nest! Cupping a single fat egg of snow. Nice hello from the universe, nice thank you from the birds. Delightful to feel such awareness at work. I’ll try to capture a picture.

Stepping back to frame it, I glimpse a wisp of teal. There at my hip, dangling from a weed head, the very blue thread I had hung for the nest builders! First, I couldn’t believe that I had even noticed the thread in the midst of all the weedery. (You’ll notice here that even the camera couldn’t be bothered to focus on such insignificance.)

Then I couldn’t believe I had instinctively, auspiciously placed it directly in line with the nest. I walked around to the other side, to look at my first approach, to see if I had seen the nest subconsciously, but it was entirely obscured by thick weeds, branches, tangles, and saplings. It was as if the nest appeared the moment I hung the thread. Or the thread flew to the weed the moment I noticed the nest.

Such pocket-sized mysteries are present whenever we’re present for them. A gift of inward retreat, when we let go accomplishment and just pay attention.

I have a few more days of my retreat left. This is to let you know that I deeply enjoy your comments, but I may be a while replying.



Still on writing retreat.  A henna artist was here recently. On a lark I decided to ask her to decorate my writing hand, so I would see it at pen and keyboard. Here it is, holding a helpful paperweight I brought along. Words may appear in my next post, or not. Till then:

Henna-Hand, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden 2013

A narrated retreat ceases to be a retreat, so I’ll forego that.  But yesterday my oil pastels looked like a box of candy, and I realized that’s what they are, Retreat Candy. Enjoyable indulgences it seems hard to make time for in ordinary life.  Thought you’d enjoy a few other examples:



Actual Retreat Candy


Many thanks to Cecilia DeWolf for a beautiful quote from Hafiz, which sent me rushing to the bookstore to find this luscious poet for the first time:

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.” Hafiz of Persia





Forest Mandala & all text ©Irene O’Garden 2013

Starting next week, I will be making my annual three-week writing retreat. I am not sure what shape, if any, my blog will take during these inward turning days, for I never know quite what I will be called upon to make. (This Forest Mandala comes from last year’s retreat.)  Meantime, here’s a reminder from my Muse to Yours. Make yourself  a wonderful New Year.




If it matters to you


It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make money.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t matter if  it doesn’t make headlines.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make friends.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make things easier.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what it is.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where it’s going.

But it does matter.


It doesn’t matter if it seems obvious.

It doesn’t matter if it seems silly.

It doesn’t matter how it seems.

You do not matter how you seem.

You matter how you are.


It doesn’t matter if it comes easily.

It doesn’t matter if you struggle with it.


It matters if you don’t make it.

It matters if you don’t make it matter.

It matters if it bothers you.

It matters if it makes you laugh.

It matters if it makes sense.

It matters if it bleeds.

It matters if it makes you cry.

It matters.


You matter.

You make it matter.

You make it.

You make.




1show current page