A calligraphic week– this week I share words with you that are not my own, but that passed through my hand on to muslin in my new studio space. The first is a gift for a young college graduate. It comes from a wonderful book I just finished, called The Art of Writing. This collection of reflections and advice from ancient Chinese masters is proof that writing was no easier for them than it is for us! This quotation is by Song Zijing, from the section entitled: Poets’ Jade Splinters. I loved it and thought it of use to anyone recently unboxed from school:

Jade splinters

 Distinctive Style, (8″x 12″) Photo & Calligraphy © Irene O’Garden, 2013

The second piece was commissioned by an old friend celebrating his 25th year in the priesthood. It was written by Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe. Whatever your idea of Source, Spirit, Higher Power or Self, it’s a rich and intriguing idea:

Fall in love

  Fall in Love, (23″ x 27 1/2″) Photo & Calligraphy © Irene O’Garden, 2013

Like a “Persian” rug, the piece bears a flaw: a muslin bump, invisible until I lettered over it at the very end. Like the rug weavers who believe perfection belongs only to Allah,  I left it.

Does either quote prompt words of your own?

tending again

Joytender, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013

Note: Thanks one and all for letting me hang up my “Gone Reading” sign last week! Once you get your copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s magnificent “The Signature Of All Things”  (October 1) I think you’ll want to do same. It’s a luscious, luscious book — a vivid and passionate world of remarkable characters. I found it immensely satisfying. I’ll later be posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.


To listen to this post, please click here: Tending Pleasures

I keep close track of the fruits of age. The joy of tending is one of the juiciest.  Some come early to this appreciation (parents especially)  but as a rhapsodist of creativity I came late. For years it escaped my notice that tending is actually the foundation of creation.

The early will-based verbs of youth–exploring, creating, acquiring, establishing—can harden into nouns in middle age: expansion, mastery, collection, accumulation. In age, these pale next to the nearly parasympathetic verbs of tending and releasing.

In age, we learn to tend what we have and who we are, and to release that which we cannot tend wholeheartedly.

We recognize the old shapeshifter Need will rise again and again, but that her shapeshifting sister Tend is always at the ready: to oil the thirsty wood, to weed the bed, to soak the ragged cuticles.  To read to the child, to help with the move, to work the phones, to clear the rubble.

Need and Tend, Need and Tend, great systole and diastole of our human heart, unified playing field of life in all her forms, colossal pump of love.

To learn to love in every circumstance is maybe why we came. To learn that love itself needs tending and tending is love itself.





I had this week’s post inwardly bubbling and then this marvelous gift arrived:

The signature


An advance copy of The Signature of All Things, the new novel by my dear friend Elizabeth Gilbert, to be published this fall.

Sure, I wanted to write my post, polish and craft it,  record it and upload it, but I started this wonderful book last night and all I want to do is to sit and read it.

No doubt you occasionally feel this way yourself–so I offer you an image you may feel free to print up and post wherever and whenever you like:

Gone reading


I’ll happily entertain any comments this week–like what books made you want to drop everything and read–but I can’t answer them until I’ve finished this book!


Rosemary and Lavender Rosemary and Lavender, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013

To listen to this post, please click here:Rosemary and Lavender

A poignant week. Aunt Rosemary, whom you met in my December post Peaceful Balance, passed away this week. She had the grace to do so on her 91st birthday, thereby not spoiling another day for those who love her.  On May 2nd, it’s her birth we’ll commemorate.

I had already planned to write about a related topic after recently visiting a friend we hadn’t seen since her husband’s memorial last year. We talked of her mother who died years ago. “Sometimes I smell her perfume,” Patty said. “When there’s no scent in the air.  I smell English Lavender so clearly, and I know it’s her.”

What if there are energies wanting to connect, to tell us they are near, and yet they cannot take us by the elbow, soothe our brow, place an arm around our shoulder? Without physicality, by means of consciousness, they pass a charge though our brain that we interpret as a scent. More evocative than the circuitry of sound or vision, scent carries gardens of experience.

What a powerful way to greet us, using senses without a physical object to stimulate them! So what really is a sense if we can sense what is “not there?” Perhaps the difference is in our definition of “there.” Perhaps all “there” is “here,” as all “them” is actually “us.”

Such gifts are found in the open doorway between our inner senses and our outer ones.

I deeply inhale the crisp refreshing scent of Rosemary, for remembrance, knowing it bears special meaning from now on.


Have you had such an experience?


Please note: I am having a special Mother’s Day giveaway of Women on Fire to celebrate Glad To Be Human, and the special 40% discount that is good through May 12. One cannot give away an eBook on Goodreads, but you can win a signed copy of Women On Fire. Enter now!


Rogue Thoughts

Rogue Thoughts, photo © Irene O’Garden, 2013,  Poem ©Robin O’Brien, 2013

To listen to this post, please click here:Rogue Thoughts

Four days in Washington, DC and three of teaching poetry plumped my week beyond normal.  Though the busying tried to elbow out my Wednesday post,  I have some wise words to share  from Portland’s Robin O’Brien. For years she has ardently supported creativity in others. Now she’s making time for her own work. When we spoke last week, Boston achingly echoing in both of us, she read the following piece to me.



I wish I could reel in these rogue thoughts–

Sit them down at the table,

and teach them some manners.

They don’t belong here gathering angry steam

to vent at someone or other.

Come back here

I want to say.

Let’s find a way to know each other

Serve each other

Be catalysts for positive change

Not some random act of violence-

A desperate message from a nether world

Begging “pay attention”.


We are what we attend to.

Let’s love our children

Be kind

Accept differences,

And don’t let that rogue thought

Out of the room of self

Before transforming it,

Enlightening it,

Asking it why it is here

In the first place.



I’m proud to call her my sister. You can reach her by leaving a comment below.

Publication News: Mother’s Day Special! Glad To Be Human is 40% off till May 12 when you use this link. You can easily give it as a gift from the Untreed Reads site!

I will also shortly be doing a special Mother’s Day giveaway of Women On Fire on Goodreads!

I’ll be at The Children’s Museum of the East End Friday night May 3rd and Saturday May 4th reading “Forest What Would You Like?” North Country Books in Vermont just gave us a lovely print review (which alas I cannot upload at the moment.)


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