On Siblings Poster

Dear Readers and Listeners–

Many of you have asked about my posts and have wondered what I’ve  been up to these days–

The answer is I am happy, healthy and engaged in creative activity, and thinking of you more often than you know.

One of my principal projects is my memoir-in-progress, Family Landscape. I was proud to be invited to participate in Writers Read, an exciting venture in Manhattan wherein writers read short theme-based pieces for a live audience (a kissing cousin to The Art Garden) The pieces are taped and then posted online.

The most recent theme was Siblings, and if you click on the link below, you will hear me read a first slice from Family Landscape.


You will also hear other remarkable writers and their brief essays on Siblings, by turns humorous, heart-wrenching and haunting.

Will I post again regularly? Too soon to tell–maybe synchopatedly.  Know that I do miss you, at my elbow, walking through the fields, through summer’s multiple intoxications, myriad as milkweed florets and their drunken pollinators who hum, chip and skitch above the distant whine of rubber meeting road. I miss you whispering which photograph to take, what is meaningful this week, what wants amplifying, magnifying.

A life of magnified meaning. Know I seek and find this,  whether you hear from me or not. And I hope you are doing the same.




More Reading aloud:

Tomorrow night I am glad to be reading new poetry as part of the marvelous annual Calling All Poets marathon in Beacon, NY. I’m on around 8pm. It would be great to see you!

MARATHON 2015 outlined-2






Pennsylvania SkyPennSky, unretouched photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Demitterre Diem

The other night I suffered a thigh cramp. A real howler–when muscles gang up on each other and each, in defense, grips all the harder.

Sucking deep breaths, can’t answer awakened, anxious husband. Bending, leaning, rotating. Coaxing, begging the leg, which snarls and defies like a mad dog.

Isn’t this over yet? Stop. Stop. And it won’t.

In spite of the eternity pain stages, it doesn’t last forever. Eventually our flailing finds alignment.  Try good leg. Foot ankle thigh take weight. Shift to ailing limb. Acceptance! It is relieved by the weight, glad of normalcy and, in its sheepish canine way, apologizes for its lapse of muscular sanity. 

I’d vigorously exercised these muscles earlier.  Shouldn’t they be tired and want to sleep? Yet, as body will, they’d been mirroring my frame of mind.

For I’d been pumping my muscle of accomplishment just as vigorously. So much to do, to see, to create: Christmas cards, gifts, errands, visits with friends and family, making house sitter arrangements, having contractor meetings–all clamored to be done. (We’re having substantial renovations in the next several weeks and are traveling while the workers sling their power tools.)

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) is the very motto of our age, and has inspired me plenty. But, our thighs remind, if we seize non-stop, we seize up.

So here’s my little corollary:



(Let Go The Day)


Returning to a daily taste of yoga helps me do same. As does looking at an retouched sky like the one above. After all, the vigorous and mighty sun does it every night.  With style.



***Please Note: After more than two and a half-years of weekly posts, I’m taking my first real hiatus. I anticipate being back in the Wednesday saddle in late January, but will rely completely on my intuition for the timing. Have marvelous holidays!***


Publication News: People who are wondering how to buy a copy of the gloriously photographed “Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands” (which contains my essay on the arts)  can click here. If you’re in the area, the book is also available at Boscobel’s Gift Store (Garrison), the Garrison Café (Garrison), Storm King Adventure Tours (Cornwall-on-Hudson), Hudson Highlands Nature Museum (Cornwall) Jones Farm (Cornwall) and at the Putnam History Museum (Cold Spring)



SpeedingLight, photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden, 2014

I get as speedy as anyone, but when I found this thought in an old notebook this week, it slowed me into a long morning of design.

Notwithstanding my recent post on retouching, I thought you might enjoy a little peek behind the curtain. Here’s the photograph on which it is based:


I snapped this picture of our malfunctioning water-treatment unit to email the technician.

We all have to deal with maintenance, chores, errands. But taking our time– with a scribbled thought, a homely image, or the dailiest of tasks– is what sweetens our time.

Have a sweet week.

Publication News: I’m happy to say that in honor of Thanksgiving, Untreed Reads, is offering 30% off the price of my Pushcart Prize-winning essay, Glad To Be Human when you buy it from their website. Some people make reading it aloud part of their festivities and it’s a welcome gift .

Chez CezChez Paul, iPad Art and all text ⓒIrene O’Garden

Alas, a cold prevents a decent recording of today’s post.


Another “postcard” from our trip:

One of the pleasures of travel is the unplanned stop.

We set sail from Gaudi’s Barcelona on a ten-day Mediterranean cruise. First port: Marseilles, where we boarded a tour bus to Aix-en-Provence for history, fragrance and Platonically-ideal strawberries.  Here, life itself waxes poetic.

But the grand surprise was when our tour guide said “It’s closed, but we’ll pass Paul Cézanne’s house. Shall we stop?”

Cézanne. After seeing an exhibit of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I found my face wet with tears. For me he conveys not just how things look, but how they are. A vigorous sense of love and companionship in physicality.  And of course, sheer beauty.

“Yes!” we all replied, and shortly thereafter found ourselves gazing down this allée.

I want to share what I felt that gleaming morning at the home of the master. Cézanne, however, resists words. The photo I snapped wouldn’t do. This sketch is my humble attempt.


Have you ever visited the home of one of your icons?



Poetry trail





If you are near Cornwall, New York this Saturday from 4-6, I’ll be opening up a new Poetry Trail at the beautiful Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. Please join us for the delight of children’s nature poetry, and the delight of children delighting in their poetry!




A Slant Of Light

Also, I’m proud to be part of “A Slant of Light,” a brand new anthology of Hudson Valley contemporary women writers. There are readings throughout the Hudson Valley and I am glad to be part of the 7 pm November 1st reading at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck. Please stop by!

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.









To listen to this post please click: How Precious Is Attention 

I had already planned to offer thanks this week for you, my readers, and the gift of your attention. Today, an untoward experience gave me even deeper appreciation.

In anticipation of my forthcoming e-version of Glad To Be Human, well-meaning and helpful people have advised me to learn to use social media. No one’s writing can stand alone now, I’m told. Writers must create “platforms,” built tweet by tweet and blog by blog of comments logged, to lift our writing from the flat and populated ground, that we and our words may be more easily seen, discovered, and shared. Even if you have a publisher, as do I, writers are expected to become architects and marketers, or else cry in the wilderness.

So, to serve the words vouchsafed me, I have been dipping my toe into these public streams of consciousness ribboning through social cyberspace. Like our physical world, they flow with whimsy, creativity, outrage, persuasion, boredom, love, humor, and passion. Admittedly, from time to time, I do question the necessity of this daily bath.

This morning I opened my Twitter stream to find a sardonic headline that hit me in the solar plexus. I won’t share it–it’s not worth the electrons. Suffice it to say that it fulfilled its intention to shock. I felt alkaline in a world of acid. Peculiarly, it hurt my feelings.

Was it the end of the world? Of course not. (It was, however, the end of my following that hip, influential magazine.) And being offended is a risk we take when we move in society, virtual or otherwise.

But the intensity and physicality of my response gave me pause. People speak about the social fabric, but for me it’s flesh. It’s alive, and responds to being grabbed or caressed.

Attention is as precious as a body, and should be accorded the same respect. Like a body, we can usually choose where we place it, how we nourish it, whose energy it shares. Occasionally it gets caught in social weather.  Which makes the warming fireside of friendly regard all the more valued.

So I have decided to send my own counteracting tweet out today: Treat attention like a body tenderly. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tweets…

Cathy, Steve, Mark, Cecile: First Video Shoot
all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2012

This week I say goodbye to The Art Garden, a very beloved fireside. I continue to be grateful for your gentle attention, which I endeavor to repay in kind. Please have a joyful, attentive Thanksgiving.

“Glad To Be Human” update: Thanks for your patience! My book cover is due any day now, and I’m getting my few last cyber-ducks in a row, so that I can soon link you to my new G2BH site.  In anticipation thereof, I found myself asking “Why is it even important to be Glad To Be Human? Here’s what resulted:

To listen to this post, please click:A Question of Gladness


Pal-stroemeria, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012

Human are the only species that questions gladness. This fuschia Alstroemeria at my side is not having any second thoughts about gladly and extravagantly expressing herself.

If cells weren’t glad to be cells could they even metabolize? Could they have the little cellular barnraisings that lead to the creation of petals or peanuts or pineal glands?

If atoms were ashamed of being atoms, could they do-si-do into a cell? Heck, no.  They’d skip the dance and stay home.  No whirling around tonight, honey. I’m just not up to making a cell. Why bother anyway? I’m not that great at doing it, and after all cells only die, so why even make one?

We humans cannot comprehend the larger body we compose, though we can feel its organs in a symphony orchestra, a sports team, a school, a hospital, a movie set. There is great joy when these larger bodies function well, because functioning well is the nature of Nature. These larger selves need us to function, just as we need the beings who compose our bodies. Of course, any cell will tell you the purpose of life is not function, but joy. Just ask my pal Alstroemeira.

This coursing sense of connected well-being, or gladness, is the default setting of each living creature, and doubtless the inanimates as well. (If it’s all spinning particles,  is anything really inanimate?) The holographic fractal beauty of physical reality is that gladness is important to each, and each is important to all.


Who or what expresses gladness near you now?




Vagaries: A Writer Wednesday Post

November 7th, 2012 | Posted by Irene in News - (6 Comments)

Thanks to the vagaries of my upcoming e-launch, I must forego a more artful and reflective post this week. (as well as my sound file) Please accept these newsy little vagaries instead:


Those who know me know I am a poetical, not a political animal. But I do know how to spell relief, and am glad it has been spelled for so many of us today.


Architecture proceeds apace for the Thanksgiving launch of my e-essay, Glad To Be Human. There’s widening interest in an interactive site where people can share their own reasons, so I am at work on this even as we speak. By the time we launch you should be able to upload a word, a story or an image that makes you Glad To Be Human. As you think about it this week, I trust you will discover much to share.

I am grateful for beautiful endorsements from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed)  and the amazingly talented Janet Pierson, producer of Austin’s hot indie SXSW Film Conference & Festival. You’ll see these next week, as well as plans for a Glad To Be Human Anthology, when the new GTBH page is available here on my website.


For all who have been clamoring to know The Fate of the Quizzical Squash I present the following exceedingly brief graphic narrative:

















Did life bring you something delicious this week?

Blessed By Nuisance

October 31st, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays | News - (8 Comments)

PODCAST TO COME when Internet is returned to us–

Want to post my thanks that our experience with Hurricane Sandy was blessed by nuisance, and nuisance only. Same holds true for our loved ones and friends, as well.

Yes, on Monday night at 9:20, along with millions, we lost our electricity. (I never like to say we are without power.) And while we have a generator, it took a vacation this time around.

Tuesday morning we surveyed the damage–minimal. A big and longtime-leaning locust fell safely out of the way. A big maple split and the toppled half crumpled a section of deer fence, but that can wait. Big limbs and chunks of dead trees fell, but those too can wait. All the trees I wrote about last week–the handsome, stately chestnuts, catalpas, cedars, spruces–all still stand.

Nothing obstructed the driveway, so at yesterday at noon I drove to a distribution point established by our electrical utility. There they dispensed gallon jugs of drinking water and bags of dry ice so people could preserve their refrigerated food. Here you can see people giving and receiving help.

Sandy Helpers, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012



Dry Icers, photo © Irene O’Garden

As I write, our Internet service is still down. But our phone never went out. Astonishingly, our electricity returned yesterday afternoon at 4:20, before the generator guy could even get here. (Turns out the old gal needs a new motherboard. A nuisance, yes. But as my friend Tracy says, a quality problem.) Our hearts go out to those who are facing so much more.

Cabin Concussion, photo
© Irene O’Garden 2012

Most miraculous of all was the slight concussion suffered by my writing cabin. A dead tree fell across the roof peak. Rather than crushing it, however, the tree snapped like a breadstick. Leggy chunks slid forward and back off the roof. In the photo, you can see the little debris on the left of the roof, and the rest of the fallen tree behind the cabin. It only dislodged a bit of plaster inside, though the impact shook my calendar off the wall and tossed a little wooden banner to the floor. The banner, a copy of one I made for a friend’s birthday, says, “The Gift Of Time.” Glad we have been afforded more.

The Gift, photo © Irene O’Garden 2012







How did you and yours fare?

Lake of Sky, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012

But first, exciting news! Some of you may know that last June, I had a writer’s dream experience.

My agent invited me to the Book Expo in New York to see what publishers are up to these days.  As we made our way through the bulging booths, she told me that the day before, she’d chanced to meet an ebook publisher. At the end of their conversation, he’d said, “Oh, we’re also looking for essays. “

That morning, she’d remembered my Pushcart Prize-winning essay, Glad To Be Human. She hadn’t arranged to meet up with the publisher but we headed for the table in International Rights where she’d seen him the day before. There he was.

She introduced us, handed him Glad To Be Human. He read about three paragraphs and said, “This is gorgeous! I want it.” He bought it on the spot. It is to be released in the next month. Watch this space for a special offer for you, my loyal readers!

To listen to this post, please click hereHaving a Cigarette


Emerging from a stressful time a few summers ago, while on retreat, I decided to take a walk to the lake. It was a lovely evening. I had anticipated seeing the lake, but not planned beyond that. Along the soft strip of beach, a lounge chair lay open in white receptivity.

But I am an accomplisher. I don’t just sit and look at a lake. Too reed-choked to walk the circumference. What was I to do, walk back?  Bathed in late sunlight, the lapping lake coaxed me to stay.

I was cast back to childhood. At a moment like this, my mother would sit and have a cigarette. So that’s what I decided to do, lean back in the long white chaise and have a cigarette. Without the cigarette. As I sat inhaling the evening, I thought of breaks–coffee breaks, smoking breaks. It’s not so much the coffee or the cigarette, but the break itself. The break for pleasure.

Addiction is convenient, since you don’t have to decide your pleasure—you don’t actually have to pay any attention to yourself at all. But convenience is expensive—it can cost your life. Or at least many dollars.

Substance or not, becoming aware of the pleasure in the present, the ongoing fulfilled promise of existence, is ever an option. Even an accomplishment.


What’s a pleasure break of yours?



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