beneath my words

      thanks to “Hidden,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

feelings, thoughts, hope more
visible each passing day

working into light, the page,
awareness of their presence

and mine growing softer
edges, stronger heart;

muscled words crafting
life    versed   manifest

time layering the trail
of then to now, deepening

as winter’s seed potent
with spring blooms
silent passion into change
one season to the next.


stance on silence

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of Burlington Business and Professional Women at which Janice Santiago was awarded Woman of Achievement for 2012. This award ‘recognizes leadership and achievements for the betterment of women in the community.’

I recently met Janice (Employee Advocate, Women Helping Battered Women) at last month’s ‘Refusing Silence’ workshop, an event I offer annually in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It was her first workshop with me but not, I learned this evening, her first. She was being honored for going above and beyond in her work; for being a genuinely caring advocate, often accompanying clients to classes or appointments.  Into the bargain, her sparkling personality and great sense of humor were duly noted.

In accepting the honor, Janice graciously referred to her workshop experience with Women Writing for (a) Change – Vermont. To illustrate both her own work and the impact of writing as a tool for self-reflection and change, she read her poem penned during our Saturday workshop, below.

Afterwards, speaker Madeleine Kunin – former Governor of Vermont, Deputy Secretary of Education, and Ambassador to Switzerland [among many other significant roles and contributions] – echoed Janice’s remarks about the need for women’s voices to speak out. Stories are how we connect to one another. Stories create compassion. A single voice can be the impetus for change. As Carolyn Heilbrun so famously wrote, “Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend. ” ― Carolyn G. Heilbrun, The Last Gift of Time. At least two strong women sowed courage this evening in Burlington VT; and I am proud to call them ‘friend.’

An Advocate’s Stance on Silence
I will not be silent for you
If you cannot speak up – stand up for yourself, I will be your voice
If you are being harmed – I will stand up and protect you and help you to a safe place
I will not be a bystander who doesn’t act or help
I will stand up, step in, and speak out
Do not be silenced, do not be afraid
All of your thoughts and feelings are valued
If you need help I will be there
Whether you need me silently standing by
Or if you need my helping in finding your voice
If you need a hug, to laugh, to cry, or just to be
I will be there
If words are not enough let my actions speak for me
As I will not be silent for you

Janice Santiago

altered vision

At any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we decided to be.
–      Margaret Wheatley

Human eye

Photo credit: dullhunk

As the latest unwanted marketing flyer left my hand and arced into the recycle bin during an early-morning cleaning surge, I caught the tagline:

Suffer from eyestrain?

This stopped me cold. Not because the question seemed unusual. Not because I don’t, from time to time. But because the very next line was:

Get relief with [brand deleted]”

My reflex response: for heavens’ sake, if you experience eyestrain, take a break! This remedy even has a name you can pronounce: common sense; or perhaps self-care. Reaching for the pamphlet so I could be sure to get the name correct, I chanced to open to the second panel:

of Computer Vision Syndrome.

Followed by this helpful explanation: “The human eye is not suited for viewing a computer screen for long hours.” How much time, money and human brainpower did it take to create a ‘remedy’ for such a common problem – for which the basic solution is free, available to all, and a matter of awareness, of simple listening to the body???

It came to me that this is but one example of a prevailing view – that the human body  needs to be ‘fixed’ when something we do to it causes pain or damage. What ever happened to taking responsibility for how we treat ourselves? I started to ponder the many ways in which we have abdicated our personal responsibility to our bodies. . .  But I neither need nor want some mega-industry capitalizing on my loss of touch with reality. Nor creating my loss of reality by trying to convince me that I’m broken when in fact, I just need to readjust my personal lens.

Of course, we  all have times when we feel out of sorts or logey and want to feel better. No one can feel ‘up’ and energetic endlessly; all bodies have their cycles. It’s more than OK to pay attention, get to know your own body, learn how to care for it when it speaks of its needs.

Ignoring – or at least distancing ourselves from – our bodies seems part of how we in Western society are socialized. As a young professional, I went into health education believing that preventive maintenance was a far more effective path to health than trying to repair what a life of bad habits might create. The notion of the complete person was part and parcel of this training.

So when I read an article about someone dedicated to bringing Eastern practices into Western medicine, I feel as if finally the tide might be turning. [That, after shaking my head: all these centuries to reinvent what ancient cultures have known all along!!!] We might be able, after all, to begin to see with new eyes; to decide to be more conscious, starting with our own bodies and how we listen to and treat them. We don’t need high-tech solutions for that. We don’t even need high-tech solutions for world peace. We just need to slow down and truly listen for our commonalities as humans in a shrinking world. We all have the same basic needs; we all face shrinking resources.  Isn’t there a way to get corporate and political clout on the side of this type of careful conscious change? I hope so. My belief in people’s ability to learn from their lives and to adjust their vision is what sustains and nurtures me. May it sustain and nurture us all into a more balanced tomorrow.

who said ‘resolve?’


Intention (Photo credit: turahbird)

R-E-S-O-L-V-E. Makes me think about the rug cleaning product that neutralizes odors and disappears stains, leaving only a strong smell that repels pets and humans alike. Sounds goal-oriented, rigid and efficient. An ultimatum, use-by date, finish line. In short, something to hang over my head, to battle, to fear, to ignore and perhaps, well, DISSOLVE. I feel my fists clench, jaw tighten, and shoulders elevate along with my heart rate at the mere sound of the word.

I need something softer, more organic, more consciously intentional. Not even quite resolution as in music, a harmonic relaxation of tension in preceding chords, although this is at least complete and very much there.

What I’m after is something to help me EVOLVE.  I want something altogether Other: neither disappearing nor ending harmoniously. I want something that has staying power, that moves me forward, has life and integrity, adds meaning to my days. Which brings me to INTENTION.

I like how many relevant words rhyme with it: attention, retention, invention. I like that it sounds somewhat esoteric. And mostly, I like that it gives me permission to be human in my endeavors to change things about myself that grieve me and my loved ones. In other words, when I forget my intention, nothing is lost. I have not failed. I have full permission to start over again. And again. And again. Which is a good thing, because I’m a notoriously slow learner and this kind of repetition helps create the habit for what I am intending.

English: Everything starts from needs or desir...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My intention is always with me, something like that still small voice. Unlike conscience, however, it does not blare at me with outrage and indignation when I blunder. Rather, it continues its gentle, even tone underlying my decisions and actions. This is what I so love about INTENTION: it is a choice in every moment that sets the tone for my words and my actions. It shapes me gently without flagellation or recrimination. I can not fail. I can only pick myself up and keep on dancing.

challenge accepted!


Thanks to April’s Platform Challenge (by Robert Lee Brewer) — which pushed me and 100’s of other aspiring-to-experienced writers of all stripes into cyber space in search of personal meaning and intentional connection — I pause gratefully to consider creating a posting schedule.

I spend my time planning prompts and agendas for writing groups; and writing about life through nature’s lens. And presto! there’s my proposed plan. Weekend posts – personal reflections; mid-week posts – more ‘writerly’ notes.

Because I cannot resist being corny, I’ll call the weekend posts  “Sunday Sarahnades”; the mid-week ones, “Wednesday Working Words.” Like me, this blog is a work in progress. Expect change  —  hope for growth!