Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hokusai Says

Hokusai Says by Roger Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive --
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn't matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn't matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn't matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.
{Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist who lived and worked during the 19th century; thanks to my brother for sharing this poem.}

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stroll for Well-Being Featured in nextavenue.org

The Bloedel Reserve's Stroll for Well-Being program is featured in the current issue of nextavenue, an online magazine, described as
"public media’s first and only national service for America’s booming 50+ population. Our mission is to meet the needs and unleash the potential of older Americans through the power of media. We do this by providing news, information and advice to help our audience navigate their lives and inviting them to join in an ongoing conversation about the issues and transitions we all face.
"Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) in St. Paul, Minn. produces Next Avenue for the PBS system and 84 PBS stations are local affiliate partners. Our content extends far beyond our website, through our national network of media partners and government and nonprofit allies."
I was interviewed for the article; you can read it here.
The spring season of the Stroll for Well-Being will wrap up on Monday, and the summer session begins on Tuesday. I'm very excited to help facilitate the meetings, to hear what participants have to say after 12 weeks of strolling the gorgeous grounds of the Reserve (during an unusually sunny spring for Western Washington), to meet the new groups and assist with their orientation.
If you are interested in joining the program, go to www.bloedelreserve.org. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Lovely Month of May

I am finally going through photos from May, and taking time to catch my breath in writing. This month has been so full of good activity that I haven't been able to stop to write about it here. Daily reflection: yes; blogging: not so much.

Awaking early today, the quiet beckons me to sit and write.

Photo credit: Rebecca L./Field's End
Four weeks of Word Soup have been completed. What a wonderful group of talented, open-hearted writers! Each one was receptive to varied writing prompts, and engaged in sharing and commenting supportively on others' work. We were impressed, entertained, intrigued and stimulated by their contributions. I am now in the process of gathering insights from participants. It is a pleasure to lead this workshop, and I am thankful to Kitsap Regional Library's Poulsbo Branch for hosting it.

We had a beautiful Mother's Day. My family gathered to celebrate our mom with brunch in one of our favorite places on Lake Washington.
David was at work, so he joined us later for dinner. This was his generous gift to me (along with a card, which I treasure):
He has been working at his aunt and uncle's business, Savage Plants & Landscape. Isn't that vase fantastic?

We had the pleasure of a long-awaited visit from treasured, far-away, on-line friends in May.
I met Karen through her blog, "From Paradise to Plan B." She and her husband, Joe, had dinner with us on a layover between flights many months ago, but this time, they came to our home for brunch, a beach walk and blessed hours of conversation.
"Love is everything. Everything else is just everything else" - a gift from Karen & Joe
After these two visits, Karen and Joe feel like true friends of many years' standing, though we have mainly known one another from a great distance, and through writing. This is one of the many gifts of blogging: meaningful connections with people you would never know otherwise. We look forward to seeing them again!

The Bainbridge Public Library's new board members took a tour of other Kitsap Regional Libraries (of which BPL is a member). This was an educational and fruitful day; I learned a great deal about the services and contributions to our community which each branch makes, and how things work at the central "hub" of the system. Public libraries are truly democratic institutions. We serve all of the public, from children to senior citizens, from early reading programs to help with job searches and income tax preparation. Students find a safe, quiet place to study, read, access media and take online exams; researchers have access to expert help and free resources; genealogists have a resource room dedicated to their own pursuits; meeting space is available to all; a bookmobile travels to serve those who cannot travel to their local branch. The library is an astonishingly diverse gift for everyone, and it is a privilege to serve as a member of its board.

And then there was the anniversary weekend. Gregg and I have been married for 24 years, and we made the trip to Victoria, B.C. to mark the occasion. As usual, it was blissful. How do I love Vancouver Island? Let me count the ways...

On this annual trip, we have highlights which are favorites, and lots of time to improvise in between. Some of the highlights:
Water views, everywhere
Anniversary dinner at Cafe Brio
Oohhhhh: Sticky Date Toffee Pudding and Venturi-Schulze Brandenburg #3
Live music after dinner
Swiftsure sailboats on the way out of the harbour to start the race
Flowers in town
We walked 8-10 miles each day, window-shopped, explored, visited two farmer's markets, ate and drank and slept well.
A happy husband
I am grateful to this man for his faithful friendship and love over the past 24 years, "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer." We have experienced all of those things together. Looking forward to the next 24 years, God willing!

David is packing for his move to Montana (he leaves today), so we took him out for dinner last night at his favorite local pub.
We have so enjoyed having him with us, but are thrilled for him to embark upon his new adventure. Bon voyage, David!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Where I'm From..." by George Ella Lyon

I designed WORD SOUP for groups of about 12 people; the first time I presented it for Field's End, we had six or seven participants. This year, we had 18 people at our first session - the beautiful West Reading Room at the Poulsbo library was filled with writers!

The energy around the table was positive and friendly; participants were ready to get right to work (which is really play). It is a joy to see people writing freely, and to have so many of them willing to share what they had written, reading it aloud to the group. We write to prompts, so we are sharing our first-draft work. It takes courage to share your work in a new group, especially writing which you haven't had time to polish, and I see plenty of courage - and talent - in this group.

What makes WORD SOUP especially fun is the fact that I do not allow ANY criticism of this first-draft work; we share only what we remember about the writing which has been read aloud, and what we enjoyed in it. These practices make for a safe, encouraging environment, which allows imagination to flow freely.

Last evening,  I read aloud a poem which was given to me by the out-going leader of Field's End, Barbara Clarke (author of "Getting to Home"). Here it is:

"Where I’m From…" by George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
From Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
And the pass-it-ons,
From Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee,
from the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments—
snapped before I budded—
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Isn't that a beautiful way to express one's roots?

I offered the poem as a writing prompt for the group. Since I write to the same prompts while the students write, below is my own rough version of "Where I'm From..." I've been tinkering with it, because I am not accustomed to writing poetry; it would be a good idea to consult my poet friends to hear their thoughts.
Where I'm From... by Karen Boren Gerstenberger
I'm from saltwater and sand
Barnacles and Indian beads
I'm from starry nights and wave-song
Salty air and sea-breeze,
Bonfires and make-believe.

I'm from grass stains and cedar cones
Pine pitch and blackberries
Old Man Ghost and Sardines
Beach seines and rope swings.

I'm from the Gold Rush and Great Depression,
Pioneer Square and Capital Hill,
Enatai and Medina,
California and Washington
Kent Valley farm and Olympic Hotel.

I'm from Bavaria and Alsace-Lorraine,
Bronze plaques and fortunes scattered,
Ivy League and West Coast 
Ancient faith and new covenant.

But really, I'm from
Saltwater, lapping the shores of sacred Indian ground.
I'm grateful to my colleagues at Field's End, the program staff at Kitsap Regional Library, WORD SOUP groups, and my family for making this work possible. It is a joy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WORD SOUP, Strolls, the SFDWG, and BIG News

I have so much to tell you that I awoke early this morning, excited to write about it.

I took a weekend trip to Victoria, B.C. with my beloved "Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group." We had a blast, staying in a Victorian duplex belonging to a friend of Reba's. We talked and listened, laughed and cried, ate, drank, enjoyed live music and walked for many miles. We didn't do as much writing as I had anticipated, but what we did was perfect. It is therapeutic to go away with friends and just BE.
Robin and Reba at the Blue Fox Cafe
Teri, Reba and Stefanie at the Irish Times Pub
Robin and me at the Irish Times
Dessert at The Snug, the pub at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel
The five of us at the Snug
I'm leading my WORD SOUP workshop this month for Field's End, every Tuesday night at the Kitsap Regional Library branch in Poulsbo. We have had two sessions, so we are at the halfway point, and it is magical to see the talent, generosity and enthusiasm of the participants. We are nearly bursting at the seams, and it is gratifying to see so many people excited about the craft of writing, all ages encouraging each other and surprising themselves in what they produce. I enjoy leading the group, and writing with them. More about that later...

The spring Stroll for Well-Being at the Bloedel Reserve is also at the halfway mark. On Monday, I facilitated two sessions (morning and afternoon), and was blessed by the group members' sharing of what the strolls have given them. Their experiences certainly prove that the program increases one's well-being.

I love the Reserve, the house and the program so much that at times, it is a little bit difficult to believe that I get to work in such a beautiful environment, and am paid to do it.

The summer session of the Strolls will begin on June 23rd, with the creator and founder of the program, Ruth McCaffrey, here from Florida to kick it off (and me as her co-facilitator). There is still space available in the summer session, and it's free! You'll receive a beautiful journal containing all of the information you need so that you may enjoy the beneficial effects of this program. It is comprised of 12 themed strolls, taken at your own pace, on your own time, during 12 weeks of summer. Contact ejennings@bloedelreserve.org to reserve your place!

The BIG news here is that David is about to begin a new job! He will be moving to Montana (one of his dreams) to work at the Yellowstone Club. Though we love having him with us, we are thrilled for this next phase of his life's adventure, and can hardly wait to visit, once he is settled.

For these gifts (and so much more), I give thanks to God!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Hannah's Hopeful Hearts" Photo Album

In case you weren't able to join us at Hannah's Hopeful Hearts 2015, here are some photos by Ronda Broatch, shared by Reba Ferguson on Facebook.
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Katie and Hannah's photos with glassybabies. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
 Butterflies: the symbol of resurrection. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
The food & flowers were simply outstanding. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Jim Olson. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Introducing Dr. Mike Jensen. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Jensen. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Dr. Olson and Dr. Jensen discussing their work, moderated by Fred. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Hannah's Hopeful Hearts. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
Fred facilitating the paddle raise. Photo credit: Ronda Broatch
There is still time to give, and you can  ask your employer to match your gift (Boeing did this for us, and doubled our impact)! Thanks, Boeing!
All you need to do is direct your gift to:
Megen Strand
Crush Kids’ Cancer Guild 
Tax ID# 27319304 Seattle Children's Hospital Guild Association
M/S S-200, PO Box 5371, Seattle, WA 98145
Crush Kids’ Cancer Guild 
Tax ID# 273193047
 If you have any questions, please call Megen at 206-987-4823.

And here is the Hunt-Ferguson family who made it all possible, especially the valiant-hearted, light-bringing woman in the center, Reba - mother of Hannah, who inspired all of this!
I love you, Reba!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Life Lessons from a Man I've Never Met

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. - Dakota proverb
Last spring, I was allowed to participate in two classes because of the generosity of faculty members of the University of Washington School of Medicine. The two classes are "The Healer's Art" (a medical school elective designed by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.), and a "Values Clarification" exercise - part of the 4th-year curriculum in the Chronic Care Clerkship for students about to embark upon their residency program. The Values Clarification class was created by a man named Stuart Farber, M.D., who recently passed away from leukemia.

Dr. Farber is revered and loved by his colleagues and students, family and friends. He founded, and was director of, the Palliative Care service at the University of Washington Medical Center. He was a pioneer in the field, helping to develop a palliative care training center at the University of Washington.

In a terrible coincidence, his wife Annalu was also diagnosed with the same kind of leukemia (AML) four months after Dr. Farber's diagnosis, so they each walked in the role of patient and caregiver, supported by their family and community. This journey served to deepen and further inform his sensitivity in what he already believed and taught to his students. In each caringbridge.org update on their health, Dr. Farber and his wife shared their love of poetry by posting a poem chosen to express their feelings of the moment. I learned a great deal about the Farbers (whom I have never met) from those poems, and a great deal about the ways in which art can bring release and healing to patients and caregivers.

The Values Clarification exercise was administered by a wonderful professor named Tom McNalley, M.D., director of the Chronic Care Clerkship (whose specialty is Rehabilitation Medicine), and his gifted colleague, Carol Kummet, LICSW, MTS, a social worker with the Palliative Care Service. Both facilitators exuded seriousness tinged with gentle humor, compassion and empathy. Experiencing the Values Clarification with young medical students was a deeply moving gift to me, and one that I will never forget. It is an important part of Dr. Farber's legacy.

Another vital part of Dr. Farber's legacy is an article which was published posthumously, which I cannot recommend highly enough for EVERYone to read. It was published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Vol. 49, No. 4 on April 4, 2015, and made available by Dr. Farber's widow here:
under the heading, Humanities: Art, Language, and Spirituality in Health Care. Isn't that a powerful heading? The article is called Living Every Minute. I have read it twice, and am simply in awe of its grace and power. Whether you are a patient, family member of a patient, a clinician, an artist or a spiritual seeker, this article will be a gift to you.

Many deep truths of living, of the value of quality of life over quantity, and the supreme importance for clinicians and caregivers to seek, find and understand what is most important to their patients is beautifully illustrated in Dr. Farber's words and his life. Much is expressed poetically, with far more accuracy and nuance than the most scientific language could ever describe or quantify.

You can read more about Dr. Farber's life and legacy HERE.

Friday, April 17, 2015


I learned some new things today. I learned that I am not as fit as I thought I was.
I walk between three and six miles daily. I hiked up to five miles a day while at Rancho La Puerta in February, and was able to keep up on those hikes with my friend Shelby (who is an extreme distance runner), so I thought I could hike 3 miles round-trip. I learned today that I am not aerobically fit - not very.

David has been working weekends, so weekdays are his weekends, and he was kind enough to invite me to accompany him to Mt. Ellinor, where he has been wanting to hike. There is a six-mile trip and a three-mile trip. Six sounded like more of a challenge, but the second half is considered extremely steep, so to play it safe (for me), we started at the upper trailhead. Thank goodness we did!

The elevation gain was about 2,400 feet in 1.5 miles; oh my goodness. David is quite fit; I was panting and sweating from the beginning, as the trail headed steeply uphill and never stopped. Long rocky steps, slushy snow, mud, switchbacks and scree alternated with each other. The trail was beautifully maintained, and we had a gloriously mild, "bluebird" spring day in which to enjoy the natural world of the Olympic Peninsula. But I was not nearly fit enough for this trip, and it showed immediately.

The summit views were spectacular. We saw two white mountain goats on a snowfield below the summit; we saw Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and a panorama of the Olympic Mountain range. I truly enjoyed the hike on the way down. But going up was a hard slog.
Summit view to the west - Olympic Mountains in the background
Summit view to the north, with Hood Canal partially obscured by high clouds
I learned that it's easy to get discouraged on a steep trail if you are: A) too hot; B) thirsty or hungry; C) at all subject to vertigo. I learned that stopping to rest is necessary if you want to make the summit. I learned that my hiking boots are comfortable, but have crappy traction in the snow.
And I learned some things about David, whose generous gifts of patience, coaching and willingness to understand my fatigue (and my dismay at that fatigue) were beyond what I could have asked him to extend to me. He was a true gentleman with his encouragement and kindness, when he could have done the hike in far less time, with far less trouble, without me. I am blessed that he invited me to spend the day with him, and he never once said a word of criticism.
On the summit
I feel humbled, happy to be home, and (as the British say) "knackered." If I am lucky enough to be invited to hike with David again, it will be something less than a "4 out of 5" for difficulty!