February 21, 2024


Dear friends, seekers, imaginers,

In an essay on female rage in the New York Times Magazine in 2018, journalist Leslie Jamison begins: “For years, I described myself as someone who wasn’t prone to anger. ‘I don’t get angry,’ I said. ‘I get sad.’”

Jamison goes on to say how sadness felt more natural to her than anger, more refined and selfless; it was held inside rather than projected outward. Bad girls were angry, good girls, sad.

I know what she means. I’ve been sideswiped by rushes of anger these past years. I must admit, I haven’t welcomed them. Anger is messy and threatening, to oneself and others. Ignored or dismissed, anger is a volcano under the ocean about to erupt.

On the other hand, fiery energy feels more empowering than holding my face in my hands and crying every time I watch the news. (Can you relate?) As my dear friend and Buddhist teacher Mare Chapman reminds me, we are all trapped in constricting roles and identities, gender or otherwise, and the harm of overwhelming emotional distress is killing us.

What to do? How to proceed with keeping our lives intact while the great world trembles? How can we use the fire of anger to cast brightness and provide warmth and connection during a darkly destructive time?

I am inspired by Theodore Roethke’s great poem, “In A Dark Time,” which begins:

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,

“See” is the key word. In The Essentials of Style: A Handbook for Seeing and Being Seen, psychotherapist and lawyer Benjamin Sells writes: “Style [by which he means how things present themselves in the world] reminds us that no thing can see its own fullness and that our backsides are as much a mystery to us as the dark side of the moon.” A little humor helps!

The truth is, our vision is limited and constricted: by the algorithms of social media, by the choices we make, and by the habits we accrue. Isn’t it necessary, even essential, right now, to widen our perceptions and pay attention to what we’ve been ignoring — to lift up, name and praise the everyday beauty and presences in the world?

In a dark time, the eye begins to see, and in the blackness of caves, in the depths of the ocean, luminescent creatures exist. Always, there is light. But we have to look for it and at it: it needs our attention.

Anger can be an illuminating power, a fierceness that insists on throwing its dazzle into the dark. Jungian scholar Murray Stein shared with me his insights about anger in two remarkable blog posts I commend to your attention: “Murray Stein on the Eruption of Anger in Today’s World” and “Murray Stein on Understanding and Coping with Anger.”

This brings me to an invitation. To honor and cherish life’s fleeting beauty and mystery, I welcome you to “an about to be” new page on my website called “Outtakes.” Every month, I will post an evocative photograph and my written response to it. I invite you to simply contemplate the image of the month with openness and curiosity and note what it arouses — to use the image as a writing prompt, for meditation, or whatever comes to you.

This project is in the works and is not yet available. I will let you know when itis. If it is technically possible to post your responses, I will.

Speaking of new and exciting, I’m still excited about a friend calling to tell me that a poem in my poetry collection M received special mention for the Pushcart Prize 2024 and is in their just-published anthology, The Pushcart Prize XLVIII. What a wonderful surprise to be chosen among the country’s finest poets.

Writing can be a lonely business. We write alone and spend a great deal of time in the solitude of our brains, so it’s a deep pleasure when our work resonates with others. This June, some of my poems will be featured in an upcoming TNW Ensemble Theater production, Step Right Up, Ma’am: Resilience Theater. I’ve always imagined these poems being performed on stage by an actor, and now it’s about to happen thanks to Donna Peckett and Danielle Dresden, the prodigious artistic directors of TNW. Collaboration with artists in other disciplines forms another circle of connection, each of us contributing to create a whole more interesting and alive than its parts.

If you are in the Madison, Wisconsin area, please save the date: Four performances are scheduled for June 21, 22, 23, in the Overture Center’s Wisconsin Studio.

If you are in New Mexico in April, please join me and my good friend, award-winning poet Leslie Ullman, to celebrate National Poetry Month at our reading at the SOMOS Center in Taos.

In closing, I offer you the idea that the unpredictable is also a gateway to the possible, and the possible is full of potentially wonderful surprises.

Here’s what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes about this in his Letters to a Young Poet:

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you?”

As always, fondly and with care,


P.S. In the words of my friend, the author Mark Nepo: If so moved, please share this offering and spread the word. Anyone can subscribe at this link. You can keep up with everything I’m doing and thinking by following me on Facebook and Instagram. If you’d rather not receive these occasional emails, just let me know and I’ll promptly remove you, or you can unsubscribe at the link below.

Top image: The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe, N.M. Photo: Burt Kushner