An Opinionated Aesthetic


All my life I’ve loved to read, but being a writer I have read more about writing than about reading and read much more than I have ever written.  So I got to thinking I might get some writing tips from myself if I focused on what kind of writing pleases me, the reader.  Which led me a contemplation of the quality of being aesthetic and wondering why it is hard-wired into human consciousness.

I’ll leave that train of thought for another blog.  Suffice it to say I believe our sense of aesthetics is part of our survival equipment.  It programs us to fall in love; not only with each other but with the world itself.  I wonder how many souls have hung around this earthly plane simply because it was so beautiful that they could not bear to leave it?

M and  SParkyIn the movie Michael, John Travolta plays an angel who has manifested on earth in a mission to help redeem a man’s soul. As it turns out, angels are only allowed a fixed number of visits to this planet. The whole movie is permeated with the nostalgia of Michael’s last trip, his yearning to embrace and remember every detail of the larger aesthetic. What he loves is the complexity of the whole, the beauty with which it all fits together.   At one point he turns to a dog and says “Oh, Sparky, I’m going to miss, this all so much”. In those few words he describes every misty morning, every wave, every sunset, every fire fly, the smell of bacon, the scent of rain on hot asphalt, the sound of a flute, a warbler, a train whistle; in short, all that is.

This sums it up for me. I KNOW what he means. This knowing, which can barely be hinted at with metaphor and simile, but never actually described, is at the heart of my aesthetic sense.  Basically, as the old cliché states: “I know what I like.”

Having said that, I can describe some bits within the metaphors and similes, which particularly appeal to me.  I want there to be connections, and I want them to make sense at some level – physical, emotional, metaphysical –doesn’t matter as long as the internal logic of the author’s story, no matter how surreal it might be, gets preserved.

Above everything,  I love a good story.  I’m blessed with an easy “suspension of disbelief,” and willing to be instantly whisked away to other galaxies, Amazonian rain forests, a dinosaur dig in the Gobi, or some Podunk courtroom in Maycomb County, passage-india-em-forsterthe-talismanAlabama; to become a teenage boy traveling across an alternative USA to find a cure for his dying mother, a misanthropic paleontologist, or a curious eight year old girl child.  When I first exited the Indira Ghandi airport,  it thrilled me to recognize the scent of India.  It smelled just like E.M.Forster described it, decades ago.

Variation, pleases me. I enjoy writing that intersperses short sentences into a string of long ones or vice-versa.   I like quotes (only accompanied by translation),  parenthetical statements, and relevant asides.  Clever puns, associations and word play delight me, but please, don’t  explain them.  I want to grasp the point myself.   On the other hand I detest loose ends—unkept promises, prominent characters which simply disappear, unresolved sup-plots and preaching of any kind.

I love descriptions with emotional content-some authors lovingly relate to the things and places of our world, rather than as souless stage settings incapable of relationship.

   becoming animal

I want to access information, emotions and landscapes through the character’s senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, scent and intuition.  Show me.

As always,  exceptions   Underlying everything we know is the great matrix, Earth itself, where all figures and forms, colors and scents harmonize and interrelate.  It is sometimes possible for a writer to present work, often through the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects, which forces the reader to sink down to that level of awareness.   This is great stuff but very difficult to pull off.


Always and forever my preferences hear exceptions bang on  my mind’s doors, longing to be voice objection. Some writers phrase things so deliciously, I forget anything else and wallow in sensuality. There is thinking so clear, so logical and precise it induces a sort of cerebral ecstasy which needs no sensory input, and some writing is just so damn good it goes beyond rules and reason or unreason and becomes its own excuse for being.  Like I said, it’s a question of aesthetics, which is to say, whatever beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.


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Equinox— Northern Hemisphere 2015


Autumn Equinox

September 22-23

The festival of Mabon takes place on the Fall Equinox. It celebrates the second harvest, the last before winter. Once again day and night come into equilibrium.

The king is dead, his blood shed to ensure the fertility of the Earth. The pregnant Queen/Mother Goddess carries the child, Mabon in her dark womb. His incubation and her pregnancy are marked with trials and tests. Before Mabon can be born as the Radiant Child he must find his balance and learn how to incorporate within himself both the feminine energy of his mother and the masculine energy of his father.


Equinox— Northern Hemisphere 2015

Day and night in balance:

promise of rest,

the telling of tales,

place of harvest home,

bounty of blackberries,

plethora of pumpkins,

abundance of apples,

plenty of pears, walnuts,

almonds, ripening cheeses,

pepitas, and pecans,

sheaves of wheat, rice, barley.

Canning finished, compotes

sealed in glass jars,

spend the day

in contemplation

the night in celebration

for this is the beginning

of the end; the end

of the beginning.

Sink bare feet into soil.

Tomorrow you will feel

the wheel of the year

carrying you on a new round

the same, yet not the same

eternal, yet heartbreakingly

transient. But today,

today the world rests,

stops the sun, holds

the moon in place

basks beneath their beauty.

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August POetry POstcard Fest

cardsThis month I’ve been having fun with postcard poetry. I first heard about it at the Austin International Poetry Festival during a workshop. The teacher (sadly I forget who gave the class, just remember how cool it was) brought in a bunch of postcards – plain manila, onto which she’d scanned some nifty pics. We had 4 min to write a poem directly onto each card – no rewrites or do-overs.

Turned out to be great fun. She told us about an on-line postcard poetry festival in August, so when I got home I googled and discovered Paul E. Nelson, who turns out to be a pretty paul nelsoncool guy, passionate about poetry.

Some people have a daily spiritual practice. Paul writes an American Sentence every morning.  Allen Ginsberg invented them. Here’s how Paul describes the form:

ginsbergAmerican Sentences as a poetic form was Ginsberg’s effort to make American the haiku. If haiku is seventeen syllables going down in Japanese text, he would make American Sentences seventeen syllables going across, linear, like just about everything else in America.

“Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella.”
~1987 Allen Ginsberg
“The ice cream shop is closed during snow storms and I must eat clam chowder”
~2013 Cathryn Shea
“After the phone rings there’s a cold spot on my hip where your hand was.”

~5.11.01 Paul Nelson

Vanity Fair poem

vanity Fair PostcardTo return to the postcards- I don’t know who came up with the idea – probably it happened soon after the first postcard was invented. The fest works like this:

1)Gather together 31 postcards- if you are anything like me you already have a whole box full of old postcards tucked away – if you’re not like me they are probably filed neatly somewhere. If you really are nothing like me you could buy generic blanks. Alternatively, you could  print, scan, paint, ink, collage or decoupage thirty-one tiny works of art. I’ve also found you can cut the covers off old birthday, anniversary, friend & get well cards (also stashed) and recycle them as postcards.

boots by starlight

“Deep in the Heart of Texas” Collaged by Christine Irving

2) Sign up for the fest sometime in July and receive a list of thirty-one names.

3) Buy 31 postcard stamps. Yes, the post office has cheaper stamps for postcards. Beginning on August 1, write a poem a day on the back of a postcard and mail it. Poem can be inspired by the image on the front, or a poem you received the day before, or any other thing. It must be handwritten and composed on the spot, then sent immediately. Do not worry about editing, fixing, prettifying etc. Let it go!

4) Enjoy the great fun of finding a reciprocal poem in your box almost every day.

G o cloudspoem clouds

I decided not to make copies of the postcards I sent or keep my poems. Of course, if I happen to write something absolutely breathtaking I won’t be able to resist. Meanwhile, I’m trying for more spontaneity and less attachment this year. This is another quote from Ginsberg via Paul:

… the first noble truth most all of us acknowledge, especially senior citizens, is that existence is transitory — life is transitory. We are born and we die. And so this is it! It gives life both a melancholy and a sweet and joyful flavor … Any gesture we make consciously, be it artwork, a love affair, any food we cook, can be done with a kind of awareness of eternity, truthfulness … In portraiture, you have the fleeting moment to capture the image as it passes and before it dissolves … It captures the shadow of the moment.

I couldn’t agree more. One of the best things about traveling, which is where one usually acquires and sends postcards, is the continuous novelty. It’s exhilarating to experience things changing, each moment novel and fresh. The journey forces one to stay present in order not to miss anything. Letting go of the poems, for me, is a way to acknowledge the joy in transience and keep my eyes fresh. Though I admit to a pang of loss and a greedy urge to pile all the words I’ve ever written in a heap and sit on them like a dragon on her hoard.  Nevertheless, I’m finding letting go clears the way for other lines and now I want to start sending them anonymously to all the folks I know.


P.S. Paul has a bunch of provocative pencil writingwriting exercises on his site. Click on “exercises” to get to the page.




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Amantha Murphy’s Magical Mystery Tour

I’ve just returned from a pilgrimage to some of Ireland’s early sacred sites, travelling with a coterie of amazing women whose companionship proved invaluable in  enhancing profound interactions with the wells, cairns, barrows, henges, mounds and temples of our ancestors.  Shared knowledge, stories, memories, visions and dreams enhanced our individual insights and experiences and resulted in a deep sense of reverence for the land we walked upon.  AmanthaOur guide, Amantha Murphy  walked straight out of the tradition of the beloved down-to Earth  magical women of my childhood – Mrs. Piggle-WiggleMary Poppins, and Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby  (If you have never read about them, hie you to the library immediately.  Like most enduring children’s literature, these well-written and engaging stories transmit ethical and mystic information as meaningful to adults as children.)  As a child, I believed completely in the reality of these fierce and lovable characters and they remain very real guides and mentors in my heart and mind to this very day.  Imagine my delight to meet a flesh and blood representative of their ilk.

Amantha, in the best fairy godmother tradition, is a small round woman draped in flowing shawls and skirts put together in a delightful mix of colors, patterns and textures.  She walks with a cane, striding at a calm steady pace across grasslands, over boulders, up steep hills and down into underground crannies. Her patience should be legendary and derives from the deep inner calm only available to those who truly know and accept themselves. I’ve never met a more accommodating tour leader for catering to the needs and foibles of her charges.  At the same time she kept a firm capable hand on the group, staying on schedule, herding us from place skillfully and professionally as any sheep dog, with never a harsh word or admonition.  Her knowledge of the sites, history, stories and legends of ancient Éire complements by her talent her work as a shamanic healer and medium.  Her extensive experince in facilitating women’s circle groups enriched our gatherings and allowed each woman space to speak freely and personally.

elemntsWater, Earth, Air Fire – elements that form the basis of every earth-based spiritual practice.  We woke to them, dreamed of them, lived in consciousness of them.  In Ireland, a land surrounded by water, the people continue to venerate the sea, their rivers and the the many springs that bubble blessings upon the land.  Many of the springs have, since ancient times, been protected by walls and coverings.  These wells are still in use and many belong to Brigit, venerable goddess turned saint.  As a poet, Brigit is a goddess I am very familiar with.  She travels beside me to every reading, helps me breathe, relieves me of stage fright and adds resonance to the words I speak.  Brigit is one of the few deities of old to make a successful transition into the modern world.  She slipped gracefully from Paganism to Christianity without losing her connection to the people of Ireland and continues to offer her devotees healing, hope and inspiration.  It was a joy to kneel at her holy wells and drink from fountains that have continued to flow unceasingly for millennia.Chris at Brigit's well - old



One of the joys Amantha brought to our pilgrimage was her ability to create simple appropriate ceremony on the spot.  She is adept at incorporating new circumstances, recent conversations, and changing mood or weather into a ritual perfect for whatever place and time we were in at the moment.  The lack of cant or dogma from both Amantha and the group was one of the great delights of this trip.  As was our dear Rose, driver par excellence, purveyor of necessities and luxuries, reverent drummer and sweetest of companions. The trip would not have been as easy or joyous without her.

There were so many highlights, all so meaningful I don’t want to list them as if this were a brochure.  The experiences are too recent for me to want to fix them into words as yet. But I want to get share the flavor of our journey so I will describe the island of Innisfallen.

Inis Faithlinn (Innisfallen) lies low in the waters of Lough Leane.  I won’t start on the legends and history of the lake because they are all connected and intertwined in a Celtic knot impossible to unravel in the space allotted to this essay.  Suffice it to say that the lake is magical and deep and spans not only the centuries, but the realms of this and other worlds.  It belongs a much to the Tuatha Dé Danann as to our contemporary world.  Inold man carvingis Faithlinn holds the remains of a monastery founded in 640 CE, but long before then it was home to the holy folk of much older religions.  I’ve rarely visited a place that felt so welcoming.


We twelve arrived in a shallow boat that barely held us all and sat just inches above choppy lake waters.  Our ferryman was an old acquaintance of Amantha’s.  He and his little dog Bella  took good care of us as we journeyed across the water.  I kept thing of the Ryder Waite metarot card- the six of swords.  To me this card indicates transition – moving from something old to something new with a sense of accompanying poignancy and memory.

The ruins of the monastery lie beside an ancient yew tree on a lovely grassy meadow. A Path Innisfallendirt path meanders around the island skirting an interior covered in woods and meadows full of blooming foxgloves.  The wind soughed and murmured in the trees like half-heard conversations for our entire visit.  Small herds of deerdeer grazed among the trees and white swans sailed just beyond the shoreline.  I found a clutch of hatched duck eggs under a mossy tree.  The island felt surprisingly familiar to me, as if I’d been there many times before – sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a man.  By now, it’s history has been washed clean by sun, wind and rain.  Those long ago events felt present to me, but transparent somehow.  Lingering, not because they are bound to this place, but because Inis Faithlinn feels as good to whatever ghosts might be as it does to me.

The wind and the land were present throughout my journey as elemental entities palpably guiding, touching, inspiring, comforting and loving me.  I am forever grateful to the Irish deities, the weather, Ireland, Amantha and the remarkable women who accompanied me for a deep and abiding encounter.  Blessed be each and every one of you.

moon goddess

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Published in We’ Moon

2015coverposterI am proud to announce that a couple of my poems will be featured in We’ Moon next year. We’ Moon is a women’s almanac published every year since 1987 by Mother Tongue Ink in Oregon. It’s been my constant companion since it first came out but I don’t have my old copies because every year they get slowly demolished as I rip out pages to send to friends, post on my refrigerator, pirate into my collages and leave subversively on the tables of coffee shops or scotch taped to the mirror of restrooms.

Sharing is the name of the game at We’ Moon, which sets out to publish as many diverse women writers and artists writing for and about women as they can possibly cram into each issue. We’ Moon means “women”, of course, but it also meaSelena-Gomez-Moon-Goddess-2014-AMAns “we of the moon.” Women’s bodies are linked to the moon biologically; our menstrual periods follow the same cycle of twenty-eight days as the moon does. If women live together for a period of time our cycles begin to align with each other. If we sleep in moonlight for several months our periods begin to occur during the new moon. Honoring that link, We’ Moon is an astrological moon calendar and appointment book that makes it easy for women to track their periods.


I was barely into my thirties when I discovered the women’s movement – not that I hadn’t always been a feminist. Equal pay for equal work has always seemed like the most obvious rock bottom line ever. But though I was politically convinced about the necessity to stand up for myself as a woman, I really had no interest in claiming my femininity.

I had no idea what I was missing!  The story of my reclamation is too long for this posting; suffice it to say I fell hook, line and sinker in love with womanhood. That restoration and healing has brought untold benefits and blessings into my life. I wouldn’t be half the artist, mother, poet, wife, sister daughter I am today if it hadn’t been for the deeply sustaining company of women and the spiritual blessing and enhancement of the divine feminine throughout my adulthood.

circle-of-goddesses-candleholder-ke-12096About the same time I was discovering the feminine, 50 -60 women from different countries and walks of life were gathering in Denmark to live in a women’s community called Kvindelandet. It was there that the idea of a special calendar for women, based on the cycle of moon, sun and stars, was first conceived. The very first We’ Moon was hand-written in five different languages and published in France.   We’Moon still receives submissions from women all over the world.

By the time it began appearing in the USA, I was living in the middle east where no feminine books, much less bookstores, existed. Happily a visit to England coincided with the first publication of We’ Moon, which I bbl-photo-silvermoondiscovered in my favorite bookstore, Silver Moon on Charing Cross Road. Silver Moon like so many women’s bookstores (see previous post) no longer exists, but for many years it was my lifeline. We’ Moon has been around the world with me.

I am so pleased to be appearing in the 2016 edition and to have my words join the collected wisdom of so many of my sisters. Thank you dear editors, nothing could make me prouder than to join the company of the many many other wise women of the moon you have served so faithfully and well over the years.

moon goddess

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NaPoWriMo #30 At Last

Muddled and befuddled by sniffling, sneezing, coughing,etc., but now, recovered and composed, I complete the assignment after a really dark dream influenced by way too much TV and self-pity…




you should be standing here

alone in the dark

empty as when you began

now that the men you loved,

the ones you hated,

are both dead.

Maybe you were blind before

without volition

ignorant of option

but now, playing it all back

step by inexorable step

you can’t help but notice where

you might have foreseen

foregone, forborne, forgiven.

Hatred begets hatred

see how it ends?

That’s a beginning.


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NaPoWriMo # 29 The Review

I decided in the spirit of self-promotion to review one of my own books. The Naked Man is a chapbook inspired by a true muse, a extremely intelligent, charming and desirable muse of a man, trapped, it seemed to me, in a kind of eternal adolescence marked by extreme self-absorption, unabating angst and existential questioning. 

Jungian psychology posits the existence of archetypes – templates of energy that dwell in the collective unconscious of every human being.  If all goes well these archetypes surface and sink, surface and sink, but sometimes are psyches get trapped, ridden, or driven by a particular pattern we find almost impossible to shake off.  In that case existence becomes very two-dimensional and isolated, real engagement and relationships are lost  because we are lost to ourselves.

The question I pose in the poem is one I consider often as a writer. “How dare I use the real lives  and situations of myself and others as grist for my craft?”  My muse’s life was an open book- he confided nothing in me exclusively and talked endlessly about all his relationships with everybody.  The man had no secrets except the ones he denied and I don’t know, nor did I speculate on what those might be. Nevertheless, I feel unkind. Nevertheless, I published.  Sometimes that ruthlessness scares me. I’m rather glad it manifests as poetry, instead of elsewhere.

The Naked Man

This slim volume raises

an intriguing question, “How far

should the poet go when mining her own life

or the lives of others to complete her work?”

The Naked Man portrays a soul, perhaps

too cunningly termed “manchild”, driven by archetype.

Her puer aeternus, stripped naked, every flaw

and furbelow exposed for all the world to see

is based, according to Ms. Irving’s own admission,

upon a man she knew! She has taken personal

observation, rumor, the gossip of girlfriends

along with the subject’s own confessional soliloquies

and turned them into a series of witty, barbed

anecdotal portraits some might call unkind

in spite of being based on fact, but truly

is any person ever only his persona? What right

have poets to expose our foibles, holding up

but one mirror when so many aspects

dwell trapped within, clamoring

to be seen? There is something maenad-like

about her ruthless dissection of this man

she calls a fool. To be fair, when interviewed

the author claims she holds Fools sacred, “They

represent the unlimited potential of humankind,”

claims Ms. Irving, “ but dancing on the edge

is not enough, eventually we all must leap.”


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NaPoWriMo # 28 Concerning Bridges

Red Wagon in the Rain


Driving by, my peripheral vision

catches sight of a bright red wagon

standing amid weeds on the unkempt

lawn of a Methodist church, verdant

grass unmowed since our latest cloudburst

saturated every garden, turning earth

to mud more liquid and viscous

then Texas dirt has any right to be.


The scarlet wagon, briefly glimpsed,

framed by crooked trees, resembled

the symbolic bridges traditional

Chinese landscape artists paint

into seasonal landscapes. I suppose

a wagon is a kind of bridge carrying

people, cargo across an expanse of ground

difficult to traverse on foot.


Pioneer travelers floated Conestoga wagons

across unbridged waterways and flooded fords

I picture them lined up like pontoon bridges

Roman engineers artfully employed

to cross wide European rivers –

Rhone, Seine, Danube, Tiber.


It’s raining again, sky full up and heavy

with clouds that dim the light to gray.

The crimson color of that wagon

glows like a lantern in my mind

bridging the gaps between

pioneers and Romans, Methodists

and Oriental art. The past,

the present, the future melt

and meld, moving in slow currents

through my days and I think

I am that red wagon, I

am the bridge.



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NaPoWriMo # 27 Hay(na)ku Meets Philosophy

I have a theory about shopping;  it mimics the act of creation, which is to make something from nothing.

Creativity, is what makes us godlike.  It is an act of divinity, a reflection of The Prime Creative Force.  The act of creation invokes a powerful response with us, which involves our entire self -mind, heart, body, and spirit. The endorphins that making something engenders reverberate for days within us.  Buying something also brings new things into our lives that didn’t exist before.  We feel as if we made it, but all we really did was buy it, so the feeling doesn’t last,  It’s like a sugar high- an instant burst of energy that flames up then quickly disappears.  Nevertheless, for that tiny space of time we feel real good.

Creativity takes many forms, including crafting a friendship.  Engaging in relationship includes looking out for one another – noticing when the other is stuck in a rut of her/his own making and needs a jolt to lift her/him up and out. It might even involve shopping!

To a Sad Girlfriend

out and
shop with me
need to
splurge and spree
hit the
One Buck Tree
lip gloss
by the gross
nails rose
sport silver toes
“make a toast”
in glass all
in gold
so faux it
bold lips
rubs off on
but still
our pledge is
you’ll laugh
and I’ll love
friends true
blue, for ever.
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NaPoWriMo #26 Getting in Character

Pandoras_box_by_DigiBentoBoxPandora’s Box  is a story that has always fascinated and disturbed me, as do all creation myths that blame the ills of humankind on women. Ironically, it is most often women who fall victim to and suffer from those same fatal flaws.  To add insult to injury,  the very same stories that blame women for evicting folks from Golden Age and Eden never give us poor feminine perps enough brains or chutzpah to be responsible for our crimes.  Oh no, we are dupes, dull-witted cats paws of devil, serpent, or megalomaniacal supergod.  I have written a couple of versions of the Pandora story, there’s always another perspective to discover.  Here’s the latest:


 No one asked if I wanted

to be universally adored

ogled, growled, whistled and hissed

at every time I left the house! Imagine

what that does to a girl,

how paranoid and creepy I began

to find all men, so when

you married me off to Epimethius –

old ,wrinkled, warty, half-blind,

I wept with relief.  My comeliness

didn’t cut mustard in his workshop

where his fingers had eyes of their own.

(I grew to love those wise fingers.)

Am I sorry I opened the box?

No.  Suffering made mankind

comprehend compassion; forced

them to know themselves.

There’s hope for them yet.

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