A murder mystery author, a bee expert and a pastor walked into a blog . . .
That's not the lead-in to a joke, it's the lead-in to this week's installment of HeartWood. Those three folks were among the assortment of interesting, insightful people I invited to share their intentions for 2017. Specifically, I posed this question: What is one way you hope to enhance (or exercise) your creativity OR increase your connection (with other people, with the natural world, with causes you champion) OR foster contentment (your own or someone else's) in 2017?
Responses ranged from practical to political, artistic to activist, and each one gave me something to think about. (And by the way, if you're thinking, Why didn't she ask me? Aren't I interesting and insightful?, don't be so sure I didn't ask you. I have a feeling a number of emails I sent ended up in spam files, even though I tried to keep my email groups fairly small). So read on and please feel free to share your own intentions or comment on these responses in the Comments section at the end of this post.
Author J.Q. Rose (known as Janet Glaser in her non-writing life) has been tackling some new writing challenges, in addition to spreading the word about her latest release, Dangerous Sanctuary. Here's her intention for 2017:
In 2017, I plan to complete my memoir about the first year my husband and I bought our flower shop in Fremont. Writing about myself, instead of a character in a mystery story, is very difficult. I have to be truthful about the situation I lived through 40 years ago. No fiction! Time certainly has a way of giving one a different perspective on events. I intend to share this story with my children and grandchildren. They've heard some of the stories about the people and places during that time. I'm eager to put it all together chronologically for them.
If I decide to share the story publicly, I hope it will inspire and empower others to follow their dreams. Perhaps readers will gain the courage needed to leave home, friends, and family to make a future in a completely unknown area to realize their full potential. I'm so glad we did! Fremont is home now and even if there were a few bumps in the road on our journey to become business owners, the ride was amazing.
Sandra Bernard, whose poems and guest post on "Creative Thinkers" appeared in this blog last year, has simple but important goals:
I will finish my book . . . and I will pay more attention to elders who need love.
Katherine Girod Myers, a retired children's librarian (and friend since junior high) spends growing season days sharing Lily Hill with fellow garden enthusiasts in Claremore, Oklahoma. This winter, she's focusing on an indoor project that's creating both order and contentment:
It doesn't sound exciting or glamorous or philanthropic . . . so mundane, but it ties in with another of your posts on which type environment fosters creativity/happiness in your readers. If you'd asked this question during the gardening season you might have gotten a different answer from me, but since it's the season I'm more housebound (by weather and caring for a 20 month old) I'm focusing on fostering contentment in my life (and hoping those around me will be inspired by my more laid back attitude).
I don't know why I picked up Marie Kondo's book unless I'd read about her on a blog, but I did, and I confess at first I thought some of her instructions were silly. I mean, thanking your ratty, paint stained clothing before you trash them?? And why I actually stroked those splattered and ripped up jeans, I'll never know. But when I did, I thought about all the projects big (barn!) and small that I'd worked on in those jeans, and it was nice. I know, silly.
And why should it make a difference about how you pajama drawer looks? Well, I'm happy every time I open my organized drawers. I've moved on to spaces larger than drawers, and the more I sort through and thank (and make my possessions happy in their environment . . . yeah, I know . . .) the happier and more content I am. I am hoping The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will continue to foster contentment in 2017. All I know is this usually stressful holiday season has been the happiest and least stressful one I can remember.
This answer to your question is like when someone asks how you sprained your ankle and you wish you could say sky-diving when you really tripped over your own feet. I'm sure you'll get some 'sky-diving' emails from your other readers to balance this one!!
Mark Winston is a friend from grad-school days who went on to be a professor and author, specializing in the study of bees. Wouldn't you know he'd be buzzing (forgive me) with interesting ideas for the coming year:
I'm stretching my collaborative capacity by co-writing a book with a poet, Renee Sarojini Saklikar, at the intersection point between bees, poetry and science. While I've collaborated on many projects in many spheres, I've always kept book writing as a personal domain, so I'm reaching out into the dual citizenship domain of co-writing a book, and working with a poet. So far, it's been a blast, although the developing outcome fits no genre I'm aware of.
Writing friend Théa Heying intends to move forward from the past year:
I intend to stop pouting about the election; pointless ruminations disturb me. I will wean my way back to listening to the news. I will not automatically change sites, channels or stations when the "T" word comes up. I will work my way back gradually. I wish I had an Etch-a-Sketch Mind—wave a wand and the screen comes clean. Still, I aim to be a responsible American. It is time I listened—better.
You may remember Jonathan Riedel from his guest post, "Hyperactive Poetry," last April. Pastor at Newaygo Congregational United Church of Christ, Jon writes poetry in addition to columns for the Times Indicator, a local weekly newspaper. For 2017:
It is my hope to compile the articles I have written for the Times-Indicator into some kind of publishable form and to help my church address some of the economic difficulties of this area by working closely with our local schools, one classroom at a time.
Retired teacher and yoga sister Nancy Waits shared heartfelt intentions for the year ahead:
Because I am still deeply concerned about the direction of our country and how many of our citizens support this position, I plan to respond to any program for which the funding is cut. All citizens, and non-citizens for that matter, deserve clean air and water, the right to education and healthcare, police and fire protection. The hard-won rights of women, the LGBTQ community, and minorities can't be repealed. I still have some money I inherited from my dad in 2010 and I will put my money where my heart is.
Margaret Hrencher is a retired high school principal and gifted writer who happens to be my cousin. I wasn't surprised that her intentions included a mix of family, creative work and learning:
My intentions have been about the same for the last few years. First, I want to reflect on my relationships with my family. Basically, I want to be the best wife, mother, grandmother, sibling, cousin, and friend that anyone can have. I want to be intuitive to their needs, rather than my own. Then another first, (I don't want to diminish this intention) I want to hone my craft of writing, working harder, reading more, writing more, and reflecting more to find my way to my goal of being entertaining and/or valuable to my readers. (Currently, I have maybe six, including you :) ). Third, (see how I skipped two) I want to finally become semi-fluent in Spanish. I'm really pretty close but I need to spend some more time with native speakers who don't mind working with a fledgling.
Neighbor Sally Kane is one of my hiking and yoga buddies. Lately, she's been exercising and stretching her writing muscles as well, and continuing along those lines is a priority for this year:
For 2017, I decided to revisit the "Morning Pages" journaling process, developed by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. Many years ago I engaged in the two- to four-page writing commitment first thing in the morning. The process clears out the clutter and offers up little nuggets and gems, inspiration for poems and other genres. This lovely folder belonged to my mother, who also wrote, and will house those pages and new gem discoveries. I started this morning and already look forward to my next morning "date."
I discovered Ruth Daly and her photographs on Twitter, and I was pleased when she responded to my question:
My first thought was, "Only one way?" Wow, that's tough—I had some trouble with this, narrowing it down to just one way. But one thing I know I'll do is to keep taking photographs (this also increases my connection with the natural world and fosters my own contentment).
At the moment, I manage to get outside with my camera several times a week, sometimes every day, and tend to take my camera everywhere I go. Taking pictures makes me see beauty in things I didn't really notice before and makes me appreciate the simple, ordinary things in nature—frost on blades of grass, the pattern of feathers on common backyard birds, leaves lit up with sunlight, geese taking flight, clouds drifting across the sky.
I've learned that you don't have to go very far to see something interesting, you just have to look. Sometimes I see things that just leave me in awe: owlets learning to fly, brilliant colours of a sunrise, fresh snow on the mountains. I lose track of time and switch off from the worries and routines of life. I have a better frame of mind when I take photographs, am energized and content.
So for 2017, I'll continue to do this, as well as learn some new skills, such as night photography. And the downside? Well, you know what they say—if you give a photographer a camera, they'll want a better lens. And if you give them a better lens . . .
I knew I could expect a thoughtful response from my one-time roommate Rebecca Howey, and she didn't disappoint:
My intention is, to quote a Facebook post making the rounds, to "act rather than react, and not waste energy being outraged at predictable atrociousness." The even shorter version has been one of my mantras for decades: CHOOSE. Don't let life just happen. Not consciously choosing IS a choice. Choose consciously. Be the star and the director of your own life.
So there you have it: Eleven different takes on the question. Now, let's hear yours. To refresh your memory, here's the question again: What is one way you hope to enhance (or exercise) your creativity OR increase your connection (with other people, with the natural world, with causes you champion) OR foster contentment (your own or someone else's) in 2017?
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.