Thursday, March 15, 2018


As blank as this white screen
is the view outside the window.
Snow falling, snow blowing
Snow billowing snow
mounding snow rounding
snow mounding
higher and higher
on every surface.

Why does this perfect whiteness
of an empty winter page
strike up my anxiety?

It’s as if I were trapped in school
And no matter that I didn’t
know what the hell was
going on, I was supposed to be writing,
Somehow I still had to fill the
white sheet of paper
with some sort of bright and clever ideas.

Today I sit beside the window
And force myself to slow
down down down
to match the falling snow.
No moving and
perfect silence.

One thing I marvel at:
that in a matter of days
it will

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pink Tulips, Observed

I bought the last batch of pink tulips at the grocery store.
Came home and set them carefully into a clear glass vase
and stared.
The tulips are the color
of the two lips of a newborn,
the blossoms' flesh cupped in yellow and white at the center.

I thought, I will take a photograph and share it.
Nothing photographs quite right when there isn’t enough light.
I carried the flowers around the house,
setting them here and there,
turning on all the lights,
even the emergency lantern,
taking one lousy photo after another.
I even set them next to the bathtub.

Waiting for sunlight to brighten your tulips
is a little like waiting for spring is a lot like
More or less, it's a waste of time.
Is always the invitation
Is always the challenge.

Two days later,
this morning,
the sun rose on the tulips

And they are glorious.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

As in WAM: Where Arts and Activism Meet!

Arts and activism don’t always go hand in hand. But when they do come together, the power can be explosive, as in WAM!

WAM in this case stands for Where Arts and Activism Meet, a pioneering women’s theatre company in Berkshire County now entering its ninth year.

The dynamo who co-founded the company, Kristen van Ginhoven, did so after reading Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The book, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, profiles extraordinarily courageous women who achieved heroic accomplishments despite huge life obstacles. The book changed van Ginhoven’s life.

Trained as an actor and director, Canadian-born van Ginhoven decided to start a theatre company in Berkshire County that would feature women playwrights, actors and theatre artists.

But that wasn’t all. Her vision – which has come to pass – was for WAM to donate approximately one-fourth of the proceeds from each of its productions to non-profit organizations that serve women and girls both locally, across the country and around the world.

Last November, the Board of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association paid tribute to van Ginhoven’s remarkable accomplishments through WAM by selecting her to receive the prestigious Larry Murray Award, which recognizes a theatre or an individual for advancing social, political, or community issues.

In WAM’s first year, van Ginhoven admits she wasn’t altogether sure her newly formed theater company would fly.  She recalls the day that the company’s first production, called “A WAM Welcome,” opened back in April 2010.

“No one had bought tickets beforehand,” she says. “I didn’t think anybody would show up.” The first woman who came up to the box office wanted to buy a ticket for herself and a woman friend who had cancer.  Van Ginhoven was very grateful to sell those first two tickets.

Altogether, the production went on to have four performances with a total of 100 people in attendance. That first year, WAM donated $1,000 to a group called Women for Women International, a program that teaches women business, life and vocational skills to help them earn a living.

This past year WAM mounted two productions: in the spring, a remount of Lauren Gunderson’s “Emilie,” first presented by WAM in 2013. The play explores the life of La Marquise Emilie du Chatelet, who in addition to being Voltaire’s mistress, also managed to promote modern physics during the Age of Enlightenment.

In the fall of 2017, WAM presented “The Last Wife,” by Kate Hennig, a marvelous exploration of the trials and tribulations of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. The play – which I thought equal to or better than many Broadway shows I’ve seen -- earned great reviews and ran for four weeks. 
Altogether, 1500 people saw the play.

Two organizations benefited from WAM’s 2017 productions. “Emilie” generated $2500 for the Flying Cloud Institute, which provided scholarship money for 10 young women to attend a Young Women in Science training program at Simon’s Rock and Berkshire Community College during the summer of 2017.

“The Last Wife” generated $9500 on behalf of Soldier On, a national organization that provides housing and other services to women veterans who are homeless. In Massachusetts, van Ginhoven says, Soldier On operates a “beautiful, comfortable and cozy” residential facility in the town of Leeds, located about halfway between Pittsfield and Northampton. Specifically, the WAM contribution will provide on-going support to female vets as they make the transition out of the Soldier On home and back into the “real” world.

Van Ginhoven says that several women from Soldier On attended the final performance of “The Last Wife” in early November.

“We were very moved, as one of the women spoke about how she had lived in her car. She lost custody of her children, attempted suicide and ended up in the hospital.” That’s where she heard about Soldier On’s housing facility. Today, the vet is working to make a transition out of the home. 

She is also working to try to get her children back.

“We were thrilled to know that we at WAM would have a small part in building her life again,” van Ginhoven says.

In total, WAM has mounted a total of 11 productions and has donated $41,500 to a total of 13 not-for-profits benefiting women. Van Ginhoven speaks fondly of several of the projects WAM has supported, some of which are on the other side of the world.

In 2014, for example, WAM donated $5000 to the Mother of Peace Orphanage in South Africa, where 13 housemothers raise 84 orphaned children. The money from WAM allowed the director of the orphanage to give the housemothers a paycheck for the first time.  Each woman was paid $385 --approximately $4,000 in South African dollars-- sufficient for one woman to put an addition on her home so that she can bring in rental income.

Closer to home, WAM in 2013 donated $3400 to a Pittsfield-based organization called The Rite of Passage and Empowerment Program, a group that serves young women of color in grades eight to 12. Operated by a dynamic community leader named Shirley Edgerton, the Empowerment program offers Berkshire County girls a wide variety of nurturing and educational activities, including, each spring, a tour of the nation’s historically black colleges. WAM’s donation paid for that tour in the Spring 2014.

WAM also offers an on-going educational program called Girls Ensemble to young women ages 13 to 18, who must audition for the group. With guidance from WAM instructors, the girls write and perform a piece of theatre based on issues in their own lives. This year, Girls Ensemble will operate a two-week intensive program.

WAM has also collaborated with IS 183 and Girls Inc. to offer acting classes to young women in the community.

When I tell van Ginhoven that I am a bit awed by all of the theater work, as well as all of the philanthropy, that WAM has under its belt, she laughs, and admits that her company has grown tremendously in its first 8 years.  “We’re pretty amazed ourselves at what we’ve accomplished,” she says. “We’re nothing if not ambitious.”

Still, by comparison to what she calls the “Big Four” theater companies in Berkshire County – Barrington Stage, Berkshire Theater company, Williamstown and Shakespeare and Co. – WAM remains a modest endeavor. But that works just fine with van Ginhoven. “We’re like the turtle and not the rabbit. We grow really slowly.”

The company’s 2018 theatre program will be announced within a few weeks, and in July at their yearly gala, WAM will announce the non-profit organization that will benefit from the production.  In the past, van Ginhoven was on her own selecting a beneficiary for the company’s donations. This year, however, WAM is forming a committee to decide which group will be selected. The committee, she says, will include an artist, a board member and a volunteer.

How does she go about selecting a play for WAM? Van Ginhoven says that she reads “a ton of plays, “ always on the lookout for scripts that feature women “trying to be authentic in leadership” roles. 

Her rule of thumb: “If I read a play and I get goosebumps, it’s in the pile” of possibilities. Then, she says, “it’s a question of when is the right moment” for a particular play.

She selected “The Last Wife” right after the 2016 Presidential election. The play’s themes, which focus on women’s precarious position in a male-dominated political world, fit the nation’s mood. “I had seen the play, and the day after the election, I was feeling so bereft.” Some aspects of the play angered her; some thrilled her. In the end, she decided it worked, and it did.

This year, however, she admits to be being confused about how WAM should respond to the events surrounding the “Me Too” campaign, and the nationwide groundswell of feminist activism against sexual harassment. “There has been so much conversation. We are thrilled for this conversation, it’s long overdue, but what does it mean for society and for how young men and women are supposed to behave? Nothing is black and white, as much as I wish it were.”

In the end, van Ginhoven will consult with her recently hired associate artistic director. And she will probably make the decision the way she often has in the past: by trusting her instincts. “I’m a gut instinct kind of girl,” she says.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Spider Poem, Written by Candlelight

I dip the candle in ink.
I dip the ink in fire.
I fire a long thin feather.
I watch the flame.
It flickers.  It flies.  It webs. It wicks.
It says spider. 
It says spider.
It says inside the net, somewhere, a diamond
A diamond may be hiding there in gold, in silver.
Let it fill the room.
Let it fill the sky.
Let it dawn.

My eyes get tired.
The flame pops.
Copy me.
Copy me my grey tree.
Copy me my watery shadow.
Lay lines.  Lay lines.
I pick up the red candle.
It melts in my hand.
It drips a line of red wax on my page.
It plays red on white.
The light of the candle
Shows me

I write.
I write.
My writing
glows in the flame.
The wax shows me
The wax congeals.
The diamond isn’t
The diamond isn’t
The diamond isn’t the diamond the diamond isn’t
The diamond is coal. I hold my finger there
I smudge
The wax slowly
The warm soft wax
I hold the candle

Till the wick turns cold

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Starting Over

Frozen ground.
Stuck in one place.
Facing the same white.
Not certain that the sun is.
Wanting the clouds to part.

Start over.

What do you do when you have no
Idea: can you draw some icon in the snow?
Where can you imagine going this morning?
Ah the lime green surge of water, the crush of tides
over and over the tan sand the white shells like ocean teeth
left behind the foam frothing over and over the never-ending waves
A dark fin no, now two now three wow arc up through the emerald sea
The beach is full of gulls but it is the
see them
into the

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Observing Miracles

On a morning when I wake up                                                           
wanting some kind of miracle
to happen and nothing
in particular 
that's when I try just
to watch that desire
and breathe it away. 

And then this
thought occurs to me:
Maybe you are asking
for the wrong sort.
Maybe you don’t need the
flashy miracles where some
glowing angel appears or
you suddenly can fly or
you can speak to the dead
or predict the future
with or without tea leaves.


Maybe the point is
that miracles
are right here in these
fingers creating meaning
out of little black squiggles
tapped onto a white screen.

Or in a sunflower bigger
than a dinner plate.
Or in a smiling baby
with toes like tiny pink pearls.
Feel the gentle air
expanding your lungs.
Smell the pine trees on a mountain –
just because I write the words.

All of it, every single thing
is miraculous

if you take the time to notice.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Light in My Mouth

This morning, as I meditated,
I had this sensation: light was resting on my tongue like a glowing lozenge.

I opened my mouth and chanted

(gone gone gone beyond utterly beyond)

The words lifted off my tongue
and as they did they pulled
light from

I love the way

Starting the day this way
oh and

*gate gate is the mantra at the end of the heart sutra:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Journey Into a Rose

Journey into a rose

The petals
have those
tender lips
curving, curling
a baby’s ear
begging, begging
come here, come here.

Inside, the
layers of flower flesh
around and around
deeper deeper
to a point
that disappears.

The rose
is something
a book,
the petals

And then, an
added bonus,
there is that
heavenly smell
that defies
a living perfume.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


All deep water.  All around me.
Me paddling.  Me scrambling
Me bubbling
Panicked and…
Please PLEASE!
I can
I am slipping I am

knockingkickingthrashing grabbing
at sticks and rocks anything sticking out
over the dark water.

Thank you.
For pulling me up
On this shore.
Thank you
For the blanket.
Yes, right there, over my
Yes.  I am terribly
Yes, are they purple?
They feel
So cold.
Hold my hand?
Yes, please.
For just a moment.

And breathe.
With me.
What did I see?
A beautiful green.
I think I saw
a jellyfish.
A turtle.
I can’t tell you for sure.  I don’t know.
Everything was so... frantic.  Fuzzy.

It is something like a dream I have,
Say, for example, I am walking
I don’t know where, but suddenly
There is an army of crickets in the grass.
Giant crickets.
Thick green
Such tall grass
I can hardly see the orange sun.
As soon as I start to tell you the dream
It seems so inane.
Why would I tell you?
Why would I take the time
Even to write it
Down .
When I am sitting
Here shaking
Clear drops
Dripping off of my cold naked

Having almost drowned,
I could
Yes, I could use a cup of warm tea.
And another blanket,
Yes.  I would love another blanket.
If you have one.
There, yes, around my legs,
Thank you.
Please. One other thing:
Don’t leave me.
Just yet.
Just let me rest here,

Until I am ready
To continue.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Consider these Cosmic Miracles


“It takes one second for light to circle the Earth seven times.”


No matter how many times I read this one sentence, no matter how many times I whisper the words, it always stops me in my tracks. My mind comes up against the idea and it makes me smile. If that one wondrous statement is true, then so too are so many other "everyday miracles," a term I hear during Shabbat services on Saturday morning at my temple.

These cosmic miracles can be so comforting.


Our sun is one of at least 100 billions stars, just in our galaxy – the Milky Way. And there are at least 100 billion other galaxies in the universe, each one with its own billion stars. There are more stars than grains of sand on all of the beaches on Earth.


If you were traveling at the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second, it would take you 100,000 years to cross just the Milky Way.


If the sun were as tall as a six-foot tree, then Earth would be the size of an olive.


The universe -- which is expanding -- is believed to be fourteen billion years old, at which time it was just one point in space.

When something happens that bothers me, or I’m just feeling kind of glum, I try to remember even one of these wildly amazing facts. Somehow it always helps me to get back on track. We spend our days immersed in our lives, and so often we get caught up thinking we are so important and that everything we do matters so much. But when you start to try to comprehend the gargantuan universe – everything takes on a whole new perspective. 

I am thinking about these facts today as I mull over the past year, and look forward to tomorrow.   It throws so much light and energy into the meditation.


About 10,000 light-years away in a constellation called Aquila, there is a cloud of alcohol with a diameter 1,000 times larger than our solar system. The amount of ethyl alcohol present in the cloud is equivalent to 400 septillion (that’s 400, followed by 24 additional zeros) drinks.

Think about that tonight when you are toasting the New Year with a drink in your hand.

And one more


A human body, or any object on the Earth, is never at rest. Even when you’re asleep in bed, you’re moving pretty fast. Our Milky Way Galaxy is rotating at 225 kilometers per second, and hurling through the cosmos at an estimated 305 kilometers per second. Add those figures together, and we are racing through space at about 530 kilometers, or 330 miles per second. So in one minute’s time, we’ve  traveled almost 20,000 kilometers, or more than 12,000 miles.

Consider the distance you are traveling as you read this sentence!

For more mind benders, check out these other sites:

Mental floss