The First Evening of the New Year: Quiet Blessings Live On in a Journal

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                                                                                                                                            Every New Year’s Day, I have followed a tradition from my grandmother and mother of opening up a new and fresh journal filled with welcoming pages for events, thoughts, poems, memorabilia and daily musings. This evening was no different. My 2017 journal is now filled with what came our way each day of the past 52 weeks. There are many good things that filled this journal and some not so great. We weathered them and came out on the other side of each one. Some are still in progress such as having a nephew still in South Korea serving his country, grieving off the loss of a sibling, and new baby on the way for my nephew and his wife and a wedding in the coming year.  The good things outweighed the bad although with the world the way it is, the way our country has become and the way natural disasters made a swath of tragedy in the West and South did not take away daily quiet blessings. Often, it was sometimes hard to see quiet blessings prevail, but they did. At times when it becomes a struggle to see light, we must create our own. I hope I have. Whether it is a lighted snow village on my dining room table, or helping a young writer with her dream to write, light comes through little by little-and it endures.

In the dark days of winter that are coming, we have memories of all the good, and the light behind them. I can only say this: That everyone has done their hardest and their best. The love here among us all stays and stays strong.  This is the most important  New Year’s intention or as some call it resolution that truly matters to me. It is not on a to do list to be accomplished…it is ongoing. Quiet blessings and welcome to a new year and a new light in 2018.

Enjoying Christmas…for a few days more

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“There is more to life than increasing its speed” -Ghandi

It has been a busy and exhausting couple of months. Losing a family member suddenly and without warning brings life to a sudden stop. Everyday tasks, schedules, work responsibilities and other commitments come to a grinding halt. You persevere, forge on and take care of what needs to be with the best you can give to such situations. But this is not what this posting is about.  It is about enjoying Christmas for a few days more.

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Christmas was just two short days ago and already I am seeing social media postings about taking down the tree and putting all decorations away. It is no different that seeing the same kind of postings in November only the opposite-who is getting their tree up and putting lights on the outside of homes. My first thought was this: “Why can’t we enjoy Christmas for a few days more?” It all comes to a finality on December 26th. Yes, it is done, over with for another year.  And then I read the quote above by Gandhi and wonder why the rush to take it all down? I do realize that it is necessary due to personal preferences and time constraints. Two years ago, Christmas had to end for us on December 26th as a emergency kitchen floor renovation needed to begin on December 27th. And it was depressing, I will admit to see everything packed up and done for another year.

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You see, I live in a small town nestled against the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I live where the biggest star in the world ( historical fact) shines from the Saturday after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. It’s light shines for miles in all directions. The Bright Star of Palmer Lake has shone each holiday season for 82 years. (Please see about the Star in the book titled ‘Bright Star of Palmer Lake’ available on Amazon.) It does not shut off on December 26th just because Christmas is over and neither does my Christmas lights.

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Photo by Aaron Jurka, Mountain Tapestry Press, LLC

I want to extend the memories of Christmas for just a few more days. Yes, they will be held in our hearts and minds for years to come. I want the quiet moments of drinking cups of tea and become absorbed into a new book that was a Christmas gift. I have no need or desire to do post-Christmas sales. But this year, it is the moments of memories that were made by family and friends that I do not want to rush away.

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In the closing days of December and all of 2017, quiet reflection and slowing down for a few moments can do wonders. There is time to pack up Christmas and turn to normalcy but I don’t want to hurry it up just because others are doing so. In the poem “Waiting for Christmas”, I believe I convey the quietness of the winter season:

A Walk in Wintered Woods

Almost evening, the winter sunlight fades

through darkened aspen and pine.

The tranquility of two white tailed deer

grazing through snow is interrupted

by the creaking of branches in a brisk,

twenty degree December wind.

The silent flight of a hawk disappears;

only to pop back into my view as it circles

over the mountains blanketed in thick, quilted snow.

There is no path here; the wintered woods

lie ahead in deep shadows.

I stand still listening to this land call out

its life to me; the woodland loner now

warmed with the peaceful wonder of falling snowflakes

upon my Christmas mittens.

Mornings (Will Never Be the Same Again)

Sunrise burns through the early mist,
warming me like a quilt forever shared,
unaware the delicate, weak seams
would eventually fray and split;
letting the cold morning wind inside.

The storm arrives without warning,
fury consumes hurt, suddenly casting
a dark shroud across our blue skies,
over the angry sea, gray like wet slate.
Even at a safe distance, we can no longer protect
our moors from being thrashed upon
by tempestuous surf, uninvited to our private beach.

We do not have the strength and courtesy
to hold on to threadbare ghosts of our years.
Once tender now lies tossed,
heaped in a corner of tattered pain.

Traveling down broken and divided roads,
our backs turned, hearts chilled;
we walk away from mornings that once were,
to mornings that will never be the same again.

I Won’t Leave You

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DSCN3834This poem first appeared in Journey On : Beauty and Grit Along the Way published in 2012. It has since undergone revision and will appear in the upcoming poetry collection titled Winter’s Call.

 

 I Won’t Leave You

You and I have many dusty roads still to walk together,

and blood red sunrises we have not seen

sitting side by side on a quiet beach.

There are many seashells

not picked up; memories not yet made.

We know the hope of a radiant summer morning,

and the deep peace of midnight stars.

 

We have laughter to remember, tears to brush away;

taking in the scent of rain on the wind and hay in a far off meadow.

In soft December while the snow falls draping the mountains,

we stroll alongside together, you clasping my hand,

as more colors appear…

leaving none behind.

Celebrating the Leap

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Yes, sometimes you just have to take the leap and I did just that. Five years ago this month-July 2012- my first poetry collection Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way onto to independent book stores shelves, into personal libraries, and on to home night stands from Colorado to across the USA and onto England, Germany and Canada.

If someone had asked me 20, 30. 40 years ago if I would ever be a writer, a published award winning author, and founder/owner of my small imprint Mountain Tapestry Press, I would not have laugh at them. I would have said as I walked away, ” No, way. I hate writing anything let alone have any dreams of being be a writer.”  It was a “dream” of building and loving a teaching career, being a wife, raising children, moving more times than I can count, singing, and gardening in between losing parents (at the age of 28-30 twenty months apart) and just “trying to do it all” more or less.

It all changed in 1997. The story is in the preface of Journey On. It was a self discovery of dreams I never knew I had. And in 2012 those dreams leapt into a new reality. A few years earlier Mountain Tapestry Press LLC was born. With the help and support from my family, we launched Mountain Tapestry Press to publish my work. I did not have the time or the years to wait to go the traditional publishing route. Working with incredible and  professional editors and writers, I gained the confidence quickly to “just do it” and get my work out there.

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Mountain Tapestry Press logo created from my quilt square for the Women Writing the West Quilt in 2014.

Journey On was an instant leap once it was printed and in my hands. Building my wings in this adventure took lots of hard work, creativity, what ifs, try this, try that,and marketing ideas that blew in with such wonderful force! Readers, friends, relatives, fellow writers, numerous book signings all contributed to this hand basket of experiences and love of poetry book that once never existed. And it still exists today…five years after publication. Journey On still sells and the first edition is now out of print.  An anniversary edition will be published with new and selected poems as well as a new cover by year’s end.

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First book signing for Journey On in 2012 at Covered Treasures Bookstore,Monument, Colorado

In 2015, it was time to make another leap; I kept “building my wings on the way down”. Another plunge into the world of self-publishing ( after pitching the book around) resulted in the publication of Bright Star of Palmer Lake. I knew who the perfect illustrator would be to create the scenes from my poem of the same title. “Bright Star of Palmer Lake” was published originally in Journey On. The 80th anniversary of the Palmer Lake Star shining on the mountainside was fast approaching. I called upon my publishing coach Mike Daniels, publishing advice from Doris Baker of Filter Press and the illustrator, Kay LaBella to bring thoughts, ideas and realities to make this book happen. And happen it did! In November of 2015, a beautifully illustrated hardcover poetry book was published and in my hands. Mountain Tapestry Press’ book designer Andy Jurka ( my son) pulled out all the stops to design and make deadlines to create this award winning book. Aaron Jurka also my son) a professional photographer took author photos as well as the Palmer Lake Star photos that were needed for inclusion in the book. Every detail was looked at over and over and off to the printer it went.

80 Year Shining Feature with Cover

And in August 2016, another dream was fulfilled. Bright Star of Palmer Lake was award third place in poetry by the Colorado Independent Publishing Association (CIPA).  If a leap did not happen, this would not have happened. Bright Star of Palmer r Lake sold out its first print run which necessitated another quick print run right in the middle of holiday book selling season. Another leap was taken the decision to do another print run. Bright Star of Palmer Lake is a lifelong gift to the Palmer Lake, Colorado community-a forever keepsake for all ages.

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Our CIPA EVVY Award August 22, 2016

So, yes celebrating the leap is more than an anniversary. It is a culmination of dreamers never known, special people behind the scenes doing more than encouraging you to go on and not give up, readers who love your work and being humbled greatly by that, and the love of family and dear friends that support what you have come to believe in: your own heart, your words and your dreams. I have not landed yet anywhere. I am still building those wings. I will still smile and get misty eyed over a box of newly published books that are in the making. But my wings are stronger and more confident-and who knows where “on the way down” truly is?

Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way and Bright Star of Palmer Lake are available on Amazon, Covered Treasures in Monument, CO and Finders Keepers in Palmer Lake, CO.

Coming Fall 2017: Winter’s Call New and Selected Poems by Anna Blake Godbout

Why I Write Poetry

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     I am often asked why I have chosen to write poems instead of novels, short stories and essays in my writer’s life. My answer is not a complicated one:
Because I want to. Because it lets me be authentic. Because we need poetry. Besides, supplies are basic and simple…a journal, a blue pen and the words that spill out thoughts and memories.
     In the winter of 1997, I wrote my first poem. Actually, it was a running track to tell a friend from Boston what it was like to live in Colorado while sitting in a traffic jam one January morning on I-25 staring at Pikes Peak. Searching like a mad woman in my school bag for pen and paper, words began to spill out and I could not get them written down fast enough. I was afraid I would forget them as fast as they came. And my writer’s heart along with it.
     Writing a poem for me is not a goal-oriented activity. It has been a continual process of discovering who I am and for me I cannot do that in writing a novel. I have discovered that my words can have an immediate and long lasting impression on those that read them; something that is expressed when one feels the same way as I do and can’t or won’t write them down. While writing a poem can be in be a most intimate and satisfying experience, how it touches a reader’s heart and life is the most important and gratifying tribute I could have as a writer.
     I write free verse only; I am partial to the flow of eloquent and rich language. I cannot rhyme or do metered poetry or sonnets-it reminds me of teaching language arts daily to my students at school before retiring from education. I do not care for writing prompts set up by someone’s idea of what a writing subject should be. My writing “prompts” come from observing details of the world around me, what I am seeing in the moment, what I am feeling or what I have remembered from an experience in my life. As an example, in the poem The Wedding Ring Quilt, there is a direct relationship between my words and my writing what I have experienced…not exactly the typical writer’s mantra of “write what you know”:
 
THE WEDDING RING QUILT
This morning, the first snow of spring
kept falling like a curtain of lace across the mountains,
spilling remnants of winter
down into the stunted pine brushed valley.
“I hope it snows six feet,” I said.
Warm, weathered hands
gathered our wedding ring quilt
around the curve of me, knowing the soft why of my words.
 
     I am always looking for ways to improve my work. One of the best ways has been through my writing group that I have been with for the past several years. Their insights and critiques are not just welcome, but truly invaluable. Sitting on my sofa, drinking cups of tea or coffee, fresh pens and journals in hand, wearing the comfiest of clothes lends itself to a ‘sense of place’ with trusted friends that help you figure out words, images and frustrations. But I also have found having mentor and editor that knows my style of writing and where it should go, not only the best investment, but invaluable in my writing journey. A suggested a title change to one of my poems led to a third place prize in the Denver Women’s Unknown Writing Contest. A year later, another poem took Honorable Mention. My education as a poet is always ongoing;  I hope it never ceases.
     My poetry continues to be published in small journals and local publications. My poems have been  published in “Distant Horizons”-a publication of the Wyoming Poets Society, The Story Circle Network, The Pen Woman Magazine, a publication of the National League of American Pen Women and just recently Mary Janes Farm Magazine. 
    
     Although I have self published a volume of poetry through Mountain Tapestry Press, I am always finding ways to market my poetry. One of my favorite ways to market is to combine my poems with my photography. Each poem and photo tells their own story-they enrich one another in a different medium. For one month of the year, I exhibit this combination at the Barnes and Noble Café near where I live in Colorado. What is wonderful about this opportunity for me is that I see it as a “ 30 day book signing”. I have seen many people take the time to read my work and grab my business card. A few photo/poem combos have been sold from this exhibit. Another way to market my work is that I take advantage of my local Arts Center. Whenever there is member exhibit coming up, I always enter my work. No other photographers have poems with their work except for me and it is always a unique way to get my name and work out there. I have started writing groups in my community, teach writing workshops, donated poems for special occasions, and teach students at local elementary schools.. I take advantage of small local independent bookstores in selling my book, Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way. In giving back, I have been a book judge with Pikes Peak Library, Colorado Independent Publishing Association,  Women Writing the West, Oklahoma Federation of Writers and a presenter at poetry workshops at Colorado College and CCIRA Literacy Conferences in Denver.
     And so why do I write poetry? Is it because I love to wear black and a beret at a reading? ( Forget the beret; my hair is not long enough.) Is it because I love to write my words in blue scripted font instead of the standard Times New Roman black and white? ( The answer is a definite yes!) Or is it because I have had people tell me that my simple creations touch their heart in language they can relate to and feel deeply when life becomes too chaotic and my words can take them somewhere else for a moment in time?
      I love to imagine someone getting up each morning and having a small connection with a poem of mine over morning tea, smile and begin their day. After all, poems hold their own secrets, don’t they?

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