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.

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

Late Morning in June

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Late morning writing time…now just need to open up the journal a few more pages in. My writing inspiration this morning combines the summer sun, tea, a well worn journal and beyond these things lies gardens of flowers and a rugged mountainside. More gardening work awaits of course; it is ongoing throughout the summer. But moments need to be put aside to writing and that is not always easy to do. I do admit that.  And as my tea tag above says, “be yourself” sits in the beginning of my journal, I aspire to that. For inside these written pages dating back to 2008, filled with thoughts, quotes, unedited poems, drawings…all allowing me to just…be myself.

My Mother’s Peonies: A Decades Long Journey

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Mom's PeoniesPeonies from the garden on the Ridge. The deep pink ones? Oh what a history they have! They are over 55 years old and originated from my mother’s garden back in my childhood yard in Cold Spring, NY. They were dug up in 1976 when my parents sold the house and replanted at our home in Fayetteville, NC until June 1978 when a PCS to Germany had us selling our home there. No way was I going to leave my childhood peonies in NC. They were dug up and replanted in my mother- in-law’s garden in Hackettstown, NJ. In 2007, my mother-in-law dug up and carried one peony plant on the plane to plant on my garden here in Palmer Lake. A few years ago, it was necessary to sell her home. And again, no way was I going to leave my mother’s peonies in NJ! Yes, I dug up a bunch of them and transplanted them here next to the lone peony that just grew and grew. It was a good thing because a visit to the NJ house two years ago showed all my mother- in-law’s gardens gone- including my mother’s 35 year old huge peony hedge. The legacy of my mother’s peonies from NY to NC to NJ to CO have traveled and survived. Gratitude and blessings? Numerous! Yes, it is quite a story. And Mom lives on in each bloom of hers…I cherish this legacy.