Nov 20

Grateful for YOU


Dear Readers,
As blustery fall weather sweeps through the Northwest—and brings with it those long dark hours—we are remembering, with gratitude, our journey in writing The Pen and the Bell. The letters we wrote to one another became “a light in the darkness” for us and, we hope, for you.

We also have some good news we want to share! Holly received the prestigious Before Columbus American Book Award for her latest collection of poems, Passings. And Brenda received the 2017 Washington State Book Award in Memoir for her latest book An Earlier Life.

Passings-trade-cover-2-Expedition-Hughes-768x960             Front cover thumbnail for web or screen 2 inch

We’re both so grateful, not only to have our work recognized, but to know that our words have reached and touched others.

And we are always grateful for you, our first readers of The Pen and the Bell. If it’s been a while since you used the book, perhaps consider revisiting it for the holiday season, reviving a contemplative or writing practice—solo or with others. Or consider giving the book as a gift for those who struggle to find time for their own creativity in the midst of everyday life.

With love and light,

Brenda and Holly



Apr 01

An Earlier Life

Front cover FULL for web or screenDear Friends,
It’s a lovely spring day here in Bellingham, and I’ve just returned from a 10-day writing retreat on San Juan Island (10 days seems just about the right length for me these days for anything: retreat, vacation, exercise plan….) Before I left, I had the great pleasure of seeing my latest collection of lyric essays be “born” into the world; it’s called An Earlier Life, and the book has been released by Judith Kitchen’s Ovenbird Books. I made a book trailer video that you can watch here.

Making a book trailer was an interesting experience. I needed to think about the visual and aural tones I felt would represent the book most accurately. I had to choose a small essay that would give viewers a taste of the book as a whole. I spent hours searching for images, video clips, and music, then more hours at my computer, with iMovie, fitting all the pieces together.

Though this was highly technical work, I found it to be some of the most contemplative, and focused, work I’ve ever done! Hours would go by as I worked to create satisfying transitions or to match the soundtrack, voice-over, and images exactly. I honed in on the smallest details.

This process also allowed me to see my work in, literally, new dimensions. The writing came alive in a way that could never be achieved on the page alone.

I highly recommend that you try it, just for fun. Take an already existing poem or short essay (or an excerpt from a longer work) and allow images to come to my mind. Sketch out a “storyboard”: what images would go with which words? How would you transition between them? You can start by using still images (your own or copyright free images you seek out online) in a collage-type slide show, and/or look for stock video clips or create your own video footage. (For this video, I bought the video clips, because they were so perfect.) Find copyright free music online. You can use iMovie, or any video editing program; the learning curve is a little steep, but once you get it, you have a new artistic process at your fingertips!

Passings-trade-cover-2-Expedition-Hughes-768x960Holly also has good news: She is celebrating the fledging of Passingsher letter-press chapbook about 15 extinct birds, with several readings in the Puget Sound region during April, National Poetry Month. Check out the events page to see what Holly and I are up to.

We wish you a renewing and invigorating spring season.

With love,

Jun 24

In Memoriam—Pesha Gertler


Dear Friends,
I want to tell you about a class I took over thirty years ago. I’d like you to see about twenty women finding their seats, and at the front of the room, the teacher, Pesha Gertler, resplendent in her layers of flowing clothes, writing a quote on the board. That board will hold many such quotes in the years to come, as I take this class over and over: Self Discovery for Women Through Creative Writing, at a local community college. College didn’t quite work out for me, so here I am, in my late twenties, searching for something, not sure what. The tables have been arranged in a large rectangle, all of us finding our seats, facing one another, ready for anything.

I must have attended the course in many different seasons, but I always remember it as winter, driving out to North Seattle Community College on the dark and damp streets after a day working in an office for an Italian espresso company. I answered phones and typed up invoices on an old electric Remington, flirted with the salesmen and the vendors, made coffee for prospective customers. It wasn’t a demanding job, and in the intervals, I typed out stories of my own on that rackety typewriter, using wite-out to correct my many mistakes.

I came home to an old house I shared with three strangers, and my room populated with only a twin bed and a writing desk that faced a window looking out on Green Lake. I think about that person now, a young woman who has gone through five years of college, graduated, worked for four years at a hippy resort in California, then drifted her way to Seattle. A young woman who backpacks by herself nearly every weekend in the summer, a young woman who somehow keeps finding herself drawn back to writing but not really knowing how.

So this young woman drives every week to North Seattle to enter this classroom, which is transformed by Pesha’s intention, her flowing clothes, and soft-spoken voice, slightly accented like the voices of my grandmothers. When all of us arrive we know we’re entering what can only be described as sacred space, which means we leave the work-a-day world behind. We read a poem together, then write, just write, for an hour in silence, following whatever prompt Pesha has given us for the night.

I wish I could remember some of those prompts and poems now, but it wasn’t the trigger that was important. We went with it, all of us shedding our skins, writing deep, then sharing. I remember sharing something I wrote about my grandmother; I hear myself reading a line I don’t remember writing, though it was just a moment ago: “….as if her hands held a warding touch and would keep me safe forever.” The words ring in the silence, and I know I’ve stumbled onto something here: authentic voice. A voice that has burrowed out of the litter and understands the power of rhythm and cadence and image.

Sometimes the class was hard. Sometimes it was difficult and uncomfortable (so much so that one evening, when my anxiety emerged full force, I actually crawled under the table to get away and out the door; Pesha looked at me bemused above her reading spectacles, just nodding, knowing we all had to do what we had to do), but most often I was able to stay in that room, to keep the pen moving for an hour.

It was the first time I felt the solid connection between pen and paper, hand and mind. How this process of simply writing—without judgment and in the company of others—opens some hidden chamber, a place undamaged by time. A place like a cave in an Indiana Jones movie, glistening with treasure. A place that takes some ingenuity and perseverance to find: sneaking past marauders determined to foil you, swinging from vines, jumping into miner’s ore carts and careening down the tracks….

This is what Pesha taught us, silently, as she did her own writing with us, glasses at the end of her nose, hair big and curly around her face. She taught us the pathways to take that would lead us into these hallowed spaces and back out again. I’ve learned, since then, that nothing else really matters—not a skill with syntax or imagery, not an expansive vocabulary—if you haven’t found a way, and continue to find your way, to the source. You need to hear your authentic voice calling out to you from underground. And 30 years later, I find myself doing the same kind of work with my women writer friends, always returning to this elemental practice.


A couple of weeks ago, Pesha died at the age of 81, and the news brought me back to those days when a young woman didn’t know what answers she wanted to find, only that she was one big question mark walking through the world. She was a question sitting at her desk, gazing out the window, wondering where she must go next.

Think about your own teachers, the ones who showed you a pathway you didn’t know existed. Honor them in your writing. 

In closing, I’d like to share with you one of Pesha’s most famous poems, “The Healing Time”:

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy

—Pesha Joyce Gertler

Jun 05


2015 Joshua Tree - the flower 1 - crop

Dear Friends,
As some of you have noticed, we’ve been a bit, ahem, lax, on keeping up with the blog lately (we often tell each other we really need to take our own advice from The Pen and the Bell!) We’re so glad you’re interested in our missives, and one of our dear readers, Linda Kobert, has offered up a “guest blog” post for us. What a wonderful idea!  We’re always so glad to read writing that relies on patient observation of the world around us.

So, without further ado, here is Linda’s wonderful essay, “Surviving”:

I recently spent some time at Joshua Tree National Park with my son who works there. Joshua Tree is in the high desert in Southern California. It straddles the Mojave and the Sonora. Temperatures are routinely 120 degrees in the summer. The landscape looks like what I imagine the moon looks like: brown and rocky, lifeless. The mountains are granite. The dirt is sand. My son lived there for more than a year before he saw a drop of precipitation: a dusting of snow on New Year’s Eve.

One day this spring we joined a ranger-led hike to Barker Dam, a man-made construction built at the turn of the last century by ranchers and homesteaders to collect water. (It rained more than an inch in two years back then.) The ranger’s talk on this hike was about the people from the past, including Native Americans, who lived in this area. “Imagine,” she said, gesturing to the brown landscape, “what they had to do just to survive.”

2015 Joshua Tree - Wonderland of Rocks 4 - edit
Survive, I thought. Is that all there is? Perhaps I was recalling my own struggles, how hard it has seemed at times to simply survive, how useless it feels. Is that all we’re here for? To survive?

We hiked to Barker Dam, talked about where people found food, how they used what they found on the land, and stopped to see caves where people—ancient and modern—might have sought shelter and stored supplies. Afterward, my son and I kept going to wander through the Wonderland of Rocks. It’s a place that looks like giants might have played there and left their toys—oddly shaped boulders—stacked and scattered along the dry washes that run through the mountains.

2015 Joshua Tree - Wonderland of Rocks 5 - edit
My son, a climber, was up on the rocks somewhere, scrambling like a monkey ahead of me as I trudged through one of those sandy washes. It’s hard to walk in sand. It makes you feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. It makes your calves hurt. And it was hot, the sun blazing. I sucked almost constantly at my water supply. It was enough to make anyone wonder about surviving.

For some reason I paused in this trudge and turned around to look behind me. And there, tucked behind a boulder, I was startled to see a brilliant flash of fuchsia. The half inch of rain that fell five months ago caused a single flower to erupt on a paddle cactus stuck in that crevice. It took my breath away. It made me ridiculously happy. It made me grateful to know there was this beauty in the world.

2015 Joshua Tree - the flower 1 - crop
This flash of color stayed with me as I trudged on through the sandy wash, trying to catch up with my son. As I plodded, I thought about surviving and why we are here and that astonishing fuchsia flower. And it occurred to me that maybe this is why human beings exist: to see the beauty. We’re the only creatures who can have that kind of appreciation.

Maybe it’s our job to recognize what is wonderful. To delight in these random experiences of splendor. To have our hearts suddenly swell with the overwhelming joy of a single flower in the hopeless desert. Maybe this is why we must survive. Maybe this is what it means to worship the Divine.

What makes you ridiculously happy?
Why do you “survive”?
What does it mean to you to worship the Divine?

Feb 21

Letter from Grandma’s Cove

Grandma's Cove215

Dear Friends,
As many of you know, Holly and I wrote the first draft of The Pen and the Bell as letters to one another. We wrote these letters from wherever we happened to be: in our homes, at the doctor’s office, or waiting for a car to be fixed in the auto shop. Once, we were able to work together at a wonderful retreat center, The Helen R. Whiteley Center, on San Juan Island, and we even wrote letters to one another while working in the same room!

Holly is on retreat this week, solo this time, at the Whiteley Center, and I was delighted to receive a letter from her; it reminded me of that year when we each had a ready audience for our thoughts as we moved through the days. I’d like to share this letter with you, since you are now part of the The Pen and the Bell family:

February 17, 2015
Letter from Grandma’s Cove, San Juan Island

Dear Brenda,
I’m writing you from a sandy beach in Grandma’s Cove, where I’ve finally landed after walking the trails along the edge of the bluffs at American Camp, past the laundry, past the meadow where I once caught a glimpse of a black fox.  Something kept me moving down the hillside, wanting to sit where the sea murmurs to the  sand, listen to her steady breath.  A few seagulls glide past, checking me out, but otherwise, the beach is all mine as the sun slowly drops behind the jagged ridge of the Olympics.  I can just barely hear the low grumble of a boat making its way west, a silhouette on the horizon.  All the stones shimmer at the tide’s edge, open to the sea’s blessing, palms up.

How is that I forget that I need this, too?  This quiet time in the warm sun with nowhere I need to be, nothing on my to-do list, no plans needing to be made.  Just here with the sand, seagulls, and stones. I go on retreat to write, at least that’s what I think, and that’s what I tell colleagues, friends and family, my cat MC who’s pouting because I’m not there to feed her the way she likes. But I go on retreat for this, too, for the chance to be reminded that I need to listen to that voice that says, at 3 pm, OK, you’ve done enough for today. Let’s get outta here—I don’t care where—let’s go!

I listened, hopped in my car and drove south out of town by instinct, following the sun south and west on Cattle Point Road.  I’d intended to go on to Cattle Point, where we once went together, but something called me here and I listened, pulling over in the American Camp parking lot, then walking until my feet found this path to the beach, slipping down a steep trail to reach it.

And now I’m here, watching the ship become a speck on the horizon, feeling the welcome February sun on my face and arms, bones soaking in Vitamin D.  Soon, I’ll rise, walk back up the trail, keeping a lookout for the black fox I once saw on this trail. Each time I return, I hope I might see it, though I know it’s unlikely.  But that’s what these days on retreat give us, isn’t it?  The belief that anything CAN happen: the words might flow effortlessly, the black fox trot up the trail, rounding the next curve in the path.

May these warm, sunny days remind us that spring’s ahead and anything can happen…
yours in blissful retreat,

Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve written a real letter—not a text, not an email, not a note. Perhaps you can take a half-hour this weekend and write a short letter to a friend, letting her know you’re there.

With love,

Dec 23

What makes your heart leap?


Dear friends,

At this time of year, I always like to take an evening to reflect on the past year. I do this to try to corral where the time has gone (where has the time gone?), but also to discern patterns that have played out, and perhaps subtly changed. It’s always best, and much more fun, to do this in the company of my women friends.

This year we gathered at my home at sundown on the solstice (4 p.m. where I live!) and I made vats of hot cocoa with all the accoutrements: whipped cream, shaved chocolate, orange zest. Others brought cookies and crackers and cheese. I gave out party favors of palm-sized embossed notebooks, and this poem, by W.S. Merwin:

To The New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

This big guy was allowed into the ladies’ circle, my latest foster dog, Mr Bear:
1901269_10204322735502780_3483638063099660207_nAnd of course, Abbe was there, at our feet, in all her finery:
1507939_10204423808429540_6258588108522892375_nAs a way to begin reflecting together, I handed out this writing prompt, by Pam Houston, taken from the website Tracking Wonder:

“Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask yourself today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?”

We wrote for a little while in our new notebooks, then shared what we had written. You might think of “heart leaps” as moments out of the ordinary, and yes, there were a few of those. But the deepest, most authentic heart leaps came in the ordinary moments that are looked on anew: a sip of homemade chantrelle soup; the cocoa right in front of us; a passing moment of kindness.

You might try this on your own, or with a few friends. What makes your heart leap? How can your life allow for more of these moments of quiet joy?

To aid you in this last part, here are two episodes of the Ted Radio Hour I listened to while happily doing housework in the last week: a show on finding quiet in the midst of busy-ness,  and a show on the nature of happiness. And (surprise, surprise) both shows explore how staying fully present in the moment, no matter what we are doing, is the “secret” to happiness.

May you have such moments again and again, during this holiday season of light and into the new year.

With love,

Oct 27

This One’s For You


Dear Friends,

I’m in Port Townsend on a little 3-day writing retreat. My dog, Abbe, is with me, providing good company and a fine excuse to get up several times a day to go outside, where the fall weather has turned cool and blustery. It’s the kind of retreat where I’m not doing much of what we actually think of when writing—hands on the keyboard, words stringing out along the page. It’s more of a “reconnecting” kind of work: reading over bits and pieces I’ve written in the past, remembering what’s there, feeling tentatively for the shape of what’s to come.

This kind of work can be difficult, as it’s not very concrete. It can be easy to give up, and play solitaire, and eat chocolate instead (though I’ve always maintained chocolate is an essential writing tool…) But I just keep breathing through it, and reading, and allowing myself to drift off as the rain hits the windows.

Luckily, many of my allies are here to support me: Abbe, and Holly who joined me for dinner one night. And my friend Sheila Bender, whose life revolves around writing and helping others to write. And serendipitously, one of my favorite writers, Kim Stafford, was here in town and gave a reading Saturday night.


We often quote Kim in The Pen and the Bell because his work is so much about connecting with what’s essential in our lives. He emphasizes the holy practice of writing for writing’s sake. And the minute I saw him in the wonderful bookstore The Writer’s Workshoppe (where Holly and I have also given workshops), I felt renewed and inspired.

He talked about the importance of a daily writing practice, a way to bypass the “percussive of the everyday” and tap instead into the gentle flow of creativity that always threads beneath this racket. He read several new poems that are part of his latest practice—what he calls “Citizen Poetry.” In these poems he writes for instead of about. He writes poems for people, for places, for animals. They are small gifts. He even wrote a poem for the Writer’s Workshoppe, which included these lines:

“….it is a chapel where pilgrims
murmur their prayers for being
known, understood, accompanied,
invited to join the bookish tribe.

I have seen saints come forth
no longer alone, carrying a new
gospel, a personal testament,
a passport for the new life.”

Once you set yourself assignments like these—such as to write a poem “for” something each day—your writing can take on a new focus. You now have a task to hold lightly through the day.

Try it: if you were to dedicate your writing today as an action of “for” rather than “about,” what might shift in your tone or perspective?

This blog post is for you, dear reader. May you have a day of good work,





Oct 08

Fall Gatherings


Dear friends,

Windfall apples diced and simmering on the stove. Chard and kale in leafy abundance for sautés and smoothies. Sungold tomatoes sweet enough to eat right off the vine. Delicata squash still ripening as its vine dies back. Raspberry canes still bearing a few red jewels when we remember to check. All the gatherings of fall, the gifts that make it possible to let go of long, sunny summer days and turn again toward the hearth.

And so we let go of eating summer salads outside on the deck, swimming in lakes, pulling weeds after dinner as the sun goes down. We light a fire in the wood stove, dust off the books in the library, make soup, roast beets and squash, welcome the return of the salmon.

As we gather the harvest, fall reminds us of the importance of gathering together with friends again, too . I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to stay inside long enough to write in the summer. Instead, I carry my notebook with me, filling it with notes and sketches of what I observe. Now, I pull out that notebook, transcribe the notes, see if I might find the seed for a poem or two. As I work on those poems, I turn to my writing friends for feedback and our workshop starts up again after a long summer break.

Other gatherings happen in fall. In late September, I made the trek across the state to teach at Litfuse, a poetry gathering in Tieton. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Michael Shein, Carol Trenga and Ed Marquand, among others, Litfuse has become a vital celebration of poetry in all its diverse forms. I taught a workshop called “Words from the Land: Connecting with our Common Ground,” which seemed appropriate since Tieton is in the heart of apple orchard country. We read poems from the anthology: In Praise of Fertile Land, published by Whit Press, then wrote about our own connections to the land.

One of the participants was inspired to write about the apples she grew up with back east: the MacIntosh.

My Vagabond Song

“The scarlet of the maples can shake me like  the cry of bugles going by”
A Vagabond Song, Bliss Carmen, 1894

A Macintosh Apple doesn’t travel well
across the country.
It needs to stay home in New England

in the crisp autumn nights that
turn leaves red and gold

in the black soil full of humus
and colonial history

crisp thin skin with
tang and tartness
cut with sugary juices to the snap bite.

Last year on my birthday
Kathy sent me
in an envelope
some Macintosh seeds
from an apple she had just eaten.

The smell of wood smoke
down Frost’s country road
thick in mudtime

past  orchards getting smaller
as they are everywhere.

I want to feel its dark red roundness
warm in my palm
so I can put my head down
and smell it
and go home.

                  Peggy Barnett, 2014

I’ll end on a quote from a book I’m reading by Julian Hoffman: The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World. He begins with a line from Rilke: “Everything beckons us to perceive it, murmurs at every turn,” then goes onto remind us that “the art of perceiving is more about reception than it is vision. We don’t have to struggle to see things, Rilke suggests, for they are already there, calling us. The difficulty lies in unlearning our tendency toward indifference….There is possibility in the smallest of things, the most innocuous of moments. More mystery can be found in a few moments spent in a stand of trembling reeds than a lifetime passed in an unperceived world.”

May fall bring you many opportunities for noticing the beckoning world—see if you can notice some small natural detail you’d overlooked before—and for gathering together to share what you notice with friends.  You might also consider attending a writer’s conference in your area or creating your own writer’s gathering.  It could be as easy as inviting a few friends over for tea and sharing your fall harvest of words.

yours in gratitude for the abundance of fall,



Aug 24

The Summer of Puppies

mother love

Dear Friends,
At the beginning of this summer, I took in a pregnant foster dog, Becky. She was little more than a puppy herself: nine months old, a stray, with a golden coat and the brindled markings of a shepherd mix. She had an open, friendly face, eyes alert for whatever will happen next.

As soon as she arrived, the house took on an aspect of waiting. I found myself watching her belly, placing my hand there to feel the puppies moving inside, while Becky and I gazed at one another: a vast, reverberant silence between us. This waiting—it felt like a kind of worship.

A week later, she gave birth to eight puppies. While I was in my office, looking up signs of imminent labor on the Internet, Becky jumped up on my lounge chair and started delivering the first puppy. I rushed out to find the first pup still emerging, nestled in the amniotic sac, and Becky gazing at it with puzzled focus. Then her instinct kicked in, and she began lapping with deep moist strokes to free the baby from its watery sac and chew off its umbilical cord.

The puppy—wet and slick and free of her mother—began to chirp, and Becky curled her front paw and pulled the baby deep into the cave she made of her abdomen. Only then did she look at me again, panting, and again some wordless communion passed between us. I’ve got this, she seemed to say. Trust me.

For the next four hours I sat by her side as more pups arrived, each puppy a surprise, the coloring apparent through the amniotic sac. Each one stretched its small limbs and chirped once free of the sac and under the care of its mother’s tongue. People came to help, and left. The mailman brought the mail. My cell phone beeped. The workaday world carried on around me, but Becky and I had entered a space both separate from and connected to that world.


becky smile

As Robert Vivian said in his book The Dignity of Crumbs: “The strings tying us to each other are everywhere.” This sentiment becomes more obvious when in the presence of birth or death, when all the portals are open.

I spent the next eight weeks in the presence of puppies. For the first two weeks, they were still embryonic, with eyes shut tight and little wax nubbins for ears. But soon enough they grew into full-fledged, rambunctious kids, taking over my home, a little like a swarm of piranhas. I felt a strong responsibility and love for them all, but also felt a deep relief when they were all gone and safely adopted into their new homes.


10593009_10203492332503224_4826831124899776780_nSo, for me, this summer will always be known as the “summer of puppies.” What name would your summer have, if you could name it? What has marked the season? Have you been able to take a real break from your “ordinary life?”

In this article from the NY Times, author Daniel Levitin writes about the importance of hitting the “reset button” in our brains, in whatever ways that might manifest. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a herd of puppies yapping for your attention. It can be as simple as absorbing yourself even for just a few minutes a day in something you love—a book, a craft, a special picnic breakfast outside.

Write for 15 minutes starting with the title “My Summer of _______. ” Capture on paper whatever has been capturing you.

Yours in the aftermath of puppy love,


Aug 15

Raspberry Picking Meditation

red-raspberries-636Dear friends,

For the last few weeks, I’ve started each morning with watering, then raspberry picking meditation. In the winter, I want to go to my cushion, ease into the day as the heat from the wood stove warms the house. But in the summer, the sooner I can get outside, the better I feel. We’ve been blessed by a string of sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest—with temperatures edging up to the 80s—and so the garden needs regular watering.   When I headed out the door this morning, fog still hung in the cedars. But by the time I finished watering, it was lifting, and the sun shone warm on my arms as I stripped off one layer, then another.

I must confess we have a laisse faire attitude toward our raspberries—we water them erratically and don’t weed much—but that doesn’t stop them from producing a steady crop of thimble-sized berries each morning. I move down the rows, tugging gently to see which are ripe, amazed at how many come off their stems, filling the bowl even though I’d picked just the day before.

As I do, I remind myself to be in the moment with each plump, juicy raspberry. As soon as my mind starts to wander, I pull too hard, picking one that’s not quite ready.   I try not to dwell on the berries that shriveled while I was in Alaska, despite our invitation to the house-sitters to pick them. As soon as I begin to rush, I don’t see the berries hiding below the leaves. It’s only when I slow down, crouch down, that I see more scarlet berries hanging, ripe and juicy, ready for eating.

This reminds me of a story my husband tells of picking raspberries with his niece Isolde when she was just 4 or 5. Of course, he was standing up to pick the berries, had just concluded that they’d picked them all, when she reached up to hand him her own small bowl, full to the brim.  From her much lower vantage point, she was able to see all the berries he’d missed.

When I stop finding berries, I crouch down to see if I might see a few more—and there they are. Sometimes this slight shift in perspective is all it takes for our writing, too. When you stop seeing the words on the page—try approaching them from a different point of view. Sometimes a new perspective is all that’s needed.

Consider how you might make such a shift, either in the way you view your life or in your writing.   Write about it, recreating the scene both before and after the shift, showing us the hidden berries you discover.  May the fruit of our lives ripen into an abundant harvest in the days ahead and may we learn to shift our perspective when needed so we can see each berry…

Yours, crouching in the raspberries,