Category Archives: Love Letter

An Open Love Letter to Cheryl Strayed

wildcovertammy

image by Tammy Strobel

Cheryl Strayed is a master of the opening line. She doesn’t hesitate, but rather drops you directly into the dead center of the story. In her essay “The Love of My Life,” she starts with “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.” In her piece “Heroin/e” she begins with “When my mother died, I stripped her naked.” Her novel Torch begins simply “She ached.”

Eric first brought home a hardback copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild from the “Here & Now” collection at the library a few months after it was released. He loves stories of climbing Mount Everest or sailing around the world alone, so a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seemed like something he’d want to read. But it’s not really a book so much about hiking as it is a story about, as Cheryl says, “learning how to bear the unbearable,” a story about acceptance, her journey from lost to found. Eric really wanted to read about hiking the PCT so lost interest, didn’t finish the book, handing it to me one day saying, “It seems like the kind of book you’d like.”

You see, kind and gentle reader, I love memoir — coming of age stories, stories about finding oneself, narratives about becoming, about coming undone, about catalyst and transformation and salvation, about what it means to be human. These are my favorite kinds of books, the journey from lost to found. And my favorite ones are written by women who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, even when it doesn’t make them look good, who talk candidly and elegantly about the brilliance and the mess. Writers like Anne Lamott, Dani Shapiro, Caroline Knapp, Mary Karr, Laurie Wagner, Christina Rosalie, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

So Wild is exactly the kind of book I’d read, but I hadn’t read it yet. It was too popular. When that happens with a book, I find myself avoiding it. It’s something about being an introvert. When everyone is reading and talking about it, it feels too crowded somehow. I want my experience of it to be private. I want to be alone with it. It’s why it took me years to finally read Eat, Pray, Love. I had to wait until things got quiet.

But Eric had already checked out the book, and the “Here & Now” collection is limited to seven days so I started to read. Once I did, I could barely stand to put it down.

I confess, at first I was irritated by Cheryl’s story. The deeper she dug herself into the hole she was in, the more my discomfort grew. By the time her story got to her decision to have an abortion, I wanted to stop reading. I couldn’t stand to witness it, the self-destruction, the suffering she was generating on top of what she’d already been given. And yet, this was a book that I just couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t help myself. I had to stay with it, had to “keep walking” right along with her until the end, no matter how painful.

Having lost so much to cancer myself made some parts of this book especially difficult to read. Many times I had to pause because I could no longer make out the words through my tears. This is the impact much of her written work has on me. I’ve given away 20+ copies of her book Tiny Beautiful Things in the past few years, always with the warning “don’t read this in public if you are uncomfortable letting people see you cry.”

One night when I was getting toward the end of Wild, I was reading in bed and Eric, who sometimes can’t sleep with the light from my book lamp, asked “can you be almost done?” I did something I never do: I got up and went out into the living room so I could keep reading. I had to finish. The memory is still fresh of being alone in the living room, sitting in the gold chair in the corner wrapped in a blanket, finishing the story, closing the book, and sobbing. That weird and wonderful mix of wishing so hard that none of those awful things ever had to happen to her, to any of us, but also wishing they’d happened to me so I’d have that story to tell.

Cheryl Strayed does not shy away from the truth. She tells the whole story, even the parts that might make her look bad. And yet, she doesn’t add things for the sake of drama. Telling readers about her heroin use isn’t done to shock, or to make the story more exciting, it’s there because it’s essential to the narrative — tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal. And when she’s telling the truth, she does it with an elegance that presents the truth in its full measure, all its brilliance and all its mess. She says things like “Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do,” (in her essay “Heroin/e”). I confess that the library copy of Wild I read was returned with corners of pages bent down, a sign of my need to mark the shiny places.

In the introduction to Tiny Beautiful Things, Steve Almond says, “With great patience, and eloquence, she assures her readers that within the chaos of our shame and disappointment and rage there is meaning, and within that meaning is the possibility of rescue.” He’s talking specifically about what Cheryl did in that particular book, but I’d argue that’s what she does in everything she writes.

Cheryl Strayed is coming to Fort Collins on Thursday, and I’m going to see her. In preparation, I’ve been on a Cheryl Strayed bender these past few days — rereading her essays, watching videos, surfing her website, finally reading her novel, and considering what I might say to her if I get to speak to her directly that won’t make me sound like either a total idiot or a creepy stalker. If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, it would be so much easier. I’d ask if she was an introvert or an extrovert, how she’s been coping with being away from her family and traveling so much, what was it like to meet Oprah, if she goes to the beach often and if so where exactly does she go, does she know where Waldport is, has she ever heard of Sublimity, why did she move to Oregon, how does she like it, does her family still own the 40 acres of land she grew up on, does she have pets, what are some of her favorite books or authors, what’s she working on next, and after telling this particular story in so many different forms does she feel like she’s fully processed it, is she done with it, what is her writing practice, her process like, aren’t marionberries wonderful, what do you love, what’s hardest for you, where does your struggle live now…all things that would make so much more sense in the context of a longer, more relaxed conversation.

So instead, I write her this open love letter. I’ll email her the link, but have no expectation that she’ll see it, come read it. And that’s totally okay. In the end, I suppose all I need to say to her if I ever get the chance, in order to tell her everything, is simply: Thank you for telling the truth, for making a map, shining a light where it’s dark. It helps me cultivate the courage to tell my truth, my story. I adore you.

An update: She read my post! She responded!

cherylstrayedtweet

Something Good

1. I’d Do Anything to Stop This Pain by Jennifer Gresham on Everyday Bright.

2. This quote: We’re in a giant car headed toward a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit. ~David Suzuki. This is Buddhist wisdom I’ve heard before, the idea that we we’ve all bought a ticket on a ship that’s sinking, that we are boarding a plane that’s guaranteed to crash, that this is the reality of life (death), but the additional wisdom here is that even knowing this, we spend our time on the dumbest things, like worrying what to pack or complaining about the snacks.

3. Biz Ladies: Part I — Your Blog Is Your Book This is very good news indeed.

4. Ayurveda at a Glance I am working on a guest post about meditation for Niight’s blog.

5. This wisdom from Tulku Thondup

The key is to make meditation a part of your life, like part of the fabric of a tapestry. Bring an attitude of enjoyment to your meditation, that helps tremendously. Also, bring the peaceful feelings of meditation into your daily activities. That is how to begin tasting the fruits of your efforts. When the healing of mind becomes a habit, our minds become like a great river. The river may not always appear to be moving. But if we look closely enough we will see how the water is slowly, slowly making its way to the sea.

And this:

Meditation is a way of training ourselves to develop a more peaceful mind. Everyone has different capabilities and needs when it comes to this training. We don’t want to push ourselves or be too forceful, but we also want to avoid being slack or lazy. Each of us needs to develop a sense of what’s best for us.

6. Love Letter to the World: Rachel W. Cole

7. Fiona Apple recently canceled her South American tour, because her sweet dog is dying. If you’ve ever loved a dog, lost a dog, the letter she wrote in explanation will break your heart. This comforted me, “she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything” and this wrecked me:

I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments. I need to do my damnedest to be there for that. Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known. When she dies.

this boy is at my feet right now, doing his own dying–slowly but for certain, while I do my damnedest to be here for it

8. From the Daily Flame:

Why do you judge yourself when you feel tired? Why do you allow fatigue to turn into a story about how you’re not [something] enough? Have you ever thought that perhaps I speak to you through feelings of tiredness, that perhaps, you’re not hearing my whispers, telling you to slow down, and fatigue is the spell I slap on you to help you listen? If you’re tired today, what do you think I might be telling you? Listen up. I have a message for you…

And this one:

Sometimes the longings of your heart feel crazy, don’t they? You wonder how you can possibly trust desires that are so outlandish, impractical, out of control, fickle, and passion-laden. Yet what can you trust more than the stirrings of the heart? Stay there, with your heart wide open. This is where I live, not in your mind, but in the interior spaciousness of pure possibility and divine love.

9. This from Marianne Williamson: “Let there be a ceasefire in all our hearts. Let’s make peace with ourselves, our God, our past, and each other. Let’s all together declare peace on earth.” And this, “Now, in this moment, you are who you have always been and will always be. All spiritual practice — forgiveness, meditation and prayer — is for the purpose of training the mind to see through the illusions of a world that would convince you otherwise.”

10. Dear Sugar, The Rumpus Advice Column #90: 94 Ways of Saying Thank You

11. 15 Gifts You Can Give Yourself for Free from Marc and Angel Hack Life

12. This quote, by way of Lindsey on A Design So Vast:

…be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. ~Paul Harding

13. Emerging Icons: Demystifying the Process from Jen Lee

14. This quote: If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy

15. This quote: Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. ~ Henry James

16. This quote: Underneath it all, we are wild and we know it. ~Reggie Ray

17. This quote from Mary Gaitskill:

Writing is…. being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment.

18. The Daily Routines of Famous Writers from Brain Pickings.

19. Recipes I want to try: Sweet Potato Biscuits, Apple Hand Pies, and Graham Crackers.

20. Shirley and Jenny: Two Elephants Reunited After More Than 20 Years, which I’ve seen before, but was reminded of this morning by Sas, and is why I drank tear flavored coffee.

21. Rachel Cole’s Holiday Gift Guide. I’m totally going to make some of the homemade surprise balls.

22. I may have posted this before, but it’s worth repeating: 55 gentle ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy busy busy

23. Every time I read Ken’s story, I am amazed at how similar it is to my own.

24. This sweet interview. “Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent.”

25. This quote from Geneen Roth:

Right here, this exact moment, is the doorway to the peace and the joy you want. No matter how much you ate in the last few days, no matter how much you did or didn’t do, can you stop your mind’s nattering? Can you, are you willing to, take in the fact that you have a body, arms, legs, eyes. That you can see, hear, touch, taste. Are you willing to break the trance of unworthiness right now?

26. PicMonkeyI love photo editing, adding quotes, and this site makes it so easy. I can’t wait to waste some serious time with this.

27. Don’t Just Create. Liberate., a great post from yogi Jonathan Fields.

28. Deck the Blog: Favorite Design Resources from Laura Simms on Scoutie Girl. This is going to be fun.

29. This quote: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” ~Thich
Nhat Hanh

30. No Shit from Whatever, Etc. Every woman who has ever cried in a dressing room, or wanted to when she looked in the mirror, or thought she would lose her mind shopping for a swimming suit or pair of jeans that fit needs to read this.

Messages from the Universe

Eric and I fundamentally disagree on one thing: I think that there is some order or intention in the way the world works and in how things happen, am always trying to figure out what things mean, and he thinks that if it is anything, it’s just nature doing what it does, and therefore random, chaos, nothing more than organic logic. His view is most likely more healthy, more sane, even more practical. And yet, even when things seem random, I can’t help myself, I look close, try to see if there are patterns or some hidden magic, and in everything that comes to me, everything I experience or encounter, I look for a message from the Universe.

I think that the world is trying to communicate with me. I am always trying to uncover the secret, see the sign, figure out the thing I’m supposed to learn or discover. Even though I am reluctant to label it as a belief in fate or destiny or even God, I find it hard to accept that things are happening according to nothing more than chance, that there’s no meaning.

This summer, in Andrea Scher’s Dream Lab ecourse, one of our tasks was to write ourselves a love letter, mail it to Andrea, and at some point in the future, she’d mail it back to us. I wrote mine as it it was directly from the Universe, sealed it in a self-addressed stamped envelope, mailed it, and promptly forgot about it. Yesterday, it was delivered…sort of.

Based on the postmark information, there were at least three attempts to deliver it. The handwritten “Del to:” and various arrows pointing to my name and address make me think that one of those times, it was misdelivered to the wrong location. At some point along its journey back to me, the envelope came unglued and open, and the letter was lost. What I got on my end was an empty envelope, stamped in red with “received without contents” and “received unsealed.” I laughed when I saw it. It seems so right that I, Lucille Ball Jr., would get a letter from the Universe that was completely empty.

There was something oddly poetic about it. Especially because right underneath it in my mailbox was a letter from J, full of doodles and love. The real message? “That stuff you wrote was nice, and true, but it’s all stuff you already know. I want you instead to hear what J has to say to you, that’s what I really need you to know.” And her message was (I’m paraphrasing here) that who I am, who I really am, is my superpower.

What I know from having written J a loopy love letter and then getting one in response, what I know from writing this blog and sharing with my kind and gentle readers, what I know from communing with the tribe of women I belong to, what I know from being more present and awake in my life and trusting myself, my innate wisdom and kindness, being vulnerable and courageous, is that by being who I am, writing the way I do, showing up with an open heart, being honest and genuine, other people feel less alone. And the added bonus is that I feel less alone. For so long, I tried to change, to deny or hide or reject the parts of me that seemed “wrong,” but it turns out that all that stuff I thought was weird or broken or crazy is exactly what the world needs from me. It’s the thing I have to offer, the way I am able to ease suffering in the world. Who knew?

An Open Love Letter to Patti Digh, Mary Anne Radmacher, and Karma

poster gift from Patti Digh to her mailing list

I am cradled today in the comfort of kindness, the awareness that every kindness you ever offer somehow finds it’s way back to you. In the simplest way, this is karma–every action has a consequence. Today, I am humbled by it, my heart softened, opened by the practice of generosity, and the kindness that has found it’s way to me because of it. I feel tender and raw, sad and weepy because of it, but also so joyful and grateful.

card from Mary Ann Radmacher

Patti Digh is one of my favorite authors, humans. I have learned so much from her about showing up, keeping my heart open, cultivating courage and compassion. She’s given me so much, and there is no way to repay that kind of gift directly or completely.

live shot of Patti during a virtual party for the launch of her new 37 days website, oh that smile!

And yet, at the end of this summer, I had an opportunity to help her, to give what I could give. Her husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer during a time when he had no health insurance and he needed an expensive surgery. The John F. Ptak Relief Fund was created and I was happy to donate, happy to offer some small kindness to a woman who’d already given me so much.

The story doesn’t end there. Just as I was about to make a donation, Mary Ann Radmacher announced on Facebook that the first ten people to make a $100 donation and contact her would get an original piece of her work. She’s an amazing artist and writer. I love everything she does. Her quote “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow” has offered me so much comfort in the past year.

To create my original piece, she asked for my most favorite colors (purples, blues and greens–colors of flowers, the ocean, and the trees), shape (infinity symbol) and most treasured iconic image (lotus flower). When the package arrived in the mail and I saw what she’d made, my heart was so full it felt like it would break.

Holy Wow. I can’t stop staring at it. And that’s not all, she also sent me a signed copy of her new book, Honey in Your Heart: Ways to See and Savor the Simple Good Things. Do you understand, kind and gentle reader? She didn’t have to do that. The book wasn’t part of the deal, a deal that was already super sweet, above and beyond, but she sent it along anyway, added a bonus gift. One generous act beget a kindness that, as it was passed along from person to person, heart to heart, grew so big, got so bright. I have faith that it won’t stop with this.

“Honey is a sweetness, occurring as the result of creatures doing what comes from acting according to their nature,” says Mary Anne in the introduction to her new book. We humans are fundamentally good, inherently compassionate and wise, and this sweetness, these kind acts (Patti giving, me giving to her, and Mary Anne giving to me because I gave to Patti), this infinity loop of generosity and love is, I believe with my whole heart, just that: the result of creatures doing what comes from acting according to their nature.

An Open Love Letter to Judy Clement Wall

This is my adorable and amazing friend Judy Clement Wall. I have never met her in person, face-to-face, but I get to enjoy her writing, her art, her big heart, loving and kind, from a not so far afar. In both moments of celebration and grief, Judy has offered her encouragement, inspiration, and support. I am so lucky, so grateful.

I can’t remember how I first encountered Judy’s work, but I do know the first community project I took part in was her collaborative project with Julia Fehrenbacher, 41 6-word Days. I don’t know anymore which of their blogs I encountered first, but remember seeing Judy’s “Choose Love” icon and feeling compelled to click on it. I immediately adored her gentle, kind, brave and funny spirit, and her ability to connect people.

Everything she writes, (she has two blogs, A Human Thing and Zebra Sounds, because one is not enough to contain her, as well as various other essays and books), invites readers into a conversation, into connection, to community. It might be her superpower, that and love, which is also her religion.

Judy always challenges me to open up a little more, to contemplate, to feel and to think. We have a lot in common: writing, dogs, hiking, and yoga. We also both apparently tend to be a little Lucille Ball-ish, slightly clumsy and adorably goofy from time to time. We both are in love with love. I think it’s the answer to every question, and she wrote a manifesto about it.

a doodle by judy

I admire Judy for many reasons. She’s a mom, (dogs and kids), a wife, a yogini, a warrior of love. She’s a shared project instigator, a master doodler, a practitioner of hiking, a seer of beauty. But most of all, I admire and aspire to her writing success. She’s both self and other published, (I’ve heard a rumor she’s working on a novel, among other things), committed to her work, to engaging with the world and her experience, and sharing that with her readers, inviting them to do the same.

I will be tender with other people’s hearts.
I will be fearless with my own.
~Judy Clement Wall

I wrote and am mailing her a long, loopy love letter today. You should check her out, keep an eye on her, connect with her amazingness, and if you feel so moved, write your own love letter to someone in your life, formalize and verbalize, embody the love you feel for them. You can never go wrong with a thank you, with a love letter.

P.S. Further proof that Judy has the biggest heart, that love is one of her superpowers: Just hours after I hit “publish,” she’s already thanked me in three different ways for this one, single post.

An Open Love Letter to Julia Fehrenbacher

coming home, painting by Julia

I have struggled to begin and write this post, kind and gentle reader. There is so much I want to tell you about Julia–blogger, poet, painter, author, friend–and I simply didn’t know where to start.

Do I focus on telling you about her new book of poetry, On the Other Side of Fear, urge you to go buy a copy immediately because it’s just that gorgeous, that moving?

Or do I tell you about her blog, Painted Path, and recommend that you go read it, discover for yourself how it can open you up, remind you of your possibility and worth, crack you open and comfort you all at once?

Or do I insist that you check out her paintings at her Etsy store, see for yourself the gentle and vibrant colors, the message of her visual work?

Or do I tell you how wonderful it was to finally meet her in person last week? That she glows, radiates warmth and kindness?

Instead of deciding, choosing one thing, I will concede failure, surrender to the impossibility and simply tell you about her in a way that might somehow begin to explain it, the wonder and gratitude, some measure of how amazing she is, how important her work, the kindness, the wisdom, the power.

*deep breath*

be you, painting by Julia

I tried to remember how I first found Julia’s blog, but I can’t. It’s somehow connected to Judy Clement Wall’s work on her blog, A Human Thing, maybe starting with their collaborative project, 41 6-word Days. Whatever it was, however it happened, I fell in love immediately. What I adore about Julia’s blog is what I love so much about her new book, her art, her self. Julia (and the book, her blog, her art) is creative, wise, generous, authentic, warm, curious, brave, and kind.

Creation is one of Julia’s superpowers. It infuses all of her work, her art, her life, her interactions with others, in a way that inspires any creative who encounters it.

Julia’s wisdom permeates all of the writing she does, including her book. She knows what it means to get stuck, to be afraid, to suffer, but she also knows the way out, and gladly offers up that understanding, that magic to anyone who finds themselves lost or frozen

Julia’s generosity is not only time, material, or wisdom. She is openly fearless (feeling the fear but showing up anyway), helping others feel comfortable in their own skins and confident in their own worth.

Julia is authentic. She doesn’t hide behind a mask, a safe or acceptable version of a self, but rather shows up with her whole heart open, meeting you right where you are, just as she is.

Julia is warm. Being in her physical presence made this so clear. Standing near her, the sound of her voice, the glow of her skin, the way she would reach out from time to time and touch my arm, made it impossible not to soften, to surrender.

Julia is brave. Don’t misunderstand, she knows fear. But through love and gentleness, wisdom and a particular kind of power, she’s moved forward, heart open.

One thing that Julia said while we walked on the beach that I can’t stop thinking about is how you can trace the origin of every fear, distill each one down to a fear of “what they will think of me.” There are specifics underneath that which are more complicated, individual and contextual outcomes, like “if I say that, she’ll think I’m weird and not like my anymore, won’t be my friend, which will lead to me being alone and lonely,” but can always be summed up by I’m afraid of what they’ll think. This oftentimes makes us not only uncomfortable or judgmental, but keeps us from acting, from being our true self. I keep trying to stump this wisdom, disprove it, but I haven’t been able to, and can’t stop thinking about it.

Julia is curious. She wants to know, wants to understand, wants to hear your story, to know who you are and what’s in your heart, to connect.

Julia is kindness embodied and manifested. While you might not be lucky enough to ever meet her in person, to be directly in the light of her full self, her complete presence, you can read her blog, listen to her Soul Talks, gaze at her paintings and read her book. You are so lucky, we all are, that SHE showed up.

Julia wrote, crafted, and published her book, lines straight from her gut, artwork magic and present, the whole thing vulnerable and shivery, raw and honest, and she offers it with love. The book’s pages open and spread like wings, Julia’s open mind and open heart inviting the reader to take flight, to move beyond fear and live the life previously only dreamed. My most favorite poem is this:

Complete

If only we could be as brave
as that tall growing oak
rooted deeply to the warm earth
It reaches its naked branches
up to the sun
and drops its leaves
one by one
never once stopping
to cling or hold on
or question
or long

Just a tree
being a tree
being a tree

I think, just like Julia herself, this book is sweet and small, but don’t be fooled–there is great power lurking there. I have returned to this book again and again, rereading my favorite lines and discovering something new, and at other moments, I find that specific lines pop into my head, reminding me gently of some deep, important truth.

More about On the Other Side of Fear:


An open love letter to Laurie Wagner and Telling True Stories

Certain people that you encounter in your life will change you, alter the way you experience the world in significant and long lasting ways. The impact of their light, their nakedness, their wild love continues to ripple and shiver and quake all corners of your life, sending out aftershocks that continue long after your focused time together, making things forever different, illuminated. Laurie Wagner is one of those people.

image from Laurie’s website

I first heard of Laurie Wagner in the same way I heard about every other good and precious thing I’ve discovered in the past year, on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, this post to be exact. Rachel Cole was also talking about her, how Laurie is an amazing teacher and writing mentor. That was all the proof, the second opinion, the encouragement and nudge I needed (I’m no dummy), so I signed up for Laurie’s Telling True Stories ecourse, the very first run of it.

Holy wow.

Holy crap.

The structure of the class is simple enough: “a 5-week writing course with 3 weekly lessons, writing assignments, and deadlines. Writers will share their work with the community, giving and getting feedback.” Laurie also set up a private Facebook group for those of us who wanted to play. As in every other ecourse I’ve taken, it’s really up to you how much to participate. Some of us posted something every week and shared feedback and chatted on Facebook, others never said a word–you can do as little or as much as you can, be involved or not, to whatever degree you like.

image from Laurie’s website

Even though this is an online course, Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother. She also is the most skilled and kind doula, every piece I wrote for class felt like I’d given birth to something magic and wild. The class wrung me out, wrecked me, in the best possible way. In a Well-Fed Woman interview with Laurie, Rachel Cole says “I know her teachings and how they can crack you open.”

Yes, crack you open and let the light in.

Laurie says in one of her latest blog posts, “If I’m about anything, it’s authenticity. That’s what I teach, that’s the edge I consistently lean into. It’s what I encourage my students to do – to trust that showing up as their natural, vulnerable, imperfect, Words With Friends playing, gorgeous bed-head, didn’t-have-time-to-brush-their-teeth-selves is all we want. In fact that’s WHAT we want!”

image by andrea scher

I’ve signed up to take Laurie’s “Straw Into Gold” in the fall, but in so many ways, I feel like I’m still in a class with her. Most certainly, her teaching hasn’t stopped. When I sit at my writing desk or stand at my computer, afraid to say what I really want to say, I think of Laurie, her support and her strength, and it gives me the encouragement I need to get real, be messy, tell the truth. Just this week, she posted “10 Tips for Telling the Truth” and #1 was “Ask yourself what you’re afraid to write about. Bingo. Write this.” See, still teaching me.

What my writing needs, adores, desires: space and time, gentleness, kindness, nature, joy, my Pentel Clarius medium point black ink pen, my blog, my copies of Writing Down the Bones and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s Facebook status updates, my dogs, my yoga and meditation practices, quotes from Pema Chödrön, dharma talks by Susan Piver, Mary Oliver poems, friendship, a camera, music, long walks, enough sleep, and now, the beacon of Laurie Wagner’s wild love, her insistence that I show up as I am and speak my truth.

If you are someone considering taking Laurie’s upcoming Telling True Stories, let me tell you, first hand: take this course, do not hesitate, run don’t walk, just do it–you will not regret it. Rachel Cole said it perfectly, about how Laurie and her teachings can “crack you open.” And yet, you will feel utterly safe and protected reaching down into the darkest, most raw place and be willing to roar like a lion about what you find there, will discover a wild power that you didn’t even know was there. Life altering…no kidding.