Our Deepest Calling

To register for the book launch of Our Deepest Calling, Saturday, April 17, at 4 p.m. , follow this link: (And if you are wondering where the images are in this post, for some reason today I’m not able to upload new ones.)

Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks—we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”

—Parker Palmer

Thanks to Village Books in Fairhaven—and Zoom—tomorrow at 4 p.m. my writing group will be celebrating the publication of a collection of poetry and prose written during our first ten years together. Our Deepest Calling is also available for purchase through Village Books ($16 and $1 shipping).

I’m taking a day off from writing something new for the blog, and reproducing here my introduction to Our Deepest Calling (fleshing it out a bit for people not familiar with the context given in my co-editor’s intro), followed by a sampling of poems. The book also includes short essays and an excerpt from a novel in progress.

“I learned how to write in the interstices of daily life.”

—Maxine Kumin

In 2010, when my dear friend Paul Marshall asked me if I would lead a Teaching Lab under the auspices of the Teaching and Learning Cooperative at Everett Community College, my first response was “oh, no.” That evening after supper and homework, one of my teenaged daughters had a meltdown over a boyfriend; another was fighting with her best friend; the ten-year-old didn’t want to go to bed; and my sister called to tell me that I really really needed to help out more with our aging parents. The next morning, instead of retreating into the pages of my journal, I graded a set of student papers. Then I thought, What if we called it a Teaching Lab, but wrote instead?

Our first meeting attracted a couple dozen people from across campus—staff, faculty, and even administrators. It was wild. In my recollection, we were before too long half that number, and soon we were only eight or so souls. No matter, we were committed. Our first year we worked through Susan M. Tiberghien’s One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft. By the second year, we all had our own projects underway and settled into a routine of just writing. Some of our colleagues were skeptical, to put it mildly: What are you doing in there, and what does it have to do with teaching?

To my mind, the Writing Lab had everything to do with…everything. Our sessions were only ninety minutes once a week—but that bit of time and each other’s encouragement were all we needed to keep the flame of our writing, questing and questioning lives burning.

Ten years ago, I was immersed in the daily catastrophe of full-time teaching and raising a family. Now that I’m retired from the college and my daughters are grown and out of the house, now that my parents have passed on, I have more time, or so I tell myself. Other group members have gone through similar transitions, all of which are reflected in our writings, no matter if we write of fortune cookies, jump ropes, or imaginary trysts with former U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

Then along comes 2020 with new challenges, and its catastrophes on a global scale. Our writing group is now even more important to me, as we have over the years become a group of friends who listen deeply to one another and among whom we know we will be heard.

“Oh friends, where can one find a partner for the long dance over the fields?”

—William Stafford, from A Walk in the Country

I should add that, since moving ourselves off-campus to Rosehill Community Center near the Mukilteo Ferry Dock (and, this past year, to Zoom), we have morphed into an eclectic bunch of former EvCC people and community members. One of these is the award-winning artist Janet Hamilton, whose painting, “Madrona Concerto,” graces our cover.

Here is a poem from co-editor (and Zoom-master) Carla Shafer:


Because my family has lived on stolen tribal
lands in the northwest since I was born, I listen
to the bending of the trees, follow the paths
of salmon and walk days short in winter and
long in summer. This is not the place of my
ancestors. This is not Bohemia or Baden-Baden.
It is not the Nebraska plains or Kansas prairies.
I am not at the source of my great-grandparents’
imaginings, but their touch is in my hand, their
hopes carried in my heart, their steps are known
just as the salmon wiggles a fin,
and in the sway of a cedar bough.

My grandsons, living near, speak Japanese, the language
of their mother’s family, celebrate Children’s Day
and imagine beyond boundaries and borders. My
daughter’s child will speak Hindi and Urdu,
celebrate Eid al Fitr. Their paths of succession will move
through hazards in shadow and light. They will view
stars across generations who have danced
on the same side of the moon. Their ancestors
traced in their steps, in the twinkle of their eyes,
in the embrace of what comes next, beneath the flight
of peregrine falcons, above waters where Orcas swim.

—Carla Shafer

Solstice: Light & Dark of the Salish Sea

Tomorrow evening — Sunday, 11 April 2021, 7 p.m. PST — I’ll be participating in the launch of Solstice: Light & Dark of the Salish Sea (Chuckanut Sandstone Press), a delightful collection of poems, selected (solicited!) and edited by Carla Shafer. The collection features the work of 29 poets in two sections, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.

The reading is on Zoom, hosted by Village Books. You can find a list of the poets and register for the reading,  here.

This is my winter solstice poem:

Solstice Song

Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea
—Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”

At the winter solstice, darkness
falls early, thin band of copper

as the sun winks out.
No matter how faint the light,

I walk the shore,
hands in my pockets, my hood

pulled up against the wind.
I might be a witch,

muttering incantations.
I might be a raven,

dreaming of spring.
The year turns, indigo,

burnt umber. My words

rhyme with the green weeds,
thick tendrils that lay in windrows

along the dark shore.
What chains are these, light

and lengthening?
What song is this, the sea

bids me sing?

      —Bethany Reid

Christine M. Kendall

At Home on Upper Beaver Creek (2020) is Christine M. Kendall’s third book (after Talk, A chapbook, 1998, and Resting in the Familiar, 2017). To create her books, Christine seeks coaching and input from her writing group, and has the books professionally designed (by Jack Kienast) and printed (by Norman Green of Threshold Documents).  She put together At Home for a show at the Confluence Gallery in Twisp, Washington, for the residents of Upper and Lower Beaver Creek Roads where several artists of the Methow Valley reside.

Because I know Christine, I invited her to answer some questions.

1.What is your process in assembling a poetry book? Do you imagine the book — perhaps its theme or title — and write into that, or do the poems come first? 

For both the chapbook and my first collection I had a stack of poetry I had written, some had been published in journals, a few in anthologies, but publishing the poems in a collection was for me a way of giving them a home.

For At Home on Upper Beaver Creek, responding to the call for the Confluence Gallery exhibit was an incentive to create a collection of poetry about living on Upper Beaver Creek and as I began the work, orders to shelter in place began because of COVID.  All but two of the poems in the book were inspired by what I experience here on our 20 acres.  A few of the poems were published previously, but most came to me on daily walks with our dog Gus.

2. How do you decide the order of the poems?

For Resting In The Familiar, my editor, Mary Gillilan, ordered the poems into five sections with poems about family, places I’ve traveled to, general observations, grief, and self-reflection. For At Home on Upper Beaver Creek the book is ordered by the seasons, beginning with my favorite season here, winter.  The sections have a pen and ink illustration for each season (by Kathy Brackett).

3. How do you know when a book is “done”?

I think for me that’s where a good editor comes in.  I hope to do another book as I have a lot of poems that need a good home between covers and someone to say, “enough is enough!”  Also, I need someone who can help me shape the collection into a logical order, as I tend to write on a variety of subjects.

Bellingham poet, editor, and blogger J. I. Kleinberg writes of this book:

In At Home on Upper Beaver Creek, Christine Kendall shares her wonderment at the cycle of the seasons. From her home in Central Washington–a landscape of ancient glacier-scraped, boulder-strewn hillsides, forests, and fiercely nourished homesteads–she shows us the ‘hierarchies and appetites’ of eagles and ravens, torrential rain and fire.

I’m amazed at Christine’s adept switch into “pandemic mode,” her ability to capture the early, difficult months of the lockdown and make us all see that perhaps being in forced seclusion wasn’t a hardship, but an opportunity for sabbatical. My favorite poems here are the ones in which the poet is out walking. Because I have a fondness for coyote poems, this one made an obvious choice to share. We can credit Christine’s dog, Gus, whose perspective reminds us to look at the world through other eyes.

The Prize

The dog brought home a coyote
skull, a bone to him,
a scent, a treasure, not kith
and kin. Stripped clean,
there’s no connection
to howls that prick up
his ears after dark.

No connection to marks
left–intoxicants to sniff–
he knows coyotes by whiffs
on a breeze, he’s seen them
in the distance tracking across
fields. Once, a coyote chased
him, my high-pitched screams
diverting it.

We kept the skull. Hollow
sockets once held watchful eyes,
the cranium a brain, and
ears to hear other packs howl
on hillsides; tonight progeny
will watch a full moon rise.

–Christine M. Kendall

Christine’s books are available from Village Books in Fairhaven, Bellingham, and also through, her group’s webpage, which has a shopping section.

The featured photo for this post is courtesy cottonbro from Pexels.

Where I’m Reading Now

On this coming Sunday, 18 November 2018, at 4 p.m., I’ll be reading at Village Books with my friend, poet Jayne Marek. (Click on the Village Books link to read their page on the event.)

I’ll be reading from Body My House, and it would be so wonderful to see you there!