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Serendipity Tromps: Quest 2015

At Helen's in Ishpeming

“Scramble the self temporarily so that the world can seep in.”
Jason Silva


Jason Silva offered the #Quest2015 prompt yesterday. I wrestled with it all day as I worked. I wrote. I made a little video in the woods. I talked to my trusted shipmate Molly. Then I slept on it. Today, I offer you this post as a map for how I make choices. I found the idea of curating occasions of serendipity to be oxymoronic, but on this fresh cold day, I have a response.

About Jason:

Jason Silva is an epiphany addict, media artist, futurist, philosopher, keynote speaker, and TV personality. He is the creator of Shots of Awe (13 million views) and the Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic’s Brain Games.
I found his interview with Marie Forleo interesting and more personal. I loved learning that his mother is a poet. I consider his work highly provocative, desperately tender and distinctly male. Marie’s post has more links and video about Jason. I invite you to be rustled from your comfort zone, as I have been from mine, to consider these thoughts for yourself.

In what ways might you artfully curate your life in 2015 to occasion serendipity, creativity and awe?
Ontological designing says: We design our world and the world designs us back.
What are the linguistic and creative choices you can make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon you and transform you?

It is Friday here in Great Barrington.
On the verge of bitter, but there is a liveliness in the air that has nothing to do with anything, but everything to do with the Full Moon. Do you pay attention to the moon? Are you surprised sometimes when you wake in the night to find your bed flooded with white light? Do you notice it as you drive along a road, the glow behind a bank of clouds, as if behind a curtain there is someone dancing with lights on?


photograph by David Kern
photograph by David Kern

I love the moon.
I love the regularity of its traffic across the sky, around a month. It neither chooses my laundry line or me to shine upon, but I welcome its beam, its crack of light in a pitch-black winter sky.
I stay tuned to serendipity, creativity and awe outside. I don’t bound out every morning in my jammies these days, but most mornings of the milder seasons I am out there at the compost or in the garden or on my way to the river, just to see what I can see. I rely on the wilderness. I wonder if it notices me, taking it in like a drunken sail, gulping fresh air? It fills me.
I lived for a long time in a city where wild was not so easy to come by, but I found it. I let myself be witness to the elements of wilderness in Manhattan in the junk cluttered waste spaces where the machine of gentrification had not yet civilized every square inch.

Now I live in a small town near a lake. Within ten minutes I can be in quiet woods. Within another ten minutes on my bike, I can be at a river. I hold these places as my temples to serendipity, creativity and awe. I wonder if they rely on me in any way? I wonder if being seen, cherished and observed with wonder, the woods yield to me?

Terry Tempest Williams describes wilderness like this:

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.

-Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

I can hear that space between my heartbeats better when I am outside.
I live by this grace.

I believe in the benefit of discomfort, whether it is the cold or grit or not being altogether sure that I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I believe inertia taints brave new choices, that the relative comfort of our current state simply overwhelms the desire to try a new thing. When we squash the urge to strap on snowshoes instead of clicking on another YouTube video, order a new kind of pizza, or to read poetry, stasis sets in. I believe that all that stasis prevents transformation.

But, “to artfully curate my life?” Can I curate surprise? Can I curate the random? Can I cause chaos to “scramble my self temporarily so that the world can seep in?” Cultivating my wild soul with forays in to the woods which exist in an ancient mysterious order, in to deep lakes and flowing rivers, down mossy paths towards an unknown outcome design new thoughts and associations within me.

I will remove, as with a whisk broom pressed to sweep up all of the thousand-shard-shattered bits of a drinking glass off the kitchen floor, the sense that curating a life begins to make a life feel precious, as if a heavy-handed interior designer has been at work here. I would make these linguistic and creative choices:

I will live in wild grace.
I will expose myself to nature, daily.
I will engage in contemplative practices.
I will routinely study blades of grass, the oak in my backyard, the eyelashes of my teenagers, the pattern of cloudtreecloudeagle that imprints my walks.
I will put myself in the path of vulnerability, deep rapture and devotion.
I will not be expert but a merchant of inner excellence.
I will not aspire to conquer, but will inquire to plumb.
I will learn, leanly.
I will suss and be dazzled.
I will make and make and make more because ultimately this is where serendipity and awe and surprise live for me. Making art, visual art, business art, family art, laundry art- anything done with awareness and skill becomes an artistic offering rather than an automated or predictable response. When I am caught in the act of making, what is made always “exceeds the materials I began with”. This trio of wonder lives in the aroma of human interaction and the thrum of grit sprinkled liquid lust, it lives in empty spaces where potential perfumes quiet air. This trio is a tincture that allows me to “trace something I have never seen” with my words, with my conversation, with my art work, they flood me with the sense of the not-yet-known being revealed through wild grace.

But if you remain too identified with holding it all together, you disconnect from your vulnerability, you turn from the wild reality that your heart could break at any moment. You forget that it is through your brokenness that your gifts pour into this world. You forget that each and every crack in your heart is an illumined portal through which the poetry of your life will flow.

Matt Licata of A Healing Space

I will shake loose of my own expectation to look like I have my act together.
I will work, regardless of a confident measured plot, but work with loyalty to my devotion at a pace that supports my roles as writer, maker and mother.
This means, and here I am in total agreement with Jason Silva, I must move more slowly. In one of the articles linked in a post about Jason, this quote:

“The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to bring us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”


I don’t require awe to slow me down.
I invite awe by physically slowing down.
Believe me, mothers know slow. Read more on this here.
Mothers have a bead on slow.
We have grown wings, slowly.
And we eat wonder, breath filled awe, at the pace of the small people chattering around our shins, counting heartbeats, our life becomes that slow. This cannot be supplanted by inventing artificial life.

Real life makes more real life, which is filled with serendipity, creativity and awe. (click to tweet, please)


Another Quest2015 writer, Paula Trucks-Pape wrestled with this prompt in her post and tells a story about a spider, while also leading me to a new learning about serendipity. I had never heard the story of the Princes of Serendip. Thank you Paula!



One single drop
One single drop

So, in response to the prompt, relishing an array of symphonic choices of nurturing resource will certainly surprise me, stop me in my tracks, and cause jaw-dropping awe. The values of devotion and attention, of solitude and merit, kindness and courage will all lead me in to new ground, new relationships, or burnish existing ones to unplanned brilliance. Trusting, as Paula writes, that my own creations can bear my weight and carry me forward. Collaboration with my pack, with my tribe of wonder-seekers will be marked by compassion for real-life-lived on a planet loved and cared for by its inhabitants who see value in preservation and conservation, in treating time as a valuable commodity, and in the slow listening to the holy echoes contained within each of us.

How do you hear yours?





PS Please share this post with your people and subscribe to this site. I am not at all a numbers person, but I do produce events, teach and travel. I’d love you to stay current with my serendipity tromps so if by some chance we can meet in person, we could. As my mother used to say, quoting someone else, “Keep those cards and letters coming.” Stay close. The Moon is full tomorrow.

Slow Time Salon heads home: So Long and Much love!

Permission Slips Slow

Today I begin the leaving part.

I have been in the north for 15 days, traversing New York State in to Canada, then up through the Lower Peninsula of Michigan over the Mackinaw Bridge in to the Upper Peninsula where I stayed put in my homeland for a set of days.

Big Bay Glistens


Then, after giving three talks called Giving Motherhood a Voice, and one day long art and writing workshop called, Slow Time Salon on Superior, I headed back to my mother’s house, which is about 100 paces from her gravestone. Spent two nights there.

And for the last three nights I have been in Milwaukee, which reminds me so much of Munich, the cream colored brick, the tidy streets and tree-lined boulevards, cafe tables set out in the August sun, neighbors out tending gardens and the pulse of the city evident through a variety of colorful neighborhoods.

Tiny free libraries are posted on city streets in Milwaukee

I was able to consign three copies of the book I published last year, An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice to a literary arts book center called Woodland Pattern. You can imagine how happy that made me. I have visited other bookshops. Attended an evening outdoor concert with my niece, her mama and my dear friend. And yesterday, I visited the Special Collections department in the library at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee to meet Max Yela.

Max introduced his curated collection and we discussed building books as works of art. He generously laid out 15 different artist books for us to pore over. I did not take photographs, but if you would like to see some of what we saw, go here.

Team Nerd Print
Geri and I visited Team Nerd Letterpress studio and were smitten by Adam Beadel’s work.

I will write of this visit more, but the engines of return are calling me. I pine away for my daughter and husband, and am worried that I have missed the short but sweet cantaloupe season in the Berkshires. My son is happy at college, but I could scoot over to picnic with him when I get home. Today, I sprint to Illinois to visit one of my mother’s many sisters, my Aunt Rachel. Then, I go on to my other sister Becky’s for the night. Tomorrow, I will be cruising across Canada and weaving this circle tour of Great Lakes and great friends, big hearts and generous souls all the way home. Completing what has been a densely beautiful visit to the land which sprouted me, where my roots penetrate deeply, where stories flow, the beer is delicious and the cheese worth writing about.

Little Presque Isle

But for now, know that I have been loved all along the way, rekindled old friendships and made new ones. I have shared the stories of the Anthology and warmed to hear the stories told by new friends. My tour mates have made me laugh and cry, sewn their joy in to my heart with thick sturdy stitches.


After our talk at the Escanaba Public Library.
After our talk at the Escanaba Public Library.

And so, new, I will return home to love my family up close, pick up the threads of what I left off 16 days ago and see what August has left to give me. Melons. Plums and a dip in the river, I hope.

Big Bay LIghthouse Stone Heart


Thank you for traveling with me.
Thank you for your support of women’s voices.
Thank you for using your own voice today.

May it find you laughing.
All my love,



Dragonfly Team Nerd garden

This Untrimmable Light


John O’Donohue says, “Light is the great priestess of landscape.”


Today is the second talk of our Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour.
We are in my homeland of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
My sister, classmates, neighbors; college pals, teachers and new friends are in the audiences.
The authors from An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, Kathy Drue of L’Anse, Michigan and Monica Devine of Eagle River, Alaska are joined by Terri L.Bocklund of Sykesville, MD here in Marquette today at 2 and tomorrow in Ishpeming at 6:30.


To describe the joy of doing these talks in this place would take more words and time than I have here today. Last night, in Escanaba, Terri described the genius loci of Lake Superior, the great vast “sweet sea” as the first French explorers called this place. Genius loci is the protective spirit of a place. While Lake Superior and this wild remote land can be harsh, offering winter winds that battle with all that is man made, there is also a densely beautiful grace to this location. Just this morning, cedar and birch, a Bald Eagle, 3 crows sitting close on a branch and a gaggle of turkeys greeted us.

Mary Oliver’s poem, Mindful, will say for me, what I cannot yet say.

Thank you for all your good wishes for us here.
I am off to put on my party clothes and get ready to talk.


by Mary Oliver

I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early. © Beacon Press, 2005.

Listen to Mary Oliver’s read here.

Find John O’Donohue’s book here.


Find me at the Peter White Library.





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