img_2099“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”  Warsan Shire

I was diagnosed with interstitual lung disease in 1999. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that the most dramatic adjustments to my manner of living were required. What follows was written in April of that year. It was originally published in the now defunct California Woman.

It’s a good writing room, this room into which I have downsized to accommodate my disabled body. The room is big enough for comfort and small enough to be easy – and quick – to clean.  Perfect!  It’s the master suite in a sprawl of a condo on the gentle sweep of a tree-lined street in Menlo Park, California, a long way from home . . .

That march of trees down the drive, by the way – the oak and maple and campertown elm – is important. I’m enamoured of trees. Their proximity influenced my decision to rent.

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ― Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems

img_2102-2This place has a solid, foursquare feel to it. There are no stairs inside the condo and no stairs to reach it, and this is an added attraction. The colors are soft and peaceful: creams, peaches and pistachios, maroons and deep green. My large and cherished statue of Quan Yin and two tall plants add grace to one corner. My pie crust table with a small forest of variegated greenery sits in the other. There’s a maple secretary, which is perfect for my laptop and family photographs, a shrine (or so my world-class daughter-in-law says) to those who sit at the center of my heart. I have tossed a white cloth of Brandenburg lace over my round bedside table. My stereo lives on top of the old oak dresser. There are two mismatched-bookcases, much valued by me. They are part of our family history.

Once, forty-some years ago and 3,000 miles away, I was addicted to Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances. I think if she would have written about this room with its fine, healthy plants, good books, good music, and hodgepodge of furniture, she might have described it as “shabby genteel”. That’s okay by me. I’ve got no one to impress and it serves my body, my spirit and my latter-day ambitions well.


I decided on a double-bed. It offers ample enough room to lay out books, pens and colored pencils, paper and even my laptop. My darling landlady’s two yellow-eyed black cats are also ample and like to hop on the bed for a visit. Executives both, they supervise and comment petulantly when I ignore their direction. I’ve had many kitty companions. My last was Pywacket. I’ve learned over time that cats, like moonlight, inspire the muse. They are very welcome in here.

There’s a washer and dryer inside the condo, so I don’t have to try to lug laundry to a garage or laundry room and back. The kitchen isn’t quite as bright as I’d like, but it’s clean – scrupulous – in granite and stainless steel. I enjoy cooking almost as much as writing. It’s an endeavor that feeds my soul as well as my body, though I admit I miss having the energy and opportunity to cook for others.

I’m all moved in and settled. If you peeked in at me, you’d think me a housefrau, not a bad thing, running the laundry while preparing dinner: creamy yogurt, enchanted broccoli with olive oil, garlic, and lemon, and cheery orange carrot-coins with fried onions and dill. I prepared a risotto with rose brown rice, shallots, and shiitake mushrooms. Later, a mug of  honeyed Citrus Chamomile for a restful night of writing and sleep.

From this stillness, this cleanliness, this simplicity, I will write, cook and love my people with reckless abandon. For the moment, there is safe harbor. Life is good and tomorrow is a new day.

© 2008 Jamie Dedes

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

How to be alone … for lonely is a freedom

HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis, poet, songwriter and singer. Her style is primarily spoken word set to music. She performed in this video, which was directed by Andrea Dorfman.  Andrea did the animation. She is a screenwriter as well as a director.

The film was shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As of this writing, this poetry video has had more than 7,620,000 views, which is a league of its own when it comes to poetry videos. As far as I know the only poet who gets those numbers – actually twice as much – is Shane Koyczan, also a Canadian and a spoken word poet.

After making the film Tanya  and Andrea  put together a book, How to Be Alone (Harper,2013) with the poem and illustrations. Tanya also has a published poetry collection, At First, Lonely (Acorn Books, 2011). The former, I think, makes a good gift for someone after a break-up, separation or divorce. The later explores falling in love and out, searching for truth and for roots. The writing is intimate, very personal.

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Tanya Davis at the Calgary Spoken Word Festival 2011


Keep Smiling Bag, a little gift for trying times …

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

A lifetime ago I had a job in social work where I was privileged to work with folks who were everyday heroes in desperate circumstances. Fortunately, there were many substantive things we could do to help our clients. However, small thoughtful little gifts –  like a KEEP SMILING BAG – were also much appreciated. 

A Catholic might call this a Caritas Bag; a Buddhist, a Metta Bag; a Jew, a Chesed Bag. A Native American might call it a Medicine Bag. I just call it a KEEP SMILING BAG.  It’s a bag full of affection and support in the form of bracing little reminders.

I originally posted this piece in early 2011 but these are trying times for so many people I know. I thought I might post it again. You may have a few people in your life who could use a KEEP SMILING BAG. You might even prepare one for yourself. This is a gift that is meant to go with a prayer and loving intention.

These are the supplies you’ll need to gather:

    • A tiny cheery gift bag
    • An eraser
    • A few glass marbles
    • A fat rubberband
    • A few colored crayons
    • A birthday candle
    • Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses
    • A short stript of silk ribbon
    • A few gold stars
Gather the goodies into the bag and prepare an instruction card to go with it:
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Here are a few things to get you through the days:
  1. Eraser – to erase your negative self-talk
  2. Marbles – for when you think you’ve lost yours (you haven’t)
  3. Rubber band – you can s-t-r-e-t-c-h into new activities, fresh points of view
  4. Crayons – events may color your life, but you choose the colors
  5. Silk ribbon – to tie everything together when it seems it’s all falling apart
  6. Stars – to get to the top of the mountain, you need to reach for the stars
  7. Candle – your inner light – the true you – is bigger than the circumstances of your life
  8. Hershey’s Hugs & Kisses – Someone cares. Me! 🙂

© 2014, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credits ~ Bag, Ann Cervova, Public Domain Hershey’s Kisses ~ courtesy of IvoShandor under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported via Wikipedia. Flowers ~ (c) my Mother’s Day flowers, Jamie Dedes.