Tag Archives: passion

Mentoring Muses

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If you want to see pure passion in action, click here!

KATE’S GO FUND ME DRIVE IS A SMASHING SUCCESS!  THANKS TO ALL WHO CONTRIBUTED!  Now for Haven to hold her muse!

Do you ever meet a young person and think:

That’s me. Decades ago. I can see their heart and their passion and the very real struggle ahead of them. And I know an excellent cure!

And then you reflect on your life:

It took me until now to find it– it took me years and years of brutal searching and suffering. If only they would do this one thing NOW, instead of wait…  How can I save them that long slog? How can I watch them struggle when I know there’s a solution right in front of them? And why does it have to come down to money?

Years ago, I served as a local judge for a national student’s writing contest here in Whitefish, Montana. Year after year,  from elementary school to middle school, and finally high school…there was one writer whose work leapt off the page and into my heart. The authors’ names were kept secret, but I couldn’t help but open her entry, read a few sentences, and think, I bet that’s her again. I can hear her voice. It’s growing and getting better. Good for her! As much as I considered all of the entrants, she was the winner. She had to be. She was that good.

I yearned to mentor her, yet I had to remain anonymous. Still I’d go to the award ceremonies and privately cheer her on, just to see her in body, not only muse. She truly shone– a town golden girl. Eventually, I heard that she’d been one of the rare ones who’d gone off to the Ivies back East. They, I’m sure, courted and cajoled her, and I wondered if she’d forget about her writing once she got to the land of such spit and shine. I knew full well what that life inspires. I’d lived it. And I’d left it because I knew that if I stayed in that world, I’d never be true to my muse. And I’d probably never be successful by society’s standards, either. Still…I had to heed the call, and to do so, I headed west– found myself in the very town she’d eventually launch from. Mostly, I wondered if she’d forget her muse and her Montana and give herself to all of those brass rings.

And then one night this spring, I went to our local Whitefish Review launch to hear one of my favorite all time writers (and friend) David James Duncan speak, walked in to the venue, and there on a stool, reading with poise and passion…was…

Kate:
…I met author Laura Munson, officially, at Casey’s Bar in Whitefish, Montana several weeks ago. We were at a release party for The Whitefish Review, a reputable journal based in Whitefish. I’d been accepted for publication and was reading part of my story. After shakily sharing my words with the crowd, Laura embraced me. “I’ve read your work since the beginning,” she said. She’d been the secret judge of all of those writing contests, the ones I entered every year as a child. “Here you are.”

There I was. After the reading, Laura and I kept in touch. She shared her story. She validated mine. Her Haven retreats, nationally known and highly respected, emerge from her own story of the pursuit of words, one that feels similar to mine. Laura herself gave up the hallmarks of the east, the shininess of ambition, to come to Whitefish and write. Her retreats scrutinize what is powerful; they encourage conviction. They work mindfully and rigorously through the art of retreating within, and telling a story, and sharing one’s particular voice.

When she suggested that I attend her retreat in June, I felt honored. I felt once again, for the thousandth time, that curious emotion of surprise: “If I was still in New York….”  I said I would come.  But I had no idea how…

Laura:  

It was true.  Kate had stopped writing.  And then the shininess became un-shiny, and after enduring an abusive relationship, she bravely returned to her roots, this time in another small, vibrant Montana town.  I am thrilled to say that she is writing her first book about…you guessed it:  Montana.  Needless to say…I want her at Haven.  It is exactly what she needs.  I know it the way I knew her muse all those years ago.  Haven would be the very thing to set her up emotionally, psychologically, craft-wise, and project-wise to have the writing support, mentorship, and community that she deserves.  I am holding a space for her in June, but it comes down to cost.  The Haven Foundation has given her a substantial scholarship, and now she needs help raising the rest of her tuition.  No one likes to ask for money, and she is the last one to even consider it.  I have encouraged her to start a crowd-funding campaign on Go Fund Me.  Please…if you have ever looked a young person in the eyes and thought…I am she/he…consider donating whatever feels right, to her cause.  

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, (and Kate’s too),

Laura

To donate to Kate’s fund, click here!

To donate to future scholarship funds for Haven Writing Retreat attendees, contact Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

The Haven Writing Retreat 2017 Schedule:

June 7-11 (one space left)
June 21-25 (one space left)
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

For more info, and to set up a call with the Haven Team, click here!

Also, I’d like to use this page as a forum in the comments section:  if there is any young person you know who is raising funds for their dreams to come true, add them there, and hopefully we can be the village to help our next generation bloom into their wildest dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

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January 2012 Haven- Small World (A Case For The Trajectory Of Intention)

It is my not-so-humble opinion that people say “what a small world,” too much in not-so-small-worldish moments.  For instance, if you were raised in Montana in a ski town of 2,300 people, and you travel to Seattle and you tell someone you’re from a ski town in Montana…and they say, “Whitefish?” and you say “Yes, in fact!” and they say, “Do you know Joe Schmo” and you say, “You mean Joe Schmo of the Schmo Schmos??? I used to DATE Joe Schmo.  I almost MARRIED Joe Schmo!” well then…I’m not that impressed. There are exactly two ski towns in Montana.  And both populations totaled, it’s about the size of a small liberal arts college.  I went to a small liberal arts college.  I pretty much knew everyone.  And I considered marrying a handful of them.

Now here’s a small world incident that actually does impress me.  It happened this week.  And it happened to me.  And three other unsuspecting characters.

I was minding my own business, going about the post-holiday dig-out from emails, broken ornaments under couches, dried out cedar boughs, and stale headless gingerbread men…and a package came.  It was for me.  I opened the box, figuring it was a tardy gift like most of mine were this year, scanning my brain for who might have me on their list, and lo…it was a box wrapped in purple tissue.  Nothing Christmasy about it.  Two weeks after Christmas, and someone had sent me something.  That someone is my friend Alison.  My kids deemed her Alison Wonderland when they were little, innocently, but it has stuck because she is that friend that remembers every birthday, writes long heartfelt newsy notes, sends gifts to both kids even though only one is her god-child.  She sends hardback books, always age-appropriate, always a Caldecott prize or something enriching.  My kids love Alison Wonderland.  And so do I.

This time Alison outdid herself.  It was a long thin box.  Jewelry.  I don’t know about you, but at age forty-five, I’m beginning to get grandmother gifts.  Pot Pourri.  Room spray.  Soap.  Candles.  As if I smell bad.  Or my house smells bad, like maybe I’m incontinent.  Jewelry is divine.  So I opened it with a little lust.  And there, shimmering in silver, smoothed in leather, was the coolest damn bracelet I’ve seen in a long time.  It was a horseshoe with two leather straps lined in orange ribbon (my favorite color) that snaps.




I don’t know if you’ve seen the cover of my book, but if not, here’s a reminder.

It wasn’t my idea to put a horseshoe on the cover of my book, but it has grown on me.  The idea of strength in hardship.  The illusion of where strength lies.  A steady horse suddenly without a shoe, so suddenly lame.  No, our strength is inside us.  That’s what I’ve learned and that’s what my book is about.  And Alison Wonderland knows that I could use a little strength right now in my life.  So she sent me a reminder.  A talisman, if you will.  I put it on, snapped it, positioned the shoe so that it is on my inner wrist, pointing up, filled with strength.  And when I feel not so strong, I put my thumb in its cleavage and breathe and feel better.  Beautiful gift.  Beautiful friend.  I called to thank her.  She’d seen this jeweler’s work at a fundraiser in Hartford, Connecticut.  Thought of me.

So here’s the small world part, and I’m telling you:  I really think angels exist.

Two days later, I’m sitting at my desk going through my morning emails with my green tea, and I see a note from a friend of mine in Italy.  I met her in Seattle years ago, not because she was a friend of a friend, not because either of us were from Seattle and had gone to school together or because we were part of some sort of work environment.  I had lived in a house in a little alley in Eastlake and had moved next door.  I was on my new front stoop.  She was on my old front stoop.  I said, “Hey, I used to live there.”  She invited me over.  I saw that her only furniture was a piece of plywood over two sawhorses and a computer, said, “Oh…you’re a writer.  Me too,” and there began a friendship that probably has totaled less than ten hours in physical vicinity.  She lives in Rome now.  She writes and teaches.  I live in Montana.  We keep in touch via email.  She’s a kind supportive open soul.  The kind you carry with you as you go but that doesn’t demand much.  We all need friends like that.

So…I’m always happy to get a message from her.  This one read:

“Because the world is ever smaller, the other day I was chatting with my dear friend Jessica who used to live in Rome (and Montana) and she recounted to me that she had designed a horseshoe bracelet as a gift for a writer in Montana … and that she was now reading her book and wanted to get in touch with her … And then she asked if I had ever heard of the book and it’s author.  Well, of course you know the answer!”

Head to toe chills.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  Now THAT is a small world.  It turns out that her dear friend Jessica is a beautiful jeweler and lives in Providence, RI.  (And is my new friend, because you don’t blow this s*** off!)  I’d like to introduce her to you, because she is the perfect example of turning a dream into a reality.  And when “coincidences” like this happen, far be it from me to keep them to myself.  From intention to intention to intention, crossing oceans and the Rocky Mountains, a chain of thoughtfulness and deliberate living.  Let us remember the power of intention and how it can unite kindred souls.

Meet Jessica Ricci:  

I make jewelry. This is what I tell people when they ask me what I do, but I always feel strange when I say this, as if I am not telling the complete truth. 

The truth is, I am kind of making this up as I go along, and how I come to a finalized piece is much less than a master craft and much more than a product.

In my former life (I mean life before 30) I worked and studied to be a journalist in Rhode Island and then New York City. In one of those moments that are hard to recreate, I moved to Rome with a vague idea of becoming a foreign correspondent, but taught English instead.

Maybe to keep my mind off of this perceived “failure,” I began visiting the weekly Roman flea market, finding myself rustling through dirty boxes of bric-a-brac, collecting things that had no business cluttering my medieval apartment. I did this with the kind of passion you see in stamp collectors or bird watchers.

I became especially obsessed with the antique Italian prayer cards that depicted saints who met their mostly grizzly demise in the face of belief. By the time I unearthed them, they arrived tattered with intentions, scribbled with prayers left by generations of old Italian women in black.

The prayer cards and other obscure objects I found there seemed to me like beautiful slices of life that should be more than discarded formerly important things that travel from flea market to flea market. I wanted to freeze all that they mean — all those thoughts from all of those people.

Jewelry was the most obvious way and something I had always dabbled in. In a process that happened in two languages and languished in Roman pace that seemed to move backwards at times, I taught myself a version of a an ancient craft that I practice today. It has taken me back to the United States to a life I had not intended.

As a child I didn’t see myself trading a digital watch for a Masai spearhead in a Tanzanian market, but I am never more confident, honest, and tenacious than in the moments I get off the plane and eventually into an area of possible finds.

This summer I had the opportunity to add another adjective to this list.

I spent a month in Puglia, Italy in a remote one-church town called Martignano without a car unless road tripping to a market. I was left without an option but to bike from tiny town to tiny town if I wanted to see such dazzling theatre as the village priest blessing all the animals, from dogs to chickens.

It was on one of these twenty-mile bike rides that I had an overwhelming feeling of what I have come to describe as self-reliance.  The impetus wasn’t just being okay with being alone; it was more like being assured that I have everything I need.

I took this wave of self-reliance with me as I scoured the markets that were full of charming old horseshoes that the locals would hang for good luck. I thought that the horseshoe would be a perfect motif for the Puglia collection, but the likelihood of finding a small version was slim.

Like most of my good finds, it was at the end of the day — just when I had given up on finding the perfect piece — that I stumbled onto a shack replete with little horseshoe charms.

Back in my studio in Rhode Island, while carving the wax I created from the horseshoe, I thought about the self-reliance that anchored me as I went where I wanted to go, did what I wanted to do, with no one watching. I gave this particular piece this “intention” in a way, in a hope, that like the pieces I find in the markets, it will contain what has come before. 

 

 

 


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Empty Boat

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Empty Boat by Laura A. Munson

I live for passion. But I oppose fanaticism, fanatically speaking. My mouth lashes against it with venom. Hot tears come catapult. My head swirls, tempestuous. It’s fight or flight. I usually flee, hot and wet, knowing that I have given yet another zealot power they don’t deserve, but require. From fools like me.
I live for passion, because without it, we denounce the gift of life. Some call it the gift from God. And bash you bloody with the singularity of their Almighty. When I read the words of Jesus in the Bible, I don’t see all their no’s for all his yeses.
Those who call their god, The Universe, seem to have a broader way, but usually not one I can peg down too well. I get lost in their crystals and moons and stars having some hold over the was’s and will be’s of my life. Truly, what is there to say to someone who believes there is only one way, and they are there to prove it to you?
The Chinese poet and sage Chuang-tzu speaks of a man crossing a river on a boat. As he navigates the waters, he sees another boat coming toward him. “Steer aside!” he yells to the person he thinks he sees, swearing and gesticulating. But Chuang-tzu suggests that that same fellow could relate differently with his world. That rather than raging and fighting against the oncoming boat, he might consider imagining the boat empty.
“Even though he be a bad-tempered man, he will not become angry.”
If it is an empty boat, there is no one to fight. He is not threatened, nor is he angry. It’s merely an empty boat. As the boat approaches, he skillfully puts out his oar to steer the other boat aside without collision or damage to either vessel.
Chuang-tzu suggests that we relate to the world from that openhearted emptiness that allows us to let control of the world go by not opposing the flow of what is. Through this sort of surrender, he suggests that we will come fully into being.
There have been two times I have truly emptied my boat. When my first child was born and when I watched my father die.
There, the option of opposition seemed impossible. My daughter was being pushed through the waters of my womb with forces I could not have stopped for all my might. My father’s chest, full of poison, rose and fell through the wind of a machine; unplugged, it simply fell and stayed there, as dead as my daughter was alive. Water. Wind. Empty boat.
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***
People fight a lot in the rural West, mostly about land.
The fight over land is an age-old battle. Just look at the Middle East. The quest for land is more than blood-sport; it’s what we can see of “god,” of “The Universe,” of the gift of life. Without land, we’re not fastened to our lives. We have no tangible roots. We have no place to do our loving. We have no place from which to gaze at our stars and feel as small as we know we are. No place for awe. No place for the awesome.
I don’t understand the Fundamentalist Christian Right who seem to forget that they were supposedly made from “the dust of the ground,” never mind “the breath of God,” and that in Genesis 2:15 the “Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” But I don’t understand the idea of praying for parking places, either.
I don’t understand the environmental activists who steal forth in the night with spikes and hammers to give trees the bite that will take out logger’s eyes, never mind the probable fact that that logger has a family and food to put on the table.
I’ve lived in Montana for twelve years now. I’ve sat at the bar with all sorts, listening to all fires, and not making much of an effort to put any of them out. Around here, it seems that one person’s fire is another person’s water. I have made it my work—my passion to understand “the dust” and “the breath” I was created by. To receive creation and my created self in it—that has been my journey. To be as open-boated as possible.
It has been a journey of open space. Of “wandering rights,” as Terry Tempest Williams puts it in her “Open Space of Democracy.” Of “stewardship,” as Wendell Berry puts it over and over again. It has been a journey of falling in love, with my “own back yard,” yes. But it must begin somewhere.
My backyard has been vast, surrounded by state lands on three sides. I’ve ridden my horse in the woods on trails blazed by the Flathead Indians hundreds of years ago, connecting their tobacco fields to their lodges down on the Flathead Lake—over a fifty mile trek, and galloped alongside of a migrating herd of elk along the way. I’ve roamed through Glacier National Park breathing in my lesser rank on the food chain deeply, with the very real chance of running into a grizzly bear, and I’ve returned home, my head screwed on as straight as it’s ever been. I’ve sat sequestered in my living room watching ash fall from the sky as forest fires rage ten miles to the west, and easterly winds blow thirty miles per hour straight toward us, missing us by a ridge. I’ve known people who have been trampled by avalanche, river rapids, rockslides, fallen trees. I’ve grown to understand these things—to empty my boat when they come.
But how am I to have an empty boat– a surrender between the brackets of birth and death– when the very thing that has taught me open-boatedness, is in full frontal attack?
Land.
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Thirteen thousand acres of state-run school trust land—lands surrounding Whitefish, Montana which have become our green belt, our Commons as Gary Snyder puts it– the place where we take our walks, let our dogs run, cross-country ski, snow shoe, ride horses, mountain bikes, show our children their first spiderwebs covered in morning dew—it’s all up for grabs to private developers. I thought we lived in a state which prized open space. Turns out the almighty dollar reigns after all, even out here, in what the developers call: “God’s country.”
I have been to meetings. People scream at each other. “Not in my backyard!” or shake their heads and come away saying, “Development happens. We can’t win.” It’s been years of Us and Them and I know people on both sides. All of them like to wander. You’d be hard-pressed to find any one of them, on either side, who wouldn’t stop and gasp at the sight of a buck rising from a field at dawn.
I’ve been quiet, trying to empty my boat. I don’t know how to do this without fighting. And I’ve been told, you don’t have to fight to win.
But there are gates. At the end of every trail, there are gates now. My boat is getting fuller and fuller every time my horse puts his nose toward our old trails and I have to steer him somewhere else, where there isn’t a gate. Soon we’ll be riding along the highway, dodging logging trucks and ousted deer.
One day a man chases me down with a pack of dogs and a gun—tells me that he’s just bought this land from the timber company. I tell him that the private land owner is protected from law suits by a governmental statute—that horse people are excellent stewards of the land, can help protect trails, keep high school partiers away, report vandalism.
He shakes his head and tells me I am not to trespass again or else. I eye his shot gun and choose not to tell him about the mountain lion den just over the ridge, the two black bear cubs that like to hang out in the stand of Grand Fir, and the sow who patrols the area with fierce pride.
The time for fanaticism has come. My boat is full. And so is the one approaching. I am hollering at the people, raising my fists, wishing their bow to hit ground and split open to bits. I cannot surrender my wandering rights.
At the local Farmer’s Market I am approached by our representative in House District 4. “You ride your horse on the state land trails, don’t you, Laura?”
I stop in my tracks, practically run to his side, stare him far too close in the face.
“We have a twenty-four month window to create a hundred mile long recreation trail system that would put the private and public sectors into a partnership. This sort of precedent has national importance. If we can do it, it could serve as a model for other communities poised for massive development.”
The private and public sectors shaking hands to a hundred mile trail system that will last forever. Gates flung open. Open space re-made holy for generations to come. “What can I do? Sign me up.”
“You can apply to be on the stakeholders committee which will work with the city of Whitefish and the DNRC (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation), representing as many user groups as possible. The user groups that don’t step up, won’t have a voice.”
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I have stepped up. I have submitted my application and I am waiting. Trying not to imagine the opposing boat at all, but to believe that such an Us/Us partnership is possible.
In my deepest open-hearted-ness, open-boated-ness place, I believe there is one way when it comes to land: it must somehow be open to the creatures that love it. Somehow. We must preserve our right to make contact with our kindred “dust.”
I see the opposing boat now. I only hope that when we are upon each other, we can shake hands.

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