New Poetry Book: Cover Reveal!

Cover-Land-72-rgb-standing

 

BOOK COVER REVEAL!!

Here it is! With the onset of spring, and also World Happiness Day, World Poetry Day and World Forests Day (wow!), I’m so happy to show you the cover of my new poetry book, LAND! Thank you to Golden Dragonfly Press!

“The poems of ‘Land’ explore our bodies and selves as terrain to be navigated, accepted and loved. Where estrangement meets intimacy, where lost youth meets the inevitability of aging, where fear meets hope, where doubt meets empowerment, where the natural world and the elements as our precious teachers meet our readiness to dive right into our lives—these are the intersections that lie at the heart of this collection, which uncovers a great paradox of our times: adrift, we long to feel truly, completely at home, while knowing deep within that there’s nowhere else we can be; we are already there, exactly where we are.”
—Tammy Takahashi

Please check with me on Twitter at @tammystonetakahashi, and on Facebook here.

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Poem (to be a tree)

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

 

TO B A TREE

When meditation won’t come

when the breath is undone

and your mind is on fire

and your heart is so tired,

come and let’s see.

Let’s try being a tree.

Maybe the tree’s in the yard outside

or in our heads, or a park nearby,

or peering over rocks on a sandy shore,

craggly and wise forevermore.

Maybe there’s a treehouse for sleepover nights,

for spilling deep secrets in the dimmest of lights.

Maybe, right now, our hearts are screaming

weighing us down in all their hurting.

Let’s turn into a tree that carries on,

brimming with peace like the newest dawn,

not at all haunted by who she might be,

which is how we should be,

if we want to be free.

Let’s watch the roots from the center unfold,

longer and stronger with each story told,

as they breathe Earth’s offerings in order to grow,

thriving and sparkling on the ground below.

Have you ever nestled into those giant roots’ arms,

become transfixed by their greatest charms,

have you wondered what happens when they finally meet

for subterranean hellos, what news they greet,

as their connections deepen around the world

their flowing tendrils gently unfurled?

Now let’s rest in evening’s dark,

and sit against the great tree’s bark.

Feel the strength. Feel the love.

Feel the air swoon high above.

Feel how she has nowhere to be,

how there’s no anxiety in the tree.

Feel the girth from years of life,

of being witness to so much strife,

how she rejoices at our victories and cries at our woes,

and knows that it comes, and knows that it goes.

Feel the coolness against your back,

the ridges marked by time, not lack.

Now let’s bring our hand to touch,

look how quietly she’s grown so much,

how she never hesitates or has any doubt,

how she breathes, pure grace, within and without.

We can wrap our arms around the tree,

tune in to the immovable power of she,

feel our hearts pattering and sure

soothed under the weight of all that we were.

Feel the tree’s heartbeat against our own,

feel the kindness the tree has shown

to so many of us needing to calm our fears,

maybe for thousands upon thousands of years.

Let’s turn an eye to the branches of trees,

curved into their sacred geometries,

arching in a final, undulating dance

as they move toward their skyward chance.

Maybe leaves have fallen and winter’s come.

Maybe spring has returned as Earth’s great sum,

alive with green ripeness, soft and course,

ready to receive from the celestial source.

Up there, so high, there is no fear.

The ground holds space; the ground is near.

The breath of life hums through the tree,

which demands nothing, and is full, and is free.

This is how calm can be regained,

how a balm for mad minds can be reclaimed,

as we drop to our knees and bow,

in the presence of a holy now,

so we can come to rest with ease and glee

at having become a glorious tree.

10 Unexpected Ways to Find Your Inner Creative.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Curving back within myself, I create again and again.” ~ The Bhagavad Gita

The word “creativity” can be a daunting one.

It conjures images of world-famous artists—visual artists, writers, dancers, among others—bringing breathtaking works into the world, and being validated by certain criteria (by no means objective) for what makes good art.

But in an age when we are becoming increasingly aware of the toll social media and information saturation is having on our brains, and of our need to become more grounded and in sync with the rhythms of nature—our entire sense of well-being depends on this—it’s more important than ever that we really embrace a definition of creativity that makes it available for all of us.

In other words, let’s not forget that for every Mona Lisa, there is a 10-year-old finding a “creative solution” to avoiding punishment by his or her parents, and for every “Moby Dick,” there’s a grandpa captivating a roomful of relatives with an amazing story.

Nobody fully understands what creativity is or where it comes from, which is why there is so much fascinating talk around the subject. I’d like to humbly offer a few opinions here, and would love for them to be taken as inspiration for discussion rather than the final say on the matter.

Considering creativity as the exclusive domain of the fine arts, as we tend to do, can end up an act of self-sabotage, which is why we need to remember how broad creativity really is, so that it stops being such a potentially terrifying word, representing something that is beyond our grasp.

“There is no one definitive creative path. There are many ways to be creative—not only intuitive ways but organized, logical ways, too.” ~ Theresa Bayer

We are all creative. How do we know this? Because we’re alive.

We don’t just know this because evidence goes back at least 17,300 years, when Paleolithic images depicting animals were painted onto cave walls in what is now France as an early instance of the tendency toward art-making.

We are not creative exclusively because we have the urge to manifest images (or audio, or words) representing ourselves, the human experience, and our world—and the workings of our mind and psyche. Rather, we do these things because we are inherently creative. There are so many factors that play into how we end up fostering and nurturing this innate creativity within us.

Being alive is always and already a creative act. We were created by our parents are our ancestors before them. We are borne of a pretty magical and fortuitous act of making, and our lives are the most beautiful possible and foundational form of the creative process.

“The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day.” ~ Samuel Beckett

This must be why we are drawn to express ourselves and our “creativity.” We want to give back, to express, what was put into our own making. To be in harmony with the universe is to be an ever-evolving creative force within a larger creative entity.

But then we get stuck. We think we have to “be creative.” Not everyone, or all the time. But I think most of us get that restless feeling where we “should be doing more,” or “doing something creative.” Then we bury our deepest impulses under a pile of insecurities and assume creativity is best left for others.

When did creativity become such a problematic and loaded idea for us?

Why do we “play house” or “play doctor” when we’re kids? Why do we pick up our crayons and draw flowers but also completely invent creatures as kids? Right from the start, we are emitting the passions of the world, seen and imagined, right back into it. This is such a beautiful thing.

Kids don’t think about art shows or critiques or external validation. Without consciously knowing it, they understand that to live is to be creative. They play, and what is more creative than playing, and unleashing the imagination without concern about outcome?

We do this as adults too, in our less self-conscious moments. We trail our fingers along the sand, making patterns. We arrange food on our plates in aesthetically pleasing ways and we daydream magnificent creations for our lives.

Certainly, our natural creativity can translate into beautiful art, and even in this realm, we get stuck. We are conditioned to feel that painters can’t also be musicians, that writers cannot be good sculptors, and so on. When we start showing an interest in an art form, we’re encouraged to “stick to one area,” that this is where our natural abilities lie.

Have you seen John Lennon’s sketches? Have you seen John Mellencamp’s paintings? Many musicians, in fact, are known for their visual artwork; a general search for crossover creativity online will generate many examples.

In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered what they call “neuroplasticity,” that we have “plastic” brains. At any point in life, we can forge new pathways in our brains, which effectively means that our brains are highly creative in themselves (as mirrors of the universe, they must be!) and allow for us to ever-expand our abilities. The reverse holds true, too. What you don’t use and cultivate, falls off to the wayside.

I know that every time I take a break from painting (often) or journal writing (far less often), I have to work the kinks out of my head and oil the proverbial machinery before I can really get a groove going.

Anything, though, can be a creative act, as an extension of our inherently creative being. I’m not a writer because I’m an artist; rather, I write because this is one of the many possible ways I can honour the world and my relationship to it. It’s a form that I instinctively and naturally feel drawn to, and we can all find our own unique sources of enjoyment by seeking out what moves us.

To me, creative living means doing what you do with passion, authenticity and integrity, with a genuine desire to communicate our own unique presence in the world with others. We can do this by planting tomatoes, tie-dying a shirt, helping those in need, really listening to someone when they speak to us.

The tiniest actions laid bare with passion are already creative, and can very well lead to a motivation on our part to be ever-more creative, until we finally understand what was there all along: creativity is not a goal, but the foundation of our (ideal) mode of being. What flows from this might be a staggering revelation about what we want and have the ability to do.

The way to be what we already are—daringly, gorgeously creative—is to acknowledge that we already have all the tools we need, just by being fully and consciously ourselves.

And now, here it is: 10 ways to get the ball rolling and find yourself already, unexpectedly creative:

1. Listen to a new song twice; once for the melody and once for the lyrics.

2. Have an in-person conversation, and try to scale back on the talking and focus on the listening.

3. Look for shapes in the clouds.

4. Try writing with the hand you don’t normally write with.

5. Write a letter or postcard to someone by hand.

6. Look in the mirror and draw your face on a piece of paper without looking down at what you’re doing.

7. Go out and take take photos of 10 things you’ve never noticed before on your street.

8. Organize your mess of computer files (or, if they’re already super organized, organize them into a new set of categories).

9. Attempt a headstand or handstand so you can see the world from upside down.

10. Close your eyes, and pay attention to every detail of what’s going on in your navel as you take three deep breaths.

Here’s a great quote by Ira Glass on how creativity needs to, and can be cultivated:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

 

 

Under the Sky {Poem}

Hello! I’m delighted to have been published in the new and amazing The Tattooed Buddha, which you can read about and find great stuff here. I wrote this poem after being inspired by a walk I took post snowstorm – the only one of the season so far in otherwise snow-less Nagoya!

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

Under the Sky

Up—and
the sky and sun together
reveal a forever-dream,
inviting us to wonder what might happen
if we went soaring right through
the gauzy blue,
where we might land,
what will sink into our bones
along the way.

But I am still here,
on this side,
so I keep my gaze steady,
only looking up a little, and
under the cover of snow,
I see electrical wires and tree branches
hanging in close conference,
sharing secrets.
The snow has cloaked their differences
but they knew this all along.
They don’t ask, “Who am I?”
There are in full being,
they don’t need our questions.

 

 

The Things I Wait For on a Cold Wintry Morning.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

The Things I Wait For on a Cold Wintry Morning

and the things i wait for are the things
that would come,
the wait isn’t long
we can hold it close
or let waiting go,
but on this cold, wintry morning,
the wait is a tickle, a snug space
it does not agitate,

and so i play with it

waiting for my ginger tea to boil
waiting for the small kerosene heater to hum
for the blast of warmth to dance with my face

waiting for either snow or spring to make itself known
waiting for a small headache to go away

waiting for wildly restless thoughts that came, to go
for ancient fears to dissipate like the scattered dust of childhood
waiting for the future I’m not sure I even knew how to dream of

waiting for the next perfect coffee mug
for the book that will draw me into its pages forever
so that i may never return,
waiting for time to slow down enough to kiss it and say thank you
waiting for love to take yet another turn

waiting for the lotus flower to unfurl me
for my journal to tell me the truth of who i am
waiting for the old photos to fade and the new ones to fall into the ether
waiting to sit by a campfire and hear other people’s stories until the end of time

waiting to hear more from all the elders
waiting to recognize my own touch
to see the face of the world-body in front of me smiling
and the angels to drop down through the top of my head

waiting for the bird who will be large and kind enough to sweep me away
and for the park bench i’ve come to know, to welcome me with a song
waiting to embody

waiting for no more waits, because i have arrived,

with you, this frosted morning,
we are here

where we have always been.

The Girl with the Ukelele

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

The Girl with the Ukelele

(India)

When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town you can see men chiseling away and gorgeous finished products out front: Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation. Maybe this is still the case. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours. I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here. And now stone carving.

We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life. Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch. Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a Japanese girl who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele. Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha, making the Hawaiian tune sound like a folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.