Limbo or Transformation?

Limbo or Transformation?

I love this season of the  transformation of trees.  They go through remarkable changes.  This picture of River Tree (I have named her that) reminds me of the transformation and how unpredictable is the unfolding of things.   River Tree could be described as the offshoot of a tree long gone, that has grown over the creek, and looks most days as if it is about to fall in the water.  But never does.  Some limbs are leafy.  Some bare.  The trunk has shoots growing straight up--suckers are what tree people call them.  Usually they get trimmed off.  But not with River Tree.  She is this wild mix of limbs and shoots and sprouts.  Hanging out over the water.  Yet how powerful, how spectacular the effect of the light of sunset last night on this tree (however you want to think about the Light as a metaphor in our lives...).

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An Alive Conversation on End of Life Wishes

An Alive Conversation on End of Life Wishes

Though written in the aftermath of my father's choice to end his life, now twenty years ago, when he was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer, I hope this personal reflection can help and support others as they engage in courageous conversations about what people hope for as they approach the end of life.

The experience and the writing of the book happened a decade before, by chance and good fortune, I began creating leadership development programs for nonprofit organizations that serve elders. So what was a family story for me, now is a much larger society-wide dialogue.

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The Psychology of Optimism

The Psychology of Optimism

I've been thinking a lot about the work of Carol Dweck about two contrasting mindsets-- the first is the growth mindset where we think that intelligence and other ability is malleable.  And if we keep working at it we will do better. 

The second is what she calls a fixed mindset--where we think talents and intelligence are pretty much a given. Fixed.  And when I hit a setback it means I'm not as smart as they tell me. 

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The Power of the Pause

The Power of the Pause

A few days ago, working with leaders from nonprofits who serve elders, I opened with a poem.  When we took a break, one of the executives whose leadership experience before entering eldercare was in the military, asked me "Why don't you leave a moment of silence after you read a poem?" 

I was startled. And appreciative of his question. I'm a great proponent of the power of silence--as you can see in the poem of mine that follows--but with poems, especially my own, I have a hard time practicing what I preach.  

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On Encouragement

On Encouragement

I came away from last week's poetry gathering at Kirkridge--Bread for the Journey--thinking of the power of encouragement in the lives of those who love poetry and those who write it. 

Eighty-four of us gathered for four days--listening to poets and poetry. And to stories about poets and their poetry.  And everywhere were stories of encouragement. 

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These past few days I've been at Case Western Reserve University for a huge gathering focused on human and environmental flourishing. It was a celebrational time as the focus was our new book Flourishing Enterprise; the new spirit of business.

The remarkable synchronicity of chance meetings and the joy of seeing old friends was huge for me.

I met wonderful people through my work with poetry and sat with strangers only to find we had heart connections and good friends in common.

Toward the end of the time there I was thanking Bruce Cryer, former CEO of HeartMath, for wonderful comments about the power of the arts as a force for health. He handed me his card and there was the name of his latest venture: What makes your heart sing?

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The Antique Lilac

The Antique Lilac

This year, after a miserably long and cold Michigan winter, the natural world up North is full of blooming wonders.  And one of the most remarkable examples of the exuberance of this spring is the antique lilac that lay on the ground for years behind the forsythia out by the road,  and which we hoisted up a couple of years back with a clothes-line tied off on a cedar stump.  In past years, if there were a bloom or two we were impressed.  But this year, the lilac, here to prove that age has nothing to do with vitality and creativity, has done itself proud.  Virginia Woolf said "I don't believe in aging.  I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun."   I guess we helped the lilac do that:  we altered the lilac's aspect to the sun.  Interesting to ask ourselves how we do that for each other.

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Living Things

Living things 

photo (44).JPG

Are shaped 

By seeking light— 


Given the space, 

They can grow 

Straight and full— 

Yet context isn’t 

Always easy. 

That tree we passed— 

The trunk twisted— 

Had fought for light, 

I think, 

Until some 

Winter ice storm 

Years ago 

Had broken down 

Whatever blocked its 

Early path, 

And it began to 

Grow straight up. 

Like us, 

Its work is simple— 

Living through the storms, 

Continuing to grow 

Toward the light. 

 Judy Brown, June 13, 2012

-from Stepping Stones to be released Fall 2014, contact us to reserve a signed copy.

Turning Points and Steppingstones

Turning points and steppingstones 


The turning points, 

The steppingstones 

Often arrive 

As some adversity 

Or opportunity— 

She said that 

With a depth of 


From her life— 

Out of the blue 

And unexpected— 

Years later 

She would see 

The path 

They had created— 

But in the moment 

Only confusion, 

Some surprise, 

Or grief, uncertainty 

About what 

Lay ahead. 

Her words still ring: 

The turning points 

In life oft show themselves 

As some adversity 

Or unexpected opportunity. 

And those to come? 

Those too. 


 Judy Brown, May 5, 2012

-from Stepping Stones to be released Fall 2014, contact us to reserve a signed copy.

A further thought in line with the poem: A gift of a quote from a colleague from a Portuguese proverb that the French love to use--"God writes straight on crooked lines"--profoundly true in so many things that happen that may seem bad but actually turn out for the best.

Snow Days

Snow Days


There isn't anything

more full of life and joy

that one's own child

who doesn't have

to go to school

because of snow.


The snowstorms

are an unexpected gift,

a time to snuggle

in a chair before a fire,

a time to play and laugh

and soak the laziness

into our bones,

a time to be

exceedingly undone.


For grown-ups such free days

are rare.  Our lives are focused by

the drumbeat of our work,

the cadence of impatient

fingers on a desk. 


Perhaps my child's lesson

is the one I need to learn--

there isn't anything

more full of

joy and fun,

than one entire day

that's full of snow

and free of everything

I thought was life.

-From The Sea Accepts All Rivers and Simple Gifts


Some Favorite Poems, Mine and Others

Some Favorite Poems, Mine and Others

Poetry for Bread for the Journey

Dear One and All,

          Here are three poems, often mentioned, or quoted during our time together at Bread for The Journey, Kirkridge.  And then a couple of my own that emerged at Kirkridge—that I shared with some folks in small groups, and that I wanted to share with everyone. (Head's Up, we plan to offer this program again in 2014-15.)

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