Ye who enter

So fellow travelers, I was recently accepted into the Bedlam Bloggers Collective.  I am mindful of the responsibilities this honor carries.

Abandon all Hope, Ye who enter here.”

I remember being struck by the profound despair embedded in Dante’s line describing the inscription above the gates of hell, as I read them for the first time in high school for my World Lit class.  If you’ve read The Inferno you know that line is just the beginning of an epic filled with doom and gloom.

One does not have to look far to find parallel tales of doom in contemporary times.  All the more reason the Bedlam Creative Group and the new Bloggers Collective are a treasured oasis.  It’s guidelines state “this is a group for committed bloggers, people who have blogs, believe in them and maintain them.”  It was started by author Jon Katz, as a spin off of the Bedlam Creative Group.  Jon believes  “blogs are the embodiment of Jefferson’s idea of media as being open to all, not the province of corporate marketers.”  As with the main Creative Group, there are firm guidelines to create a safe and supportive environment; hostility is not tolerated.  To share one’s creative efforts within a community of  genuine encouragement not only nurtures artistic growth, it empowers contributors to be authentic. 

My blog is less than a year old, the direct result of  the original group’s encouragement.  To be included in the roll call of bloggers whose writing I admire and gain much inspiration from is a gift I will not take lightly. At any given time I have several entries in various stages of editing.  So I have weighed carefully the first submission to be posted after crossing this threshold.  Ultimately I completed this poem which has been a work in progress from a few months ago.  It first emerged as I watched creative responses nudge a negative reaction  into a “first post” by a hesitant contributor. 



Reclaim all Hope, Ye who enter here


The entrance stands open

or is it?

“Leave negativity at the door”

Some walk right in, confident, assured

some hesitate and wonder,

“Can this fatal wound stay hidden long enough

or will secrets betray and deny comfort once again?”

Not all authentic thoughts are light and joyful.

Will their words be welcomed or

if found failing to meet muster,

be cast aside to wither in neglect?


The leap of faith once taken reveals.

Inside a garden of color inspires,

the music of poetry opens hearts,

stories bring healing tears and laughter.


The silent dared to speak.

They were heard

and it is Good.



Photo note:

The entrance to the West Shore trail of Onondaga Lake, one of my favorite walking trails, requires passing underneath a bridge which is part of the  NYS thruway.  It is dark and loud.  The dogs do not care for it, but knowing the exotic scents which lay along the seven mile trail ahead, they bravely pass through.






One from the Heart

So fellow travelers, about a year ago author Jon Katz started the Bedlam Farm Creative group on Facebook.

Say what you want about social media, this group, after a period of sorting out some housekeeping details, defied all the pervasive negatives and grew into a creative force beyond anyone’s (including our leader’s) expectations. The support for our creative efforts whether professional or beginner is inspiring, positive and constructive.  When someone struggles, the responses are authentic and uplifting.  A full range of life experiences and emotions are accepted with empathy and insight; both contributions and comments push beyond the self absorbed prattle which floods social media .  While negativity is not permitted (indeed swiftly and comprehensively dealt with) this is not a “feel good” only page. Some of the most poignant and powerful posts have dealt with grief, abuse, addiction and recovery.  The posts expand beyond writing and photography;  there are painters, quilters,  musicians, poets, even creative farmers.  The creative projects are as diverse as the membership.  Did you know you can make shoes from felted wool?  Beautiful whimsical shoes at that!


Visual imagery is my mode of experience. When I first joined the group, I was inspired by the photography posted on the page everyday, and began to write haiku which I posted as comments.  I started adding longer posts of my own and at the prompting of fellow members started this blog. I quickly realized my trusty pocket point and shoot camera just did not have the capacity to capture the images I wanted to go with my work. I decided to upgrade to a better camera and began to research my options.

Sticker shock was immediate.  I knew an SLR was probably what I needed but I lacked confidence in my skills. I found it hard to justify the expense of a digital SLR.  So I compromised and purchased a point and shoot with a better zoom and a few more manual options.  When it arrived, my heart sank because the manual came only in digital format. When the text proved unreadable on my phone,  I opted to download the manual onto my kindle.   I took a “get to know your digital camera” class at a local community center to help unravel the multiple functions I knew were hidden in an almost too compact layout.   I give the instructor credit.  He had every kind of photographer from a young professional with multiple cameras to a sweet older man who “just wanted to know how to take pictures of grandkids and get them printed out.” Still,  I spent a lot of class time reading the manual on my kindle.

( an early attempt at manual settings)


When another OGFBF member began to offer basic photography and photo shop classes I jumped on board.  Jeff is  an accomplished photographer and a phenomenal teacher.  I call him  “sensei”  out of genuine respect for his ability not only to impart good information but more importantly to challenge us while making it safe to step outside our comfort zone. I began to realize it was mainly technical knowledge I lacked more than skills. Some of  my pre-digital 35mm college photography education still lurked deep in my brain.

Most weeks I am fortunate to find ways to carve out a few hours for creative interests.   Spending those precious hours wrestling with multiple option menus became increasingly frustrating. Occasionally I would hit the right combination of buttons and get the shot I wanted. More often than not I defaulted to “auto” mode just to get a decent shot.   I never used this as an excuse,  nor did anyone ever disparage my attempts to create good photos;  the positive feedback and helpful pointers kept me trying.  The more I missed the mark, the more I learned. The group’s encouragement  nudged me towards self confidence.


So, although I paid a tidy price for my first upgrade less than a year ago,  I started saving, no easy task while financing the many musical interests (piano, band and orchestra) and big competition trips ( Disney World to name just one) for the daughter still here at home.  Recently,  my patience was rewarded when a good deal on an affordable DSLR allowed me to make the purchase earlier than I expected.  The camera arrived last week. It has a paper manual which fits in my camera bag more easily than my kindle. In one weekend I worked my way through all the basic operations. I am well on my way to shooting in manual mode.  I plan to re-shoot several assignments.

I know even the best camera available isn’t going to make a pro out of me.  My photography will improve only if I continue to practice.  I have to become more astute at working with composition,  depth of field,  light and perspective.  The confidence to build those skills comes from the “ministry of encouragment”  which I am grateful to be a part of.

So to all my OGFBF friends…this one’s is for you,  straight from my heart.


Special Thanks to Jo Ellen Thompson for permission to reprint the photo of her felted shoes.

For more photographic escapades check out this blog post from fellow Bedlam Group member Lisa Dingle, whose awesome encouragement includes comments like  ” it’s a totally ‘just leap and a net will appear’ kind of thing.”





So fellow travelers, this came in response to a few SOS ( some direct, some implied)  I picked up this week.  The source of the orb image is a photo from fellow Creative Group member  Denise Gainey,  a gifted writer and musician.  You can find her wonderful blog The View From Here  right here :



Life swirls around us

pushing    pulling   suddenly

hands reach out  hold tight

In Memory

So fellow travelers, our Creative Group lost one of our own recently, a strong minded woman who faced life’s struggles with the same determination and discipline that gained her a black belt.  Her facebook page is filled with posts from family, friends and students from the martial arts school.  It is clear the inspiration she brought to our creative group reached out to everyone who knew her.  She will be deeply missed. She and I shared a love for our gardens and ponds and photography.  Although we did not have a chance to meet in person, I will miss her.  I wish her peace and I dedicate this poem in her memory.




The bench where we meet

Now waits alone  We are gone

But not forgotten


Here is a poem from another good friend of mine from the Creative Group.  Thank you Kate Rantilla