Wean Yourself

Editor’s Note: After weeks of smoke-filled air, today the sky is clear and blue. Have you ever wondered how you might explain color to someone who cannot see it?

What is blue-of-sky, or red-of-strawberry, or gold-of aspen-leaf?

Today it is like seeing blue for the first time, blue in every direction. A miracle.


Little by little, wean yourself.

This is the gist of what I have to say.

From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,

move to an infant drinking milk,

to a child on solid food,

to a searcher of wisdom,

to a hunter of more invisible game.


Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.

You might say, “The world outside is vast and intricate.

There are wheat fields and mountain passes,

and orchards in bloom.


At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight

the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.”


You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up

in the dark with eyes closed.

                    Listen to the answer.


There is no “other world.”

I only know what I’ve experienced.

You must be hallucinating.



Jelaluddin Rumi 

translated by Coleman Barks


1. Explain a color to someone who has never seen it.
2. You have been an embryo, an infant, a child. Have you been “a searcher of wisdom” or “a hunter of more invisible game?” Describe that existence.
3. What “hallucinations” have you heard about a world beyond/before/beside/after this one? Do you believe that?

Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Small Story about the Sky

Editor’s Note: At the last open mic reading, half of the poets read poems about smoke. The air is choked with it. The entire Western US is on fire. I have tried, in my own way, to write about this — the smoke that causes everyone to cough as if having smoked one cigarette lit from another all day and into the evening, the disappearance of the nearby hills and not-so-distant mountains behind a haze of gray, the neon tangerine of the setting sun, and the bloody scepter of the moon as it waxes in the sky.

Here is a poem about fire that speaks to me of the horrible devouring, and does it so well I can see it when I close my eyes.

I send our blessings to those displaced, human and animal, and to those fighting for the trees, which cannot run away.


The fire was so fierce,

So red, so gray, so yellow

That, along with the land,

It burned part of the sky

Which stayed black in that corner

For years,

As if it were night there

Even in the daytime,

A piece of the sky burnt

And which then

Could not be counted on

Even by the birds.


It was a regular fire—

Terrible—we forget this

About fire—terrible

And full of pride.  

It intended to be

Big, no regular fire.  

Like so many of us,

It intended to be more

And this time was.

It was not better or worse

Than any other fire

Growing up.  

But this time, it was a fire

At just the right time

And in just the right place—

If you think like a fire—

A place it could do something big.


Its flames reached out

With ten thousand pincers,

As if the fire

Were made of beetles and scorpions

Clawing themselves to get up,

Pinching the air itself

And climbing,

So many sharp animals

On each other’s backs

Then into the air itself,

Ten thousand snaps and pinches

At least,

So that if the sky

Was made of something,

It could not get away this time.


Finally the fire

Caught the sky,

Which acted like a slow rabbit

Which had made a miscalculation.

It didn’t believe this could happen

And so it ran left,

Right into the thin toothpicks of flames,

Too fast to pull back,

The sky with all its arms,

Hands, fingers, fingernails,

All of it




The sky stayed black

For several years after.

I wanted to tell you

This small story

About the sky.

It’s a good one

And explains why the sky

Comes so slowly in the morning,

Still unsure of what’s here.  

But the story is not mine.

It was written by fire,

That same small fire

That wanted to come home

With something of its own

To tell,

And it did,

A small piece of blue in its mouth.

Alberto Rios

from Poetry, February 2011


1. Write a myth about how humans discovered the taming of fire.
2. Write a poem of praise to those who are fighting the scorpions of flame that threaten so much each day.
3. Write what the sky in this poem might tell us about how fire took a bite out of it, and how that feels.


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

Advice from a Caterpillar

Editor’s Note: The sun is still hot! We’re going for 100+ again this week.

Yesterday I spoke with the young man whose job it is to regulate the flow of water in the irrigation canal I walk along each morning. The canal runs for miles, carrying water to crops and livestock greatly in need of it. Area lakes are at 16-34% capacity, and Four-Mile Lake has disappeared completely.

I, for one, am praying for a long, wet winter with lots of snow in the mountains. The rain can hardly come soon enough.

The low water levels have caused the water temperature to rise, promoting lots of moss growth. Where I walk, the water plants trail like the yard-long tresses of invisible mermaids, undulating and beautiful.

I’m not sure that last week’s poem reached everyone. Was Mercury acting up? Or was it Charter’s internet service? I’m not even sure if I’ve used this week’s poem before.

Poet Amy Gerstler work is delightful, with many poems too long to feature here. But this is a good one. I recommend her highly!


Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.
Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
bristles. Don’t get sentimental
about your discarded skins. Grow
quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
on your antennae. Sequester poisons
in your body for use at a later date.
When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

Amy Gerstler
from Dearest Creature ©2009


1. How much of this advice can you translate into human terms?
2. Are you sentimental about any of your “discarded skins?” Write about that.
3. What tactics do you use when threatened?
4. Where are you in the rest/molt/rest/molt again cycle?


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Trees

Editor’s Note: I’m still in Colorado for a few more days, but I’ve been keeping up with news from home, the heat, and now the fires that we knew would come. Smoke and ash are in the air. The forests are ablaze. Even a bit of rain first brings lightening, which sparks yet more fires.

I dreamed I went out into the forest to see the men fighting the blaze. They worked together as a mighty team, silently clearing underbrush before it could blaze up.

A wide, clear dirt firebreak had been created. Through this barren highway, the animals were racing past: deer, rabbits, raccoons, even a moose, all trying to get to safety.

I have seen fire up too close. I have watched at night as men and trucks were silhouetted on a hilltop against a background of scarlet and orange flames. I have watched fire eat its way uphill before the wind. I have choked on smoke, and seen ash sifted down on the roof of my car.

It is the heartbreak of every summer, to know the woods are burning, to know human and animal lives are at risk, that homes and meadows are being destroyed.

Here is a poem to ponder.



Do you think of them as decoration?


Think again.


Here are maples, flashing.

And here are the oaks, holding on all winter

   to their dry leaves.

And here are the pines, that will never fail,

   until death, the instruction to be green.

And here are the willows, the first

to pronounce a new year.


May I invite you to revise your thoughts about them?

Oh, Lord, how we are all for invention

   and advancement!

But I think

   it would do us good if we would think about

these brothers and sisters, quietly and deeply.

The trees, the trees, just holding on

   to the old, holy ways.


~Mary Oliver


Write a journal entry or poem in praise of the trees. Be specific in naming them, and their qualities. And pray for the fire fighters who brave the heat and the danger.


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

Categories: Uncategorized