Joy Houck Bauer

July/August 2021 (Vol. XXXIV, No. 7)

Dear Friends ~ To create, no matter the artform, is a tender and vulnerable calling. When my partner, Luke, makes a basket, he starts in the woods, at the edge of a field, or by a roadside where he quietly notices. He looks for the specific plants he'll use, observing whether they are abundant or few, and whether they are at the ideal point in their growing cycle. Eventually, after he has respectfully harvested vines or taken a young tree, he carries the plants home, now responsible to whittle them down carefully and prepare them to be woven or joined together. This is the part of the creative process that recalls Michelangelo's famous quote: "Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it". Like a writer staring at a blank page, or a potter holding a lump of clay, there is a necessary courage inherent to opening oneself to a practice that has no guaranteed outcome.

March 2021 (Vol. XXXIV, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ As a person who carries a lot of anxiety, I often find comfort in the amorphous, gray, quiet moments at dawn. Passing out of sleep's depths and just before rejoining the clamor of everyday life, my senses are clear and heightened. At the threshold of the day, I feel more courage to notice the world around me and more ready to engage in the present moment.

I've come to appreciate how our inner lives tend to mirror the physical cycle of morning into day into night and back into morning; when the soul emerges from periods of rest and dormancy to revel in those threshold moments that usher us into new energy and vibrancy: Awakening.

September 2020 (Vol. XXXIII, No. 8)

Dear Friends ~ I was standing motionless in the kitchen, completely absorbed by the articles and apps open on my phone one recent morning, when my six-year-old entered the room for his breakfast and requisite morning hug. He was chattering and asked me a question that didn't register in my distracted state, and frankly agitated me because at that early hour my mind already was stretched in countless directions and tormented by emotions about people and places far from our kitchen. Perceptive to my anxious state (and undeterred by my obvious mood), he sidled up next to me, craned his neck to see the phone screen and asked, "Mom, what are you looking for?"

Pause. "That's a great question, buddy. I'm not really sure." I put down the phone.

June 2020 (Vol. XXXIII, No. 6)

Dear Friends ~ We started our seeds inside, lining the south-facing windowsills, the same week that a pandemic made itself known to the collective body of the world. Tomatoes, kale, peas, carrots, lettuce, sorrel, beets...each seed tucked into the soil like a sort of prayer for health and a future. In early January, when I made my ritual list of intentions for the new year, I mystified myself writing simply, "tend food". Not "plant" or "grow" or "preserve", as much as tend. My sister-in-law once told me that the actual planting of a garden is the "glamorous" part because it's noticeable and satisfying in the immediate. But growing food also requires long months of patient attention: weeding, watering, waiting, hoping, pruning, tying, waiting, hoping...tending.

March 2020 (Vol. XXXIII, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ The year after my first child was born could have been called A Crash Course in the Contemplative Life. Overnight my daily landscape shifted from the external and the social, to the internal and the domestic. My driving need for productivity and efficiency made no sense in a newborn's routine. I faced rhythmic but unscheduled days with swaths of quiet time. A part of me panicked without the markers of purpose and meaning I had always used to define myself, but the new pulse of our home and the simple yet powerful needs of my baby created a steady familiarity with silence.

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