Friday, June 7, 2024


May passed by with complications. Now it is a beautifully sunny day in June. American author and theologian, Joan D. Chittister, writes "June is the time for being in the world in new ways, for throwing off the cold and dark spots of life."  I am eager to regain my strength and return to "normalcy" as my magnolia buds spread their gorgeous white florals.

Last week the Poetry Sisters, Tanita, Mary Lee, Tricia, Laura, and Lizinvited writers to write in the spirit of poet Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips". Since my body has been under attack since May, I praise my body for its resilience to a recent challenge. I join Michelle and Linda B. who signed in as #PoetryPals last week.

Lately, everything has been in slow mode for me. For instance, Poetry Friday is already filling with many poetry friends signing on as I get ready for another doctor's visit. 

I  join the Poetry Friday Roundup at Tracy Kiff-Judson's blog, "Tangles & Tales". She is cooking up a delightful and tasty post titled, Cooking Up InspirationSee you there. I will make the rounds slowly this weekend.

    Created by Tracey

Friday, May 31, 2024

Spiritual Medicine

“I see poetry as spiritual medicine.”
– Mahmoud Darwish

Without a doubt, I believe in the power of prayer and medicine. After finding the above quote, I realized how much poetry has helped me soothe my soul during difficult times. Both reading and writing poetry have helped me find inner peace. While returning home from a two-and-a-half-week stay in the hospital after two surgeries, I was not only drained of energy but eager to find words to express my feelings. Because I was in isolation in the hospital, I longed for wisps of nature to bring me to an inner place of joy. I penned this draft poem during the week while sitting inside my house and looking outside.
I stare
out my window
watching the arrival
of an upcoming storm.
Winds s w a y
at rapid speed
as raindrops nestle in
between broad leaves.
Nature continues
drenching earth
from her gray sky
to verdant lawns
until showers
abrupty stop
and sunlight
s u r ro u n d s.
©CVarsalona, 2024

Studies show that reading and writing nature poetry increase feelings of connection, wonder, and appreciation for the outdoors (Aulkins et al, 2006). Tonight, I took my first short walk to the muddy pond down the street. Feeling the warmth of the evening sun and listening to the gurgling sounds at the pond, made me grateful for being home. Small steps lead to a new beginning.

Although I wished to join the Poetry Friday Roundup earlier, I shall add my post now to Janice Scully's blog. Janice is sharing the beauty of Carol Labuzzetta's new Picture Perfect Poetry Anthology filled with amazing ekphrastic poems and gorgeous nature photographs. Janice is proud to be one of the contributing poets. I am also one of those poets but that is for another blog post.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Pause & Reflect on the Spiritual Journey

I have been on a journey of growth both physically and spiritually for many decades. Each decade brings a different perspective on life. It has not been a smooth journey, but I have weathered many storms with family support, faith, and hope. Today, I look backward to pause and reflect. I restyled one of Linda Mitchell's clunker exchange lines, "You listening/my face deep in shadowed spaces", to embed in the following free verse poem.

When the moon's soft light
shines through an inked sky,
I pause to reflect.
My face deep in
shadowed spaces releases
troubling thoughts to
float in celestial silence.
Are you listening?
I wait on the Lord
for guidance.
@CVarsalona, 2024

The following inspirational quote from Henri Nouwen guided me as I worked on the June prompt for the Spiritual Journey Community, thanks to our host, Karen Eastlund.

"The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everday existense. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of pains and joys of the here and now."

A Backward Look

On January 4, 2024, I announced my one word, pause. Initially, I retraced my steps to determine how to slow down my life. From late January to February, I developed a sinus/respiratory issue. By the time April arrived, I was scheduled for hernia surgery. I tried to breathe in the essence of spring to calm my spirit. Then, several more medical findings caused more unexpected stress. Two rare hernias were found. The first surgery led to a knick in the bladder which meant a repair surgery was needed.

A simple surgery ended with a complication and an ICU stay. Shortly after the second surgery, I was moved to the medical wing where three more infections occurred. One was contagious so I was isolated. Two and a half weeks later, I was discharged with a Foley Catheter and home health care. Needless to say, I am exhausted by the experience but I realize that trust in the Lord, self-care, and a positive attitude are important.

Thank you, Karen, for offering a prompt, look into the past for something that has shaped or inspired our current spiritual practice or outlookthat lets me intentionally pause and reflect on my spiritual journey. No matter how challenging my journey  has been lately, it encourages me to: 

  1. Get stronger through walks and simple exercises.
  2. Review my past to approach everyday life with a new mindset.
  3. Continue believing in the power of God, faith, medicine, and hope.         

Below is an inspirational Bible verse that seems meant for me. 

I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. - Psalm 32:8

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Magnolia Surprise

Now that I'm home from an extended stay at the hospital, I continue with my morning rituals along with new ones from the doctors. First, I flick the remote to release the shades. I see a gorgeous blue sky with billowy clouds greeting me. While I cannot feel the warmth of the sun shining, I appreciate nature's gift. Later in the day, I will slowly walk around the patio to admire my flowers and magnolia trees. Until then, I shall stare at the photo of the first magnolia bud my husband sent me while in the hospital.

one single bud
sends vibrations of joy
spring's corsage
©CVarsalona, 2024
Photo by RVarsalona, 2024

The opening of Joy Harjo's poem, Eagle Poem, is a tribute to nature offering me much-needed quiet reflection before bed.

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
READ the rest of the poem HERE.

May is nature's breath of freshness.
Breathe in the essence of spring.
Like me, build yourself self-care rituals and routines.
Michelle Kogan, the poet-artist is hosting with garden delights and a birthday bash. Several poet friends are celebrating their birthdays, including Michelle, so I wish them wonderful birthday greetings. Please read the various posts gathered for the Poetry Friday Roundup besides Michelle.

By the way, my youngest granddaughter was one this week. I did get to spend time watching her eat her birthday breakfast. Attached below is the digital card I made for her.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Not a Typical Mother's Day

Sometimes, life moves in ways not expected. It can be as unpredictable as storms that pass through or as bright as spring skies offering rebirth. As I reflect, on this past Mother's Day, I realize it was a day not expected yet filled with the love of family. 

I never imagined that I would celebrate the day in the ICU wing of the hospital as opposed to having a leisurely breakfast brunch with my family. What began as a simple umbilical hernia repair turned into much more, two rare hernias most common in women over 65 with a bladder tear, a second surgery detained, pneumonia, and a fungal bacteria. I am spent but there is always hope and family love.

I turn my attention to author/poet Patricia Franz, who is hosting Poetry Friday. It feels so good to join the Friday Roundup this week. After 10 days of medical treatment, I feel the strength of nature surrounding me. I join Patricia who speaks of a forest joy experience and a commitment to the ways of tree-being, silent and tireless

Since I am still in the hospital on the medical floor, I need to take my time reading all the poetic goodness offered by the Poetry Friday community of writers. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Growth on the Spiritual Journey

Springtime offers verdant landscapes with lush settings. It is a time of growth, rebirth, and rejuvenation as Earth reawakens from its winter slumber. The month of May opens the door to our Spiritual Journey host, Jone Rush MacCulloch's, theme on growth.

There is environmental growth and personal, self-growth. The digitized photo of a day with nature is shown below. I distinctly remember walking the grounds of Westbury Gardens, a Long Island historical site, with a euphoric feeling.  Nature was aglow. the grounds were manicured and the gardens blooming. 

What did I learn about springtime from this memorable day? 

  • Walking in nature can become a ritual that helps boost energy while developing a positive mindset
  • When the earth is blooming there is a sense of calm
  • Quiet time helps to get to know yourself 
  • Rather than attempting to reach the final draft of ourselves, we should find the courage to keep revising  -Susan David
  • I started an abracadabra, magic nine poem for my Poetry Parade Padlet. 
  • I will add two wonderful artistic expressions sent via mail from Marcie Flinchum Atkins and Irene Latham
  • Carol Labuzzetta mailed me her stunning book, Picture Perfect Poetry: An Anthology of Ekphrastic Poetry for Students. I am proud and honored to have three ekphrastic poems and another nature photograph published in her book

You can still send me your image poems or other offerings for the Poetry Parade Padlet, my National Poetry Month project.

Thank you, Jone Rush MacCulloch, for hosting Spiritual Journey with the May theme, growth, for our community of writers. I also thank Buffy Silverman, host of Poetry Friday, for her interesting science-literacy post. I plan on making the rounds this weekend.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Stay in the Now

Burgeoning signs of spring cuddle the earth in warmth. Morning begins its ritual of awakening. A bluish, spring sky and its cottony puffballs of clouds float on by.  Time moves quickly so I pause to breathe in the essence of springtime. 

spring morning unfolds
blossoms drink in life's essence
stay in the now
©CVarsalona, 2024, haibun 
It's time to slowdown and stay in the now
as fellow slicer friend, Terje Akke from Estonia, would say. 
Small treasures from Estonia
Nature Photo by Terje Akke

On this last day of National Poetry Month, I will continue to watch the blossoms in my garden and on my Poetry Parade Padlet bloom. The above photo and the combined image poem below will be showcased on the padlet and be part of my new gallery of artistic expressions. Please add your offerings.

May spring's sunlit day and seasonal rains allow your garden to burgeon with joy.

 I now join the Tuesday Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers, a meeting place for reflective writers.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Oskar's Voyage Anchors Here!

Have you heard about Laura Purdie Salas' new book for children? Pause for a moment because Oskar's Voyage anchors here! 

This book is illustrated by Kayla Harren whose beautiful artwork showcases a tiny chipmunk on a voyage he did not intend to take. Minnesota Historical Society Press published the book.

My introduction to this charming book for children started on March 11, 2024, with a Zoom session co-presented by the author and illustrator. I enjoyed the get-together filled with an enthusiastic reveal of the book for educators and students. Days later, I introduced my almost 7-year-old, 1st-grade grandgirl to discuss the storyline. While opening the book, Sierra found a map of "Oskar's unexpected journey". She was intrigued and delighted to discover the next pages with a note for her from my creative author/poet friend, Laura Purdie Salas.

What else would delight a young reader to read the book out loud? Within the pages, we found an oak tree resplendent in autumn colors, food boxes piled high in wobbly stacks, and a gleeful Oskar sitting in the middle of bright red tomatoes. The book continued with a voyage that turned into an adventure. Illustrations of the cargo ship hoisting large freight onboard showed the heavy-duty work of a cargo ship. Sierra was knowledgeable about large cruise ships because she traveled with the family on a Disney ship but was unfamiliar with a huge freighter that crossed three Great Lakes. Many children don't have experiences that Laura writes about in her book. Building content knowledge is a reading strategy for children who wish to become excellent readers and writers.

Sierra continued to fluently read lines with different placements of words. She enjoyed words that rhymed and loved watching the little chipmunk scurry around the deck darting and doving into hiding places. There are more fun adventures for Oskar on the freighter and even mischief happening in places like the pantry. What's a tiny chipmunk to do all alone on a big ship?  

The book has a wonderful storyline with strong action verbs, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and rhyming words. Parents and elementary children would enjoy this book. In addition, the storyline is suspenseful with an adorable animal as the main character so older children might also enjoy Oskar's Voyage.

Will Oscar survive the trip?
What do you think?
Look at the illustration above and make your prediction.


I love to read. Other children will enjoy reading this book, too.
 Thank you, Miss Laura, for the book, the note, and the bookmarks. 
Teaser for Oskar's Voyage

An adventurous storyteller
and a creative artist
follow an unexpected voyager
on a heavy-duty freighter.
What happens while sailing on the Great Lakes
is a frolicking tale of mischief, worry,
and longing to refind home.
©CVarsalona, 2024  
Resources for Teachers

Laura Purdie Salas offers resource pages at the end of her book. There are fun facts, cargo ship lingo, author's notes, acknowledgment, and resources. The back page discusses the M/V Paul R. Tregurtha, a real thousand-footer. In 2019 Laura and her husband, Randy, spent more than a week sailing on this amazing freighter known as the Queen of Lake. This distinction notes that the ship is the longest boat sailing on the Great Lakes. You can also find additional resources for the book on Laura's blog.

"Oskar's Voyage grew out of my explorations aboard the Tregurtha."  
Kudos to Laura for pursuing her dream of sailing on a freighter.

News Flash: Laura Purdie Salas added 4 image poems
to my NPM project on Poetry Parade Padlet.
You can read them here and add your own image poem(s) to the padlet.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is on Ruth Hersey's blog,
There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town.

Photo by Ruth Hersey
Port-au-Prince, 12/2020

Ruth still dreams of Haiti, her home for many years while teaching there.
Her dreams are darkened by chaos in the streets.
The last line of her poem brings the reality of Haiti's situation. 

"Often when I dream about my country I wake up with tears in my eyes."

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Celebrating Earth Day 2024

With ups and downs in weather, Spring, the season of rebirth, broke out afresh after being quiescent throughout the winter months. Nature welcomed spring rains that brought verdant landscapes and blossoming flowers. Even the calendar has celebrated springtime each year on April 22nd. Since 1970, billions of people across the globe have celebrated Earth Day, an annual event to support the cause of environmental protection. 

This year's Earth Day theme is "Planet vs. Plastics". It is a theme that has been wrestled with for years. According to, the goal this year is "to reduce the production of plastics by 60% in 2040 and ultimately build a plastic-free future". Our children deserve a better world and so does our planet. As residents of the earth, we are its stewards. This year's initiative strives to rid the earth of plastics "for the sake of human and planetary health." Many educators have created lessons and events to honor the earth by bringing the message of stewardship to their students. The artwork below is the 2024 NASA Earth Day poster that can be visible in classrooms.  "It is composed with real satellite imagery from NASA's Terra, Aqua, and Landsat missions." 

In 2019, a 32-foot, 2500-pound hand-crafted metal sculpture was installed at Jones Beach on Long Island, NY. Jonesy the Whale has its own Twitter (X) account. I remember when it was first installed. Recycled plastic bottles were stuffed inside to remind us of our civic duty to protect our world.

You can see the YouTube video, The Story of Jonesy the Humpback Whale Jones Beach, Long Island here.


springtime spills over in abundance - we are stewards of the earth
observe the verdant landscape and smell fragrant buds blossoming
pause, breathe in winds of change needed for future generations 
©CVarsalona, 2024, sijo poem

Slice of Life Thought for the Day After Earth Day:
"Plastic pollution-free world is not a choice but a commitment to life - a commitment to the next generation- Amit Ray

Please consider offering one image poem, photography, or inspirational quote on springtime or Earth Day for my

Padlet and later Gallery of Artistic Expressions.

Students' work is welcomed.

Three more image poems by Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Linda Baie, and Bridget Magee have been added. 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the space to add my slice of life.