Inspired Writing Workshop: The Wisdom of Transformative Stillness, Leonard Cohen, Pico Iyer, Pablo Neruda

*Not only for experienced writers. Join in even if you don’t think you can write!. You will surprise yourself!

Dear People,

During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. For those who do not know me: I am a published writer, and have been teaching writing at the college level for the past twenty years.  I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing.

In this workshop, we will read short inspiring selections from many wisdom traditions then discuss one of these before we write. Some of the excerpts will be philosophical, some disturbing, some comforting, others just playful or funny.

Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after our discussions. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and others.

Here is an example of a quote we might discuss and write about:  If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

When: Each Sunday September 5-26,  3:00 PM – 4:15 PM

Cost:  Sliding scale according to need, from $20-$50.

If interested, please reply to this blog or to andapeterson@yahoo.com


Brutus, Gus, a Slime Mold and Me

Bruts head shot at beachIMG_0781

The Western mind draws a sharp boundary between humans and the rest of the world….for the Western mind, it is hard to recognize mind in animals, whereas for the Japanese mind, it is hard not to do so.~~Semiotician Yoshimi Kawade, written in 1998

That quote gets me to thinking…

Brutus, the lab mix that I often dog sit, sends me love with a look. He and I look directly, usually silently, into each other’s eyes each time we want to tell each other something. It’s simple. Direct. Clear. A type of mind reading. I’ve learned from dogs and cats how much can be said by the eyes.

With Brutus and Gus, the tiger-striped cat, words are seldom necessary even though I use them out of habit. Brutus and Gus hear me make sounds. Brutus looks at me patiently until I make myself clear.; Gus is less patient and will walk off unless I add a treat to the sounds.

I think, that people need dogs and cats for more than the unconditional love (well, conditioned as for Gus the cat)—we get sick and tired of talking.

Or we can’t stop talking around people and can only be quiet with our pets. Words are hard to come by. The right ones. Words can be so difficult to find. Those we speak are often the ones we repeat out of habit; they aren’t the words available, or even appropriate often, in the present moment, if we took the time to notice those.

People don’t listen for the most part. Dogs listen. They learn the meaning of words.directed to them. When I say “car” or “beach”  or “cookies” to Brutus, he comes to a happy attention. Have we learned any language from other animals in the same way?

Our words come from minds filled with past and future, so how accurate are they? How wise? Meanwhile, my stock and trade is, ironically, words; I’m a writer and a teacher. However, I’ve been investigating the mind in the way of the as a Buddha and I am starting to see its limitations.

Intelligence in Nature, An Inquiry into Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby,  an anthropologist, is filled with words for 243 pages. Since they are written instead of spoken, they have been carefully chosen and re-thought many times; writing can be a more clearway to use words than speaking. Narby writes about the intelligence he and other scientists, have discovered in creatures great and minuscule (like nematodes). “A slime mold,” he writes,” in a maze has the capacity to apprehend its situation and act on its knowledge.” He makes the point that there are more forms of intelligence than we ever dreamed of. A Western mind has to overcome hundreds of years of the myth of human intellectual superiority.

Recently I read in Narby’s book that “Information of one kind or another is consistently circulating in nature, in particular in the form of biochemical molecules. The world is streaming with signs. Not so long ago, some people considered the use of signs a specifically human trait.”

All this is to say, that I am searching as I write: what is nature telling me? What is it I am missing? Can I become better at reading the signs life is posting? We’ll see…


Inspired Writing: From Silly to Wise–A Four Week Workshop*, or “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.” ― Einstein

*Not only for experienced writers. Join in even if you don’t think you can write!. You may surprise yourself!

water-fire-abstract-black-backgroundphoto from Google photos

Dear People,
During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. For those who do not know me: I am a published writer, and have been teaching writing at the college level for the past twenty years.  I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering a workshop to inspire your own writing.

In this four week workshop, we will read short inspiring selections from many wisdom traditions as well as by humorists, chefs, visual artists, philosophers, comedians, fiction and non-fiction writers and poets, then we’ll discuss one of these before we write. Some of the passages will be philosophical, some comforting, others just delightful, playful or funny.

Subjects will range from food to furniture from silly, to spiritual.

Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to say after our discussion. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and others.

Here is an example of the types of passages we could consider:

“As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by. looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.”~~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Here’s another: “You have to stay in shape. My mother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now and we have no idea where she is.” ~~George Carlin, comedian

The first session will be free. If you choose to continue, the cost will be $60.00 for the four week workshop.

Begins once per week October 1st-November 5th (day and time be determined) via Zoom (instructions will follow)

If you are interested, please email me at andapeterson@yahoo.com, or leave a comment here.




What kind of courage do we need? We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Courage We Need is

to stand alone
on the dance floor.

The courage we need is
to stay steady

as we feel the foundation cracking

to see clearly
through lies
thick as heavy blankets
as the sleepers
pretend wakefulness.

The courage we need is
to refuse
the safety
of the trance.

The courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves,
bend, bow
and continue.



Chicago, for Fred Hampton and Larvell Henderson, my Irving School Classmates

Today my hometown music
sets the groove
for the dance
soul sway
joy drum
in this coffee shop.

I remember
Chicago rhythm
and blues
how the projects
loom over expressways
the “El” clatters
shakes the rattling windows 
of a tenement
screeching to a scheduled stop
from the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches 
as below cars speed
the refrain “Stand by me…”  
fills the air from somewhere near
before the deafening roar of the train
passes the boy
I feel the
not mine but
his brother waiting
sitting on the stoop
at noon
      job denied
one more time.

In third grade Fred and Larvell were my friends.
When I was ten
Larvell's mother was shot.
When I was twenty,
Fred was shot in his bed.

In my car, Marvin Gaye sings
“Makes me Wanna Holler, Throw up Both My Hands…” 
on the radio.
I feel faith between the notes, love
not mine, but
from a distance, mine too  
as I drive to the South Side
singing, weeping
with Marvin
to my job at the welfare
warfare office.


Who Will Explain?

The brown-eyed children,
under silver blankets
that sparkle like Christmas tinsel
or gleaming party gowns
worn at country clubs,
sleep on the cold, cement floor
but do not understand
the wire cages,
their loneliness
the long, hot walk
through the desert.
Do they wonder,
as children will,
what they did wrong?

Who will explain
to them

this land that hates them,
these people who sleep
on silk sheets
walk on marble floors,

washed by brown-eyed women,
take cool rides
in shiny new trucks
through the desert

like cruel-eyed matadors

immune to the pain

of the bull,
drunk on their comforts.

Who can explain
why these people
never wonder
what they did wrong?


The Dog Says Sit

Words mask meaning
which rises in silence
comes clear
with the attention,
the patience
of a dog.
We know this
but refuse to trade our talk
for wisdom.

Those who stop to still themselves
know how dogs know:
see the others’ eyes shift
flutter like a bird taking flight
how the mouth tightens
the shoulders rise.

Though we sit close to each other
we hear
from a distance.


Tender Work

Work with what you are

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will
stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open
watching sparrows
flit and fly home
through the twilight.

If you are a fawn
your soft brown ears
upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines.

If you are a field mouse
you will
scurry, slipping between
fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will
see the fawn, the pines, the wildflowers
feel you breath as wind,
how your heart beats as
bird mouse, fawn
then and only then

your tender work
is done.


Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg, Florida

Tinney Creek runs past
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target.

It travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls daily with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
who seek tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

Feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort
grow in it’s rich mud,
as if this was still The Garden.

Between snaking highways,
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
the creeks and their residents
carry on
as if this was still The Garden.

Down the busy street a ways
atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes,
an osprey has built a roomy nest,
designed in the contemporary open sky plan.

A lone Roseate Spoonbill sometimes visits Tinney Creek
always in company with her Egret.
I watch as
Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
twitches its white and rosy feathers
lowers its wide paddle-like beak into brackish water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim
this creek and the remaining
Royal Palms, oak trees, iridescent sunsets
as ours.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor tells me.
My heart aches 
as regularly
as it beats
these days
at these all too familiar words:

There were many here

At night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the banks of the creek 
lighting up a line of ducks, like fat-buddhas
heads curled into their downy breasts
asleep despite ambulance sirens,
the roar of traffic.

At dawn they will wake 
waddle like drunks
raise their chicks,
the Osprey will hunt,
the Spoonbill and Egret will visit
I will marvel at how they float and splash
and the creek
feeds us all
as if this is still the Garden.


To Practice Seeing: a Chapbook

To Practice Seeing

poems by Anda Peterson


Nest appeared in Salt Creek Journal, a publication by the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, April 2018

Circumnavigation appeared in Sky Island Journal, June 2018

Table of Contents

Mermaid Visits Congress…..pg 2

Echocardiogram…..pg 4

Pushaw Lake, Maine, Late August…..pg 6

Lagoon…..pg 7

Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac, read on the occasion at the anniversary of his death at the Flamingo Bar, St. Petersburg, Florida…..pg 9

Nest…. pg 12

Tea Ceremony…. pg 15

Einstein, Buddha and Picasso Walk into a Bar…. pg 16

Chihuly Glass #1…. .pg 19

Chihuly Glass #2…..pg 21

Advice from a Live Oak…..pg 22

Boyd Hill Symphony….. pg 25

Circumnavigation…..pg 27

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg…..pg 30

Tinney Creek 2…..pg 31

A Good Personality or the Play’s the Thing (with apologies to the Bard)……pg 33

Inhale…..pg 35

For Pema Chodron, Bob, and Margaret…..pg36


From The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen:

“Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?”

“No,” said the old woman, “unless a man were to love you so much that you were more to him than his father or mother; and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you…then his soul would glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish’s tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they call legs, in order to be handsome.”

Mermaid’s Visit to Congress

It hurts to walk on land.

Once we dreamt

how glorious it would be

above the ocean

in the land of their power

Once we sang

to guide men home

from their foolhardy voyages

the battles they waged against

the tides, the swells

of mountainous waves.

We all sang our warnings,

Whale sang and dolphin sang.

Now we know.

Each step is a shock,

like walking on shards of glass.

We hear

the cries of those

who walked this way before us,

who forgot how it was

to glide freely

under sunlit water shimmering overhead

among playful fish.

How we wore seaweed dresses

as we danced in the deep

rising like arrows through the water

with dolphins and whales.

We sacrificed our mermaid tails

our shining fish scales

the fields of water flowers

our coral castles

for promises

made of mist.


What is the sound of water?

No, I mean, really…

Who can know more than this:

a rhythm

a beat, a pulse

that rises and falls

after the downbeat of thunder

when rain sounds

like fingers snapping

foot tapping

on the roof

until the swell of a deluge

builds to a crescendo

and ends gentle

with the slow brushing beat of a snare drum.

The musician searches for a cadence

plays the tempo

set by water

the full orchestra of a hard monsoon

or jazz bounce of raindrops,

single notes struck on a piano.

I heard the sound of water

during an echocardiogram.

then I knew

the gurgling beat of my heart

keeps time

with the whole great ocean

Pushaw Lake, Maine

It is late August

The bee flutters about a dandelion

gains its footing and does its work.

A man stands steady in a boat fishing

on the quiet lake.

The hammock, under two maples,

sways in the breeze.

I write these pictures

to capture the last days of summer.

This is a fool’s errand of course

Like trying to anchor the clouds.

But I persist

because I am in love with this moment

like a monk bent over his sand mandala

adding pinpricks of color in a corner of the whole.

He practices impermanence

the one lasting certainty.

The long-lived log

the swing of the ax

solidity split.

So I set these images

one word at a time

bent over the page

with reverence for:

The swimmer in the lake

who does a slow crawl through the evergreen water

the tall pines above her watching.

The black ant who climbs over the boulder.

A loon who rises with a haunting call

and geese

who talk a blue streak in passing.

For now, just now

I walk under the light of the moon

down the path to the fire pit

a full moon

will soon empty itself

become a sliver, a crescent


Lagoon, Martha’s Vineyard

Here on an empty stretch of saltwater lagoon this gray morning

my bare feet scoured by gold-brown sand
I walk mindful of the footprints of dogs and sharp shells, rocks, mud.

I come to meditate

which is simply just to stop

to practice seeing.

Damp translucent and neon-green strips of seaweed

stretch along the shoreline.
The lagoon lies still

under the smoky-pale sky

its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors

as if its heartbeat is steady again
so I feel an intruder
I will be quiet, walk slowly
take a seat on a weathered green bench.

It is high tide
a few days after a new moon
(said to inspire new beginnings).

A swan appears on the silver water,
looks my way.
A mate nowhere to be seen.
I whisper an invitation.
I hope she will come to me
teach me about her solitude
but, no, she is only here
to remind me to be graceful and careful

to glide

serenely alone .

She bends her long neck like a ballerina

darts her beak into the water to catch a minnow.

She will navigate this lagoon
following the movement of the tides

the moon and starlight.

To begin anew

is all she knows.

Requiem for a Dharma Bum Jack Kerouac

Read on the occasion at the Anniversary of his Death

Flamingo Bar (where he drank his last) St. Petersburg, Florida

Buddha Jack

sitting at the bar

buying drinks

for your demons

though you knew yourself

also as a jewel in Indra’s net

caught in illusion

yet clear minded

your contradictions

poems spilled on the barroom floor.

You hungry ghost

you beautiful man/boy, Jack

trapped between dharma-love and whiskey-death

on the road

to ruin

on the road

no arrival the right one.

America broke your heart

when it showed

it’s slave owning, lynching


In such a land

you were misunderstood

they loved your uncontrollable thirst

thought you dropped out

so cool man

lauded you for coolness

so cool man

jazz played the longings

you expressed for them

you seduced them

dark-eyed handsome man

they wanted to talk poetic in smokey bars with you

but go home sober

while you fell down the stairs pissing

shaking with the D.T’s

vomit and blood gushing from your mouth.

Far out. Far out

they applauded your shining, cascading words

like jazz

spilling out

breaking grammar

and rules

You were misunderstood

They thought you said nothing matters but sex

Like it was so far out

how far out you went

spirit searching

in a soulless America with your lost boys

high on themselves and you.

Jack, your Buddha brother

went to the edges too

as seekers often do.

Siddhartha the sensual and bejeweled

then Siddhartha the starving monk

traveled every road

until he stopped

got off the bar stool

went to the forest

weary and done

like you are now

woken from the dream of being

and that is far out

so far out, man

so cool

so cool


To practice seeing

I choose an empty nest

fallen to the sidewalk

built into a Tillandsia,

the “air plant” that hangs from the branches of trees

round, bowl-like

A perfect scaffolding.

The plants tentacles intertwine

Round and round each other

The cardinal needs only scoop out the center.

For this, dear architect, did you use your clawing feet?

Your beak?


The cleverness of your construction should not surprise me

but I am human.

I have so many questions.

The answers are mapped in the mind

of a small, smooth feathered head which

pictured the design


shapes, sizes, textures

arranged each element

composed it all

into a unified utility.

How long, how difficult was the construction?

Thin, sliver twigs needed to be bent,

Bits of grape vine collected

Then inserted into the Tillandsia,

Threaded through the curls of grape vines

The stitching secures dry, flaky particles of Live Oak seedpods.

This builder knows how to balance beauty with practicality.

I attempt

to practice the same day by day.

What was next indicated in your plans?

Perhaps, you decided

To lift dry, gray Spanish moss

Lacy string by lacy string

carried in your beak, flitting back and forth

on labored wings

Nest to branch

branch  to nest

you knew that

moss matted down, then mixed with dirt

makes a sturdy stucco

Was this an ancient knowledge inherited from

Your dinosaur DNA?

To the stucco, lodged as if glued is

A one-by-one inch square of plastic netting from a bag of fruit.

Architect, this raises more questions.

How was the perfect size of plastic netting located, then chosen?

Was this serendipity?

Or was it a memory of a bright white, crisscrossed thing you spied from the air?

This plastic web has little function.

Did it thrill or amuse you?

Who can say it didn’t?

And why did you place this swatch of netting

On only one side of your nest?

Was this a statement?

A signature?

Who can say it wasn’t.?

Or was it for fun?

Do you like fun like I like fun?

Who can say you don’t?

Woven between the Spanish moss, Tillandsia fibers and the fragile twigs

are three strips of cotton from an old cloth bandage.

Was this only for comfort?

Do you like the softness against your face?

Like I like softness?

Who can say you don’t?

Six strips of silver tinsel from an old Christmas tree

are inserted at the top of the nest.

Are you making a case for beauty?

Is this a sign of aesthetics in a life otherwise dominated by survival?

Like mine?

Who can say it isn’t?

The tinsel is fragile, not material for construction

but sparkles,


in the sun.

Do you and I both delight in things that shine?

Who dares to say you don’t?

Like any clever architect

You balance beauty with practicality.

I attempt the same

day by day.

I never knew all this about you

Your jokes, your artistry

Until you stopped my mind one day

and opened my eyes

when I found your home.

Tea Ceremony

The steam from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup

as a cloud

returns to earth

as rain
to quench the thirst

of tea leaves.

Thay teaches
how clouds appear in teacups
and how

to drink

moonlit rain.

Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar…

Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and says

there is blue in the horse

Einstein agrees.

Buddha nods.

Yes, blue is in the horse.

If you look beyond muscle and haunch,

Buddha says, sipping his tea,

you will see

atoms that sparkle like a million small diamonds.

Einstein smiles

and drinks his beer.

Picasso says,

they want me to make sense

draw the mouth on the face

they say, where it belongs

they don’t want the eyes on the forehead

they tell me to look at statues

to understand the body.

Einstein and Buddha laugh.

“That’s a good one!” Einstein says

“As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says

“As if our cells are static.”

“As if we are solid bodies,” Buddha adds.

At this their laughter grows uproarious

the customers look askance.

Einstein says,

“Did you hear the one about the two monks who pointed at a gingko tree and a cyrpess?

One of them said to the other:

‘They call those just trees! and the two monks fall on the ground laughing.’”

“Good one!” the three agree.

The customers shake their heads, concerned.

Since they sound so crazy

and one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes

another hasn’t combed his hair for days

the three are thrown out of the bar

onto the street

accompanied by a gingko tree and a cypress

all arm-in-arm

they stroll into the night


Chihuly Glass #1

A Chihuly glass shell

is formed,

as are we all,

by a sacred geometry

etched precisely

by water and fire.

These secret equations

that set the exact beat

of our hearts

might be understood

by calculating

the blazing suns

of eons

saltwater tossed rocks

ground to sand

turned hard and translucent by time

curled and bent

to correct angles

surfaces divided

into harmonious parts

fragile as glass

smooth as the bone

of a seashell

or your spine.

Chihuly Glass #2

This is the mystery

of energy enough to ignite

colored shards of glass

into a fountain

of blue and red

yellow and orange

into a fused stillness.

The same mystery


in the candle wick,

the match

the dry kindling.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees. ~~William Blake

Advice From a Live Oak to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami


says the Live Oak,

Yes, you there

in front of your winter home in Florida

watching your Mercedes float

like your yacht

down the avenue

You seem surprised

that concrete crumbles under your feet.

Nearby, as if in a dream,

you hear someone saying words like

limestone, aquifer, rising sea levels

But you do not understand any language not spoken in banks.

You shouted your mantra

Fix it! Fix it!

Let me explain.

This is how you got here:

You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree.

Then you named me:

Live Oak.

You wrote the name down in a book

as if it was truth.

I became a fact

to dismiss or use.

That was your first mistake.

When you cut me and my sap ran

you did not recall

the stickiness of your own blood.

So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait

until we had no choice.

You were too busy

conducting a war against

all that stood in your way.

You dug mines

drained swamps

smothered the soil with cement

slashed the forests and fields

forced water where it did not want to flow.

Your hand shakes now

as you grab at your pockets

for your rosary of coins.

You watch the news:

Coyotes leap over the walls of guarded houses.

Panthers roam the yards.

Alligators traverse your golf club.

Black bears rummage through your trash

swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.

Your homes are hidden behind steel gates

but the animals still enter

they know these woods and marshes

have mapped the paths in their veins

feel the contours of the land in their hearts.

For the first time, you hear the alarms.

Your senses open like a deer’s listening for the hunter’s next step.


You mowed when it was time to sow.

Demolished what it was time to save.

You understood only how to ravage

but not how to prune.


You did not see who shared these places with you.

That was your biggest mistake:

Yet, if you look east, west, south, north, up to the stars, down to the valley

you will see that what they call you is not what you are.

Your name is only a thing on paper

our roots, our veins inseparable.


to what speaks quietly

in both of us:




Against this cosmic background, the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change. ~~Rachael Carson

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida

This land feasts on fire and flood

where lightning strikes

scrub pines flare like torches.

Crackling pine needles

play a fiery staccato.

Snakes, squirrels, mice

(who’ve learned from their elders)

burrow together in tunnels

built by the able gopher tortoise.

The truce between predator and prey will hold

below the conflagration

as mouse and snake listen together

to the racing current of flames overhead.

They wait for a drenching deluge

to cool the charred tree trunks.

Grasses turned to ash

(a rich burnt compost)

will nourish sandy soil

needle thin stalks will push up through dank mud

towards the steamy sun.

Soon thickly green

vines wind around vines.

Branches cross one another, reach

in every direction.

After fire and rain

Mockingbirds, thrush, kingfishers, hawks

call out emphatic declarations

while under darkened canopies of oaks

frogs and turtles sleep.

Upon the humid air floats

A symphony of scents

honeysuckle, magnolia, fiddlewood,

rise in sweet crescendos

In the thorny brush

a rustling

as mouse jumps

from the grasp of snake

white clouds, backlit by the sun

grow into mountains

portend the next fire

the next flood

and gopher tortoise casts a wary, wise eye skyward.


Really there is no edge

from which to fall.

We are like ancient sailors


trembling at the horizon.

Everything is a circle

your eye, the earth

the path is not straight

as you come round

and return

as we do

as we all do

to where we started

which may look like

A mandala


of your recollections

in hues of every color


in circular order

the stories

we spent our lives


looking for

the conclusion

but finding instead

A Sufi dancing in a circle of light

round of white





Like a planet

and the sun

illuminated circumferences

all circadian rings of light

that cross over


And around

the globe.

Like the

deep round sound of the

drum, or the

singing bowl struck awake

its overtone



Like the echo

floating in a canyon

gliding up and down

the rocky basin

returning to its origin.

Tell me then

what you fear.

Tell me,

where is the beginning

of this moment

or the end

of the ocean?

Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek runs past


and despite

the TJ Max

CVS, Target .

I live next to Tinney Creek,

across from a mall

along with the ducks, egrets, and crows

and the occasional hawk.

Tinney Creek

travels back and forth

from Tampa Bay

rises and falls with the tide

feeds Egrets,  families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards

seeking tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

In the muddy bank grow

feathery Java fern

rounded Moneywort

verdant, abundant

as if this was still The Garden.


the insults of a styrofoam cup,

a plastic bag.


between snaking highways,

Dollar Stores

gas stations

condo buildings

Taco Bells


hawk has built a nest atop a pole

advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim the remaining

palms, oak trees, creek, iridescent sunsets

as our home

Tinney Creek #2

Low tide at Tinney Creek brings

a rare pink-and-white-feathered surprise.

The Roseate Spoonbill

sweeps its ladle-like beak

through the shallow water

ignoring the styrofoam cup floating past

Urban detritus

comes and goes with the tides.

The Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face

to me for a moment then

twitching its white and rosey feathers

lowers its wide bill into the water

sweep, sweep

side to side

poke, poke

with open paddle mouth

for shrimps and insects.

The Spoonbill is  a  “gregarious bird” according to the website

“who spends time with other large wading birds,”

It arrived with an egret

now at its side

and likely enjoys the company

of the Muscovy ducks

resting like plump buddhas on the grass.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”

a neighbor says.

My heart aches

as regularly

as it beats

these days

at the all too familiar words.

There were many


And yet

The Roseate Spoonbill came

to Tinney Creek.

And at night, arriving home,

my headlights sweep over the creek

lighting up a sweet stretch of sleeping ducks

despite ambulance sirens

the roar of car engines.

At dawn they will wake

to waddle like drunks

and raise their chicks

though hawk will seek them.

The creek still feeds them all

And so

My heart resumes its song.

A Good Personality or The Play’s the Thing (with apologies to The Bard)

I usually congratulate people when they tell me, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

~~~Eckhart Tolle

Did Buddha have a good personality?

We would like to think so.

Without it who would he be?

How would he feel without it?



Let out of identity prison?

The prison

constructed, cemented

as he was constricted in his crib.

Conflicted adult

arrives on the stage

having learned his lines

face thick with make-up

mask in place.

The audience enthralled

the performance was so real!

So authentic! Like real life!

I really believed he was…they say.

Would Buddha have been a star

of the stage and screen?

No. He’d be a flop.

Most certainly.


He forgot the role

he was assigned

misplaced the script

left his costume at home.

On his way to the theatre

Buddha got lost in the forest

Still trying to wake up

until he finally heard

suffering—his alarm clock


his personality shed like his actor’s mask

bare-faced, he knew

If we only trust what our eyes can see

we will believe the play is the only thing

and a mirror is a window.



hands on keyboard
shoulder aches

a crowd of thoughts,
elbow each other.

they are like drunks

shouting trash talk

thinking they makes perfect sense.

A car backfires
a mindfulness bell of sorts,
reminds me to breathe

Until ideas, images, words

grab me by my breath, 
hold me hostage 
and I am lost

pushed and pulled

between yesterday, tomorrow.

Then I inhale



after the exhale
in the pause

before the next breath

that flickering moment

that quick bright peace
is real.

For Pema Chodron and Bob and Margaret

Even though Bob and Margaret, lost both of their children

even knowing such tsunamis

are unpredictable

sometimes I still think I stand firm on this

shifting earth

my plans laid out like railroad tracks

viewpoints arranged like books on a shelf

where I can reach them quickly

to prove their validity

(when necessary, of course)


What’s up is up

and down is down

It’s obvious.

I see the clock

I know the time.

I don’t need a weatherman…

Certainties crowd out

my senses

but I don’t mind

I navigate by thought alone.

It’s religious, a sustaining belief

in what I cannot see

what is ephemeral,

my thoughts and assumptions,

In those my faith is absolute.

Then I step out of my bunker

away from the tracks, the bookshelf

I go to the beach, let’s say.

Nowhere important at all

not like the places where my mind is in demand

where I use my thought-training

like a karate master.

I am barefooted

so it begins

first reminded

of my body

as toes grip sand

then, beyond my control

a deep breath rises and falls.

More senses open

seeing and hearing

causing a

slight imbalance

brought on by

the sight and sound

swooping, circling, crying sea gulls

the wide vistas, the vast sky

I stand at water’s edge

dig my feet into the heavy wet sand

anchored, safe again

until the sand slips

beneath my feet

effortlessly carrying what seemed
my dense body

and I sink

an inch
no viewpoint to grab

to steady me

pushed off the track


pulled by the tides
like a pebble.


is like

grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel

this time for good

this time for good.

Like leaving the key on the table

and shutting the door

that door



Surrender is like a fist opening

the grip loosening

from how it should have been.


is like untying yourself from the chair

to discover you tied it

you can stand upright.

Tear-washed eyes

are willing now clear enough

to see

the wider horizon.

an angel put its arms around your shoulders

and you felt held

and you are certain

it was real.

Surrender then

is a lavender sky at dusk

a sweep of feathery light



Listening to Old Love Songs

 “you’re nobody til someone loves you”
Lament of the rejected child.
“I’d rather go blind than have you walk away from me”
Lament of the neglected child.
 “can’t live, if living is without you”
Lament of the abandoned child.
Love songs sung
on our knees.

Coltrane’s saxophone
refrain “a love supreme”
“a love supreme” 
sung big as the sky
notes round as the planet
call us 
to the love 
that makes the grass grow.
Love mirrored
in each other’s faces
to remind us, joined
we can wipe our tears with flowers.


Excerpted from, a blessing “For One Who is Exhausted” by John O’Donohue

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.  

Dear People,

During these trying times, it can help to be inspired by wisdom, humor and profound observations. If you enjoy pondering thought-provoking ideas with others, this is the workshop for you. Writing will be one of the ways we will share our thoughts.

This is not a workshop that focuses primarily on writing skills and techniques. We will rely on our innate creative thinking which results in our innate creative writing.It’s true! Once we guide the inner critic and perfectionist to their proper places, creativity has room to appear.

Our writing will be whatever we are inspired to write after considering reading quotes on the topic, this one being The Five Senses. Sharing what we write will be optional, but encouraged. I will also offer writing guidance based on Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, a proponent of “free-writing” and “writing practice.”

For those who do not know me: I am a published writer of poetry, essays, memoir and feature writing, and have been teaching various courses in writing at the college level for the past twenty years. I’ve always found inspiration for my own writing from writers and thinkers, and so am offering these workshops to inspire your own thinking and writing. Critical and Creative Thinking, which I studied at the University of Massachusetts, has always been one of my interests.

When:          Sundays beginning January 9th to February 13th, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Where:        Via Zoom

Donations  $20-$50 sliding scale for five sessions

Please RSVP:          andapeterson@yahoo.com

Abenaki Trees

First, remember to
as your heart beats upon the wind mixed with your own breath, 
then let it slip through trees, slide over ponds, along the ridged backs of the mountain, the spine of the deer, the moose, the human being.    Now
 your breath and the earth’s circles the globe in gusts, and gales. 
Ask: What isn’t full of breath? 
Mud breathes. Rocks breathe.  
Science tells us that trees collect sunlight, moisture, earth and water, convert it to oxygen, exhale it from the canopies of forests.  When Henry David Thoreau needed more wildness than civilized Concord and even his beloved Walden Pond could provide, he went to the deep Maine forests.  He sought out the people called the Abenaki who lived in the deep green Maine woods.The  Abenaki’s  believed, according to Thoreau, that trees “possess a spirit as real as that of a human.”   When the Abenaki needed  to cut a tree for their shelter and transport, they asked forgiveness of that tree’s spirit and thanked it for providing sustenance.
Inhale, then
exhale like a mountain,
like the ocean..
It was in Thoreau’s nature and his philosophy to know trees as the Abenaki knew them, as the very stuff of life.  For him the indiscriminate clear-cutting of the Maine woods by the white man was a tragedy, and he mourned their death. 
Still, we neglect what we cannot see:
Exhale, and consider this
There are two ways to notice breath:  
The first is when it demands your attention
 as you gasp for air. 
 The second is by choice, 
since the mind ignores the breath.
The mind is a noisy dive filled with drunks shouting trash talk over each other, 
 the loud band that plays the same bad music in endless loops. 
We sit on the bar stool drunk on thoughts, barely breathing.       
Buddhists speak of the emptiness that is our essence.  
But how can something invisible be real? We ask as we take the next invisible breath.   
We are  full
 of what is formless.  
Our hearts charged with electricity.            
Thoreau and the Abenaki saw the living being called “tree.”  They knew its oxygenated, watery blood coursed within its rough skin.  To know a tree is more than its bark, more than that it’s fallen leaves, more than its dead fuel for fire, more than our wooden ships, more than the solid floor beneath our feet. 
Even death breathes life into the dusty world. 
This mystery is no mystery to wildness, to  the trees, whose bodies in death as are diffused as mulch and fungus and firewood that offer shelter and nourishment.
We too, exhaling our final breath, leave our minerals for new life as wind scatters our ashes into the soil.
 Exhale winter, inhale spring, exhale summer inhale autumn
Only with the great green lungs of forests, 
we breathe.


Death is Different on Weedon Island

Death on this city street 
is unnatural.
as a gunshot.
Fatal as poverty.
Blood stains on pristine sidewalks,
a nuisance.

If I died on this city street
I would first feel tossed like litter,
like the people thrown 
out of homes
plowed over, away,
buried under
heedless highways 
trembling high rise condos.
as screaming sirens
of careening police cars,
and ambulances,
played the urban dirge.

If I died on Weedon Island,
I would be like a tree,
my body felled 
onto the forgiving sand,
by the endless
as green leaves are yellowed,
wasp wings dried to powder,
my bones brittled into soil
for Spring blooming magnolia trees,
underfoot of cautious raccoons, busy sparrows, 
quiet turtles, sleepy snakes, hurried bugs.

On Weedon Island
life and death move with the rhythm of bird calls
woot woot, 
woot woot, 
Rest and rise.
Rise and rest.
So the song,
and the daylight
comes and goes
comes and goes
like the final heartbeat, 
before the first breath.

Clear Water

must first run fast
like you

it rushes, stumbles over boulders
tin cans rusted
detritus floats
under broken bridges
failed dams flood
your road
darkened, thick
stagnant, yet  fertile
surprised by the lotus
then the flows downstream
swept clean 
until all things once hidden
by dark, churning 
are visible
in stillness.

Why We Long for a Room with a View

At 6:30 AM from my balcony, behind the palms and under the oaks, the sky is deep orange and pink. The trees look black in this still-soft rising light. Out here there are no problems only trees, birds, breezes and flowers. This is true no matter what problem I was keeping alive indoors. Once I step out into the world, letting go simply happens with no effort on my part. The air, the rising sun, the plants, and trees absorb my anxiety, coax me to breathe again, to open my heart and drop my mask. The energy coursing in everything, including me, is silent.  The only sounds that come and go at this hour are mockingbird songs, doves cooing, parrots and crows squawking, an occasional car growling down the street.

The air is exceptionally cool for this time of year in Florida and this would be an ideal time and place for meditation.  But I have my coffee cup in my hand and still feel groggy.  It occurs to me that I could keep my eyes open for this mediation and use the sky as my meditation focal point.

It’s a clumsy meditation; I am primarily caught by my chaotic thoughts. Eyes open I know the answer is to look up and remember the sky—just the sky. Wide open and empty—such relief.  I watch my mind:  thinking, thinking, sky, thinking, thinking, sky…:  cluttered mind, open sky. Well, what do you know… That spaciousness that the Buddha talks about is just outside my door.

 Everything humans needed was once just outside their shelter. 

Even now after white people, like myself, have stolen the land from the Native Americans, carved it up, depleted its soil, paved it over, built buildings that dwarf the remaining trees, and still “dream” of owning what land that remains and still build yet more structures to “protect themselves from the “wilderness” from “the elements—even now we need windows, French doors, open floor plans, space, lots of space.

Why do we so long for more room, a vista, a view?  Maybe we long for home:  the space in which life flows, effortless.  We are homesick. We miss the sky, the birds, and the open plains of grasses. The Native Americans and the white settlers were never simply different colored skins in bodies.  We shared a true home as the Native Americans tried to tell us: the space that is complete and filled with only what is real and needed. The place that is everywhere, filled with the knowledge of water and fire, of animals and insects. We think we covet any place with a view.  We pay top dollar to see mountains or ocean as if they were pictures in a museum—not live, not real.  We “enjoy the view” before we return to a reality that is covered in concrete.

We sit in our offices or our living rooms and long for what we call “vacation.”  W call it “recharging our batteries” —not such an exaggeration since we have forgotten the source of our energy.  Where do we go to “recharge”?  Outside.  Out to breathe again. Out to be quieted by mountains and lakes.

We return to what is “full” of life:  commerce, chatter, control, capital and terror.  We fear what is empty because even as we yearn for it, we have forgotten what spaciousness really is.

There are no such things as emptiness in the world.  Even in the sky there were no vacant places.  Everywhere there was life, visible and invisible, and every object possessed something good for us to have also—even the stones…The world teemed with life and wisdom; there was no complete solitude for the Lakota.  —Luther Standing Bear

We yearn for what we destroyed—our true selves, our true home.  We did not know we were destroying a part of ourselves that shares our atoms with every other living thing.   We scramble to the beaches to bask in simplicity and non-doing.  We rush to what is left of the wilderness to “get away from it all,” but not for long. We set aside so little time for our return home; we give it so little meaning.  The Native American knew her/his body was of the soil, the water, the fire, the air.  Buddhists know the same and meditate on the elements that pulse and move in the aggregate body we think is so solid.  The Buddhist Forest Monks in Thailand sit in the charnel grounds watching the body’s elements fly into the air, flow to the ground, settle back into the soil.  They sit on the ground meditating.

The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.  —Luther Standing Bear

When I was in college in the 70’s, we learned of  various Native American elders and shamans who had called for people to forgo their walled compounds and recognize the physical and spiritual bounty of earth. Some of us went to live from the land and leave the cities behind.  But we were no match for the minds warped by the power and wealth the European ancestors passed down as a soul sickness to their 20th century relatives.

When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.”—Chief Seattle, Dwamish

Perhaps the “rainbow warriors” who were prophesied to save Mother Earth and its creatures are among us. Their numbers are growing: patient and persistent environmental activists and “warrior bodhisattvas” who promise to remain with us, and guide us until we are awake again.

But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see. —Chief Seattle, Dwamish

Death is Different on Weedon Island

Death on this city street

is unnatural.


as a gunshot.

Fatal as poverty.

Blood stains on pristine sidewalks,

a nuisance.

If I died on this city street

I would first feel tossed like litter,

like the people thrown 

out of homes

plowed over, away,

buried under

heedless highways 

trembling high rise condos.

as screaming sirens

of careening police cars,

and ambulances,

played the urban dirge.

If I died on Weedon Island,

I would be like a tree,

my body felled 

onto the forgiving sand,


by the endless


as green leaves are yellowed,

wasp wings dried to powder,

my bones brittled into soil

for Spring blooming magnolia trees,

underfoot of cautious raccoons, busy sparrows, 

quiet turtles, sleepy snakes, hurried bugs.

On Weedon Island

life and death move with the rhythm of bird calls

woot woot, 


woot woot, 


Rest and rise.

Rise and rest.

So the song,

and the daylight

comes and goes

comes and goes

like the final heartbeat, 

before the first breath.

Weedon Island Morning

On Weedon Island is different
from man—made places.
In the shade, beneath a tin roof
at a green wood picnic table
we sit and write among the living world:
live oaks, saw palms, cautious raccoons, 
tall, naked pines festooned with hats of pine needles
flitting sparrows, quiet turtles, hurried bugs
soft feathers of a breeze stroke our shoulders.
above, the blue sky is cloudless this morning.

 on Weedon Island is different 
living and dying linked 
as dry yellowed leaves and grasses
turn to fertile mulch 
for Spring blooming magnolia trees.

On Weedon Island are no losses
like the finality
of gunshots
people lost and tossed
from neighborhoods
plowed away
soil and sand pushed 
under shaking condos.

we are held as if in a hammock
rocked gently by
rhythms of bird call
woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause.
The song, the bird, the daylight
beginnings and endings
come and go
come and go
like the first 
and the last