The winter rains have arrived here in northern California, and the creeks are rushing again in the hills and canyons near my home. As the shortest, darkest day of the year approaches, I’m grateful for the chance to put on rain gear and hike through dripping redwoods and madrones to sit on a boulder by a waterfall.
Last month, we went in just a few days from red-flag fire danger to flash flood alerts. During the three days of my “Telling Our Stories: Meditation and Creative Writing for Women” retreat at Spirit Rock, we were in the middle of a county-wide emergency power blackout intended to reduce wildfire risk. The meditation hall was unlit and unheated; local stores, restaurants and gas stations were closed; cell service was limited or non-existent. To our north, the Kincade Fire, still uncontained, had just forced the evacuation of over 200,000 people. In the smoky air, we could smell the tragic reality of the climate crisis.
And that made it feel all the more vital that we gather in community, steady our minds and hearts, and generate our own creative light and power. In her 2014 acceptance speech for the National Book Award, novelist and poet Ursula Le Guin said, “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom–poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.”
What I’ve learned over many decades as a writer—and also as a practitioner of yoga and meditation—is that big, transformative visions are made real one small detail at a time. Whether you write or express the truth in other ways, every awakened voice makes a difference.
I’m incredibly grateful that for almost four decades, I’ve been supported by the entwined practices of dharma, yoga, and creative writing, shared with me by so many remarkable teachers. And I’m grateful that I’ve been able to share a few of these practices with you. Wherever your path takes you during this transition to the new year, I hope you are able to find ways to drop your roots, open your heart, and free your voice.