I love experiences that fill me with a sense of hope and possibility. One such experience is sitting outside in the mountains of my beloved Yakama homeland. I’ll share with you a few of the blessings who surround me:
Breathing in the fresh, crisp forest air, the kind of clean air that lifts your spirits and helps you feel fully alive, awake, and ready for a wonderful day.
Admiring the blankets of tress along the foothills, how strong they are with deep roots who ground them even when strong winds push and pull them with great force.
Greeting sturdy basalt rocks who show their faces, reminding us that strength is all around us if we pause to notice.
Listening to river’s morning song as she makes her travel plans for the day–always journeying toward Nch’i-Wána (Columbia River), blessing many people and places as she goes.
As Aan (Sun) begins to rise, birds also share their morning greetings, perhaps like me they look forward to a morning meal.
I love being here, part of a blessed collective of beings.
I’m filled with gratitude and a sense of hope and possibility.
Photo: Yakama homeland. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob
The Auntie Way Writing Retreat 9-Week Course begins Friday, April 7 at 10am Pacific! If you are wanting to write with a brilliant collective, please join us!
A few snowflakes fell on me today. It’s a time of winter and spring dancing back and forth on the seasonal dance floor in the mountains of my beloved Yakama homeland. Sometimes change can seem chaotic; externally we might notice one moment it’s raining, then snowing, then hailing, then a quiet fog rolls in providing a bit of a blanket and maybe encouraging a pause. Internally, when we pause from our busy lives we can sometimes find or reconnect with our visions of what we truly want in our lives. When we have the courage and wisdom to do so, we can more fully witness and enjoy the beauty and possibility that surrounds us.
I love witnessing transitions and transformations. I was fortunate to do so in my The Auntie Way Creative Writing Class on Thursday, when busy people took time to honor their creative brilliance and joyfully realized they could do so in rich and satisfying ways as we worked together in a supportive collective. We had fun witnessing each other’s voices emerging, as prompts and brief discussions encouraged our creativity to unfold through structured exercises. Wow! Joy and brilliance in only seven minutes!
On Friday, despite a family crisis, we had a wonderful gathering for my The Auntie Way Quarterly Planning Workshop in which caring, committed leaders, scholars, and educators rethought notions of time, time management, and productivity. Collectively, we placed our desires for a healthy, sustainable life at the center of our planning process for these next three months. I love when our most important outcomes are honored and understood. With compassion and support, we challenged limiting beliefs that keep us stuck in cycles of stress, overwhelm, burnout. We shifted our focus to instead powerfully envision what we really want for our lives, and built schedules aligning with this beloved vision.
What a joy and delight to witness and experience transitions and transformation.
Photo: Transitions and transformation on Yakama homeland. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob
Some readers know that I delight in making paper collages I call Auntie Grams. I find bits of paper destined for the recycle bin, and I use an intuitive process to cut and glue small pieces together. I can never tell ahead of time what will happen in a particular Auntie Gram. It’s a fun way to practice trusting the process and witness creativity unfolding. It helps my busy mind slow down to the pace of gluing one piece of tiny paper scrap at a time. And then another. And another, and so on. Today’s blog is about this process, and the lovely ways we can honor and accept our busy minds.
What a relief, to feel a sense of calm and acceptance for who I am and how I approach things. My busy Auntie Gram mind can feel like a ticker tape parade. What do I do? How do I take it all in? Who’s going to clean up this mess? Oh, yes. I forgot. the whole reason we’re here is to pause, gather, and celebrate.
When I create an Auntie Gram there are endless possibilities, just as with writing. I never know ahead of time what will emerge. I can begin with an intention, a focus, and then once I start it can be like a roller coaster with twists and turns and ups and downs–who knows where we’re going? On the best days it can be like trail running, my movement across Mother Earth feeling free and focused and open to all the beautiful possibilities.
I don’t have that graceful accepting feeling all the time, but I keep trying, practicing, showing up. When I find myself on the roller coaster I know and trust this too will pass. I will safely return to the beginning after this brief journey.
In writing, and life, I keep showing up and in doing so something beautiful is emerging.
Photo: Auntie Gram. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob
Maybe you want to honor your own creativity through one of these upcoming opportunities?
Creative Writing Class: today!
Quarterly Planning Workshop: tomorrow!
The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Spring Session: begins April 7.
I am honored to speak with students at Pacific Lutheran University later today about my book Yakama Rising. Thoughtful students sent questions in advance and one question asks about “negative” emotions. I love this question!
In our beautiful Yakama storytelling traditions, we learn about the importance of the full range of our emotions. Even one of our most revered teachers, Spilyáy (Legendary Coyote), has so-called “bad” emotions (i.e. envy, greed, conceit). Rather than denying these exist, or trying to hide them, we use our precious stories to learn from them. When we have the courage and wisdom to do so, we become a better version of ourselves.
Our emotions are helpful teachers. When we notice them and honor the power and energy they have, we can consider:
What can I learn from how I am feeling right now?
How do I want to honor the power and energy I have as I move forward?
Our precious stories remind us: Spilyáy, as a beloved teacher, doesn’t always get it right.
And neither do we.
The blessing is in the pausing, learning, witnessing, and choosing our beautiful future. This is a powerful process in which we become strong individuals who can make our best contributions to our beloved collectives.
Credit: “OS/ Coyote” by GD Taber is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
I love planning. Planning, for me, is a time of hope and possibility, a time when I can pause from my daily routine and ask:
What do I really want?
What steps might I envision to help get me there?
I savor these questions and the work they inspire to create my own answers.
Many planning approaches focus on “doing more” or “being more productive” or “getting more efficient.” These are fine goals to have.
However, my Yakama teachings refuse the more, more, more approach that can so often lead to stress, overwhelm, and burnout; even worse, the more, more, more approach can encourage us to sacrifice many months or years to achieve a goal, and fail to feel content, fulfilled, or joyful.
My favorite Aunties encourage me to place kindness and creativity at the center of my planning. Once I’m clear on the kind, fierce, and creative dreams I want to pursue, it’s easy to set clear and inspiring goals and I have a sense of ease around letting some things go.
In this three-hour workshop (via Zoom), we will use The Auntie Way approach centering kindness, fierceness, and creativity to design the second quarter of 2023 (April, May, and June).
What should you bring when you attend the workshop?
· Your preferred calendar(s)
· Your lists of existing and desired projects and commitments
· Any helpful reflective notes or insights on your work and life from the first quarter of 2023 (January, February, March)
· Any materials you need to support your vision for an awesome second quarter of 2023!
· Water/snacks/refreshments to help sustain your energy and focus for this 3-hour workshop
What will we do during the workshop?
We will engage a lovely 5-step process:
· Practice gaining clarity and confidence in how we want to be and what we want to do in our work and lives
· Examine existing planned commitments and decide if we want to carry them forward into the second quarter of 2023 (or let them go)
· Choose commitments to place on our calendar(s) for the second quarter of 2023
· Identify spaces of possibility on our calendars
· Draft a joyful, sustainable plan for creating a beautiful future for our work and lives
Most of the workshop will be dedicated time for you to implement these five steps. We will have multiple stretch breaks during which we can savor sharing and check-ins to build community and experience support by addressing insights, questions, and challenges that arise. To respect that planning sometimes has difficult questions or topics we must work through, the workshop will not be recorded. Ideally, you will attend the entire workshop and work in a space that is free of distractions and interruptions. However, if this isn’t possible and you still want to attend—go ahead and join us! Any time and energy you can dedicate to creating a fabulous quarterly plan is a lovely investmentin a future you desire!
Over winter break, I thought a lot about gifts. This holiday season, like always, I was given an abundance of thoughtful, generous gifts by many, many loved ones. In between gatherings, visiting, and gift exchanges, I also took several hikes in the mountains of my beloved Yakama homeland.
I love winter hiking–the thoughtfulness I put into my layers of clothes, choosing my footwear, should I take one hiking pole or two? This thoughtfulness and care I show for myself prepares me to walk in prayer, each step of my hike a blessing for me…and the land.
Our homeland was created and gifted with deep thought and care by Tamanawilá and his helper, Spilyáy. In listening to an Elder tell a legend yesterday, I was reminded our beautiful mountain ranges were also created by Ocean Grandmother, who sought to protect her beloved granddaughters from gender violence. What thoughtfulness, care, and generosity we have…all around us…in the land.
Anytime we live with thoughtfulness and care, we honor our beloved relatives, all the people and beings who have done so much for us. In doing so, we also honor ourselves. We become part of the rich and blessed tradition of preparing the way, our way, full of thoughtfulness and care, for future generations.
Perhaps this is the greatest gift of all.
Photo: Winter hike on Yakama homeland. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob
It’s daybreak on my Yakama homeland. Aan (Sun) is preparing for another day of work, perhaps like me drinking a morning cup of coffee. Aan touches the eastern horizon with light and I feel lucky to witness the artistic transformation of the sky–from a cool blue to warm yellow, and now bits of orangish-pink. I see Tamanwilá (Creator) has painted a few clouds, perhaps to companion Aan in their early morning work. I hear the hum of humans driving on Highway 97, either south to Toppenish or north to Yakima. I pause to wish everyone a safe and blessed day as they travel and work on our reservation, or beyond.
In this early morning light I see the shapely silhouettes of apple trees’ leaves. This may be their favorite time of year–the comfortably warm days and deliciously cool nights that help them put the finishing touches on fruits they’ve grown all year, developing the sweet taste for which they are prized, and the coloring to delight consumers’ eyes in the marketplace.
Like us, these fruit trees draw strength and nourishment from my blessed Yakama homeland. Like us, they’ve made it through another year of challenges and opportunities. Like us, not everything they produce will be deemed perfect, or even valuable.
But they keep going.
They keep growing.
Aan and Chuush (Water) perhaps urge them on–maybe like the fall time enthusiastic fans at a cross country meet, “Go, go, go!” “You’re doing great!” “You’re almost to the finish line!” This image makes me smile, as I recall my nephew’s recent gritty and stellar performance at a cross country meet just downriver from here.
I pause and look up from my notebook.
I believe apple tree leaves are smiling back at me.
Today (August 9) is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. To honor this occasion, I was invited to write for the SAGE Perspectives blog. SAGE Journals are renowned for their high-impact and world-class research across many academic fields. I am hopeful that my blog published today, “4 Ways You Can Support Indigenous Self-Determination Today” will serve as an educational and inspirational way to invite more scholars, researchers, and members of the public to be stronger advocates and partners in strengthening Indigenous self-determination. I warmly invite you to read my special blog for today and share on social media if you would like to do so. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook. I’m wishing you a wonderful day of celebrating Indigenous Peoples and our beautiful cultures and homelands!
I recently returned from my first airplane trip in over two years. I attended the American Educational Research Association conference held on beautiful Kumeyaay homeland (San Diego). It was a blessing to return to this special place that nurtured me for so many years, including when I had the honor of attending a class at Kumeyaay Community College and learning Kumeyaay Ethnobotany from a wise and kind Elder, “Auntie” Jane Dumas, and her devoted apprentice Richard Bugbee. Their kind and generous way of teaching and enacting Indigenous pedagogy remains strong in my memory, and is a model I strive to uphold.
Kumeyaay lands are far from my home. It takes four flights total for me to travel there and return.
On my last flight segment back, I felt my spirit sing as I began to see the sites I think of as home: snow covered mountains reaching up from the continent and touching the sky; a seemingly endless sea of evergreen trees, strong roots holding them in place; pristine mountain lakes lovingly carrying water for all of us to use and enjoy later in the year—maybe your thirst will be quenched with this water; maybe your child, niece, or nephew will learn to swim in this water; or maybe in this water you’ll catch a fish who is willing to help fill your stomach and renew your spirit.
I love to travel.
And I love to return home.
I’m wishing you well in all the places you find yourself today.
Do you have memories or ideas you’d like to engage with creative writing? Learn how and enjoy community and support in the Creative Writing Class I’m teaching in May 2022! We’re meeting for live sessions via Zoom every Wednesday in May at 12-12:50pm pacific time. Registration includes year round access to our online platform so you can continue to grow as a writer! Learn more and register here.
Free event on Tuesday, May 3 at 3pm Pacific! I’ll be speaking about The Auntie Way with the Deschutes Public Library via Zoom. Learn more and get the free link to register here.
I think writing is magical. In one moment we face a blank screen or page, and our minds begin to work, play, gather, or remember. And then we catch some of those thoughts, holding on to them long enough to put on the page.
Something even more magical than writing in isolation is when writers gather together–to support, learn from, and encourage one another. At such gatherings, sometimes writers have the courage to share how their writing is going, or maybe they will describe a problem they are facing. Such bravery is a gift, both to themselves and to the group. We all have so many shared joys and challenges as writers–naming them and working through them together is transformational.
I’m getting ready for another such wonderful gathering. Here is why I look forward to writing in community:
I predict there will be lots of beautiful ideas, sharing, and inspiration to come out of this fabulous gathering of writers.
How much inspiration?
Like a field of dandelions gone to seed and a lovely, refreshing breeze comes in–poof! Our ideas float and fly, a magical storm of inspiration. Anything is possible with the seeds of our ideas.
Our precious sharing through words will take root and grow. Beings large and small who depend on the tender greens of our writing will be nourished and sustained.
Munch, munch, munch.
They devour our delicious words. They, too, are part of our web, our energy, our community. Maybe they’ll be inspired to write stories that fill our hearts, or challenge us, or lift us up.
We’re all flying now, like the delicate puffs of dandelions gone to seed.
Where will we go next? Anything is possible with a pen full of ink, head and heart full of ideas, the willingness to try, and the courage to share.