All Shall Be Well

I am eerily reminded this week of my experience during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hunkered down here in my little house without power for days, the whole world seemingly stalled and subdued. There was no work and no technology, the roads were strangely as quiet as the airwaves. And no one knew how long it would last or how bad it might get.

At first, there was the natural reaction to kick against what I could not control. Worry and fret. Freak out. But then a calm settled in, a different pace than the norm, a day guided by the rising and setting of the sun.

Looking back now, I remember those quiet, restful days as blessings.

So here we are — on the edge of a storm we’re watching overtake everything we know as normal. And we are freaking out.

But the Universe is sending messages, if you listen. She’s there in the poem “Pandemic,” that Lynn Unger was inspired to write this week.

She’s in our daily prayers, if you are inclined, like me, to whisper on occasion:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

She even showed up yesterday morning in my meditation reading:

“We must except we are there and settled enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us. Even fallen leaves float in lakes, demonstrating how surrender can hold us up…. In life as in water, when we curl up or flail we sink. When we spread and go still, we are carried by the largest sea if all: the sea of grace that flows steadily beneath the turmoil of events.” — Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

So listen for those messages.

Pay attention.

Do the things you need to do to stay safe and healthy.

Get rest.


“Just as fish can’t see the ocean they live in,” writes Nepo, “We can’t quite see the spirit that sustains us.” But it’s there.

Morning Inspiration

This morning, as I settled into my day with coffee and the local newspaper, I found myself wondering on things. Wondering on the miracle that a local print newspaper still exists. Thinking about the young journalist I met 20 years ago who recently announced her departure as its publisher. Reflecting on how things move and change seemingly so fast sometimes, and how brave and resilient we are in the face of that.

And then a photo caught my eye — the determined and genteel final photo of a woman named Phoolan Nandlal.

Phoolan was born in 1931, and died at the age of 88 on February 16 surrounded by her seven children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was the daughter of Motyah and Galo and is the last of 4 daughters: Bhyaratie, Sylvia, and Lutchmin.

Phoolan’s parents died when she was only 2 years old. She was born in Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, where she attended school. Later, she moved to Avocart and grew up with her grandparents Bhahuartya and Dhoray who were from Bastilya, India. She was taken out of school and married at age 16 years to Raghunath Nandlal.

Phoolan was heartbroken that she was denied an education, not being told about her parents, and denied her inheritance. Despite her anguish, Phoolan persevered. She brought up seven children on her own, took care of her 14 grandchildren, and visited her 10 great-grandchildren.

Phoolan valued education and instilled this among other values in her family. In addition, she went back to school in her 50s and 80s for a GED. She was astute, witty, organized, clean, neat, and took pride in her appearance. In addition, she loved all those who came to know her and vice versa. She enjoyed cooking, gardening (fruits, vegetables, flowers), flower arrangements, art, and music. Phoolan was detail oriented. She always wanted to learn how to play the piano and learned to play the keyboard at age 88 years.

Phoolan worked very hard from sunrise to sunset in Trinidad with her husband to build her empire while raising eight children. This work ethic stayed with her into her golden years. In 1978, Phoolan lost her husband, a son, and a grandson. She persevered, and was extremely independent as a widow as well as a private person. Phoolan lived independently in Trinidad for about 25 years and designed the addition to her home. She chose to live with her daughter Radhika Nandlal and son-in-law Richard LaRonde in Branford for the last 4 years of her life.

I never met Phoolan — these remarkable details are from her obituary — but I suspect she had as much moxie as my local newspaper, and of that young journalist now off to seek new adventures.

Things do move and change so fast sometimes…and oh how brave and resilient are we!

Finding Inspiration

When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems.

“It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her. “You’re bound to put your hands on something!”

And sure enough, in April, I found inspiration from a seagull, bugs, a haiku class, a trip to the Dollar Store, and pizza. Among other things. (See the full tally here.)

Now granted, they are not all masterpieces. But that’s not the point. Like any writing challenge — NaNoWriMo, HistNoWriMo, SciFiWriMo — the goal is simply to get into the habit of writing.

“Simply” of course being somewhat of an issue if you are lacking inspiration. Which brings us back to that junk drawer. There are so many things in your junk drawer – think about it!

the first time you rode a bike
your best friend from kindergarten
your mother
what you had for breakfast
your first kiss
last night’s dream
what you saw on a hike last weekend
your favorite painting
the song you can’t get out of your head (and why)
an object sitting on your coffee table

So, GO! Rummage around — see what you can find. Reach way far back if you have to…and then CREATE! Describe, elaborate, enumerate, paint a picture with words (or even paint if you are so inclined). It doesn’t have to be perfect…as Nike says, JUST DO IT!

Here is some evidence of rummaging. This quirky little poem showed up from a post-it note I found on my desk one morning:

(Chinese Food)

The note says (Chinese Food)
but it is random
out of context on a piece of paper
in a stack of papers
at least 2 months passed

my past included (Chinese Food)

but what?
and with whom?
and what is the purpose
of this little clue
set out for me to follow
too early even for General Tso,
though I never met him personally

rumor has it, he was a press man…

as a proponent of the written word
do you think he rose early
to consider form and function,
rhyme, reason and rice —
like this poet now hungry
for the pork fried variety at 6?

But a fair warning about rummaging…you have to be brave. You have to be brave because you never know what you’re going to find in that drawer. Sometimes, it will be as benign as a post-it note about Chinese take-out. Other times, you may pull out a ghost, some long lost memory that needs to see the light of day.

Hans Christian Anderson is credited with saying: “Everything you look at can become a fairy tale, you can get a story from everything you touch.”

Ultimately, isn’t that our job as creatives? Telling the story. No matter our medium — poetry, painting, prose — we are charged with the task of putting our hands on the story and sharing it with others.

So, get in there! Rummage around for the inspiration. Reach way far back if you have to…and then TELL THE STORY!

You can read more of Jen Payne’s poetry in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind available from Three Chairs Publishing.


The Tenacity of Inspiration


Tell me! Tell me!

Where do stories come from?
How do they suddenly appear like this?
Rattling doors and windows,
demanding to be let in —
this storm surge of memory —

Tell me! Tell me!

It’s my turn now!
Like a petulant child,
stomping her feet —
dogged and determined —
she must get her way.

Tell me! Tell me!

And all the muses conspire,
send whispers on winds,
signs in dreams,
coincidence and happenstance.

Tell me! Tell me!

• • •

Poem ©2013, Jen Payne
IMAGE: Head Bombarded with Grains of Wheat (Particle Head Over the Village of Cadaques) – Salvador Dali, 1954


Following the Trail


I love following a trail. Perhaps in a past life I was Hansel or Gretel?

Fellow blogger C.B. Wentworth recently wrote about finding composer Rob Simonsen after hearing his music on an iPhone commercials. She heard the music, looked it up online and discovered a new favorite thing. Follow the path, find something new.

I’ve been following a lot of paths lately as I search out bibliography references for a book I’m writing: Google Books and Amazon, the Gutenberg Project and obscure scanned documents from the Center for Jewish History. We humans sure do leave A LOT of breadcrumbs!

Those trails often lead back here, to this blog. Like C.B., I find treasures and want to share them with all of you!

This week’s wanderings led me to Will Barnet, an American painter and print maker known for beautifully stylized images in rich, subdued colors. His style shifted from realism to abstraction and back, with obvious influence from a great number of more popular painters.

Barnet passed away in November 2012 at the age of 101. His life story, as illustrated in a New York Times obituary, tells the story of a man who also seemed to appreciate the magic of following a trail of inspiration.

• Take a look at some of his work here.

• • •

©2013, Jen Payne

IMAGE: Barnet, Will. Sanctum, 1976.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award


The word inspire means to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” How can you not feel inspired here in the blogosphere, where so many folks are sharing their heart and soul with us daily?

Like my friend Mary O’Connor, whose new book, Life is Full of Sweet Spots, and her blog of the same name, teach us about finding joy…everywhere!

Mary recently honored Random Acts of Writing [+ art] with a VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER award. I’m really grateful for this honor, and thrilled to be able to pass on the compliment by following the award rules and nominating 15 other bloggers!

• Display the award logo on your blog.
• Link back to the person who nominated you.
• Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
• Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.


  1. 20 Something and Beyond Life, Learning, Gratitude [here]
  2. Jadi Campbell Life is a story, waiting to be told [here]
  3. Not Yet There  A walk through the world between places [here]
  4. Rae Spencer I’m working on it. Because I often forget that I’m surrounded by marvels [here]
  5. Promenade Plantings grow. eat. share. [here]
  6. Crowing Crone Joss She Who Walks in Beauty [here]
  7. Dear Bliary Simply blogging about nothing… [here]
  8. Touch2Touch Only Connect [here]
  9. A View From The Woods An Erratic Journal [here]
  10. C.B. Wentworth  Just following my muse… [here]
  11. Seven Sisters Arts [here]
  12. Le Litter Box [here]
  13. Once a Loyal Lover [here]
  14. The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife [here]
  15. The Spouted Kitchen a tastier take on whole foods [here]

There are so many wonderful blogs to choose from, but these are some of my today-favorites. Thank you — all of my fellow bloggers and fellow readers — for sharing in this experience. It’s great to be part of this community with you!