upward on its heavenly oils

horizon - r.kennedy

in my suitcase i crammed one of my books of Mary Oliver’s poetry: New and Selected Poems, Volume One. i decided to read one poem a day, starting with the first page and reading my way through in order. i never read Mary that way. i rarely read any poetry that way. i flip and jump from middle to end. it felt important to limit myself to just ONE a day too – which is really hard to do if you’re me. but i wanted to learn how to really sit with the poem…not run off to fall in love with another one. and it has been good. i have savoured lines more deeply and read the same poem more repeatedly.

just now, sitting in the garden at dusk, i read my today poem…while the southern-hemisphere-sun sets around me and prepares to rise back home in the north. and it was all too perfect not to share.

The Sun

Have you ever seen


in your life

more wonderful


than the way the sun,

every evening,

relaxed and easy,

floats toward the horizon


and into the clouds or the hills,

or the rumpled sea,

and is gone –

and how it slides again


out of the blackness,

every morning,

on the other side of the world,

like a red flower


streaming upward on its heavenly oils,

say, on a morning in early summer,

at its perfect imperial distance –

and have you ever felt for anything


such wild love –

do you think there is anywhere, in any language,

a word billowing enough

for the pleasure


that fills you,

as the sun

reaches out,

as it warms you


as you stand there,

empty-handed –

or have you too

turned from the world –


or have you too

gone crazy

for power,

for things?


– Mary Oliver

real magic

i’m sitting at a card table pushed up against a window that’s pushed up against cedar trees. i watch the squirrels be squirrels, and every once and a while, a chickadee passes through, and i feel like i have a secret portal window into their cedar tree world.
i couldn’t sleep last night. crawled into bed tired then became suddenly awake. after awake time rolled from parts of hours to multiple hours, i made toast and hot water + milk and read a book. The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout. it has a unicorn on the cover which is possibly why i spontaneously grabbed it from the New Arrivals wall of my village library. i don’t think i’ve ever read a book with a unicorn on the cover, but i wrote one once when i was in grade 3. i also really liked the quote on the inside cover:

“Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.”
– Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

i took a long walk to the dentist this morning. i mostly dread the dentist, even though this guy is probably the nicest one around. they put sunglasses on me, turned on Father of the Bride 2, and froze half of my face. an hour and a half later, i paid them money i don’t really have and walked home kicking leaves, trying not to drool. i never did find out how the movie ends.

on my slobbery walk home i stopped in the used book store. the last few years have been mostly about letting go rather than acquiring, so i haven’t spent much time scouring bookshops in a while. in fact the woman at the counter made it clear to me that i hadn’t used any of my store credit since 2013. but today it seemed like a good place to be while my face thawed, and i remembered what a wonderland a second-hand book shop is. dog-eared corners, highlights and underlines, scribbles in the margins. i pay extra for that sort of thing. it didn’t take long to build a stack in my hand, but i held myself to the 3-for-the-price-of-2 deal and showed some self control. my treasures? Flannery O’Connor to travel with me across the hemisphere in a couple of months; Witold Rybczynski and his Most Beautiful House in The World to mail to a friend; and a pocket sized Carl Sagan, because he wonders about things that fill me with wonder. i will go back again soon and unearth some more gems.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.” – Carl Sagan

its election day here in Canada. i should probably be ashamed of all the ways i feel un-informed. but i’m working hard on self-acceptance so i’m not going to go there. instead i will just tell you how i took all of my fragments of understanding, and all the un-quantifiable feelings i have in my gut, and i cast my ballot before i stuffed my face with turkey dinner, during the advance voting last weekend. and it felt good. there was no fanfare, barely even a line-up, and everyone was pretty keep-to-themselves about the whole affair. but i felt really good. and really grateful. its a taken-for-granted right + privilege. i hope you do it too.

the wind is moving through the cedar trees. i’m sipping ginger ale + o.j. through a straw and i can almost feel a bit of my lips again. in another hour or so i’m hoping i can eat. the sidewalks around here are honestly thick with leaves. if summer is the season of aliveness, fall is the season of glory. so much glory. so much beauty. no matter the politics. no matter the drool. makes me want to tear out my liver and bear witness to the magic. or at least try to tell you about it.

unicorns. scientists. frozen tongues. scribbles on paper. X marks the spot. how about we just say something today. me + you. whatever is in us to say. it’s easier than losing your liver. it’s just as glorious as fallen leaves.
it’s magic. real magic.
and it feels really good.




rain day in the tea room with lost things

Artist: Cybele Young

Artist: Cybele Young

we woke to rain on the tin roof and fog over the fields.

i was coming through the haze of a sick day and we we were both itching to roam.

twenty minutes down the road, heading south towards the lake, we found our remedy:

a dear friend


a cozy book store that still stands on its own independent feet


a red-carpeted tea room that brought thick coffee to your table in a silver pot, served chicken soup generously sprinkled with bits of bone, and ladled the sticky toffee on your warm pudding as though there were an endless supply.

we kept topping up the parking meter, smiled at our small fortunes, and hung around the books as though they were our new found friends. because they were.

bless the rain days and the sick haze, and the way they remind me to walk slowly, savour deeply.


p.s. the above image is from a beautifully delightful book that we stumbled on today called Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybele Young. That people create such wonder and whimsy in this life is one of things I am most grateful for.

pile it up, let it go

1. farm fields at sunset with four-leggeds and best friends. doesn’t get much better than that.

2. re-arranging furniture…again.there are always possibilities, even in the smallest space. never ceases to delight me. is there a career in that?

3. listening to some Andrew James O’Brien. yup.

4. how does a small life aquire so many things?

5. the birds are singing in your eyes today

6. Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal muffins still hot from the oven. making this rainy night smell so good.

7. i can’t wait till i get to eat more of this:

8. i have shelves full of books that i’ve never read. i’ve moved them in boxes from one house to the next. i like the way they look. the way they feel. i like the idea of them. but they’re strangers to me still. stories i’ve never met. just covers or titles or writers i thought i might like or want or read.
enough already, rae.
read them or let them go.

9. love.

10. this season of newness really is a wonder.

snow day

1. mint hot chocolate.
2. parka and track pants and a shovel.
3. Lisa Congdon’s colourful illustrations and good words.

lisa congdon

lisa congdon

4. loving my wintery treetop attic view
5. empty suitcase and a pile of clothes.
6. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. it just works for me. you know?
7. finally got around to reading and finishing Blankets. not sure what i’d expected but i don’t think that was it.
blankets by Craig Thompson

blankets by Craig Thompson

8. “the scared is scared of the things we like”
9. the gift of unexpected hours.
10. a favorite by one of my favorites:

the way these days fall away

lazy mornings and late nights.
the generosity of november sun.
air dry clay and the practice of patience.
hot chocolate with cinnamon.
$4 purple skirt.
audio books and the simple wonder of a public library.
honey crisp apples with old cheddar cheese.
roobios with milk ‘n honey.
baking bread on cold nights.
the journeys that led us here.
letterpress and potato chips.
house-building, home-making. art mimics life, or the other way around.
a vigorous mind.
a content heart.
a friend who feels things.
a dark walk, body full of light…

cut and paste

packing for the future

on Saturday evening, tired after a full weekend of art and shows and good people, i strapped myself in my car and headed south, to the little town on the big lake. the wind was gusty and the skies were heavy and a big part of me just wanted to call it a day and curl up and sleep. but poetry was calling and i couldn’t not answer.

Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier

this small little town was having a big little poetry festival, a whole weekend affair, with workshops and readings and discussions. and while most of it i had to miss because i was busy sharing my own art in my own town, i really didn’t want to miss the saturday night event.  because on saturday night Lorna Crozier was coming to visit.

i found my way into poetry at a pretty young age, and when i found it i latched on to it and didn’t let go. it was sort of a matter of life or death for me.  there were a few poets who were introduced to me early on by other poem lovers, like my dad and enthusiastic english teachers. but i was hungry for words and i was in love with the whole idea of poetry, so i spent hours and all of my spare change searching out new voices, new writers, new words to bring into my world.

Lorna Crozier was one of those poets who i happened upon in those early years. i think, looking back, it wasn’t as much her words themselves that resonated with me at the time, as it was the strength and the boldness of her voice. i was a young woman, still a child in so many ways, and i was fighting so hard to find my place in this world. to find my voice. my sea legs. my reason for being here.

to me, Lorna was a brave and gutsy poet. she wrote about bodies and sex and she did it with humor and confidence. her poems didn’t paint pretty pictures, or make things feel really easy. and even though sometimes i didn’t know if i was comfortable there in her words, i was grateful to find someone who didn’t make me feel like i had to pretend that life was easier or simpler than it was to me, even then.

so, on saturday evening i drove my tired bones to sit in a quiet library and listen to Lorna read her work. and i’m glad that i did. i’ve traveled a good many steps since i first found her poetry those years ago…i think i have grown into her words more…i think i have grown into my own more.

i don’t always write poetry with the fervency that i did 16 years ago when i first picked up the pen. but i’ve always held on to it with a firm and relentless grip. i still keep it close to my side/my heart. a poem, for me, can still feel like a matter of life or death.

poets have been lifelines for me in this world…cutting me open…keeping me alive…


Packing for the Future – Instructions

Take the thickest socks
Wherever you are going you’ll have to walk
There may be water ~ there may be stones
There might be high places
You cannot go without the hope socks bring you
The way they hold you to the earth
At least one pair must be new, must be blue as you wish
Hand-knit by your mother in her sleep

Take a leather stachel, a velvet bag
And an old tin box – a salamander painted on the lid
This is to carry that small thing you cannot leave
Perhaps the key you’ve kept ~ though it doesn’t fit any lock you know
The photograph that keeps you sane
A ball of string to lead you out though you can’t walk back into that light
In your bag, leave room for sadness, leave room for another language
There may be doors nailed shut ~ there may be painted windows
There may be signs to warn you to be gone
Take the dream you’ve been having since you were a child
The one with the open fields and the wind sounding

Mistrust no one who offers you water from a well, a songbird’s feather
Something that’s been mended twice
Always travel lighter than the heart

– Lorna Crozier

I will not be afraid.


Last night I finished reading the final pages of  The Camino Letters by Julie Kirkpatrick. There is a lot that I could, and probably will eventually say about this book. About how I came to know about it and read it. About the comfort and affirmation that I have found in its pages.  Much like Julie’s journey, I feel like my finding of this book was not just by chance. I feel as though I have been walking toward this book, mindfully, for the last year – before it was ever even published. And in other ways, I’ve probably been walking toward this book, unknowingly, for a lifetime – being slowly prepared and made ready for what I would find here.

The Camino Letters is really just about a woman who goes for a long walk. Okay, maybe not quite. Maybe it’s more about a woman who goes for a long walk and invites her community of friends to come with her, in the form of tasks that they give her, one for each day. Tasks that, looking back, I’m sure just look like gifts. At least from my vantage point.

It’s about stepping out of the familiar. It’s about being brave. Being honest – with self, with others. It’s about going to the places that scare you. It’s about discovering just how strong you really are. It’s about humility. It’s about beauty. Hope. Tears. Laughter. Strangers. Belonging. Acceptance. Clarity. Death. Life. It’s about making a choice to truly live your life. To not let pain or fear or work or pride hold you in a place that will harm you. It’s about a woman who goes for a long walk and finds herself in a different place than where she started from.

That may just be skimming the surface.

I met Julie, briefly, this past summer. She was promoting The Camino Letters at an art show in a mutual friends garden. That friend had been telling me about the book for months, as it was being written. I was already intrigued and planning to read it when it came out. But I’ll never forget my conversation with Julie under the hot sun in Brian’s garden that afternoon. I remember her face as she talked about the book. I remember the pure joy and excitement that poured out of her as she told me, a stranger in a garden, about how that long walk changed her life. I remember being struck by her honesty, her vulnerability. I remember buzzing as I walked away…her aliveness was contagious.

I took my time in reading this book. I tried to walk it like a pilgrimage. Taking time to breathe, to look around, to be present in the midst of it. In so many ways it’s a simple thing – a collection of letters written to friends, a long walk in a new place…

Yes. In so many ways it’s a simple thing. Opening our eyes. Breathing deep. Living truthfully, gratefully, courageously. Trusting the ones who love us. Trusting that the journey will bring us exactly what we need. Trusting that this life is bigger, richer, deeper, than we’ve ever allowed ourselves to know.

We’re all just out on a long walk, after all. Moving, learning, growing, one step at a time…

I am tired of being afraid of being known. And so I have decided here, on this path, that I will no longer hide myself, or morph myself, or have myself sucked out of me. I will be more as I have been here. I will not be afraid.

So what that I have crazy things happening in my life that make me feel sometimes that I am losing my mind? Am I the only one? I can’t be. Gosh, I hope not. Because really, it is so strange and exciting and perfect and wonderful. I want to shout from the top of a mountain, “Look, look, open your eyes! Look at what is there!” There is so, so much more to us than we allow.

– The Camino Letters, pg. 217

some people.

BrianDettmer2briandettmer1some people read books. some people write them. other people take fine blades and insane ideas and blow peoples minds with them. or, at least, that’s what Brian Dettmer does.

BrianDettmer14“My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception.”

“The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge.”

book surgeon2

to see more of the book surgeons work, go here

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Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015