Vision Boards and Beyond: The Poetry of Julie Suk

Posted by admin on Thursday Jan 26, 2012 Under Uncategorized

Okay, so I’m the last person in America who hasn’t heard about Vision Boards.

Now that I’ve done a little internet digging, I see they’ve been all over Oprah for years. There are Vision Board classes, even Apps.

What can I say? I don’t get around much. At least not with what’s on TV. That’s part of my plan.

However, undaunted by the fact I’m a bit late to the fiesta here, I’ve been looking for images of older women, women I might like to be like or whose footsteps I’d like to follow, something to put on said “Vision Board” and not an image of a movie star, either.

Wow! Are they hard to find.

And then something wonderful happened. I clicked on my hometown newspaper — the Charlotte Observer — and there was an article (with a picture!) about a local poet — Julie Suk. Eighty-seven years old and still writing.

Not only is she writing, but writing what many critics (Galassi of the Paris Review to name one) consider to be the best poetry in America. And to top that, she really didn’t start publishing until she was in her fifties!

I’ve been digging into her poems the last week like someone starved. I had no idea how I longed to hear the voice of someone older, especially as I list into that territory myself.

Once I turned sixty, I started to feel a little like someone driving familiar roads in a dense, tule fog. Even the oncoming headlights — admonitions to “Live Your Best Life” or “Achieve Your Dreams” — blur in the grey cloud, blur and pass, as I try to move forward. I know I want to go somewhere, am going somewhere, but what guides me now? What path will lead to a vibrant old age?

And then I found Julie Suk’s poems.

Read her no matter what your age! She has a lot to tell us about both the light and dark of life.


When I held my first son,
how perfect he seemed.
Driving home late,
we would sing rounds
O how lovely is the evening
his head nodding to my lap.

Blessings on that third
of our lives spent in sleep,
the plots of the day
left dangling.

Once I drove by a woman
clinging to a viaduct’s ledge,
police, priest, and the curious
crowded below, the road
curving past into a benign
vista of cows and trees.

Blessings on those moments of reprieve
grabbed before dropping into nightmare.

How could my son fracture,
unaware of the split?
Ominous, the day I waited
on his porch, cake in hand
as if food could assuage
a mind reeling off.

Get out! Get out! The door slammed.
What I dread is a stand-off,
barricades, guns, police
with no choice but to shoot.

Blessings on the daughter
who ripens with a life
that turns us around again,
this time, we hope,
the helix of notes
descending in tune.

For a while we let pass
what Aeschylus said,
how at night
the pain that can’t forget
falls drop by drop
upon the heart.

The moon floats off,
the dog whimpers under the steps.
How lovely the evening
with a child on my lap,
a circle of us singing
heedless of the dark taking aim.

— The Dark Takes Aim, Autumn House Press, 2003
© by Julie Suk. Used with the permission of the poet.

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Restaurant Izote: A November Trip to Mexico City

Posted by admin on Friday Jan 20, 2012 Under Uncategorized

In my organizing frenzy, I discovered some chilhuacle chilis that I grew and dried last summer hidden on a back shelf behind the flour and sugar.

Now, I’m looking for a fabulous recipe for the famous Oaxacan yellow mole. Most American recipes use pasillas or guajillos, because chilhuacle chilis are impossible to find here unless you grow them yourself. (They sell the plants at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery last I checked.)

This got me thinking about a wonderful meal I had with friends last November in Mexico City at Patricia Quintana’s fabulous Restaurante Izote on Avenida Mazaryk in Mexico City.

Very glamorous . . . and the food!

We sat upstairs on a sunny autumn afternoon, the window lending a view of the delicate pepper trees outside and the large synagogue across the street. When the waiter brought a platter of sopes de camarones in a chipotle sauce and perfect margaritas, we were all in heaven.

(Here’s Patricia Quintana herself on the right. I would love to live in a place where I could dress like that everyday! Que alegria!))

I know that you are hearing terrifying story after terrifying story about Mexico City. All I can say is that with the same precautions I would take in any large city in the world, I feel safe. Safe and also having a fantastic time!

Anyway, I’ve just posted two more proofed chapters of Palace of the Blue Butterfly on this website.

Now, I’m a little closer to my goal of getting it on the Kindle. You’ll probably want to go back and read Chapter Five before you continue just to refresh your memory.

And since in the novel I mention Vivienne dining at Restaurante Izote, I’d thought I’d show you all what it looks like.

Now I’m wondering what sopes de pollo en mole amarillo would taste like, and if Sra. Quintana would approve.


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Well, it had to happen sometime. I’m late with the post. First time in almost two years, but I have a good excuse. I embarked on a cleaning-out-all-drawers-and closets rampage, all inspired by a necklace Dave bought me at the Plaza del Angel Antique Market in Mexico City, which you see only a small part of above. Think Marche aux Puces in Paris only in Mexico City and in Spanish.

Anyway, the necklace is so perfect, goes with everything I own, can be worn on any occasion with jeans or a black dress, that I almost don’t need anything else.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if I could pare my life down to only the necessary and the beautiful? It’s something I’d been dying to attempt for a long time. After the sensory overload that was Christmas, January seemed like a great time to start

When Dave decided to go to the Bay Area for three days, I knew it was my big chance to up-end the kitchen and throw out everything I don’t use. No stopping to make dinner. Nothing in the way.

Seize the moment!

It’s just that it took a lot longer than I thought—hence late blog post— but I reorganized every cabinet in my kitchen. So satisfying!

The next day, I just wandered around opening cabinet doors, gazing at the platters and pans all stacked up, the duplicates stored away or tossed. Bliss.

Then it was onto the bureau drawers. Wow! so much stuff I don’t use. I either have to start sleeping in silk PJs or throw them away. Did I actually have a life once in which silk pajamas were even feasible?

It’s just there was one nagging little problem with my virtuous activity. Part of me knew I was procrastinating. I have to get back to the copy-editing of my novel to get it up on Amazon, but I’ve been a little discouraged lately.

Every time I see an article on Mexico, it’s all about the drug war, the dead bodies dumped on the town square, in the middle of Mexico City, by the side of the road. Just a constant barrage of horrible news.

Why, I started to wonder, would anyone want to read about the place?

Then a funny thing happened as I got rid of old stuff, excess 13 by 9 inch pans and the like, as I pulled the souffle dish back from it’s exile at the far end of the cabinet, as I boxed up jewelry that I haven’t worn in years—those chandelier earrings— to give to my daughter. I felt more confident of my own story, knew that it was in some way truer than the numbers and statistics about the bloodshed.

In fact, Dave I spent a lovely two weeks in Mexico City this November, and here we are alive and well.

And I scored the silver and amethyst Fred Davis necklace, which was the inspiration for my cleansing frenzy.

After the last post, I decided to create some sort of collage, images I can keep in mind as I move toward my goals. I didn’t know this idea was called a vision board, but, on the same day it seemed, something happened and I learned.

I got an e-mail from an agent letting me know that she was moving to a new agency, one that developed self-published books.

Could have knocked me over with a feather. How times have changed.

I decided to take a look at some of the books this outfit published. Lo and behold, there was a book on How to Create Your Vision Board. Turns out it’s a lot more complicated that just sticking up a bunch of pictures. And the first step? De-cluttering! Which is, I guess, what I was doing.

Anyway, the book was interesting, so I downloaded onto my iPad. I’ll be following some of the steps over the next few weeks.

Anyway, the necklace, when I look at it, is an image of what I know to be true about Mexico… about Americans going to Mexico and becoming artists, about how Mexico nurtures that no matter what else is going on and has for years and years.

Just take a walk on a lovely Saturday afternoon around the Plaza del Angel in the Zona Rosa and you’ll see.

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The Key to Happiness

Posted by admin on Friday Jan 6, 2012 Under Uncategorized

They say, those good folks who are studying the science of happiness, that you can actually increase your own happiness by taking a few simple steps.

In brief, here they are.

Savor moments of each day. Don’t emphasize the importance of material things. Take the initiative. Have a goal. Value friendships, family and community. Exercise. Eat right . . .

And the one I’m thinking about today —

Don’t compare yourself to others.

As it is that time of year when we traditionally take stock, I like others, started listing the ways I did not live up to all of last year’s resolutions.

Did I mediate each and every day. Well . . . not exactly. And that dream notebook that was so interesting . . . I let it languish. As far as doing all the chapters of The Artist’s Way . . . uh. You get the picture.

And then I thought, “Jane, Jane, Jane. If the point is to increase your own capacity for happiness, and maybe bring a little of that joy into other people’s lives, you are not headed in the right direction. Time to meditate on Quan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy. Or, as we say on the ranch, “Let’s just back this truck up!”

Better to focus on the things I did do. Much more inspiring.

I have a friend who tacks images that inspire her writing up on her office bulletin board. Once, at a low point in her spirits, she covered the board with photographs of all the things she’d achieved in her life — college, wedding, birth of kids, big garden, remodeled kitchen, recovering from cancer treatments, Bay to Breakers race, a special anniversary, pets, Thanksgiving dinners.

Nothing of historical importance mind you, but when she stepped back and looked, what she saw was a life well-lived, rich in family, friends and creativity. Do you really need any more?

Before we moved out here, when I was waffling and scared to buy the property, another friend said, “Are you nuts? Of course, you should do this. Ever since I’ve know you, you’ve wanted two things: to write and to live in the country. You can do this.”

So in honor of my friend’s inspiring idea, these are some things that are going on MY bulletin board just to remind me how far I’ve come.


I’ve gone from this on the left (below) . . . To this on the right (below).

Jane's Before and After House Photos


I’ve gone from being scared and wondering if I’d lost my mind to being certain that I hadn’t.


Jane's Fresh Vegetables


And I’ve gone from this — a book in a box — to a podcast. So this years resolution: From a book in a box, to a podcast on the computer, to a novel on one of these little gizmos, that’s the resolution.

Jane's Book Journey


Now, back to meditating every day, keeping a journal . . .
I have a whole other year.


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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link