Bartlett Arboretum Writing Marathon 5

Meg Rice is one of the most delightful people I know.  She shares of herself freely and openly–and without ego, nurtures and supports her fellow writers.  Always up for the next adventure, this elementary teacher and former Teaching Instructor for the National Writing Project takes solace from the beauty of the Bartlett Arboretum.  She generously shared the photos of her time as well and is a proud supporter of Bubble Therapy.

This poem was written at Bartlett Arboretum, after scaling the new south-bridge, with some of my favorite writer friends, one fine muddy morning in May

 Sally Said We Could
Meg Rice

Sally said we could;
Ignore the yellow caution tape,
Ignore the mud,
Explore the place.

Fashioned of tile
And curved concrete,
Bartlett’s newborn-bridge,
Spans Euphrates Creek.

Like a startled cat,
Joins mud to mud,
From last night’s storm.

In approaching the
Bridge’s uphill side,
Mud invites our feet
To slip and slide.

We traverse the
Muddly-puddly ramp.
Our shoes fear more,
Than getting damp.

With every step,
Mud bonds to shoe.
Inch by inch taller,
On layers of goo.

So new is this bridge,
It still lacks side-rails.
We might slip at the ridge,
If our balance fails.

Pitching forward at the peak,
Toward the other side,
I glide with a shriek,
In a downhill slide.

“Hey, don’t fall in.”
My friends all yell.
That’s not a story,
You’ll want to tell.

And mud caked shoes,
Five more followed after
Feet thick with goo.

Slippery morning adventure,
Exhilarating, indeed!
A lesson learned will endure,
Do not follow my lead!


Bartlett Arboretum Writing Marathon 4

Sometimes the experience of a Writing Marathon helps me to blend a project/piece that’s been floating incomplete in my head.  I wanted to share a poem that came together as a result of the journaling I did during this experience:

And the Grasses Speak

Part I
There is a smell of lush soil and verdant moss. Like Leia,
I want to dig through the gravel for some smidgen of
some little shell to keep in my pocket, to remind me of
time swept oceans on our dry plain, to remind me of what
this moment feels like,
right here overlapped by right then,
the sun warming the soreness from my gut and shoulders,
and I know there will never be enough breakfast
to feed this day.
I will never be full.

Part 2
Grasses grow from a pot, growing, blowing tendrils of hair,
the tips nearly furry and splayed in the wind. I want to dwell
among them, listen to the sweet tenor of the soil sisters putting
their fingers to soil, sending prayers through the ground, sweet
thoughts travelling up roots, lifted more pure to heaven.
They whisper, “Speak to me of eternity,”
and the grasses say,
“you have already been there, but you have forgotten the memory.
Trees remember,
the soil rejoices,
the flowers speak of it,
but you do not have eyes or ears
or the mind to recall,”
and we grasp soil,
our fingers desperate to remember.

Bartlett Arboretum Writing Marathon 3

I am proud and honored to share another piece from our Bartlett Arboretum Writing Marathon.  Jeff Roper wears many hats and plays many roles, including sitting on the Board of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English, supporting the National Writing Project, and following God’s calling as a Chaplain for the Episcopal Church.  This is from one of our ‘sprints’ during the marathon.

“Bartlett  Arboretum  Revisited”

By Jeff H. Roper

            Vicky and I have experienced 32 years of a wonderful shared life together. In September, 2011 Sarah Henry Roper became a new member of the Roper family. Our son Jonathan married Sarah at St. James Episcopal Church. I mention this wedding because a year earlier, in planning for this wedding, Sarah and Jonathan gave strong consideration to getting married at the Bartlett Arboretum. They opted not to get married here, but this place continues to be a beautiful place to be married.

            But I have revisited this place for another writing marathon. It is 11am in the morning with a cool northerly breeze keeping our temperature in the sixties. Although it has been in the nineties and dry for much of May, a severe storm with hail swung through south central Kansas last night with a fury. Today, the sky is blue. The oxygenated-air from the pine trees is filling the air that I breathe, refreshing and restoring my soul while feeling the friendly warmth of the sun behind me when it breaks through the occasional small light cloud.

            I smell the collective scent of flowers the color of the fresh inside of a watermelon. Their delicate petals hug the ground behind me while gusts of wind rush powerfully through the tall maple trees and lone sycamore tree above. These senses help me to re-set and re-paradigm my view of the world—shifting from the hustle and bustle of moving from point A to B to C as I constantly check my iPhone for emails to relaxing, breathing, settling in, and enjoying the heavenly pleasantry of nature and the fellowship of friends.

            Please pardon me for a moment from my writing while I clean the mud with a stick off my tennis shoes. The mud resulted from my dear friend Meg who was getting in touch with her “create new paths in the forest” adventurous style of living.

Bartlett Arboretum Writers Marathon 2

This is a continuation of a previous post about our Writers Marathon.  The following excerpt comes from Misty Maynord, proprietress of the Kechi Playhouse:

            All the nooks and crannies, the gravel paths, the brick walk ways, the twisted wire fences with their quaint old fashioned gates speak of a world that is slipping away from us. Stepping into the Bartlett Arboretum is like taking a step back into another time when everything was not mass produced with an eye towards expediency and convenience. A time when people cooked real food in real ovens and not frozen microwave bricks. A time when listening to music was an act of communion rather than a solo experience through ear plugs. A time when parents were not afraid to let their children play outdoors all day, when neighbors knew neighbors, when there was not a T.V. hanging on the wall in every public place impinging on conversation.

 There is no doubt that modern times have brought many marvels, but they have arrived at a cost. Everything now seems antiseptic, lacking the charm of uniqueness. But here at the botanical gardens in Belle Plaine the past still lives. The tree house just inside the gate reeks of romance, but I have become so indoctrinated to current trends that I find myself thinking “ . . . it doesn’t have the OSHA approved standard grid to keep people from falling,” and that is just the point. People used to be expected to develop common sense, to be aware and alert, to have a sense of preservation without government standards doing all the thinking for everyone.

Perhaps that is one reason why common sense does not seem all that common now days. Perhaps that is why imagination appears to be less prevalent. It has occurred to me that while the old radio shows encouraged listeners to visualize the story unfolding over the airwaves, T.V. completely robs viewers of that same experience. Attention spans are shorter; seven second sound bites keep us engaged with mind candy and prevent the ability for true engagement with a puzzle, project, or problem.

 The sound of wind and birdsong in the Arboretum is magical. Natural quietness is becoming rare. I once heard the poet Nikki Giovanni say to a group of college students, “I can drive you all crazy – all I have to do is put you in a quiet room. None of you would know how to react to it.” I wonder if she isn’t right.

Bartlett Arboretum Writers Marathon 1


I had the honor and privilege of participating in a writing marathon this last Thursday.  The weather was brilliant and cool due to a recent storm, and the trees were absolutely gorgeous.  A classic writing marathon brings people together, has them writing in spurts, and then with no critiquing or judging, writers share whatever their pens created.

 The Bartlett Arboretum is a little piece of heaven right in the middle of Belle Plaine.  If you get the opportunity to participate in an activity at this private garden, be it a concert or a mosaic workshop, I highly recommend it.  Words do not do justice to the serenity that can be found there.

 All of the writers on Thursday were a part of the National Writing Project.  We followed a similar model to the New Orleans Writing Marathon :


 10 minutes of continuous writing (actually, all ‘writing time’ is meant to be continuous)
Writers share
15 min write
Writers share
20 min write
Writers share
25 (or sometimes 30 min) write
Writers share

 For me, the ambience of the place really lends itself to the quality of the experience.  Between writing spurts, we hiked to different areas of the Arboretum.  I must admit that some of the time, I allowed the wind to lull me into a more meditative state.

 I feel especially privileged that several of the writers have agreed to share their work from that day here.  Please keep in mind that we didn’t do much in the way of editing.  One participant described our journals as diamond mines where treasure would be found LATER.  We were to ignore our internal editors!  So my sample below follows the very stream-of-consciousness that I experienced during the 15 minute stretch.

April’s Sample

The water grounds us, feeds us, winding through, the ripples mirror the new lines of my face, discovered just this morning as I hovered over the glob of toothpaste sliding down the sink.  There is a white bridge, and although I know where it leads, I imagine a different way forward, a different outcome.

I did not know I could be friends with trees, that I would want to be friends, that they might whisper to me of god and Holy and last night’s rain.

The strangers are friendly and welcome me and I do not know their names; and I hurt to call them less than they are, that orange flower, so inadequate.