Happy New Year from Miriam’s Well

Thank you all for reading! This blog has surpassed my expectations lo these many years. When I started out, I wanted 300 daily readers (because I knew some high school students who had that!). The Well has about 1000 daily subscribers, and another 25,000 annual hits. I can’t help but compare it to the literary magazine FISH DRUM, produced in the 1980s and early 1990s by my household, which had a offset printed run of about 250—and which we were quite pleased with at the time.
It’s been a great daily practice for me, both as writer and curator. The blog lets me respond to the world around me as well as my inner world in a varied way. I still think of it as more literary than topical in the sense of the daily news, but there is some good synergy between the two.
Greatest gratitude to contributors, who allow different voices to be heard here. Miriam’s Well has always been a hybrid–part magazine, part personal blog. Supposedly that’s not good for branding, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt!

For contributors and would-be contributors, I want:
1. To know what you are thinking. Short personal essays and musings are always welcome.
2. What you are seeing. Send odd snapshots, images, text and image.
3. Japanese forms–haiku, tanka, senryu, haibun, haiga, et. al.
4. Creative projects–announcements, updates, process. Something new for you–a photographer’s poem, a novelist’s crochet, etc.
5. Published poets (books, no self pub at this time) who’d like to be interviewed for the 3 Questions section. Send me a note at msagan1035@aol.com
A note on publishing–I am happy to blog published/credited work. I accept most of what is submitted–but not all. I do like to publish poetry, but this will be judged by the standards I’d bring to print–it should be a competent well thought out poem with technique.
I’m also grateful to those of you who send me articles, announcements, and links to things you think will be of interest. I am always looking for guest bloggers–folks who want to contribute on an ongoing basis, but I should know your work first.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s use it as a fresh start for peace in our hearts and our communities.


Leckerbaer Pastry Shop in Copenhagen. See all of their cookies here: http://bit.ly/1OFHRCh

If You Have End of the Year Giving–To Help Refugees–An Excellent Resource

Maimonides taught that charity was the highest act of good a person could perform–higher than social justice or even just plain kindness. Maybe because charity represents sacrifice? I often hear people say “it’s just money” but often that statement keeps one from giving.



How to Help in a Global Refugee Crisis


Nearly 60 million people around the world were displaced from their homes because of war, conflict or persecution last year, a level not seen since World War II. And Syrian people accounted for roughly 11 million
It is hard to process numbers that large, and the many tragic stories behind them. But a single photograph of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned and lay lifeless on a Turkish beach in September humanized the refugee crisis for many people. The boy’s father also lost his wife and another son, as the family crossed the Mediterranean into Greece for a chance at an ordinary life.
After more than four years of civil war, the Syrians face a plight that is far from over. And many charitable individuals, particularly during the holiday season, may be moved to find the most effective ways to help.
Donors who want to help face questions familiar to aid organizations: How does one most effectively deploy limited sums of money to help the most people? Where is the need most dire?

While many refugees are trying to migrate to Europe, Syria’s neighboring countries are under the greatest strain since they are hosting the largest numbers of refugees. In Lebanon, for instance, Syrian refugees now account for between a quarter and a third of the population, according to the International Rescue Committee. Jordan is hosting 630,000 registered refugees, which, the group says, would be the equivalent of the United States’ absorbing the population of Britain.

Emily E. Arnold-Fernandez is the executive director of Asylum Access, a nonprofit organization that helps refugees with basic human and legal rights. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
“To help the greatest number of refugees, you need first to understand where those refugees are located, and second, to support the organizations addressing refugee needs on the ground,” said Katherina M. Rosqueta, founding executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Meeting refugees’ day-to-day needs is vital, but aid workers also urge donors to think about supporting charities trying to solve problems that will help families over the longer term.
“It’s easy to get people who will write a check to help people in immediate need,” said Emily E. Arnold-Fernández, executive director at Asylum Access, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on refugees’ human and legal rights.
“But if you are willing to be a little more strategic with your philanthropic dollars, they can go a lot further.”
For instance, many refugees — half of whom are under the age of 18 — are not permitted to work or go to school in the countries where they are living.
That makes it impossible to rebuild their lives, and often tempts families to take dangerous journeys abroad. But some organizations provide schooling for children in the neighboring countries, for instance, or help refugees with legal advice and job skills.
And letting a charity decide how to use donors’ dollars — instead of asking it, say, to use the money for food or blankets — is also helpful because needs often shift rapidly. “You are making a gift to a crisis that is changing moment to moment,” Ms. Arnold-Fernández added.

There are about 4.4 million Syrian refugees outside Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and an additional 6.5 million Syrians who have been uprooted inside their country.
Resettling a small number of them in the United States has become a political issue in recent months, as several Republican governors, presidential candidates and members of Congress opposed plans to accommodate 10,000 refugees. But some charity workers said that opposition spurred others to give.
Several tools below provide guidance on where to donate, as well as a sampling of well-regarded organizations to which donors can give directly:
■ Hope for Syria is a one-stop shop of sorts, since it will evenly divide donations among nine well-regarded nonprofits — including Catholic Relief Services, HIAS and Islamic Relief USA. These groups focus on several aspects of the crisis, including helping those inside Syria and resettlements in the United States. “If you wanted to give to one place where it meets all of the points, that is the group,” said Sam Worthington, chief executive of InterAction, an alliance of 195 American nongovernmental organizations working overseas.
■ InterAction, whose nonprofit members must meet certain governance standards, also has a dedicated page on its website that lists several of its members that are helping Syrian refugees. Filters on the site can help donors locate charities that focus on a specific issue, like refugee camp management, helping children or education.
■ Charity Navigator has a list of its top 19 charities involved in the Syrian crisis, which all have been granted at least three of four possible stars using its rating system. The stars are awarded based on a charity’s financial health and efficiency, accountability and transparency. Charity Navigator is working on adding another component that will include charities’ results and outcomes, which are challenging to measure but more illuminating, said Michael Thatcher, the group’s president. He suggests that donors vetting charities look at an organization’s website to see if it publishes any evidence of results.
■ The International Rescue Committee is a group highly rated by charity trackers and professionals that helps refugees at every juncture. The group is now working to set up a reception center on the Greek island of Lesbos, where many Syrians seeking refuge in Europe land after traversing the dangerous route — often on rubber dinghies — from Turkey.
Roughly 2,000 of its workers are providing aid to displaced people inside Syria, as well as those in neighboring countries and in Greece. Beyond food and shelter, they also provide health care and protection services for vulnerable women and children, and programs to help develop long-term job skills. The group, which aims to raise $33 million over the next year for these programs, also helps resettle refugees in 26 cities across the United States.
■ Oxfam America is helping Syrians in their home country — as well as in Jordan and Lebanon — with clean water, sanitation and other vital items. That might include cash and supplies like blankets and stoves, or vouchers for hygiene supplies. They are also helping families get the information about their rights, while connecting them to medical and legal services. Individuals can earmark donations for the crises in the Middle East, though the organization said it is often best to give to its general fund, which enables it to be more nimble.
■ Doctors Without Borders has a limited presence in Syria, particularly after the abduction of some staff members last year and the partial destruction of a medical facility in November that killed seven people. But it still operates six medical facilities in northern Syria — which provide vaccinations, maternity care and burn treatment — and directly supports 150 health posts and field hospitals in the country. The doctors also help refugees in neighboring countries including Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and have operated search-and-rescue ships in the Mediterranean, which, to date, have rescued more than 18,000 people attempting the voyage to Europe.
■ Save the Children helps refugees in several ways, by providing emergency aid and health care and rebuilding damaged classrooms and supporting schools, inside Syria and in neighboring countries. The organization supports 55 schools in northern Syria. It also supports six health-care facilities that provide medical services and 24-hour emergency care for pregnant women inside Syria. It runs child-friendly spaces for children affected by the conflict as well, which provide a sense of normalcy.
■ A regional group of 200 organizations, called 3RP, is coordinating programs supporting Syrian refugees and tried to collectively raise $4.5 billion in 2015. But it had received only about half that amount by the end of November. The groups include various United Nations agencies, including its refugee agency and the World Food Program. The food program assists more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees in five neighboring countries through the use of electronic cards, which they use to buy food. When the program is fully funded, each refugee will receive $27 a month. Last month, it dipped to $21 — or about 70 cents a day.
Given the enormous number of uprooted Syrians, the crisis has dominated the headlines. But aid workers said that people might also consider the millions of other refugees who have been forced to escape horrific conditions in other corners of the world. Rising numbers of Afghan refugees face their own challenges, while Burundi, in Africa, is on the verge of a civil war. Mass killings have civilians living in fear, and more than 200,000 have reportedly fled into neighboring countries like Tanzania.
“This has gotten almost no attention in the popular mind-set, yet people are being forced to leave their homes behind,” said Ms. Arnold-Fernández of Asylum Access. “And nobody is noticing.”

To see all links–http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/26/your-money/how-to-help-in-a-global-refugee-crisis.html?_r=1

My Father’s Atheism

My father did not believe in God, but he was not without belief. His atheism was a kind of religion, and he brought full fervor to it. My father’s articles of faith were that there was no God, particularly not the God of the Jews. Anyone who believed in God was worse than wrong—a believer was a child. Scorn dripped from my father’s lips when he said the word “child.” It seemed to me, child that I was, that being a child was just bad as believing in God.
Since God was never described or investigated, we just took it on faith that God was not for us. But since I had no idea what God was, I was not completely spiritually crippled. I had a strong love of nature combined with a firm sense of ethics—both from my father. I also had mystical experiences of oneness and connection that I simply found pleasurable when I was young. These things were just part of my inner world, like being able to make things happen in my dreams or ALMOST seeing the wings of flower fairies. I had nightly hypnogogic experiences of glittering colored lights and dots before I fell sleep. Sometimes I saw beautiful dancers in pink tutus. My friend Laurel and I lay on a hillside and fell asleep, promising to appear in each other’s dreams. We did. I took this all in stride—it was a natural part of my world to know and accept that there were other worlds than the ordinary one.
My father also hated what he called “mysticism.” In retrospect, I think he was using the word correctly; he hated the experience in which a person felt at one with something larger. It is obvious that my father himself was given to spontaneous bouts of connection, particularly inspired by art and music. He once confessed to me, when he was quite old, that when he was alone he’d dance naked in celebration to Beethoven and Mozart. He once ran out of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, dazzled and overwhelmed by the painting. “Those paintings were going to grab my soul,” he confided, sitting panting on the museum steps.
His character was surely at odds with his beliefs. He forbade us from going to synagogue, and from prayer, even of the private sort. I once came upon my little sister praying and was as shocked and terrified as if I’d found her torturing a kitten. This was forbidden territory.
I did go to synagogue for the bat-mitvahs of friends, and the slightly pathetic attempts at “boy-girl” parties that ensued. I was “allowed” to attend church with a friend because she was black, and her church a bastion of civil rights activity. Although this church was quite alien to me culturally—it had a gospel choir, fiery preaching, and iconic church lady hats—I felt instantly relaxed there. This feeling continued for me as I eventually went to synagogue, studied with Hassids, married a Zen monk, and went with friends to disparate settings from Catholic monasteries to Christian Science services to Quaker meetings.
It turned out, I liked religion. I studied Hebrew and koans and prayer. I have never found a particular path I could dedicate myself wholeheartedly to—perhaps this is part of my father’s legacy. But when it comes to check the box, I say I believe in God. Actually, there is little about belief here. I experience God.
I also experienced my father. In a world without God, he, my father, reigned supreme. This was, shockingly for the feminist thinker he was, a kind of absolute patriarchy. But I also did not believe in my father. Doubt has proved no problem to me. Doubt, such as doubt in my father’s total authority, helps me as I return to my struggle to be free.

10 international lit mags seeking English submissions

Thought this might be of interest to all of you–readers and writers.

Trish Hopkinson


Why limit yourself to being published in lit mags in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K? There are many countries with English-language lit mags you can also submit your work to. For example, my poem “My Monkey Grammarian” was published in Hong Kong and even included in a review! You can read more about it here.

Thanks to Authors Publish and Aerogramme Studio for compiling the original lists I used as resources to start my research for the list below.

This list focuses on NO/LOW FEE poetry submissions, but most lit mags accept prose and art as well. Three of the listings are PAYING markets. The first DEADLINE is 12/31/2015. The listings are in alphabetical order.



READING PERIOD: Rolling deadlines


NOTES: Cha is dedicated to publishing quality creative works from and about Asia. At this time, we can only accept work in…

View original post 805 more words

Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: A poem for the dark goddess

A poem for the dark goddess …

In the spirit of Winter and Fairy Tales and Dark Goddesses (I got a few fairy tale and dark goddess books for the holidays this year!) — I thought I’d share this little poem.

you discover
Night is a bird with black wings.

The lesson is soft, and returns
no matter how many times
you drink the water and forget.

When you come to Her,
the sword may
or may not

In Which I Am An Unreliable Historian and Claim To Have Never Smoked A Cigarette or Had More Than One Sexual Partner–Ever

The older I get, the less well I get along with medical in-take forms—never my favorite. A few years ago I was answering a series of questions in an office owned by the local hospital.
“Do you feel safe in your home?” The nurse asked.
“Pretty much so.” I answered. I figured the question was based on my address on the town’s somewhat funky westside. “I mean, I wouldn’t walk around alone in that neighborhood at night,” I added blithely. “But I’ve got nice neighbors.”
Turns out she wasn’t interested in real estate. No, this was a question about domestic abuse. Now, I’m all for the discussion, but I’m not sure I or anyone else would answer the question presented that way by a stranger.
Then again, I’m prone to outright lying. A few years ago, I was having scary symptoms and figured, in my usual morbid fashion, that I was a death’s door. So I told the truth on an intake.

Do you smoke cigarettes? Of course.
Drink? You bet.
Do street drugs: Ditto.

Well, maybe not the exact truth. I was exaggerating in one direction. For example, I do smoke—about half a pack a year. No one really cared, I assume, but I felt compelled to err on the side of confession. About twelve hours later, when anything worrisome had been ruled out, and I knew I’d live to fight with the insurance company about my bill, my answers were different:

Do you smoke cigarettes? Of course not!
Do you drink? Never!
Street drugs? What are those?

It turns out, I’m not alone. A friend in the medical field says this has a name: “unreliable historian.” In fiction, we call it the unreliable narrator. Which I am.

Recently, on a routine visit to a new practioner I was confronted with all of my resistance.

I left “race” blank on the form. Anthropologists don’t believe in it—Hitler did…I know where I stand on that scale. Hispanic surname made me pause. My mother’s family was expelled from Spain in 1492. My maternal mitochondria, swabbed from my daughter’s cheek and sent to the Human Genome, says we have the most common European type…from Spain. But really I couldn’t check yes.

Then, three options for sexual preference: men, women, both. Illustrated with little gendered stick figures. I froze. It felt safest to leave it blank. Sexual preference: none.

Now, widowed or married? Here is where I wanted to check both, but had to chose. It didn’t seem nice or fair to my first husband, may he rest in peace, but I had to check “married.”

Then, on to number of sexual partners. I’ve been married twice, and have the average baby boomer checkered past. But at this point I couldn’t keep my lies straight. I checked “one.” That seemed innocuous. I looked at my answer. There was something that didn’t feel right. Which of my husbands didn’t count? But believe me I was in no mood to remember my sexual partners—to miss those I’d loved, to resent those who hadn’t loved me, to wax nostalgic, irritated, morose. So “one” it was.

I don’t know who my one partner is. I don’t know if I’m a smoker. I can’t tell if I’m Spanish. I don’t remember if I inhaled. I don’t know if I lie because I’m a writer—or am a writer because I lie—or can’t tell the truth because I hate forms.

Yarnboming at Santa Barbara Mission

I’ve been browsing a bit on Tumblr–I don’t really “get” how Tumblr works (it’s fast, short blogs, lots of images–at least the quadrant I’m in), but I am finding some interesting projects.


Here’s what the artist says:

theyarnbomber on tumblr

It is done!!!! Confirmed by a surveyor.
1 crocheter
2+ years of work
1089 square feet
50+ pounds
Approx 25 miles of yarn
1 pending #guinnessworldrecord
thank you @redheartyarns 
Most of all THANK YOU to my wife @babsdun for support encouragement and tolerance!