Notes on Survival (Poem)

Milkweed pod, Montana.

Milkweed pod, Montana. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

When my parents arrived in this country, they had been allowed to bring three crates of items. Those crates contained their entire life–for two adults and two children. Bedding, clothing, pots and pans, dishes, important papers, books, photos, toys. Three crates. Although I was born later, the impossibility of the decisions of what to pack stuck with me.

As a child, I played a game– what I would pack if I had to leave quickly and go to a new place? This poem is rooted in that memory.



Seed Pod: Notes for Survival
I left dawn behind, but took the last star in the sky
I left the sun behind, but took the ragged fringe of shade
I left the fragrant, blooming tree,
but stole the hanging seed and packed it.

The smooth seedpod holds the wisdom
of casting shade and woven nests,
Going back ten thousand years
Folded in its traveler’s shell.

Still willing, when it hits the ground
(at last)
To send out an exploratory root,
To test the ground for possible survival.
It has one chance to birth a branch
Fed by a dream of stars held in its crown
A filigree of shade laid on the ground
And then, to birth another seed to pack.
© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved. No use without express written permission.

Alcohol Ink and Poetry

My artwork is becoming more and more about poetry. I’ve always loved words in art, probably the best reason I love making collage.

For a project in my poetic medicine certification, I am exploring the idea of silence, and how we use it to communicate, to heal, to express our deepest pain.  I created a dozen alcohol-ink abstract landscapes, and printed phrases of my classmates poetry onto the landscapes. The snippets combine to form a poem of their own, about the power of silence.Samples are below, but not in order.

Four project cards on my work desk. My landscapes do seem to stay in Arizona's desert.

Next week, when we gather, I’m going to ask each person to read their poetry snippet, in an order I chose to create a new poem, with a dozen contributors.  I’m hoping they’ll not only cooperate, but be pleased with the visual combining with the spoken word.

This landscape is an image from my trip to Second Mesa, on the Hopi reservation, where the night sky is filled with stars.

This landscape is an image from my trip to Second Mesa, on the Hopi reservation, where the night sky is filled with stars.

I’m enjoying the break in serious study for this project. I hope it goes over well.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer, a writing trainer, and studying to become a poetic medicine practitioner.

Days Getting Shorter

As August turns to September, we’ll still have another month of heat, but the long days are over. We have just less than 13 hours of sun now. Oh, we’ll still get over-105º days, but not as many, and not every day. The pool will cool slowly, and I’ll be able to take morning walks again.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

For those of us who live in the desert, winter is the time we treasure. Summer is too hot, too harsh. And it’s losing its grip. Time to celebrate.

Quinn McDonald is a poetic medicine practitioner.

Bubble Postcards

A few days ago, I saw pottery being decorated with bubbles. I’d done bubble paper when I was younger, and decided the holiday weekend was a good time to play with bubbles.

First, I found my black India ink and the gold ink for a bit of shimmer.

ink1Then I put a small squirt of dishsoap into the recycled foaming container, added water and ink. Just a bit of water to move it up the siphon. The foam was dense, and the bubbles held their shape until there was just ink, but no bubbles on the paper.


The result was a blob of tight foam. I wiped them off with a brush. Interesting effect. Not what I had in mind, but it will be fun to experiment with this part.

ink3Then I transferred the soap-water-ink mixture to a paper cup and put a straw into it. I blew and created big, loose bubbles. Just what I wanted.

But when I took the straw out of the cup, I knocked it over, spilling India ink-soap-water mix into my crotch and onto the floor. Time out to peel off pants, put them in the washer, clean the floor and generally mop up all the ink that wasn’t where it belonged.

ink4This experiment works best if you blow the bubbles till they rise up out of the cup, then carefully place the paper on top of it. For that reason, watercolor postcards work well. You can use cut pieces of watercolor paper, too.

ink5You can also use a palette knife to scoop the bubbles onto the paper. It’s a personal choice.  What am I going to do with them? Probably use them for my Stow-Away-Poetry postcards. Or color them in. I’ll let you know. If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments!

Quinn McDonald is hoping India ink comes out of linen pants.

Never Alone

Orlando. I can’t fathom it. I’ll let others handle the politics, the religion, the reasons. I want to make just one point. That is, simply, what we do to others, we do to ourselves. We are never alone in hatred. We are never alone in kindness, compassion, and love. But we get to choose.

Photo: © H-Peter Clamann, 2016. All rights reserved. © Poem: Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Photo: © H-Peter Clamann, 2016. All rights reserved. © Poem: Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Poems and Collage

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved.

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved. Monsoon paper, walnut ink, alcohol inks on Yupo.

Art doesn’t have to be just one thing. I like to combine writing and collage. But I don’t like tearing words out of a magazine and using that. It’s great for vision boards, but I like collage to be more coordinated.

In this collage, I used writing as a background. I also stylized the writing so it is not readable. I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted or to feel that reading was part of experiencing the art.

The collage was part of creating an assignment for my grad school program in poetic medicine. We were to create the collage first, then the poem. I tried to do that, but it’s not how I work. At least not successfully. So I wrote the poem below, then created the collage.

Forgotten Memories
The brick building had been extended
(twice already),
a poured foundation ready for this,
the third expansion.

Three different weathered shades of brick,
a muddled patchwork marking time.

“Memory Center”—clearly, a lie.
The memories have long faded
from this center’s rooms,
bleached into shadows
like the rising wings of birds
against the moon
during a break in the clouds.

–Quinn McDonald is studying poetic medicine. She is also a trainer in business writing.