The Art of Life: How to Channel Inner Knowing

Above Image: Trees by Mondrian

The first day Lori (our protagonist in my almost finished novel Epiphany) spends in Eugene, Oregon, she purchases a used copy of Magic Doors by John Pearson. The images in his book of photography are all about entering another dimension, perhaps not even noticing the portal passed through to get there. Art is like that.

Next, Lori took lessons in building stained glass and began putting the pieces together that she cut. How did she know what glass to use? What colors? What patterns? She felt her way along and that became her way forward. Life is like that, an art project she could create, and she wanted it to be a masterpiece. Against the advice of her teachers, Lori chose to do a Tiffany designed lamp for her first ever project in stained glass. Why not? How hard can it be—The teachers are present, and the student is ready! And that is the theme for my next blog.

In the meantime, arrange things, put an outfit together, paint a picture, order The Way Back and get to know your inner knowing!

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.


You Teach Best What You Most Need To Learn

How satisfying to help youth dodge some of the obstacles that block the way forward.  And with every triumph, the teacher takes heart. It is a vicarious blooming that happens, a win-win for everyone fueled by the teacher’s need to get it right, and the student’s need for clear headed guidance. But the teacher is drawn to a subject of interest to both of them.  Let me illustrate my point:

Jenny wants to ski the big hill, but is stuck on the bunny slope until she can ski safely, and not be a hazard to others. Lori (our protagonist) never had mastered this skill, but now, working with the Special Olympics, she must teach this child with Downs Syndrome how to ski in control, and in doing so, she learns the very thing she most needs for her own freedom on the slopes. Funny how fate works isn’t it? It is like someone is up there pulling our strings so that we get to overcome shortcomings. Here is an excerpt from Epiphany that tells about the moment it all makes sense:

Lori smiled, remembering Jenny’s face, her pink cheeks wet with melting snow, her wide set blue eyes dancing with insight as she looked at the skiers traversing the slope and said “Oh- Oh I SEE.” It was an epiphany.  Being able to turn and stop meant freedom on the slopes!

Perhaps that is why Lori has become a school counselor helping Elementary School children overcome fear. Could it be that is what she most needs to learn? Have you experienced this phenomena in your own lives? Please comment.

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.


The Law of the Universe

“Take What You Want And Pay For It.”

I don’t remember where I first heard this idea, but it was a game changer. When I wrote Epiphany (presently being revised) I realized how much my protagonist, Lori Moyer, believed this phrase. It really says it all and I count it as a major theme for Epiphany. To show the way the Law can work, I made the below image a subtitle for the book.  Here it is fresh out of Photoshop:

BylineStarting over in the West, leaving almost everything and everyone behind, Lori paid dearly. This book is a mixture of humor and angst as she comes to understand the ramifications of the bargain she made. It wasn’t pretty. She had to come to terms with illusion and reality, with who she was, and who she was becoming. What an adventure! Following the Law, she came to realize that payments were not just financial, but emotional, physical and spiritual as well. And so was the path taken, lighted by the notion that she was in charge of her own life. Adopting that understanding can be terrifying. Watch for another theme for my newest book .

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.

Chronic Guilt: Theme

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Novel Revision

The first draft of Epiphany is done, and now I am attempting my revision. I wrote Epiphany for me, and it was great fun to write. I laughed and cried allot writing this book. Truly, it showed me the “Epiphany” that freed me, informed me, and sent me off to proceed with my life. But this time, as I go through revising it, I am writing for you, the reader. Hopefully, I will succeed and make this book  both entertaining and meaningful.

Of course, I am identifying some themes in this book. I spent 6 years counseling in a Chronic Pain Center and learned some fantastically useful ideas. This first idea, well, here it is in a poem I spun off this morning. Maybe this is not a great poem, but it gives the jist of one theme I identified in Epiphany. Writing in prose,  guilt is going to be present with choices that break or bend family rules. I don’t mean that the old familial rules are wrong.  But as circumstances change and time passes, rules change too. Of course I am not talking about killing someone or breaking the rules of  society in a radical way like that. But the guilt involved in finding one’s own truth should not go on forever. And if it does, well there is a lie in there somewhere.  It is the same with chronic pain if there is no physical cause.

This poem hints at the theme for my next blog.  Watch for it. And please comment if you have experienced chronic guilt, or succeeded in disarming it.

Chronic Guilt

You must, you should, you have to do
Believe and be and stick like glue
To family ways, the family tree
Tall and clean
Straight and green
You belong to us and not to you.

If you should stray, don’t show your face
We wont allow you to disgrace
Or bring us shame
Our name defame
Or you’ll be banished from this place

When reasons needing rules has passed
Still ball and chain of guilt holds fast
Release the tie
Disarm the lie
Free yourself to learn at last

Create yourself! What lines what hue?
What space defines? Yes think anew!
Be unique
Learn what you seek
And most of all, love your –  you.

It doesn’t happen in a day
Try to learn what you have to say
Art will free
You and me
When you’re all wrong, try another way.

The path you take exacts a price
Pick your road and don’t pay twice
No excuse
To not cut loose
Pay the toll and roll the dice

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.

What Does It All Mean?

Image is modified from:

Hoorah! I finished the first draft of Epiphany, my third book and second novel.  That was an accomplishment! Granted, it is full of passionate extremes and lush places to wander and wonder, but it’s entitled Epiphany. Does it live up to it’s name? Did I end up where I was going? Should I smooth out the bumps and delete the detours? Was it worth it? What was this journey like, and what will it be like writing it over?

It takes time.

I know I could have written this faster. But, rereading letters, making contact with friends from my Oregon adventures, musing on long walks, and sometimes, sitting at the computer at 4 AM, putting notion and inspiration into words—all of that and more, takes time. Like saddle breaking a horse, like baking a cake, like learning to play the violin, like listening to music.  I listened to Garth Brooks singing The River.

Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and
I will sail my vessel
Till the river runs dry…

Yes, trying to learn from what was behind me was worth it. Revisiting the haunting beauty of Oregon, and tying up the strings that brought me through heart stopping fear and mountaintop joy, going crazy, stretching the limits of my creativity, seeing clearly now and then. Wow. What a trip! Now I get to do it again, and find better words to honor all those that I met along the way. BTW, as I struggled through the first draft, I learned new wordplays. Here: I’ll show you. First, a simple poem about what I learned in the

 Game of Love.

Take what you want
And pay the price
Give it a shot Come roll the dice

You play the game
And steal the prize
Dodge the blame And pay with lies

Well, here is news
For when you cheat
Yourself you lose
In troubles deep

At the San Miguel Writers Conference, I learned an old form of poetry called a Villanelle. It is also simple—sort of lilting like the pastoral countrysides of Oregon. I wrote this villanelle about the same subject-love gone wrong.  That sounds “country like” doesn’t it?

“Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed
Embrace my heart and hold my hand,
I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

“You could be hurt, or even dead
But I’ll keep you safe in this wild land
Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed.”

“We’ll visit sites of which you’ve read,
Nothing’s too big, nothing’s too grand.
I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

“Abandon fears and take instead
My promised golden wedding band.
Come,  lean on me, and warm—my—bed.”

He filled her hands and filled her head
With all she and her God had planned.
“I’ll love you—forever,” he said.

He lied,  and bitter tears she shed
Ore cherished words, like fool’s gold panned:
“Come, lean on me, and warm—my—bed
I’ll love you—forever”, he said.

Oregon itself begs to be a poem.  Have you been there? Can you dream of such a place?

Lions, bears, possums, raccoons
Ravens, eagles, quails and loons
Mountaintops, valleys, cliffs and caves
Waterfalls, pools ‘n ocean waves

As I rewrite Epiphany, a journey into passionate extremes and lush places to wander and wonder, I want to take you along. It turns out this book isn’t about finding the love of my life-it’s about learning to love.

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.

Together—Hand in Hand

As I write Epiphany, my third book, I think about the children I met in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains where I worked as an Elementary School Counselor. A 4th grader by the name of Fawn comes to mind. One afternoon she was crouched, rocking herself back and forth outside the Principal’s office, wailing like her life was ending. I scrunched down to be on her level, feeling every sob tear at my heart. What could be so wrong?

“I did it to be pretty,” she sobbed. “I wanted to look just fine.”

“Why Fawn, you are pretty,” I said cupping her wet little face in my hands. And you are just as fine as you can be. What did you do that seems so awful? Did you burn down the school?”

“No,” she sniffled.

“Did you shoot your teacher Fawn?”

“No, she shook her head shedding tears all around, with the slightest smile showing that she wasn’t THAT bad.

“Well, what did you do then?” I asked, mopping her face and the collar of her dress with my handkerchief.

“I stole earings from Marsha Jane. She had ‘em hid and was showin’ off to the other girls in the washroom. So when she went out to recess, I stole ‘em— only Judy saw me. And now I have to see the Principal! I needed them earings to be pretty for my Grandpa.”

“Oh— well come on, I’ll hold your hand and we will go together to see our Principal Marshall Wayne,” I said. “Be brave. Let’s own up to this and take the punishment. Are you ready?” And so, I entered into Fawn’s world of fear and doubt, and found out all about needing to be pretty. After the experience —both horrifying and terrifying— I used the song “Where, I Can’t Find” that Lenore, Fawn’s sister wrote. We wrote it into  an original play we put together and performed. It was about feeling powerless, and not knowing what to do, until—well, sometimes being brave, strong, and hopeful comes only with an epiphany. And that is what we can help to happen for one another—together, hand in hand.

 Where I Can’t Find

When I want to feel like I’m pretty
When I want to look just fine
I’ll find my reflection in the eyes of my someone
Who lives only in my mind
In some far-away place I can’t find.

When I want to do great things
When I want to mend what’s broke
Miracles circle  just out of my reach
That call to me in my mind
From some deeper place I can’t find.

When I want to know the answers
When I want to feel like I’m smart
Bright bubbles of knowing blow by in the wind
That burst when I call them to mind
Float off to where I can’t find.

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back,

recently released in all e-book stores.

The Cave and the Treasure

Looking back, I think this was the turning point in what had been a lifetime battle with fear. It certainly was the most frightening and deadly.  Once begun, there was little chance of “chickening out”.  I had climbed the silo—a huge achievement for someone terrified of heights, and determined that the only way to shovel up the pile of hayledge plugging the auger was to get inside. But the -40 degree weather had frozen shut the doors. The only opening was around the blower spout itself.  Even if I could get through that highest door, bulked-up with extreme weather clothing as I was, could I get down to the grassy floor a story below; could I fix what was wrong and get out again?  The door was small and 65 feet above certain death.

Now I know that the door was a “Magic Door”, a portal to the unforgettable. Certainly, I will never forget the view along that blower pipe down into the silo, never forget the leap of faith it took to get in and out. Certainly, I was afraid, but I did it anyhow, because I could. So what treasure awaited in the cave I most feared to enter?  Self respect. For years, I had been using biofeedback in my work for a chronic pain clinic. I knew techniques to relax and quiet a heart racing out of control. I knew how to tame fear. On the other side of this task, was life governed by self respect.  What a treasure!


Bring it on
I can do it
I’ve been practicing for this

Check it off
This fearful task
Written large upon my list

Fear will not limit
World and vision
I am more then what I thought

I’ll take down
With facts and thinking
The barriers fear has wrought


cover of The Way Back
New novel: The Way Back

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.     To find it on Amazon, go to

Doing The Hard Thing

above photo came from

I just finished reading Seth Godin’s last blog:  which was about focusing and doing the “hard thing.” With that in mind, I decided it was high time to share the link to what I found to be one of the most inspirational readings on U-Tube) Roll the Dice   Why? Because I am about to tell you a story from my past-a “Portal to the Unforgettable” that is about all of the above. I hope it inspires you to do the hard thing.

Winter cow

Well here it was, the day of reckoning. With chagrin, I remembered that building the silo was my idea, because I was afraid of the fires we had started to burn the stubble fields after combining trefoil seed. “I know. We will harvest trefoil for cattle feed, and store it in a silo!!!!!” I declared, relieved that we would never again need to burn over our fields.  But, fear begat more problems, that begat more FEAR! And this day, it was COLD-so bitter cold was it, that when I pushed on the “never fail, easy lever”  the motor went ZZZZZPLop… dead. Well, I hit the circuit breaker sure enough, but what’s a mother to do? The unloader auger was working 60 feet up in the 70 foot silo and somehow, it got stopped and pushed up a pile in front of itself which froze solid faster than I could say, “Uh-oh.” Well I had finally climbed the silo—me —who  was terrified of heights—climbed it at night even—so I can do it again, but it was SOOO FRIGGIN’ COLDmust be -40 with a wind-chill that sunk temps another 10-30 degrees colder then that! And the cattle had come all the way from the balsam groves to eat trefoil and now, with the unloader stuck and frozen in,  they were getting “nadda” for their trek. They looked at me with mad cow eyes and BELLERED “FIX it, do the hard thing!

Fit for pushing levers but not for climbing silos, I sported Sorel boots  with felt inserts (the modern day Bunny Boots of the Korean War) a heavy duty snowmobile suit with hood over a full face mask and thick mittens over thick mittens, I was unbendable and about as quick and agile as a manatee out of water. But, I clunked my way up the ladder alongside the clean chute to open a door and see what was gumming up the works. There were doors all the way up the side of the silo and the unloading mechanism moved down with the hayledge, door after door, to blow trefoil through its tall curved blower pipe. Entrance was through the door a story below the unloader. Just open the door and climb in onto the floor of compacted grasses, I thought. I can do this.   I huffed and puffed, careful not to look down, a little proud of myself having beaten back fear earlier that winter on my first climb up. So I got to the door I must open, and there were no “easy push” levers up high. True story, my favorite securing system was baling twine. But our new OSHA approved silo had solid oak doors fitted with monster latches —frozen tight. With a death grip on the ladder, I pounded the door with my other fist hoping to shake the latches lose, but it was like battering a wet noodle against the walls of Fort Knox. Now why didn’t you bring a hammer, I assaulted myself for being stupid, and clunked on down again to get a sledge. Up again, and despite unleashing “David against Goliath” mighty blows, the latches would not move.

The only other way “in” was to squeeze around the blower spout where it emptied into the clean chute, and scrunch my bulk through the door alongside and over the blowpipe, and then free drop down a story onto the grass floor. I couldn’t cry, my eyes would freeze shut, but I wanted to. It seemed impossible. I couldn’t get help (that’s not allowed for a full time farmer type with pride) and anyway, who would I ask? We owned the only working silo in the county. I had never tried to scramble through an open door—how to do it? Feet first? Head first? And maybe I’d look down and … ! Breaking News flashed in my horrified mind. “Frozen farmer found stuck in silo door 65 feet up.” I could even see the photo with the News Flash: two boots sticking out the highest door (picture taken with a telescopic lens) the photographer standing on good old mother earth.

Could I get in? Could I fix the problem? Could I get out? If I got stuck inside the silo, the kids wouldn’t miss me until they ran out of Cheerios. Now this would be the greatest battle so far in my war against fear, and I needed to do the hard thing! Yes, I needed a win against my fear–for the future.

Blog Tour


TIME OUT! Time to look at how we write, what we write and WHY WE WRITE!  PJ Reece, author, speaker, writer of the Meaning of Life Blog, and inspiration to all of us in the Mazatlan Writer’s Group, writes about his process at   PJ, author and adventurer, uses his Blog  to invite us on a journey led by desire to the heart of the story.  Like Garth Brooks who claims that
Life is not tried, it is merely survived, If you’re standing outside the  fire,”
PJ’s protagonists are those “who have to dance within the flame, who chance the sorrow and the shame, that always comes with getting burned.” 

Garth Brooks and Jenny Yates, December 1993.

But wait. How connected is a writer to his protagonist? Is PJ proposing that author and protagonist enter the dark heart of the story together?  And what about the reader?  Just as my mind opened to the dimension of that idea,  PJ tagged me to be next to answer the 4 questions posed on a Blog Tour—to have the next  dance within the flame.

I worked at accumulating and keeping things most of my life—not at writing. But looking back, I realize there have been moments of transcendence that couldn’t be earned, made to happen, scheduled, or be deserved. Like Magic Doors, they are passed through, perhaps without being noticed. Called “insightful, spiritual, meaningful, transformative, or “peak” experiences, I decided to write about these “watershed moments”-yours, mine and ours, since they cross over the ordinary into another realm. How exciting is that!! Magic! This Blog called “Portals to the Unforgettable” is at .You are reading it now. My other blog is about the healing power of creative expression. Go to to find my paintings, books, and some poetry. If creativity has brought you healing, solace or joy, consider signing up and sharing.

What am I working on?   Leaving my Midwestern farm life behind, I crossed the Continental Divide westward, even as I crossed the boundaries of guilt, shame and fear into a new life of risk. Discovering the pot at the end of the rainbow makes a great story and I am presently writing it. Yes, another novel! Although it is essentially my story and true from my point of view, I do digress, so a memoir it isn’t! But this new historical novel, nameless at present, is aiming at being a love story, a mystery, full of action, danger, regret, joy, you know, all the spices of life presented in my voice which I am presently honing on my blog. Do you like poetry that doesn’t make you feel ignorant, but wiggles in sideways, and calls out your understanding almost by accident? I hope so. I seem to use the Taro archetypes everyone relates to. Also, I am aware of being carried along. Sometimes, I just sit down and the words come. Then I get to rewrite and that is so much fun. It is like painting a picture, choosing the colors by what feels right.

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre?   I think I have spent so much of my life alone or in the company of animals that I cook up punch that is flavored by the wilderness, impassioned by stallions, mournful as the cry of a sheep stuck in the briars, has a touch of awesome like the Northern Lights, is barren and windswept and sometimes lush as a pool in the rainforest. Of course it is different, for it filters through me, and I am practiced at not fitting in, having long kept my own company. But to my astonishment, when I read my work to my Writers Group, they nod in understanding. Could it be my punch is made from waters we all tap into, like a deep-down brook that runs through us? Listen to John McCutcheon’s “Water From Another Time”, and you will discover this wellspring:

Why do I write what I do?   I have this idea/dream that we are all on this ship together and looking at the passing scenery, but only from our own porthole. Now, when we share what we see, the view gets bigger.  Maybe the word I should use is “compelled.” I am compelled to write it down, to share my view just as Garth Brooks has in this centermost stanza of his hit song, also quoted above. 

There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide
Standing outside the fire

  1. How does my writing process work?   I wake up in the night-sometimes at 2:00 sometimes at 5, and instead of going back to sleep, I get up and write. Then with daylight comes chores and obligations, but during the day things come to me and I jot down ideas to chew on. Sometimes, when I am out walking, I get a notion and it sort of marinates, but if it doesn’t go away, I have to write on it. Getting it out in words satisfies the muse, but so far, I hear her calling me onward over a new Continental Divide to the unknown. I have always loved exploring.


An introduction to C.Michaels who joined our Mazatlan Writer’s Group, and soon began sharing her knowledge of self publishing and networking, all the while finishing her three suspense novels.  She now writes a column for the Pacific Pearl along with her blog. Keeping the reader guessing, Michaels is currently writing a smart thought provoking novel, the first of a series, called Casual Women, in which Maddy encounters some merciless characters in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. How will C.Michaels answer the 4 questions of the Blog Tour? Ahh-tune in for a revealing session with the empress of intrigue in one of Mexico’s most fascinating cities.

cover of The Way Back
New novel: The Way Back

Order the Historical Novel by S.K. Carnes,  The Way Back, recently released in all e-book stores.     To find it on Amazon, go to

Magic Doors to the Unforgettable. Meaningful and Transcendent Moments

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