November’s Child

November's Child - Book Cover

November’s Child © 2013 Bo Mackison

We will tell you this: we are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.
When we are finished, the strands which connect us will be unbreakable;
already we are stronger than we have ever been.
~ Martha Courtot

In August of 2012, I began an online class offered by Abbey of the Arts. The class was a twelve week interactive class, Women on the Threshold: The Wild Heart of Longing. The course offered story, creative arts, and guidance to step into a place of unknowing, the threshold space where the old is released so that the new can be born. (This is now offered as a self-study course.)

I wrote the following last November, towards the end of the course:

I study the [above] quote first thing this morning, before the early morning’s darkness turns to light. I again read the words, “We are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.”

The sky lightens a bit more, and I feel a lightening in myself. Walking with others, though still alone on my path, I notice a strength that I long denied. I used to say, “I am not that strong. I am damaged. I am so alone.” It was my mantra.

It was also self-prophecy.

As I repeatedly told myself that I was weak, damaged, and lonely, I believed those words with an ever-deepening conviction. But change is possible. It happens as I journal, work on art and poetry, walk in the nearby woods. Collecting the stones and feathers and stories from this workshop, interacting in spirit and deep connection, I notice a gradual change in myself.

I watch the sky as it cycles into morning, and I repeat words of wisdom, the real truth. “I am strong, I am whole. I am not afraid.”

For too many years, I carried my life story in my heart. Instead of focusing on the positives, I let the negatives creep in and weary my soul, grieve in my heart. My story was my companion — not a happy companion or a healthy companion, but it was a familiar. I knew the story intimately. Some times I pushed the story away, only to find that it had crept back to take residence in dark crevices. It filled my empty spaces. I never could push away the story far enough.

Finally, instead of trying to eradicate the past, I embraced my story of long ago. I accepted what once was, the unchangeable past that is neither my present nor my future. I stopped pushing it away and instead focused on my present, while the past lingered around the perimeter. Gradually my story lost much of its allure and power, its grip on me.

I decided to face the past to see if there were lessons to be learned before I could release it, and began an art project. I stopped making excuses. I worked on the release of anger and hatred, I considered old habits and re-shaped them. I am not allowing them to interfere with present-day living. Not perfect, but better, so much better!

My art project took wings. It was a photography project involving vintage childhood toys from the 1950s. I brought home antique shop and flea market finds. I stashed them in corners of my studio – a yellow dress, perfect for a kindergartener’s first day of school, starched and pressed; two tiny red school chairs; and a twin of my first camera, a Brownie camera, which was a present from a beloved grandmother. My last purchase was a lime-green tricycle, much pre-loved.

As I worked on the project, I remembered me as a small girl. I clearly saw this child riding on her cherished trike, allowed to pedal around and around the block, finding freedom in the experience of traveling that short distance on her own, pumping the pedals until her fear and loneliness lessened and she could be in her body once more.

These vintage items, this collection, is rather like a collection of stones and feathers and shells. As I live with these tiny reminders of childhood, I find my heart softening. Memories of a kind smile or a warm hug resurface. I re-connect with a small child’s determination and resiliency.

Crossing thresholds, listening and absorbing so much wisdom, breaking out of routine, beginning this very personal creative project — so many wonders, so many miracles!

The project is now completed. There are two books. The first one, in the above photograph, is a book I created and ordered from Moleskine + MILK. The second is an abbreviated version which I made after taking a workshop on hand crafted book structures. The second book was in an exhibit of artist books at the Tucson Festival of Books this past weekend, and was selected to be in an exhibit at the Tucson Main Library during the month of April.

As the above excerpt from the poem states, “We are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.”


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She finds healing in the creative art process. Photographs and an excerpt from the second book will be in the next post.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Congratulations, Bo! Working hard on being human is a wonderful task, and I celebrate you for taking that bold step. It’s wonderful that the library chose the book for its exhibition as well. Bravery is a wonderful reward.

  2. Joanna Paterson says:

    Wonderful stuff Bo. It’s so generous of you to share your process with us too.

  3. Abbey of the Arts says:

    Congratulations Bo! Such a wonderful post and a truly beautiful project of the heart. I am honored to have been part of the process of birthing!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thank you, Christine. The Arts in the Abbey workshop was truly the spark that ignited the creative force behind this book. I am very grateful.

  4. Bo – you are a constant surprise..and never-ending source of inspiration. I – too – recently did a class in hand-made bookmaking and have been playing with that. And – congratulations – on getting that book together and out there. I love your inner light!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Marcie, I love that we are traveling such similar paths, unknown to us. Book making is a opening door for me.

  5. Congratulations from me as well, dear kindred spirit! So much to say about this that I shall instead write to you! Well done, dearie, well done!!!

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