Poems are a literary snapshot of life, just as photographs are a visual moment in time. We have all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. A poem has few words that mean much more. Anyone can write a poem. As a first grade teacher, I taught my students how to create and illustrate poems. Even before they could read, they would tell me their ideas and I wrote them on the board in short phrases that formed poems.

Being aware of your environment and jotting a poem or message to remember is helpful to learn from life. On a winter day, I looked out the window and this is what I saw:

Life Lesson From The Red Fox

By Heather Rodale

The Scene
It was a crisp bright morning,
After a snow
The sky was pure cyan blue
The snow was new, no dirt, no tracks,
Just peaceful and undisturbed.

The Action
Then came a red fox
Nose to the ground, one-track mind
Swiftly scurrying across my yard
Intent on finding breakfast below the snow
“Smack” he hit the tree,
Between his eyes.
He shook his head and looked at the tree
And continued on his way.

The Lesson
With one-track minds, we miss important details.
Continue on, with eyes wider open.

Poetry can be freeing and forgiving as we jot our thoughts without the traditional rules of grammar and punctuation. Most important is the message in any form. Years ago, I was angry with my mother when I felt she did not understand me. Trying to convince her of my point of view only made us more distant. A wise woman told me to write down things I was thankful for about my mom. When I was finished with this poem, I was able to forgive her. I was healed from the stress of anger and the relationship with my mother began to improve.

Prayer For Mom

By Heather Rodale

Thank you for listening to my childhood chatter;
    For listening to the story
    Even if it was the end you wanted to hear.
Thanks for being patient with my many questions.
    Dad told me I asked too many questions.
    Now my kids tell me the same thing.
    Over a lifetime, it has been an advantage
    Not to outgrow this habit.

Thank you for making my childhood home and garden
    A beautiful place to live.
    I now find peace and inspiration
    In the feast for the eyes of beautiful places.
I am fortunate that you made me eat healthy foods as a child.
    It is now easier to do as an adult.

Thank you for helping me to see all of humanity
    With color-blind eyes;
And for teaching me to use my hands
    As an outlet for my creativity.

Thank you for encouraging me to go to college.
    It was there that I discovered
    The joy of learning and the feel of success.
I am grateful you gave me a religious education as a child.
    When I needed faith as an adult,
    I knew where to find it.

Thank you for teaching me to be patient and understanding with adults.
    It was obvious that I needed these skills
    To work with children.
    It was more difficult to use them with adults.
You taught me to accept and enjoy love;
    As the gift it was given,
    And not always as the gift I wanted to receive.
You have shown me that forgiveness and healing
    Are hand-in-hand.
For all of these, I am blessed.


Art Journaling is a technique combining journaling, poetry or prose, with scrapbooking or artistic expression as part of a book. Pages in my art journal might include memories, thoughts, poems or stories I don’t want to forget. The themes include: my children, gardens of my mother and grandmothers, favorite sites on trips, and memorable experiences like hearing the Dalai Lama speak. Themes can even be as simple as a color, object, or a collection of photographs.

For Art Journaling How-To help go to:

Art Journaling for Children

A great gift idea for children is a blank book or artist sketchbook with art supplies like colored pencils or markers. A few years ago, there were several toy recalls around the holidays. A local organization was collecting toys for sick children in a hospital. I made gift sets of unlined blank books with brightly colored covers and art supplies for the children to draw as well as jot down their thoughts. The organization said this was one of the best things the children received as a gift.

Older children or adults might enjoy using their own photographs to create a story. My daughter left me with her cat when she was traveling. I was sick at the time and as I lay on the couch, I noticed this cat did some really funny things. I photographed his antics around the room from my vantage point. This humor (and the cat) was great for me and I began to feel better. Later I put the photographs in a little book, with comments, as if the cat was narrating the story about his vacation at my house. I gave the book to my daughter when she returned. These little Pick-Me-Up Books pick up your spirits, as they provide the reader with humor or comfort.

Additional Resources

Books on Poetry

Felleman, Hazel, selected by Poems That Live Forever (Doubleday, 1965)
Farrell, Kate, Selected by Art & Nature: An Illustrated Anthology of Nature Poetry (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992)
Famous People Select Their Favorite Poem and Say Why It Inspires Them (Arcade Publishing, 1995)
Keillor, Garrison Good Poems For Hard Times (Viking, 2005)
Kilcher, Jewel A Night Without Armor (HarperCollins Publishers, 1998)
King, Susan Deborah One Breasted Woman (Holy Cow Press, 2007)
Koldofsky, Eleanor The Healing Heart: Poems of Loss and Life (Malcolm Lester Books, 1998)
The Nightingale-Bamford School, Introduction by Anna Quindlen Poems for Life (Arcade Publishing, 1995)
Oliver, Mary Why I Wake Early (Beacon Press, 2004)
Miller, Karin B. ed. The Cancer Poetry Project (Tasora Books, 2009)
Roberts, Elizabeth and Amidon, Elias, ed. Earth Prayers From Around The World (Harper-Collins, 1991)

Books on Art Journaling

Beam, Lisa Sonora The Creative Entrepreneur: A DIY Visual Guidebook For Making Business Ideas Real (Quarry Books, 2008)
Freeman-Zachery, Rice Living The Creative Life (North Light Books, 2007)
Gregory, Danny An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From The Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers (HOW Books, 2008)
Ludwig, L.K. Collaborative Art Journals and Shared Visions in Mixed Media (Quarry Books, 2009)
Perrella, Lynne Artists’ Journals & Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages (Quarry Books, 2004)
Soneff, Sharon Art Journals & Creative Healing (Quarry Books, 2008)
Taylor, Terry Eco Books: Inventive Projects From The Recycling Bin (Lark Books, 2009)
Trout, Diana Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression (North Light Books, 2009)