Grief Dreams with Joshua Black

Mike just recorded another podcast episode, with Joshua Black, PhD. Joshua is a leading researcher in the field of grief dreams, dreams in which people who died visit the bereaved who loved them.

Joshua interviewed Mike about grieving after losing Susan, about Voices of the Grieving Heart, and particularly about several dreams Mike had in which Susan came to visit. One of those dreams is recounted in a poem which appears in the book. Four other poems from other contributors, about dreams they had, are also included.

The podcast will be released on April 17, and we’ll post the link here.

Book Launch Coming on April 7!

Join Mike Bernhardt and very special guests for the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of “Voices of the Grieving Heart.” This new, expanded edition contains over 160 selected poems, essays, and images by 83 contributors who share their journeys through loss, grief, and transformation.

Foreword contributor John Fox, author of “Poetic Medicine” and founder of The Institute for Poetic Medicine, will share his thoughts; Mike will be in conversation with author and event host Matthew Félix; and three contributors will share readings from the collection.

Please join us for this very special event in celebration of a very special book! Register by clicking the image below.

 

Voices of the Heart Book Launch on Zoom

Mike Recorded His First Podcast!

Mike spent an hour with Charlotte Jones, British host of the podcast “Be Boujee Be True Be You.” Charlotte is focusing on grief and loss this season, and she asked excellent questions about how creativity can help when we are grieving.

The podcast will be released on April 7, the same day as the book launch! We’ll post a link here when it’s available.

A Tourist In My Own Back Yard

This essay also appears in my local weekly newspaper, Lamorinda Weekly.

In the beginning: dark, damp soil. A small, black plastic pot of hope. Nothing seems to be growing but my own impatience.

A few evenings later, the dirt has begun to mound and rise, swelled by a pushing from below. In the morning a white nub has appeared below the broken surface of the soil. By evening the protuberance has thickened, a loop of pale white rope tinged with green. The next morning a head is crowning, something large and thick and green dragged up out of the dirt. By the end of that same day, the head has revealed itself, the stalk straightening and hoisting up the bean from which this miracle was born. …

All We Have To Do Is Breathe!

Last time, I wrote about our amazing dive trip at Raja Ampat, Indonesia. We had one incident that was pretty frightening at the time, but in the end was a great learning experience. I wrote about it for the British magazine Diver, “Britain’s best-selling diving magazine.” My story appears in their May issue! In the lower right corner of the cover you can see a photo of Yvonne and me.
Return with me now to Raja Ampat for a somewhat different take on what can happen when you’re diving in unfamiliar conditions. Click on the cover image, or right here, to read the story.

Diving Raja Ampat

Bluntsnout Scorpionfish

All around me was an utterly alien landscape. I tried to slow my breath, to be still, to float as quietly as I could. A forest of soft, beige coral swayed gently in the bluish-green light. A perfectly camouflaged pygmy seahorse, only 1/2-inch long, clung to an enormous fan coral with its tail. …

Volunteering in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Twelve well-behaved children sat politely on the floor, their beautiful, smiling faces looking up at Mike and me as we stood in front of the small classroom. It was about 7:00pm on a Thursday evening, and they were there to learn English. We asked if they had anything they wanted to know about us. “What’s your favorite color? And your favorite animal? Your favorite fruit?” These were not the questions we had expected. But what should we have expected a group of five to twelve-year old kids to ask? “What do you think about the current state of affairs in the U.S.?” Not!

We had been touring in and around Siem Reap that day, visiting a silk farm, Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples, with our Cambodian guide, Borin. Being a tour guide in Siem Reap is a fairly good way to make money, and if you know English and especially Chinese, you’re more likely to get hired. Borin was learning Chinese and his English was pretty good. I was actually surprised at the extent of his vocabulary, but tour guides pick up a lot of words from their clients.

We came to learn that, in addition to working as a guide, Borin volunteers his time a couple of evenings a week teaching English to a group of children in his neighborhood. When we heard this, Mike and I offered to visit his classroom and speak English with them. Borin’s three children were in the class; the smallest, age 5 and the oldest, age 12, eagerly raised their hands whenever we posed a question to the whole group. Borin explained that learning English is imperative for children in Cambodia. “English is a passport to a better job, the key to prosperity and having a better lifestyle. It is hope to a better future,” he said.

Standing in front of the classroom, I came alive! My natural desire to write on a white board and teach were ignited. I had the children guess English words by playing Hangman with them, which they loved—and they were good at it! Mike and I sang English songs with them, racking our brains to remember the words to The Wheels on the Bus, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Old MacDonald Had A Farm, songs we hadn’t sung since our now 22-year old son was small.

The coup de grace, however, was when we taught them how to sing and dance the Hokey Pokey!

In Cambodia there is a shortage of English teachers and a lack of resources, such as tables, chairs, books, and school supplies. When asked what we could donate, Borin requested tables for the children to study. We gave him $24.00, which was enough to buy four tables. When we received a picture of the children sitting at the tables, we felt glad that we had made a small difference.

Borin’s daughter, Nary, hopes to become a doctor when she grows up. With the efforts of her parents and so many other people who are committed to helping the next generation in Cambodia, she hopefully will get her wish.

Note: There are many opportunities to do volunteer work in Cambodia. Some organizations charge a fee, but many don’t. Even just asking your guide, as we did, might unveil some.

Hope for Cambodia

 “Rule 6. Screaming not allowed when being whipped or shocked with electricity.” —Posted sign at Tuol Sleng Prison

Our river cruise was anchored for the night in the Tonle Sap River. After a multi-course dinner including fish curry, fried rice, and beef salad, the twenty-three passengers gathered in the outdoor lounge on the upper deck. The crew, mostly young Cambodian men with poor English skills, were anxious to show off their substantial musical talents.

We listened as they sang their hearts out. Western songs by Elvis Presley, Bette Midler, and Kris Kristofferson. A few Cambodian pop hits. They sang in harmony as well as solo. One played guitar, another was a perfect showman—chin tilted up, smiling, eyes closed as he held a long, soaring note; our tour guide joked that he was going to win Cambodian Idol.

I couldn’t help thinking about how fortunate they were. A few decades earlier, singing those songs would have cost not only their own lives, but the lives of their families and friends. …

Negotiating with Nomads—The Essay!

In August, my essay Negotiating with Nomads won 3rd prize at the 2019 Book Passage Travel Writers Conference. And now, here it is on the Wanderlust blog at Geo Ex Travel!
https://www.geoex.com/blog/negotiating-with-nomads/