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Some address the pandemic blues by taking a personal jogging challenge; others create and publish a book!

COURTESY OF LUCY FORSTEN - A photo of Lisa Kagan at work in her Woodstock home studio, creating art for her heirloom books and for her books of art and poetry The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused some people to seek creative ways to deal with isolation, and the sense of dislocation from society and self. One Woodstock resident used her artistic abilities for solace – and as a way to come back to herself during hard times. Lisa Kagan found that writing poetry and creating art became a salve for the soul, and that led to a book which she published this past summer entitled "Coming Home to Myself".

For almost two decades Kagan has hosted workshops throughout the Portland area through her business, "Family Heirloom Arts" – a business dedicated to helping individuals and families celebrate their own life stories and significant life milestones, through the creation of illustrated heirloom books: "As a college student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, I wrote and illustrated my first family heirloom book, which would eventually become the genesis for the creation of my business."

Even before she could talk, as a very young child, Kagan began painting life-size papier-maché birds with her father, Neil Kagan, who is also an artist. When she was three years old, she and her father collaborated on the creation of her first illustrated book. "I did the illustrations and narrated the story," she says, "And he wrote the story down and then assembled the finished book."

So, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, she kept writing and creating art that she describes as "serving as an intimate companion for navigating life's passages. This collection is an ode to the kindness and generosity that the world desperately needs, and the power of turning that caring toward ourselves."

A simple 7½" by 7½" book of 112 pages, it contains nine chapters that she describes as "exploring the essential elements of the human experience: Courage, passion, patience, grace, faith, resilience, wonder, gratitude, and renewal." Each chapter includes four to seven short poems, accompanied by lusciously-colorful paintings infused with the influence of nature.

"I have always been drawn to nature, and its infinite wisdom of design. In the spirit of the quote by John Burroughs – 'I go to nature to be soothed, healed, and to have my senses put in order' – throughout my life, I've felt that I am tapped into my best self when I am immersed in the beauty of nature."

Indeed, nature has been a panacea for many during the pandemic. To read Kagan's book, some say, is to experience the beauty of language and nature through poems and art, and to be uplifted and inspired to continue on in hard times.

In the chapter entitled "Resilience", her poem "Poems For Myself" illustrates the simple beauty of her writing. It contains images of resilience that the reader can relate to especially during these times when a virus and its variants have upended us:

Poems for Myself

This year, I wrote poems for myself

word by word

an attempt to anchor myself

amidst a swell that took me completely under

each poem became a small meal

that I cooked for myself

even though I thought I was not hungry

the act of writing was mainly about arriving

affirming, "I am still here, I guess that counts for something"

some days the poems were more like love songs or odes to beauty

fishing for something in the universe

that I might catch hold of,

something that could announce with confidence, "There are still great gifts that await you"

in the morning poetry offered the kindness of silence

when it was hard to know what else to look towards in the day

to write was to befriend myself again.

Lisa shares her home in Woodstock with her musician husband Lewis Childs, and their nine-year old son who attends Lewis Elementary School. "I started Family Heirloom Arts studio based out of our home, where I facilitate art and writing programs focused on personal storytelling."

Lisa has published a previous book of original art and poetry, "Emergence"(2009). She continues to offer art and writing workshops and retreats throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is the co-founder of the "Touchstone Retreats" program, and a facilitator through "Portland Women Writers".

Lisa's book can be purchased through her online store – tinyurl.com/avmfb5kr


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