Many different sources have recommended gratitude journals as helpful, both to keep us aware of the gifts of life, and to help heal difficult circumstances that we encounter at times.

I’ve been thinking lately about the gratitude that I hold for WiVLA.

Nine years ago, I didn’t think I could ever belong to a group like WiVLA. Now? Yes, definitely. I’m grateful that I know myself better and trust my identification as an artist and a writer. Yes, I belong. I would have found that out eventually, I think, but WiVLA gave me a needed support system to get there sooner rather than later.

One of the first workshops I took was a poetry class with Sarah Cortez. Oh my. I was very impressed with her professionalism, her encouragement, and her knowledge. Plus, she is an excellent teacher. (P.S.: she’s coming in April for a WiVLA workshop!). For the next three years, I was often a student of hers, sharing her living room with other writers, feeling the sacredness of that space. I have learned so much from Sarah and fellow writers in her classes. WiVLA showed me the path to her.

A project that I did as a new member (I knew no one) was for the collaboration Altered Books. A woman whom I had never met before sat next to me at a meeting and asked me to join her in a book-making project. On our working evenings, she would make dinner and I would join her and her husband in wonderful conversation before our creating began. Then it was designing, photographing, cutting, and all kinds of collaborating to create The Tao of Dog. Jeannette, you were such fun and so delightful to work with. I have wonderful memories of this time together. Collaborations are projects that are unique to WiVLA and we have one coming up in November!

One April night, several years ago, we had two amazing presentations by our ECO Fund winners, Cathy Lachin and Jo Zider. Mesmerized by their projects --Cathy read from her book about prison life in Angola and Jo related her labyrinth installation at the Rothko Chapel grounds -- I was in a reverie about what opportunity the ECO Fund gives both its winners and the audience. Suddenly, I heard my name. I was the next winner, along with Sandi Stromberg! I felt like I had won the Superbowl, only I wasn’t going to DisneyWorld, I was going to Glassell! Taking art classes seems to have become a habit now, and WiVLA helped me build my art foundation.

Yes, those were all very special situations. But something I thank WiVLA for each month is the opportunity to commune with kindred spirits, stretch my knowledge during a great program, and be nurtured by interesting women. The regular meetings are the highpoints of my month, and give me energy that carries me further. Remember our Holiday Gathering? How much fun was that! And what about the WiVLA Big Circle in January when we shared our ideas for jumpstarting our creativity? We energize each other – and that is one of the gifts that WiVLA gives us.

Thank you, WiVLA!

Cori Austin

"An ekphrastic poem is like a jolt of electricity surging through a work of art."
- Patricia Smith, ARTLines2

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