This post came from an Inner Goddess Revolution writing “assignment.” As of today, it’s about 2 parts wishful thinking, 1/2 part reality, a big dash of accountability to myself, and a snapshot of who I am.
The conundrum was how to write about what hasn’t happened yet because I haven’t created it (although I want to). Some of what I want to accomplish in the world may change and who knows, I may have a life partner at my side while I do it. At any rate, I decided to style this writing as interview with myself, rather than as an article or obituary.
Nobel Laureate, Activist and Erotic Poet Turns 100
Michelle R. Denham, Writer
October 4, 2067
Michelle Rene, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work and writing on human rights, women’s empowerment and sustainability, celebrated her 100th birthday today amongst family and friends. The celebration included champagne, chocolate, homemade ravioli, and at least one favorite dish for each guest. The press was not included at what could be called a “borderline gala,” but as a close personal friend of Michelle’s, I was privileged to be granted an invitation to the party as a well as a brief interview with a woman who is as well known for her poetry and non-fiction as she is for her activism and a, ahem, somewhat erotic side.
Michelle, when did you begin writing, and why poetry and essays?
It seems like I really didn’t get going until my 40s, but in retrospect, I started writing in elementary school, mostly poems or short stories that were assignments. By high school I was actively corresponding with friends, most of who were a little older than me and had entered the military. My love of books propelled me into an English major in college, where I got to do what I loved most: read and write. I also explored astronomy while I was there, which inspired some of my earlier poetry as well as my honor’s thesis. Then I stopped writing for a while. My marriage failed and ended in divorce, I became depressed and was a single parent trying to survive life and make my way through a master’s program. The writing stopped. At some point I started journaling again, but my muse seemed to disappear and I didn’t go beyond morning pages for years. I’d write a poem here and there, or a blog post, but nothing much of consequence. When I hit my mid-40s, I realized that writing was important to my wellbeing. I couldn’t live without it, and at 46, I made a promise to myself to write daily. Didn’t matter what I wrote or for how long, just so long as I wrote something for myself. And to this day, I write something every day, although a lot of the time it’s with help. The fingers don’t work the way they used to. I consider myself an essayist, blogger, and a poet more than any other kind of writer. They seem to be the best way for me to get my message across—things don’t get lost in the details the way they can in novels. And really, it’s what I’ve mostly written.
But what about your erotic poetry? What was your inspiration?
Oh, that poetry! Well, I wanted to explore my sensual side in my 40s. I was single, not having sex, and wanted to write something that intrigued with a hint of titillation. I began reading what I could my hands on, although most of it was crap. I think what really kicked it off was a boyfriend I had. We wrote a few stories for each other in the short time we were together. Then I tried to read the infamous 50 Shades of Grey and couldn’t get through it because the writing was so horrific. I decided that I could do better, so I started writing under my pen name, Michela L’Arancia. Then I realized that if I was going to write erotic poetry, I needed to explore my sexuality, so in my mid-40s I took an occasional lover.
Out of all those lovers, did you find a soul mate?
All the men were special in their own way, but none ever fit the soul mate category. I made a lot of decisions about my life when I hit my mid-40s, when I was 46 in particular. I realized that the work I wanted to do in the world was much bigger than myself and I wanted to ensure I had time to write. I made a conscious decision to not pursue a relationship—too much responsibility. I didn’t want to come home exhausted from traveling or teaching and not be able to give a significant other 100 percent. Besides, I’ve learned that soul mates come in many varieties and most do not make good partners. They do make excellent teachers, though. Having lovers worked out fine, especially since I wasn’t willing to give up sex! I’m often asked if I ever got lonely, and to be honest, sometimes I did. But I never spent a night alone when I didn’t want to!
I can see by the mischievous twinkle in your eye that’s probably true. But what about this work in the world. It included creating models for a sustainable, holistic approach to life as well as empowering women.
Yes, both were equally important to me, although they came to me separately. I hit an all-time low at 45. I was unemployed, and my daughter and I were living off of food stamps and child support. I couldn’t pay rent and ended up more-or-less evicted. Fortunately, friends had a place for my daughter and I to live and I finally found work. I realized I wasn’t the only person in this situation of being educated and unable to make ends meet. This was part of the Great Recession back in the early 2000s. Unemployment was at an all-time high, people were losing their homes and one of the biggest sanctioned financial scams left thousands homeless and destitute—middle class people, poor people. The only ones who fared well were the very wealthy. The 1% they were called at the time. Anyway, I’m rambling. I wanted to find a way to work, make ends meet and live a sustainable lifestyle. I wanted either no commute or a short one. I wanted to grow my own, non-gmo, organic vegetables. I wanted to live a simpler lifestyle where I used less energy. And most importantly, I wanted to help other people find a way to do this as well. Once you have to rely on one job and a long commute to earn a livelihood and survive, your life is no longer sustainable. I came up with a way to help people find and use their talents for a variety of jobs so that they always had an income stream coming in. Some people wanted to work from home, some wanted to work in an office. Some wanted both. I was able to structure systems for each, then I created workshops to help guide people into this way of living. The old paradigm of working for one company and working your way up was gone and it wasn’t coming back. It was time to find a way for people to live in a village and receive the benefits of that lifestyle while maintaining their individuality. From the workshop sprang books, and as they say, the rest is history.
Empowering women also gave you equal renown.
Yes, it did. When I started kayaking at 39, I never thought it would lead to empowering women, but it did. You see, I found the practice so empowering that I wanted to share it with others. My friends loved to kayak with me, so much so that going alone was a problem. I preferred kayaking by myself, but I couldn’t tell anyone I was going! Otherwise, I was taking others. Anyway, the kayaking led to a blog for single women kayakers, which lead to Kayak Therapy. I thought about my cousin who had a horse therapy non-profit where she worked with women and girls. I loved the idea, but kayaking was my thing. So, I decided to start working with therapists to find clients—women who were really ready to take their next step in healing and empowering themselves, and so it began. Once I had the business aspect dialed in—it took a few years, I created a model and took it to cities where there were kayakable bodies of water and women interested in empowering themselves and others. Between creating sustainable practices and start-up models for Kayak Therapy, I had to hire women to run my local business.
Lesser known, although equally important to you, is your spirituality.
It is, it is. I consider it as much of a catalyst for everything I’ve done over the last five decades as much as anything else. I used my training as a shamanic practitioner as much in Kayak Therapy and sustainable living as I have anywhere else. It’s also become the mainstay of my witchy ways. While I never became a shamanic practitioner for the purposes of right livelihood, I use it to help maintain my integrity, my relationships and to take care of planet.
You’ve lived quite a life.
I have and I’m grateful for it. I think my take-aways for this lifetime is to get busy cleaning up past-life karma, and love unconditionally—everyone and everything, especially yourself. It makes life a hell of a lot easier.