Tag Archives: Art

Habitat Over Habit

I felt I needed to express “Habitat Over Habit” not just in writing, but visually too. I created this sculpture from a book that was already falling apart, “Magical Child” by Joseph Chilton Pearce, plastic, trash, wires, old digital materials, and ferns and sticks from outside our door.

Habitat Over Habit

Disease is an equalizer—it does not discriminate. Now Mother Earth has a captive audience, the world over. WOW!

Disperse           across           the           earth          and           feel          her          pulse.

Now we may finally choose Mother Earth over the economy… not just for three weeks, but entirely and for the good of humanity!

Now we may open ourselves to the actual possibility of EARTH REGENERATION. Now we may all SHIFT—all of the earth’s children, today and forever.

This global pause is an opportunity to reflect, repent, and ask forgiveness from our one true creator: Mother Earth! The form from which all life springs. Her ecosystem is so delicately dependent on a multitude of species, on clean, non-toxic reservoirs and waters, and on the trees that give all life breath! Make no mistake, Mother Earth is asking for our attention with this pandemic.

Now we may take the right type of non-action, a permission slip which has never before been granted. We have less air and ground traffic. We have disease everywhere but the Arctic. We have the collapse of distant goods. We are called to sit, face to face, with our loved ones in our homes. We are called to sit, face to face, with our habitat: a living breathing thing. Make no mistake.

How compelling that the safe place to be now is in the open-air, mountains, or sea! Make no mistake.

Now we may open ourselves fully to the concept of habitat over habit. We may REGENERATE, my people. We may SHIFT now, in this moment, today and forever.

Now we may think of the children. Now we may listen to them. Now we may protect them from things they do not even know are coming, by acting intelligently, responsibly, and humanely. By cutting our ties with non-renewable resources and maddening consumption. (See: toilet paper!)

Now is the time for scientists, not politicians, for empaths, not conquerors, for mothers, not tyrants, for native wisdom, not industry.

This is a window of opportunity that Mother Earth giving us. Brilliant, really, as if Mother Earth has a mind all her own…an intelligence beyond our knowing.

Now we may reset this maddening pace of life and habit of consumption.

What is more important than our elders, our earth, and our children? What?

Everything is connected, we can see that now. So let us connect with our micro-tribes: our neighbors, roommates, and families, and figure this thing out. Let us back up our lifestyle-changes with policy-changes, locally, state and nation-wide, and globally.

“You are but a drop of rain
clinging to the edge of the sumac leaf
by the grace of that same surface tension
that tethers you to your work and gives you traction.”
– Nina Gaby

Make no mistake, she’s warning us: lighten, lighten, lighten the impact.


We can’t buy our way out of this one, so let’s stop trying.

Where energy goes, attention flows: shut down Costco and support local economy. It won’t collapse in times like this!

Support local farmers, if you are fortunate enough to have them in your region.

Support your local soap-maker.

Wipe your ass with cloth. It’s really very simple.

Think about things like light pollution, and how it impacts species. Think about the interconnectedness of all things. Research what type of non-action or change-of-action would be beneficial in your unique ecosystem, whether you’re an urbanite or a ruralite. There’s hope for everyone, everywhere.

Let us choose Mother Earth over Father Economy.

This is the global SHIFT we’ve long been needing to restore our habitat. It can be done. Environmentalists and scientists know the action and that must be taken. If the Coronavirus response can be coordinated between nations, couldn’t saving the earth be, too?


Shut. It. Down.

Rebuild with wisdom from our native and aboriginal elders, who understood interdependence and acted accordingly. Rebuild with our leaders in environmental science.

Let us choose habitat over our habits, today and for good. Now we may act wisely for the greater good of humanity, in the name of Mother Earth.

How, I beg, will we answer her calling?

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

@terahvandusen on Instagram:)

Steps to Reclaiming Your Dream

While being realistic,
hold your dream up to the light
take a few moments to inspect the thing, its foundation
see what you have built and
where you’ll need to go yet
identify the soft spots
the weak spots
an’ fix em
grab your pen and paper
and fill-in-the-blanks
take measurements,
plan the steps you’ll need to take
examine your toolbox, keep it handy,
keep it close
don’t be open, but be rigid
for some it is the opposite—
for you it is not.
a natural born rebel,
reign yourself in
befriend routine
come to like it
come to love it
come to need it
you are a parent now
it is different, but better
be rigid in your intentions
this is how you will accomplish them
do not let others distract you
even those you lie next to
they have their path and you have yours
respect your differences
honor your path
sparkle, shine
be a woman just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
like your new child,
grow with everyday
grow taller
grow better posture
experiment with clothing and hairstyles again
do you and don’t let anyone
take it from you
no boss
no man
no body
with their grave,
adult expectations
again, be a woman
just because it’s fun
remember what you care about
make a mantra if you must
you is smart
you is kind
you is important

if applicable,
take the quotes on your
Yogi tea bag to heart
like todays:
walk beautifully,
talk beautifully,
live beautifully
Make art
you always did
you always have
why stop now?
make art of work
make art of love
make art of parenting
do not forget the lessons of your ancestors
which were: be bold, be bizarre, and begin again
begin anew everyday if you must
but begin
begin again
queen of the comeback, kid
hold your dream up to the light
that longtime dream:
I want to be a writer when I grow up
or a dancer
hold space for that little dreamer
notice the steps she took to get here
notice how culture has made room for
man’s accomplishments and goals,
less for woman’s
notice when space is not made for your
dreams, but don’t waste time complaining
just declutter
clear the space yourself,
unapologetically say
“this is my space”
say “these are my dreams, mother, wife or not”
say “yes, my dreams. They take up space and they take up time. Yes.”
say “now or never. Here to stay or gone forever.”
hold your dream up to the light
see how it radiates and shines

Mother Wasn’t There

Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo, 1946

Mother wasn’t there
when I bled in the JR high bathroom
I looked at the gray stall wall for reassurance
I found none
Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I needed feeding
in the beginning, in the middle, nor in the end
Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I was felt up under my red primary school dress
Mother wasn’t there so it happened again
and again and again
As it will happen, inevitably,
when a Mother isn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
when I cut my own hair
Mother wasn’t there so
“cut it like Dads” I told the barber,
uncertain of my role in the world,
girl of boy or boy of boy
cause Mother wasn’t there

Mother wasn’t there
but when she was there she covered me
in slobbery, 9-years-over-due kisses
They smelt like smoker’s saliva and
how I hated them and how she always
showed up just under one decade
At 30, that makes it three times mother showed up,
only the third time it didn’t happen

Mother wasn’t there
Mother isn’t there
I regret that someone I so despise personally
can leave a love wound this big within me
like a boy who never, ever deserved it
only not, because this is like the Grand Canyon,
(if I am being honest)
and the boys just leave a rivet in the sand
some laughable could-have-been

I regret the biological yearn for mother, father, whole
I regret, I regret, when Mother wasn’t there
I capitalize her name, the sick parts the sad parts,
she imparted to me insatiable love and passion
and now I can’t get no satisfaction
I am free child, free woman, wild baby, always have been
I built a shelter in my heart, for refuge from the wind
I learned to withstand life’s letdowns on a whim
I laugh in the face of pain, but I still fear it so
Mother wasn’t there when learning
all there is to know



Intentions for a New Season of Life


Brave the world. Be in it just enough to observe, earn, and give back. Escape it daily in an attempt to soothe your tired animal mind; spilling at the seams of this complicated human life. Adhere to the hermit way, it comes naturally. You are stick and stone, fire and water, a hot pot of tea, you are a simple flower, a timid bear, a lone wolf. You. You. You do it on your own. Take a few select things into your own palms and generate a life from it. This won’t be the first year you’ve done so.

Pages turn in the wind. You waste $2.99 on a set of “good pens”. They are not. You regret going out and getting your paws wet, wasting money. Your fate is solitude and opportunity, solitude and opportunity. A pattern emerges in the sand mandala of your life. Impermanence is a cackling witch assuring you that even your creativity is not fixed. It will not wait patiently for a boyfriend to come and go or for you to lose enough interest that your art rises to the top again.

So you bold your capital letters at the beginning of every sentence. Although this is a handwritten journal, you think it is what the professionals would do. Bold the capitals. You’ve seen it done.

The downside of your closed writing fist–gripping the new, slick and slippery pen–crushes an amber-colored bug onto the page. You smear it away and it looks like taco sauce on the page. Two distractions: one, children zipping through the park in fall on metal scooters in the wind. Two: professional. What is it? you want to know. Professional, adjective: a person engaged in a specified activity as one’s main occupation, rather than a pastime; noun: a person qualified in a specific profession.

Intentions for a new season of life: avoid generalizations. Never, fucking ever, quit Your Dream. Or all the little dreams in-between. In your diligent, orderly way, plot your escape from novice to master. Stop speaking if you have to. Write what’s in your head. Connect the dots in the world you see. Sketch a constellation. Name it. Gain pages. Lose friends. Win them back again. Fear blank more than sloppy. Rest. Rinse. Repeat.

Good Little Woman

One Red Elephant by Helen Lewis

This is a piece of photography art created by Helen Lewis of Suffolk, UK. Inspired by this photograph, I wrote the following story Good Little Woman (below).

For more information about the SPARK Project check out getsparked.org where you can also look at plenty of other art duos. Get involved!

Good Little Woman by Terah Van Dusen

The armpit of Humboldt County. That’s what I’d call that place. And I mean that in the best of ways. See armpits aren’t popular. And I don’t like popular. Plus armpits are warm, one way or another. Warm when they’re not wet. Just like Orick, California.

Orick wasn’t a one stoplight town. This was a no stoplight town, bordered on one side by lagoon and on the other side by a tall forest of redwood and fir. The small town was, oh a forty minute drive from Arcata to the south and Crescent City to the north with a whole lot of wonderful nothingness in between.

I lived in Orick for one summer and half a school year but the memories linger, and viscerally. I shared a room with my younger brother Jesse in a small yellow house my mom and step dad rented behind a burl shop. My mother was making jewelry at the time—beaded rainbow-colored earrings that hung long. Earrings for gypsies.

In the summer, my mother sunbathed outside with a neighbor lady. The neighbor lady had a big, scary dog she kept behind a short, brown fence. She had two daughters my age whom I played with regularly. We played Saved By The Bell and they wouldn’t let me be Kelly Kapowski even though they were both blond and I had long brown hair just like Kelly Kapowski. But it guess it was fair after all because one of the blond girls would’ve have to be Lisa Turtle and she was black. So I was Lisa Turtle, the peacekeeper.

At school, I learned all about saying Bloody Mary into the mirror three times. Which was scary even if “nothing happened” because the bathrooms were always dark and gloomy because that’s how Orick was because that’s how Humboldt County was—shrouded in fog and with a mean tree cover to boot.

It’s not as if nothing ever happened in Orick. But mainly, nothing ever happened in Orick.

However one time, the circus came to town.


I had the best teachers in the world and though I don’t recall their names, I’ll tell you about them: That’s right, there were two. Not one teacher and one assistant: two teachers. They were husband and wife and they held equal power. When they weren’t teaching they were archeologists. I suddenly wanted to be an archeologist too.

I didn’t even care that they usually had me on “orange” status (i.e. yellow=good, orange=almost pink, pink=bad). That was the coding we had on a big board in the back of the classroom—it’s how they kept track of us kids. Three pink slips meant a trip to the principal’s office. I didn’t have a chance to make it that far, I moved back to Rock Creek after the insides of my ears healed but that’s another story.

My two teachers taught us kids about dinosaurs and whales and they fed us mussel’s they’d collected themselves at the nearby shore. They taught us paper mache, let us paint using real paint brushes (not just the foam on stick bullshit) and always informed us of local current events.

Like the circus.


We were sitting in class when the wife-teacher showed us a big colorful flyer for the circus, said it was happening on Saturday and not just in Orick but at Orick Elementary School. Why not at the high school you ask? Because there was no high school.

To my surprise, a brown-haired boy who sat behind me nudged me and handed me a small square of notebook paper. I took it in my hand and looked at him but he nodded toward a bright blond boy who sat behind him. The blond boy shyly waved at me. I turned bright red, shoved the note in my coat pocket and turned my attention back to the wife-teacher because I was already on orange slip for the day and I didn’t want to get a pink slip (story of my life).

Side note: you know why I was always on orange slip? Because there were two teachers not just one.


Back at home I isolated myself in mine and Jesse’s bedroom. Jesse was outside playing. I sat on a bed near the window and it would be the first of many times I would fantasize about a boy while in bed. This first fantasy was tame, mind you.

I looked at the folded square of notebook paper and feared the worst: it would say how ugly and stupid I am.

I eyed the note. I could tell by its corners that it had been folded once and never opened. I looked at the bedroom door, wishing I could seal it shut with only my mind, and just for the moment. It would be so embarrassing if my mother caught me with a love note (at least that’s what I hoped it was). I slowly peeled the note open. It read:


I like you. Let’s go to the circus together on Saturday.
We can eat popcorn. It will be fun.

Saturday: I’d managed to get my mother to take my brother and I to the circus without telling her I didn’t really want to go to see the elephants, just a boy. We walked to the school-circus from our house—my twenty seven year old mother in her signature frayed, worn jeans with holes and a long-sleeve plaid man’s shirt. Her girlish fingernails and cigarettes fresh from the pack. Me with long hair and a long dress with flowers and pockets and lace. The only dress I wore that previous summer. A hippie dress.

We got to the circus before dark. We waited five minutes (which was a long time in our town) in line to ride the elephant. I rode the elephant as the sun went down behind the hills to the south. Where the redwoods are. I sat strait up on that elephant and my girl hips moved with it as it stepped. Up on that elephant I didn’t give a care about the blond boy who was suppose to meet me. I didn’t care about the blond girls next door who were lucky to have sisters not just brothers. I didn’t care about my ear problems or my mom and dad problems. I didn’t care that I would grow out of my favorite dress.

Sadly the elephant ride lasted only a moment. Two minutes at the most. Much like a really, really good song or that time I danced on stage in NYC or all the times I’ve dove under water in a clear, clean river, swam to the bottom and opened my eyes and no…one…could…touch…me and I didn’t even have to hear myself, let alone anyone else.

Some moments let us be untouchable.


Later, in the audience, I’m just like everyone else. I’m sitting on cold and flat and watching the untouchable trapeze artists and the little boy who can blow fire. I’m waiting for the next big thing.I patiently watch the circus show with my nine year old hands clasped in my lap—ever so often scanning the crowd for my blond date. All of town was there, and down from the hills too cause the place was packed.

Then I saw him. His patch of blond hair lit up under the dark canopy of circus tent. The boy was dressed in a black tuxedo, white collared shirt, black bow tie, shiny black shoes. My first thought was that I didn’t think I could find the courage to approach him, let alone allow him to buy me popcorn. My second thought was: who’s that?

Next to the blond boy who’d specifically asked me to be his date to the circus was a pretty little girl in a light blue dress. They were standing together near the popcorn. The fury rose inside me like a ring of fire. Why would he invite two girls? I reread his note in my head: Let’s go the circus together. We can eat popcorn. It will be fun.

It will be fun? This wasn’t fun!

Like a good little woman, I kept my head low until the circus show was over then I led my mother and brother Jesse home on the darkest possible route as to not be seen by the blond boy. I didn’t talk to the boy at school on Monday, I never mentioned the note, and he never apologized either.

If I didn’t already know she was his date, I would’ve thought the little blond girl was the little blond boys sister.

Arms Wide Open by Helen Lewis

Arms Wide Open by Helen Lewis

This is a piece of photography art created by Helen Lewis of Suffolk, UK inspired by my poem A Fortune Teller Once Told Me (True Story).

For more information about the SPARK Project check out getsparked.org where you can also look at plenty of other art duos. Get involved!


A Fortune Teller Once Told Me (True Story) by Terah Van Dusen

Several years ago
I had a psychic reading
Not at one of those hole-in-the-wall places
with the flashing lights
and crystal balls

It was done in my living room

My former roommate, Sydney, had her future read frequently
Sydney had the same lady come over to our house
oh, every couple months or so
Always when nobody was home
I don’t remember how it was arranged
but the next thing you knew,
I too was signed up for a reading
Sydney promised not to tell the “medium” a thing about me
That way we could insure accuracy

The medium didn’t wear a long, flouncy dress
Or bring a satchel full of rocks and crystals,
She showed up in her Subaru car,
dressed in a North Face pullover and jeans
Said to me, this isn’t my day job

We sat facing each other in the quiet house
Nobody there except for us,
That was one of her rules
That nobody else be there

She took a few minutes to gauge me,
Had her eyes closed, seemed to be sniffing around at the air
Like she were some kind of animal.
I closed my eyes too, I was tired

Maybe its custom to start out by saying a
few nice things about the person.
Because that’s what she did at first,
mentioned a few of my qualities,
built me up a little bit.
She said she noticed that I was a writer.

She told me:
Keep writing, someday there will be people helping you.
As you can imagine, I was pleased
This lady was good

She went on to say that there was a person from
my past, a person who wished to speak to me.
From a past life, from a past life, she clarified.
The medium then, with her eyes still closed,
began speaking in a stranger, lower voice
I realized that the spirit was speaking through her:
It’s you! It’s you! I cannot believe I can finally speak to yyyooou!
The emotion that came with this voice brought tears to my eyes
Ooooohhhhh, youuuuuuuu!
Oh, oh, you are sssso lovely in this life!

The voice was truly eerie,
but my, what a compliment! Lovely?

The medium broke the contact with the spirit
She looked at me and said:
Whoever that was they sure are fond of you.
But, know that not every spirit is good.
Spirits, like humans, are both bad and good.

Let’s move on, she said

I have some advice for you, based on what I’m seeing:
First, know that a good way to gauge your happiness, is that
you are happiest when you are light on your feet.

I would imagine…

Second, you should eat less spicy food. More fresh food.

No and okay.

You are very serious, watch more funny movies and TV shows.

Now, I have given you some advice about how to better your life,
I’d like to mention just a few other things before we close

You are wondering if you will have
everlasting love: you are not the type.
You will not be with the same man for all of your life.

I’ll show you!

You are wondering if you will be happy when you move from Arizona.
You will be happy, you will be more
whole than you have ever been.

In the distant future I see you standing up on a hill,
inside of a prairie or meadow.
Your arms are wide open.
You are rejoicing because
you have finally reached the place
where you’ve been headed all your life.

I will keep my eyes wide-open for that place…

That was the last psychic reading I’ve had
The only psychic reading I’ve had
The woman told me all I needed to know,
and then some.
Knowing your future is not fun.
Whether its true or not.
I mean, there’s the good:
I should keep writing!
People will be helping me!
I’m going to stretch my arms out wide like a crazy
person while standing in a high-elevation prairie!
And then there’s the bad:
I should give up Thai food,
No relationship I will have will last.

Enough is enough,
I know enough now.
I will seek that meadow where
I will be whole and free
and I will try my darndest to have a long,
happy marriage someday.
Regardless of my “destiny”

I paid the psychic $25 bucks that day.
She told me a whole lot more
But its been so long that I forgot it.
I hadn’t written it down because
at the time I was sure I’d remember it all.