Soul Places

Befriending the Soul through Inquiry and Creativity

The Caste of Cast


Molten Iron
Copyright Kelly Ludeking 2000


This is a poem I wrote for my husband, Kelly Ludeking.  He is a sculptor who works with bronze, aluminum and iron to create cast artwork.  This weekend is the Ninth Annual Down on the Farm Iron Pour on the Ludeking family farm in NE Iowa so I wanted to honor his work by sharing the poem.  If you ever have an opportunity to attend an iron pour, GO!  Describing it does no justice.  It must be seen.  Occasionally, I participate in these events, wearing the dirty brown leathers or the newer safety gear “silver suit.”  Standing in a shower of molten iron every now and again, seems to balance my water sign.

The Caste of Cast

Cast ironmongers
dance about me
They are rabid for fire
to melt the metal
that makes manifest
their sickness
This curious group of people
with dirty brown leathers
heavy steel-toed boots
and graphite war-painted faces
travel far and wide
to spy the orange glow
of liquid iron
They wait for the call to iron
They recognize it as goose bumps
crawling over their skull
To deny the query
Is to forsake their true inheritance
Cast ironmongers
dance about me
Alone in their iron tribe
Together in their aloneness
The temple of their
creative soulness
– by Diane Ludeking

Pouring Iron
Copyright Kelly Ludeking


A Fishing Story

Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

A Fishing Story from Once Upon a Time:

My neighbor was the type of person who took me fishing even though I didn’t like fishing.  I hated trying to get the barbed hook out of the tiny fish mouths (I only caught the tiny ones), the membrane so thin I could see through it.  The thought of those precious smelly lake dwellers floating dead to shore made me decide not to bait my hooks anymore.

Was I the only one who saw those fish wash ashore?  The sight of them removed my very heart as though a razor-barbed hook had mistakenly caught me there and yanked – yanked like you would if a shark were on the other end.  Had I mortally wounded that poor sunfish in my attempts to get a free ride on the lake?

After all, it was the lake I longed for.

Not poorly baked fish with nasty bone textures.

So I squeezed a few extra sinkers on my nylon line, right above the hook with my own needle nosed pliers that I pulled from my vest, and left the hook naked.  When I was advised to use a lure, I put my Snoopy fishing pole to work, reeling the line in so fast there was no way those tiny shiny fish could catch it.

Whenever possible I just sat in the boat and imagined living in the lake too.  I would be one of those seaweed dwelling creatures who don’t mind the slimy textured plants.  There are so many wonderful places to hide in the seaweed forest of a lake and fisherman’s hooks rarely venture there.

Or maybe I would just be the seaweed reaching toward the sun, brushing the underside of your boat.  When I come loose and drift to your beach, I could create a grave of seaweed for those fishes that washed lifeless to shore, my pardon for killing them in a former life.  You would wave back at me as you floated above, safe and dry in your watercraft.  You could hear me stroking a greeting beneath your feet if you were still enough and smell my fishy smell if your cologne was weak enough.  Or is it really my seaweed smell that makes the fish odor?  That fish smells seaweedy.  Sounds about right.


Beloved Steeds
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2009

A fleshy bone
for later
Lost for years
beneath weeds
by more weeds
Wading across the cold
spring-fed stream
A beloved horse attached
to a lead rope in each hand
They remind her
it is here
Beneath weeds
on the far shore
She mounts one steed
ponies the other
Walks into
her universe
and yawns

Where I’m From

Harvesting apple trees for fire wood from the defunct Art’s Orchard
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2010

Where I’m From

by Diane Ludeking

I am from apples,
from Barbies and Breyers.
I am from the perfect, orderly home.
I am from lily of the valley,
the strawberry vine.
I am from the confessional
and the marriage of death,
from Dan Dan the Boogie Man
and Dearest Sean.
I am from the salt of the earth
and the spark in the night sky.
From money doesn’t grow on trees
and work hard.
I am from purgatory.
I’m from a tribe,
kitty cocktails and Schlitz.
From the vacation destination of Yogi Bear,
the bruised cousin dying from a mysterious disease
and his anorexic sister.
I am from Art’s Orchard
my father’s lost legacy.

I have a few different versions of this poem as I tend to create one every year.  They are quite different from each other and lots of fun to write.  My Soulful Journaling participants created their own “Where I’m From” poems last week and enjoyed the process as much as I enjoyed hearing their finished products.  Many thanks to my teachers Julie Tallard Johnson and Prudence Tippins for introducing me to the process of poem writing.  The original “Where I’m From” poem was written by George Ella Lyon and is used by many poets and aspiring poets as a template for creativity and to lyrically document their lives.  Where are you from?

The Garrulous One or Gimme the Meat

Phelps Park, Decorah, IA
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012


This little poem is the result of a writing exercise I gave myself: pick a word from the dictionary at random and write about it.  My screen saver is words and definitions so I picked the first one that caught my eye.  Can you guess the new word?

The Garrulous One (or Gimme the Meat)

In a mound of tomato sauce slathered
starchy spaghetti noodles
lies the meatball
Simple carbs
empty calories
trivial drivel
Surround the meat
And in conversation
like this meal
I desire the meat
Tell me your truth
Share your struggles
Experience the witness
Leave the conversation coma for another
I desire the meat

Universal Voice

Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
San Francisco
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2009


One of my favorite writing exercises to give my Soulful Journaling participants is Circle Writing.  I write one prompt at the top of a loose leaf piece of paper – a different one for each participant.  Then they choose from the stack of prompts and pass the rest around until everyone has a unique prompt.  They write for two to three minutes, practicing fast writing to get beyond the thinking mind.  Then the piece of paper is passed to the person next to them.  When this new piece of paper is in their hands, they are to read only the last sentence, or better yet, the last few words, and then begin fast writing again.  Write for two to three minutes, pass the paper and so on.  I participated in this exercise last week and wanted to share the results with you.  See if you can tell where someone else picked up the writing (there were five different people that wrote this piece).  My prompt was:  There is no silence without…

There is no silence without…


Too much noise!

I grit my teeth and flex my bowels when there is too much noise.  But without it, I would not know what silence is.  And how precious and kind and nurturing silence is without all that noise.  The TV with a volume that seems to start at 90 and go easily to 100.  Ahh.  My silence.  My long lost friend.  A silent lover.  The still and quiet part within myself.  A shelter from the chaotic, buzzing, craziness of the days.  The silence envelopes me most in the morning.  When I can curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee.

Gradually, the world seems to wake up with me – or am I just then becoming aware?  Was I just then becoming aware of loss and pain?  I suppose that awareness does come at a certain age.  Like my daughter, who is almost four.  She talks about death, but it is clear that she doesn’t understand the loss, the gravity of the loss, that comes with death or does it have to come along with death?

Maybe we/I have just been taught that death is a loss, an ending.  But it does seem that way with death, the physical person/animal/plant/whatever is not with us in the same form anymore.  Gone to a place that everything journeys to.  A place unseen and unknown.

In the society we live in to talk of death seems unnatural and uncomfortable.  Strange when we become aware that is cannot be stopped.  Death scores us, it surprises us, it is something we never fully prepare for.  Yet it’s as universal as life.

And as necessary.

I have played a game with death since I was thirteen years old.  I’ve thought I could cause my death by welcoming it.  I have never really tested my theory.

Could you tell where one writer ended and the other began?  Can you hear the universal voice written by five different people?  Remember, these writers only knew the sentence – or even just a few words – prior to adding their own ink.  What is the theme?  Is there an antidote to too much noise?

The Shore of Self and Career

San Francisco Shore
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2009

Journal entry 5/02/12: Today I feel the pull.  The gentle tug to return to some things before I get too far from them again.  It’s easier to return to the shore when I keep it in sight.  Easier to return to vital things, life giving things.  Meditation, playfulness, writing, running, nature, my animals.

Recently I willfully lost sight of the shore of my old working life to venture into open, foreign waters for a new experience in career: teaching; an integral part of what I now know to be my life’s work.  A necessary venture into uncharted territory.

The shore I do not wish to lose sight of is the shore of what feeds my soul.  I am free to ebb and flow from this shore, but to lose sight of it again means inevitable struggle and possible drowning.

I feel the gentle tug back to the shore of meditation, my animal teachers, nature, sweat and movement.

To intentionally lost sight of the shore of career doesn’t mean to lose sight of the shore of self and all that nurtures her.  But can they become one again?  Have they ever been one?  I think not.

I am in search of the shore where career and self can both be found.  Where they become inseparable.

I feel the undercurrent pulling me back to this shore, to mesh career and self for the first time in this life.  Can this symbolic shore be taken with me when I venture again into the unknown?  Again and again?  I must find a way to do so.

Dreaming Big or Shrinky-dink?

A Ferociously Journaled Page Curls
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

“You don’t love yourself enough to believe you deserve everything you want.” Lisa McCourt, Juicy Joy

This week found me journaling ferociously about what I deserve or what I have a right to.  It began when I realized my life is not in alignment with my dreams as much as I’d hoped.  And although I am narrowing the gap in several areas, I wanted to explore ways to narrow the gap in the areas that appear stagnant.

Seeking self-improvement is a fine line between appreciating what I have while creating something different.  Like being perfectly imperfect, it is quite a balancing act to accept myself as I am while desiring growth and change.  Which brings me to what I think I deserve or have a right to.  I cringe at both those words – deserve, right.  When I have a strong reaction like this, I know there is something there worth exploring.

“The secret to elevating every aspect of your life – love, money, health, life purpose – is simply to elevate your self-love. Lisa McCourt, Juicy Joy

Journal entry 4/24/12: I noticed I’ve been dreaming smaller lately.  Trying to fit into the limits of my own mind, not the limit of the Universe which I wrongly assume is that of my mind.  The Universe is limitless.  What is the point of limiting myself when I could have it all?  Where is my self-love lacking?  Let’s dream again…

And I dreamt big!  I filled page after page of things I’d forgotten and surprising new things I didn’t know I wanted.

Journal entry continued:  I give myself permission to dream big again.  I give myself permission to have it all.  All the dreams and the responsibility that comes with them.  I am responsible!  I am capable of managing the dream.  The dream life.  The dream life is a mirror of my alignment.  How I express my soul and manage my ego.  The dream life is a mirror of my self love.  I am not the shrinking shrinky-dink.  I am not these things that limit me – they are too small for me.  I claim my place in my dreams that are not yet as big as me.

And so goes the stream of consciousness that is journaling.  Some real gems in there and even more “to-be-continueds” as I live more life and learn more things.

Have your dreams shrunk or disappeared altogether?  Gift yourself twenty minutes today to dream big again.  And then take the first step in the direction of those dreams.  Please share your thoughts or dreams in the comments.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow.  I think this applies to dreaming big too.

Warriors Weep

Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

“There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.” ~ Adrienne Rich

Time and time again I’ve witnessed TV interviews of people apologizing for their tears.  In some cases, these people wave their hands at the camera, cover their face or ask for the camera to be turned off, while others get up and walk off set.  I’ve witnessed this refusal of self in public places with strangers, private places with friends and even within myself.  This need to apologize for what is real, what wants expressing, is a phenomenon that makes me want to weep for those who deny themselves of this gift.  The gift of expression and being witnessed , truly seen, by another.

Sometimes the only thing I know for sure are my emotions.  My sadness, my anger, my elation, my childlike play.

These things never betray me.

Nor are these things me.  I am not sad, I feel sadness within me.

My emotions are a fingerpost home in a maze of trails through the woods.

When did it become necessary to hide these things?  Or apologize for them when they break through despite all my efforts to the contrary?  It is not easy to be vulnerable, to honor our emotions, especially with the eyes of so many upon us.  That’s why Warriors Weep!  Courageously.  Unapologetically.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Seaweed Forest and Flying

The forest's version of seaweed. Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

I’ve been running past this cluster of wooden things several times a week for the last month.  Today I finally stopped to take a picture.  And twenty more throughout my run.  So much for keeping my heart rate up, but I knew this day would come.  The day when I could no longer just pass these things by without capturing them more permanently.  And considering the way my mind tweaks things with its vapid recall, I also knew my imagination would distort the heck out of these.  But don’t they look like the forest’s version of seaweed?  The way they wave without moving?  The way they beg me to swim through them instead of run around them?

I confess, my inner child is on the move these days.  And why not let her play?  These beautiful cool spring days exist for a limited time.  Before long the bugs will drive me wild, causing flailing and cursing at the air around me as I also try to maintain my awesome barefoot running form.  An occasional slap of my flesh will reveal my own blood drawn from a mosquito I’ve now killed.  But until then, let the child free!

Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

Today she is grateful for her freedom but also takes time to encourage contemplation of the punitive action parents take when they ground their kids.  I don’t have kids and have never been grounded, but is it meant to be like a pilot without wings – grounded?  I don’t know if that’s where it came from, but it sure sounds about right.  I’ve seen the face of a child being grounded and it looked a lot like the wind had been taken out from under his wings.  Grounded.

If you were ever grounded as a child, make time today to fly and dedicate it to the child within you.  Running makes me feel like I’m flying.  So does horseback riding.  What makes you feel like you are flying?  Will you do it today?  I am interested in knowing what makes you fly – please share it in the comments.