Teaser — Book Publishing Nearer

For the last year, a lot of my writing practice has been creating and compiling poems. The poems mostly begin with raw material from my private journal. It’s been sense-making. It’s been healing. It’s been getting the inner to the outer. The title came to me as I was learning to befriend despair, rather than just resist or deny it.

Along the way, a friend encouraged me to consider publishing to book format and harvest. I’m grateful for the support of CentreSpoke Publishing.

I’m excited (and a bit nervous also) to share that a book release is near.

A Cadence of Despair:
Poems and Reflections on
Heartbreak, Loss, and Renewal

I’m awaiting “proof copy” now. Which means that after a few more edits, it’s going to print. Ordering information will be available mid March. As will a  website with more info and context.

A Cadence of Despair has some pretty thick and heavy material in it. It’s got the deeply personal that I believe connects to the broader universal. My intent has been honesty. Authenticity. Vulnerability. The chapters follow a progression that descends to shame and grief, peeks up with hints, insights, and friendships. It descends again to loss and fear, to rise again to renewal and new life. I would offer that the descent is as important as the ascent in these journeys of well-being that so many of us seek. I wrote this book (it’s also accurate to say that this book wrote me) originally thinking it was more for men, but I think it is for women also — we are all trying to find our way.

I’m grateful for readers and the praise they’ve offered, which will be included in the book or on the website. Below is a little sample from a few of my writer friends.

From Christina Baldwin, Author of Life’s Companion, The Seven Whispers, Storycatcher, and The Circle Way

In this brave and vulnerable book, Tenneson Woolf illustrates once again that we humans are made stronger at our broken and mended places. His mid-life descent, survival, and ascent into a man still in process is a profound map. We may try to avoid these dark corners, but whatever we, the reader, face will be strengthened by the light he shines.

From Margaret Wheatley, Author of many books including Perseverance, Leadership and the New Science, and Who Do We Choose To Be

Whenever anyone tells the truth about their experience, hiding nothing, we have the chance to recognize the human experience. Dark nights of the soul are an initiation into spiritual wisdom. Dwell with Tenneson in these poems and you’ll know what this means. If you find yourself in these pages, you will have received the gift that Tenneson offers.

From Charles LaFond, Author of Note to Self: Creating Your Guide to a More Spiritual Life

Tenneson has wandered the valleys of grief and the mountains of success. His poetry is a companioning prescription for anyone living life with all of its joys and sadnesses. These poems are soul-food – healthy and healing. Drink deep of these poems and be not alone.

From Ann Pelo, Author most recently of From Teaching to Thinking: A Pedagogy for Reimagining Our Work

In his brave book, Tenneson embodies the courage of vulnerability and the grace of truth-telling. “Be with life,” he writes, and that’s the story he offers us—the story of being with life, in grief and discovery, with companions and alone and, always, with steadfast presence. In his poetry and essays, Tenneson opens his heart to us, and invites us to open our hearts to life.

Excited. Nervous. Grateful. And near.


3/17/20 — It’s now live. Please enjoy exploring here and ordering a copy as inspired. With appreciation.

Free Listening

I often feel that what I seek to do in this blog is to be a noticer. Of things big. Of things small. Of things that are not things. Of moments that come and go like one gentle draft of wind. Of long arcs that are so worth giving ourselves to over years and decades. I notice for myself. For others, to encourage their noticing, I hope. It’s a really rich world, isn’t it.

I notice things that are painful, like some of the conditions of runaway confrontation. Or smoke-filled skies that won’t go away as forest continue to burn. I notice things that are joyful, like the teapot sitting in my friend Sarah’s window, and the garden beyond it neighbored by centuries old Douglas Fir trees. I notice. I notice. I notice. Perhaps we all do, but just rarely find ourselves removed enough to be in the soft edges of it all.

I’ve been teaching and convening the last week. It was The Circle Way Practicum, co-hosting with Amanda Fenton, and convening with 24 of us. There’s a pile of that that I’ll share over the coming days. Insights. Impressions. Ahas. Or maybe, just the way that that encounter, six days worth, peels away enough of the tough outside to see the everyday in a more noticing way. Sorrows and joys that bring me to tears.

Well, as I scan through email that’s been coming into my inbox the past week, I see this morning Charles LaFond’s post on Free Listening. Another story of noticing. Another beautiful image. Another something to feel some delight in, or whatever within the range of human emotions that are so often packed into a briefcase or a hall closet, only to be found another day when less busy.


She stands in the park during the Grower’s Market and she holds a sign.  “Free Listening.”  When I saw her, and her sign, I was so happy I could hardly inhale.

And more… on Charles’ sight for The Daily Sip.

Get Out

Most of my life I’ve been seeking a relationship with the unseen. It’s a search on the outside and on the inside. It’s a search with succinct deliberateness and with passive roaming. It’s a search through my heart, mind, belly, and spirit. There were chapters of life in which I would have called it a search for the divine. At others times, spirit. Or, the other worlds. Or, or, or. But it has been most of my life.

I like posts like this from friend, Charles LaFond, “Go Ahead, Get Out!” Pick your own reason.

For me,

  1. it’s just thoughtful writing.
  2. it’s informed — one of Charles’ callings as been as an Episcopal Priest, and he knows a pile of history that I don’t.
  3. phrases like “lost to all but God.” This lost business is common.
  4. the courage it takes to get out. To trust. To leap into a chasm. To dare to find what is beyond the confines of so much numbedness and protection.
  5. phrases like “wound of knowledge”. There are times when I wish that I could lose myself as easily as my young teenaged son does into a video game.

Enjoy Charles’ writing. Sign on for his posts through The Daily Sip. Stay curious. Stay moved.

Charles LaFond on Spirituality Being Different From Religion

Charles is a friend, whom I adore. We met seven or eight years ago at an Art of Hosting training that I was co-leading. We got involved in a good body of work in Denver with St. John’s Cathedral for about three years. He now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico raising funds and building community for the non-profit, Heading Home. I enjoy his blog posts. He has a knack for bringing together the serious with a taste of the absurd to make it all seem so natural. Like adding cinnamon to chili. Or mustard to bar-b-que sauce. Charles evolves the edge of knowing in some exceptionally skillful ways.

Charles’ blog is The Daily Sip. If you haven’t signed up for it, do so. I reference it here frequently. I suppose I feel just a bit more human when I welcome his words to wash over me. This includes a recent post, in which he includes this from Vine Deloria, JR, a Native American Activist, Theologian, and Historian, followed by his own reflections.

“Religion is for people who are afraid of hell.  Spirituality is for people who have experienced it.”

Perhaps we are working too hard at spirituality.  Perhaps spirituality comes to us, and is borne within us, simply from the encounters we have with suffering.  With hell.  With pain.  With a desire to learn from our pain.

Religion will try to hand out spirituality like ride tickets at the amusement park.  You have read the Gospel of Mark?  Here….two tickets.  You have decided to get married?  Here…four tickets.  You have made your confession?  Here, nine tickets.  You sinned?  Give me back two tickets…

The serious. The absurd. The evolution.

Head for the sip. And enjoy.