A couple of months ago, I received a beautiful email from this show’s guest, Michelle Strutzenberger, announcing she was embarking on new starts and opening up new possibilities. After 15 years at Axiom News, where she’d worked as journalist and curator, she was moving on. Among her aspirations was to focus her talents in the area she had wanted to develop further: children’s book authoring.
Michelle’s email touched me – she’s magical with words. And, I have been a fan of Michelle’s work and Axiom News. Over the past years, Michelle had written a couple of pieces about my innovations in Appreciative Inquiry. We had this personal connection. Our lives had touched. On the one hand, I was surprised and sad that she was would no longer be with Axiom. And on the other hand, I was admiring that she was following her heart by venturing into new territory. As I didn’t want Michelle to disappear from my life, I reached out and we agreed to record our chat as a podcast.
Episode Overview – Rekindling Life’s Enchantments
In our preparation call some weeks before recording the episode, Michelle and I touched on a number of possible topics for our recorded conversation. Towards the end, Michelle offered the topic of “rekindling life’s enchantment.” It spoke to me and felt right as a topic to explore together.
In this episode, we start on topic, and then meander through the conversation in a free-flowing, organic way. We, in fact, cover a number of topics including Michelle’s 15 years with Axiom News as a generative journalist. We reflect on what makes journalism generative. Michelle introduces her new book, The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River that is seeking a publisher right now. I inquire into the the craft of writing and how it calls to Michelle.
We then circle back to our topic “rekindling life’s enchantment” towards the end of the show when Michelle offers some delightful way to intentionally reconnect with magic, whimsy, mystery in our lives.
What Might “Rekindling Life’s Enchantment” Awaken in Us?
Michelle recalls the enchantment she and her twin created for themselves when they first arrived in Canada as immigrant children. Even in times of uncertainty, they discovered the gift of being awake to, and seeing the spark, the allure in the conditions they found themselves in at different times. Despite bouts of heartache, and sadness and fear, they were open and alive to the delight of life. The enchantment – the magic and mystery and charm and whimsy – emanated from the reality of living life fully.
Intentionally Creating Conditions for Life’s Enchantment
If you find yourself somewhat numb and in a rut, or feeling fearful or threatened by your current circumstances, you can intentionally set out to create conditions that will find yourself delighting in life again, or reconnecting with your whimsical side. In fact, it is most likely that when facing adversity, the greatest opportunity to defend against the adversity or suffering is to rekindle enchantment and find new delight in life again.
The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River
Michelle’s second book, The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River features the wonder, excitement and adventures of four children as they unearth a most surprising treasure – the secret talents of their neighbours. The book is very much inspired by the spirit and intention of asset-based community development, the work of Peter Block and John McKnight of Abundant Community in creating abundant communities and the worldview and practice of Appreciative Inquiry – both participatory change methodologies that shine the light on strengths, capabilities and imaginings of what is possible.
Please visit the book's website to read a Portion of Chapter 10: A Heart Cleaned Out in a Hurricane
Building on Strengths and Dreams
In creating her book, Michelle’s own strengths and her ability to dream come to life. Her story explores what might be possible when communities thrive and where people lift each other up, honoring their gifts and talents. It invites what’s possible when we see the gifts in each other. What delights is that by lifting up everyone’s gifts in a community, wonder, adventure, excitement is sparked.
Influence of Generative Journalism
Linking back to our topic “rekindling life’s enchantment”, I asked Michelle if she always saw the world this way. She has no hesitation in expressing her gratitude for her work as a generative journalist at Axiom News. This type of journalism complemented her own natural talents and worldview as a writer. Take a look at Michelle’s post listed below to learn more about generative journalism.
During her 15 years at Axiom News, the team with founder and CEO, Peter Pula pushed up against watchdog journalism, sparking new possibilities about how journalists go about their work. As generative journalists, the inquiry is about people’s strengths, assets and what else is possible. They seek to find ongoing dialogue and partnerships to generate change and deepen relationships through a soul connection.
A Meandering Conversation – A Calling to Create
Together we touch on other a number of other subjects such as the creative act of writing. If it’s a calling, it implies one just has to do it. For Michelle it’s, in fact, the creative process – the act of bringing something new into creation – which calls or compels her. To quote Michelle:
A sense of calling…
A calling is something you discover, not something you choose. It’s about responding.
Circling back to Our Main Topic – Rekindling Life’s Enchantment.
After meandering far because I followed my curiosity into Michelle’ significant contribution to the world, we circle back to our topic, “Rekindling Life’s Enchantment”.
Michelle offers a number of ways to find the delight, mystery and reverence akin to a sense of life’s enchantment. Not only can we create the enchantment through our own experiences, as she and her twin did, and most children do, she offers that we can be nourished by the enchantment of others through their art, poetry, writing, music and a variety of performance media.
A surprising twist that makes beautiful sense is when enchantment comes to us because others find us enchanting. For example, a child responds to us with wonder; or, in early stages of romance when life’s wonder opens up.
Michelle offers also that we can rekindle life’s enchantment in the knowing that God always delights in us. When we have that faith, we are not dependent on others. Our spirit is freed and allows us to delight in all that is around us.
How to Connect with Michelle
MIchelle's website about The Secret Talent Shop of Pineapple River
Michelle on Twitter
Michelle on Facebook is Newshemayim
Michelle on LinkedIn
A Tiny Selection of Michelle’s Writing
Norman Rockwell ‘Land of Enchantment' mural 1934
Attribution: Plum leaves on Flickr
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