1/7, 6:30 online and 8:30 in person! 

Nothing ever ends 
without possibility  
and hope being born

An oldie but a goodie, from the first New Year after I started taking photo and haiku as a daily practice.  

I still feel the exuberance in the air from that day, the sense of possibility and adventure, tinged with affection for the people we were before everything that has happened since then.  

Things like pandemics, you know?  

And also, triumphs and losses from the sublime to the ridiculous that make us who we are.   

It's less that I miss who we were then, and more that I marvel that I could ever have not have known what I know now.  

Come celebrate the New Year with us at Friendly Tap this Saturday night with a concert full of songs inspired by Haiku Milieu.   

Join us online at 6:30 pm and live at 8:30 pm. 

May the New Year bring us all love and peace and trust in the mystery in 2023 and beyond.

2023 Haiku Milieu Gifts - shipping on me! 

Lately I start this email on Saturday, and finish it up in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  Right now, I wonder where you are?  If you are starting to wake up?  Starting to think about the day or week ahead?  Savoring the wee dark hours? 

Or maybe you are reading this when the sun is high in the sky, either Sunday (today) or the next day?  Over coffee in bed, at a table with flowers, or in between errands, or maybe during hold music?  Or maybe the day after that? 

And just thinking about what you might be doing, makes me feel like I'm there with you. 

It has always been this way, that the mere thought of another person connects us to them, but it feels particularly magical in the wee small hours of the morning, working on this email, when I feel like I get to tell you what you mean to me in the cathedral of my thoughts, where we always understand each other and the conversations always go the way we intend. 

On some level, I think that's all the Holiday season is trying to do.  To get us back to that moment of genuine appreciation and understanding.  We anticipate stringing moments of connection together, one after the other, like lights on a tree. 

We think about the people we love. We make plans to get together if they are still with us.  We look past the things that didn't go right, and look for gifts and experiences that carry the energy of what they mean to us, to them. 

If you are interested in giving the gift of Haiku Milieu to those you love, most everything you need is on sale now. The 2023 Calendar, just 4.75 x 4.75, it is itself a haiku! - and it comes with a card in a beautiful antique gold envelope.  You can choose last year's card or this year's card. It's perfect for mailing to a beloved person or stuffing into a stocking. 

And of course there are the Haiku Milieu books, audiobook, t-shirts, greeting cards, and more. 

If you are looking for a Haiku Milieu experience, consider joining us for the Saturday, January 7 "Best of Haiku Milieu" concert that will happen at Friendly Tap, preceded by a Haiku Milieu concert screening. 

Have dinner at Autre Monde next door, then walk over to hear some of your favorite local singer songwriters share songs inspired by Haiku Milieu backed by a formidable band. 

My hope is the Haiku Milieu does for you what it does for me: makes you feel connected to your life and experiences, and the people you love.  If it does, pass it on. 

As my gift to you, shipping is on me! 

Quantities truly are limited, so please take a look as soon as you can.   You will find everything at haikumilieu.com.

Let's DO this! 

Sending this with the very warmest Thanksgiving greetings!  
I hope your Season is off to a beautiful start.   

As I write this, the rain is falling with a gentle insistence, as if to say:  
Do the things you got talked out of doing.    
Forgive the people who don't even know they've wronged you, including yourself.  
Shelter what is true in you, and in others.  

Saying these things is one thing; doing them is another. So I made the first-ever Haiku Milieu Calendar for 2023 to keep us both company in the coming year.   

It's stocking stuffer size, just 4.75 x 4.75. It will fit in a purse or a pocket, hang on a nail, or perch on your desk.   

My hope is the calendar will do for you what the rain is doing for me: reminding you to do the things, forgive the things, and protect the things.  The "things" you say?  Yes, the things. The things that I can't know for you and you can't know for me.  If that sounds like a lot, just know I'll be doing too, at the same time as you.  

Let's DO this!  

Shipping begins on December 2.   You can order the 2023 Haiku Milieu Calendar and the brand-new 2022 Holiday Card at haikumilieu.com.

2023 Haiku Milieu Calendar! 

        

SO MUCH good news to share! 

The first-ever Haiku Milieu Calendar debuts in stocking-stuffer size for 2023! 

The debut of the 2022 Haiku Milieu Holiday Card! 

And…drumroll please… 

HAIKUMILIEU.ART will be live this Black Friday!!!  With fun things for you to bring into your lives for the Holidays, or for no reason at all! 

it began as all things do, with the enthusiasm that begets worlds. 

And in the beginning, it was as falling in love always is.  Trancendent.  Everything else looked like it wasn’t trying very hard, even those things you’d poured yourself into.  This new thing.  This is going to be IT!  This will change my LIFE!! 

In reality, what is it that changes your life? 

The myriad tiny little things you do every day.  The things that typically elude your notice.  Like the way you drive a certain routes, hello to people on the way into the office; and also the way you might grumble to yourself on the way out of the office.  These are the things that make a life.  

That kindly rearrange themselves so your new great love has some room. Truth is, they are excited for this new love as much as you are; maybe things will change around here!  Shake up the monontony of this ordinary and wonderful life. 

So it went when I had the idea to launch haikumilieu.art. 

It started because I was tired of all the odds and ends of merchandise still sitting in my basement.  I imagined them, listening to the dehumidifyer go on and off, the water heater turn on, Robin and I rushing past them with a load of laundry here, a hasty search for something there.  

I keep wanting to make physical objects and share them; I don’t want to keep having to find room for them in my basement. 

Hmmmmmm.  I thought. 

And haikumilieu.art was born. 

On a weekly basis, I’ll upload the new Haiku Milieu.  If you see one you absolutely love and don’t want to wait for the next book to see if it’s in there, you can go there and pick up a poster, a card, a coffee cup, or my personal favorite – MAGNETS! 

Sounds obvious.  Print on Demand!  Sounds SOOOOO simple, right? 

Except for… 

I have made more than 10,000 haiku, taken more than 35,000 photos, and published 1,250 of them online and another 150 in the Sunday emails.  Guess where they all are?  All in mixed together.  With everything else from all other parts of my life. 

So first, the great sorting. It has begun, and it will be ongoing.  For a long time.  And I mean, maybe as long as forever because once you dig into your archive, there’s just a lot to process. Even with the best of intentions, you can get lost within 30 seconds between memories, ancient urgent things you meant to do years ago and now could do quickly, and the sheer overwhelm of having to move through it all. 

Enough of it has occurred, however, for haikumilieu.art to be LIVE THIS FRIDAY! (Did I say that already?) 

Second, the great reckoning of with what you have created.  I am lucky enough to have had several Haiku Milieuvians who I respect and admire ask me for a calendar.   We hit the threshold with the number of requests and so it moved to the first position in the cue for the 2022 Holiday Season. 

What is it you ask?  A CALENDAR! 

And as I tend to do, of course I wanted it to be BIG.  A big, saddle-stitched, high-quality paper, 4-color love affair that would inspire you on a monthly basis to find the extraordinary in the every day. 

But then I learned about resolution.  It’s one thing to share images on the web, another thing to gather them in an 8x8 book; and quite another thing to reproduce them in larger formats.  

So now my brain, one foot in this world, trying to bring something new into it, and one foot in the past, trying to get something out of it to get it into the real world of now, almost exploded.  

Remember, my art teacher in kindergarden made fun of another student’s art.  My high school art teacher ridiculed my painting of a bird for being so much larger than the landscape.  I CRIED when I thought I would have to take more art classes to graduate!  And now I have to learn about photo resolution?!?  

Who am I even? 

My husband, you know, Robin?  The one with the art degree? Stepped in and said calmly, “can you make a smaller calendar?” 

what? 

who even says that?  To ME? 

when have I EVER gone smaller?? 

yet… 

my heart stopped pounding.  I could hear the tv on in the other room instead of the blood pounding in my ears.  my overwhelming desire to consume the entire box of gluten-free crackers subsided. 

OK, I thought.  He’s on to something. 

SMALLER.  

a haiku. 

a single espresso. 

how rain sounds as its moving towards you. 

how the moon looks as it’s waxing. 

Turns out, most of my favorite things ARE smaller.  If it turns our yours are too, you can pre-order both here: 

You can pre-order your 4.75 x 4.75, 2023 Haiku Milieu Calendar here and the 2022 Holiday Card here.

 

We Got This! Or, Me and the Allen Wrench 

This is me, finally getting an Allen wrench to work! 

I wish you a week where you pick the right key for every lock, glide it in smoothly, open the door and walk in with a sense of accomplishment, every. single. time.

And if it doesn't go that way, maybe go get yourself a cup of something warm and delicious and have a think about what would make someone (me) smile like that about getting an Allen wrench to (finally) work, ultimately concluding that they (me) like you, tried and failed again and again, yet never gave up. 

WHY did they (me) never give up?  Was I buoyed by love?  Friendship?  OF COURSE.  I didn't take that picture myself, you can see both of my hands! My friends were cheering me on.

And so now we get back to the crux of the matter, which is: should you feel alone and friendless, overmastered by an overwhelming if minor task, think of your friends (like ME!), all of whom have triumphed over a mundane task as you will surely do when you get back to it, and imagine us cheering you on. 

WE GOT THIS!

Your Better Angels, a haiku poem 

Your Better Angels
A Haiku poem by Jenny Bienemann


Your better angels
want you to know they are there
watching over you  

Every heart must learn
to fly and fall and not break
so they send you birds

Birds will sing your heart
right back into your chest, home
like it never left
 
Very suddenly
what could never be made right
dissolves into hope

That’s just what they do
those better angels of ours
we hardly notice  

When you can’t believe
what is happening to you
look for the feathers  

tiny little signs
all around you, all the time
for you, only you

So many ways of looking at the world.  And each way has its own way of working with your heart and mind. 

For this Sunday, I started with the idea of a message from our better angels. 

Especially when I write the Sunday Haiku Milieu haikus, I ask my muse to think about my readers.  What do they need to hear?  What can I share about what I truly think, that would bring comfort, meaning or peace to them?  

I loved the idea that our better angels were trying to get a message across, and was thrilled when the line "want you to know they are there" had seven syllables!  The next question was: should I use the phrase "looking out for you" or "watching over you?"  Ultimately, that was determined by the image, and I used each in different ways.

While I can't imagine that I will never NOT love the line and motion of black ink on thirsty paper, I could not have imagined how much I would enjoy drenching the ink drawings in color, and experiencing how it changes the meaning of the image, ultimately influencing the haiku. 

You can see the progression: drawing, color, haiku. It is OK if the image and haiku are not written together, or at the same time, but they do have to WORK together.  This is why I ultimately chose the simpler image. I thought it worked better with the haiku.

When you're a songwriter, everyone asks, music or lyrics first?   People have started asking me: image or haiku first? 

And all I can say to both is: YES. 

Both are first sometimes.  They influence and depend on each other.  But nothing is final until it is FINAL.  I changed every stanza of the "Your Better Angels" poem, and played with the size of the image that whole entire time.  I think I'm done now...but let's see.  By the time I post this, I may have changed my mind!

And as much as we might wish that the ideas arrived fully baked and ready to serve...that is rarely the case.  You have to figure out how to stay present for long stretches of time and lean into not knowing if and how and when it will all work out.

Spoiler alert: it always does. Eventually Even when it doesn't.  :)

Thanks for being with me on this journey!  I love hearing from you.  Want to get on the Sunday Haiku Milieu train?  Sign up here: haikumilieu.com.

 

"Fall"-ing in Love 

"FALL"-ing in love.

If there is a secret to triumphing over the inevitable dispossessions of age and its trusty sidekick existential despair, it has to be falling in love.  And the light of Autumn?  The air?  The sense of possibility?  It's like falling in love, this time every year (FALL-ing in love - get it?)

Everything deepens and enriches everything else. 

I am what you might call a serial monogamist. I have been married for decades, I’ve had many of the same friends for longer than that, and I’ve kept at this (monkey) business of being an artist far longer than certain family members thought advisable. Ha! 

Somehow or other this serial monogamist keeps on falling in love. 

By now you’ve deduced I’m not so much talking about falling in love with another person as much as falling in love with, well, the world around you!  With the leaves twirling in the air. With a perfect cup of coffee. With that new friend. With the way the sky looks over there. With the new song I’m writing. 

This love -- and what grows out of it -- is deepened and enriched by every other time I’ve ever been in love, with anyThing or anyOne else. 

Fast forward to today. I still can’t help photographing things that catch my eye, but these days I am loving making a drawing, taking a photo of it, and exploding it into shapes and color as the basis for a haiku. 

The burst of joy I get from doing that is very like the other times I have fallen in love. And also, completely new. Sort of like a bridge between the past and the future. I almost always feel this way in the Fall.

I might think about those people, places and things from times past or a hoped-for future. And while they might find their way into the words of a song or a Haiku, it’s more that they keep me company, holding my hand as I traverse the new path, helping to ease the passage as the new is born from the old. 

Everything deepens and enriches everything else. 

It’s a great gift to be an artist.  If you’re reading this I’m guessing you already know that.  But did you know how grateful I am for you being part of my creative journey?  It bears repeating: I don’t take any of this, or you, for granted. 

I’d love to hear what you think about this new direction, so drop me a line if you feel like it. 

I hope none of us ever stops falling in love with the Fall, with life, and each other.

What Would We Find - Heading Slowly Towards the Beginning 

10 years ago this past weekend, "Heading Slowly Towards the Beginning" came into the world. 

Every project is a reflection of who you are at that moment. That record would not turn out like it is, if I tried to make it today.  I am glad I made it then! 

To celebrate this anniversary, it is available to download for free on my website, jennybienemann.com, or you can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. 

I received my first Illinois Arts Council grant for this project, and it was the boost I needed to fine-tune a project articulating the change in my artistic practice from working as a solo artist with a looper to working with a full band: bass, drums, three guitars, keys, a string quartet, and more than 20 harmony singers!  The differences between working like that, and working as a solo artist, were staggering. 

When you work alone, you have the freedom to carve from a fresh block of wood the melodies, harmonies and instrumental parts so that they swirl together in a way that is both satisfying on a recording and replicable live. You are in a kayak, open to the whims of your muse and free to change direction instantaneously, bounded only by the limits of your imagination and abilities. 

When you work with other people, you are steering a ship.  Your turning radius changes. Your imagination soars, no longer bound by your own limitations, but now there are the orientations of others to consider.  The whisperings of the muse can become harder to hear. 

I recorded the ten songs of ‘Heading Slowly Towards The Beginning’ with a core band that included John Abbey​, Robin Bienemann​, Andon Davis​, Steve Dawson​, Kevin Liam O'Donnell​, Quartet Parapluie, Alton Smith​, and so, so many wonderful harmony singers. 

All but two of the songs were recorded with my trusty longtime friend/collaborator Bruce Roper​ -- many songs played on guitars he made -- and the other two were co-produced with Steve Dawson, early in our collaborative relationship.  It was mixed with my dear friend and fellow taco enthusiast Blaise Barton​.  Everyone of these people amplified my ability to listen to my muses. 

Maybe two years prior, Robin and I started going to the FitzGerald's open mic and I invited folks from the open mic to sing with me on "What Would We Find."  We gathered at Bruce’s magical Little School Street studio, and only needed to record the group singing a few times.  Everyone was paid in chocolate chip cookies! 

Another highlight was working with Steve at his Kernel Sound Emporium on the song "Asleep," the very first song I wrote on the looper, that would become the second to last song of the album. 

Best of all - when I listen now, I hear the joy of those new friendships, that deep sense of companionship, that gentle delight in each other’s company, musical and otherwise, permeating each song.  I am beyond grateful to have a literal “record” of who we were then. 

What we didn't know about what would happen in the coming years! How could we have known?  How wonderful that we didn’t. 

I hope you enjoy it! 

If I held you in my arms 
where the river meets the sea 
what would we find?