When someone tells you news that he/she has told five hundred before you, it comes across as barely news. It’s rote, and it’s your turn, and that’s it. Part of the disease-brief protocol I was told: “There’ll be good days, and bad days.” Which has turned out to be rigorously, unspectacularly, allopathically true.

Today – for reasons untraceable to me – was mostly a bad day. Withered feeling and stumbling, reasons that used to serve well now out the door and gone-seeming. For the hundredth time I questioned the reason behind coming to Wales, to Totnes, behind an event at the farm, the wisdom of it, the merit. The sanity. Especially that.

A small pile of my books, waiting to be signed, to go out in tomorrow’s mail. I’ve done it armloads of times over the last fifteen years. There’d been few orders over the last six months, no occasion to write my name and offer grace this way. I steadied myself at the kitchen table, took one envelope at a time, memorized the name there, opened the book, imagined it in the daily life of where it was headed, readied the fountain pen, an expense I finally allowed myself last time I was in Australia, tried to rein in the scrawl to avoid later decipherment, manage some blessing.

And was improved. Not fixed. Not saved or cured or delivered. But slowly, I knew improvement. By the end of the pile, it had become something closer to one of the good days.

It took an hour to notice, such is the habit of bad days. When the understanding came round, I wondered about it. Actively, energetically, I found something close to awe in the machinery of good/bad days.

Here’s what it was: you were out there, somewhere. So many of you have let me know it, these last months especially: you’re out there. Even as my little life contracts, you are. I had, beneath the pen, living proof. In my troubled self, a bit of living proof. Which turned out to be enough.

Don’t believe for a moment that there’s no merit to your blessing, your benediction.

I should have told you this sooner.

And thank you for the back half of a good day.

Stephen Jenkinson
Founder of Orphan Wisdom

Dear Folks of Orphan Wisdom ~

You have been in our thoughts. Since the newsletter at the end of March when Stephen Jenkinson put out the call for people to write in if they might be interested in something happening at Orphan Wisdom… A Handful of Endings (Read that newsletter here). Letters poured in with hands raised to bolster the event. So many, some 500 folks, that we realized we needed to share details of tuition and logistics and then have people apply. Taking on an event of this magnitude in this way also meant the high probability there would be emails that slipped though the cracks,  folks that missed time sensitive deadlines, emails getting lost in spam boxes, and human complications. For this, I do apologize.

Even after the application step, there were still over 200 folks saying yes for an event with 90 spots. What follows is what came of those days and those considerations. We wanted to include you all in this in some way. To weave you into what is being crafted. To share that we haven’t forgotten the great unlikeliness of an event happening at all…

Letter from May 7th, 2024:

It has been possible to see the need to craft this letter for a few weeks now. But I am struggling to find the words. There were 239 good names in the mix of the draw this evening. We could have taken the easy road, used a computer generated raffle program, attached a number to your name and left it at that. But there is weight in this name draw, what has been bestowed on this act matters.

First thing this morning this letter arrived,

Dear Khadija,

I have given this gathering a great deal of thought and consideration. My life has been indescribably deepened over the past six years by Stephen Jenkinson’s words (both spoken and written), by his willingness to be troubled aloud as he has been, and by his generosity and the generosity of all those around him who make it possible for his good example and your own to be learned from and practiced. So, when this call came out, and I sat with the possibility of it and imagined being in community with others who are committed to grappling with this time in the world in this way and are committed to making a way for those to come, I wept. And I must have needed to weep. 

 That is my heart’s orientation. I want you to know that. But I have made the difficult choice not to submit this application. I am tied (in the most heart-bound way) to my community where I hold the nuts-and-bolts organization of a weekly farmers’ market and village gathering, work that requires me to be fully present every weekend through the summer months. And my parents and their spouses, all in their mid 80s, are needing more of me, and I of them, in these days. 

 I will send a letter along this week with a contribution to this event, with deep gratitude for Stephen and for all of you, and to help make it possible for someone else (maybe someone half my age) to attend, so that person might sense that some of us, flawed as we are and blind as we have been, are attempting to live as if they are to come. 

 With gratitude and love,


And it’s not the only one that has come in like this. There are many actually. People practicing culture feeding. I won’t pretend to summarize as if I know what Orphan Wisdom is, but it surely isn’t a retreat center, a self help program or a fix all.

Over the last week, a large ceramic vessel sat center stage on the small oak table in the middle of the house. Made of clay from a stream bed within earshot and adorned in a leaf pattern made from ground ash. She was a gift to my mum, bless her bones, from a dear friend and fellow artist over 30 years ago. Resting lightly on a piece of yellow silk, a gift from Nathalie. The bottom is dressed in a garland of the most fragrant ferns, gardenias and ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms.

A full bottle of some very fine Mezcal was offered to the large stone altar that graciously dominates the garden around my home. The rain came on hard. Each one of your full and good names were written on handcrafted paper with a red inked calligraphy pen. A sprinkle of lokelani rose petals on top and the beeswax candles were then lit. Ninety names and then twenty names drawn out over two hours, not to rush, not to force. Each one spoken out loud.

Old Man Kala, the sun, set one more time. A meal was shared and then we sat and drew the remaining names out… these were sung and kisses blown. A small fire still burns outside while I write this, lit with the paper of your names, all those prayers released.

Gifting Culture

We have heard from many of you asking for a way to support A Handful of Endings being in the world. Some from folks whose names were not of the 90 drawn to attend. Some from folks that can’t make the journey for health, family, or other reasons. Even others still, that simply knowing a gathering of this caliber is being prayed after, being built on goodwill and the great risk alongside it, that is enough.

In response to your petitions, to your asking, to your ways of practicing culture making, we kindly offer this link to send along a gift.

Contribute a Financial Gift Here

And, real mail, letters of kindness are welcomed and can be mailed to:

Orphan Wisdom
P.O Box 199
Golden Lake, Ontario,
K0J 1X0, Canada


A Grand Thanks,
Khadija Striegel
Orphan Wisdom Manager