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Photo Credit: Burch Driver

Woken in the half-light before dawn by ravens gathering in the neighboring trees, their insistent voices carrying calls from two blocks away through the half-closed bedroom windows where I rise. The air is cool, enough that when I went to bed alone last night, I pulled the comforter up around me to ward off wind gusts while I slept. The air silvers around me as the light comes on, along the Eastern ridgeline, the spine of the mountain as bare as a brave woman lying on her side. I look at my face in the mirror and wonder if you would recognize me now, you who have loved me across these lifetimes. I think not, for how often of late I do not recognize myself, bone and breath, memory and longing.

I placed a tiny temporary tattoo of an orange butterfly on the inside of my left wrist yesterday, remembering the curandera telling me that left is the way of spirit and the medicine man who mentioned the angel in the air above me with wings so flamed that their color melded gold and orange. I put the tattoo there to remind myself that transformation is a process, one that if rushed leads to undoing, with its body pointing to my heart along the pale purple and cobalt roadmap of my veins. Alone, in the morning air, my skin prickles, goose bumps rising along the casement of flesh, my neck puckering at the nape and my hair moving with its ripple. I wonder at morning chill and the first scent of fall in the air and how rebirth requires first a death and then I hear, from two rooms away, the click of a coffee mug on the glass-topped table and then my father’s laughter as he calls to me:  It ain’t over yet, kid. Rise up now, Dora. It’s really only just begun.

©2017 Dora E. McQuaid


Dora offers a daylong version of one of her most popular original workshops,
The Alchemical Heart: Writing into the Sacred!

Dora has been teaching different versions of this original workshop nationally for over fifteen years and it has emerged as one of her most popular programs.

In this five-hour, daylong workshop, Dora will be combining sacred and contemporary poetry, contemplative readings and experiential meditations, as well as exercises to help us explore our connections to the Divine and writing exercises designed to deepen and sustain that connection on a daily basis. Our exploration and writings will assist you in exploring the questions deep within your heart, and, more importantly, will support you in listening to the answers, creating space for the truths leading you forward to the life that wants to live through you.

Participants will receive a compilation of sacred and contemporary poetry, as well as an extensive listing of additional resources created by Dora that support further exploration of creativity, spirituality and writing.

This workshop is being offered as part of The Sage Institute’s 2017 Summer of Creativity and Consciousness programs. Dora has served on the Board of Directors of Sage Institute for over nine years.

Download a printable document about this workshop here.

More information and to register here.

The Sage Institute For Environment, Creativity and Consciousness, Taos, NM
Saturday August 12, 2017
11:00 to 4:00 pm

There is an Early Bird Special for this workshop of $75.00 if registered up to midnight of Saturday August 5, 2017. After August 5, the workshop cost is $90.00.

If you have any questions about this workshop, please contact Dora directly here. Dora is very excited to be offering her favorite workshop and hopes you will join us!

All peace to you. Dora


Photographer unknown


A 4th of July story from my family, because gentleness offers its own kind of freedom.

My father told stories of dark humor and grace:
The 4th of July I when I was 17, my father was drunk.
When the parade came down Rosemont Avenue,
we were all on the porch,
all in the patch of green we called a yard,
and my father was spinning on the sidewalk.

When the police came by on horseback,
when the horses came by,
one officer got out of his saddle,
black boot gleam in the Philly sun,
to check on my father, on all of us.
The officers knew us all,
back when a neighborhood was still a neighborhood.

No one but myself noticed, somehow,
when my father took the horse by the reins.
I followed them around the back of the house,
my father stumbling, and the horse,
like all the others, following him.
He was whispering to it. Still, he could whisper
to a horse, and she would follow.

I watched him lead the horse up the wooden stairs
of the back porch, through the doorway into the kitchen.
My father stoppered the sink, filled it with cool water.
That mare bent her neck, nosed the water
in my mother’s kitchen sink, and drank,
tail swishing slow the entire time.

I stood on the top stair, hearing the Garrett Hill parade
going by on the avenue, stunned.
Not by the horse in the kitchen,
not by my father whispering about how even
a mare needs a drink on a day made for independence,
but by my father’s hand on her neck,
in her mane, gentle.


All peace to you.
Excerpted from Dora’s poem, Storyteller
©2002 Dora E. McQuaid


It’s been a little over a week since I saw the new movie Wonder Woman, and I can’t stop thinking about fairytales and the evolution of myths, especially myths based on women characters, and what that evolution offers to us all.

In The Princess Bride, Robin Wright starred as Princess Buttercup, at the age of twenty in 1987. In this year’s Wonder Woman, Robin Wright plays General Antiope, the leader of the Amazonian Army of women, at the age of fifty-one.

I can’t stop thinking about how, In the course of thirty years across our culture and in the career of one female actress, the rescued becomes the rescuer, and inspires so many women around the world in that transformation.

I can’t stop thinking about how, sometimes, the Princess who needed to be rescued grows up to become the General of an all female badass army fighting for justice and love.

To me, that is the best ending to any fairytale, ever.

All peace to each one of you.


Just announced: Al Pacino is slated to portray former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in an upcoming HBO movie produced and directed by Barry Levinson.

 “The official logline for the film reads: “After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Joe Paterno is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure on behalf of the victims.”

The involvement of both Al Pacino and Barry Levinson are good signs for the possibility of a movie that may help prevent child sexual abuse and support survivors of it. This entire unfolding at Penn State in regards to Jerry Sandusky has been stunning, and yet it has also offered the benefits of raising awareness, improving general knowledge of sexual predators of children, improving community response to such violence, increasing support of childhood sexual abuse survivors, especially boys and men, and has brought the pandemic of this violence into the public dialogue in unprecedented ways.

As those goals have been core to my activism efforts for over 20 years and are why I agreed to have my image replace Sandusky’s in the mural at Penn State following his 2012 conviction, I’m hopeful that the benefits of this movie in terms of those goals will outweigh the possible disadvantages. I remain hopeful that proactive change continues to be possible.

All peace to each one of you, especially the survivors among us.


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Dora’s efforts to use her voice as an means of activism and advocacy, social and political engagement and individual and collective empowerment and healing are funded, in part, by her readers. This website provides a wide array of resources to support visitors in exploring and living into their truths, and the support offered in return has allowed Dora to maintain this website as a community-driven, advertising-free space for over sixteen years. If you find that this website offers you inspiration or support, information or resources that benefit you or your community or you appreciate Dora’s voice and efforts, please consider making a contribution to keep her work and art alive. Thank you.
All peace to you.