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Relationships have the brilliant power to inspire. To be inspired is to breathe in and out with the joyous certainty that you are loved for who you are. My favorite poet, Pablo Neruda, wrote metaphorically about the inspired individual in one section of his epic poem entitled “The Great Ocean”:

The wave that you let loose,
Arc of identity, exploded feather
When it was unleashed, it was only foam,
And without being wasted came back to be born.
All of your strength returns to its beginning…….
What was expelled by the action of your abundance,
All that was left of its clustered fruit of being
Your statue casts its shadow far beyond the waves.

Your own “arc of identity” forms for you as a child. Embrace the poet in you –whether you are young or old– the poet lives inside. Instill the love of language into your own children with unending rolls of crisp white paper and create rhyming words to wrap your arms around, twirling in circles, dancing and chanting together.

Paint a portrait of your children as you see them, perhaps clothed in kelp hiding inside an underwater coral castle. Art can bring you closer to the heart of your child.

Practice things that are difficult for you –model the struggle for your child, whether you are braiding a lattice of dough on a rhubarb pie or learning to fly-fish. It is the process of learning that is important. Learn by doing.

Respect the need for solitude. Imagination requires solitude from time to time.

Read and reflect. Treasure the stark imagery of Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stegner, embrace the haunting stories of Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, laugh out loud at childrens’ poet Jack Prelutsky as he describes cooking a turkey filled with exploding popcorn kernels. Be free with your laughter. Laugh with your family.

Value companionship. The poet Rumi wisely wrote: “Companionship is helpful, because patience expands your capacity to love and feel peace.” Value the creativity of the companion in your life and your relationship will be enriched. Original piano sonatas and improvisational jazz fill our house daily, teaching me the power of music to unlock the abundance of our emotions. Express your love.

Friendship inspires courage. An old friend, Daphne, lived alone in a small house in rural Maine with her cat Licorice and an upright piano which seemed to sprout sheets of music like daisies. Having cerebral palsy since birth, Daphne walked with a stoop and despite arthritic fingers, practiced piano daily. To the end, her voice was joyful and her insights penetrating. She died as she lived –a whole person who inspired others to love the world with courage.

Experience gratitude for the moments in the life of your family and friends that are heart-opening and expansive beyond measure. And give thanks for the first snowfalls and the lavender sunsets that splash into the sea.


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Anita Laughlin is a second grade teacher at Escondido School in Palo Alto, California, and the author of Reindeer With King Gustav, an account of how her husband, Stanford University Physics professor Robert B. Laughlin, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1998.

A native of Palo Alto, Anita won the Ivan Linder Creative Writing Prize for Poetry and Playwriting while she was a high school student. She attended Connecticut College, earning a bachelor's degree in English Literature with a minor in Studio Art. She holds two Masters degrees in Education and Special Education and Expressive Art Therapies, from Lesley University.

Since 1995 Anita has taught at Escondido School where she was named among five finalists out of 3,000 teacher nominations for the TeachEach Charles Schwab Foundation Award for her work with Special Needs students.

Anita married Robert Laughlin, a graduate of M.I.T. in 1978. Dr. Laughlin has been a theoretical physicist at Stanford University for 25 years and is the 1998 Nobel Prize recipient in Physics for his work on the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect. They have two grown sons and the family enjoys spending time in the mountains, at the ocean, playing piano, working in the garden, and traveling the world together.

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