After digging herself out of many of life's familiar tragedies Ashland hospice nurse Mary Landberg decided to do something positive with all she'd learned: publish a book of her poems and photographs.

After digging herself out of many of life's "familiar tragedies" — divorce, death, foreclosure, the loss of dreams — Ashland hospice nurse Mary Landberg decided to do something positive with all she'd learned: publish a book of her poems and photographs, which she dramatizes in readings, with hopes of inspiring others to transcend fear and live their highest visions.

The just-published book, "Fear Means Go," carries a cover shot of Landberg standing in a foggy Emigrant Lake, wet in a negligee and brandishing a samurai sword.

"It symbolizes femininity with the power to overcome," says Landberg, after a spirited rehearsal of the title poem at Bohemia Gallery, on A Street in Ashland, where she will do a reading and book signing at 7 p.m. Thursday [March 25], on her 50th birthday.

The poems aren't the lyrical or metaphorical stuff you may think of as verse. It's direct, gritty and naked in its emotions, whether about dreary house tasks or broken hearts.

About breakups, Landberg writes: "On Christmas morning / without festivity / he simply said, 'I've lost my desire to adore you.' / These shoulders of mine / these shoulders that carry order / crashed to the linoleum / with the weight of his brutal truth."

Of Emily, one of her two teen daughters, she pens, "Secret hand signals / giggle codes / silvery rubber banded smiles / Piccadilly pink lip gloss smeared on my cheek / Nothing between us and the moon / Oh, the ease of loving Emily."

Of rebirth after pain, Landberg writes, "You aren't seeing yourself / your real self / You may never have been witness to / the real you. / No, not the reflection / you glance at / in the rear view mirror / as you drive home from work."

Landberg says her inspiration came from 13 years in a women's circle called "Into the Mystery," where she and others learned to "crack your self open to your self and bear witness to our pain, grief, joy and bliss, finding the divine feminine and learning unconditional love and acceptance."

The experience with other women taught her that "we've all been there, that place where you're not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, loveable enough" and that, Landberg says, is life's big lesson — that it comes from you.

"We want to be loved unconditionally for who we are, but we don't show up in the world authentically. We come as someone else," says Landberg. "If we stand before the world with all the pain, judgments, choices fully exposed for everyone to inspect, who would be left standing before us? Most people wouldn't take that risk, out of fear of rejection, but those left standing would be the ones who love you."

Landberg has cut a CD of her book, accompanying herself on classical guitar. She's presenting a workshop on "living fearlessly and authentically." Ashland pianist and filmmaker Gary Halliburton is planning a movie on her work and Ashland publisher Steve Scholl will handle book distribution.

The poems seem to explore the shadow and fire of every modern relationship problem and its impact on inner learning and growth — the teasing of a lustful married man, the decision to stay together for the kids, the perpetual furrow on the brow of an unloving lover's face, the first day you realize you don't hurt anymore.

That long-sought finding of oneself is penned in a verse, "Blessings / to the foggy mirrors / and broken roads / that led me here"¦To skipping like a little girl / goldie locks flying / above my head. / Don't need eyes open / to see / the mystery / embracing me."

The theme of the book, Landberg notes, is the immense potential each person has to move beyond jobs, relationships and visions that have died and "live fearless, authentic lives, saying yes to dreams — don't wait!"

A former marathoner and personal trainer — and now a hospice R.N. with a master's degree in public health, Landberg says she has learned a big lesson from the dying, one she has taken to heart.

"I always ask them what advice they have for me. They all say the same thing. Don't postpone happiness, live fully now, love often."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at