Manifesto reimagined

What if the word manifesto was not a dictum imposed on others but an invitation into your evolving purpose and practice in the world?
Manifesto by Studio-Lu

A recent assignment in my M.F.A. program called on us to write a manifesto for ourselves. My first thought was, “I have no idea how to write a manifesto!” Yet, the moment that thought evaporated, another was close on its heels: “Be particular.” It is a phrase my grandfather used often. Honestly, I am not 100% certain what he meant when he used it, but it became a catch phrase in our family over the years—a response that could suit more occasions than you would imagine. “Be particular” became the beginning of my manifesto.

More words followed easily. I pulled phrases from my website through the years and thoughts I realized had long been guiding principles behind my work. Voila. A Manifesto. Homework completed.

Sharing it with my writer’s circle after submitting it for class, my fellow writers liked the sentiments I expressed but bristled at the word “manifesto.” For most, it conjured notions of “manifest destiny,” of conquering and taking by force. These meanings are the antithesis of what we foster in our circle, where we cultivate deep listening and seek to nurture each of us as writers to find and live into our own voice.

I admitted to the same initial reaction. My feelings shifted, though, when I thought about manifesto as more akin to manifestation than dictum. With that lens, the word became more of an evolving process to me, a sense of creation and offering, rather than an imposed mandate. We talked about reimagining the word as coming from birthing rather than conquering and what that transformation might look like.


After the Manifesto by Craig Buckley Columbia University
Searching to see how others are thinking about manifesto in this day and age, I found a book called After the Manifestoedited by Craig Buckley and published by Columbia University Press. While Buckley investigates manifesto in terms of architecture, he captures the spectrum of viewpoints on it in a way that is applicable to uses of manifesto in any genre. Of the various reactions he mentions, I find myself in the “protean camp” at the moment, willing to re-vision what this word means, repurpose it to be more fitting now and into the future.

In the spirit of manifesto as an invitation to growth, evolution, purpose and practice in the world,  I offer you my mine. What’s yours? Or, what’s a better word than manifesto that can accompany us with ongoing relevance?

MANIFESTO | BE PARTICULAR  ©2022 Lucy Mathews Heegaard.

A Story of Nurses

An immersive, audio-driven, essay film that bears witness to the experiences of nurses providing care to Covid19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic 

“I don’t know who I am anymore.” The comment gave me chills. Spoken by a healthcare provider who had faced agonizing, life-and-death decisions about patient care in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was hearing the comment quoted in a talk by Cynda Rushton (PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN). A colleague of Dr. Rushton’s had made the remark when confiding feelings of mental and spiritual distress to her. Rushton is Professor of Clinical Ethics in the Berman Institute of Bioethics and the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University. Her book, Moral Resilience: Transforming Moral Suffering in Healthcare, delves into the moral dilemmas many healthcare professionals face as part of their jobs and the burnout that often results.

The talk was part of a year-long program I participated in at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during 2021. We met twice a month online to hear speakers and consider ways that Buddhist teachings could anchor and fuel actions to help alleviate suffering in the world. Each of us was tasked with designing our own service project as part of the program. When I heard Dr. Rushton recount her colleague’s anguish, I felt a call to bear witness to the suffering I heard in this statement about loss of identity and knew I had found my project.

Of all healthcare professionals, I chose nurses because they struck me as the frontline of the frontline. In April of last year, I posted an invitation on my website to nurses who had provided direct care to Covid patients. The pandemic had been underway a little over a year, but vaccinations had begun and held promise for relief. I realized I was making a difficult request to ask nurses to revisit memories of what they experienced as they provided care, but I hoped that what felt like a small lull in the pandemic’s progression would offer space for such conversations. My goal was to record audio of a variety of voices offering first-hand perspectives and to create from them a story that reflected the collective experience—a story that would be art as much as documentary, that would connect viewers with feelings rather than facts and statistics, and that would capture what ER, ICU, and Covid unit nurses saw and felt as they cared for patients.

Author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “To listen to a witness is to become one.” I wanted those of us, like myself, who had been safely on the sidelines during the pandemic, to become witnesses—to feel the weight and depth of the experiences endured by nurses in a way that words alone cannot adequately convey. And by reflecting the real and raw narratives nurses shared with me, I hoped the project would offer them a sense of feeling seen, heard, and valued.

From May through September last year, I amassed ten hours of audio through one-on-one conversations by phone or Zoom. Typically, in editing a project, the “sound bites” that move me will leap out as I re-listen to an interview. I know how to distill an hour’s worth of raw material into five minutes that capture the essence of what was said. But this story was different. Many of the nurses spoke in present tense as they remembered moments and narrated them to me. They spoke with an urgency, vulnerability, and authenticity that made me feel I was right there with them. Countless times as I listened and re-listened, I had to stop to take off my headphones and weep. “If I am feeling all of this emotional intensity second-hand,” I kept thinking to myself, “how on earth did it feel to be in these nurses’ shoes?”

Every minute of every interview felt essential. I realized quickly that the nurses’ voices and words carried so much power that my job was to help the viewer listen as deeply as possible. I created the film’s imagery to draw the audience into the emotion of the story rather than to illustrate each moment literally.

“I don’t know if anyone else has talked about all the death,” one nurse said. “It’s not just that they died, it’s how they died.” Unwittingly, she had summarized the common thread of all my interviews. “I’m tired of witnessing so many crappy deaths,” another said. Nurses described the pain of seeing people die without their loved ones present; of struggling to show compassion and care, while covered head to toe in PPE; of yelling through two masks and a face shield to be heard over the sound of a ventilator; of witnessing patients kept alive on machines as their bodies became unrecognizable from their former selves. “We’re moving into a place for which there are no words,” one concluded. “And that was essentially every day.”

Not every nurse who contacted me about the project chose to participate. I traded correspondence with twice as many people as I interviewed. One nurse sent a message back saying, “I may have too much anger, at the moment. Plenty of stories but may be blocked right now.” Even these short exchanges helped inform the film. Of those with whom I spoke, most echoed at least some level of anger, in addition to the fear and grief that may be the more expected storylines of their experiences. Most also admitted that they had barely begun to process all that they had been through. They all affirmed that the relationships they had with their fellow nurses were vital to their ability to bear the circumstances.

By the time of my last interview in September, the landscape of the pandemic had shifted again. The Delta variant was causing a new surge. When I was finishing production of the film in late December, Omicron was usurping Delta. As we have learned more about how to protect ourselves from the virus over these past two years and as the medical community has learned more about how to treat it, the stories from the beginning of the pandemic began to stand out to me as unique because of how little we knew in the face of such a deadly, fast-moving threat. As one nurse said, “We didn’t know what we were dealing with, but we knew we were the ones who had to deal with it.”

Even as the pandemic continues to stress the healthcare system, it is clear that many of us have become accustomed to the successive surges, new variants, and the existence of vaccines that bolster people’s ability to survive the illness. I wondered if we may have already lost touch with the precarious uncertainty that pervaded the pandemic’s beginning. This thought brought me back to my mission to bear witness through this film and reminded me of what one of the first nurses who responded to my invitation wrote to me: “I want to offer my story for this project to be of service to the memory of what we, as nurses, have experienced. This time should not be forgotten.” Through our bearing witness to the stories of the nurses in this film, may we become witnesses ourselves in service to the memory of this time, that it not be forgotten.

An Invitation to Nurses

A collective storytelling project gathering the experiences of nurses on the frontline of care during the Covid19 pandemic.

Pieces of the Story by Lucy Mathews Heegaard



If you are a nurse who has provided care during the Covid19 pandemic, this post is for you. Thank you for considering sharing your story with me. If you think your story is not worthy enough, that someone else has a better perspective to offer, I can assure you that your story matters. Every story is part of the puzzle. I hope to attract a demographically and geographically diverse group of participants who have served in a variety of frontline capacities, from ER to ICU to floor nurses to hospice, to any other front-line patient care roles. I welcome all perspectives.

My purpose is to bear witness to nurses’ experiences through a project that is part documentary, part art. In one-on-one conversations, I will receive whatever you wish to share with me about what you have seen, heard, and felt as you have served patients and their families during the pandemic. Once interviews are complete, I will weave your individual stories, in your own voices and words, into one, collective narrative. The result will be a short film that I hope will open the hearts and minds of viewers to your experiences.

Reading news accounts throughout the pandemic about the harsh realities faced by those of you on the frontline of patient care and hearing stories from friends who are hospital chaplains about your bedside vigils with patients, I have been moved by the challenges endured by nurses on all our behalf and struck by how sheltered I have felt as I have been safely sequestered at home. By pairing your voices and words with images, sounds, and music, I would like to create a record of your experiences that honors the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll of your work and helps those who have not had your first-hand experiences to feel the weight and depth of them more fully than the written word alone can accomplish. I hope the film will underscore the vital role you, as nurses, play in general in the healthcare system, as well as the added weight that has fallen on your shoulders during the pandemic.

To listen to a witness is to become one.


⏤Elie Wiesel

My promise to those of you who participate is that I will listen deeply and will treat your story and your time with the utmost respect. Author and physician Rachel Naomi Remen has written that listening with attention⏤and I would add intention, as well⏤offers an opportunity for wholeness and healing. I believe that opportunity extends both ways in a converstion, to the listener and the teller. Through the film I hope to give viewers a sense of becoming your listeners and witnesses themselves.

I will strive to reflect what you share with me accurately and will offer all participants an opportunity to review the film before publication to make sure my use of your words feels true to you. I know that entrusting your story to me is a leap of faith on your part and I do not take that lightly.

Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing…When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness.


⏤Rachel Naomi Remen

I am undertaking this service project as part of my participation in a year-long program on Socially Engaged Buddhism through Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I will be working on the film production aspect of it as part of a Master of Fine Arts degree I am pursuing at California Institute of Integral Studies.


I have concluded the interview phase of my project and am currently in the process of distilling the narratives from these conversations for my film soundtrack. I am extraordinarily grateful to the nurses who shared their experiences with me and hope to have a draft of the film ready in December 2021, for those of you who participated to review. I anticipate releasing the final film in February 2022.

updated 11.22.21

PHOTOGRAPH | Pieces of the Puzzle ©2018 Lucy Mathews Heegaard.

An American Elegy

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” — Albus Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Composer Frank Ticheli has said that his hope for “An American Elegy” is that it might serve as “one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.” Ticheli was commissioned to write the orchestral piece to remember those who died in the shooting at Columbine High School in April of 1999, and to honor the lives of those who survived.

One of my dearest friends, about whom I’ve written often, heard the music played by her son’s school orchestra and was moved beyond words by the power of it, the poetic strength coupled with such vulnerable emotional resonance. She tucked away the title just like she tucked away other other things that moved and inspired her, quotes from Emerson and St. Augustine among them. After she died from metastatic breast cancer, Ticheli’s piece was played at the beginning of her memorial service, an instruction she had left behind for her family. Whenever I hear the opening bars, the music never fails to take my breath for a moment, in goosebumps and tears, just like it did the first time I heard it at her service. (more…)

Jules of Nature

With her trusty Canon camera in hand, J. Marion Brown has honed the practice of paying attention to a fine art (literally) as she catches moments in nature the rest of us miss. 

JMarionBrown by Adrienne Camhi

Since November of 2011, Brown has been sharing a photograph each day on her tumblr site, JULES OF NATURE, pairing each of her images with an astutely chosen quote, offering, as her website says, “food for the soul and a feast for the eyes.” I start my day there every morning over coffee for the lovely pause it gives me. Awhile back, I asked her to tell me why she likes being behind the lens. Her answer is in this short video about her work, a labor of love that’s become a way of life for her.

She has been taking pictures since her kids were born, but became passionate about nature photography in the 1990s when she began camping with her family on the property in the Wisconsin woods where they ultimately built a home, after years of testing it out first in tents.

PHOTOGRAPH of J. Marion Brown by Adrienne Camhi. MUSIC in video by Wall Matthews. Photographs in video by J. Marion Brown. NATURE SOUNDS by R. H. Humphries.

Epiphany, Passion & Purpose in American Wine Story

“Their stories began with an epiphany, a precise moment when they understood that every bottle of wine contains a little bit of magic.” — American Wine Story

Epiphany: a split second of earth-shaking clarity that allows you to see something you’ve been missing in your life— your true purpose and passion. (more…)