Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wait for Love





It is a well-documented fact that I Heart Winter.  My inner polar bear, blood-thirsting animal that she is, loves the silence, the arctic space that yawns open when the world turns white.  And, when a drought camps on my state and pins its blonde reeds to their blushing browns, I stare at the geese cackling over head, and beg their webbed feet to bring sheets of ice to the next pond they land upon. 

Winter promises quiet: forest floors heavy with rest.  Cold air pinches my skin, stars glitter in the exposed sky, and buttery, potato-centered meals take center stage.  But how can you explain love?  You can only live inside its body, feel what it is like to live there.

And, sometimes, you can turn to the person next to you and say, Did you feel that?


I re-read Michael Cunningham's story White Angel recently, and loved the lines, Our mother brings out our father...a formerly handsome man. His face has been worn down by too much patience... 

I loved these lines because they speak of too much virtue, of bowing outward for others so much that the radiant self is lost. 

In my life, I have had to learn how to say No, how to speak up for myself, how to be a little unkind.  Some of these lessons were born of battle scars - a boyfriend cheating on me, pariahic friendships, too much time lost serving other people's needs - and some were born out of leaning in to my heart, learning her language, and building the space around her to keep our connection strong. 

Our own space is where we all belong.  
 

Put another way:

Correcting oneself is correcting the whole world. The sun is simply bright. It does not correct anyone. Because it shines, the whole world is full of light. Transforming yourself is a means of giving light to the whole world.
       -
Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi


And so! May you light a candle for your dreams this week, and burn it all year long.

With love & snow-covered tree limbs,
Kara 

  

  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ode to Sexuality

Leonard Commits Redeeming Adulteries with All the Women in Town
by Louise Erdrich

When I take off my glasses, these eyes are dark magnets
that draw the world into my reach.
First the needles, as I walk the quiet streets,
work their way from the cushions of dust.
The nails in the rafters twist laboriously out
and the oven doors drop
an inch open.
The sleep smell of yesterday's baking
rises in the mouth.
A good thing.

The street lamps wink off just at dawn,
still they bend their stiff necks like geese drinking.
My vision is drinking in the star-littered lawn.
When the porch ivy weaves to me -
Now is the time.
Women put down their coffee cups, all over town.
Men drift down the sidewalks, thinking,
What did she want?
But it is too late for husbands.
Their wives do not question

what it is that dissolves
all reserve.  Why they suddenly think of cracked Leonard.
They uncross themselves, forsaking
all protection. They long to be opened and known
because the secret is perishable, kept, and desire
in love with its private ruin.
I open my hands and they come to me, now.
In our palms dark instructions that cannot be erased,
only followed, only known along the way.

And it is right, oh women of the town, it is right.
Your mouths, like the seals of important documents
break for me, destroying the ring's raised signature,
the cracked edges melting to mine.

Um.  Hi.  Before we go any further, can I just put this little disclaimer on my reckless post?  I am a supremely happily married woman, and think adultery is a one-way ticket to misery, an idiotic choice to poop where you eat.  I chose Louise Erdrich's poem (and all her work, again and again) for its portrait of desire, and exploration of taboo.  These are very sexy things. 

And I believe in sexiness.  So there.

In the long tradition I have of saying what I was going to do, and then not doing it, I was going to title this post, Ode to Tantra, because I've lately been reflecting on the utter bliss that the union of masculine and feminine brings in the world.  And before we get all off course with that little topic, I mean this energetically - although of course physically it's all pretty great too.  (Horn blow.)



I'm not sure, as a culture, we've traditionally been taught to bring these two energies - which reside in all of us - together.  But I think that's changing.  A lot.  My best friends, men and woman, all accomplish this feat.  My husband is the better cook.  I am the stubborn bull in the family.  My brothers taught me, early, how kind and generous a man can be.  My favorite leaders kneel before their mothers.  The divine Liberty statue is unrolling her great coat.  Waves across the country. 

What else?  I overheard a friend say that Annie Proulx once said in an interview that she writes about men so much because she likes men.  That's right, I thought.  She also said something obnoxious and perhaps true, that she writes about rural communities and men in rural communities do the interesting work: outside the house. 

And I was thinking, yes.  I like men, too, Annie.  I get it.  But you know what I like most?  Men who respect women.  Men who get that there is a feminine part to them.  Female leaders who roar, and let themselves be seen.  My towering coworker who can and does kick the crap out of the men she works with, from whom I'd like a lesson in makeup. 

I think what I'm trying to say is, Life Is Hot.  And I'm glad I'm here. 

XXOO

(xxx)

*Kara


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ode to My Husband


Love Poem
by Kathleen Raine

Yours is the face that the earth turns to me.
Continuous beyond its human features lie
The mountain forms that rest against the sky.
With your eyes, the reflecting rainbow, the sun's light
See me; forest and flowers, bird and beast
Know and hold me forever in the world's thought,
Creation's deep untroubled retrospect.

When your hand touches mine, it is the earth
That takes me - the deep grass,
And rocks and rivers; the green graves,
And children still unborn, and ancestors,
In love passed down from hand to hand from God.
Your love comes from the creation of the world,
From those paternal fingers, streaming through the clouds
That break with light the surface of the sea.

Here, where I trace your body with my hand,
Love's presence has no end;
For these, your arms that hold me, are the world's.
In us, the continents, clouds and oceans meet
Our arbitrary selves, extensive with the night,
Lost, in the heart's worship, and the body's sleep.




"Art is a flower which opens freely, outside of all rules."  -Odilon Redon


This week, I had the idea to write a post about the man behind my success as a human being - my husband, Tim.  Then I became a horrendous nag, griping about the state of our living room floor (its blond beams perpetually under a foot of hair, thanks to our generous border collie / shepherd).  In addition to making me feel like a real shithead, my nagging reminded me once again how much Tim puts up with / ignores / laughs off - and for this, I'd like to give the kid a shout-out.

I'm not saying I'm an unholy beast to get along with, or that Tim is an angel, or anything like that.  But often when I think about the things I do that take great courage, I know that my ability to leap comes from the stability that my life with Tim provides me.  I have been known to call him the more practical one in the relationship, but the truth is, he is the romantic, too, and an incredible source of adventure in our lives. 

The thing that stands out to me, however, is how much he believes in my strength, and freedom.  And this is something every man should get credit for - because honoring wild beauty in a woman is deep medicine for all of us. 

So...to a man who builds a home with me every day, and reminds me always to make one first in my heart.  To my husband, Tim (aka: Mr. Putt-Putt).
 





To your teachers, however they appear,
Kara

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Bought A Bathrobe


Morning Birds
by Thomas Transtromer

I wake my car.
Its windshield is covered with pollen.
I put on my sunglasses
and the song of the birds darkens.

While another man buys a newspaper
in the railroad station
near a large freight car
which is entirely red with rust
and stands flickering in the sun.

No emptiness anywhere here.

Straight across the spring warmth a cold corridor
where someone comes hurrying
to say that they are slandering him
all the way up to the Director.

Through a back door in the landscape
comes the magpie
black and white, Hel's bird.
And the blackbird moving crisscross
until everything becomes a charcoal drawing,
except for the white sheets on the clothesline:
a Palestrina choir.

No emptiness anywhere here.

Fantastic to feel how my poem grows
while I myself shrink.
It is growing, it takes my place.
It pushes me out of its way.
It throws me out of the nest.





I bought a bathrobe.  More specifically, my grandmother bought me a plush Santa-Claus red one, and my mom helped me pick it out last weekend.  My mother is a devotee of her own robe, and while I used to un-ironically walk the halls of my college dorm in a kelly green terrycloth one, what I want to know is: how have I been missing the bathrobe train for so many years since then?  Bathrobes. Are. Amazing.

I have to remind myself that cooking in my bathrobe is wrong.  I try to wait several hours before slipping into its loving, fleecy arms after work.  Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I am not.  But I am always grateful for this easy luxury, and it reminds me that life can be really simple sometimes.  Just buy a frickin robe and get on with it.

You know what else is at once simple and all-encompassing?  Travel.  Exchanging worlds.  Or having visitors.  Okay, maybe they aren't 100% simple, but I find both travel and visitors profound pleasures.  At the very least, they are jubilant excuses to eat elegantly, take pictures, and drink exquisite wine / coffee / wine.

I guess I don't have as much to say as I hoped this morning, when I woke early, accidentally made coffee for three, and tied on my trusty robe. 

Instead of prose, let's have a little picture diary, shall we? 

My mom came.  We went to a lake.




In October, we went to LA.  























Since that trip, Amelia posted this about our visit, and won this.

In September, our little family of three crossed the Continental Divide.  I am here to say that western Colorado is crazy and wild.  Go there if you can.  Tomorrow if possible.















Happy trails!
*Kara
 



 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Teach Us To Be Tender


Bedrock
by Gary Snyder

                                     for Masa

Snowmelt pond      warm granite
we make camp,
no thought of finding more.
and nap
and leave our minds to the wind.

on the bedrock, gently tilting,
sky and stone,

teach me to be tender.

the touch that nearly misses -
brush of glances -
tiny steps -
that finally cover worlds
               of hard terrain.
cloud wisps and mists
gathered into slate blue
bolts of summer rain.

tea together in the purple starry eye;
new moon soon to set,
why does it take so
long to learn to
love,
        we laugh
                       and grieve.


1. Gravity
Fall is the season of harvest.  It is also the season of gathering supplies, hunkering down, and beginning to turn inside.  My mom is visiting tomorrow, which means the house is a clean, tidied haven, ready for the snoozing, lazing, and discovering that visits entail.  The wind roars outside, knocking over summer's helpless rocker.  The chimes ring, the night gathers her skirts about her, and wanders through the shadows.


I was going to title this post, How to be Depressed, but feared no one would read further.  True story!

I am passionate about the subject of mental health. I am most passionate about taking the stigma out of struggles with mental health - with normalizing them, and even embracing them, because when we embrace our shadow side, we can fully know our light.  When we hide from our shadow, or demonize or deny it, it takes strange power in our life, and manifests in weird, wild, and mostly un-wonderful ways. 

I guess I'm kind of saying: keep your enemies close.  Keep up on your shadow side, and know what it's up to, so that you can dance with it, instead of getting stomped on/clubbed over the head by it. 
 

I wanted to revisit this topic, which I've discussed before, several times, because it is a difficult one - at least, it's difficult for me.  And I recently cycled through a full spectrum of energy, a spectrum I'm beginning to simply think of as my life's rinse cycle. 

When I get sad, I usually spend a couple of hours in that place - but I rarely stay there.  Instead, my sadness usually forces me into action.  Either it forces me into prayer, so that I can find my way out of darkness, or it forces me into play (so that I can find my way out of darkness).  Either way, I'm starting to believe that the long road to surrender encompasses hitting the bottom of my well, so to speak, and then bouncing back toward the light. 

That's a lot of metaphors.  It also sounds a little like manic-depression.  And maybe it is a little like manic-depression.  I ain't afraid. 

In yoga practice, gravity helps you stand on your head and hands and elbows.  As one of my favorite teachers said once, Learn to play with gravity.  Give into its force, and then you can grow away from it.  But first you must go with it. 

Root to rise, people!  Root to rise.





2. Link City
Speaking of harvest, I am giddy with a couple of projects that have come to fruition this fall.  The first is a collaboration with my friend, Lukis. I submitted a story to his beautiful podcast, The Storied Commute.  You can listen to Lukis read my story, and interview me about it, here.  (It's kind of long.  If you've been wanting entertainment for your Sunday drive to Wyoming...from D.C....you're in luck!)

If you're interested in submitting stories of your own, Lukis is a great editor, as well as writer himself.  He is dedicated to "story," as he calls it, and you can send your work to lukis@storiedcommute.com
.

The second project I closed on was the long-held wish to visit my friend Amelia in LA.  Tim and I fell in love with that town, which surprised the heck out of me.  In addition to getting lost in an enchanted neighborhood, hitting an art opening at Platform, and going hoarse with story-telling, there was some playing in the kitchen - mostly by others.  I requested coffee in the kitchen, and made myself a pb&j upon arrival, and was fairly competent pouring my own cereal in the morning, but that's about as far as my culinary contributions went (unless you count cutting up raw meat, which I do count - and love doing, for some reason).  

Anyway, here is an Amelia-curated Bon Appetempt post about our LA weekend with her and her husband, Matt.  As you can see, delicious food was made, and cute dogs behaved. 

Also, for the curious, here is an article about making friends with your shadow side, which I had nothing to do with.  It was written by a fantastic yoga teacher in my town who also gives great advice about raising dogs.  A yin yoga teacher who instructs on how to be the alpha for your dogs is one integrated human being, that's for sure.


Anyway, here's to action, and to solving your own problems, and becoming the doctor for whatever ails you

There is grace in the darkness.  Here's to discovering it.  Here's to becoming your own lantern, in the wilds.


3. Peace!

Thanks for stopping in.  Thanks for being your radiant self.  Keep on keeping it real and dark and light and integrated. 


XOXOXO
*Kara

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bridge








I wasn't going to go there.  It's awkward.  It's cliche.  But when I talked to a girlfriend this weekend and heard her woes about her body, and heard how similar they were to howls I have made in my life, I decided: it's time.

Therefore, I give you the story of my Big Hot Miserable Summer, and Lessons I Learned From Getting Fat.


This summer was a killer - hot as all get out, smoky in our Colorado hills (poor things all on fire), and apparently so crushing that other people are
referencing my misery.  I also nearly half-blinded myself in a freak lavender oil accident (see cataract glasses below), and I met hay fever - the big lout - for the first time in my life, and was stunned to meet him again and again every morning. 


The real kick in the pants was that somewhere between fresh spring and hotter n' Hades summer, a few cookies, pieces of cheese, and spoonfuls of almond butter lodged themselves in my cells and set up camp.  (Do you like how I'm blaming them?)  My clothes didn't fit.  My arms felt wobbly.  My belly sprouted inches of winter insulation, in July.

My personal hero, my grandmother, used to say, When things aren't going well, it's a sign that you're headed in the wrong direction.   


This is all to say: something had to change.  My relationship to my body was out of wack, because my body didn't feel like anything I could recognize or relate to.  I felt like a pregnant woman, with all of her anxiety and bemusement, without the benefit of being pregnant - or the excuse. 


So I did what any one in my position would do: I started thinking of myself as a buffalo. 


1. Who looks at a buffalo and thinks, You're so fat, buffalo?  Why don't you lose some weight, buffalo?  No.  If you have the privilege of seeing one of these guys up close, you think, Holy bananas!  You're so awesome, I wish I could touch you, but you could gore me, which makes me love you even more.  Buffalo, I love you, you are incredible!!! 



2. (Biologist friends, close your eyes right now.)  Every single one of us has an aura, like buffalo breath in snow.  We have mystique, power, and fearsome individuality.  In fact, I may have been the only one who could have answered my friend's call on Saturday and helped her feel better about her body.  Because I'm me, and she is herself, and our relationship is rich, and layered with conversations and ideas and moments that we have shared together.  And this is why we are here, as beings - and this is a woman's power, especially: the power of presence.  This is the gift of buffalo and huge animals, or tiny flitting hummingbirds: we are all connected, and when we are ourselves, we are a gift to others.


3. Sometimes my body will be closer to Buffalo than to Hummingbird, and while I can do things to help her stay closer to Hummingbird ways and weight, it is my job to accept her no matter how she looks.  Because she is my vessel for experiencing life. And I have things to do, like comfort my friends and laugh with my husband and write stories that make me happy.  I need to be friends with my vessel, so she's on board with my plans.  This means being on board with her plans, too - like walking in fields and eating leafy greens and drinking in fresh air.     

4. My body belongs to me.  Or, my body belongs to the Great Mother that gives it her light.  It is nice that my mother tells me I'm beautiful, and my husband loves my curves, but no one else is the judge of how I look.  Which is why, when I feel like crap, and someone else says, but you look great!, I think they are crazy.  But if I've gained ten pounds, and feel like a righteous, storming ballerina, I stand tall in my strong frame, and raise my chest and participate in conversations, a little amazed that life is so strange and mysterious, that our bodies are connected but do not define us.  Our spirits, our hearts, are what our loved ones see.  And this is what they love about us. 

5. Life is a process.  I sometimes would kill to have my 16 year old body, sweet and tan like a cinnamon-coated rabbit.  But I know so much about myself now, and feel more open toward others, and their mistakes, that I would never trade this expanded heart for the bright-eyed, hopping thing I used to be.  Perhaps this is how I can love who I was then - because in wisdom's gravity, we know the full spectrum of experience.


6. Here is the blog post that kicked off my healing.  It is true that partial-blindness, a summer of wildfires, and your own bewildered spirit can put you in a funny place.  But it is also true that, no matter who you think you are physically, you are completely whole at every moment.  Embracing that wholeness is the path back to radiance.




May we all slink our way along that path.
With love
Kara 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Graphically Speaking

- 441 -
by Emily Dickinson

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me -
The simple News that Nature told -
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
to Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen -
Judge tenderly - of me

Click here for photo source

Last night, when I was corresponding with my brother about a running event in November, he complained that when he turned 40, it was like crossing "some thermocline of achy-ness." 

Of course, I had to Google the word thermocline then.  What I found, among some pretty great images and weird diagrams, was this definition:

A thermocline refers to a boundary of water which separates regions of warmer water from the colder water below. A thermocline is formed by the effect of the sun, which heats the surface of the water and keeps the upper parts of the ocean or water in a lake, warm. Water near the bottom remains colder as sunlight doesn’t penetrate enough.

Cold water by nature is denser that warm water and gravity keeps it under the less dense warm water. This causes a distinct line or boundary between the warmer water which is less dense and the colder denser water forming what is known as a thermocline. The difference in temperature between the warmer and colder waters may be of several degrees and drops even further each meter below you dive.


Some of you smarties may already know about thermoclines.  My bro learned about them in scuba class, because he's cool like that. 

I just love the idea of a watery boundary, definite like a solid mass, but aqueous like - well - like water.  Cold water.  There is something intoxicating to me about the idea of deep, cold, dark water.

It also kind of gives me the willies to think about.  You?

This guy's squishy face looks aqueous.  By the way, have you guys met?

I originally imagined a wholly indulgent post, into which I copied and pasted some of the fascinating graphics that appeared when I Googled thermocline this afternoon.  But you know, the magic is sort of lost now that I'm not at work.  Something about carpeted hallways and 8 hours inside can really make a graphic seem hilarious. 



Although, this one is still funny, right?

I guess it's funny unless you're a super serious catfish hunter - er, fisher-person - or you are looking to, as the website suggests, Learn to Catch Catfish!  (Exclamation mine, although they should really think about adding it to their design, in my opinion.)

*

The summer before Tim and I moved to Colorado, we had the great fortune of volunteering on a team of biologists in Arizona, counting and safeguarding goshawk nests.  I was alright at the job.  I like to hike around and sweat all day (sort of difficult in my current office job, unless I really want to turn heads at work), and I have weird bird-radar, although I did not discover any new nests for the team that year.


Instead, I tried hard to do what I was supposed to do, and in my off time, successfully resisted the urge to turn all the scientific data charts tacked up on the rec room walls into personal art posters for my cabin.  I sat around the nightly fires and tried to follow conversations about forest flora and fauna, government land management, and what animal skulls had been discovered on the forest floor that day, but most of the time I went to bed thinking only of what I wanted to do with such dialogue in fiction.  (That, and how amazing it felt to have my feet out of my hiking boots for a night's rest.)


I was writing a novel at the time, but that wasn't my excuse for having a wildly different internal experience of the external conversations being had.  That is just what happens when I encounter new things.  I am entertained by the difference between the way I think and the way that others think - and I want to turn it all into art.

View of goshawk through a telescope.  Neat, huh?


In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg writes, "From 1978 to 1984 I studied Zen formally with Dainin Katagiri Roshi...About three years ago he said to me, 'Why do you come to sit meditation? Why don't you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.'"

I love this. 

Writing is how I love my life.  It is how I focus, how I unwind, how I see what I need to see.  It is my teacher, my parent, and my drug.

So forgive me, biology experts (and cat fishermen and women).  I am immature.  I think diagrams are funny.  I can hardly look at a National Geographic picture without thinking how I could turn it into a T-shirt.  I often watch the people I love and wish I had a video camera so I could film them eating breakfast. 

Most days I want to take this world and make it into something I can throw up on a screen and shout at passers-by: Look, look!  Do you see what I see?



Click here for photo source

I wish I had a bigger metaphor, some over-arching point tonight.  Perhaps someone else can draw the lines between thermoclines and goshawks, movie screens and strangers on the street.  What's that, you say?  I got myself into this mess? 

I know, I know.  Now someone please get me out. 

How about a little Jack Kornfield?  He recently got me out of a sticky bind this summer.  I give you this, from his beautiful book about cultivating a spiritual life, or A Path With Heart:

"In the stress and complexity of our lives, we may forget our deeper intentions.  But when people come to the end of their life and look back, the questions that they most often ask are not usually, 'How much is in my bank account?' or 'How many books did I write?' or 'What did I build?' or the like.  If you have the privilege of being with a person who is aware at the time of his or her death, you find the questions such a person asks are very simple: 'Did I love well?'  'Did I live fully?'  'Did I learn to let go?' 


And now, I leave you to contemplate the dark, aqueous depths of whatever you want to contemplate.

But while you're at it, I hope you keep it fresh and cool, and as weird as you possibly can.


With love,
Kara