Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sanctuary (& The Women Who Watch Over the World)

The orchard at my husband's childhood home
I am writing to share something from the profound Linda Hogan:

"Humans want truth the way water desires to be sea level and moves across the continent for the greater ocean." (from The Woman Who Watches Over the World)

And to say: It snowed last night. Thank God!  It has been cold and icy here since our last snow, but without the quiet gratification of a blanketed world. There has been enough ice clear of the sidewalks to go running, but none of the light temperatures to invite much activity. I have been addicted to the indoors, with none of the excuses for it. So be it. But now it snowed. I have a legitimate reason to rise early and drink steaming drinks and listen to the quiet outside, to find it inside. And actually, isn't stillness enough of a reason to pursue its riches anyway?

Sometimes it's nice to have a little help.

I bit it two days ago on a patch of ice.  Now I have a ripe raspberry on my knee cap, just above a gash I obtained with the help of a file drawer at the end of the summer (which has blossomed into a terrifically vivid scar). Both marks tell me: Slow down! Watch your step. So I am beginning to listen.

I have been thinking lately about how to live a life: about what to say yes to, and what to pass by.  My father recently emailed me about the ways he makes decisions, especially work ones.  He said, "Sometimes work enjoyment is like stopping for a stop sign on a country road late at night. You are probably the only one that will ever know but still have to do what is right."

I love the core message of integrity in this metaphor, but also (of course) latch on to what it would feel like to pause on a country road in the middle of the night. Such stillness! And plant-breathing richness around, and animals snorting in their barns. It reminded me of something my dad and I had seen once together on an early-morning drive to the airport, when I was living in New York. I had spent the weekend with my parents at their house, and was reticent to leave the green world of North Carolina.  As my dad sped down the country road, we saw two brown masses bobbing up ahead. My mind had no answer for the questions my eyes were feeding it. As we got closer, my brain put it together that two horses had gotten loose and were galloping down the road. My father joked that they were coming back from a night of partying and trying to get home before their owners woke.

I could not shake those horses from my heart on the plane ride home. Their bodies were so powerful, and the sight of them galloping down the road summed up everything I felt about North Carolina: that it was full of comforting routine and familiar smells, and pulsing with magic, richness, and surprise.

I know that the metaphor of the stop sign offers endless contemplation for doing the "right" thing.  I also see that, more times than I can count, I have been shepherded by my parents into learning the right way to behave in certain scenarios. Even when I didn't want to believe them, they were usually right in their social, financial, and spiritual advice. But I am also awakening to the fact that my life is truly my own, and even though I have friends and elders I can consult about decisions, ultimately I must consult my own inner wisdom - and the way a decision feels in my body, my own life - to find the way for myself.

It occurred to me this week that I have a lot of control over my schedule at this point in my life. I have no children to tend to, a laid-back husband who is content to eat cookies for dinner, an old dog that lets me get away with one walk a day, and a job that I must show up for during certain hours, but outside of which, the world is my oyster. However, despite this, in my after-hours, I have been booking myself full. Why? Because I thought I should. And, in fairness, maybe I wanted to try on what it might be like to be that mythical Superwoman. You know what it feels like, though? Like I'm missing huge, important chunks of my life. 

So, like a restaurant the day after Valentine's, I can see now that the fridge is a little naked, and the cooks have singed all the hair off their arms.  It's time to take some time off - from extra-curriculars, from stretching myself thin. I am longing to literally or metaphorically sink into winter's pile of books. My experience with this sort of feeling knows that it is more than worth it to listen.

My friend recently wrote about the deep restoration she experienced while making time for a bath. She credited the idea for taking time off to my suggestion, but I realized as I read her post, that I have to credit my mother for this idea. For while she is a woman with lots of responsibilities and twelve arms waving around her community activities, whenever I visit my parents, I can usually locate her at the end of the day resting on her queenly bed, reading the funny papers or working a cross-word puzzle. She may be in a nightgown or a fuzzy pair of soft socks, and she is taking time for herself. She is paying attention: to what she needs, to what she loves, and what restores her, so that she returns to the world with that undeniable glow that feeds the world around her.

With this, I leave you to read more delicious words that my friend above has written, whose friendship restores me like rich, creamy soup. For the sake of the world, and yourselves, I hope you are making time for all that feeds you this week. And with prayers that your path is illuminated by holiday lights, and adorned with the profusion of treats and festivities, and drawn ahead by a proud horse or two, reminding you of the mystery we all come from, and the truth we long to return to.

With love,

Friday, December 2, 2011


I Imagine the Gods
by Jack Gilbert

I imagine the gods saying, We will
make it up to you. We will give you
three wishes, they say. Let me see
the squirrels again, I tell them.
Let me eat some of the great hog
stuffed and roasted on its giant spit
and put out, steaming, into the winter
of my neighborhood when I was usually
too broke to afford even the hundred grams
I ate so happily walking up the cobbles,
past the Street of the Moon
and the Street of the Birdcage-Makers,
the Street of Silence and the Street
of the Little Pissing. We can give you
wisdom, they say in their rich voices.
Let me go at last to Hugette, I say,
the Algerian student with her huge eyes
who timidly invited me to her room
when I was too young and bewildered
that first year in Paris.
Let me at least fail at my life.
Think, they say patiently, we could
make you famous again. Let me fall
in love one last time, I beg them.
Teach me mortality, frighten me
into the present. Help me to find
the heft of these days. That the nights
will be full enough and my heart feral

There is a scene in The Kids Are All Right where Annette Benning's character is checking on the state of her daughter's Thank-You notes for the high school graduation presents she just got.  As a mom, the character comes off as somewhat of a nag. But she has a great point about not letting too much time to go by.  "I mean, you don't want to start them with an apology," she says of the required notes. 

That's a little bit how I feel this morning, a snowy twilight blue morning in Colorado, where I drink my newest indulgence - very hot, very milky coffee with two spoonfuls of sugar - and think about how much I have missed this time to visit with you, to sit and explore divine grace, and hear from you about your own life. 

So hello, old friend, dear heart.  How is your morning, this December day?

Yes, it is Christmas time - on the internet, on the calendar, and in my nostalgic little heart.  Yesterday I willingly listened to Christmas songs on Pandora, perhaps ruining the chance for giddiness when I happen into Barnes & Noble or Williams-Sonoma later on this month. 

By the way, did you know there are, like, 5 Christmas songs in the world?  It's true.  I got to hear them all yesterday, a million times.  Dione Warwick, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby...and those Coles - Nathalie and her dad - really have a corner on the market.  It was fun to discover the voices behind the names I have heard for years, or behind the faces I have seen on faded LP covers in Goodwill stores across the nation.

Speaking of Goodwills, I read this great little post about style yesterday that I share here because 1. It's a semi-tribute to her dad, and I have lately been thinking about how great dads are, and 2. I think her points about style are so true, and 3. because I am a little conflicted about my own style lately; in particular, my love for second-hand things.  I mean, no one wants to go around looking like an orphan, right?  Maybe some people do...maybe if I were in a different band, looking like an orphan would be perfect.  The band I'm in, by the way, if you can call it that, is making a cd this weekend.  Complete with rented studio and catered food.  But we're singing songs about divine love.  Which I really do believe is what everyone is singing about anyway - Old 97s or Krishna Das.  But everyone has their own channel they have to dial into.  Which is, I think, the real beauty, and hopefulness for the world. 

I know I was talking about clothing.  And I know this relates eventually.  And goes back to my love of mutts, too.

When we came home from Thanksgiving vacation at my sweet brother's home in Atlanta, and scooped up our doggy from my husband's generous cousins who watched the dog for us, we left his proper food and water bowls at their house.  So the little guy has been dining out of Cool Whip bowls all week.  First, you may be asking, what the H are you doing letting Cool Whip past your front door to begin with, let alone eating enough of it that you can rinse and use the bowls?  But my husband is from the Mid-West and I am from the South.  We know people who serve Jello salad with marshmallows at fancy meals.  Don't judge.  Second, our classy little pup (okay, grey-haired and pushing twelve) has taken to dragging his food bowl to his bed and licking off it there, just because he can lift it in his teeth, thereby elevating an already elegant Cool Whip dining experience to true, trailer-trash status. 

I read an article last weekend at a coffee shop I discovered nestled in a neighboring town between horse pastures.  This sounds very Colorado, and it was: everyone inside the shop wore Patagonia clothing.  But the decor was rag-tag and elegant, and the coffee table weighted down with New York Times Magazines.  I know I am saying nothing new here, nothing that hasn't been explored or turned into a movement, like Shabby Chic.  But I like old stuff and I like things a little worn.  My hair generally fuzzes out from my ears like an electrified squirrel the minute it is dry and I am conflicted about this. 

But the article was in Rolling Stone, a place where I had a great internship once, and the article itself was great.  It was a feature on Zach Galifianakis, and painted his warmth, honesty, and comic genius without distorting into celebrity worship.  One of the things that really stuck with me, besides the fact that the actor is from North Carolina (thank you), is that he reportedly still lives in the same dinky bungalow he bought when he was a struggling actor.  After seeing The Hangover, it may be no stretch of imagination to picture this.  And, granted, I would probably be the first person to buy a house on the beach if I ever struck oil, but I love this essential - I don't even know what to call it.  Philosophy?  Indifference?  Maybe integrity.  Honesty.  Or laziness.  Don't know.  Okay, I just love this fact (if it's still a fact.  The magazine may have been a year old).  It pleases me. 

I remember answering a question in graduate school, posed by a favorite teacher.  I don't remember the question itself but I remember trying to explain that the reason I write is to redeem my characters.  My professor said something like, Um, isn't that totally not what you should be doing?  I think she meant, in fiction especially, aren't we supposed to punish our characters, put them through as much hardship as possible, so that a) the reader has something to worry and care about, and isn't bored to tears by an orgy of good cheer, and b) Flannery O'Connor would not approve.  (Okay, I still don't know what she meant by her reaction.  I must go and ask her about this now.) 

But what I meant is that I write, not to redeem my characters, but to redeem the world--to myself.  And to lift that unveiled vision up for others to see.  So that we may start to see things as they really are - not as we need or want them to be.  In writing about details, I start to pay close attention, and learn again and again how to break through my judgment.  Instead of brokenness, I see tiny miracles.  Instead of despair, I feel the okayness of every moment.  When I am willing to look at the world from the small distance and renewed perspective which writing gives me from my obsessive, harmful judgments, I accept how it differs from my expectations.  Then my great fantasies melt into prayers of gratitude for what I already have. 

When I took my teacher training for yoga in graduate school, I taught my first class about accepting whatever it is that really makes your heart happy, whether that makes sense to your identity about yourself, i.e. how you want to think of yourself, or not.  Every week I teach a gentle class at a chiropractic office in town now. And every week I realize, Well shoot.  I am still teaching the same darned thing.  I'm not teaching the same poses, or series of them, or using the same words.  But I am essentially saying, Learn to see yourself as you, and accept, accept, accept.  And I guess that's what I care most about in this life - learning to do that for myself, and offering the space for others to do the same. 

Lots of famous writers have said things about the healing qualities of writing.  Here are just two:

Anais Nin: We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.

And Anne Lamott, in Bird By Bird: "So why does our writing matter, again?"...Because of the spirit, I say.  Because of the heart.  Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.  When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.  We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.  It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea.  You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
So it is. 

For the pleasurable hour of being here with you - on this ship - I am grateful.  May you have a day full of whatever it is you love, and may you taste the blessings fully!  

P.S. A guest post is coming soon by a great friend (and so far non-blogger) about, yes, chickens!  And, here is a guest post by me on a site called Mystery Moor - a post about bats and kitchens (with a picture of me in an apron).  It would have been way cool to post this around Halloween.  You know what?  It just didn't happen. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beautiful Beautiful, Shy Shy

Brother Andre's Heart: Montreal, 2003
by J.L. Conrad

In 1973, the heart gone, pilgrims
climb the stairs on knees to eye

the heartless man in his hollow chamber.
Memory's plumbline laid from there to here

on limestone. The mountain around which the city.
Yes, I remember. A new opening

through which the body remade itself.
Rocks knocked from mountainsides

brought here to bear weight upward until
even the impression of weight lifts off into

the recessed darkness pooled beneath the roof.
We stand in the votive chapel six days married.

A bank of candles: whipstitch of lights
sealing the wound. Columns bristle

with rows of crutches. We do not yet know
how bodies cave, how bones surface. We take

no pictures. No, that's not true.
We take two: one into the washed-out summer

sky. Me wearing sunglasses, the carved
angel rising behind my shoulder. And another

on surfacing from the crypt, sun breaking
into pieces, rimming each edge with light.

See how clouds cut into the sky.
See how the geese are black slashes

unstitching the firmament. Beyond
the open door, the heart lies suspended

in a jar, bathed in a red heatlamped glow.
The papers reported it found

in an empty apartment locked in a box
inside another box. How they must

have wrenched it from the body.
You've remembered it wrong

all these years: the jagged undoing,
snipping each stitch so the wound gapes open

again. Today, pilgrims file past the vault
in silence: my body parched, yours

stationed there beside me,
on the near side of desire. Holy water laid

between us. In what voice do I
call out? A brittle light, hearts sundered.

We can't be blamed if things come apart.
We can scarcely be accused of theft. What we take

we take from each other. Our dreams wearing horns
like sacrificial rams. We know in our bones,

which is to say our deepest selves, the world
thrown open, the veil torn, seeded fields ungrown

at last. It falls to us to shovel dirt over the flames.
Sometimes, they say, the heart still beats.

We did not ask for this. The one day a year
wine becomes unsettled, remembering.

Last weekend, while writing an article for a local yoga magazine, I discovered why my article sucked.  I was trying to talk about rediscovering Jesus (yes, that Jesus) in my thirty-third year of life, and all that has meant to me and my yoga practice.  The problem was, I didn't want to say anything.  Not really, anyway.  I was trying to write an article about the magnetic pull that Jesus has on my life right now, without confessing that pictures of him draw me in with the same velocity that cupcakes do, or that I now understand why that Bible story about Peter denying his faith three times before the rooster crowed is so valuable, and compelling.  I wanted to write a simple little summary of the holy buildings I've been in, without revealing my changing relationships to them.

Then I read this passage in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.  This passage is for real, yo.  Take heed:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.  We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.  Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.  But we do.  We have so much we want to say and figure out.  Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy - finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they've longed to do since childhood.  But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.

It's true. I was keen to avoid writing the truth in my article.  First, there was the difficulty of even understanding the truth--what has been going on in my psyche, my spiritual self, under all the layers of years.  But the real difficulty lay in sticking to that truth--spitting on my hand, clasping that of truth's, and looking into her eyes, pledging, "Me and you, Truth.  To the bitter end!" It was very tempting to just pat Truth on her behind (because she has such a nice behind, doesn't she?) and then duck and run when she turned to see who likes her. 

Searching tonight for a quote in a notebook I keep, where I copy favorite passages and poems and then let them gather dust, my eyes fell upon something I clipped from The Oxford American once upon a time.  I had read a bunch of small tributes which Barry Hannah's students had written about him, and grown smitten with one of the pieces.  Now, I have no earthly relation to Barry Hannah, or even an intellectual one.  I do know that smart people have nice things to say about his writing.  That's great.  What I love about Barry Hannah right now is this description of his behavior:

I never knew the old Barry, only the Second Coming of Barry, when he no longer seemed tormented, and instead was so comfortable with releasing his sweetness into the world.  I had heard most of the old stories and shuddered at their boldness as well s the anguish they bespoke - the unsustainable amplitudes of howling rage - or fear - and joy.  But I only knew the Good Barry - the one who evidently one day had gotten such an extra dose of courage that he shelved all the old stuff and decided to carry forward only the sweetness.  His yellow legal-pad letters arriving in the mailbox - the sentences written in a scrawl one had to sometimes divine or intuit rather than read - gave their recipients a courage that lasted and lingered for days: testimonies from a man who had decided to one day embrace and celebrate the world's imperfections.  A man who had outlived his demons.

He could still skewer a rat.  But all I ever knew of him was his new calling, the one where he told his friends, at every opportunity, how much he loved them.
I think you know where this is going, but allow me to bang us all over the head:  I want that extra dose of courage the writer speaks of!  I want the courage to tell my best friends that I love them, defenseless, raw, and true.  I want to cozy up to acquaintances who inspire me and dare to start a friendship.  I want the courage to live so fully in my heart that nothing stands between my experience of love and my expression of it. 

Do you think things could get dangerous, quickly?  I do.  And it could be really fun.

I am currently in a drawn-out conversation with a best bud about whether or not you can really be sexy and sweet at the same time.  I say, why not?  I say the most profound experience of love can also be the most erotic one.  And the most erotic experience can be so foundational because it has pulled back the societal curtains of what you think should or ought happen, to reveal the beating animal heart of what really turns you on, to find out why we are really all here: which is to experience, taste, dance and divine. 

If by sweet, you think, pleasing all people and being all things to everyone, then yes, I do not think you can be sexy and sweet at the same time.  But if by sweet, you mean, so deeply in your heart that you are like a bad ass backer of Truth and her band, then hell yes.  I know of nothing sweeter, nothing hotter.  And I say, go on and rock them both.

Therefore, whatever your truth, and wherever she is hiding (or wherever you are hiding from her), may you go to her and take that hot lady's hand, and together knock back a few shots of courage tonight.

With love and November's skittering mischief,
As always & most sincerely,


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Six Related Things

I am not sure what the connection is of my six related things.  But I trust that there is one, because I am thinking about them.

1. There may be no better combination in my world than a vinyasa yoga class followed by red wine.  I went to an event last night at a local donation-based yoga studio, and was bowled over by the re-incarnated studio's beauty.  The rich yellow hues and golden Sanscrit words painted high on the wall have me wanting to bring gold into my life in full force - golden paint, golden bangles, golden earrings, golden love.

2. My dog lies in a sun patch on the bedroom floor.  Ah, Sundays.  I am living the realization (that I have to re-learn all the time) that I get more done when I am relaxed.  I am paraphrasing a Yoga Journal article that once said: People (I) make the mistake of thinking they don't have time for a meditation practice.  But really, meditation saves you time, in the long run.

See also: My friend told me yesterday that she did yoga on the porch of a house in the country where she is caring for the animals this weekend.  The chickens plucked at her mat and toes while she practiced.  I love this image.  Chickens are great!  Love chickens.  Running around like a headless one is, however, not as cool.  What is cool?  Meditation!  Clarity.  Pausing to check in with greater wisdom before diving into projects and to-do lists.  Just a little pause.  It could "save" hours.  It does for me.

This is perhaps what Gay Hendricks means in his book, The Big Leap, when he says we create time.  (This book?  It's a good one.  A quick read.  A little life-saver.  Trust me.)

So, Person + Meditation = Much More Productive Person.  But this is just a bonus!  The more primary equation is: Person + Meditation = Person Aware of Personal Life Purpose.  Therefore, = Much More Productive (& Happy) Person.

3. When I confessed to my chicken-sitting friend, with whom I am working on a project that necessitates a lot of back-and-forth emails all week, that I am afraid of "bothering" people, she said she feels the same.  I wonder if a lot of people feel this way.  Sometimes when my mom calls, she says, "I hate to bother you sweetie.  I know you're very busy."

Sure.  I'm busy.  But we all are.  We all have lives.  (Just thinking of my mom saying this, by the way, makes me feel tenderly.  It's sweet that she is so considerate.  But I miss my mom.  I want her to call, especially when I'm busy.  Because what am I so busy about, if it doesn't have to do with love?)

What happens when we are afraid to bother each other is that we wait until it's a better time to take care of our needs.  What good is that?!  Guess what?  It's always a good time to call someone and tell them that you love them.  It's always a good time to answer the phone and hear that you are loved.  So, without getting too far into the answers, (um, on cue, my husband just came into the room to say he loved me), I have this question to pose to us all: Who are you afraid of bothering?  And this reply: whoever it is, do it!  They want to hear from you.  And you have something to say.  Go on.  Say it. Let's make a habit of bothering other people, and breaking through the fear that what we care about doesn't matter.

4. At the event last night, my friend led the vinyasa class, in the middle of which she said, "How are you living from your heart?  You are doing it every day.  You may not always feel it, but you are."  I like this reminder that we never really lose our intentions - we just sometimes tune them out.  I started thinking how I have let go of some really sweet practices in order to make time and room for some new events in my life (a full-time job - yay!, new projects, morning dog walks).  These new events are beautiful additions, but I realized last night that I need to re-integrate some of my favorite practices into my days again to stay strong for these new additions: to re-fuel, to have something to give.  Hence, more meditation, focused integrity about my food choices, and simple pauses for myself - the self that doesn't want to be uber productive all the time, but wants to stand under the stunning yellow trees looking up, caught in the profound wonder of life.

5. I may have had only 4 things to say.

6. I love you, whoever you are.  You are beautiful.

I am being lazy, and don't want to find a poem for this post.  Maybe you have one that fits perfectly?  If so, please email it!

In sunlight, in grace,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweet & Salty: A Mutt's Hand Guide

A Myth of Devotion 
by Louise Gl├╝ck

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive
, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone's Girlhood

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you

which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

I have always felt sexiest naked, and most creative in pajamas.  Creativity is sexy (damnit).  Maybe even the sexiest.

Sex & life go together like thunder & lightning, but I won't be walking out of the house in the nude anytime soon.  At least, I hope I won't.  On late cold evenings, however, I will sometimes walk the dog in polka dotted flannels. 

In any case, what feels sexy is obviously different for every person.  Equally reassuring is the fact that what someone finds sexy is also different for everyone. And yet, I find myself trying to BE sexy sometimes - some version of it, anyway, that has been dreamt up by my fabulous mind...which sometimes loses track of beauty and openness.  These times of effort-full sexiness pull in no external attention.  What does pull in attention is a sly little smile on my face - a real one, unrehearsed, irresisted. From males and females (and animals and children) alike, the secrets I keep with myself end up being my greatest accessories.  Because emotions project, and joy is visible.  It is also magnetic.  All emotions are. 

Because of this, I like to be very aware of the state of my emotions because that is likely the state I will be magnetizing in my life - in the mirror of friends, strangers, animals, and projects.  But it is awareness that counts - not the emotion.  We can be in a weird place emotionally but still totally radiant as a whole. 

The key to this is acceptance, intention, and presence.  In other words, as Jennifer Loudon says in her book The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life, "Surrender to your inner process instead of trying to label it.  Jung said, 'What is not brought to consciousness comes to us as fate.'"

This is all another way of saying: what kind of sexy do you want to feel?  The effortless, the grounded, the resilient, the pure?  Or the affected, the harrying, the no-pain-no-gaining, the unsustaining?  In moments when I am owning and delighting in the flow of my radiance, I have everything I need: delight, self-assurance, playfulness, humor.  My soul is full and beaming.  That's the sexiest - proven, period.  Even when I'm wearing the most wacked-out mish-mash of clothing patterns, differing styles, and plain uninspired non-styles.  Which is maybe why I find nudity such a lovely state.  Because it takes away the illusion that I must wear something or drape myself in a certain way to be attractive.  It is bare-bones honesty: physical, emotional, spiritual.

When I was growing up, my mother coached: Beauty is as beauty does.  Which is true.  (She also urged: Stop walking in front of windows without clothes on!  So I did.) 

I would like to amend her first advice to: Beauty is as beauty IS.  Vapid?  Zennish?  You decide!

To me, the sexiest people are the assured ones.  The grounded.  The open.  And the sexiest moments are the tender ones.  The curious.  The mysterious. The playful.   

And while it is way fun to dress up and be wild, or playful, or short-skirted, skin-baring, and I loooooove it when people do this, I find that, for myself, writing letters to my friends or receiving cool night air on my face makes me feel just as sexy, if not more so, than working on my image of sexiness.  Because what we project all starts inside, in the feelings behind our choices.  In Sanskrit, this is called the bhav: our state of being.  In English, this is called...what?

I write a lot about dogs because...what can I say?  I love 'em.  I love 'em for their comical personalities and fickle decisions, for their elegant animation of the mutt in all of us.  They remind me how adorable a dusty, bad-smelling beast can be.  They remind me that our core essence is capable of commanding the heart of the world.  They remind me of what truly makes me happy: the shaggy, the comical, the spontaneous.  In other words, our million rough edges. 

So, I now dedicate this post to comfort queens and beauty queens, to purists and slow-spinning honey bees.  To crooked teeth, fractures, scars, to the bald spots my friend has had since his twenties, to my one grey hair, stiff and blanched, that I found to my delight when I was 24, to every "ugly" foot ever made in the womb, to the racoons in my neighbor's yard that march across her roof at dusk, to the leaves she rakes from her garbage cans trying to keep even the dirtiest place tidy, to children still living with their parents, to the courageous adults moving out of their parents' shadows, to memory's cracks, to crumpled bow-ties, to our bewildered, hopeful, rampaging loves.

Wildfires. Winds. Confessions we cannot hide. The way my husband's hair wakes, fluffy and thick. 

At.this.very.moment, count the ways to love: perfect perfect perfect perfect.  Tell everyone you meet: We are Home.

With love and sunlight on your path,


Friday, September 30, 2011

Terms of Use: A Guide to Ownership

A rendering of my inner stupa next to a Trent Miller drawing.  Can you guess which one I did?!
Dear self,

Today has been a hard day.  I don't really get why, but it has!  You seem to be very worried about the future, about where all of this is going.  Which I get.  But it seems to me you are also becoming blinded by panic!  Which is both unattractive and unsettling.

I also noticed that you are depressed, which to me means you aren't settled in yourself - you are jumping out every which way.

You still feel incredibly cheated by some of your life experiences. But I see some things that you cannot change! And so - where is all this anger coming from? You seem to be very angry at yourself.  Which is a little like shooting yourself in the foot.

I wonder if you can go inside now, and forgive yourself for the things you have done that hurt you. Go inside and tell these scared places that you are sorry.  That you hear their pain.  That you feel it.  That you want to do better, and you need their help, instead of their fury.  You get it.  You get that they are pissed.  You are listening.  And yet you don't quite know what to do about it.

Last night, you were jittery jane - jumping all over the place.  When you finally sat, at the end of the night, you felt the presence of God.

Today, in little Frances' room, you heard her tell her mother,
I'm right here for you - and you thought how that's what God is saying to you all the time - when you think you are lost. God is saying, I'm right here by you.  You are not alone. 

I have a friend who regularly goes through old journals to see what she was thinking and feeling at earlier points in her life.  I keep my journals but rarely go through them.  But I found this entry from six days ago that already seems profound and wise--as our creations often do when viewed from a distance.  I know six days is not a lot of time, but hey.  Leaps of faith can happen in a second, right?  A lot can happen in six days.

My sister-in-law checked in with me recently after several posts where I wrote about depression.  I don't mean to give the impression that I roll around on the floor moaning all my life.  In fact, I am often bopping around at unnatural speeds.  Okay, unnatural for me.  In any case, I write so much about healing and depression because I want to take the stigma out of being uncertain in life, out of feeling overwhelmed, and especially of feeling vulnerable.  I want to be intimate enough with life and each other to welcome the shadows of our psyches, the shadows of our world, and to get comfortable with those shadows, because they are a part of us, too. 

I guess I'm not much of a Toughen up! kind of gal.  Because the paradox of inner strength is that it does not come from emotional calisthenics, or regimes we impose on ourselves.  It comes when we learn to be so tender with ourselves that we become the mother to our inner child.  When we learn the skills of tenderness, we strengthen our relationship to ourselves so profoundly that we become nearly unshakeable.  And that is the kind of tough I believe in cultivating--tough from the tender inside out.

When I saw rediscovered this six-day-old letter above in my notebook, I thought of my dear friend, whom I spoke to yesterday.  Among such topics as fig-infused cocktails, shopping at Kohls, and a blouse-sweater-belt item I bought that my husband is now referring to as "the contraption," my friend and I talked about the nature of depression--how it is ultimately the result of betraying your inner will.  Like putting a big brick on your belly, pinning yourself in place. Remembering this sometimes helps shift my perspective when I am feeling low.  It helps me ease up on any expectations I might be placing on myself that are causing emotional discomfort. 

What also usually helps is a spontaneous run with my spastic dog. The disaster of us careening down the sidewalk, him halting to stop to pee without warning, me getting my arm jerked out of its socket, makes me laugh.  As he stops every half block, and I tug on his leash without mercy, we are not winning any competitions in speed or grace.  But we are having fun.  And in that delight--disorganized, a purpose in itself--I remember the unerring presence of the perfect in the imperfect.  And that, my friends, soothes my heart like no other balm.

So, maybe try this sometime, a letter to yourself - for those times when your head is out of whack with your heart, and someone wise must simply take the reigns.  Or don't!  Who gives a hoot what you do, as long as it pleases and provides for you.

With that, I say hello (& hello! & hello!) to Autumn, seeing what ways I can slow down, gather supplies, and go inside--the house, myself--to watch the light changing, to draw out the blankets, to get cozy with my family, and just like the trees, unwind.

With love and hope for your inner unveiling,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tea, Sun, Chickens

What I Learned From My Mother
by Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds.  I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape-skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

1. The Chickens
Is it wrong to one day write about the secret wisdom of chickens, and another to tell you how boiling three of their legs and making a pie from their tender meat saved my pickling soul?

All day, nothing could cure my sadness.  Not a delightful morning jog with Dog, not time at my friend's house watching her sew, not toasting bread and spreading on delicious butter, and putting tomatoes and basil on top that I myself grew.  I ask myself now, looking back on this day, Goodness, how did you miss the seed of those moments?

I don't know.  Sometimes it just happens that way.  In fact, I have lately been meditating on the fact that what we do does not matter so much as the attention and intention we bring to it. 

Perhaps that is why what did cure The Sadness, as my husband affectionately calls that beautiful friend-emotion who sometimes visits and hangs around for a while, was making my own pie crust.  Because there was no reason to make a pie crust, other than the fact that I wanted to.  In that purity of decision, and crazed focus, that slight buzz of time rush and determination, I wheedled my way beyond the fog of a near-hovering migraine and into the bone joy of blinders-on, heck with the rest of the world, cooking.

Whew!  I'm sure glad I did it, too. 

Chicken pot pie might always remind me of arriving at my friend house to retrieve a book on a cold Saturday during graduate school, and being offered a giant slab of warm pot pie made by her neighbor, our friend Gina.  The crust on that pie was so thick and delicious, eaten in the cozy dark of Gina's windowless kitchen, that I can almost mistake the memory of it for putting on a beautiful, hand-knit sweater, and pulling up a rocker to sit at a fire.

2. Tuna Noodle Casserole (For When You Are Depressed)

When I got married, my excellent maid of honor (who is famous for being in something like sixteen weddings) presented me with a box full of recipe cards she had collected from many women in my life.  Making food from these recipes is a simple, true delight.  I know that this feeling is nothing new to lots of folks; in fact, I know it is a common wedding custom to share recipes.  To this I say, Yay Tradition!  It pleases me greatly to connect my kitchen to those of my family and friends.  Moreover, I find it an honor to expand my circle of women through food.

So, yes.  Food is healing!  And cyclical and amazing!  And recipes have a life of their own!  I hear them calling from their little boxes while I sleep at night.  Days after I read one, I have a bionic urge to pluck it from its safe little bed and do whatever it tells me, give myself over to its sometimes formidable ingredients. 

This urgency is wisdom, I say.  Like today.  Baking hearty pot pie on a gorgeous sunny day? Totally called for. 

3. The Future (Egads)
I wrote a bit about my kitchen as a guest on a blog I like, which hopefully will appear soon.  The posts and pictures on this site remind me of all the delicious freedom, exploration, and colorful dreams that your twenties can and hopefully do hold. 

Today is my friend's birthday. 

She and I have talked about the nervousness that comes with tipping the scales from your twenties to your thirties.  I have been surprised by the beauty and power I have discovered in the world via my thirties, so imagine my delight when having tea with a friend this week, to hear him state that turning forty is the Absolute Best! 

So there.  No matter what our age, we have this to look forward to: growing toward more wisdom and humor, the tenderness that comes with understanding, the flavors that season our souls on the path, and the good foods we learn to make! 

To your health, to your dreams, and unfolding creations.  And yes, that sounds like a scrapbooking ad.

So, while the tomatoes slumber and old grasshoppers rub their knees, I leave you for a night's rest.
with love,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Are the Song Behind the World

Dissolver of Sugar
by Rumi

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand, or a look.
Every morning I wait at dawn.  That's when
it's happened before.  Or do it suddenly
like an execution.  How else can I get ready for death?

You breathe without a body like a spark.
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away with your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.


Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away.
The light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought.

Good morning, furry life.  I felt the need to jump out of bed last night to type up this Ode to Chicken Song (my title) by Alice Walker, from her memoir, The Chicken Chronicles.  The book is a marvel, in that it is so controlled at times as to be cheap (come on, Alice!  Give us more) but at other times is full of such quiet power, I wonder if I will ever forget its anecdotes.  In any case, it is a wonderful diversion from the wishy-wash days surrounding the full moon as my heart sloshes from side to side.

Ms. Walker writes to her chickens in California while she is abroad in Tibet.  The following passage comes after the author's discovery of the most ecstatic sound she has heard in her life: the buzzing prayers of monastery nuns as they gather in one room, chanting disparate prayers.  Walker writes:

...behind the world, always, there is a song...behind every country's 'leadership' and every country's 'citizenry' there is a song.  Behind Tibet, behind the spiritual 'country' the Dalai Lama...and the Tibetan Government in Exile have formed, there is the song of the nuns, which is the song of the feminine.  Without this song there is no movement, no progress.  It is this song that keeps it all going, though we may hear it infrequently or only by accident.  For millennia and to our detriment, it has been deliberately drowned out.  But it is there, nonetheless...

It is the same with you and with the other animals of the planet.  You are the song behind the world human animals inhabit.  Awww...hohohohohoho....This is the vocal song you sing as chickens, but each animal has its song in its very being: we are our songs embodied; it is the song of all of us that keeps our planet balanced.

I have been thinking about forgiveness lately, or, why I am still thinking about something that happened eleven years ago.  Growing up, I was taught that it is important to forgive, because it is a good Christian thing to do.  The whole Christian Thing To Do fixation cracks me up, by the way.  I wish there were a code for living, by which we could always find ourselves safe.  I find the truth to be closer to walking on a tightrope, when every moment is guided by the winds, and our balance, and our feeling out the next step.  Maybe that is cynical, but it seems to me, the older I get, there is no clear answer to life's questions, except as we can answer for ourselves.  And I think religions help us come to those answers.  At least, that is the case for me. 

As I made my way into adulthood, I began to understand the reasons behind these good Christian ways (etc. etc.)  I mean, the edicts were only helpful as I understood how to practice them in my life.  Without that meaning, they were rigid rules.  And there is nothing less enlightening than mechanically following rules for enlightenment.

Some wonderful things have grown to make sense in my life.  Some of these are cooking, friendship, growing tomatoes, and feeding others. When it comes to the area of forgiveness, however, I have some work to do.  A gifted friend once taught me that forgiveness does not mean, to pardon.  It means, to give back.  There are lots of ways to give back - in fact, one of the ways could be very eye-for-an-eye-ish.  But the way I thought of my friend's counsel was this: I will not hold this (insult, accusation, painful information you have handed to me).  Like a baton, I am handing it back to you.  You learn to incorporate it into your life how you must, or dissolve it through your own process of healing and transformation.  But it isn't mine to hold. 

Sounds easy, right?  Ha ha ha ha ha.

I have been giving back one painful moment for eleven stinking years now.  The missing link in my efforts has been prayer, possibly.  At least, that is my new theory.  In prayer lies the final piece of surrender; and it is surrender that ultimately heals a heart, and thus a life.

But what IS surrender?  (Besides the ding-dang hardest part of life?)  To me, it is letting go of my attachment to outcomes.  It is pausing to say, I don't know how this needs to end.  And then moving forward still - despite and with that uncertainty.

It is the willingness to discover something new.

This morning, I drew a gigantic bunny on my sketch pad.  Its ears rise up behind it, as if tuned into some other planet.  And maybe that is what is called for sometimes: opening up the whole scope of hearing, so we hear not just our own mind's complaints, but the wider world around us.  Not so we tune into those complaints, either.  But so we hear what is always being said underneath them: the prayers for peace, songs and chants for peace, the buzzing, braying truth that what lies behind our suffering is an ability to heal all things.

Last week was full of adjustments and readjustments for me.  I had to sand the wheel of my life that had been turning so smoothly before I went on vacation.  It was a little ugly, in truth - this adjustment period. But it was necessary.  And by Sunday, I was lolling about like a turtle in the sun, finally at peace in my body and life.  Because of this, when a friend came to me that night, and needed to go for a walk in the park, I was able to be totally present with him, and free of any personal distractions chattering in my head while he talked about his life. 

This is the power of the feminine - not only the ability to be there for another, but to be there for ourselves when we are having a rough time.  In fact, we have to be there for ourselves, first, in order to be any there for anyone else. 

I once made the mistake of believing that this presence with myself was hard, or complicated, or time-consuming.  Sometimes it is.  Last week, it felt like a full-time job.  But most of the time, with a little routine maintenance, it is a pretty seamless process.  And when you fall out of routine, and find a big hitch in things, there are others to call in for support.  You, me, the chickens, and the nuns.  We're all in it together.   This is the good news.  
And I thank you for being part of it.

With love,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rain Delay

When I Look At the Old Car
by Marcia F. Brown

When I look at the old car
backed into the cleared-out space in the shed,
I can almost understand
those bewildered men who leave
their softening wives in middle age, up-
and-walk-out after decades
of marriage and family, to take up
with some buffed and waxed young thing
with great lines, horsepower
to burn and a dazzling array
of untested equipment.

When I look at the old car's
headlights, dulled with disuse and staring
at me, as if to say, What did I ever do?
Wasn't I always good to you?
Turned over every morning, rain or snow,
to start your day? Kept you safe
all these years, mile after mile?
And I'm filled with guilt and say with feeling
You're absolutely right. You were the best. There'll never
be another you
, as I glance surreptitiously
at my cute new model sitting in the old car's space
in the garage and explain, You just got old. 
You're falling apart. And besides,
I say,
I've fallen in love. We're already living together.

And the old car looks like it might be wired
to explode. 

So I walk across the yard
and look at the new car,
and it occurs to me that before too long
the new car will be old, the suspension
will sag and things will fall off.
And like the lout who'll use up
his young fling and want to trade in again,
we'll deny that we've put on some miles ourselves,
dump this one in the shed and go shopping--

until someone lays a firm hand on our arms
and says Enough. You just can't drive any more.

I love this poem.  What an ending!  I considered sending it in a letter to my mom's friend, but thought, what if she got the wrong idea?  What if she thought I called her an old car?  I decided against it.  But her friendship with my mother reminds me of mine with a best friend from college who called out of the blue last night. I was ecstatic to see her name on my caller i.d., and surprised.  "Is everything okay?" I asked.  "Of course," she said.  "I just called to say hi." My gut fear that something was wrong reminded me of what I had discovered earlier in the day: I've been moving too fast. 

It's a cozy rainy morning and my dog has been oversleeping lately.  Because the dog is my alarm clock, I have been oversleeping too.  But rather than feel guilty or even sheepish about it, I am taking this opportunity to catch up on Nothingness, or the cozy Somethingness that is: blankets, the rain outside, sweet stacks of books and lamp light throughout the house.  Though I have been fighting the concept rigorously, I am finally surrendering to a post-vacation rest. 

In the spirit of paying attention, I will post a few pictures of the tiny moments that have been arresting my buzzing mind, bringing me back to the blissful physicality of the present tense. 

Picture 1
My gray-faced dog
who paws at me continuously since I arrived home, bringing the much-needed message: Enough with your agenda already!  Let's play.

Picture 2
A front-hall composition, complete with shiny little hatchet my husband (inexplicably) deposited there.

Picture 3
Naked baby pic!  This is my nephew who, through shrill and explosive laughter, relentless requests fruits and vegetables, and a curious addiction (discovered last week) to kale green smoothies,
brings me back to the present in nano-seconds, settling into the abundance that is

The photos are all a little blurry, but, I admit it!  I kind of like it that way.

May we all make time to count the ways we love today, 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family In the Forest

The House on Broughton Street
by Mary Ann Larkin

Always it was a summer afternoon
I see my mother climbing the stairs
to the porch
My grandmother waiting
tiny but formidable
She'd been expecting her
the sisters smiling
brothers watching
My mother in her grey crepe
the white gloves she always wore
Her hair and eyes dark
among these fair, freckled people
My father shyly presenting her—
something of his own—
Shuffling, they made room for her
and she took her place among them
and between them
grew something new
Marie, they came to say,
This is Grant's Marie
She seldom spoke
but rested among them
a harbor she'd found

My father gave her a carnelian ring
surrounded by silver hearts
Before Grandma died
she gave my mother the diamond brooch
from Grandpa
My mother brought with her
fabrics that glistened
a touch of velvet
sometimes a feather
They noticed the light
in the rooms where she sat
And even thirty years later
after the lost jobs and the babies
after the mortgages and the wars
what they remembered most
was the way my mother
set aside her gloves

She was buried on Good Friday
There was a blizzard
After the funeral
the youngest uncle
read "Murder in the Cathedral" aloud

I have the carnelian ring now
the diamond brooch
I wear satin when I can
and I am attracted to old houses
where the light passes
across the porch to the windows, making
of the space between, a grace

I recently had a conversation with my mother where I apologized for moving so far from her.  We laughed about the apology, as if it were a reasonable thing to apologize for, as if I had run out on a family, abandoned someone and refused to pay alimony.  We both know that what Tim and I came out west to do was important to us, and how powerful it is to follow your bliss.  But I still felt the need to apologize, if only to say: I once thought I could change who I was by changing my location, but I see now that I am perfect the way that I am. 

Part of who I am comes from my mother.  My father.  My grandparents.  The glittering constellation of my inherited past. 

And part of who I am is all up to me. 

I am traveling this week, to the place I call home. I feel my life circling back to old business, to reclaim lost loves and tossed-away lives.  I also feel it opening up in whole new ways, as I discover new-to-me joys.  Between the old closing over and the new opening up, I find my full life.

I just read the introduction to a collection of short stories based on places set aside by The Nature Conservancy.  In case you haven’t noticed, place is a topic I obsess over. The introduction - written by Barbara Kingsolver - stood out to me for its articulation of something I have grown to understand about my own writing. 

Kingsolver writes: “…the natural world has always inspired authors.  From the early American novelist James Fenimore Cooper , who celebrated the ‘holy calm of Nature,’ to the contemporary writer Annie Proulx…who has said that ‘everything that happens to characters comes welling out of place’…our nation’s authors have been moved by nature and often incorporated it into their work.  Indeed…not long ago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor went so far as to remark, ‘Isn’t all writing nature writing?’”

Even though the quote addresses how the natural world influences writers, Henry Taylor’s words were especially relevant to my understanding of why I write at all.  Whether I am writing a poem or a letter to a friend, I write to listen to the babbling brook inside, to take from it what glittering rocks I find and lift them up to the sun.  I find my clearest self when I write, and discover both where I come from, and where I am heading. 

As I copied the above passage, my plane descended to the ground.  To North Carolina.  To my eternal practice: Find ground.  Sink in.  Take what you’ve been given, and water it.  Watch it grow, and give thanks for whatever shape it takes.

Wherever it is you are landing, whatever shape your life is taking, may you bring quiet attention to your loves and self today.  I leave you with sweet hope and blessings for our shared future.
As always and most sincerely,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

I baked a Leprechaun Trap Cake for my friend Amelia's totally rad blog and I'm pretty psyched about it.  Read all about baking versus cooking, and sugar versus love, here.

Then add Bon Appetempt to your Reader and have a magical day!


P.S. What's that?  A poem you say?  Certainly!  Hang on to your hats.  This one's a WILD one. 
(Stay tuned for a recorded reading of this poem by a fellow nerd...any volunteers?)

I am dedicating the inclusion of this poem to J.L. Conrad, who also writes wild poems about farm and circus and other beloved animals.  Check out her astonishing book, A Cartography of Birds, and see for yourself!

P.P.S. I went to my second-only county fair on Saturday night, which is perhaps why farm animals are on the brain. 

I once told Tim that I LOVE the fact that he is from Ohio.  He says that was a first for him.  Getting to the county fair on a date for the first time when you are 33 is just one of the perils of growing up in New England.  Just kidding.  BIG LOVE, Connecticut!  All the states I've lived in are rad.  Okay.  Now for that poem...

Although I Sweeten Myself with Sugar
by Rodica Draghincescu

My hands filled with sugar
(a new being? lucky?)
I met him along the railroad tracks
watching over his ruddy goats
good morning I MEAN CAN'T
the DAYS have turned to grass
and GRASS isn't good for these animals any longer
I've brought you sugar
the goats bleat whenever they feel like it
their bleating has stopped - in goat language this is called
FREEDOM - I'm about to experience the sensation that I've
that won't cause me trouble
Dear mr. goatherd I've brought you
I reach out my hand - I don't know
why it's said THIS WAY when in FACT
the movement is made with the root fastened
between shoulder blade and breast WHICH breast
is BIGGER: it's learned to sing and TO
TALK: NURSING this other condition
scares it depresses it leads it to droop it wishes
IT HAD EYES to scope out temptations UNDERNEATH clothes
although I sweeten myself
with sugar I'M ONE OF THOSE
WHO DON'T DO a lot of good for the REPRESENTATIVE
ORGANS now for INSTANCE grass
grown on THIGHS is poisonous to goats
THAT'S WHY I reach out my hand filled with sugar
DEAR MR. goatherd TASTE it
(meanwhile) the indifferent or CAPABLE goats
have stopped the freight train at the railroad museum
where the railroad clerk MR. SCOW was celebrating his WEDDING VOWS
they were sitting DUMFOUNDED wearing IN PERPETUITY
kaleidoscopic CARDBOARD flowers attached with SAFETY
(a SOLDIER escaped from his UNIT
was trying to remedy the error)
LET'S GET A MOVE ON  / farther ahead IT'S THERE /
the wedding OF dead goats
the museum's freight train is like a kind of LOVE
you've give up waiting for
(having a TOTALLY different OBJECTIVE
THAN killing goats)
(the goats were too greedy)
(AFTER ALL THEY can live without beings GOATS)
NO ONE will hold their FREEDOM
up to ridicule
good morning mr. goatherd
CAN'T you (EVEN) see IT'S
MORNING I'll take pains
to believe that the NOISES AND THE BLOOD
enveloping us will give FREE REIN to a new relation
between you and me
(my hands filled with sugar
I'll never be
Good morning mr. goatherd
the kid hawking the morning papers has spread
the news everywhere in town

(Translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Antuza Genescu)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mother Divine

by Jeff Tweedy

When the devil came
he was not red
but chrome
and he said
come with me
you must go
so I went
where there was no fire
no torture
no hate
everything clean and precise
towering polished diamond skyscrapers
glittering ice avenues
translucent blues and silver signs
marking every turn
I was welcomed
with open arms
all lines of defeat sanded away
I felt no fear

I received every kind of help
the air was crisp
sunny late winter days
springtime yawning
over the cottony horizon
hell is chrome
I believe in god
hell is chrome

Presently, a roofing crew blasts music through the neighborhood.  They have been working for a week on my neighbor's house.  One member of the crew, a particularly spirited man, sings along to the festive Hispanic music hopping out of the radio.  While hammers make perfect background music for meditation (wink wink), I love this man's uncensored joy. I find myself grinning every time he cries out in song.  A huge pine blocks my view to the house but I imagine this man leaning into the slant of the roof, crooning to each shingle as he slaps his hammer down.  Maybe he doesn't care for his work.  Maybe it is only the music he loves.  It doesn't matter.  He sounds as though he simply cannot help himself and this abandon delights me.

I have been thinking about fertility lately.  Not THAT kind of fertility - although I did watch When Harry Met Sally this weekend and appreciated Sally's line about your biological clock not really starting to tick until you are 35 in whole new ways.  No, I have been thinking about how gentleness is a quality I was not able to give myself earlier in my life, and how projects and days and relationships blossom under its loving influence. 

The summer after I got married (those storied 14 months ago!) I traveled to Santa Fe to visit a friend, and to reconnect with the old place I originally fell in love with on a road trip just after college.  Wandering around the square, I spotted a 12 foot high statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in front of Santuario de Guadalupe, the oldest church in the United States honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was drawn to the statue like a downstream current, and I circled and circled her, taking pictures from every angle, soaking in her beauty.  I drank in the golden constellation of her robe and its Statue of Liberty-esque turquoise patina.  I puzzled at the child bursting from her feet.  And I bowed beneath her towering, benevolent, powerful head, her massive shoulders, and folded-prayer hands.  I was devoted immediately, though I had no idea who this woman was, or what her story was.  I didn't care. I was in the presence of something great and loving and gorgeous.  That was enough for me. 

I later learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe's story and symbolism, but feel totally unqualified to explicate it here.  In a book titled A Woman's Journey to God, Joan Borysenko offers this: "She identified herself as 'the Mother of God, who is the God of Truth; the Mother of the Giver of Life; the Mother of the Creator; the Mother of the One who makes the sun and the earth; and the Mother of the One who is near.'" 

I adore this last name: the One who is near.  I find it so intimate and comforting and sweet.

Borysenko continues: "One of the most interesting aspects of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is that she is wearing the cintz, a tassel or maternity bond, around her wrist.  She is a pregnant goddess."

At the time I discovered the statue, I was going through an intense questioning period in my artistic life.  My journey to Santa Fe was, in many ways, a homecoming to my creative roots - to the woman I had been, and had been becoming, before I muted my free-spirited ways in the rough years after college.  Unbeknownst to me, in Santa Fe, I was journeying to get them back. 

As I stood beneath this eternal mother in the clean sun, I felt something I had no idea I had been living without.  I felt pure, utter acceptance: acceptance for who I was, for what I had been born to do, and for whatever pathways made me happy. 

No wonder my devotion was instant!  I had accessed something ancient and healing. 

When my parents visited Santa Fe,  I'm afraid they experienced the heat more than any other aspect.  But what mattered to me was my recognition that a primal energy connects my mother and I.  She is the woman who created me, housed me in her body, nurtured my own body's growth, and, ultimately, is the woman who taught me how to be a woman, living in a body that can create new life. 

My mother was on my mind all over Santa Fe.  I wanted to show her everything I discovered.  I felt incredible gratitude for her, and for all the ways she nurtured me - especially in high school when my brothers had left for college and my relationship with my mother blossomed.  My experience with the statue initiated me, and reconnected me to the universal mother energy, and thus to myself as a woman with creative powers.  This experience, and the art, and the festive embrace of God, were some of the reasons I felt so close to my mother - who was states away on the east coast - while I was in New Mexico. 

This is the energy I have been thinking about lately: the pregnant goddess energy, the woman in her creative powers, ready to give birth to the moon and the sun.  When I am in contact with this energy, which yogis call the Shakti, all my human loves and relationships connect.  They swirl together and mix and play, because I am stepping into the current drawing closer and closer to the mother's heart.  Things make more sense to me when I am in contact with this energy.  At the same time, I become aware more than ever of the mysteries I can never solve, and of the underwater shadows I cannot name.

When I am truly connected, I accept these mysteries and shadows, and even delight in them. Safe in the discovery process, I rediscover faith.

I get it now, what people mean when they say faith is a garden you have to water daily.  I am finding that my garden loves gentleness - sweet attention and listening.  I bet most gardens do, but what do I know? As Jeff Tweedy says in an interview about writing poetry in The Writer's Chronicle, "I believe that the interior landscape is much more honest because I really believe that is the only thing you can truly know...I find that the more you can get to the essence of your interior life, it actually becomes more expansive than any world view you can try and impart."

Sometimes I find efforts at self-care daunting, haunted by failures past and future.  But today, I'll slop  water on the roses, plop the house plants in the sun.  Is it really so hard to nurture and care for the soul?  Aren't there a million good ways to do so?  My hope is that we all find our own ways.  That we give ourselves permission to delight and cry out in song, or to weep and massage the blood out of welters.  Whatever the steps we take home, may we honor and keep them.  May we know where they are, even in the dark.  And may we share what we find with each other.

Friday, July 8, 2011


One day I just woke up, the wolves were all there
Wolves in the piano, wolves underneath the stairs…  -- Josh Ritter

Fortunately Not Every Day Is Important,
by Sol Gordon


          feeling sorry for
          the plants
          like my love
          in the Fall of


         seek the sun
         among withered flowers
         and brief encounters
         where friendship lingers
         not for long.
         I am loved
         not enough to still the
         Exile.  I lit two candles to


         The way.  No one noticed
         What is a way to a
         Jewish holiday?


         responded, somewhat impatiently
         I thought,
        "For Heaven's Sake, Water The
         Plants, And Get On With It."

I’ve been thinking about food, lately—both what we put into our bodies and into our minds.
  I’ve been on vacation in Alaska for the past two weeks.  Besides the fact that my dog may never forgive me for leaving him (it’s true, I may overestimate the value of my company), it was a very good trip.  Whales breached.  Sea lions burped and roared.  Bearded men sold and fed me delicious hunks of fish.

I Heart Alaska.
  Truly and freely.

Packing my suitcase for the flight home two days ago brought the kind of sadness I feel when departing a loved one.
  It didn't surprise me, exactly.  I knew I was leaving the most perfect combination of wilderness and western culture that I have found to date.  Still, the usual things I conjure up to make going home easier--the comfort of my kitchen, the freedom of uninterrupted yoga practice, the note cards and papers waiting in my desk at home--failed to seduce me.  I felt that, were I in a different place in my life, Alaska and I might make one sexy duo.       

Still, I got on the plane.  I entertained the briefest fantasies of returning to Colorado only to pack up everything and go back to Alaska.  But I knew they were only fantasies, and here's why: because I'm tired of moving.  I'm tired of being far away from everyone I love, and getting to the east coast from Colorado is way easier than getting there from Alaska.

All this added up to another realization: I'm tired of chucking my heart onto passing trains and wondering why I'm so tired at the end of the day.

Before the trip, I had imagined being struck by a great epiphany while we traveled.
  Instead, I got thunked over the head by a dull club. A red-headed stepchild of sorts emerged from the depths of my being around the end of week one.  She was gap-toothed and freckled, and hung around the front porch of my mind.  When I asked what she needed to tell me, she said, simply, “You ain’t having enough fun.”

Knowing that opportunities for amusement were in abundance (boat tours, coastal roads, log cabins, sourdough pancakes), I dug deeper for what she was trying to tell me.  I struck upon it immediately: though my body was on tour in one of the most gorgeous landscapes of the country, my heart itself was in a cardboard box, stuffed at the bottom of my suitcase. 

Travel stresses me in two ways:

1. When I don’t have adequate space to mediate for several days, my emotions board the nearest roller-coaster and ride every wave of anger, despair, depression, and despondency, and take those I love with them.

2. I often have difficulty with food options on the road.  This makes me anxious and, when I make the wrong choice, very very cranky.

All this comes back to grounding.  When I don't take adequate care to do so, I suffer big time and, unfortunately, so do those around me. 

I often think of a van full of dogs that Tim and I drove to Florida once.  They were piled into crates, and those crates were stacked one on top of another.  We were delivering the dogs to safety, to a no-kill shelter eighteen hours away.  When I want to bare my teeth at my travel companions, I think about those dogs.  Often, I fail in efforts toward patience, and I growl and snarl--if only internally.  But those sweet pups that Tim and I were not able to let out for those eighteen hours--not even for a bathroom break--were silent the entire ride.  It was like they knew where they were headed, and just wanted to get there.  I'm sure they were frightened, or more than anything a bit confused.  But they managed their spirits better than I do on big trips.

What I learned on this trip, in addition to many marine animal facts and what a glacier looks like up close (Superman blue!), is where I am out of balance in my life, and how to go to those places and soothe them.

I also learned that rocks left behind by glacial morraines are sometimes soft to the touch.
  I’m not saying I want to rake through my life and leave behind only perfection.  Actually, I do. And that’s the problem.  I know, intellectually, that perfection isn’t my job.  Surrender to the craggy parts of life, and learning to love them as much as the luxuriously soft and impeccably credentialed ones, is.  That sounds like there are a lot of those impeccably credentialed ones.  And maybe there are.  But all I seem to be seeing lately are the big ass crags.

I know that surrender, not perfection, is my job.  But why do I have to re-learn it every darned day of the year?

I once learned that, traditionally, Quaker women leave one mistake in the quilts they craft, because only God is perfect.
  What a sweet combination of reverence and playfulness!  And who are these women who can limit mistakes to just one?

I’ve been reading the exquisite Journal of a Solitude
, by May Sarton.  Incidentally, this book has been on Tim’s shelves, which are packed to the gills, for years.  I have passed it several times a day, for several years now.  Often, all that I have seen are shelves that are in desperate need of some Feng Shui love.  Now that I have finally pulled out Sarton’s book and waded into its sweet attention, I think: how strange is life that I wanted him to chuck what I need most? 

Here is a gem from the bowlful of gems contained in
Journal of a Solitude

Found this in an old journal of mine – Humphrey Trevelyan on Goethe: “It seems that two qualities are necessary if a great artist is to remain creative to the end of a long life; he must on the one hand retain an abnormally keen awareness of life, must always demand the impossible and when he cannot have it, must despair.  The burden of the mystery must be with him day and night.  He must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted.  This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tensions is the source of artistic energy.  Many lesser poets have it only in their youth; some even of the greatest lose it in middle life.  Wordsmith lost the courage to despair and with it his poetic power.  But more often the dynamic tensions are so powerful that they destroy the man before he reaches maturity.” 

Must art come from tension?  A few months ago I was dreaming of a happy work, a whole book of poems stemming from fruitful love. Now here I am back on the rack.  But perhaps this is a sign of health, not sickness.  Who knows?

And, from a delicious book I picked up in Denali, called Small Wonders: Year-Round Alaska,
a little piece of advice on ground work:

…go out and explore the world gathered around you…The closer I look, the more there is to see.

So, here’s to despair!  Or, learning how to work with it.  To seeing the trees inside the forest, to piles and piles of beautiful books, to bear and moose-lovers, to art as food, to meditation as life, and to abundant, life-long practices of mindfulness and humility.

With love,