Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teach Us To Be Tender

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
        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'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

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. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


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

Friday, September 21, 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,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Fall

by David Wagoner

Stand still.  The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows

Where you are.  You must let it find you.

I've been reflecting lately how every step we take in our lives has value, and how we must trust the paths we've taken, for they have led us to where we are right now.

Or, as a page of my journal said it last month:

One of the most difficult of times I've had to trust myself was when I met my husband in grad school.  I was dating someone else at the time, and not ready to admit that my life needed to change.  But then I dreamed about Tim for twenty days straight.

These dreams piled on, and finally convinced me that I had to open up and listen to my now banging-a-gong, loudly chattering heart.  I needed to open to my life, which wanted to heal me.

It was a dramatic turn of events, but here we are almost six years later, two years of marriage under our belts, still learning from each other.


I used to be embarrassed that I have dated a few people in my life.  At the rehearsal dinner for our wedding, a dear friend's dear mother toasted Tim and I.  Not knowing Tim yet, said she knew he was one heck of a guy to be able to keep me.  I laughed, and glowed in the community circle that weddings provide. 

She had known me best when I was in high school, just starting out in my dating career, and unafraid to make mistakes in love.

That is to say: when I was a little arrogant in the land of love.   A wee callus.  And a whole lot of fun.

Sitting in a room full of people who had known me when I was a tiny girl letting rabbits out of cages, others then who had known me as a little dancer in shimmery outfits, those who had known me as a kaleidoscope of creative energy (and irresponsibility) in college, and others who knew me as a connector to yogic roots - all these people circled round, ostensibly celebrating this love Tim and I had found to shelter us through life, but truly celebrating the passage of life itself - and the courage such a passage entails. 

With all these people in one room, I was nervous when my friend's mother started talking about my dating past - as any sane person would be. 

But now when I think about it - both her recollection of it and my open and daring heart as a teenager - I recall the richness of it all: the qualities that drew me to these people, the lessons we learned together and taught one another, and the sweet goodness of life: that all the moments before lead to this one now, where I sit at a table and write to you and remember it all.

I joked recently that I understand why old people sit around and remember their lives, and tell the same stories again and again.  (We'll all be lucky if we still remember the stories we want to tell again and again, but that's a topic for a different time...) 

Stories are our connection to life - they are how we learn, and how we love.

Cling lovingly to the stories you adore.  Or, as Kerouac wrote, Accept loss forever.  Accept that there is no right way to do things.  Accept that in this moment, you have taken every step you needed to take to be where you need to be right now.

Accept the perfection of your path - every winding, messy step of it.  And take a cue from the people who love you - we are all delighted by the show you've put on.

Not me, but easily could be.  Photo from antique store in NC.

From Jim Harrison's novel Wolf:

I once years back had an older but much unwiser professorial friend who told me after his seventh bloody mary:
-All you have to do is tell it like it is.
-But nothing is like anything, I replied, with a very precise Oriental smile.


"The wound is symbolic and cannot be reduced to any single interpretation.  But wounding seems to be a clue or a key to being human.  There is value here as well as agony."  -Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

I guess I've been writing more about perceived mistakes than trauma or wounding in this post, but I think all of these subjects have to do with the vulnerability of being human, and the strength, beauty, and tenderness that come with that assignment. 


This post is dedicated to my friends in western Colorado.


And now, go forth with compassion - for yourselves, and for our hungry, spinning world.  Be good to yourself, and to the ones you love.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creek Bed Full Moon: The Finding Place

My Meadow
by Hayden Carruth

Well, it's still the loveliest meadow in all Vermont.
I believe that truly, yet for years have hardly

seen it, I think, having lived too long with it -
until I went to clean up the mess of firewood

left by the rural electric co-op when they cut
my clump of soft maples "threatening" the lines,

this morning, the last day of September. My maple leaves
were spilled in the grass, deep crimson. I worked

with axe and chainsaw, and when I was done I sat
on my rock that had housed my fox before the state

executed him on suspicion of rabies, and then
I looked at my meadow. I saw how it lies between

the little road and the little brook, how its borders
are birch and hemlock, popple and elm and ash,

white, green, red, brown, and gray, and how my grass
is composed in smooth serenity.  Yet I have hankered

for six years after that meadow I saw in Texas
near Camp Wood because I discovered an armadillo

there and saw two long-tailed flycatchers
at their fantastic mating dance in the air.

Now I saw my meadow. And I called myself all kinds
of a blind Yankee fool - not so much for hankering,

more for the quality of my looking that could make me
see in my mind what I could not see in my meadow.

However, I saw my serviceberry tree at the edge
of the grass where little pied asters, called Farewell-

to-Summer, made a hedge, my serviceberry still limping
from last winter's storms, and I went

and trimmed it. The small waxy pointed leaves
were delicate with the colors of coral and mallow

and the hesitating blush of the sky at dawn.
When I finished I stepped over my old fence

and sat by my brook on moss sodden from last night's
rain and got the seat of my britches wet.

I looked at my brook. It curled over my stones
that looked back at me again with the pathos

of their Paleozoic eyes.  I thought of my
discontents. The brook, curled in its reflections

of ferns and asters and bright leaves, was whispering
something that made no sense. Then I closed my eyes

and heard my brook inside my head. It told me -
and I saw a distant inner light like a flash

of a waterdrop on a turning leaf - it told me
maybe I have lived too long with the world.

I want to make a T-shirt (I'm looking at you, friends with screen-printing supplies) that says: Imagination can save a life!

I talk about imagination a lot, but it's important to me - I guess because imagination, and humor, and seeing beyond the confines of the apparent world - dreaming up scenarios that feel better to me, and then making them happen - all feel like safety zones.  More than that, they feel like vitamins, like giant nourishing soul injections.  They feel like the point of living, to me. 

And Hayden Carruth says all this so much better than I say it.

Last night, I walked down to the Poudre River in town and sat on its noisy banks.  The moon will be full on Friday, and it cast its soft, pre-dark light over the cooling prairies and gargantuan trees, reminding me of ancient landscape paintings, the light soft and lush and beyond my normal eyes. 

I sat listening to the water bubble over the rocks and thought: this is here all the time.  When I am at home, bored and over-heated, when I am squabbling with my ideas for the future, when I am watching a movie inside on the couch - this water is here burbling over the rocky bottom of its bed, rushing forward, whispering and singing like this.

It's kind of a small miracle to stop and listen to water and trees, and watch tiny black birds flip and turn like kamikaze acrobats over dark water.  There is so much sanity in the world - it is just a lot bigger than the human mind.  And it takes a little bowing to, to reap it.

My husband and I once watched The Onion Movie, which is hilarious and ridiculous and offensive, as you might imagine.  A few sketches from the movie have stuck with us - most notable the alcoholic who returns from rehab with a "Nightmarish Addiction to Life," which has him ecstatically sniffing flowers and running through sunny fields with his arms open wide.  Tim teases: this is me, all the time. 

But, um, do you know how fun it can be to ecstatically sniff flowers?

In other news, I have just finished Jeaneatte Winterson's divine book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?  All you writers and language-obsessed loves out there...I don't even know where to begin!  Read it.  Read it, I say.  It's dark and funny and powerful and gorgeous.  Most of all, it is a testament to how hardship can drive us back into the corner of ourselves, stitching us forever into what matters to us. 

A little taste:

"So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any  of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is.

"It isn't a hiding place.  It is a finding place."

Gorge, yes? 

Finally, I want to confess my adoration for Mark Duplass, an actor and writer (and director?) and former band-member, who has been in two recent movies: Your Sister's Sister, and Safety Not Guaranteed.  We watched Safety Not Guaranteed on Sunday night and it charmed my little heart right into its lush rainy Washington state-setting.  Hooray for indie films, Seattle-obsessed film-makers, and the rainy season (which I know nothing about in Colorado.  Sigh).

Love to all, keep playing!

Friday, August 24, 2012


I like horses.  I like their long noses, their ridiculous taught bodies, their sharp horsey smell.  (Am I still describing horses right now??) 

To be clear, I am coming late to the horse game.  I was not one of those girls obsessed with them growing up.  Sure, I had My Little Ponies, which I liked for their powdery plastic smell, and in fourth grade I went to horse camp for a few days.  My favorite part of that week was the sleepover night, where the horses were put away and we played Capture the Flag in the indoor corral's plush red dirt. 

You see where I'm going here?  I had two older brothers who played with GI Joes.  When they took their shirts off for games of Shirts Vs. Skins basketball in our upstairs game room (sounds impossibly Silver Spoons-ish, no?) I did not understand why I had to leave my shirt on. 

When I was little, we lived in a Victorian fixer-upper.  One whole room was full of antique crap, including a rusty gumball machine twice my height, and row after row of flaking, leather-strapped trunks. 

At least, that's what it looked like to my four-year-old eyes.  The game room next to the junk room was mostly empty, probs so we could play basketball there, and the game room led to a tiny fenced balcony that I wasn't allowed to stand on.  I wasn't allowed on the balcony, especially by myself, possibly because the bottom would have fallen away, or because my grandmother's little brother fell out of a window when he was three years old and died. 

My mother, who grew up in a family that owned a funeral parlor, has tons of stories like this - children burning in fires, babies smothering under sleeping adults.  When you grow up with stories like that, you don't let your own kids explore a lot.  I'd say that's pretty understandable.  No complaints here.  We played basketball - inside!! 

But these horror stories of bad things happening to good people rise up in my memory now, making me wonder why every artist in the country doesn't move to the south. 

I have friends who think the south is a scary place to live.  But for someone with a passport to it, who knows the back way into parlor rooms and who is welcome in the kitchens cupboards behind the historian's condemning study, the south is teeming with stories, and tragedy, and fierce love. 

I was once asked if I admire Faulkner by someone referencing a story I wrote.  "Not really," I replied.  "I admire my grandmothers."  

Happy horse with backward hoof

Lately, I have noticed that The Writer's Almanac featured Jim Harrison poems shamelessly, clumping them into the folds of August without a single regard for favoritism. 

I, for one, am not complaining.

So...what do horses have to do with Jim Harrison?  Or ghosts and family tragedies? 

If you are asking me this, you obviously haven't read anything J.H. has written. 

But I forgive you.  (I wasn't' actually upset to begin with.)  Here is a poem by this man about my new favorite animal - The Horse. 

Night Creatures
by Jim Harrison

"The horses run around, their feet
are on the ground."  In my headlights
there are nine running down the highway,
clack-clacking in the night, swerving
and drifting, some floating down the ditch,
two grays, the rest colorless in the dark.
What can I do for them?  Nothing, night
is swallowing all of us, the fences
on each side have us trapped,
the fences tight to the ditches. Suddenly they turn.
I stop. They come back toward me,
my window open to the glorious smell of horses.
I'm asking the gods to see them home.

Pretty, huh? 

Finally, I want to shout-out to my girl, Cecile, who translated an entire blog post for me, from German!  I am beyond honored.  (Plus, I have secret hopes for one day learning German.  Just like I have secret hopes for one day sewing properly on a machine, instead of re-learning how to use one every three years and then promptly forgetting.) 

Photo by Cecile at

I have not yet made Cecile's delightful (blue!) poppyseed muffins - not because I'm intimidated by a recipe that so nonchalantly calls for curds, although I am, but because it's been so (unfairly) hot and I break out in a rash when I even think about boiling water.  However, the high temperatures waned last week, and I recovered my zeal for life, in which I ventured toward zucchini bread-baking land.  All went well.  (Quote from that morning: "Baking on caffeine is so easy!")  I even shared some bread with the neighbors, even though I wanted to eat both loaves by myself. 

Soon, I hope to recover my normal optimism/ability to do more than spritz rose water on my face and feel sorry for myself.  When that happens, I will make these muffins. 

Photo by Cecile at

And toast this horse.

Photo by Cecile at

Finally (I already said that, but it's Friday, give me a break), here is a video that needs no introduction.  Actually, it needs a ton of introduction, but I suggest you try it on as I did - coming upon it randomly while looking for a different song. 

You will either kill me for getting this song stuck in your head, or thank me for making you dance so early in the weekend. 

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all had these leggings?

Blurry You Tube video...not *exactly* my fault
With love and late-to-the-game equine fanaticism,

P.S. I've been hearing that people have trouble commenting on my blog.  If you have a difficult experience like this, let me know:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Divine Love, On the Scales


Eagle Poem
by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadly growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

I am in my second favorite office: the airplane.  My all-time favorite office is a cabin, any cabin will do, or a wood-enveloped room in a quiet house.  There is a room at my in-laws’ house like this, made of old barn wood.  Yes, please. 

I keep writing about easing off my personal goals, scaling back on what I need to do lately.  Every time I think I’ve scaled back enough, I hear a call to go further. It makes me think that I’m not the best judge of my own efforts.  I either think I’ve done a lot of work when I could actually go a lot further, or I have little to no insight into just how much I’ve done. 

In my day-life line of work, there is a lot of talk about metrics.  It’s perhaps telling that when I first started my job at the company where I work, I had no idea what people were talking about when they used the word metrics.  “Do we have metrics for that?” people would ask.  Or there would begin a new initiative to get some metrics around a topic.  I sat in meetings picturing a seamstress with her measuring tape, wrapping it around voluptuous hips.  That was as metric-educated as I was, and those type of metrics were something I had always resisted anyway, because they seemed shallow or controlling, and my own measurements, their numbers higher than my mother’s, and my whimsical nature combined to make me feel different from the way I thought I should have been.  Which is to say, small, silent, pencil-ish.  In other words: invisible. 

I’m beginning to think the only way out of the watery subjectivity of emotional life (have I been doing enough?  What have I been doing?  I feel like I haven’t done a thing, but I’m exhausted…) is a well-placed ladder of objectivity. Does this mean that, after many years of not owning a scale I might purchase one?  Probably not.  I’m not really talking about the body here, although the body is the best place to start, when considering mental health.  More likely, the kind of metrics I seek will come from friends, and people who love me. 

I wish I had been able to stand alone when I was growing up, without internally comparing myself to my mother or to other women, who all seemed bird-like in appearance, tamed and contained.  I often couldn’t hear my mother’s love for me, and now knowing what it feels like when I offer a compliment to someone and they reject it, think that must have been difficult to live with sometimes.  I once thought of our moments of glee, going to stores together and lunching in sweet cafes when my brothers weren’t around, as stolen gold.  But now I think they weren’t as anomalous as I thought.  They were in abundance, too, just as the critical voice inside me was.  

I have touched the space of acceptance in meditation and in writing, and I am learning to bring this practice into my daily life more and more.  It’s funny, because gratitude – so fueling and empowering – comes from a willingness to wade into the vulnerable places of the heart.  And yet, vulnerability is not the first word we think of when we think of strength.

But we were talking about business, weren’t we?  I currently work with someone who is an amazing leader.  What makes him so amazing to me is not just the quality of his decisions, but the openness of his heart.  In some ways, it is difficult to lead with an open heart.  But in lots of ways, it’s harder to live with a closed one than it is to suffer the pains that come with opening it.  I know because I’ve led in both ways.  I’ve embarrassed myself more with an open one, and said some stupid things and shared responsibilities so much that I wasn’t sure if I was even working or not.  But I’ve had more fun leading that way, too.  It takes humility and courage, and faith in not only oneself but in a greater mission.  A mission of one-ness, and of working to serve one-ness.  This sort of mission is a powerful thing to observe in action, and some days I think my front-row seat to this sort of show is the reason I love my job. 

So…I have said a lot here (and also, I fear, nothing at all).  I once was offered the beautiful assurance that the dreams of our heart are the dreams of God, and that I should trust them always, because they come from a divine source.  I don’t know if those words work for you, but I found them enormously revelatory, and think they point back to the strength that comes from a willingness to be vulnerable.  

Here is Denise Linn, one of my favorite authors, saying the same thing in her book,
Altars – Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life: “Remember that the longings of your heart are often your higher self asking to be born. The fact that you want to accomplish something is evidence that Spirit is leading you in that direction.”

As for metrics, I’m thinking that the words of a friend are the kind of measurement we should believe.  The words of our mothers saying how tall and handsome we are, or a girlfriend saying we are hilarious.  This is the language of devotion, and our hearts need this language like our bodies need food. 

I also read the following words in an interview with the late James Hillman yesterday in The Sun, and think it’s something we should all go around asking ourselves.  Hillman, who was apparently a controversial figure in the world of psychology, said, “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How am I useful to others? What do people want from me?’ That may very well reveal what you are here for.” 

I may have once balked at advice like that, fearing it implied I should go around pleasing others.  But I like to think of it as serving others, and then it makes sense to me. 

Hillman also said, “Why is there such a vast self-help industry in this country? Why do all these selves need help? They have been deprived of something by our psychological culture. They have been deprived of the sense that there is something else in life, some purpose that has come with them into the world.”

Maybe this is the kind of metric we need.  What am I here for?  What am I good at that other people need? 

We are funny when we are being ourselves.  Or we are ineluctably sweet, or true.  We are a gift to those around us, when we live unedited, without shield. 

These are the kinds of metrics I want to have for myself – am I healing to someone?
  Am I listening to someone so deeply they feel heard?  Am I seeing the beauty in myself, wild and unkempt, like a fox in the living room?

To your own personal metrics, and the lives that feed them,
With love