Wednesday, July 25, 2012


This morning I was writing in my morning pages about my times with Ruby, and I suddenly flashed on a memory from my early childhood in Baltimore, going with my grandmother (my father's mom who lived with us) on the bus downtown.  Here's the resulting poem:


Wearing patent leather shoes
            and white gloves,
Going on the bus downtown
            with my grandmother.
Riding the escalators in
            the big department stores.
Eating lunch in Hutzler’s basement,
            chicken chow mein, or shrimp salad on toasted cheese bread.
Visiting my cousins’ grandpa Harry’s shoe store,
             next to Mr. Peanut
Nodding and waving in the window,
            the smell of peanuts and oil filling the street.

Sometimes we would go to
            the big library, the one with
The science museum on
            the top floor.
Always, we would go through Lexington Market
            on the way back to the bus,
Stopping to buy paper cones brimming with
            buttermilk, creamy and tart.

Almost 60 years ago now,
            she, 40 years gone, me 50 years gone from Baltimore.
That downtown probably long gone, too,
            but alive in my memory,
Even down to the smells of
            department store perfume and exhaust fumes on the street.

I wonder what memories
            my granddaughter will carry
Of times spent
            with me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Don't Know: Part 2

I’m still on the “I don’t know” theme.  I may be here for a long time.  Maybe for the duration.  Who knows?  (I don’t.)

Here’s the thing.  Sometimes “I don’t know” is pretty dour, at least for me.  But yesterday in my morning pages, I started writing: “I don’t know.  I don’t know. Tra-la. I don’t know.”

I don’t know where the tra-la came from, but it’s a keeper.  Got to love morning pages.  Some days it’s just so much blah-blah-blah, but every now and then something insightful or inspiring or helpful comes through.

Anyway, “tra-la” changes the whole tenor of my “I don’t know.”  It becomes more child-like, perhaps.  Or more silly.  Whatever the mood is that it incites, I realize it shows that I’m more accepting, and if “I don’t know” is my new mantra, acceptance is my new discipline. 

Humor has never been my strong suit.  I sure envy those who come by it naturally.  Life feels hard when you take every damned thing so damned seriously.  And I am serious to a fault.  So, if anyone out there reads this and knows anything about lightening up, do send the advice my way.  I guess that’s one of the things I enjoy so much about being with Ruby.  She’s funny and adorable and I get buoyed up by being around her.

So, for a while yesterday I wrote a lot of “Tra-la, I don’t know”s.  Then Imy eyes were drawn back to the SoulCollage® card I showed in my last post (take a look if you missed it).

“Tra-la” can lift things back to realm of the dance of the gods.  Back in our old yogi days we called this “Lila,” or the cosmic game, the dance of the divine.  In Greek mythology, as I relate to it. we are all pawns in the gods’ games, and we have no way to understand what they’re up to.  They use us as they will, for their own purposes.  Or, maybe they aren’t even thinking about us, and we are just buffeted around by the winds that are conjured up in their whirling and dancing, or whatever it is that they do.  They may not even see us or care; maybe we’re just like little ants to them.  If they step on us, why should they care?  We’re on our own. 

Or not.  I don’t know.  Tra-la, tra-la.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I don't know! Who knows?

I was just sitting on my couch talking on the phone to a friend when I noticed a hawk was sitting on the roof of the cottage.  It was a good-sized one, too.  That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often around here.  Maybe it’s an omen!

This morning Barry brought in my SoulCollage® stuff (stored in the shed, of course, since our house is staged and stripped down) so I could make a card to celebrate an important someone in my life.  After I put that one together, I figured while I’ve got materials out, why not make another card?  Usually, it’s so much more fun to make cards in a group, but I’ve also made quite a few on my own.  What I love about the process is that it accesses something other than your conscious mind.  In other words, often you don’t know what you’ve created until after the card is complete.  I didn’t have an idea in mind – I just let myself to be drawn to the images.

Here is a photo of the card I made today, and this is what it says to me:

I am one who is in a fierce dance with the unknown.  I am caught in a wild wind, blown about until I am confused about where I am or where I should be.  I cannot even tell what is real and what isn’t.  I would love to be able to sort things out, to see the pattern, to understand where I am and what I need to do.  But…. I don’t know, and I don’t know who does.   I don’t know!  I don’t know!  That is my mantra right now.  I don’t know.  Do you know?  Who knows?

Today, for some reason, I’m not depressed about this.  It sounds depressing to me when I read it, but I’m okay – for now – in my not knowing. 

I am figuring out how to dance this fierce dance, even if it’s while sitting in my chair.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Power of Stories

In 2003 I bought a book by local storyteller Joel ben Izzy called The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness.  It tells the story of ben Izzy’s loss of his voice after surgery for thyroid cancer.  This wasn’t a little temporary setback, but a paralyzed vocal cord.  No voice.  For a storyteller.

The book intersperses stories he has told with ben Izzy’s personal journey.  I appreciated the book when I read it the first time, but had kind of forgotten about it.  For some reason, I picked it up this week and re-read it.  Now, my situation is nothing like ben Izzy’s, but I related to so much of what he had to say.  One of the major elements of the book is his reconnection with his old storytelling mentor.  Their relationship was not an easy one.  Lenny, the older man, was frustrating, sick, alone and a general mess.  And also wise.  Here are a few things this had to say.

“Life is a tough teacher.  First she gives the test.  Then she gives the lesson.”

“For months now, you’ve been trying to scrape and claw your way out of your own story… But that’s not the way it works.  You’re in a story.  I’m in a story.  Everyone is inside a story, whether they like it or not.”

No spoilers here, in case you want to read the book.  But here’s Joel ben Izzy’s own conclusion:  “Here’s what I’ve come to:  I still believe that things in this world do, indeed, happen for a reason.  But sometimes that reason comes only after they happen.  It is not a reason we find, but one we carve, sculpted from our own pain and loss, bound together with love and compassion.”

Reading this led me back to the attitude I’ve already written about but find hard to maintain:  acceptance.  The more I resist where and how I am, the more upset and/or depressed I get.  I don’t know why any of this is happening to me.  It would be lovely to truly believe that everything has a reason and that all will work out. Honestly, I just don’t know.  Here in the middle of whatever this is, it isn’t possible to really make sense of it.  I think the best I can do is remember Caroline Casey’s dictum: “Believe nothing; entertain possibilities.”  That ALWAYS makes sense to me. 

Here’s a Zen story ben Izzy recounts in the book; I’ve also read or heard it in other places.  But for some reason it’s sticking in my mind.

Two monks were traveling to their monastery when they came to a stream swollen by recent rains.  A beautiful young woman stood by the edge, needing to cross but afraid to do so,  She asked for help, and the older of the two monks picked her up and carried her across, setting her down safely on the other side.  After the monks had continued on for a good while, the younger monk could no longer contain his anger.  “How could you pick up that woman?” he challenged.  “You know we are not supposed to touch women.”  “That woman?”  the older monk replied.  “I put her down hours ago.  Why are you still carrying her?”

Acceptance.  Whenever I can, I hope to try to remember  to put down the stuff I’m carrying.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Some Days You Get the Elevator (and Some Days You Get the Shaft)

The hardest part about having a broken foot right now is that it restricts my activity, when being active is the best way I know to keep from sinking into depression.  I so miss swimming, my best mental and physical health strategy for the last 25 years. 

The house isn’t selling after 6 weeks on the market.  I guess it’s going to take someone out of the ordinary to really appreciate what we have created here.  We love our house and think it looks fantastic.  But it isn’t like the standard new house.  We don’t have a large master bedroom.  No garage.  We’re next to some (practically unused) freight tracks.  The Redwood City schools aren’t great.  What we DO have is a wonderful cottage, a very large family room with (gas-starter) fireplace that has housed many, many salons and rituals, an organic vegetable garden, a beautiful kitchen, lots of storage, a hot tub and nice deck.   The problem is we’re in Silicon Valley – and are looking to get out.  Silicon Valley types seem to want more conventional homes.  People who would like our house probably live in Berkeley or Santa Cruz.  There’s not a whole lot to love here any more, other than friends and the weather.

Some days I seem to be able to look more philosophically at my situation.  I’m 3 weeks into healing the foot, so hopefully about halfway through.  We don’t HAVE to move, and we have lots of reasons to be okay here (though living in a staged house is annoying at best).  I have Max’s wedding to look forward to.  And Ruby to cheer me up on our weekly visits.  Having this blog to work on has been helpful.  I know I have so much to be grateful for.  My problems are so small in the general scheme of things.  But guess what?  It doesn’t help when I’m feeling like this.
All my appreciation and philosophy seem to have taken a vacation today. 

This is NOT the kind of blog post I want to write.  All the others so far have had some content I could be happy to put out there.  But, honestly, I’m spending a lot of time, a lot of days or parts of days, in this place, and it feels a little dishonest to only post the stuff that I like or that makes me look thoughtful and on top of it.

I do have to say that I get more depressed when my other symptoms are up, and today’s one of those days.  I HAVE decided I need to stop saying either “I’m sick of this” or “I’m tired of this,” because I don’t think it helps me to not feel either sick, tired or both.  What I’m trying to remember to say is, “I’m ready for this to change.”  I am.  Really ready.  For all of this to change.

Maybe I can at least get a poem out of this.  I haven’t exactly been following Stafford’s poem-a-day method, but I have written quite a few during this period.  So, okay.  Here goes.


David Whyte has been visiting my dreams.
We walk and talk together.
When he spoke at Stanford last month,
he spoke a lot about his friendship with John O’Donohue,
and his grief over the passing.
John, he said, was a philosopher-poet.
He, David, a poet-philosopher.
It is a fine and wonderful distinction.

What am I? – I wonder.
Not a philosopher, really,
though sometimes philosophical.
A poet? 
It’s not my primary calling.
Perhaps I am a priestess-poet,
in a time when neither priestesses nor poets
have an affirmed place.
There are no temples
other than what we create
in our minds, yards, or trees.
Poets are mostly self-published and marginalized.

All I can do
is go out to the garden,
raise my arms to the heavens
as priestesses have always done.
Bow down to the earth to whisper
to the ancestors.
Leave a few lines of poetry
tucked into the flowers.
And acknowledge myself.

Well, it’s something, and it feels good to have written.  It’s funny putting out rough, unedited poems into the ethers.  Well, what have I got to lose?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

There Is No Time to Waste

Hecate showed up at the Jumpstart writing group today.  The prompt: There Is No Time to Waste

Life in Limbo.
Sitting at Hecate's crossroads,
Looking down one road, then the other.
No decision made.
No direction determined.
Only waiting.
Only time to waste.

Meditating on the passage of time,
On the road traversed until now,
On what might be.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Only waiting.
Only time to waste.

Watching the crows soar overhead,
Parents calling caution to their babies,
Families flying together to a stunted tree.
Only waiting.
Only time to waste.

I look for Hecate to show.
it is, after all, her crossroads.
But she seldom appears in daylight.
Night is her time.
Only waiting.
Only time to waste.

Regardless -
The wrinkles on my forehead deepen,
My gray hair turns white.
I look to my dreams.
Even the waiting matters.
There is no time to waste.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hecate, Goddess of Crones

Some friends were interested in my assertion that Hecate is a goddess of crones and wanted me to elaborate on that.  So, I asked her.  Here was her response:

Oh, yes, but I am not limited to that.  I am associated with the night and the moon.  They (the Greeks) made me the goddess of witches because they viewed my power as dark and strong. That was their fear speaking.  Yes, I have power, and power is amoral; it is only power.  Witches, or women with power, were not trusted, they were feared, especially because men knew that women had much to be angry about.  If women had power (the men thought), surely they would use it for revenge and retribution.

But revenge never interested me.  It is a waste of good time and energy.  Righting wrongs, setting things aright, putting things out of alignment back into place - these were and are my interests.  Witches worth their salt feel this, and that is why they are healers.  I am happy to be their guide.

Night is my time.  That is why I was resting in my cave the day Persephone was abducted.  I travel mostly in the dark.  It is when I feel most attuned.  See me and you'll know why this is so.  I need no acclaim, no blaze of Apollo's glory, to know who I am.  This is why I am goddess of crones.  What else must crones do than befriend the darkness they are heading towards?  Know the dark as a friend.  It is like the womb - a place to sleep and dream.  It is shelter and refuge.

When you cross over, I can accompany you.  I lead and follow.  I guide and mentor.  I know Persephone but not her realm.  But I can guide you to her.  You must learn not to fear.

What do you think these difficult times are preparing you for?  How you work now is all preparation for that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Anything Is Possible

 Two days up, one day down.  So it goes.  Today Hecate appeared as the shaman woman.

Anything Is Possible

Sinking -
Stomach elevator drop -
Heart in mouth -
Dropping down low.

The shaman beats her drum.
She places her hands together and bows - 
Namaste -
Picks up a staff topped with a quartz crystal.

Woman of mountain peaks and rushing streams -
Woman of flowers -
Grandmother woman -
Speak to me of the journey,
For I am stuck here,
            sunk into the mud.

Look at the clouds – she says –
Always shifting, always changing.
Look at the sky -
Always there, whether blue, gray,
            or midnight black,
Speckled with stars
            or streaked with sunset.
One thing remains constant,
Background, foundation.
Everything else moves.

Muck doesn’t hold you,
You hold onto it.
You are only stuck
            if you give in.

It may or may not be
time to move on down the road.
When you rest, rest.
Replenish, refill, restore.
Accept the pause.
No impatience.
No self-pity.
Look at the sky.
Look at the day.
Morning begins creation again.
Anything is possible.