Tuesday, August 30, 2011


"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

--Isaac Asimov

"When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else."

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, from Farmer Boy

New York Times, 1902

"It is utterly insufficient (to eat pie only twice a week), as anyone who knows the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy must admit. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished."

In response to an Englishman’s suggestion that Americans should reduce their daily pie eating to two days per week.

Today, I finally asked the waitress at Paul's Place, the local diner, if we'd hit the pie happy hour or something, as again, our slices of pie were only $1.15. I'd been afraid to ask before, in case it was some kind of luck of the draw occurrence, and I'd spoil my luck by asking. She said that it was a special they run every Sunday-Wednesday after 8 PM. Suddenly, all my depression about living in Merced (that had reared up after my trip to the Pacific Northwest) lifted. I live in a town with a Pie Happy Hour. Why is the place not packed after 8 PM every night.

When I'm depressed, as I have been while transitioning from awesome kayak vacation to normal life, I sometimes browse the internet for possible other lives I could live. I found a job in Chicago (one of the places I fantasize about moving to) for a pie-maker for Hoosier Mama Pie Company. They make the kinds of pies I'm interested in making! Old-style dinner pie with artisan crusts and high-quality ingredients. As it's a new restaurant and some of my readers may be in Chicago, I'm going to paste their website here:


In all cases, a theme is appearing in my attempts to find joy. And one of my joy-alleys seems to be pie. I bake pie, when I have time, as Sweetie Pie the baker. My pies have even had some national publicity, thanks to my very good publicist:


Though there's a new bakery opening in town, there is not a pie and coffee shop anywhere in town. Though my bakery has been called House of Butter in my dreams for the longest time:


I'm ready for a new name for a restaurant. I had a dream I was preparing a meal for a queen. The meal was simple with a rich red sauce on top of spaghetti and a salad with sauteed corn and feta cheese.

The name Pie Alley is sticking in my mind, but I'm up for suggestions.

Sometimes, I take two bites of pie and am complete with that.

Sometimes, I daydream about how to make a cake that has a full pie within it, crust and all.

These are the types of things I like to think about--the way flavors and textures meet and mix, like a perfect dance partner. And we're sashaying our way down pie alley. Won't you join us?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kayaking with Killer Whales: Saying Yes to Orcas & Awe

From August 15-19, I was kayaking around the San Juan Islands. This blog is adapted from the third and fourth journal entry from that trip. I've pasted a link to a video about the expedition company I travelled with during this time. I didn't bother to take photos of the orcas because in the moment, I didn't want to mess with a camera.


"We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative? - a world without whales. It's too terrible to imagine."

"He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."
Hermann Melville.


Today, we rose early on Jones Island to eat breakfast because we had to get out boats in the water by 8 AM to meet the best currents, but that was delayed by a major, close in orca sighting. It was amazing. There were at least two dozen moving through the San Juan Channel (a rare appearance in that pathway, according to our guide). We observed them doing all sorts of things in the hour or so we watched them. I was NOT distracted by memories of the past while watching the whales. I had no frame of reference for this awesome sight. They are enormous and beautiful. I was in awe and humbled. My depression was immediately floored by the gift of the moment.

When I was in my 20s, I had some dreams about orcas--one in which I swam with a whale and the other in which one rose up out of the sea and walked along the shoreline with me. For many years, through many moves, I kept a mobile with three orcas hanging from it above my bed. This real life sighting was like the fruition of that dream.


Today, we left Reid Harbor on Stuart Island around 8:15 AM. Halfway to our next campsite, after paddling through Mosquito Pass, Evan saw all these boats lined up out on the strait, like paparazzi, which alerted us the orcas were coming, so he invited us to take a detour with the hope we'd see them. We paddled out a ways, and then started spotting the whales in the distance, so we moved out boats together, holding on each to each, so we made a giant raft, and floated there and waited and watched. Eventually, it got to the point that every direction we looked in, there were orcas--we were surrounded! Some were a mere 25 yards away! Some looked to be turned to swim directly under us. This is one of those situations were I'm short on words because of the intensity of the present moment.

Finally, after the orcas left our sight completely, we paddled back, with renewed energy, to our last campsite on San Juan Island. Evelyn, my paddling partner, and I were making jokes and laughing so hard about the stupidest things. I was laughing so hard sometimes, I couldn't paddle.

As I write this, everyone is reading their books while lying in the grass and resting. . .

Friday, August 26, 2011


I just returned from five days kayaking around the San Juan Islands in Washington and then visiting Port Townsend, Washington after that. This blog is adapted from the first of four journal entries I made on the trip. I will post the rest of the entries over the course of the next few days.


Every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Where are your choices taking your life? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?

--Eric Allenbaugh

Today, I embarked on a guided five-day kayak expedition that I book the day after X-man and I split up. We've landed at our first camp site after a rather light day of paddling--three or so hours, 7ish miles. We're in two-person boats, and I'm the only one of the crew who came on her own. I get to share the boat with a lovely seventeen year-old Portland, Oregon high school senior who plays basketball and who's traveling with her father and younger sister. She's amazing. She has traveled to New Orleans and to Oakland to build houses for Habitat for Humanity and has designs to grown up to be an anchorperson. She's also volunteered to be a guest star in the children's television show I'm currently developing, which I had the chance to animatedly talk about while paddling, reminding me that I have a strong connection to a project not yet in full swing. The show has thus far been a public interactive performance in which I teach science to kids through baking and cooking. Sweetie Pie's House of Butter is the name of the show and I am Sweetie Pie.

There's a new bakery opening in Merced and if I get fired for missing Friday's faculty meeting because I'm on the water, I will make a bid to work at the bakery full time, training to do fancy design cakes and revealing my pie secrets. I've always wanted to design and build high-end wedding cakes, so maybe everything will push me finally into that direction. It's not that the job I have now is bad--it affords me plenty of vacation time and is wrought with purpose. But my knees don't tremble in anticipation and I'm not filled with a joyful heart as I prepare to go to work, which was the case when I was working as a baker. Add designing and building edible, whimsical, and gorgeous sculptures to the mix, and I might grow wings and float up to the clouds on my way to the workstation.

But all these mental meanderings are a long way from the shore of Posey Island, where we've set up camp for the night. Posey is one of the smaller of the San Juan Islands and we have the whole of it to ourselves.

When one books an intense trip like this the day after a shattering break up, a relationship that ended with the realization that the bulk of the weeks were full of misleading words and actions on the part of the other person, one is not in her right mind. She doesn't know why, she hasn't thought, "I've always wanted to go on a five-day kayak trip." One is reacting. However, this trip is magical--we spotted a pod of orcas right before our first launch and there's been plenty of harbor seals, weaving their playful bodies up and below the water's surface. We rode some waves created by a big cargo ship and we floated in a thick kelp bed and had a lesson on kelp and were invited to taste it. It tastes like plastic.

But this trip does not heal all wounds--it's a whole lot of work, paddling for hours a day, and a little bit lonely to be away from home while the others on the expedition are here with friends, partners, or family members. But I hope it will help me find my yeses, to hear the strength in them, in the hollow of my heart, and to remember who I am and to begin the birthing process of all I might be. . .


I just returned from five days kayaking around the San Juan Islands in Washington and then visiting Port Townsend, Washington after that. This blog is adapted from the second of four journal entries I made on the trip.

A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.” --Bruce Lee


The trip doesn't require as many hours as paddling as I thought, yet it's still a yes to endurance. I'm not in the greatest shape and we are on the water over three hours a day. Don't get me wrong, I love being on the water, in the water, near the water. I was born in San Diego, near the ocean and any body of water feels like home to me. I found myself craving getting back on the water this morning after camping. We spent part of the morning tidepooling, waiting for the currents to shift before we launched, and I found I was a bit impatient at first. Also, the tidepooling kind of made me nostalgic and nostalgia for me is always more painful than pleasurable because I spent most of my life trapped in the loneliness within my own head, making do with my imagination, and in retrospect, this coping strategy makes me feel a bit sad. Also, I had trouble staying present in the tidepools because I kept composing lines of poetry in my mind--lines that combined the morning's pop of rockweed kelp under our feet, turkish towels, six-pointed (also called brooding) and larger purple sea stars--all this present discovery I mixed with thick memories of childhood tidepooling at the La Jolla Cove. Memories of childhood are more and more painful--even if at the time I felt they were positive experiences, my sense of confinement in the space of my mind, that retreat, was due to some perceived outside danger: people felt dangerous. I suppose I feel reminded of that again recently because of how the relationship with X-man, who'd been a good friend for a couple of years before we dated, revealed itself to be a kind of web of deception, and I'm not sure what of his words were true. So I'm suddenly returned to a world in which people are generally not to be wholly trusted.

So right now I'm enduring being pushed physically, which I welcome, and I'm necessarily enduring emotional pain, recalled from childhood. Mostly, I'm enduring grief, and disappointment, in the ending of what had felt like a joyful, though brief, relationship with X-man. Most of me wants to crawl, in this moment, into my bed at home, and stay there for months tucked up in solitude, but currently, I'm traveling with eight other people, all of whom are interesting and wonderful, so I will endure--even if I am not as social with them as I might be under better circumstances. I will endure paddle-stroke after paddle-stroke, and I will endure the loveliness of the sea and its creatures--harbor seals, sea lions, and porpoises--and this endurance will be an antidote to grief.

Friday, August 12, 2011


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. ~William Faulkner

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. ~G.K. Chesterton

Today, I made some final travel arrangements for a very special holiday--I will be spending five days on a kayak expedition around the San Juan Islands in Washington and then land a few days after that in Port Townsend, WA, to decompress, before flying back to start the fall semester teaching again at the University of California, Merced. This trip will have to act as a kind of rehab for the recent tumult of spirit--as it felt like what happened was a kind of love addiction bottom.

The thing is, 5 years ago, I was so sick, I didn't think I could do anything--and the idea of kayaking for five days, let alone one, was beyond my imagination. So, this morning, as I was calling the last of the hotels where I'm staying after my trip, and phoning Sea Quest, the expedition company, and even now as I report the advent of this adventure, I find myself near tears. 6 years ago--I should've been dead. 5 years ago, I had another wake-up call, and then this summer, I battled with a dark depression that threatened to take me out. Grateful? I'll say.

Today, also, I handed a thank you card to X-man. I owed him some money from a trip we took to Arcata earlier in the summer and I had to return his house key. The thank you was for floating me the loan for the trip for the summer. The card, check, and key were all in an envelope ready to take to the post office, but I happened to run into him this morning, so I handed it to him in person and apologized for taking so long to get the key back to him. I felt honestly that I wished him well, as I had signed the card, and I felt grateful that I could have a conversation with him and feel calm in my heart and hold my own strength.

Certain things are considered to become addictions when we become powerless over them--some may think we make a substance or a person a substitute for a higher power and when we do this with a finite thing--we'll never actually be full of what we need. This is why many recovery programs urge a spiritual solution to addiction, so people with addictions can find an infinite source of power as a substitute for the thing/substance/behavior that was crippling them.

I felt that source with me today as I packed my bags for the trip, as I bought my first digital camera, as I booked a hotel room with a jacuzzi, as I imagined climbing in my first kayak and floating out to sea with 8 other adventurers next Monday morning. I felt that source--God--with me today--as I handed this man I'd spent some time with and then ached over losing, a thank you card.

I am thanking God. I am grateful for the willingness to be changed. I'm grateful for the miracle of my life, that I am alive, that I have survived a few different life-threatening diagnoses. I'm grateful for shoes, a full belly, my fists, my wonderful opposable thumbs. I'm grateful for friends, for holidays, for work, for second chances. I'm grateful for you, dear readers. I can't wait to share stories from the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with you. I'm grateful to X-man for catalyzing my no's into yeses.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." --Gandhi

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." --Mark Twain

"Forgiving is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule."~Lewis B. Smedes

Nearly 6 years ago, I made a commitment to a daily spiritual practice which I hoped would change my life. It has; it has freed me from so much, and has given me a life which I never thought possible. Some days, my practice of the path has been sparser than others, but there is always a seed planted, a prayer said, whether in front of an altar, on bended knee, while jogging down a creek, while agonizing over a relationship, or while driving hastily to work. The prayer always fundamentally asks God to guide my every move and to help me be more helpful in the world.

I did not commit to this way of life because I wanted to be good, though I suppose I always had designs for goodness. I committed to this way of life because I was quite literally dying, and I was told by others who had survived the disease I had, that these were the things I would have to practice in order to survive.

It's always been clear to me that any negative ranting, whether in my head or out loud, is not helpful for others or the planet. But, as my aim is, admittedly, and perhaps selfishly, personal survival, I cannot afford to harbor resentment. It has the power to kill me. So lately, since falling into a spell of resentment towards X-man, I've had to pray harder and more heartily. It's a matter of life and death for me. I'm not supposed to pray for selfish things, but I believe letting go of resentment makes me more present for those around me, so I pray daily to be alleviated from my resentment, and I've added the St. Francis Prayer to my morning routine, which, line by line, asks us to sacrifice being right for being with God, asks us to sacrifice ego for truth and forgiveness.

So, this morning, I said my prayers, rattling some familiar words off without thinking too much about them, and pressing some words out of my mouth as if I was begging God for relief, praying to near tears as I ran down Bear Creek on my morning jog. Then, I switched Pandora on and when Jack Johnson's "Better Together" came on, I felt my heart burst open--not because I suddenly fell in love with X-man or someone else, but because of the music, the melody, and the playful upbeat nature of the song. These got into my body and popped me out of my gloom.

I'm sure the fervent prayers allowed me room for this opening. I felt near joy, something that's felt a bit distant lately--as if I allow myself joy, I'll forget that my heart was broken and it will happen--all of a sudden, again, and I'll be made a fool. But I rather risk being a fool again and again than live with that dark corroding thread that was sewing through my insides.

By the end of the day, I found myself earnestly wishing X-man well. I didn't phone him or anything, but I felt that I wanted whatever was best for him to come his way. Part of my prayer practice when I'm harboring resentment is to pray that whatever I want for myself is granted to the person I'm resentful at. I can't believe how good it feels to be wishing him well. This is the kind of love I've been after when I say the second line of the St. Francis prayer, "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." This is a garden beyond my imagination--the most beautiful harvest is on the horizon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Singing at the Top of My Lungs

O, she will sing the savageness out of a bear! ~William Shakespeare

Sometimes it feels like there's a small girl in me, a small me in me, full of terror, and she's screaming at the top of her lungs, her eyes wide and trembling. But sometimes someone holds the body the small girl lives inside, holds my body, and rocks me with his words, as if words were a sling, and the little one is eased out, as if on a small parachute from a rickety plane, into the sun, into a field of suns, of sunflowers reaching high above her head and full of the promise of dark yellow and food, and she lifts her head to the sky and the screams become song. Once, I heard a child crying, and as he was crying he was running lightly down an alleyway out my window. I couldn't see him, I could only hear his voice and his small feet moving his body down towards, I guess, home. As he ran, each step interrupted the crying, the wails, and soon he started to notice his voice and he started, instead of crying, playing with his voice, the way it could go up and down the notes, like a ladder, and he could start and stop his voice at will and his crying became song, like water. And the little girl inside me lifts her face to the sky and her open mouth spouts out song instead of screams and the song is a fountain that falls at the feet of the sunflowers, watering them as if with much-needed rain, shaking them at their feet, and as they shake, their seeds rattle, and I'm singing to the rhythm of the sunflowers--loud enough for the whole sky to hear me, loud enough to reach the sun, whose life-giving attention I so desperately need.

Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. ~Emory Austin

I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing. ~William James

God respects me when I work; but God loves me when I sing. ~Rabindranath Tagore

As long as we live, there is never enough singing. ~Martin Luther

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My bass guitar: a monologue

"Whatever the situation or level you're playing at, my feeling is you've got to be a strong player. Bass is a strong instrument; you can't allow yourself to play it weakly, with no authority. You've got to play with an attitude, because everybody's listening to the bass - and I dare anyone to challenge me on that..."

- Chuck Rainey

"The best grooves have conversations going on, like little subtleties that kick them up to the next level and add excitment. Simplicity is what make you tap into that, because when you leave space, you listen... When you hear what everyone else is doing you can answer them."

- Chris Wood

I started playing bass in January of 2010. Some people I worked with were jamming, trying to get some songs together, making a band--they were two guitarists and a drummer and they were looking for a bass player. One of them approached me at a mixer at work. I was new to the job. Of course, I always wanted to be in a band, I sang a little, I played piano as a kid, but it never occurred to me to play bass. So, this guy comes up to me and asks could I play bass and I said, "I play a little piano," and he said, "You can play bass." So I said, "I can play bass." I didn't have a bass and I didn't have money for a bass, but I went and bought one and watched a lesson on Youtube. I didn't want to go to my first band practice and not know how to hold the thing, not know which fingers to play the instrument with. This bass guitar for me became quickly like one of those lovers who you wonder where he's been all your life. And like a lover, it was--and is--frustrating, too. Like, the kind of frustrating you want to kill yourself over. Because here I am playing with these three guys who all have their personalities and longstanding history with their instruments. And I'm just sitting there trying to get the root note moved to the next root note in time. And we aren't playing fast and furious songs or anything. I'm just getting a feel. And then it's a big day when I figure out I can play thirds and fifths, and then when I learn my slides--forget about it. I'm gone. There's nobody loved the bass more than me, but it's a love/hate thing because I'm 42 years old when I pick up the bass for the first time and I love it almost too much and get so frustrated that I can't be that good that fast, that I go into resistance about the whole thing. Plus, when I started the bass, I wasn't even that good at hearing bass lines when I listened to songs on the radio or CD's. It's not like I've been listening to bass lines my whole life, so I'm playing bass totally green, which is not an altogether bad thing, because I'm not trying to sound like anyone else, and I play with a solid drummer, so at first I don't have to worry about keeping rhythm myself, because he's driving, so I just have to stay with him, and one of the guitarists has sort of built in his own bass parts on his guitar, so I'm just like this little chirping bird or something; I might as well be the percussion girl shaking the egg or something, and then, I start wanting more. I start wanting to have a voice in the band, with my bass, but they'd started without me, and it was hard to find a way in there. It was like trying to breathe underwater. So, there were all these things that happened. I'm not sure which was the real factor that split up the band because in typical band fashion there were all these below-the-surface tensions that were covered up by above-the-surface tensions, but despite all that, I really miss playing the songs. So now I'm sitting here, having to face the fact that I really love the bass guitar, and that any kind of love affair takes a lot of patience and you have to show up for the boring parts, the scales and arpeggio work, but then, if I just keep gathering a day and another day of the groundwork, maybe I'll be this really cool sixty year old chick bass player in fifteen years, but like anything I love, I'm also scared of totally going for it, scared it's going to break my heart, scared I'll never live up to my end of the relationship. I feel the bass is so awesome and even though I don't care about being one of those crazy solo bassists, that I have a strong vision of a very spare approach to the bass, one that relies on space and silence and simplicity, I'm just afraid I'm always going to be letting the instrument and myself down, so I'm thinking that my bass guitar and I need to have a formal wedding ceremony, one with witnesses and everything, and we'll ask for presents as well, and you'll all have to sign the ketubah to make sure that we get the support we need to keep the relationship going even when I feel like I want to jump ship.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Carousels and Cotton Candy

And the seasons, they go round and round,/ And the painted ponies go up and down./ We're captive on the carousel of time

~ Joni Mitchell

Today, I saw a girl with a cone of cotton candy that was twice as big as her head. She and I shared a smile as we both delighted in the soft airy mound rising from her hand. I enjoy the way cotton candy looks more than the way it tastes; I appreciated the chance to take in the view.

I'd driven up to Tilden Park in Berkeley with a friend and we ended up at the carousel. Sitting on a bench having a soda, I recalled to my friend that when I was eighteen I had an idea about getting married on a carousel. Later, we discovered that on the other side of the carousel, caterers were setting up a wedding reception and towards the later afternoon, we'd see the bridesmaids and groomsmen make their way up the hill.

I like the innocence of the carousel, though of course, I can't deny the dark side of carnivals or the use of carousels in films, such as near the closing of Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." But today, in the context of a strikingly gorgeous regional park in the Berkeley Hills, the feeling of the day was one of lightness. I stood, with my ticket in hand, waiting for the ride to slow and making a careful choice of the animal I wanted to ride. I ended up choosing a rooster and my friend rode the frog by my side. We were the only two adults actually on animals on the ride--the others stood by the sides of their children, holding them up.

For the past month, I've been out of town on weekends, missing the chance to go horseback riding at a colleague's house, but I've been reading about equine-assisted psychotherapy and wondering about whether it might help me through the recently re-engaged traumas of my past. It's no wonder I'm attracted to the steady predictability of the carousel animals. They stay in place, go up and down to the music, and are sturdy and heavy. They will always be right where you expect them, doing exactly what they've done--in the case of the Tilden Park Carousel--for the last 100 years.

It's going to be quite an adjustment to learn to lean on creatures less predictable than the carousel horse, to learn their patterns within the herd, and to learn to ask for what I need from them.

At some point, I'll have to stop floating atop the dreamy clouds of cotton candy and come to rest in reality, but today, I get to live in the dream, at least for the afternoon.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Once you choose hope, anything's possible. ~Christopher Reeve

It happened today, in a small burst in my chest, after so much darkness. But even in the darkness, I must've known there was a shard of light. I must've had hope of hope in order to find it.

Sometimes, the darkness felt like a deep, wide ocean that threatened to swallow me whole, to take me under, and I can say, if I'm holding onto something lighter than that darkness--a piece of wood afloat in the waters--I'm still not safely ashore. However, now I know where to find the map.

I read a story today about a woman who has gone through what I've gone through, the chronic romantic disappointments, the ensuing dangerous depressions, and she came out to a new life. I have every intention of following her there, even if there's much to shed in the process.

One cannot have a new life without giving up so many old ideas--I've been sewn together by my ideas of romance--passed down over generations, perhaps. Or I watched and believed the movies. My pursuit of love has consumed me, has destroyed me, in ways I won't go into here, but may later. However, it's not an exaggeration to say that my ideas of love have taken me to the gates of insanity and death. In my early twenties, I thought it romantic when a young man asked me, after we'd spent a week of entanglement, "would you die for me?"

I am giving up all my old ideas of romance and love. I am willing to admit I know nothing about real romantic love. I've had whole relationships that happened only in my imagination, some in which the most important turns in the relationship happened only through text messages, and some, that happened all too much in actuality, but the aftermath of which uncovered deeper and deeper layers of trauma until this last when I'm nearly cowering in a corner, a small child hiding from the angry parent.

I offer all of this up to the sky above me, as I hold on tightly to the light piece of wood that floats in the sea I've been nearly drowning in.

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Lips that taste of tears, they say,
Are the best for kissing.
~Dorothy Parker

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea. ~Isak Dinesen

To weep is to make less the depth of grief. ~William Shakespeare, King Henry the Sixth

It is such a secret place, the land of tears. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Those who knew me when I was younger will be surprised that I have to say yes to crying, as, when I was a girl and teenager, tears were a near-daily occurrence. But, over time, I learned to numb myself, to hold the waters in or just to feel differently about situations that would normally send me into the ocean as a younger person.

During the initial phone call that indicated the sudden change in the relationship with X-man, I did cry--sudden changes still have that effect on me, but over the past several weeks since then, my tears have been strikingly absent.

A spiritual mentor told me once that crying is good because it washes away the crap that's in our eyes from having our head up our rears for so long. My parents always told me that it was okay to cry. And so I did. I cried at everything. I cried instead of talking. I cried and ran from classrooms, living rooms, beds, exams, jobs, etc. Then, at 25, after four years in a physically abusive relationship, I numbed up; I cried much less.

I'm happy to report that after inhabiting a textbook case of being a domestic abuse partner, I was able to escape from the relationship, and spend some years thawing out and learning to open myself again. However, when I hit a large loss, particularly romantic in nature, instead of the requisite tears, I'd tend towards depression and self-hatred. Apparently, twenty years later, that tendency's intact. So, If I'm to change everything about who I am ("The only thing you have to change is everything," or so I've been told), then I need to re-learn, to recover, the crying Dawn. I need to wail and sob, I need to cry like Alice, until there's an ocean I can float away on, escape my unfortunate predicament.

There's something, the memory of the relationship, lodged in my body, that I need to release, not with words--talk-therapy or girl talk--but with a part of the water that makes up myself. I need to release it like toxins, like waste, and replenish myself with freshwater every day so I can release more until it--until he--is all gone, out of my system, and I am alone with myself again, whole and unbothered by his serpentine half-truths and lies--all those terrible things are going to live in the river to be washed with the rest of the world's tears, into the ocean.

And when the body has cried all it can cry, there's nothing to do but laugh:

Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don't know how to laugh either. ~Golda Meir

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Out of Bed

Rise & shine!

I don't want to discount how much I've been saying yes to getting out of bed every day when many days I have an urge to hide under the covers. This heartbreak go-around, I've broken a pretty consistent, lifelong habit, which is to go under when I face big disappointment. I started doing that when I was a kid and teachers didn't respond well to my best efforts from time to time, or tried to 'fix' my creative works, make them more in alignment with the assignments. . .

For some reason, I've been compelled to get up out of bed every morning for the past month and face the day. It hasn't been difficult, the habit of rising and shining seems to have been put into me over the past few years. Admittedly, there were days when I was distracted, and less than stellar company, but today, fighting my exhaustion, a poor night's sleep, I climbed out from under my bedding this morning, to climb the mountain and go visit my brother who lives up near Yosemite. I drove a winding dirt road to meet his delightful new house, studded with stone work with small surprises of crystal and heart-shaped rocks, a stone-lined dipping pool, goats and chickens, breakfast made from freshly laid eggs, homemade espresso and steamed milk, and a leisurely time talking and catching up with my brother, who'd once been my best friend and who, because I grew selfish and withdrew, I'd grown a bit distant from over the years.

Though I didn't want to leave the property, he wanted to take his new inflatable raft out on the Merced River and float through Yosemite Valley, though we didn't know if the late July thunder clouds overhead would spoil our efforts.

When we arrived to the gate of Yosemite, we found the entry swift, surprising for a weekend in the summer. Then, like a little bit of magic, the clouds cleared, but too late for the raft-rental company, who'd pulled their seemingly 500 boats and left the river to only, it seemed, us!

We talked more and more and floated and rowed, and I lifted my eyes with eye to the face of Half Dome, which my brother just climbed with ropes and stakes, and El Capitan, one he'd climbed before. He showed me a smaller (few hundred foot) climb which he said he could take me on. And now that I've jumped out of an airplane, and don't seem to be afraid of heights (as long as I'm in good hands), I'm ready to climb--wherever my brother will take me.

Today is a gift I find I cannot yet--even at this late hour--give up.

"Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death."
Arthur Schopenhauer