Monday, September 26, 2011


When I wake up, I'll be 45 years old. Here's 45 things I want to do this year:

1. Full moon kayak trip on Elkhorn Slough
2. Spelunking
3. Take a trip to New York City
4. Pray more fervently
5. Learn to swing dance
6. Rock climb
7. Visit Joshua Tree
8. Swim in the ocean
9. Make more time for meditation
10. Act in a play
11. Act in a short film
12. Run a 10 mile race without "racing"
13. Ride a horse
14. Bake more often
15. Sleep 9 hours a night
16. Learn, by heart, Se tu m'ami, and sing it around the house
17. Be able to play bass along with one of Farewell Typewriter's songs
18. Spend more time in the hot tub
19. Pay down debts
20. Daydream more often
21. Spend more time in the mountains
22. Hope more
23. Be hope
24. Go to Europe
25. Care less about what other people think
26. Learn to decorate cakes
27. Take kickboxing classes
28. Go roller-skating
29. Empty out all the boxes that are in my closets (purge)
30. Forgive everyone I still hold resentments towards
31. Paint a wall with a mural
32. Complete the egg-poem project without missing a day
33. Make shadow box art pieces
34. Grow closer to God
35. Spend a week in a monastery
36. Go to San Diego
37. Move to a big city
38. Cook vegan meals
39. Remember my primary purpose
40. Be true to myself
41. Be joy
42. Be love
43. Keep writing daily gratitude lists
44. Return phone calls within one day
45. Text and e-mail less, pick up the phone more

Sunday, September 25, 2011


There will be a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
Louis L'Amour

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tsu

And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself?


If all you can do is crawl, start crawling.


Your mind, this globe of awareness, is a starry universe. When you push off with your foot, a thousand new roads become clear.

I'm not sure why, but today feels like a new beginning. I'm sitting in expectation of turning 45 this week and somehow I have the feeling that the anniversary of my birth into this world will be a new birth for me. I may have to learn to walk again, and to understand what it is to be in the world, in a brand new way, with new eyes, new ears, a new mind. If I can "push off," out of the dark I've been living in these few months, I have a kind of new hope that I will open my eyes and see stars.

Tonight, I wrote this small poem:


Still, I sit, waiting,

wanting the thing to move in me.

To move me. My heart used to be

an engine. Now it's a leaf,

sitting on a pond, waiting for wind

or a surfacing fish. Take it

somewhere, attach it to a tree again.


These last few months, it's been hard to push off of my own volition, but something stirred me today. Maybe it was the wind. I was up at the lake for a picnic, a big picnic full of fellowship and the wind was fierce, my hair blew into all kinds of curls and my skin was washed with air--summer's over, I thought, briefly. And though it's normally Spring that offers renewal, with my birthday in the fall and Rosh Hashanah near my birthday, there's a general trend towards newness each fall. During college, we used to start late September, so that also gave a new sense of fresh chances each September.

And all the leaves, working so hard to stay green through the heat of the summer, get to turn these brilliant colors and fall away--they, we, get to let go, and be swept up into something new. The old form disintegrating, becoming a part of the sky, and oh, I crave my place in that sky, that blue and blustery sky, and the rain coming down, and the stars, oh, the stars. . .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


“I always loved running... it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” ~Jesse Owens

“Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. It's also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.” ~Charles Schulz, Peanuts

“There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.” ~George Sheehan

I ran a four-mile race in 1999 and then two weeks later, injured my knee, so my running progression ceased for many years. I did try to run from time to time. I guess I always had this idea about running a marathon. I know it tears the body apart, but I’ve done worse things to my body in my lifetime, and my life kind of functions with the relentless of a marathon, so I figure I’m cut out for it. I love the idea of pushing the body as far as it can go. I mean, I went all weepy when I watched the previews for that documentary on those guys who swam the English channel as part of their midlife crisis. Our life is the body. The body stops moving and disintegrates after we die, so I want to live in the body as fully as possible in this short little lifespan.

I do believe in life ever-lasting, which is eternal, and I’m not sure what the body will be like then—no one really is—or if I’m too prone to selfishness to escape the fiery gates of hell (did I feed the hungry or just my own belly?), so I’m going to try and make the most out of this body, the life I currently know.

Last May, I started running (jogging) again. I tried to start slow, as had been recommended, but I became impatient and tried to add more distance, more time, too quickly, and I believe that put my body into shock because it started packing on the fat even though I didn’t change my diet at all.

So, then I started from scratch, using the Couch-to-5K app on my Iphone, which I love. It has so much more faith in me than I do. I’m on week 7 of the 9 week program and it thinks I can jog 28 minutes, and you know what? I can. Though it has the false notion that I can jog 5K in 30 minutes, which, you know what? Not yet. After the 9th week, I’m going to work on my pace until I can jog a ten minute mile and then start doing longer runs one day a week, until I can run a 10 mile race in Big Sur in April. This may involve some weight training as well, since it will be way more hilly in Big Sur than it is along the creek here in Merced.

I was a pretty inactive child, though I craved activity. I guess people just didn’t think I could be in books and also have a curiosity for athletics, so I was never particularly encouraged and somehow didn’t know how to become athletic on my own. But here I am, 45 years old, becoming the athlete, little by little, that I always wanted to be.

Also, because readers may be curious to know, since I haven’t mentioned him in awhile, I have a much more kind and tolerant view of X-man these days, and I will say, that he sometimes went jogging with me and was happy to slow his pace down to mine, and seemed to really enjoy just having the company on his jogs. It’s so easy when a relationship ends to keep looking for the negative memories; it’s somehow easier to reconcile an ending when one can see the negative. It’s much harder to reconcile an ending when there was so much positive.

All I can say is that right now, I’m meant to be alone on the path, listening to my footfalls, watching the sunlight reflect off the creek, sometimes listening to some pre-made Pandora station on my Iphone or my new favorite band, Farewell Typewriter on my Ipod, listening for basslines I can imitate and learn from. I’m meant to be alone with my running, with my re-making myself. I am becoming.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


"Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."
Arianna Huffington

"Once you've been really bad in a movie, there's a certain kind of fearlessness you develop."
Jack Nicholson

"These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness and worship without awareness."
Anthony de Mello

I had the great honor of attending a memorial service for a member of my church this week, and in the process of witnessing, for the first time, the way Christian Orthodoxy honors this passage from one life into another, I find myself fearless about death. I'm not seeking out a quick demise or anything, but I finally saw, sensed, felt that reality of a person becoming larger and fuller through this passage into eternal life. I suppose after my father died in 2001 and for years after that, I felt his presence more acutely than when he was in the flesh, but sometimes I chalked it up to my wide imagination.

Here was the first person I'd seen, at rest, since I sat by my father's side in the hospital when he took his last breaths. And the room was full of his friends and family, people's lives he'd touched.
And he was there too, his body and spirit. And I was inspired by the memorial the Priest gave celebrating this man as such a devout Christian. You could say the spirit of Gus entered me, gave me new conviction.

The very next night, a dear friend found out her father died, and my heart went out to her. Losing my own father was a huge event, one that lingered for a long time, one that took many years to get used to--and still there are times today when I think I need to talk to my father. It's a much larger deal than anyone led me to believe. I just thought, my parents will die. I took it for granted. And then there was this enormous space, this black hole of both grief and possibility. Losing my father remains the most significant event in my life, even though I've grappled with my own life-threatening illness and many other traumas.

I suppose I say this because I do not want to discount the loss that my friends are experiencing right now, even if their fathers' deaths, in the tradition which I reside, are a new birth as much as a death. I wish my friends to be gentle with themselves over the next year, and to give themselves room to grieve and to go, as I did, a bit mad with this grief.

However, I am grateful for the chance to understand a little more of the tradition I was received into only a short year ago, and to understand a little more about the smallness of the material world which has been vexing me of late and to have more faith in God's world, which felt, on the night of Gus' memorial, large and present as a low-lying cloud, heavy with pending descent.

The comfort of this made things like bills and jobs, the questions of where to live and what to do for a living, fall away, as if all the things of the world I've been chasing have been in a race against death, and with a reprieve of this fear, I can let's those details work themselves out, as I simply try to live in my human form as nobly and with great acceptance that I will be really bad in this movie again and again, as is the nature of humanity. We fall, we get up, we fall, we get up. Then, when we fall for the final time, we rise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


"When in doubt tell the truth."--Mark Twain

"When I tell any truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do." --William Blake

I've learned that truth is as much in the eye of the beholder as beauty is. My father was an alcoholic and, at times, the house was full of jubilant noise, while at others it was full of angry violence. You never knew what was coming. It seemed normal, even if I hated it. I began saying to my father, "You're drunk," when he was drunk and yelling at me, but it always ended badly, maybe a table pushed over on me while I was doing homework at it, or a hole punched through my bedroom door after I ducked in there to get away from him. My father could be as equally lovely as he could cruel.

Though this is my memory of my childhood, my siblings memories are different, and we stopped talking about them some time ago--I suppose I cherished my truth too much to have it placed in doubt.

It's just as true that I'm my father's daughter--I take after him in many regards, and while I don't drink any more, I can still fly off the handle with very little notice, particularly if someone is telling me something about me that I don't want to hear. For instance, someone recently told me I needed to work on my anger issues, and I turned, angrily, spouting, at the top of my voice, "I don't have any anger issues!"

This, for some reason, seems hilarious to me in retrospect, though at the time I was trembling with, well, anger.

I don't really want anyone else to tell me what my problems are. ("You know what your problem is?" Actually, I do, so shut up, please.) I have a lot of problems. I mean, there are still many parts of me that don't measure up to my own ideal of who I want to be, even if I've grown through persistent effort, excellent mentorship, and God's grace over the past several years. For instance, I still have a weakness for pie as well as cheeses of all kinds, though this inclination tends to keep a few more pounds on my body than I like. Also, I do way too much--I take on too many commitments, spreading myself too thin and am not able to do any of the things as well as I like. Also, I can be judgmental, hard on people. And of course, there's the anger. My house isn't as well kept as I'd like. I don't get enough sleep or eat enough vegetables. My finances are a disaster.

But still, but still, I can be a very lovely person--especially when I'm well rested, have taken my daily exercise and performed my daily prayers and meditations and am not too hungry.

I love helping others nurture their talents and gifts, and I can talk to all sorts of people. When I spend a little bit of time and care on what I wear and do my hair, I can even look lovely. I love cooking for others and cook and bake delightful meals and desserts. I love loving. When I am in relationship, I like to write little notes and send them to the beloved in the mail. I can sing, dance, write poetry, teach children with developmental disabilities, working adults, college students, and high school students at juvenile hall with equal ease. I laugh loudly and enjoy making others laugh. I play bass guitar and piano. Even though I can be judgmental to those who have hurt me, my friends find me open-minded, and an excellent confidant. Also, I'm a survivor. I've had many health challenges and I live with them generally with grace and acceptance, even if there have been difficult periods for me over the years.

Whoa. It felt very uncomfortable to write the list of my good qualities! That discomfort is a revelation, though it shouldn't be. Six years ago, a spiritual mentor told me to look in the mirror every day and say "I love you" to myself, and I couldn't do it.

Well, the mirror awaits. It's time to test those waters again.

You are lovable and I am lovable.

Here's one more truth: my heart popped back open this week, the locked box broke loose, and I am happy and hopeful in a way I haven't been since I started this blog in July. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." ~Thich Nhat Hanh

"You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there." ~Nicephorus the Solitary

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am." ~Sylvia Plath

Today is a day full of grace because I am breathing still. That is the most I can hold onto today, as after the summer adventures, I'm back in "ordinary time" and I'm not adjusting to it very well. There should be something restorative and peaceful and comforting in this time, but I have a habit of craving chaos and adventure.

However, I am grateful for my life today, as I've had the chance to reflect on the preciousness of life, both because it's the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and also because I received news of two community members' passing. I need to be grateful for and attend to each breath, so I sit here, looking out my window, at the tropical plant with leaves as big as plates, at the brick red porch, at the unused slide and swings that my landlord left when they vacated the place, at the cedar trees, at the gray skies, at the approach of fall, and with fall, we encroach upon advent, and there is hope again. So, right now, I'm living in the hope of hope, if that makes sense. I'm loving the gray day because somehow it gave me permission for a good long afternoon nap, even if I woke up thinking, oh, boy, I've lost two hours of my Sunday! But what hours are lost when I give into the deep breathing of sleep, to the dreams that visit me there.

Friday, September 9, 2011


“A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live.” --Bertrand Russell

“All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”--Blaise Pascal

“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day - like writing a poem or saying a prayer.”--Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."– Albert Einstein

It seems, these days, I cannot find enough quiet, though I live in a relatively quiet town, on a quiet street, just when I think I will be able to sink into a pool of quiet, the train speeds by, blaring its horn. It doesn’t make me angry, I’m just startled by noise, as if there’s something forming inside me that needs the dead quiet of winter in a deep snowy valley to complete its making.

I was never a person who thought, Friday night, Saturday night! where will I go, what will I do? I come more from the type of people that go out on Monday or Tuesday nights, when places are less crowded, when lines are shorter. I despise malls and break out in hives during festivals (even if I love the idea of festivals). Most of the dancing I’ve done has been alone or with a friend or two in my kitchen or living room, the music spinning on my turntable or in a small boombox sitting on the floor. This is not to say I haven’t had loads of fun out dancing on a weekend or at a festival. However, the act of moving from the quiet inside me to the fullness of an event sometimes feels beyond me, like it will be a violence against my body. And lately, I feel I must honor that feeling and stay in, tuck myself into bed at an early hour with a book or the quiet of my mind. It’s a return, I suppose, to the safety of my mother’s womb. It honors, I believe, the idea that all music happens because of the silence between notes, and all poetry exists in what’s left unsaid.

My love of the quiet is probably why I’ve taken so heartily to the bass guitar. At its best, it’s the low hum beneath the surface of all the activity happening in the music, it’s the foundation that holds the rest of the instruments up and together. Bass lines are like stepping stones across a creek. It’s the quiet vibration that no matter how much silence there is in a day, helps remind me, I’m alive, of this earth.

If I’m racing around in the noise, if I don’t take moments of quiet throughout my day, to hear my breath, to connect to that part of me that’s connected to the center of the earth, then I crash. Quiet is the sustaining force in my life. It’s why I may go home after church instead of joining the others for conversation at coffee hour. Quiet is the great mother of new life. Something’s right around the bend, and if I sit still enough, and surround myself with enough quiet, I will have the chance to witness it.

Have you ever noticed, the more a person talks, the more he or she has a chance to lie? Love is quiet, made up of small consistent actions. I will not love again with words, but with quiet—vast swaths of it. And that’s what I’m spending my time doing now, weaving yards of quiet so I will have it available when you come along, ready to be loved.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart... and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together.... I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude. ~Helen Hayes

What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. ~Jack Kerouac

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky... a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe. ~Victor Hugo

Honestly, I'm terrified of being alone--and I am blessed with many great others in my life, some of whom I meet one on one, and some of whom I meet in group, in fellowship. However, lately, periods of fellowship have been either accompanied by or followed by such a striking depression and loneliness, that I am finding myself more afraid of being around others, and craving more solitude than I have for some time.

It's not much, but I've started spending at least an hour alone each night before I go to sleep, usually writing and/or reading. It's not much, but I spend at least the same amount of time in the morning in prayer, meditation, daily readying for the day tasks, exercising (usually jogging along a creek in the small town where I live). It feels clearly like a further step needs to take place, one in which I wade through the deep waters of loneliness into solitude.

In March, a two and a half year relationship with a man ended, a relationship that included daily and fairly continual contact. A mere weeks after that relationship ended, I started a new relationship--one that lasted briefly, but that also included daily continual contact. I ceased having what might be termed down time, but which I now term necessary solitude. It's lovely to pray with a loved one, and it's amazing to pray and worship in fellowship with others, but it's also essential for me to spend time in quiet contemplation.

When I was a child, I read for hours, and spent most of my time alone in my own imagination. I had a few friends, but my friends were my books and animals and the stories I made up in my head. My friends were the spirits I spoke to in the trees and on the wind. I'm needing a return to that time--and this is not to say I'm trying to push all you good people out of my life, but simply to find a way to nurture my solitude--to find a solidity within it, so that when people I rely upon are not available or, as they do--because it is human nature--fail me or betray me (as happened recently)--I have a solid foundation on which to stand. I can't live in the quicksand of loneliness. It'll take me under.

So here I go, after writing this, to my book and to my self, to God, and to the stars, to the sounds of sprinklers and the particular feel of the night air cooling outside and coming slowly into my room.

Here I go, friends, to a warm hearth in the recent dark of my heart. Here I go, here I go.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


"But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.'" Ephesians 5:13-14 (Orthodox Study Bible)

"Love is not consolation. It is light."
Friedrich Nietzsche

"A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing."
Muhammad Ali

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light."
Helen Keller

It's finally the tangible morning light when I let up the window shade that heals me. The light in Merced's slightly diffused, so that these mornings, objects have a softened edge to them, like paintings of heaven. It's out into this light that I start the day on an early jog. I have limbs; I use them. I have eyes; they're made use of, this morning, finally, after some days of darkness, by light, by Light. This newness enters me like a creeping quiet, and with, it seems, little effort on my part (unless noticing the light and holding my gaze on the noticed could be considered effort), some ugly feelings fall away and I am something else. I praise the day with whispers as I jog lightly down the creekside path; I ask for Divine breath to move and sustain me. I cannot take these moments of light for granted or try to hold onto them or boast about them. I do find myself cherishing the whole course of my life--each joy and even more so, each tragedy or perceived loss. It's a kind of faith I'm granted after weeks of obedient prayer, the prayer of discipline, not of feeling.

I used to always imagine that when a romance was shattered, that the pieces were colored tile that I could pick up again and re-arrange, but now I see them as shards of crystal, each staying still in its place, reflecting light.

And everything, for this morning, is light, and I crave the next morning, so I put myself to bed a little bit earlier, so I can wake with the new sun.

Creekside Morning

Some mornings, she walks the asphalt path

along the creek and the sun

shines it shines on water

so she thinks her reflection is light

she is light

all is light

it’s like this late summer

wants her figure to be such a big she

she becomes the cottonwood trees

and the sky between