Jul 21 2011

Swept Away

It happens sometimes. Wording on a nightly news broadcast will cause my maternal instincts to kick in –not lightly but with a fierceness that is both startling and engulfing.

It happened last night when I heard late-breaking-news about three hikers who plunged over Vernal Falls in Yosemite Valley. Climbing over a guardrail approximately 25 feet from the precipice, a young couple barely into their 20’s apparently wanted a better view of the waterfall. Slipping on slick rocks they fell into the swift, dangerous current of the Merced River which feeds the 317 foot high falls. Even as they clung tightly to each other, a family member rushed forward to help only to be swept with them to their death.

Without hesitation, regardless of the consequences, it is exactly what I would have done to try and rescue family –as if enormous bonds of love are enough to save and if not to save, to mitigate catastrophic loss by at least making the effort.

“I saw the man’s eyes when he went over the falls,” reported a witness to the tragedy. “It was devastating.”

I remember my son’s eyes, eager with the anticipation of discovery and triumph as a young college student, scrambling up Goat Rock on the Northern California coast –a 120 foot sandstone monolith barely attached to the mainland by a narrow isthmus.

Goat Rock, Northern California

An extremely dangerous climb only made the challenge more attractive to him –and to others, some of whom did not fare well.

Though now in his early 40’s and more cautious as the father of three, his eyes still light up with boyish pleasure and expectancy. But there have been times in his life when his eyes have clouded with unavoidable dread. And I have wanted to rush forward to rescue –as if the enormous bonds of a mother’s love would be enough to save him.

I grieve for you –three young people who died amid spectacular beauty and grandeur. I can only hope your last moments went quickly, your terror mitigated by the love of your family and friends who surely held you in their steadfast love as you were swept so suddenly and unexpectedly from this life.



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Jun 05 2011

The Children Are Back!

My memory was fractured in early childhood.

I have always been able to recall with great clarity the house and neighborhood in which I grew up. We moved in when I was four and live there until the summer after I turned seventeen. To this day I can close my eyes and take a detailed tour through our two-story home and up and down the street. However, until recently no people animated this inner playback. No parents, no siblings, no one –and our block was filled with children I played with as a child.

I still have no memory of grade-school teachers or classmates though I can easily visualize my school’s wooden structure, wide floors, even my kindergarten room at the end of the hall. I see it like walking in after everyone has been evacuated for a fire drill.

Our family lived in Switzerland for six months when I was nine. It was my father’s homeland. My aunt’s large chalet and the hamlet of Brienz remain vivid in my memory but, again, no people. I know we were greeted by many family members when we arrived, but what I actually recall are huge bowls of soup on a roughly hewn table –and later, curled wood shavings on the floor of the woodcarver’s shop downstairs.

I only start remembering people around the time my parents divorced when I was twelve.

All these years it has remained the same. At times I thought that if I just stopped trying I would start remembering, but it never happened. Then, a few weeks ago something wonderful occurred.  While drifting off to sleep memories of my childhood home began to play across my mind –but something had changed.

Lying very still I whispered to myself, the children are back!

I could see their faces . . . I could remember their names . . . I relived activities. And as soon as I remembered it felt like I had never forgotten. I needed to reassure myself that my apparent ease in remembering did not make a lie out of the decades in which the children had gone missing.

Perhaps it was because a month earlier my brother and I spoke for the first time about what happened to me as a little girl, how my father molested me at a very young age. For years I thought this was most likely the case, but had no memory of it. I had virtually convinced myself it hadn’t happened, that I was only afraid that it had. Hearing it from my brother settled the issue forever.

My brother told me that my father often threatened to kill the family and flee to Switzerland. I was shocked to hear this. Later I remembered when I was around twenty I decided I would go to see my father who I hadn’t seen since the divorce. I drove to within a block of where he lived and parked, but began to cry hysterically and became so sick I couldn’t get out of the car. I was horrendously afraid if I went to his apartment he would kill me and no one would know what happened to me. Now for the first time in my life I understand why I was so terrified.

Two weeks after talking to my brother my neighborhood playmates returned to animate my memories. My father has been dead for many years and there are no longer any uneasy mysteries surrounding him.

All of us are safe.

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May 30 2011

An Unexpected Gift

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. Shocked, actually, and then heartbroken. The two magnificent redwoods in the area just outside our condo’s kitchen window were slated to be removed.

Thirty-five years or so ago someone thought planting little redwoods throughout the grounds was a lovely idea, even calling our association of dwellings a park. Indeed, when we moved in twelve years ago we were delighted by these trees. In no time at all my husband created a magical space beneath them, complete with ferns, azaleas, a sliding swing bench and other delights even though we wondered at the time why they had been planted so close to our home –the largest of the two being a mere 5 feet away.

Knowing little about redwoods, I assumed it would be okay. Maybe their roots went deep since they are known to live hundreds of years –and consequently were no threat to our foundation.

I have since learned that the roots of redwoods only go down 10 to13 feet and that they have numerous lateral roots. Indeed, in the past couple of years we noticed that the stepping stones winding around to the back of our largest tree were no longer flat to the ground, lifted by an ominous root aimed directly at the house.

So they had to go. The day they were stripped of their branches the sky cried with me. My emotions made a mix of sadness and anger. How careless to plant such beauties destined to be destroyed by reason of poor planning! The “instant gratification” syndrome we experience as a nation, which we all succumb to at times, is why these noble trees and several others in our “park” were felled.

I came home for lunch the next day to see what had become of our trees and found their severed bodies in our cul-de-sac.

No longer majestic trees, they had been cut in thirds and reduced to logs, their wonderful energy dispersed. Having put my arms around them as I have other trees over time, I had felt their dynamic vitality, their sacred life-returning presence on earth. Touching them for the last time I told them I was sorry we humans too often act with imprudence.

Throughout my life I have found that an unexpected gift often follows loss. The gift following the loss of my beloved redwoods is light. Light streams into our upstairs bedroom window in the morning now, and our kitchen is a brighter place.

Even a neighbor stopped me to thank us for giving them a new home. “Our front room is full of light!” she exclaimed. “We had no idea our skylight had been so shadowed by your redwoods!”

It’s Memorial Day. A number of redwoods in the association remain as they were planted far enough away from the condos. They stand tall, their green branches waving as if in salute to those who have fallen.

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May 21 2011

Hung So High, Sky So Blue

Rarely have I sought to write poetry. Oh, I’ve done it for 50-year celebrations, retirement parties, events honoring someone. And, yes, I’ve written them to/about my children on special occasions –when my daughter graduated from nursing school, for my son’s graduation from law school, on my youngest daughter’s twenty-fifth birthday. Mostly, though, poems come to me uninvited and unannounced –like the ones I have occasionally posted on my blog.

I wrote PICES after my mother passed away –“heard” it as two poems entwined with the second line a whispered secret: all my life my mother’s grief had been my tomb. In her death we both were freed.

The poem Merit Born, which appears in my book Darkness Overturned, was written when the director of a women’s shelter asked me to find a prayer or poem that could be used at their recovery meetings. I didn’t find anything I felt was suitable. Then one morning as I was showering I was visualizing the battered women at the shelter, their arms limp at their sides, and I yelled, “No!” Then the words came, spilling over me with great force, I am Woman – Sister, Spouse, Equal Master of my House . . .

Recently I have been struggling with growing older and hating it that I’m struggling at all! A few days ago a poem began to form deep inside me (which I am yet to complete) along with a vision of me on a swing whose chains are anchored with ceiling hooks in the sky.

In an arcing ride I am catapulted backward to where I am young again, my energy an explosion of joy and potential, then downward, downward to the low that is now, surely to be followed by an inescapable corresponding forward movement to old age –the apex of which I cannot envision. However, through the forming verse I am beginning to fathom that there may be another, like explosion of joy awaiting me.

Hung so high, sky so blue ~

By a wish and a dream, God let it be true!

I swing on a swing made of time that’s done

And time that is now and time yet to come.

I’ll post the entirety of Hung So High when it is finished. Meanwhile, I do have some clues as to its meaning unfolding in my heart.

Tucked under my not-so-young-any-more chin is the fruit of years passing: my six-week old seventh grandchild peeking out at his future. I hold him gently, quietly, while my heart spills over with joy. His life has just begun and is so full of potential!

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Apr 26 2011

12-Year Apart Twins

My twin and I were born twelve years apart in two different states from two different sets of parents. Well… other than that, we share so many “coincidences” you’d think we are twins. We are constantly amazed at our similarities.

About the same height with fine hair and blue eyes, we share any number of likes and dislikes. We hate shoes and kick them off whenever possible; cannot stand turtleneck sweaters –in fact dislike wearing anything around our neck.

Without knowing it we buy the same things –a glass case, a sweater, a wallet, a camera. Years before we met, we both acquired original 3½ x 5’ paintings by the same local artist that had hung side-by-side in her gallery. Painted in identical fashion, mine is the irises, hers the orchids. Our cats even look like they came from the same liter although my CiCi is four years younger.

My twin shares my mother’s first name –and both of them have sisters with the same first name. My twin’s husband’s first name is my son’s middle name. (My son shares his first name with her sister’s husband.) And both of us have a sister with the same nickname.

We are of the same mind politically; experience spirituality in the same way; pick up each other’s thoughts. We recently learned we have the same hairdresser. Our emails often cross cyberspace simultaneously. True to form, we just discovered that she was writing a poem about us even as I was composing this blog!

We enjoy walking in cemeteries –fascinated by the histories written there. For years we both have harbored a dream of visiting the sacred site of Machu Picchu.

We both grew up with verbal and physical abuse; both had the bridge of our nose broken in early childhood –of which we have no memory. However, there the similarity ends. My twin married a good man and has spent her grownup life with him while I floundered horribly, marrying badly and spending years struggling to recover from the resulting domestic violence. Fortunately, now we are both safe.

We know our paths have crossed for a reason –and it’s a very reassuring feeling. For me it is just plain fun having a “sis” who is my walking partner, advocate and friend.

Cheetah sisters relaxing. Republic of So. Africa

 

 

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Mar 31 2011

Stealing Away My Heart

There he is, only a few hours old, stealing away my heart. He does it quietly with soft grunts and squeaks –and quick little breaths inside his warm blanket, making my cradling arms simultaneously weak and as strong as iron. Welcome tiny grandson!

Your mama is radiant, your dad casual in his pride, your big little brother hesitant yet loving. Auntie, Uncle, three cousins, and Opi –all crowd in to get a glimpse of our newest family member. Amazement, joy, curiosity prevails. Who will this little person be? We love you fiercely, watching the nurse draw blood from your miniature heel, hearing you cry at the obligatory assault. Ten of us present and we cannot prevent this aggression upon your innocence!

Achilles, at least, was a full grown warrior suited in armor.

Five days later as you concentrate on resting while mama and daddy go out for lunch and big little brother naps in his bed, I hold you on my chest and try to angle my iPhone camera to catch your comeliness. I quickly send the results to your parents with the message, “Still sleeping.”

These early moments are important. You will remember them, not in mental pictures but in your very cells as you go from newborn to baby to toddler. As a cherished, treasured and loved little person, you will grow to respect, value and validate those around you. And in the process you will delight us, amuse us, challenge us to be better people ourselves.

Your big little brother will lead the way. In his 3+ years he has already blossomed into a gracious little gentleman. Ever concerned for others, cheerful and affectionate, he no doubt will not only be a loyal protector, he will become your best friend.

 

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Mar 20 2011

Excerpt from Chapter Six

As you know if you’ve been following my blog –I haven’t been blogging lately since I took up my new book project. Consequently, this week I decided to share a chapter from my published book, Darkness Overturned. From Chapter Six:

The bakery was located on an Indian reservation, and in the night came the rhythmic throb of distant chants. I wondered what they were doing, poor creatures. Day by day they came to beg moldy bread from the store, their faces expressionless. Their leathery cheeks seemed chiseled. Too noble to permit condescension, they asked forthrightly. It was dignity hung with rough blankets and adorned by carved beads and brightly colored taffeta.

Somehow, I understood. These were people who loved, feared, hoped, and then just existed —resignation sidled up against clouded nobility. Perhaps it could be so for them, I thought ruefully, because they could remember their rich heritage. Maybe that’s what they did so deep in the night. They remembered with their chants and fires and strange rituals. Did they feel as haunted as they sounded? I could almost have felt a part of them, except that there were no memories for me to soothe away my beggarliness.

As I lay in bed each night listening, another sound came through the darkness, first throbbing, then crescendoing into a gnashing roar, screaming its warning into the blackness. Sometimes I could see the wide beam of its roving eye as it sent light ’round and ’round in the sky. Each time it passed, I could almost feel its churning steel wheels tearing my body apart against the tracks. Perhaps if I were deliberate enough there would be nothing left. It would be as though I had never been. Yes, one night I would simply walk away into forever.

One day I was headed for the kitchen when I heard a man’s voice.

“We just want you to know we know,” he said. I stopped and looked up. It was the young man from downstairs.

“We’ve heard you crying. We hear how roughly he speaks to you. If there is anything we can do…”

So. They’d heard us after all!

“…anything we can to do help?” he finished with a look of helplessness playing across his face.

Inside I cried out, go away! You don’t know! Oh God, please, where are you? Somebody, hold me! I need somebody to hold me! I turned to the young man.

“Thanks, but it’s okay. I’m all right.”

It was a lie. Were my eyes as empty as my heart?

Later that day the owner of the bakery approached me. Taking me into his little office, he counseled me to learn a woman’s place in marriage. It would help me adjust better, he assured me, and God would bless me with a long life.

Just what I wanted!

I wondered about his marriage. He slept apart from his wife, out in a screened shed. “For my health,” he explained to anybody who had the nerve to ask.

His wife was the next to seek me out. A gracefully aging woman with a gentle demeanor, she was the one who handed out bread to the Indian women who came with their huge-eyed children. She was thanked with toothless grins as she reached out to touch the babies, often slipping small treats into their little hands.

“Come up to the house,” she offered. “I want to show you something.”

Whatever she showed me I have long forgotten. But as she reached out to me, I felt my detachment from reality begin to crack, like leathery old skin.

“Something is terribly wrong,” she probed delicately. “You need someone to understand, don’t you? Not just to know, but to understand.”

She continued talking softly to me. She did not intend to let me out of her sight.

“I’m afraid you are thinking of doing something desperate.”

Had I been that transparent? Suddenly I felt sick. Putting my face down against my knees, I dug my knuckles into my eyes, trying to halt the tidal wave of tears that were falling.

“Mommy!”

Oh, how stupid to call Mommy! Why do I do that? She’s not there. She’s never been there. No one is there.

Oh God, I’m sorry! Please let me go!

She was holding me now, rocking me and stroking my hair. Knowing. Understanding, at least, that I was an empty-handed child. And when I was spent, she laid my head upon a taffeta pillow, and I slept. When I awoke she was still there. For the next few days, she always seemed to be there. Slowly, I turned back into life.

Turning back hurts. It means you feel again. Yet for me it also meant I could pray again. Not like before, but I did pray. Going out into the woods, I prayed with my eyes, tracing the border of green against the sky. I noticed the scent of wetness in the leaves and heard the birds and the wind. Tasting the freshness and calm of fall, I wrapped my arms around the trunk of a tree and prayed by just being.

My mind was still in such a paralyzed state that I could not formalize my thoughts into a recognizable prayer. Just the same, I communed with my Maker, perhaps not unlike a tree: created and Creator. I went as often as I could and lingered as long as I dared —the tree and God and I in a strange, healing embrace.

Slowly, as I began to get my bearings, I sensed that God was speaking directly to me, though I couldn’t fully understand what He was telling me. I could only hear the water song and the wind chorus. But somehow, as I had prayed without words, so I began to “hear” without sounds. My heritage was greater than the Indians’. I belonged to the family of God. And mine was the Bread of Life, fresh from the throne of Grace.

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Feb 20 2011

Old Memories and Young Hopes

Got take-home Chinese food last night, tucked in to watch a good movie and almost didn’t look at the little slip of paper inside my fortune cookie. Usually inane –you will be taking an unexpected journey soon, or good luck is heading your way . . . Instead, it read:

We must always have old memories and young hopes.

How true is that?!

Memories, good and not-so-good, are behind us. We can cherish them, hurt over them, hold them close or try to push them away. We can write them in a book (as I have done), turn them into poetry (as I also have done), speak them to a therapist (uh, yah, that too), or just brood over them while they make us melancholy (which I mostly do not).

Memories do not tell us who we are, necessarily, but they pretty accurately record history –our version of it at least. They can act as trail markers, leading us back to or forever away from places, people, dried out aspirations, unfinished business, childhood dreams, abiding love or lost love (you know the list). Memories can be emotional roadblocks, where we get stuck or shutdown, or inspirational triggers that spur us into action.

The wisdom found in my fortune cookie implies that old memories, especially good ones, can seed new endeavors that fill us (and often others) with fresh hope. I know it has been true for me.

The first book I wrote I co-authored. It was a devotional book published by a religious organization and widely distributed, even translated and sent overseas. Though I wrote close to half of the entries it was suggested to me that I remain unnamed since I was going through a divorce. Consequently, it was his name, his fame, and I got buried in the shadows though he was honest enough to pay me half of the royalties (at least for the first year or so).

Inspired by the experience, and challenged by another publisher who had heard about me and knew I was writing another manuscript (this time my own), I wrote an autobiography about abuse recovery. Written with raw self-honesty, it is the story about my efforts to break free from verbal, emotional and physical abuse. Since I wrote it primarily for my children so they could eventually make sense of their tangled childhood, and since I didn’t want to name names, I used a pen name, EsthersChild. Though it won an Angel Award in 1990, it went out of print a few years later.

A published author, an award-winning author, I was still buried in the shadows.

Three years ago, urged on by friends and readers who wanted my book to continue to be available to women who could be helped by my story, I decided to re-publish my book under a new title, Darkness Overturned, through a self-publishing company. Memories of being published twice (albeit under less than the best of circumstances for a budding author) spurred me on. This time I put my actual name on the inside of my book but continue to use EsthersChild on the cover. (Though not mentioned anywhere in this book of no names, my mother’s name was Esther). And I continue to have “young hopes” even though, wouldn’t you know, I cannot be listed as an author on a website “where the writers are” because I am technically self-published and can only be listed as a member.

Maybe my next book (with workbook and accompanying CD) will finally do the trick. This is the year I’ve dedicated to writing it and, as the old saying goes, hope springs eternal!

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Feb 14 2011

Somewhere in the Middle?

Should I have expectations or keep hold of hope? Expectations are bound to disappoint while hope can strengthen a weary heart. But then as Proverbs points out, “hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

Shall I continue to seek out safe places in this world or should I seek to be one?

It is said that men are from Mars and women from Venus, characterizing the differences between genders. However Mars, called the Red Planet because of its color, is not red hot but actually cold and icy. And Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is actually a barren desert (and, incidentally, the hottest planet in the Solar System).

Someone once said, “The truth lies somewhere in the middle.” But I think maybe the truth is everywhere, all the time, to some degree or another.

I recently had a vivid dream about my cat CiCi. She was alive –and edible! Without thinking I snatched away her little face and popped it into my mouth though I did not chew or actually eat it. She stood before me rather faceless like an old threadbare Teddy whose button eyes were long gone, only punch holes in the cloth remaining. She was unhurt but I, on the other hand, was distraught beyond words and wished I could put her face back on her. I could feel it on my tongue and didn’t know whether to spit it out or . . .

A couple of days later I was with three of my best friends and told them about my dream. Several ideas emerged, but then one of them suggested, “It’s about your blog. CiCi’s face is on your blog.” I knew immediately she was right. About a month ago, ever since I began working in earnest on my next book, I stopped writing my blog –and have been feeling badly about it. My dream self was reassuring me that no harm has been done.

Today, as I wandered around in a culinary shop I saw a cute little metal sign with a twist on a familiar quote. “Behind every great woman… is herself.”

So, do I continue to write my blog or do I concentrate on writing my book?

The answer is simply, Yes.

And, by the way, Happy Valentine’s Day (courtesy of a neighborhood artist)!

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Jan 18 2011

A Food Chain of Teachers

For days on end a little titmouse has flown against the vaulted window in our front room. Starting at daybreak and returning again and again until nightfall, it seems to want entrance or passage –persistently undaunted by the fact that neither is obtainable.

Trying to see from its point of view, we removed an eye-level reproduction of a little red cardinal perched in a silk plant on top a bookcase. It made no difference whatsoever. Bonk, bonk, bonk, its little beak repeatedly sounds its single-minded, albeit questionable, undertaking. It’s getting a little on my nerves.

On the other hand, I really have to smile. The little titmouse is acting so human!

We are all aware of a myriad of quotes venerating resolve, tenacity, perseverance –and for the most part we would do well to internalize the wisdom they embody.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. ~Louis Pasteur

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ~Thomas Edison

But, watching the little titmouse that doesn’t seem able to figure it out, I got to thinking about how bullheaded we can all be at times –and that it is easier to see this in someone else than in ourselves. Believe me, I speak for myself, and my husband will vouch for it!

So, a bit tongue-in-cheek, I offer a quote by W.C. Fields:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There is no point in being a damn fool about it.

At the same time, our sweet CiCi has been fascinated by a fishbowl I temporarily put on the coffee table recently. (The fish is in solitary confinement because he turned aggressive in my larger community-friendly fish tank.) I caught her in a similar, so human stance –obsession with no hope of results.

Ah, a food chain of teachers!

Persistence must engage real outcomes or it is sheer futility. Aggressive behavior can destroy community. Obsession in itself is pointless with no reliable plan of action.

All this –and it’s only the middle of January!

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Jan 12 2011

Front Page News

All on the front page of our local newspaper –the joyful birth of a New Year’s Day baby, the tragic death of a young father, and the continued tradition of generosity of a down-to-earth, locally focused senior couple. My emotions go up, down, up again and then leave me feeling slightly melancholy. It’s as if my heart can’t settle into position.

Worldwide news leaves me in no better state. Unemployment across our nation drops a bit (I’m encouraged), the global economy is recovering faster than expected (maybe there is hope) –and then I learn about a 22-year-old gunman in Arizona who severely wounds a young congresswoman, kills not only a federal judge but an innocent 9-year old girl and four others, and leaves 14 more wounded. How on earth can I process such shockingly senseless violence? My melancholy turns into despair.

Today is my son’s birthday. Not long ago he posted a comment on my blog where I write about experiencing a simple act of kindness (see Blue Hour Civility).

The world and its problems are so big, and I am so small. I feel the weight of it overpower the limit of such strength as is mine to muster. I suffer existential angst; fear leading to anger, as it seems too many are burned up with vicious ignorance. But these moments, these glimpses of good, reminded me that there are those who are ready to help, ready to offer simple decency. In them, in us, lives hope. Blue Hour, indeed!

My reply was written as much to myself as to my son:

Remember, also, that a lowly stick positioned carefully over a small rock can leverage the movement of a much larger bolder that would otherwise be immovable. One dictionary describes leverage this way: “strategic advantage; power to act effectively; relatively small groups can sometimes exert immense political leverage”. I believe Blue Hour civility is one of many silent leverages working to counteract malevolence.

In the ongoing wake of good news mixed in with overwhelmingly dreadful news, my heart chooses HOPE. A definition for hope in the Encarta World English Dictionary reads, “likelihood of success: a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible.”

Happy Birthday, Son! I love you and wish for you much success in the coming year –and that you will discover many desirable things are indeed possible. Especially if you leverage your perceived smallness wisely!

I know you will… you always have.

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Jan 02 2011

ABUNDANCE

As I promised myself, on the first day of this New Year I opened my heart to settle on one clear intention, one I would quickly take steps to follow through on in order to bring it to reality. It came to me swiftly and with complete clarity: I will write another book this year.

Once determined, I stood in the center of our front room in a space I previously “opened” to the Universe several years ago.  In each corner of the room are tucked away small flat stones imprinted with representations of animals that correspond to the south, west, north and east in keeping with the traditions of several Native American tribes.

A snake carved onto a stone, symbolizing creativity and change, sits on the piano (south) as does a stone on the opposite end embossed with the footprint of a mountain lion, denoting the ability to lead without insisting others follow (west). Over on the mantel rests a stone engraved with a hummingbird, signifying opening the heart to joy (north). Nestled among other stones in a small fountain is a flat one etched with an eagle, embodying the balance to be achieved between our earthly and spiritual nature (east).

Acknowledging these desired qualities of being, I closed my eyes and consciously embraced my feet upon the ground (earthliness) and lifted my head up toward the cathedral ceiling under which I stood (spirituality). And in that space I spoke aloud my intention of writing a book this year, thereby recognizing, accepting and affirming my place in the great connectivity of life.

Later in the morning my husband and I decided to take a ride to a nearby lake to see how swollen it surely had become with all the recent rains. On the way there we spotted a car covered with snow and immediately changed direction to go up the mountain instead. There we found a winter wonderland of fresh snow, not a usual occurrence for us.

Delighted, we drove around taking pictures for several hours, completely charmed by such a wonderful New Year’s Day gift over and above what we expected. It was magical and my heart overflowed with gratitude.

It was 1-1-11. I laughed with pleasure for the numbers as written add up to 13, as can 2011. Thirteen for me has always epitomized ABUNDANCE. It’s like the thirteenth roll in a baker’s dozen –the extra one that is given as assurance of fullness, the one you receive over and above the twelve you pay for.

So in this brand new year promising ABUNDANCE, I will write my book and DANCE –for hidden away in this word much like the flat stones tucked away around our front room, is an invitation to move joyfully and rhythmically in anticipation of the phenomenon of amazement.

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Jan 01 2011

Amazing Things Can Happen!

We were surprised this past week to hear the familiar chirping of a Titmouse on the patio. After all, it has been very wintery with blustery rains and bitterly cold temperatures. Could this be one of a pair that has inhabited the same birdhouse in CiCi’s Garden for the past five years?

Seemingly so, for it began popping in and out of its little “cabin” doing some housecleaning in anticipation of next spring. Its intentions were clear and being acted upon: sometime in March eggs will be laid to hatch another batch of baby birds.

It got me to thinking. With the familiar buzz about New Year’s Resolutions, notoriously broken after only a few days, it would serve me better to set one specific intention rather than a resolution –then act on it immediately in order to clinch my commitment to myself that I will follow through. Amazing things can happen when I do this!

About this time last year I set an intention that I would begin a blog for women –making a safe place for them to explore how to work through the residual effects women often experience as a result of being a survivor of child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or any other trauma or loss, even years after her life has become “normal”.

Not knowing anything about how to start a blog, once I was clear about my intention I immediately went onto the internet and began to research the process. Within a few days I found a host, signed up and began designing my new website. Then I called a dear friend who had just begun a blog himself, and made a date to have coffee together to pick his brain. A month later I posted my first blog!

Next I created business cards that I could hand out to let people know about my blog, which I called CiCi’s Garden, a safe place for women. Featuring my kitty’s sweet face, I jokingly tell everyone she’s the only cat I know with a business card!

Tonight I will celebrate the arrival of the New Year at home with my husband. Then, with my heart filled with gratitude for all the blessings of the past twelve months, I will embrace the freshness and promise midnight portends.

Tomorrow, the first day of 2011, I will set one clear intention and quickly take the first steps to follow through to bring it to reality. Won’t you join me?

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Dec 24 2010

The River’s End

The week before Christmas and I’ve been sick. The past two days have been a complete wash. My husband brought me chicken soup yesterday, and my sweet little cat has provided a warm log of comfort as I’ve drifted in and out of sleep, never getting completely through any one of the Hallmark marathon of Christmas movies. But I count myself as hugely blessed because I am alive and will join my family shortly for all the festivities of the season. Not so for another woman who has haunted my thoughts over the past six days.

On her way from southern California to Oregon to be with family during the holidays, she was staying not more than 30 miles from where I live. This past Saturday she drove to a restaurant in Jenner by the Sea, set along the Pacific coastline, to have dinner with friends. They spent three hours eating crabs then left in separate vehicles to drive back to her hotel.  It was raining as she pulled her mini-van out behind their vehicle. After driving only two miles south on a stretch of highway along the Russian River, they noticed she was no longer following them. Turning back, they searched desperately for her to no avail and finally called the Sheriff’s Office.

The next day investigators turned their attention to the river after discovering a fresh set of tire tracks cutting across the 15-foot-wide grass shoulder of the southbound lane of Highway 1 and dropping over a 20-foot bank into the river only a half-mile from the restaurant. There were no skid marks on the highway, but they detected an oil sheen on the river’s surface near where the tire tracks ended, indicating a vehicle might be resting on the river bottom.

It was my birthday –and I was grieving for a woman who I was certain would never again celebrate hers.

The rain-swollen river made the two-day search for the missing woman challenging. Following the news each day I knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, on Monday her vehicle was recovered. She apparently got disoriented during the storm and ended up driving into the river where she drowned. She was only 62.

Photo: THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Live each day as if it were your last . . . tomorrow is not promised. ~Author Unknown.

Later today I will join my children and grandchildren on Christmas Eve. We’ll bake and decorate Christmas cookies, a tradition we started when my children were little. Then comes the stockings hung by the chimney with care, and tomorrow all the warmth of family interaction, affirmation and peace.

More than ever, I’ll cherish each and every moment we have together –with great joy.

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Dec 06 2010

Coyote Nightmares

A coyote is raised up with one paw on my arm, snapping at CiCi who I hold tightly to my chest, dodging as best I can to avoid her being bitten or taken. I wake up with my heart pounding and nearly knock CiCi from her place on the bed next to me as I lunge into an upright position.

The following night, in my dream I am again holding CiCi as I enter a house where we must stay. There are coyotes in the house. No room is secure and the door leading to the outside reveals only open space with no place to hide. My movement attracts the attention of one of the coyotes that quickly springs toward me. As I hold CiCi away from it I try to jam my fist into its snarling mouth and wake up crying. Nearby CiCi mews softly –her little “Are you okay?” –and I know I must do something to end these nightmares.

The third nightmare comes against my determined will. I am making my way across a field with CiCi in my arms when I see two coyotes a little distance away romping and rolling together. Abruptly they catch sight of me and, detecting the scent of my little cat, break into a loping run in our direction. Frozen in place I know I am no match for the two of them and cry out, “No!” This time CiCi mews, licks my nose and nudges my head until I am fully awake.

I know why I am having the nightmares. A friend of mine lives in a mostly unpopulated area where bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions and even bear often traverse their hilltop property. Up until recently they had two outdoor cats which sheltered in a secure enclosure during the night but ran free during the day. Through the years they had become beloved family pets –and they looked very much like my CiCi.

When resting they always faced in opposite directions, watching each other’s back. Then the male took sick and had to be put down, leaving the female alone. Nervous, she often spent the day on the rooftop. To make matters worse, the neighbors who lived at the bottom of the hill moved away, leaving their house empty. With their two large dogs now absent, wildlife on the hill has been emboldened.

A week ago, after the cat was let out in the afternoon, she did not return. When she was called to come back in before nightfall, my friend said they could hear coyotes in the distance. And though they have continued to put food out for her in hopes that she may have run away and hidden and would eventually come home, there has been no sight of her. Her fate, though I have not wanted to accept it, found its way into my nightmares.

The cycle of life on earth includes predators in the animal kingdom –it’s as natural as the rising and setting of the sun. Generally impersonal on a large scale, when featured on Animal Kingdom or a National Geographic special, I always turn my eyes away. Having never found peace with this aspect of our existence on planet earth, it is even more unsettling when it involves someone’s pet. Especially with my writer’s imagination.

I haven’t had coyote nightmares for the past couple of days. Going with my family on our traditional expedition to a local Christmas tree farm and watching my children and grandchildren interact and play together, helped. Opening the patio doors and listening to the steady, musical resonance of falling rain, helped. Holding gentle CiCi in my arms in the safety of our home helps.


Letting thankfulness envelop my heart, opening my senses to sound of the cleansing rain, and embracing the presence and warmth of what is alive to me today is allowing my spirit to heal. Not surprisingly, this is how I always find peace –as sure as the rising and setting of the sun!

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Nov 27 2010

The Law of the Wild

Just-in-time reality rescues my heart again –for Thanksgiving!

A dear friend sent me an email this past week with the following story.

The Law of the Wild says kill only when you are hungry!

Photographer Michel Denis-Huot, who captured these amazing pictures on safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara in October last year, said he was astounded by what he saw:

“These three brothers (cheetahs) have been living together since they left their mother at about 18 months old. On the morning we saw them, they seemed not to be hungry, walking quickly, but stopping sometimes to play together. At one point, they met a group of impala who ran away. But one youngster was not quick enough and the brothers caught it easily.

“These extraordinary scenes followed:

And then they just walked away without hurting him.”

Once again, nature teaches what civilized humans espouse, but far too often do not practice. Thank you, Michel Denis-Huot, for these amazing photos –testimony that not all is going badly on our beautiful planet.

As a tribute to these three honorable cousins of my gentle feline CiCi and her peaceful Garden, I offer this acronym: CATS

If we all followed the CATS principle . . .

Chase if you want, Apprehend if you like, Taste victory if you must, and then Set free!

. . . our collective lives could be astonishingly magnificent!

Bodhichitta (which I playfully pronounce “boda cheetah”) is a Sanskrit word meaning “awakened heart/mind” –or simply “noble heart”. As I strive to live with an awakened heart, cheetahs remain my most favorite wild animal.

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