Looking and Not Talking

  I’m hanging in a wordless space, even as I write these words. Recently home from a family trip on the Oregon coast for the holidays, I’m savoring all I saw and heard there: my family, of course; and also blustery winds and rain; thundering waves; squawking seabirds; towers of sand; and fairy woodlands, waterfalls dashing amidst stones and trees adorned with moss, lichen and teeny mushrooms. People I love are still facing serious health crises and I’m silently holding them in my heart. Yesterday I gathered with friends as in creative silence we asked our personal dreams for 2019 to appear on vision boards. The visual storyteller Maira Kalman, when asked about her love of museums, spoke of the peace in “just wandering and looking…I think we have the opportunity to understand silence around us, and really looking all the time.  There’s always the opportunity. And there’s never a lack of things to look at, and there’s never a lack of time not to talk.” Looking and not talking. Yes, I’ve been in this space and do not want to leave it. So this month I offer a few pictures for you to look at and ponder if you choose, with some white space around them…                                                                   (The entire “On Being” interview with Kalman, sent to me by a dear friend, is fabulous and can be found HERE.)...

Finding my Way in the Dark

It’s the dark of the moon, sunlight is waning, and my mood is dark. For four years now I’ve not ventured into politics in this blog—I figure we all get plenty of that elsewhere—but it’s been a hard week and I’m struggling. I can only imagine how the many women who have been raped or assaulted are feeling. Yet even without that experience myself, my rage has been triggered, based on a lifetime of being ignored, discounted, and unheard as a woman. Decades (and lifetimes) of this, even as a privileged white woman amongst educated and privileged men. A few days ago I felt encouraged, as new information and support for women was continuously spilling forth in the news. Secrets revealing the misogynist culture at Yale. Dr. Ford’s courage, and her story validated by stories from women all over the country. Unprecedented letters written by the American Bar Association and hundreds of law professors. Yet on Friday and Saturday we learned it made no difference. (Apparently the majority of the Judiciary Committee were so intent on getting what they wanted that they couldn’t hear, or wouldn’t listen to, all those voices crying “no.” Kind of like a man intent on rape who is unable or unwilling to hear “no”?) How to channel my rage and sense of helplessness? I spent two days writing a fiery poem about it all. That helped, a little. On several days, including today, I tried to swim it off in an extra-vigorous workout. Helped some. But now I’m cranky all over again reading an article in the Sunday Star Tribune (from the Washington Post)...

Tending

I just finished deadheading the petunias around my mailbox. Noticing how much I enjoy doing it. I like to check how the flowers are doing, see whether they have enough water, pause to enjoy their colors and scent. I like to touch them, talk to them, spread their stems so that they have air and space (a little like fluffing pillows). Especially after rain when they are a bit bedraggled it is satisfying to tidy them up a bit. I do this with my potted geraniums too, pinching off the dead flowers, pulling the yellowed leaves, checking moisture, while I murmur encouraging words and gratitude for their beauty. Come to think of it, I enjoy weeding too. I don’t show much compassion for the weeds, I guess, but I like how pulling weeds gives the garden plants room to spread and breathe. Ensures there is nothing to steal nutrients from them, or to blur their lovely shape and blooms by crowding them. I doubt that any of this is necessary–the plants do fine on their own when I am out of town–but they seem a bit forlorn if I ignore them. Or maybe it’s me that’s forlorn– I feel sweetly content each time I connect with my plants this way. (Actually, it reminds me of the pleasure of changing my kids’ diapers. Though I was glad when they could eventually go to the potty themselves, until then diaper changing was a precious time. A time when I would talk to them, touch them lovingly of course, sing to them—I made up songs, probably to keep us both interested—little operas,...

Gift from a Horse

Nearly three weeks ago I went to a daylong personal growth workshop with horses. Because horses are powerful, gentle and extremely sensitive they are used for confidence building with special needs adults and children, in leadership training and team building and in personal coaching. In personal growth work horses are not ridden; participants touch, lead and observe them. I had read that they are excellent mirrors  because they attune to what our bodies, emotions, thoughts and energy tell them and they detect and respond to any conflicting messages that we send. I’d been looking forward to the workshop for weeks—though I was also a bit nervous because I had no experience with horses and had always been rather afraid of them. The day of the workshop I woke feeling tired, spacey, weepy and fragile. And I was limping a little with a sore hip. Yet I had paid my fees and a friend was picking me up, so I went. We worked in an indoor ring with four male horses and their handlers doing a series of exercises, beginning with greeting each horse and deciding which one to partner with. In between exercises we met in circle to discuss our experiences and observations. During the course of the day we spent time breathing with “our” horse, listening for messages from the horse, and leading “our” horse on a path which represented a life challenge. I chose to work with one of the white horses, Shooter, because he seemed the most gentle. And I felt affection for him right away. Shooter taught me something during every activity (and everyone there experienced different...

Pele’s Cauldron

Today I’ve been thinking about Kilauea, the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii that’s been reshaping the island’s terrain continuously since 1983. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I was there around this time last year… Perhaps because thinking about something red hot feels good after a long cold white winter… Perhaps the approaching spring equinox brings the volcano to mind, since they are both about transformation and new beginnings, and not always pretty, at least at first… Perhaps  I need to be reminded that the blaze of Creation is a deeper, more powerful fire than the smoky flame of anger and conflict we contend with constantly these days… Perhaps I simply miss Pele. Here is a poem I wrote in 2010, after seeing the glowing caldera of Kilauea—the realm of the goddess Pele–at night for the first time.   Halema’uma’u   She is there, stirring fire in Her enormous cauldron, simmering stew, plume of sulfurous breath rising, glowing, blood red in the black night, a primordial witch’s kettle visible for miles.   “Stare—admire me—be afraid of me if you must. You think me wild and dangerous. I am and I have been so since the beginning of time. But—kinswoman—so are you. You, too, kindled by subterranean shifts fanned by passion and instinct fire up your cauldron simmer what is needed and when it is time, burn away the obsolete to forge the new. Fire to flesh to fire to flesh . . .   You know this. Live it.”   Have you seen Halema’uma’u caldera? At night? What are you forging in your cauldron of creation? (Photo...

Allowing Ambiguity

When doodling to relax the other night, I stumbled into drawing an image that I noticed makes sense the way I drew it and also upside down. Then I discovered more images in it when I turned the paper other ways.   One side up it looks to me like a clownish person with a big nose, a fancy turban, frilly collar and a slightly crazed look.   Upside down, it could be another crazed person, this time with a round nose, mustache and complicated headwear. Not sure what is in his mouth. Or, I can see the small central oval as a woman’s face–no facial features drawn in–with carefully arranged hair (around the spirals), wearing a bandana across her forehead, a flamboyant headdress above that, and sporting an elaborate collar and button placket.     Turned on either side, it looks like some kind of sea creature to me. You can probably see other things too. I like this drawing but it makes me slightly uneasy. How can it be three or four things at once? Which way is up? What is it really? I’m disappointed in my unease. Can’t I let the drawing depict three or four things simultaneously without needing to make a judgment as to which one is right or preferred? Without creating a hierarchy of the images? Especially since I actually enjoy all of them equally. Can’t I let the drawing be ambiguous? It strikes me that this discomfort–with ambiguity, with not knowing “the answer,” with allowing several realities to coexist without putting them in a hierarchy— might be perilous now. So much is...