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.)...

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...

Don’t Bore the Gods!

I had a humbling Aha! moment the other day. Humbling but also freeing. Tom and I have been reading a series of young adult novels, The Lost Years of Merlin. The five book series, which imagine Merlin from about age 9 to adulthood, are fun, full of enchanted forests, haunted marshland, fanciful and magical creatures, and resourceful humans (including females!). Merlin, who has discovered his grandfather was a great wizard, knows he has special abilities (though he doesn’t know much about what they are) and that he is destined to be a wizard also. Yet he struggles with this, alternating between being too cocky about his powers (and then either losing them or misusing them in some way) and angrily declaring he has no powers and will never fulfill his destiny (poor me). Friends tell him how he demonstrates courage and heart, and magical beings declare he has more power than he knows. We the readers know that all this is true, but Merlin, in typical adolescent fashion, moodily brushes it all away. While we were reading the third book, both Tom and I commented that we were getting bored with Merlin’s constant worry about his powers and whether he would fulfill his destiny. We hoped he would wise up soon. The Aha! came the next day while swimming at the health club. With embarrassment I suddenly realized I DO THIS! For years now I have worried aloud about what I am “meant” to do in the world and discounted or minimized what I have done. I fretted that my offerings were “not enough,” because I could do more,...

Soul Song

Do you have a soul song? According to singer/teacher Chloe Goodchild in her book The Naked Voice, the Himba people in Namibia believe that every person’s soul resonates with its own unique expression, its own song. A birthdate is the day the child’s mother decides to have a child, the day she goes off alone to sit under a tree to listen until she hears the soul song of the child that wants to be born. Once she knows the song she returns to the village and teaches it to the father. They sing it when they make love to call the child to them. The mother teaches the song to the midwives and old women in the village so they will sing it to encourage and welcome the child while the mother is in labor. The rest of the village learns the song too, so that later when the child needs comforting or calming, they can sing it. When the child does something wonderful the villagers sing the song to them. When the person marries, the village sings the songs of both bride and groom at the ceremony. And if the villager should commit a crime or violate a taboo, the village circles around and  sings the song as a reminder of the person’s inherent goodness. As a person lies dying, the village sings their song to ease their passing. I love this idea. I think you must feel really seen in a culture like this. And how delightful to be surrounded by so much singing! In our culture, where we don’t invariably learn our soul song, I wonder if the...

Being Watched

There’s somebody new at our house and she keeps staring at me. I recently fell for a fluffy creature with a big personality that I saw in a catalog. I loved that she was so unusual that I wasn’t sure what she was. I loved that her pink and gray feathers gave her a look both elegant and disheveled. I loved that she seemed insistent on being totally her odd self. She didn’t seem like a child’s toy. And she made me laugh so I decided to buy her. Now that she’s here, though, she makes me uneasy. She is delightfully eccentric, both classy and rumpled at the same time. Her “feathers” are actually fluffy polyester, delicate and soft; they remind me of the downy fur of cats I’ve known. Her gray feet (and nose and neck) are velvety, delicious to stroke. She has a no-nonsense presence that I appreciate, uncompromisingly herself. Yet while her colors and odd fluffy shape seem to connect her with a playful, faery-like realm, the energy she exudes is a bit intimidating. She stares at me in the unswerving way my cats did when they wanted something from me. Eying me in heavy expectation. When I ask Ora (my name for her) what she wants to tell me she stares. I listen, then ask again if she has a message for me. She just gazes ever more piercingly. Sigh. (I know I could simply turn her back to me, but that also makes me uneasy; it seems disrespectful to her forceful personality. And since I believe agitation in our outer lives is often due to agitation...