Monday, December 31, 2012

Buds on Bare Branches

"The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that, we will never grow." Maya Angelou

"We must drink from the deep well of things as they are." David Whyte

In a few hours I'll meet with a friend to walk and talk about the year that is ending and what we'd like for ourselves beginning tomorrow. I want to forgive myself for dwelling on who I am not and how I wish people in my life were just a little bit different. I don't have to do that and in fact I need to knock it off--especially when I gnaw on bones chewed decades ago. I want to celebrate myself for growing and finding joy in art and writing and delight in what I am creating. I want to share with my friend all the things I'm grateful for. Then I want to spin dreams about what can be, what can come to pass if I'm willing to stretch and forgive and celebrate.

Tomorrow is only tomorrow. There isn't magic in a new year, but it is a demarcation if we want it to be between our intentions and our willingness to step into those intentions with actions we can believe in.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for this day. Thank you for the sunshine of the morning and for the tiny buds on bare branches. Thank you for the courage you have instilled in me to move forward with enthusiasm and joy. Thank you for teachers you've put in my path. Thank you for being with me in difficult times and for leading me to those who helped me move through. Thank you for the gifts of sight and sound and smell and touch and taste. And also, thank you for helping me recover this prayer when I thought I had deleted it mid thought. You are a blessing.  Amen

Friday, December 28, 2012

So You're Human. So Guess What.

"Human beings are constantly trying to take courageous paths in their lives: in their marriages, in their relationships, in their work and with themselves. But the human way is to hope that there's a way to take that courageous step--without having one's heart broken. And it's my contention that there is no secure path a human being can take without breaking his or her heart." David Whythe

My first thought is to wish someone told me this when I was a teenager. There's a heartbreak from that era that haunted and ran my life for decades. I have heartbreak regarding my kids, my marriage, my sister, the way I acted as a kid to my parents and the way the kid part of me acted when I was too old to act that way. I have heartbreak about how I was and the courage I didn't have. The list is plump and capacious, and the land of regret is definitely not a cozy place to visit and then revisit.

If we're traveling the human path, our hearts get broken. We risk and are disappointed, most often with ourselves. We blame. We are found wanting. We try to forgive, and we move on. And we learn. I would have missed so much if I hadn't had the courage to make myself vulnerable, to risk, to try, to take an unpopular stand, to go where I wanted to go without training wheels.

There is no secure path. There are no get out of jail cards. So just get out there. Check out your heart's desires.  Know that you may be disappointed and also know that you will be giddy with accomplishments.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for making me human. Thank you for waking me this morning. Thank you for helping me learn how to pray, and to be brave, and to learn life is full of everything. Open my eyes. Open my heart to a willingness to experience even if it means it might be broken again. I'm still here and I am grateful. Amen

Thursday, December 27, 2012

One Heart's Desire

"In a world dominated by perky little girls with sunny dispositions and endless wells of optimism, nothing soothes the soul quite like a foul-tempered old lady...spitting fire." Heather Havrilesky

Here it is: one of my heart's desires. I see it now. I am woman who doesn't think of herself as a foul-tempered lady but who nevertheless challenges years of training to be nice, and overcomes her perky-little-girlness to lead us forward.

Baruch ata adonai..."You used to be like that when you were younger. You're still perky, but then you spit fire." True, but no one liked it very much. I was never elected prom queen. "And you still think being nice will get you somewhere? Live with it. You are a spitfire and you don't even like going to proms and little-girl-cuteness is most unbecoming to a woman your age. Look in the mirror and love all of who you are." Wow! Amen

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gift Yourself Your Heart's Desire

"Whenever I get disoriented or not sure of myself, it seems I bring my whole life into question. It becomes very painful...."  Natalie Goldberg

I am a past master at being able to bring my life into question. Fresh off feeling sorry for myself about Christmas, the end of one year and the beginning of the next were subject to minute and depressing analysis and new resolve. Always new resolve. I knew well how to feel sorry for myself and find new ways to try to change my pattern. Mostly, and I want to write this in teeny tiny print, mostly find new ways to get other people to be different.

What changed my disgusting cycle was to learn more about my heart's desire and give myself what it desired. Year around. Once it was a little gnome like figure I called Seymore who reminded me to climb to a virtual mountain top so I could see more. Another time when I felt puny and needy, I bought a small stuffed doll who still sits on a shelf in my office. As I look at her now, I realize she is a cousin to the little ladies I like to draw. It could be easy to acquire a bunch of junk this way, but that didn't happen. I wasn't seduced by stuff. I was seduced by actually hearing my heart ask for what it wanted, what I alone could give it.

At the end of the year we think about how we want the next to be. Skip the resolutions, the good intentions, and think about gifts you would like to give yourself. Big and small. Tangible and intangible. Our hearts usually aren't asking for big ticket items. My heart loves things to look forward to. So far on my list are several trips already planned, but also the gift of taking myself seriously about art, the gift of feeling okay about spreading the word about this blog, the gift of thinking big, bigger. All year I'm on the look out and adding to my list. What would make me feel really good about myself? Today it just could be a gift of pastry from a shop that is much too close to where I work out. 

Baruch ata biggest gift of all is my morning conversation with you. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm really talking to you. Sometimes it feels a whole lot like self indulgence, until I get to a point where I'm sure I am hearing you. Like now. You're telling me that's enough. It doesn't help to look too closely, to analyze too much. "Isn't that what you're really talking about here? So just say, Amen." Well OK then. Amen 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How to Hear What You Don't Know You Know

"Poetry is often the art of overhearing yourself say things you didn't know you know. It is a learned skill to force yourself to articulate your life, your present world or your possibilities for the future. We need the same skill as an art of surival. We need to overhear the tiny but very consequential things we say that reveal ourselves to ourselves." David Whyte, Questions That Have No Right To Go Away

When I write or paint and I'm really cooking, no thoughts of the world or my family or life's dailiness enter my space. If you asked, I would say, "No, I wasn't thinking about anything in particular," but I emerge refreshed, knowing myself in a new way. Sometimes I can even put words to it. All of us who spend our days and dreams creating what never existed before know we often get to parts of ourselves previously unknown.

The quote I start with is something I want to explore, and the prayer I end up with surprises me. If I write from my head trying really hard to come up with a great piece, it never happens. Prayer itself doesn't come from the furrowed brow of intense reflection. It comes from entering a space of letting go. It was this kind of overhearing that brought me to write prayers. I still don't understand how it happened and I trusted completely that my direction was clear.

Baruch ata adonai...each time I sit to pray I wonder how to start and where I'll end up. Often I'm hoping for a great big technicolor digitally enhanced bit of wisdom heralded by a prelude of heavenly music. Then I have to sit a really long time to calm down and get real. What would I do if you gave me a too-big-to-climb boulder of insight? So today, I hope I can pat down the hubris, and remember to stay aware. Glimpses of what I need to know come like shooting stars, and if the light is too bright or the noise is too loud, I'll miss them. Hold on. Let me turn down the volume. It's time to get my adorable brain out of the way. Just sit? Be calm? Breathe in peace? Thanks I was really getting carried away. Sometimes praying is so much fun. Amen

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Conversations

"In Ireland, where I spend a great deal of time, they say,'The thing about the past is that it isn't the past.' Sometimes we forget that we don't have to choose between the past or the present or the future. We can live all of these levels at once. (In fact, we don't have a choice about the matter.) David Whyte

We walk through the door of the holiday season carrying packages of joys and resentments as decorated, messy, and entwined as the paper and ribbon will be once the presents we've brought are opened. Our inner conversation is about who we were and who we are now. Sometimes we can't be who we are now with people who knew us best when we were more unformed. We are who we were and we are who we are now, and we're everything we want to be as well. We are our hopes for a peaceful holiday and we are our fears about it. We want to be there, and we look forward to being gone. All of it is inside us, and the way we anticipate the next holiday season says a lot about who we will become. It's as confusing as the overlapping conversations of a Robert Altman movie, and you have all the talking parts.

Baruch ata adonai...may I be peaceful with myself and others. May I forgive myself and others. May I be easy with who I am and who I was and who I will be. Amen

Friday, December 21, 2012

Opening to Myself

"When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
David Whyte, Sweet Darkness from House of Belonging

"The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You're so exhausted because you can't be wholehearted at what you're doing...." 
Brother David Steindl-Rast

Last night I looked into the dark sky for stars, and there were none. This morning the sky is red. The expected storm, not yet here, still builds. When I read the words of the two wise men above, I realized I'm onto something. I'm not struggling to push my way out of a dark storm filled box. It helps that my family and I are healthy. In the past the dark months have been very hard for me. Early this year I opened a door and art and music and writing and healing rolled in. Bits of what I've been doing for years combined to fill my days with gratitude, hopefulness, and patience. I'm working hard on the patience part.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for this time in my life. Beginning and ending my day with prayer and gratitude has opened me to myself. Amen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't Worry, It's the Rhythm of Life Settling In

"The longest night pulls us into the resting season. Quiet land teaches by example: that which rises must also sleep; that which sings is silent, too, or the rhythm of life is lost." Jessie Montgomery, from the We'Moon Date Book 2004

Tomorrow could be a really dark day or we might find the Mayans were right. The big thing about tomorrow for me is that the next day marks the beginning of days getting longer. Incrementally minute by minute there will be more daylight. It'll take a long time before we notice it much, but eventually, a few months from now, it will amount to something. Finally I'm getting it. This isn't so much a time for hibernation as it is for knowing that what feels like working in the dark, working without seeming to  get anywhere will, day by day, become something entirely new I've never seen before. After years of railing against the dark, this year I hope to accept it for what it is: an important part of my artistic growth and lifecycle.

Baruch ata adonai...may I look at the dark in a new way: not as something to fear, not as something to put my head down and get through, not as bearing the fog of depression, but rather as an opportunity: a time of no expectations. Amen

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Do What You Can Do

"Cease trying to work everything out with your minds. It will get you nowhere. Live by intuition and inspiration and let your whole life be revelation." Eileen Caddy 

Every morning I wander from bed to my computer to find out who I am. First thing in the morning, uncontaminated by world events or what my calendar directs me to do, I can begin anew, if I choose. No matter what, I treasure this part of my day. In these few minutes I find out if I'm hopeful, happy, weighed down by yesterday or willing to be adventurous and look at this day for what it is. If I feel off center, I meditate for a few minutes to even myself out, and then I pray to be able to deal with whatever comes my way.

Baruch ata adonai...I look at what I wrote and think I could have done better. The fact is I did what I could do. May I be generous with myself and others and remember we all do what we can do. Thank you for this quiet sunny morning, for the box of fresh vegetables on my door step, and for the opportunity to meet with old friends for lunch. Amen

Monday, December 17, 2012

First Thoughts

"First thoughts have tremendous energy. It is the way the mind first flashes on something. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thoughts, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash....You must be a great warrior when you contact first thoughts...." Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

My first thought today was sitting in a corner of a holiday party with Annie discussing her two big front teeth and another wiggling one holding space for her future. She said she only liked making small smiles, so we went off to the gorgeous mirror filled master bathroom to practice smiles and see which one she thought fit best.

At a time like this when the days are filled with darkness and the daylight shattered by incredible horror, I'm grateful my first thought this morning could be of the silliness and the tenderness and the upmost importance of practicing smiles with my granddaughter. 

Baruch ata adonai...I wasn't raised with the thought of you causing the kind of grief we have seen this past week, though there wasn't much talk of you at all when I was growing up. I hope in someway people are comforted by you. If this happened to me, I wonder which side I would fall on. I'd like to be able to say I believe with perfect faith. It must make what happens in life easier if it is possible to explain the unexplainable. Amen

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Time to Answer Your Questions

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Zora Neale Hurston

"Something was working deep inside me and, like a tropical storm, it gathered momentum before hitting me full force with its message: you are a woman in search of an adventure, said the voice inside. Take the risk. Say "Yes" to life instead of "No." Alice Steinbach

I inhaled Alice Steinbach's books "Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman" and "Educating Alice." I was in my fifties as was she, and I too was a woman in search of an adventure. I wish I'd written a fan letter to tell her I took her on my adventure to Mexico. Periodically over the next ten years I checked to see what new book she had written, but aside from a collection of articles, that was it. Friday after quoting her at the beginning of a blog post, I decided to google her, and there it was: Alice Steinbach Obituary. She died March 2012. She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Price for the Baltimore Sun. I haven't been able to stop thinking about her. Alice encouraged me to answer the questions. She inspired me to know I could travel alone. Her style of writing: straightforward and well crafted grounds me. She used colons very well.  I'm going to practice that. Thank you Alice. You are a blessing in my life.

Baruch ata adonai...Thank you for Alice Steinbach and Dave Brubeck. I remember them when I listen to Dave's music and read Alice's books for the third or fourth time. They've slipped into the air  I breathe and as long as I remember, they will always be a blessing for me. Amen

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ready, Reset, Go

"The best way to get approval is not to need it." Hugh Macleod
"Trying to be what you think everyone wants you to be--while at the same time convincing yourself this is the way you really are--can be exhausting." Alice Steinbach

What with being a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, sometimes I forget who I am: brave or timid, outgoing or shy, loving or withholding, smart or out of it, creative or trite, needed or redundant, truth teller or prevaricator, confident or still in high school. Sometimes the me that is reflected back through other's eyes amuses, shocks, surprises me. The holidays in particular can knock me off kilter, so today I'm unplugging myself from being anyone at all. I hope to talk to no one, even myself, for hours at a time, then take a shower and know that the true me can take off in many directions and it's best if I'm amused and loving until I sluice out the real me again.

Baruch ata may I forget who I want to be or who I think others expect me to be and know living life as myself will come naturally if I don't use too many big words to describe it. Amen

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gift of Silence

"We hear nothing so clearly as what comes out of silence." David James Duncan

I'm tempted to leave the rest of this page empty. Please stop reading here, close your eyes and go to a place where silence enters your pores and swells inside until you begin to melt. I'm in the mountains on my favorite rock overlooking a vast expanse of lake now frozen and covered with snow. My foot prints are the only trace of human life. Birds fly above and my world is still. I breathe it in. I return knowing I must give myself this gift each day for the rest of the year. It's hard to hear when every spare space is filled with music or party or food or shopping or longing or regret or going or coming or cookies.

Baruch ata I will fill myself with moments of mountain silence and remember to be grateful. Thank you for the peace you've given me this morning. Amen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pitching the Past

"David was always there in the marble. I just took away everything that wasn't David." A possibly apocryphal comment by Michelangelo

"Our lives are so filled with junk from the's a wonder we can get up in the morning....If you want to grow, you gotta let go." Gail Blanke, Throw Out Fifty Things: clear the clutter, find your life.

I thought I might make a  list of all the things I'm donating today to the Cancer Shop, Goodwill, toys to be left at the fire station, and the used book store. But then what would I do with the list? I'm having fun deaccessioning my past knowing others will be delighted to make these things their own. Who wouldn't want that practically new full length turquoise down filled bathrobe or those bookends with black labrador dog faces on them! And there's more. At least fifty things more. I'm feeling good!! Wonder who I'll find when I clear away the clutter.

Baruch ata adonai...Wow, this is kind of like the feeling I had when I lost ten pounds last year and didn't miss them at all. I'm grateful to have had this inspiration, and I'm happy to be sharing my life by giving it away to others who will put new life into what no longer serves me. Amen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Early Morning Musings

I'm continuing on with my intention to travel lighter, and now I can see I'm going to have some empty cabinets and closets with gaping holes, and also that I'm going to have another kind of stuff to deal with. Does having a lot of stuff make me feel grounded, does it define my stability, my place, and does releasing it make me feel better or does it make me feel like I've lost something vital or that I could lift off, that my place here is only defined by my stuff? Lots of questions.

As I'm writing, I'm realizing it clearly defines who I used to be, and each has a memory connected to who I am now. I remember where each used to be years and years ago. Right now on a counter next to me is a brass box that was my grandmother's and was on a desk long ago passed on, an ornate green perfume bottle studded with green jewels around the bottom from another grandmother's bureau which stood in a closet I loved to study, a stuffed dog I think I received in my mid teens, a wooden toy gift my oldest son received when he was born. They've all been packed away and I haven't seen them for years. They clearly aren't who I am today. I want to find homes for them. I think I'll create a little ceremony to thank each one for being a part of my life and then pass them on.

Baruch ata adonai...I've begun a process that feels like a transition from one part of my life to another. May I hold it lightly. May I not make it into a referendum on choices I've made or anything more than the reality that it is time to let some things go. Help me keep it simple. Amen

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gentle Intentions to Start Me On My Way

"We are meant to midwife dreams for one another. We cannot labor in place of one another, but we can support the labor that each must undertake to birth his or her art and foster it to maturity." Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

This time of year I begin to make a list, not a list of resolutions, but of gentle doable intentions. This is a list of things no way beyond me, a small challenge in the beginning, and at the same time while I'm making the list, I like to take a step in that direction to make myself believable to me from the get go. I tell myself, this isn't something too hard to start right now.

I intend to travel lighter in 2013. Last night before I went to bed I made a down payment on this plan. In a heap are a portacrib, my black belt skirt which has hung unused for many years, a bed spread my son brought home from Thailand twenty years ago, an airbed which was never comfortable. It's a pile of stuff I'll never use again and is easy to let go. Still hanging in it's bag of 44 years is my going away dress. I'll leave it there a little while longer. I don't need to be ruthless with myself. I'm encouraging movement.

I intend to create more art so I signed up at Creative Every Day to challenge myself to expand my view of all the creative things I do each day. Today I am writing and I am making a small flag of celebration each day in December. In January I'll be ready to take out my acrylics and begin to warm up for my painting trip to Mexico at the end of the month.

I intend to be aware of all the opportunities to say thank you in my life, to appreciate what comes to me in abundance every day, and I'll continue to write three things I am grateful for each evening. I've been exchanging this list with a friend for more than a year. I'm going to see if I can encourage another friend or two to exchange with me in 2013. Thank you for coming to my blog, or inviting it to come to you as a subscriber. Thank you for adding energy to my writing.

Baruch ata adonai... thoughts of apple pie transformed my day a few days ago. The image still serves me in stressful times. Thank you. Thank you for telling me I'm not too full of myself. Thank you for helping me add more light to my life. Amen

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Better to Think about Apple Pie

 "We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet, from 1999 play, Boston Marriage

Busy, busy, busy. Insecure about presents for my grandchildren. Rain. Yes in California we must be grateful for that, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood. Gracie was up at four this morning barking to get out, barking to eat, barking for attention. I didn't go back to sleep. I stayed in bed awhile thinking about how to change my mood from cranky to something comfortingly soft and gentle. What came to mind was apple pie. Tart apple pie. A big juicy warm slice of tart apple pie with flaky crust and slightly melting rich vanilla ice cream. Yes!!! Even a virtual slice of apple pie makes me feel happier.

Baruch ata day is filled with things I want to do and I want to feel good about myself. I don't want cranky to be my default attitude. Help me forget about thinking I didn't get enough sleep. Whether I did or not, it's still a good fourteen hours until bedtime, and I have a choice. Help me to remember I have a choice. If I get snappy, remind me I don't have to be that way. Remind me at the very least, I can always think about apple pie. Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sing Like You Know How

"How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations?" Jane Swan

"The Joy of Singing." Isn't that a grand name for a class, a class requiring no talent, no performances and no homework! Each Wednesday I just go and sing and along the way learn about a lot about the structure of music. I've also recovered memories of my year of piano instruction when I was a kid and the memory of walking home from school singing when some older girls walking in the opposite direction made fun of me. My range isn't huge and I often need to shift octaves mid song, but I can see how, with practice, I can get much better. It never occurred to me that even someone my age who sings like I do can get better. That thought alone astounds me. Everything requires practice. I can't remember that too often. Or this: being open to new experiences requires being open.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for being here to listen to me. Sticking with writing a morning prayer has created a flowering I never imagined and the encouragement to stick with myself. Thank you. Amen

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Way to Write a Prayer is to Sit and Write

"The way to be creative is to make stuff. You can't plan for creativity. You can only plan to do the work....Creativity only comes after the fact." Hugh MacLeod,

Most every morning I sit down to write a prayer. Often the blank page is my friend, and while writing, I learn things about myself I didn't know before. Somedays I sit and stare and get up and leave. I can't plan to write a prayer, I can only sit and offer up the possibility. Sometimes I look back amazed. Other times, well, there are other times. My commitment to myself is to show up every morning and see what happens.

Last week I wrote about saying Thank You. Before I left home I had already said thank you three times, once to Gracie, my Labradoodle, and I'm here to testify that I was amazed what a difference it made through out the day as I exceeded my meager goal of saying thank you five times. Also, I'm off the waiting list for the painting retreat in Mexico and will be heading to San Miguel de Allende at the end of January to paint my heart out.

Baruch ata adonai...whether sitting to write a prayer gives me an aha moment or not, I always feel better for sitting here with you with that intention in mind. Thank you for showing up too. Amen

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spread a Little Thanks Around

"When we habitually count our blessings, we don't concentrate on the bad things that happen....When we consciously count our blessings in one arena, we start to see them everywhere else." Christine Carter.

How are you fixed for gratitude? Got enough? Want more? Start saying the two magic words and see what changes for you. Last night a friend and I had a long before bed conversation. I particularly appreciate her for the support and encouragement she gives me as an artist. After we hung up, I was asked if I'd said thank you. I didn't. I think I'm right in assuming she knows how thankful I am, but what if she doesn't. What if she needed just a little more appreciation. What would we each gain if I did say thank you?

Research is showing gratitude is associated with increased self worth, increased social connection, and when we habitually count our blessings, we don't concentrate on the bad things that happen. Now don't we all need a lot more of that? I sure do.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for pointing me in the direction of writing a morning prayer. I am so grateful for the many blessings this has brought me. I'm grateful for readers who appreciate what I've written and who let  me know about it. I'm grateful I've become happier and more relaxed with myself and others as I've concentrated on finding three things each night I'm grateful for and exchange that list with a friend. Help me remember to share my appreciation and gratitude by saying thank you. My goal for the day is to thank at least five people for contributing to my life. Amen

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning to Listen to my Life

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Frederick Buechner

Grace isn't a word I grew up with, though the concept is there in my upbringing. I like this definition: blessings that come from above regardless of merit. I like the idea of listening to my life and recognizing all moments are key moments. The trick for me is to hold on to this concept, hold it lightly and recognize that I sleepwalk through my life a good bit of the time and take myself much too seriously. My hands are often grasping my to do list or fisted through tension or anger or sadness and not open in supplication to receive what each day offers. What if today I admitted my life is a fathomless mystery and I went around with my tongue out to taste it, my nose twitching to smell it, and my ears turned inward and outward listening for its hidden heart beating minute to minute no matter how I hold my fists? If I could just hold on to this idea through breakfast, I might know things I've never known before.

Baruch ata my goal is to pay attention to how I hold my hands. May they be open, inviting, relaxed. What could I hear through them if I listened. I'm on the right track, right? Amen

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Morning Musing

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Howard Thurman

What would make me feel most alive today? When I was raising children or had a job, this great expanse of an unscheduled day to do anything I want seldom happened. Everyone who reads this today will wish this were their biggest problem of the day. I can hear one friend, you know who you are, telling me to shut up, go eat breakfast and stop thinking so hard. The day opens before me, and I can do anything I want, but this day starts with a requirement: ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. What would I miss if I spent the day in bed? I want this day to mean something.

Baruch ata adonai... I need silence. I need the kind of silence where I'm not talking to anyone and especially not to myself. I hear you saying, "and don't talk to me either." I think I'll make prayer flags today and see where they take me. Then I'll give them all away. Amen

Monday, November 26, 2012

Committing to Art Every Day

"Despite our culture's well-earned reputation for encouraging instant gratification, we are not encouraged to act decisively upon our creative desires. We are trained to think about them, doubt them, second-guess them. We are trained in short, to talk ourselves out of committing art or committing to art." Julia Cameron

After writing the paragraph above, I decided to check out the website Creative Every Day to see what she had to say about talking myself out of committing art. I will follow her beginning in December. By clicking on a provocative box on that page, I came upon a blog devoted to improving my experience on Blogger, the platform I use to write to you, and then I thought to myself, my, aren't I avoiding something here! Next thing I know, I'll be cleaning out my studio again. A great way to seem to be doing art but not.

There is an assemblage I'm enjoying talking to that's not coming together, yet I'm confident it will. Each day I move things around and ask what's missing. It has changed a lot, and while it is changing, so are my thoughts on what I want it to be. I am committed to it. Then there are the unfinished paintings. I've moved them so my eyes run smack into them first thing in the morning. "Hmmmm," I say each day. "Let's start drawing. Or maybe I'll write." Here I can see I'm more into doubting and definitely into second-guessing.

Creating art is a slow process. There's plenty of time to doubt, to second guess. Each day I sit down to write or pull out my drawing pens to do a page of imaginary animals, I tell myself I am creating art. Even though I don't have a finished project, I am setting my mind in motion and heading in the right direction.

Baruch ata adonai...I am excited about admitting to myself I create art every day. Each time I sit down and draw or consider an unresolved work and add to it in some way, I am taking myself seriously. How refreshing! Amen

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

"Accepting the person next to you as a fellow human, struggling and striving and falling down just like we all do, is hard. Looking at a family member with new, unconditionally loving eyes often requires a letting go of years of small and big tensions. But to exercise that love, acceptance and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day is good for our hearts. It is great, soul-expanding, heart-stretching stuff. Hopefully, it re-orients us in a deeper way to what really matters in life."  Ann E. O'Shaughnessy

Baruch ata adonai... today may I look at my world through loving eyes and allow my heart to soften. May I have the strength to focus on what really matters. Thank you for being with me and leading me on my way. Amen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Picture the Answer to Your Prayer

"Your desire is your prayer. Picture the fulfillment of your desire now and feel its reality and you will experience the joy of the answered prayer." Dr. Joseph Murphy

I'm on the waiting list for an art retreat in Mexico in January 2013. I attended this year and it was the beginning of a vibrant year of art for me. When I saw this quote, I wrote it down and put it up in my office where I'll see it every day. See me there in that lovely courtyard in San Miguel de Allende playing with color and stretching myself to the max? This morning I thought it's a good reminder for the big and small things in our lives and a wonderful quote for Thanksgiving too.

Baruch ata adonai...I am thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. May our drive there and back be safe. May my heart be open and grateful. May my friends be safe in their journeys on this national day of football and thankfulness. Amen

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Blessing of Awareness

Funny thing about Thanksgiving, the opening event of the season of ritual correctness and hopeful anticipation. It seems the entire cast of our inner feelings and voices want to be invited in too, especially the ones we don't usually allow in the front door: the painful pitiful ones, the ones who lurk in darkness, the ones that make us numb ourselves. So before you leave for the event, be sure to fluff up your inner witness.

If you've ever meditated, you have that witness in your tool chest, that witness who is present to the rise and fall of emotions without being carried away by their power. The factory model comes equipped with compassion, curiosity, love and tenderness. When a bit of fear or resentment or a feeling of being left out or under appreciated comes into your awareness, it's important your inner witness puts her arm around her and breathes with her and then lets her go. She does best if she doesn't become the center of attention.

Martha Beck has a great suggestion. Think of a person (or situation) you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger or sadness. Think how your loved one (read that as the dark anxious part) must alter her behavior before you can be content. Then complete the following sentence by filling in the name that fits (a person for example or a feeling) and the way you'd feel if the change occurred.
If _____would only_____, then I could feel_____. Then scratch out the first clause and all that remains is I could feel _____. This last sentence is the truth. The cooperation of others or even parts of yourself would be nice, nevertheless, you can feel the way you want to. Even peaceful.

Perhaps something that has worked for me when I've gone to events I'm not sure about may work for you too. I imagine I'm in a foreign country. I don't know the customs or even the people. I'm an interested and neutral observer entertained by the local way of doing things.

Baruch ata me to enjoy my big noisy family and their many friends. Help me to use all my tools and  be amused and enriched by their enthusiasms. May I feel peaceful and thankful. Amen

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Blessing of Family

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
Jane Howard
Live long enough and you’ve acquired lots of families. For me, there’s the family I was born into and lived with eighteen years, the real and mythical family two friends and I invented and wrote stories about still going after fifty years, the many different groups of friends who became family, the family my husband and I created, and now the family of my grandchildren including their friends and in laws. These are the people I celebrate with, the people who often remember my birthday, remember my history when I’ve forgotten it.  They are the strength and the snags in the fabric of my life. I miss my family when I’m not with them. I’m happy to leave them after we’ve spent time together. All my families have created who I am today. Writing about the blessing of family is a huge topic and is as confusing as family itself. 
Baruch ata I’m writing this prayer, I keep getting stuck. I wanted to write a simple thank you, and then I wrote and erased thoughts about being lucky and then you started talking to me about it not being luck...that I’ve worked to create relationships, and then I started talking to you about how I could do better, and then you agreed. Thank you for bringing me to this Thanksgiving season and letting me know I’ve done well and I can do better with the grateful part. Amen

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Blessing of Friendship

“Existence takes on the character of a still-life in a Cezanne. There is a table. Upon the table, a plate. Upon the plate, some apples. Nothing else....There is more in these things than meets the eye: more than the simple individuality of each thing....It might even be that mystery is the very stuff of being: things, events, everything that happens and which we call life.” Romano Guardini

I recall with some clarity the beginning of many lasting friendships, especially the ones upon which I pivoted to meet a new world in myself. Friends have shaped who I am as a person. With friends, I come close to the being person I always intend on being. My friends are forgiving people. They know the me that turns up one day with a bad hair day mood is only the person I think I am at the time, not who I really am.There are mysteries in the heart of friendship. Why am I attracted to you? Why are you attracted to me? Why of all the people we know are we still friends after all these years? Do you know I’m me because of you? 

Baruch ata adonai...I am so profoundly grateful for the blessing of friendship. Amen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Blessing of Community

“We’ve gotta have a great show, with a million laughs...and color...and a lot of lights to make it sparkle. And songs-wonderful songs. And after we get the people in that hall, we’ve gotta start em laughing right away. Oh, can’t you just see it...” Judy Garland, “Babes in Arms” 1939

“There is a certain ecstasy that you experience when you work collaboratively with other people....The rewards are built in. It has to do with your own growth and development.....We need to be together in community.” Julie Glover, from Issue 4 of  Heron Dance

In the past month, I’ve laughed until I cried (isn’t that something we don’t get enough of), watched the latest James Bond movie, spent two happy hours singing, talked books and politics, created art, Googled, talked films and politics, and the common denominator that created joy and sparkle, color, intensity and satisfaction is community. It’s hard to describe connection; I know it when I experience it, and the more connected I am, the happier I am. I’m a person who loves alone time, and I especially enjoy that when I can look forward to being with others.

There's a difference between being alone and being lonely. In the past I experienced great swaths of loneliness. Now I recognize that old companion when it comes knocking, recognize it as a real feeling, but not a reality. It's a gimmick that reminds me I'm feeling depressed or sad or temporarily helpless. It's a reminder to stop being the Lone Ranger.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for the blessing of community and for my ability to reach out and create it for myself. Amen

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Blessing of Health

Have I been naughty or nice? Will I count my blessings or the number of people at the Thanksgiving table? Can I make changes now rather than resolutions seven weeks from now? I’m beginning to take stock. 

Today I’m thinking about the blessing of health, not the absence of illness, but the kind of health that allows me to have emotional equilibrium, mental clarity, physical endurance, energy, vigor and vitality. Though on occasions I slide off the tail end of the emotional equilibrium scale, though I now accept different standards for mental clarity, though I now have the slower steadier pace of the long distance runner rather than the sprinter, though I’ve had surgeries, broken bones, difficult diagnoses, I’ve always been willing to work for health, and I’ve been lucky!

I am so grateful for the gift of curiosity and the creative and physical energy that allows me to follow where it may lead. This year I’m also grateful for medical science that has enabled my husband to continue to pursue his interests and activities, when for too long it seemed he wouldn’t be able to do so. 

Baruch ata adonai...I never imagined I’d be in the prime of my life in my seventies. Amen

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Act on Your Truth

“What is your truth? Ask your heart, your back, your bones, and your dreams. Listen to that truth with your whole body. Understand that this truth will destroy no one and that you’re too old to be sent to your room.”

There are times in our lives we must loosen our tethers and bravely strike out into new territory. We may be holding our breath, biting our cheeks, crossing our fingers, raising our eyes in prayer, all rather awkward positions to sally out into the world, nevertheless we go because we know we must. Because it is actually harder not to go forth. Remember the first day of school? Remember the last time you held your breath, said a prayer and took a first step into the unknown? Remember the thrill of it being over and knowing you did something more than you ever had before and now you know you can do it again? If you believe in what you are doing, eventually you must take a step out of your favorite nest and fake flying until you realize your wings are flapping like crazy. Right now. Listen to yourself flapping.

Baruch ata adonai...please watch over my friend who is taking a mother-may-I giant step in life. Watch over all of us who know we can do what we haven’t done before. Help us to trust ourselves and be brave and bold. Amen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No More Than Anyone Else

No more than anyone else, I’m relieved it’s over, relieved not to be sickened each morning by the billions it has cost in this election cycle for so much hypocrisy, so much cynicism, for so many lies, for the same vacuous phrases repeated with so much sincerity. I take heart that more women have been elected to the senate. I take heart in the multicolored election night supporters who waited for the President to make an appearance in Chicago. I take heart that two more states support the right of gays to marry.

I wanted to write about something else, but I couldn’t while the election hangover sits like a mould crusted boulder in my path. I wish I had something else to say this morning. Right now, my imagination needs to be revived after so much sand bagging. 

Baruch ata adonai...I’m looking for positives this morning and I want to say how grateful I am for the farmers and for the organization that delivered a box of fresh vegetables to my front door at 4:30 AM, even though it woke up Gracie who didn’t stop barking. There are gorgeous beets, winter squash, fennel, onions, chard, leeks, kiwi waiting for me. The colors are intensely green and red. I want to bury my face in their freshness. Thank you for the integrity of those who provide fresh healthy food for my body. Amen

Monday, November 5, 2012

As Long As There Is Joy

I am lucky to have found a creative life that suits my spirit. The two are synergistic, and when I feed one, the other seems to grow. Yesterday I emailed a friend and found myself putting out goals for next year. Sharing makes what I’m doing clearer to me too and putting it out makes me more accountable to myself. At the same time, I’m all about what I wrote the other day: doing for the joy of doing. I would, however, like to push myself to go a bit farther, to take myself a little more seriously, delve more deeply into what I am currently doing and find more there. As long as there is joy.

Baruch ata aren’t surprised, but I sure am. Thank you. Amen

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wisdom on a Hang Tag

"Continuous, calm, powerful use of the will shakes the forces of creation and brings a response from the infinite." Paramahansa Yogananda

While cleaning out a box of art supplies, a lovely tag with these words dropped out. Where did it come from? I pick up stuff from the street...virtually everything can become an art supply. This one may have come from a yoga bag I bought from REI or a mat from TJMaxx. The white print message overlays what might be a river bed, though one of the rocks could just be a shark. The tag was printed on 100% post-consumer waste with soy-based inks. It's a piece of art in itself.

As an artist, I think this message showed up now as a reminder to me to keep doing what I'm doing because I enjoy the doing. I haven't found powering through or using will power very helpful as a positive creative tool. It does take a fair amount of will though to keep writing every day, to practice drawing every day. Every once in a while I have a great breakthrough. Every once in a while I write with ease or am delighted by a drawing I've never seen myself do before.

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for this serendipitous reminder to breathe and to be mindful and patient. Amen

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Surprisingly Wonderful Time of Life

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.”  Thomas Merton

Doing it all, all that multi tasking, all that being on top of mothering, having a job, a social life, a husband with his needs, parents with theirs, volunteering in the community, making cupcakes, created havoc in my inner life and made the rest of me weary and often crazed. Yet when I was in my fifties, OK, you know me, up until very recently, that’s the way I ran my life. Then I wrote about wanting wide white margins and less dense text while juggling five balls and smiling at a sixth just beyond my reach. 

I’m not feeling more peaceful now because I’ve gotten smarter. I believe I’m feeling more peaceful because I’ve accomplished the tasks of earlier stages, and have planted my flag in what others might call old age and what I call coming into myself. My life is fairly simple now: family, but not in a day to day way, maintaining mental and physical strength and energy, writing and creating art, spiritual curiosity, and yes, peace. Soon I’ll be dealing more intensely with health issues, my husband's and mine, but for now, I am loving my life and wondering if it would have been possible to come to this point of equilibrium sooner. 

Baruch ata adonai...Thank you for brining me to this time of life. I am so grateful. Amen

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Mixed Bag

Only in San Francisco are people happy to read the newspaper this morning. The Giants won the World Series for the second time in three years and we are ecstatic. Meanwhile, horrific storm Sandy is closing in on the east coast. Yesterday in a flurry of emails, the east coast members of Nightwriters, new found writer friends who met each other at a writing workshop in early October, wrote back and forth reporting from the east coast and supporting from the west. At least the ugly election season is off the front pages.

Baruch ata adonai...HELP! We're in a mess here. Amen

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ssssh...Just Listen

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

Sand Hill Cranes, the oldest known bird species still surviving, arrive on the dot of sunset a few miles from my home. Last night, just a few nights from the full moon, I watched as thousands of birds, at a distance first smudges in the orange sunset, arrived in masses and settled amidst thousands of ducks already bedded down for the night. They have a lot to share with each other, and I am jealous. Even at this early morning hour, I think I could close my eyes and fall asleep listening to that sound. 

Baruch ata adonai...if you could teach men one more thing, how about teaching them to listen. Then whisper in their ears just how seductive that is. Amen

To learn more about Sand Hill Cranes go to

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Rare Shared Moment

"...our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder: to lengthen the moments we are truly uncovered..."
Mark Nepo, "The Book of Awakening."

I wanted to stop time. I wanted to hold Annie’s seven year old hand forever. On an impulse, I took my granddaughter to see a magical life changing cottage, the anchor of the myths of my twenties, where I once lived with two other teachers not far from her home today. Chainsaws screamed. The driveway was covered with debris four feet deep. The following week the cottage was to be torn down and the lot, in the past only big enough for two small homes in the woods, would be filled wall to wall with two twenty-six hundred square foot homes homes for the rich. Annie was filled with questions and words of condolence. I close my eyes now to relive that moment and wonder again at that time out of time when we held hands and tried to understand the end of paradise. 

Baruch ata adonai...I am so grateful to have shared that raw moment with a child so perceptive and nurturing who asked the questions I had no answers to. Being a grandmother is a constant source of joy and wonder. Amen

Monday, October 22, 2012

God Is Creating Something New in Me Today

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you, don’t go back to sleep.” Rumi

Today I awake, restored to life and a new day. It’s still dark. Barely morning. I know the outline of my day’s doings: an appointment with the physical therapist, walk with a friend at eleven, a class on the issues of the coming election in the mid afternoon, prepare dinner and watch the presidential debate. If even for a few minutes I paid exquisite attention to the spaces within and around these doings, made myself available to synchronicity, made myself available to the joy of possibilities, how might I be changed? I love this time of day, this time of planning and holding those plans lightly so discoveries may be made. What do I need to breathe into life today?

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for this new day. Open my eyes to what I am blind. Help me be awake to the small wonders that surround me. Please gently tap me on the shoulder and remind me there is nothing to be gained by being angry. Help me to be patient. Thank you. Amen


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Joy of Singing

“, and listening to music, (lights) up the entire brain, from our prefrontal cortex all the way back to our cerebellum....” “The beauty of music has the ability to talk where words fail."
--Roberta Gupta TED Talks, March 2010 and October 2012

Buried in the alto section my best range is in the key of C, but mostly I straddle two octaves in any key and can’t get the high notes in one or the low notes in another. I’ve sung in the Temple Israel choir for years, and this semester I’m taking a six week singing course offered through Osher Lifelong Learning at the University of the Pacific. The teacher is a fabulous choral director, but this course isn’t about performance. It’s only about singing together: singing songs from popular musicals, spiritual songs, Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree kind of songs. I’m learning how to shape notes and diction and some music theory, and now I know I'm getting to light up my entire brain two hours a week!

Baruch ata adonai...I am so grateful for the synchronicity in my universe. Wednesday my first ever singing course and Saturday hearing Robert Gupta talk about music and medicine. I knew I was going to have fun singing. Now I know I’m going to change my brain. Thank you. Amen

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There is a Time and Place for Winter

“...if we see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons...then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter--a resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification and regeneration that prepares us for the births of spring.” 
--Linda Leonard as quoted in The Artist’s Rule by Christine Valters Painter

What would happen if I didn’t pick fights with winter? What if I looked at it as a resting point even if that rest might involve lethargic symptoms that in the past have sent me for medical care. What if instead of resisting the inevitable dreary pervasive fog that can shroud my part of the country in gloom for weeks at a time, I surrendered to it as a time for spiritual and creative restoration and paid exquisite attention to every emerging bud, sprout and leaf as a sign of my own rebirth. I’ve never understood in just this way that creative energy goes through similar rhythms to the seasons, to the weeks, to each day. To each there is a dawn and a dusk. To each there is a cycle of fruitfulness and fallowness.

Baruch ata adonai...I’m working hard to make peace with winter, and with my own cycles of creativity. My expectations for winter can evolve and change. I can learn what “creative hibernation” might entail. Feels like climbing a mountain. I can climb mountains. Amen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making Friends With Winter

“A major obstacle to creativity is wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times....” Linda Leonard

“Well,” I say, hands screwed into my hips, “why not!” I love being in the peak season. Spring and summer are my delight. I dance. I sing. I love brisk morning walks, new possibilities. I bloom. But here we are well into autumn, a time of endings. Days are shorter and though the season has remarkable beauty, the harvest is on and soon fields will be fallow. I can make friends with autumn, but winter has always presented problems for me. Perhaps if I look on winter with a philosophical sweetness, I will see it as a time for resting and restoring myself and my creative energies. 

Baruch ata adonai...when I think of winter, it is not with equanimity but with fear. In the past it has been a difficult time for me. Even now, I dread the shorter days and colder weather. May I learn to see winter as a time of different expectations: a time of to burrow, a time to incubate new ideas, a time to dream. Amen

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slowly and Sweetly

Across the street from Rebecca's studio sat a very large woman on a very small stool languidly stroking brown stain on the carefully crafted fence surrounding her scrappy front yard. She sang a slow moving song so sweetly resonant I could hear it when I got out of my car. I often imagine I still can. I have a lot to learn about moving slowly and sweetly.

Baruch ata adonai...there is nothing I need to do today to cause me to rush about as if my life depended upon the completion of my lists and agendas.  I know if I smile and remember to be grateful and sing a slow moving song and observe the aura of golden light around me, I too might be a light to the world. Amen

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sometimes We're Seat-fillers

“....all seat fillers do is sit in the seat until the celebrity returns, and then they getup and give the seat back. The seat-filler waits for another opening...”

A friend who has a very up and joyful side wrote one evening to say her peace was eroding. I know the feeling; my sense of well being can drift away too, and some days I’m like the woman at a Hollywood award show slipping into the seat of a star who’s gone to the loo. One moment my seat is occupied by a body of nerves with a stomach situation and the next by a seat-filler having the time of her life. 

Baruch ata adonai...I’m thankful my life, at least so far this morning, is not teetering on the pivot point of well being, and if it does, may I be gentle with myself. If it happens I teeter today, may I recognize that for a short time, my seat might be filled by a woman having a bad day. Amen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Inner World Waits for Us to Appear

“We think of retreat as going away, but it need not be a physical act. Each of us can find our own way to silence. We withdraw and the inner world appears.--Deena Metzger

We were given fifteen minutes, a picture of a room in a chic hotel, told to put in two people, and tell a story through dialogue. There was no time to think. The first line I wrote came  as a surprise, and without much thought the unplanned story evolved: two white gloved laughing grandmothers are bouncing on chairs. Wrapped inside this story and unsaid was a truth I never would have found in another way. For a short time I had withdrawn into an unknown world and found happiness that still tickles me. 

I love the world of let’s pretend. I can go there any time I’m willing to trust myself to travel inward without a guide who talks too much and insists I follow her because she’s been there before and knows what’s best for me. 

Baruch ata adonai...inside me is the universe of my whole life. Help me to write with boldness. Help me to live with boldness. Help me to trust my childlike curiosity to guide me along the way. Amen

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


“Roger Rosenblatt tells his students that they should be able to see the wreckage of their early drafts--the crossed-out words, phrases, sentences. ‘Slash and burn! Bombs away! Our pages should look like Dresden.”
A Year of Writing Dangerously  by Barbara Abercrombie. Day 317

Last week at Nightwriters writing workshop, I returned to creating first drafts by hand. I love the way I can see where I’ve been, how from those first notes I’ve made insertions, drawn smudgy arrows, crossed out lines, and completely deviated from my first idea. I love the writing process, the yellow pads, my stack of favored pencils. I've spent a long time revising this paragraph, but the only thing that shows are a few sentences. Lots will be lost when I push the save key and I’ll never remember how hard I tried to include “Bombs away!"

Baruch ata adonai...I don’t find it so important any more to document my life and archive my papers. I still have many drafts of long ago writings. Who will care? I've lived and experienced Dresdens. Do I really need to file and recycle the minutia of my writing any more than I need to save the trivial scabs and dead ends of my daily life and repackage them as a museum exhibit for future use? At least that’s the way I see it now. Amen

Sunday, October 7, 2012

We Are the Journey Itself

“We are neither our point of origin nor our goal: the former is long gone, the latter forever recedes as we move forward. We are the journey itself.”
Swamplands of the Soul--New Life in Dismal Places  by James Hollis

I am on such a high after The Nightwriters writing workshop followed by time spent in the studio of an artist whose work tickles and encourages my whimsical side. My studio shelves, empty a few years ago, are packed with possibilities: painting, drawing, writing, collage, assemblage. I want this creative part of my life to last forever. My inner grown up taps me on the shoulder and gives me a knowing look. “Remember that big accident you had to detour on your way home?” She knows life is packed with other possibilities. Sooner or later the joy of flying with ease will be snagged by unwelcome change, which needs to be lived as well. 

Baruch ata adonai...I am here, but I have to say I’m feeling a bit sulky. 
The books of easy are balanced by the books of sadness and courage?
Yes, I’ve survived hard times, but Adonai I fear the hardest times are ahead of me. 
I am the journey itself? 
Whoa! I’ll think about that one. 

If you’re looking for a book of inspirational quotes, I’ve just been introduced to a gem. “An Almanac for the Soul” is a book of daily quotes which can be used to get up in the morning in a thoughtful way. Contact The Iona Center to purchase a copy. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Honor the Returning Home

“Travel returns us to sharpness of notice; and to be saturated in the sight of what is entirely new....” Cynthia Ozick

You don’t have to travel far to find the entirely new. Three hours from my home is a land far far away from my daily life. For five days I lived with a group of “floating vagabonds,” writers awash in seas of words and food, laughter and tears, and great natural beauty. When I travel, I love not only new sights that stretch my understanding of the world, but also the challenge to my rote ways of behaving day to day that must be reinvented. For me the allure of travel has to do with reminding myself I still have the skills to adapt to change, and I can I create new truths for the way I see myself.

Baruch ata adonai...I return from times of giddy heightened awareness and the allure of new possibilities always challenged by the need to blend what feels like a new me back into my familiar daily life. I am grateful for two days of quiet solitude alone at home before I open next week's calendar. Amen

Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Vacation

The Morning Prayer Blog will be on vacation until October 6, 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Today, a day some find tedious and boring, a day carved out of time and space, is a day I look forward to. Today I fast, spend the entire day with my community at Temple Israel to wrap up the past year, and hope I emerge with a new outlook even on a very small way I choose to live. The past month I’ve spent a few minutes each day, the days of Elul and the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, looking at myself. Some of the work is conscious, and I believe most of it is unconscious. I hope it enters right at the point where my unconscious gets me into trouble. 

Today is a gift and each tomorrow is a gift of life, a chance to get it right, a chance to be human, to make mistakes and to atone. You don't have to be Jewish to say L’chaim, It means to life. L'chaim.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


“The pain was necessary to know the truth
but we don’t have to keep the pain alive
to keep the truth alive.”
Mark Nepo

Yom Kippur is all about acknowledging we have acted badly and need to atone. We atone by asking for forgiveness from the people we know we’ve hurt and then changing our actions so we don’t do it again. One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask for forgiveness when I believe there will be no reciprocal action from the person who has hurt me. And here’s the kicker. I need to apologize and ask for forgiveness honestly whether or not that person accepts my apology, whether or not that person changes behavior, apologizes or forgives me. I need to ask for forgiveness for my own health, for my soul, for my spirit. I need to do it so I can go into the new year with a clean slate, so that I can help make the world a better place in the year 5773.

If I have hurt you during this year, if I have caused you discomfort and pain, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

Baruch ata with us all as we try to be better human beings, human beings full of misgivings and hopes and fears and love. May this year be a healthy one for all of us. Amen

Monday, September 24, 2012

Required Discomfort

“Do not let the fact that things are not made for you, that conditions are not as they should be, stop you. Go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway.”  Robert Henri, from The Art Spirit

Perhaps it’s all the introspection of the Jewish High Holy Days, or maybe it’s because it’s the end of meandering effortlessly through long unplanned sunny days at our cabin or maybe it’s the autumnal equinox. I don’t understand why, but I think I’m often uncomfortable inside myself this time of year: supersensitive, touchy, antennae out for slights, feeling ungrounded in unchartered land. 
I ask myself what is going on: “Are we going to be doing anything fun?” my teenage self bursts in, hands on hips ready to argue. “Are you going to be mopey again? If so, I’m outta here.” I recognize this unspecific malaise for what it is. A return to an old way of being. I am not content.

The next two days I’ll be sitting in temple in the midst of Jews all over the world, alone with myself, listening to the litany of sins I have committed over the year, thinking of those I have hurt intentionally or unintentionally, including myself. I think a state of discontent is what is required for change. 

Baruch ata I am. I’m clearer now that what I fear is stepping out of what is familiar into the clouds of empty space. I am grateful for the time ahead to come to new truths and new ways of thinking about who I am. Amen

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Practice Practice Practice

“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same....Practice means to perform over and over again in the face of all obstacles some act of vision of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
Martha Graham

I watched my one year old granddaughter practice walking the top of a long narrow wall about six inches off the ground over and over. It was her baby naming day and the party was in her honor. She looked like a little doll in her party dress and her determination soon got the attention of all the adults present as well as the children who were monitoring her and assuring us that when she fell and got up again she was alright. It was the only thing she wanted to do that day and she did it again and again.

Baruch ata adonai...may I get the concept of practice into my head. It’s over and over and over. It isn’t just once or twice and then declare myself a failure or accept less than I know I am capable of doing. May I be more determined to practice the personal changes I want to make this year. I have cast away my sins and acknowledged my short comings and now let me not accept their return as a failure of intent or impossible to attain. Amen

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Little Dog and a Whole Lot Human

“Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it! Imagine!’” Henri J.M. Nouwen

What if I looked at each day as a new beginning free from yesterday’s hangover of insecurity, stress, fear, anger, memories of slights, failed hopes? What if triggers imprinted from infancy failed to go off when I feel hurt and don’t even know why I react the way I do until much later, if ever? Sometimes I’m really pissed I don’t have the generous qualities of my dog, Gracie. I’d love to wag my tail more, beg for attention, have a short memory, run around the house in a gleeful uncontrolled joyous way for no reason anyone can see. It’s not too hard for me to imagine these possibilities, but believing is another thing. What if I were committed to seeing each day as a gift full of promise and I could hear a voice saying, “ So you’re human. So what and I have a gift for you. Look. Feel it!”

Baruch ata adonai...I hear you. Start today. I hear you. It’s a practice. Being human is a practice and it’s not full of tail wagging and soulful eyes and begging for attention. It’s also full of whimpering and snarling when confronted or taken by surprise. I hear you. I can be a little dog and a whole lot human. That’s the deal. Thank you. Amen

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beginner's Mind: a great tool for Yom Kippur

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” 
Shunryu Suzuki

In Yoga we’re always reminded about “beginner’s mind.” It’s a Buddhist tradition that reminds us to start each pose as if we had never done it before. Each day a new body shows up with different qualities and abilities, and what we could do yesterday might work differently today. Moving with a beginner’s mind allows exploration with openness and dispassionate interest. I was thinking about this as I painted the other day and realized I’d become quite an expert on all the ways this canvas wasn’t working. I put everything away, took out a box of crayons, and played happily for a long time. Painting gives me a great opportunity to check in on how well I’m doing on my goal to change judgmental behavior, one of the sins I symbolically cast into the water last night. 

Baruch ata heart is open to witnessing my behavior without at the same time taking away my allowance for missing the mark. I’m grateful I was gentle with myself. Amen

Monday, September 17, 2012

Empty the Garbage

“We consider death as something that happens--or did happen, or will happen--to somebody else. but life is finite. We lease our minds and bodies for an indefinite term but with the sure knowledge that we cannot buy it out. And so, in the daily acts we perform, seen and unseen (but mostly those unseen), we are all writing our own obituaries.” 
Marshall Portnoy,

During the month of Elul I reflected on who I’ve been and particularly on all I am grateful for. Today the month changes to Tishrei and begins the progression to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It's time to take out the trash. This afternoon I'll join others at a lake and symbolically cast my sins into the water. For the next ten days I'll consider the things I did not do, the deeds and actions I don’t want to review, the behaviors I want to change. It’s not a time to blame or defend or do mental gymnastics to look better to myself than I honestly do. I believe this reflection can lead to change and that it matters. 

Baruch ata adonai...thank you for a year of blessings. You know who and what I am. Help me to be willing to know that too, not in a way that depresses me or makes me feel guilty and hopeless, but in a way that makes me feel stronger and more tender toward myself and my humanness. Amen

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Rocks in my Jar

A few weeks ago, I quoted Rabbi Laura Geller, “...Elul is the deep breath needed to get clear about what rocks fill up my jar, and promise to put them in first.” 

The first rock in my jar is a big one: continue to write from my nearly naked heart with a clear honest voice.Through writing prayers, I think I’m becoming my best self. The second rock: do things that bring joy to others and to myself. There’s a huge rock for gratitude and another for creative processes, and a rock for taking care of my body and and another for time with my family and friends. That’s it. I love having these strong rocks serve as guidelines for what I might take on in the future.

Baruch ata adonai...the new year approaches and I am clear about my intentions for 5773. I am happy I've taken the time during Elul to examine the past year, to be grateful for all I have in my life, and understand what I want to do in the new year. Thank you for helping me find my true self and for guiding me beyond my limited thinking. Amen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This Little Speck of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It Shine

In it's 22nd year Curiosity, the Hubble Explorer, approaches landing on Mars, and I'm listening to Radiolab, one of my favorite podcasts, tell me all about it. As I walk along Hildreth Lane in Morada, in Stockton, in San Joaquin County, in California’s eleventh congressional district, in the United States, zip code 95212, in North America, I’m just a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck, and there’s more. I’m in the Western Hemisphere, Earth, Milky Way, a speck in the the known Universe, in the year 5773 on the Jewish calendar. 

Now patched and fixed numerous times, Curiosity isn’t all young shiny newness any longer, yet it still astounds and has far outpaced any expectations anyone had for it. Just like us, wandering along the known and unknown edges of our lives, expectations surpassed, the unknown ahead. 

Baruch ata adonai...I’m so small, just a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck, and still my little drop in the universe is important to maintaining the fabric of life emanating from a small house on a small street, in a small county in a small state in a small nation. Like Curiosity, may I too keep outpacing my own expectations. May I keep on being a light in the darkness. Amen