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