Monday, September 26, 2011


It's time for an extended pause in my posted writings. It's just time.

Autumn Stew

We slipped across the lip of light to this
colorful, flavorful season of endings, full
of change and new space for kindness,
for you, for me, for quiet acceptance
of my specific, small place, and yours
in the recipe of the world.

(I'm still reading and writing at

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blessings, Frozen and Not

The freezer hums along in the basement this morning, so orderly and tidy inside. I knew I had a mess in that frozen box, but oh my. This was the clean-up after the refreeze after five days without electricity due to Hurricane Irene.

A bag of strawberries that had been near the top on one side evidently had a tear in it. Also, frost that had accumulated near the top and in the lid had dripped and settled during the outage. Yesterday, as I unpacked, unpacked and got to the bottom, I found a dam of ice with a flow of bright red like fresh, spilled blood.

I know full well that fresh blood, spilled and frozen, turns a sort of brown-red, not that bright, fresh red. I knew strawberry juice when I saw it. But still. All sorts of scary tales came to mind.

So I opened the drain plug, and poured on hot water, and scooped and dumped and wiped and repeated until that enamel box shone so clean and bright I thought of sunglasses. Then I repacked good food.

Oh, and yes, I found cookies. I thought I had wrapped up and frozen a version of show cookies that no one wanted to eat even when they were new one Christmas, (why do I save things like that?) but when I unwrapped (and they were thoroughly wrapped!) that plate of cookies turned out to be rugala. Some apricot, some raspberry. We ate them. They were wonderful.

I am so thankful--
for plentiful food,
for people with whom to share,
for enough old towels to catch the spills and mess of the process,
for the washer and dryer to clean and dry the cleaning cloths,
for the shower and nice towel to clean and dry me,
for clean, cold and hot running water,
for order and shine restored,
for the physical capacity to move, to clean, launder, cook,
for the remaining vegetables and meat in baskets, frozen,
for a plate of sweet deliciousness, a happy surprise,
for plenty, and people with whom to share,
for plenty, and people with whom to share.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Last evening I picked up and read (again) excerpts from Lynne McTaggart's book The Intention Experiment (Free Press, 2007):

"For a cat, nirvana is the food bowl just around the corner." (137) Yes!

McTaggert writes carefully and cites specific studies, their parameters and controls. The gist of the cat experiments, though, and those on other animals, showed that high levels of interest, anticipation, and curiosity turn on the production of dopamine, the brain feel-good chemical.

Describing a woman undergoing surgery without other-administered anesthesia, McTaggert writes, "All she had to do was keep her mouth full of saliva and keep repeating to herself, "My leg is anesthetized.".... A dry mouth is one of the mind's first warning signals of danger. When the mouth is lubricated, the brain relaxes, assumes all is well, and turns off its pain receptors..." (139)

Ah, that explains one of the big drawbacks of Sjogren's syndrome, the autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own moisture producing glands in the eyes, mouth... a dry, not lubricated, mouth...

Now, I shall take a walk, anticipating the joy of new things I shall find, and then I shall clean out the chest freezer, keeping myself curious about what might be in the lowest depths of it, and all the while I shall keep a good flow of saliva in my mouth. Oh, and I will keep my blood pressure and pulse steady within healthy parameters, I've been practicing this last for a couple years. Biofeedback works.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This morning , another song in my head, a refined version of an old oldie:

Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with your machine,
Let me hear you whisper that you'll buy the gasoline,
Keep the headlights burning and your hands upon the wheel,
Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with your automobile.

And then I began my day-- starting before coffee, silly me-- with the news.

What is an individual citizen's responsibility? What can one citizen not do alone, or even in a small local group? Or regional group?

How many of us want to call Uncle Sam sweetheart as long as the machine has plenty of gasoline and seems to be running along just fine, but do not want Uncle to have any expectations when the automobile stutters, needs to shift gears?

I think of such basics as unpolluted air and water and food. Molecules from as far away as the nuclear accident in Russia have fallen on you and me. Probably not enough to injure us, or our water, or the land that provides most of our food. But what about adding the smoke from coal-burning power plants in Ohio and Indian? And, oh, let's add in what happens on the roads, and in... You can create the list.

Dignity and freedom. I have observed even wild animals ruffling up and stretching, straightening, grooming, resuming dignity after (sometimes amusing) incidents in which something awkward transpired. And there are numerous stories of animals willing to even gnaw off a limb to achieve freedom. So, by implication of basic animal imperative, humans all seek some basic dignity and freedom.

Dignity and freedom are not concrete, touch-it values. May we call them spiritual values? Our country was not founded on any specific religion, but it was surely founded on deeply held spiritual values. For lack of a better world, our nation's founding documents include the word God to designate the power of those spiritual root values that support all there is.

My own twisty life journey has taken me ( unexpectedly, unplanned) into an intense search for spiritual root strength. Heart strength, perhaps. I have been searching (and, for myself, finding) heart pieces, central pieces of what the sages taught. Useful, practical, workable pieces. At heart core, at the power place, all the world's religions seem to have commonality.

How do I find words and ways to communicate what I've been finding? Is it thus that religions grow? That someone has found a workable path, recognized as a workable spiritual path, and starts to (believably, persuasively) say "this way, this way, this is the way." Let's see: Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus...

How do we get beyond our religious persuasions, get deeper, back to some core of shared, useful, spiritual values for our shared world? Even for our shared continent? Our shared nation? How do we even share local community with individuals who hold "other" views?

A light rain falls on this house and its surrounds, air moist and in the upper sixties. Enough light sines through to make me trust and believe the sun still shows in the sky above the heavy, covering clouds. In the passage of time I trust, too, the scientist's observations that this, my earthly world, moves around the sun.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thank You, You're Welcome, Thank You!

We're taught some standard social responses, two of which are nearly written in stone: "How are you?" "Fine." and "Thank you." "You're welcome." Only a truly precious few wish to know how you really are. And some arbiters argue that the only correct response to "Thank you" is "You're welcome." Never "Thank you!"

Recently a thing came into my hand that one morning passed as a gift to another. In that moment and again later when I received a thank you note, I felt such a deep, shared joy in the exchange, I felt so privileged to have been the vehicle through which this thing found its home, it felt wrong, just wrong, to say "You're welcome."

"You're welcome," I perceived suddenly, puts the giver in a superior position. "Here is what I have that you do not. You need, want, will like this thing that I have that you do not. You are the beneficiary of my largesse." Maybe.

Better, "My pleasure."

Best, an honest heartfelt, "Thank You!" Best occurs when the giving and receiving of a gift weaves cords of friendship, strengthens and deepens human bonds. The element of give-receive stands secondary to flow, to sharing between equals. Treasure discovered, offered for sharing, accepted. Best makes giver and receiver of equal value and honor, both experiencing a benefit and joy in the exchange. Best makes each a participant in the marvel and flow of life.

Social conventions, "Thank you," "You're welcome," stand as serviceable forms. Yet sometimes we experience the best. Here I say to you, reader, Thank You! You're the best.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What do I know?

What in the world do I know this morning?

I know that Deer Creek waters flowed along as I walked on Walters Mill Road.

I know that the horse shelters continue to stand so firm and sturdy in the meadows. They scoop up morning light into their shallows and depths. Faces open south-east, they are filled (or not) according to the seasonal angle of the sun, according to sky clarity or cloud cover in any specific moment.

I know the two-thirds full trench silo at the Walters farm has been covered and the cover weighed down.

I know leaves fell around and on me when the breeze moved briskly. Each morning, recently, more leaves lie on my deck.

I know my body temperature felt just right as I strode along clad in long pants, shirt and sweatshirt. The calendar says Autumn begins Friday, but the air whispers, "Time, it's time..."

I believe for this minute, this hour, I know enough, and even in the midst of all my uncertainty I am content.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Way of Being

My way of being precedes my way of doing.

The way I think about, see, perceive the world, determines how I will choose to act in the world.

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7a (KJV)

[That Bible quote came to my mind, and as I'm now prone to do, I got out Cruden's Concordance and looked up the context. Other translations of the Bible say that idea in such a different way that I thought I misread the citation, and I looked up the verse four times until on the fifth try I intentionally sought out my King James Bible. Other versions hint at the same truth, but the King James translators put the thought in such a pithy little sound bite. Spinning already, way back then?]

Vibrant energy and health puts us into the world doing things. We play and work and strive, we study and figure, we use our bodies and minds with great vigor. And that energetic way of doing is surely good and right. Energetic doing builds our world and is the way to achieve reward, honor and success in this Western society.

Now the truth of my collected years and health situation puts sustained high energy activity mostly beyond me. Now what?

I want to, need to, discover the spiritually strong, wholesome, wholehearted answer to that question, "Now what?" This experienced change of pace, this slowed life, feels to me less valuable, less worthy, than the more vigorous, outreaching, sweeping accomplishment pace. And yet...

Now is my time to notice and honor
and participate with smaller, more subtle actions.
Now I'm thankful to recognize when others just welcome my presence.
I seek a spirit of kindness and fierce compassion
which does not always appear gentle or kind.
I seek to live out my life in awareness of and rejoicing in
the ever flowing reality of change.
Now let me find a strong and wholesome courage.

Now let my way of being--
and yours--
shine a blessing into the world.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drunken Sailor

What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
Ear-lie in the morning.

Let's lock 'im up until he' sober,
Better lock 'er up until she's sober,
Best lock 'er up until she's sober
Ear-lie in the morning.

That's the song that I woke with this morning, noisy and jolly and insistent in my head.

Minding morning things-- how to move to get up, what hurts need releasing, what weak places need strengthening, breathe in, breath out-- I knew morning hunger for food. Even after I ate, this morning, I could have eaten more. When I feel sturdy I have a hearty appetite for food.

No appetite for food is an indication I must be sick. I love to eat. I love broccoli and squash, rice and bread, cheese cake and chocolate. And much, much more. My BMI implies my weight is "normal." But I know I could easily, easily be grossly obese.

This morning after breakfast I stepped into the shower, conscious of the lift of one leg, placement of the first foot in the tub, shift of weight, lifting my other leg into the tub. Present-moment, present-moment, care of balance, don't fall, present moment... And here, simultaneously, comes that silly drunken sailor song I woke up with, and also awareness of my appetite for food.

Karma, my small voice whispered.

With the appetites of a drunken sailor, here I am, locked up in a body that fails me if I do not hold to abstinence and awareness in every precious, present, passing moment. Locked up in this body until I'm sober.

I don't pretend to know how karma functions, I don't imagine I know where we come from at birth or where we go at death. I don't believe in or mock or even doubt any religion's theory or prophecy or understanding. I just know that for myself I simply don't know. I believe it all, I'm sure I don't know anything for sure. Certain of uncertainty. ("Doubt is an uncomfortable state but certainty is a ridiculous one." Voltaire)

I had one life until I was 17, another until I was 20, another to about 27, another... You get it. And I seem to have a life yet to come.

This morning, carefully aware of the present moment as I stepped into the tub, hearing that whispered karma, I was suddenly aware of how all my past lives and all my future lives are linked, contained, encapsuled in this present moment. If I want to continue to have freedom to move in this, my physical body-- this body that carries my life-- I will make abstemious present-moment choices about the amounts of food I allow my drunken sailor appetite to indulge in. I may desire the flavors and textures and general joy of eating food, but I more deeply desire to only carry enough energy (weight) to fulfill present needs, not enough to hamper and even cripple me.

Let's not lock 'er up, she's sober! I promise! She's sober!

Monday, September 12, 2011

September Pensive

Harvest Moon. Tonight the full harvest moon will ride the sky. "Shine on, shine on harvest moon..." It's an old, old song; do you hear the tune in your head?

The Farmer's Almanac says the full moon closest to the autumn equinox becomes the one named harvest moon, so some years it's in September, some years October. The Autumnal Equinox falls on September 23 this year. The sky-declared end of summer. (Though I obey old fashion rules and stopped wearing white shoes after Labor Day.)

September and the end of summer always brings me a bit of pensiveness, a sober thoughtfulness. Days shorten. The air tends cooler, and it won't be long until first frost. One can't help but notice the inexorable march of time. Winter approaches. The metaphors are as thick and colorful as all the pumpkin and squash and corn coming ripe.

I was a young woman when Neil Diamond sang "September Morn," and the song repeated often on the day's play list. I'm not young anymore, but I haven't forgotten that yearning feeling of times and places and chances and loves left behind:

Stay for just a while
Stay, and let me look at you
It's been so long, I hardly knew you
Standing in the door
Stay with me a while
I only want to talk to you
We've traveled halfway 'round the world
To find ourselves again

September morn
We danced until the night became a brand new day
Two lovers playing scenes from some romantic play
September morning still can make me feel that way

Look at what you've done
Why, you've become a grown-up girl...

...and so it goes for us all. In September we all intuitively know that where we've come from, where we used to be, is a place that now only exists in heart and memory. Who can say, now, whose memory is most clear and true? Just because you are right does not mean I'm wrong.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Give Thanks and Hold Hope

My natural response-- our very, very human response-- is to turn away from what feels bad, undesirable, or wrong, to run as fast as possible from that which is painful and/or frightening.

I began to learn the experienced-in-real-life lessons of giving thanks for all, the lessons of joy in this very moment-- this specific, present moment-- as I learned to live with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I still find my lessons there. I need to turn TOWARD this specific moment of my life, rather than to turn away.

That still includes running as appropriate. In this age we animals have the urge to run when running solves nothing. There comes a time to stop and notice.

I must embrace the reality of each present moment rather than to hate what exists now and pin my mind in some "better" past or future moment. I act from my experiences of the past and with predictions and expectations for the future, but I exist and act and actually experience life, have my power in life, in this present moment, however it is.

That's what's wrong with Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers," from my view: it exist as a “better tomorrow” voice. (Others interpret her differently; perhaps I misunderstand Emily.) That "better tomorrow" version of hope splits time, it's a kind of hope that puts us into some future "better"moment instead of helping us to rest safe and accepting in the moment we have.

The much stronger stance, I find, is to give thanks for what is, to find joy in exactly what I have,"bad" things included. I have pain. I have fatigue. I have fear. I have breath and pulse and consciousness. I am part of life. I also have a comfortable bed. I also have clean, cold and hot running water, as much as I want (when the electrical grid works). I also have clothes. I also have ... The list goes on and on and on.

I contemplated my sort of resentful feeling about hope, then wrote for myself:

Hold hope as a sense of "all is well, all is well, all manner of things shall be well."
Hold hope as resting in the moment.
Hold hope as profound acceptance of the ongoing-ness of life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Unnamed Stress and Anxiety

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down
In rushing, rising rivulets.
And the river crept out of its bed
And crept right into Piglett's.

The rain and floods, the news--my aura feels rumpled, jaggedy and off-kilter. Breathe, just breathe, focus on this moment, on what actually exists in this present moment... Blessings, dear world, and continuation, and the constancy of change.

A paradox of change: Things change, and change, and change again. Wait a moment, something has changed. AND the most sturdy, enduring, permanent thing is the constancy of change.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Paradox: two ideas that seem to contradict each other while still existing simultaneously, each idea experienced as true.

For example: You can't really affect or control the choices or behavior of another, you can control only yourself. AND ALSO You affect others and are effected by them in a range of ways from the most overt and direct to the most subtle and unnoticed.

One friend says, "When you find a paradox, you've found a sliver of truth." Another says, "When you think you've found a paradox, one of the ideas is wrong." I know of wisdom writings that say, "Look for the middle way, it is neither this nor that, but some combination you have not yet understood. Look how the empty spaces define all the filled-in places."

I prefer the notion of slivers of truth, and perhaps some third way.

All the animals I've ever observed exhibit some caution, even fear, in their ways of being in their environment. All seek survival. Is that different from having a fear of death?

There is a thought that fear of public speaking has fear of death at its root. In primitive ages survival depended on group membership. In that reality, if an individual spoke in a way that drew group disfavor she risked ostracization and death.

Over the summer I became aware that at some deep, unconscious place I felt that if I could not draw positive attention as a member of a group I might cease to exist. I told this to one friend who said, "Of course, that's a very primal fear. An infant who cannot draw caring attention will, indeed, cease to exist, and we easily internalize that infantile, felt experience and carry it under our conscious thoughts."

For now it's comforting to hold in my conscious awareness the warm thought that I do exist, whether anyone notices or not. I exist. You too. We have life, we are life.

I have regained much of my strength following this summer's illness. Yet I will never again be as young as I am today. And some level of conscious awareness smiles and whispers, "You, too, will surely die."

In managing pain, I have learned that fear of pain just makes things worse. When I can relax into noticing exactly what hurts and which of the various kinds of too-intense sensations defines my pain in the moment, I have a foot on the path toward less pain. That is, there will be some relief if I turn toward the pain instead of letting fear of pain cause me to try to turn away.

What will happen if I continue to turn toward whatever comes, including my physical decline toward death instead of trying to pretend I will live forever? Will I spend less money on doctors and medical tests and drugs, spend more of my varied resources on my own initiative to care for my health? Will I eat more carefully and continue to exercise because I know I will feel better in the near term for such persistence? Where is the balance between turning toward joyful life and also holding a fearless, conscious awareness of death?

I learn so much from those with whom I share my life, family, friends and associates traveling in the caravan with me, either ahead of me, beside me, or coming along after me. If we can not have a shared, thoughtful conversation about the reality of death because everyone is trying to run away from their fear of death, then how am I to be wise? Are you in the don't talk camp? Just because you are right does not mean I am wrong.

(P.S. And paradox could also just be two medical types...)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Well-developed Human Lives

"Conscience, and uniquely conscience, can compel us out of our own skins and into the skin of another, or even into contact with the Absolute. It is based in our emotional ties to one another. In its purest form, it is called love. And wonderfully, both mystics and evolutionary psychologists, who concur on not much else, agree that people by their normal nature are more likely to be loving than malevolent. This conclusion signifies a breathtaking departure from our usual, more cynical view of ourselves," writes Martha Stout in her fascinating book, The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (Broadway Books, New Your, 2005.) 216.

Love defined as conscience in its purest form. Oh my!

Dr. Stout, a psychologist, names conscience as the seventh sense, and cites it as a necessary element to finding joy in life. She illustrates ways in which we find life lively and continuously interesting because we have an ability to imagine others' experiences, to share joys and sorrows and ordinary, little details of a day with others in our lives. She illustrates in her chapters how a psychopath, a sociopath, is constantly bored and needing stimulation because of the lack of sympathetic resonance with others. A resonant empathy rooted in conscience rooted in love.

Dr. Stout quotes the Dalai Lama as referring to people who don't feel obligated to others based on a sense of human connectedness as "people who don't have well-developed human lives. " Of the World Trade Center attacks, she quotes him as saying, "Technology is a good thing, but the use of technology in the hads of people who don't have well-developed human lives can be disastrous." (ibid., 213-214)

"... out of our own skins and into the skin of another, or even into contact with the Absolute..."

Fear vs. love. Are they both necessary learnings? Or are they, as Elissa commented on yesterday's writing, both fully inborn and fully learned? Or...? Ah, isn't pondering the Mystery fun? More on paradox soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The hardest thing...

"The hardest thing about writing is telling the truth," says Sue Monk Kidd in her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. (HarperSanFranscisco, 1996)

In my life I find that even harder than writing the truth (yet a necessary precursor to writing the truth) the hardest thing about living is recognizing, identifying, knowing the truth.

I recognize that I hide, even from myself. The layers of self, the onion that we occasionally work to peel back layer by layer, that onion grew in the rich soil of the family and society into which I was born. That's how we all grew, in the environment we had.

I once thought (was taught) that I could square my shoulders and put on a brave face and cope with making a living and making a life in the wide world. The world granted me some success, dealt me some failures, and my methods of coping brought me to my knees. As I seek a new path, a path to wellness through wholeness and balance, I recognize that I am full of fear, paralyzing fear, and fear is primary to what stopped me in my tracks.

In the various wisdom writings I read I often find fear defined as the opposite of love. Not love vs. hate, but love vs. fear. An idea to contemplate.

Do we hate snakes (if we do) because we fear them? Do we hate physical discomfort because at some level we're afraid it damages and shortens our life span? Do we hate "terrorists" because first we're afraid? Choose your enemy and consider: do you find fear underneath hatred?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Influence and Power

Have you ever observed the surface of a pond in a rain storm? Each raindrop becomes the center of a small ripple circle. As other raindrops fall nearby other ripples form, and they intersect again and again in interesting, complicated ways. Add wind to the mix, and perhaps a spring.

Imagine the spring as the welling of earth energy, the water table under the earth, the oceans and tides, the changing seasons. Imagine the wind as air in every phase, and how it moves around the whole earth. Imagine each raindrop as one of us.

Look how the circles intersect beyond our control, beyond our intention, beyond our comprehension.

Neither you nor I can know our own impact. In the manner of circles in pond water rippling and spreading from a raindrop, our way of spending the most ordinary day affects the world. We can only know that, modest or flamboyant, recognized or not, our influence exists and spreads.

P.S. There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the lines__ to our house__
Some readers will recognize that a jaunty tune fits similar words in a rousing hymn. Oh, the wonders of power of all sorts, but specifically electrical power that was restored to us a little after 6:00 p.m. last night. Thankful only begins to tell.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Come on, BGE

The things I like least about no electrical power:

1. Disrupted routines. I have to reconsider how to do every blessed, ordinary thing.

2. Lack of practical ways to meet ordinary needs. With no expectation of ever having electrical power, one develops other ways to access water (to drink, cook, bathe, do dishes, do laundry) and dispose of bodily wastes. Also other, practical, routine ways to provide task and ambient light.

3. Lack of refrigeration. But I went on about that yesterday.