Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking A Risk ~ Take 5

I’m pretty sure I’ve written this here before… but it bears repeating, if for my own ears only. When I first fell into the black hole, my therapist at the time kept telling me that the antidote to depression was risk. I argued with her every time, citing the entire eighteen months before, where I had done nothing but take huge, life-altering risks. Leaving my marriage and home. Going to Moloka’i alone for three months. Buying my own home two hours away from Bay Area, where I’d lived my whole life. It actually appeared—to my eye anyway—that taking risks might have in fact led to the major depressive episode that I was experiencing.

Now here I find myself, over a year later, back in a seriously dark hole, having a conversation with my daughter, who agrees that risk can indeed be the antidote to depression. As we talk about it, she tells me her belief, that it’s not about taking the huge, life-altering risks so much as the smaller, every day ones. Where could I begin, she asks, in her uncanny way of getting directly to the most important point. And the answer is immediate; I can start right here in this blog. Where I haven’t been writing. Where I’ve been isolating, avoiding the truth. Where I’ve been hesitant/reluctant/afraid to say—again—how depressed and numb I am, and conversely, how sad I am feeling, how much pain I am in. After all, how many times can one say it? How many times is too many times? And won’t folks, at some point, just get tired of hearing about it?

Which brings me back to what I’ve also written again and again… I don’t write what I write here for other people, I write primarily for myself, as therapy, as a place to explore and discover and let it all hang out. It’s where I can be real, and not have to pretend or sugar coat or out-and-out lie. And sometimes, when I’m lucky, it’s where I can come to understand or be inspired, when the words just lead themselves there all by themselves, not as a plan or by will or orchestration; the momentary gift of a pinpoint of light; frosting on an invisible cake.

So here it is. My truth. I am suffering more deeply again. Some days, seriously so. And I know that I am no where near the only one. We all suffer. Some more than others, maybe, but it is without question part of the human condition. Right now, my best friend and her daughter and their families are in deep sorrow over a loss. My sister and her family are suffering as a loved one struggles. I, we, don’t have to look far… and it’s a common denominator I think; and often it can be our own suffering that opens our hearts so completely to the suffering of others.

Whatever opens our hearts more fully is a gift. Though I do resist -- unconsciously for sure, but nonetheless, and though I know better, I find myself again and again beyond reluctant to let the pain just take me. Hence the numbness, I suppose… self protection, fear that if it starts in earnest, it might never stop, or, might take me somewhere so out of my control, I might never find the way back. Which, ironically I believe, is the whole point...

This morning I came across this beautiful quote by one of my favorite authors, and it speaks perfectly to why it is I am drawn again and again to words, and it inspires me, to keep going, to keep coming back here, keep taking the risk, first and foremost for myself, but also, in the hope, the dream, that what I experience, what I am able to write here, might also touch someone else out there.

Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the writer... and on the reader.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sunday, December 25, 2011


This year
I let Christmas in.

And it occurs to me that
every year
the spirit of Christmas goes wandering
looking for room at the inn
of my heart

turned aside
by the hurry of business
the demands of desires
the walls of grudge, bitterness

but when at last
a door of willingness opens
there comes inside
each year
a newborn spirit

of hope
joy of this life
the courage of kindness
the warm embrace of forgiveness

so powerful,
it draws shepherds,
wise ones, some who hold sway in this world,
even humble animals respond,
look up to the silent chorus
of shimmering angels
among the stars, bending
low, to welcome again this


- Scott O'Brien

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Today I read about the night goddess, Hekate, whom author Thomas Moore calls The Dark Angel. I am reminded of a time years ago when I first began the healing journey, when I discovered the goddesses of old and found profound nurturance there, in their archetypal stories, and ways of being. It was like suddenly finding parts of myself that I had only a vague sense of, that I had no idea were missing until confronted with them. They became revered companions, and I found the beginnings of healing and wholeness in their midst.

It feels like there has been a serious shift in the past week. Following on the heels of two weeks full of moments of such despair it scared me, I finally picked up this book I've had for a couple of months and began to read it. They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, and I'm assuming the timing is perfect because Thomas Moore's words have found their way straight into my being. I now truly get that what I am experiencing is a true dark night of the soul, and the shift is in the honoring, and seeing that this is not merely depression that needs to be overcome, but a time of spiritual journeying, a soul's night, an opportunity for emptying and renewal, that is to be experienced. I've also heard that when suffering is seen to hold meaning, that it is much easier to bear. Moore's words, his deep understanding, respect, and acceptance of this life passage have made a huge difference.

Reading about Hekate today, learning what she has to teach us about the night journey, feeling her support, the ancient wisdom, I felt myself coming home again. For the first time in years, I felt touched by the sacred, that intangible something that defies articulation, that grounds you, puts you face to face with the mystery, that takes your breath away, that fills you up, and empties you out all at the same time. And in the arms of that, I long to let go, dive as deeply as is necessary, float on my back in its currents until it is finished with me and tosses me back up onto the shore once again.

Thank you Hekate, and thank you Thomas Moore for bringing the goddesses back into my life today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I sometimes wonder how I can feel so crappy in a season that holds such beauty. Everywhere I look, even here on the west coast, trees are doing their fall thing. Right now, looking out the window, among the majority of evergreens and trees that have yet to begin to turn, is this one tree, that is blazing the most incredible orange in the morning sun. It's the same tree in this photo, that I took as the sun was setting last night; how different it looks at different times of day and sunlight.

Last fall I was still in Sonora, deeply depressed, but still holding to the dream of a life there, in the almost mountains, in my own home with my own garden. Walking Jasper every morning, agape at all the different oranges and reds and yellows splashed among the pines and firs; the persimmon winning hands-down as the most beautiful orange I had ever seen; nearly tripping over my dog because I could not get enough as we walked by. I remember riding the train between Albany, NY and Boston with my husband a few years ago. Our first trip to the east for fall color and we mostly missed it, it coming late that year, except our last weekend, when it erupted. Rolling through the backwoods, my eyes glued to the window, not wanting to so much as blink for missing even a split second of it. And truly, I had not known, until that moment the unbelievable spectrum of color possible.

Today is Day 55 of my 365Grateful Project. It's one of the most depressed weeks I've had in a long while, and some days it's been hard to find one thing that I truly feel grateful for. I don't mean that in my mind I can find gratitude for because those are plentiful, I mean truly feel gratefulness. There's a difference, and for me, that difference is crucial. So I look to what it is that captures my attention. What it is that is able, even for a moment or two, to take me out of the darkness, and it is, without question, fall color.

And maybe that's the whole point, as we head into the season of darkness, where days are short and nights long, that time steeped in mystery and the unknown, of turning inward and holding up inside, earth gives us one last promise, a true spectacle, beauty so amazing, to fill our ragged hearts and tired souls. How is it that one tree can so capture my attention, so that for an instant all else is forgotten? I have no idea, but I will take it... and feel grateful for it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Turning My Life Around

This is my fourth day home from Moloka'i. I am happy to be home and, already, I miss it. It's a strange and beautiful place with a strange and beautiful hold over me. There's no question that my time there changes me; knowing that is one thing, understanding or articulating it is another.

That said, I do realize that I've come home knowing it's time for some much needed restructuring of my life. It's time to stop pissing away my moments and days, and start committing myself to the things that I say constantly I want. Things like art. And writing. And movement. And meditating (or really, just stopping long enough to smell the roses). The things that bring me back home to myself. I want to stop wasting time on the internet. I want to stop driving all over three counties to see friends. Not that I no longer want to see friends, I just want to stop using being social as a distraction from myself, to somehow prove to myself that I am likable, even friend-worthy, to reassure myself that if I died today, there might be more than just a handful of people at my memorial; I want to start being more discerning, I want to create the space to bring the discipline back into my life that was there for the year and a half that I wrote daily - and produced a three hundred and fifty page manuscript. I want to burn sage and candles, listen to chanting and Loreena McKennitt, do a simple yoga pose or two, stretch, eat well, get back into my body, and be. From there I want to create an alive and beautiful work space, somewhere that I long to come each morning, that will feed my soul and nurture my spirit; where being - and its offspring creating - will flow naturally and spontaneously ~ just like I want to believe it is supposed to.

Maybe it's safe to say I've come home with a renewed sense of purpose. Which is ironic, because purpose is something I have struggled painfully with over the past few years; its seeming lack the source of great despair; then yesterday, sitting in satsang with Bentinho Massaro, hearing him say that our only purpose is to be who we are. I don't even really know what those words mean but I do know that something inside me let go, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and relaxed.

Nothing more is necessary than to be yourself. Wow. Simple. Profound. A no-brainer, really. And since I'm never quite sure what or who that is, I can reduce it to even simpler terms. Nothing more is necessary than to be... And here we are... full circle. Creating not just the intention, but the space, literally and figuratively, to help me just be.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Moloka'i is a unique island. It is a land of powerful prayer and powerful energy. I have felt that energy personally  and have been gifted enormously by it. Moloka'i has the largest percentage of native Hawaiians of any of the major islands. Her people are strong and powerful, and the spirit of aloha is palpable here. In ancient times, they kept conquerors from landing on their shores by the power of their chanting alone. In modern times, they have successfully resisted big change and tourism through their passion and grassroots activism. Their motto, Don't change Moloka'i, let Moloka'i change you is apt. She will, she does, if you let her. 

Today they are fighting big business and the State of Hawaii to keep giant wind turbines from being erected on their small island. The energy from these wind turbines will go by undersea cable to support tourism on Oahu. Here on this particular island electrical costs are the highest of anywhere in the United States, yet not one drop of the energy from these turbines will be realized locally. Not only that, they will be erected at great cost to this land and her people.

Today I am using this space for something I have never done before and would not ordinarily do... I'm going to ask you to take five minutes to watch a short film... if you are moved to do anything beyond that, well, that would be great, too. 

If you are interested in learning more, or even in supporting their effort with a very small donation (they are asking for donations of $10), please go to I-ALOHA-MOLOKAI and watch the short film, beautifully crafted by PF Sterling, a Moloka'i resident, who in his "past" life, spent thirty years at the White House as a photojournalist for Time Magazine. 

Please don't be put off by the commercialism of My understanding is that it's turned out to be the best place for the actual fundraising. I have had the privilege while here of meeting and spending time with many people intimately involved in this cause. Some have become true friends. It is legitimate, and they can use all the help they can get. These wind turbines have been approved at the highest level, though it is far from a lost cause. It is not the first time the people of this island have fought hard for their home. I'm guessing it won't be the last.  I am told that this first film has landed on the Governor's desk and he has sat up and taken notice. Contributions will help fund continued films that will help to fight for this cause.

Aloha nui,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Greater White-Fronted Goose and Me

A few mornings ago I was out on Kepuhi Beach and noticed this goose. It was all alone, and judging by the footprints in the sand, had been having a nice long walk on the beach. The only goose that I know of that's home to the islands is the NeNe, a beautiful little endangered species found mostly in the "up country" areas; and I was pretty sure this wasn't a NeNe. It was aware of me but not frightened, and ambled slowly, stopping occasionally to preen for me as I took photos. I found out later that this is a Greater White-Fronted Goose, that it's likely from Siberia, and that it took a wrong turn during its long migration and ended up here.

I'm thinking this goose and I might have a lot in common. Though I don't know that I necessarily took a wrong turn, I do know I've ended up on this small island feeling alone and isolated, and very much challenged. Despite my first rush of excitement when the plans to come here were made, it has not been as I had hoped. Two years ago I spent three months out on the remote west end and not only did I never feel lonely or isolated, I experienced a huge amount of opening and joy. Last time I was grieving and feeling incredibly lost, but had not been clinically depressed; this time, with depression still lingering, day by day I feel it moving once again closer, blowing in like thick gray fog on a strong onshore breeze. I've moved from one living situation to another hoping that would change things; but the second one is not working out either.

I'm not sure what today will hold. I left the new digs not planning to stay another night. I will either have a new place to stay, one nearer the ocean, or I will have changed my reservations and will be home earlier than I expected.

We just never know what life will bring. And in spite of what we most often think, we are never in control of what it brings. It's probably even true that we are never actually lost. Ever. What made this goose turn and land on this island? What was it that made us meet a few mornings ago on the beach? How will it know when it's time to fly off again? How will I know...? Are we puppets being animated from some large, knowing hands above? What about our own instincts, our own internal knowing, that if we stopped long enough might reveal itself? Today it seems is more a day of questions than of answers. And surprisingly, I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moloka'i Again

                                    The after yoga rainbow...

Yesterday I went to yoga on the beach. I lay there, unable to keep my eyes closed in various poses because I was more interested in watching the clouds constantly changing form as they moved across the island and back out to sea. How beautiful they were! Pure white against a deep blue sky, then the moist gray ones moving through, letting go of a few drops, then back to wispy white. I remembered suddenly how as a kid I would lay on the grass and watch the sky, seeing objects form and then unform, as my mind wondered about all sorts of things. But what I remembered most of all was the sense of absolute wonder that would accompany something so simple.

I’ve lost that sense of wonder. Decades ago, I think, left behind along with skinned knees and roller skating too fast down hills. Though there have been respites; sitting in my garden watching the birds splash in the fountain, when the all too rare tiger swallowtail or monarch butterfly would happen through, when the true perennials would poke their little shoots back through the soil again in spring; my daughters’ fingers and toes when they were babies; starring into Crater Lake or standing on Happy Isles in Yosemite. Still, if mere clouds drifting across the sky can induce it, why then has it become such a rarity?

Moloka'i is a good cure for lack of wonderment. Though even here, I have whole days where it is absent, nearly whole days where I miss the beauty, where the challenges seem infinitely greater than the gifts. This is an altogether different trip than my first one. Last trip was about true retreat, about just being, about opening the door to begin healing. This trip seems more about getting lessons, and they are abundant, and sometimes difficult. Some days just staying is the success. Still, once I got it that even this is her divine grace, possibly even perfectly orchestrated, I could bow in humbleness, even to the wonder of it all.

Some of the many moods of Moloka'i

For more photos of Moloka'i, click here for my Snapshots blog.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Light in the Darkness

Sometimes what there is to be grateful for is the mere specks of light in the otherwise dark sky. Yesterday was a dark day... today the beams of light came in the form of a couple of friends reaching out, one all the way over cyberspace from Belgium, plus her post about bringing fresh flowers into her home. That got me off the couch and to the store and there, completely out of season were the most beautiful tulips. Which reminded me of Elke (Belgium friend) because Belgium is next door to Holland and in Holland, I saw the most beautiful tulips ever. Once home, the artist in me, who frankly doesn't give a hooey about whether things are light or dark, who doesn't even understand those words, went to work, and became one with the mysteries of the creative process as she spent a couple of hours photographing and then post processing.

Two years ago Moloka'i was an incredible light in the darkess; a place some invisible wisdom took me; when all I wanted was to survive the despair I had fallen into, she gave me days of incredible and boundless joy; the energy there impossible to articulate; and that I've heard you either bask in or cannot tolerate it. I basked, and began to call her home. Once back on the mainland, the darkness returned... but she remained always an enormous speck of light on my horizon. It's hard to believe that in three days I will be returning, hard to fathom that my next Musings will be from there, my other heart home, Moloka'i.

See you there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

 Mt. Shasta, Northern California, part of the Cascade Range that runs north all the way to Washington, and one of my most favorite places on earth. A mystical mountain, a powerful earth vortex, I have loved her since I first laid eyes on her as a little girl; feeling like John Muir who wrote~
"When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since."

Today begins my year of finding one thing that I am grateful for each day and photographing it. Leading up to this day I have experienced many and varied feelings. Today what I notice is that I am surprisingly grounded, a little in awe, and like a traveler packed and ready, standing at the pier, stepping onto the boat, destination not quite known. Wow, how unbelievably symbolic, as this is my truest desire in actual life as well...

This morning I am anxious about the well-being of someone I love very much. What an opportunity (challenge?) this year is going to be to find one thing a day that I am grateful for even when the waters are not necessarily calm or life sailing smoothly along, even when I am worried or scared or sad or overwhelmed or depressed. I think this has been my hiccup above all others... how to be able to hold more than one thing at a time, how to mix the positive with the negative, the oil with the water.

And yet, I'm pretty sure that's the actual point.

As friend-on-the-journey, Elke, reminds us in her post about getting started on this project, it's really all about the practice. A wonderful reminder. Something I need to repeat again and again.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point, where I am open to this, and for me, anyway, it's a fine line between bypassing or resisting what is real and authentic in any given moment and being open to something different. I'm not interested in crossing that line toward the former, even by a toe's length, and the only way I could ever have undertaken this is to be genuinely in a place where I can feel gratitude. And seeing that that shift has happened, somewhere along the way crossing some invisible threshold, I truly am grateful.

My Day 1 Photo~

Monday, September 19, 2011

Autumn Equinox = Gratitude

New banner for my Snapshots blog...! I think I love it :)

So this week I begin my own personal 365 Grateful Project. I appreciate all of the support and encouragement I got here to move forward with it. I'm excited, nervous, cautious. And thrilled that two friends will be joining me and that we are embarking on this journey together (yay, Elke and Jill. :))  We've timed our start to coincide with the autumn equinox, and it feels so appropriate to begin as one seasons ends and another is beginning. I am dedicating my Snapshots blog to this project,  my goal being to post a photo a day there. I'm sure I will also post updates here as well.

Speaking of grateful. Moloka'i is now growing larger on the horizon, and as I write this, I am exactly two weeks from being on a plane heading westward into the middle of the Pacific. Though it still isn't quite computing in my brain, my body is starting to get it... and I am awash in somatic memories of driving down her quiet country roads, diving headlong into her warm waters, my ohana there. It's close enough that I am making mental lists; shorts, check; bathing suits, check. snorkeling gear, check, check. There's been an interesting development... more on this later, I'm sure, but for now, all I can really say is that I am seeing AGAIN how nothing is really in our hands, in spite of how it all may appear. And I'm humbled and blown away at how life sometimes unfolds.

Surfing the net a couple of days ago looking for inspirational images for autumn equinox, I came across the creations of Carol Wiebe, and was especially moved by her poem "Broken," and the connection I felt between revere and grateful. I hope you enjoy it, too. My appreciation to Carol for permission to post the poem here. You can find her unique and beautiful art at Silverspring Studio by clicking here.

by Carol Wiebe

Passing from Wholeness into
Brokeness is a journey every one of us
has taken. The border between them is tissue
thin, often invisible. It is a delicate
balancing act to maintain your grip
on sanity after an event abducts you, then
leaves you broken.

Some of us travel deeper into Wholeness, others fall headlong
into Brokeness but none can claim they have not carried
baggage between them. And believe it
or not, there is a certain fulfillment in being
broken ~ when striving has ceased
and life is realized as something
to simply revere, no matter what

state we find ourselves in. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Love and Peace

Today I'm participating for the first time in a new online photo opportunity, Photo Art Friday, "an artistic showcase using photos as your canvas," hosted by Bonnie at Pixel Dust Photo Art (who btw, makes and generously shares some fantastic textures for use in transforming photos!) I love the inspiration for Photo Art Friday, the Jackson Pollack quote, "Is it really art? Your opinion is the only one that matters." Bonnie stresses that this is not a competition, but a friendly showcase of creativity and inspiration. I love that!

I chose this photo for a couple of reasons. First, it's one of my most favorites since I began learning photoshop earlier this year. And second, and most importantly, because roses symbolize love. And on this, the tenth anniversary of 9/ll, I want to send out love and wishes for healing and peace to our entire beautiful planet and all of her beings.

So thanks, Bonnie, for this opportunity. Click on the badge below to check out other beautiful and inspirational photo art.

Photo Art Friday

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mother Love

Beautiful Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park

There have been a few really great things about my daughter living out of state for a couple of years - surprising as it is to hear myself say that. I have loved being able to go for visits a few times each year. There's an intimacy in waking up under the same roof, hanging out in a whole different way than just heading across the bay for lunch and an afternoon. There's all the roads we've been able explore on our many drives between here and there over the past couple of years. And I've gotten to know Boyfriend so much better, and have felt our love for each other deepen and grow, have felt us become family.

This trip was bittersweet. I helped them sort through things, pack boxes, get the house ready for its new owners. Then we packed her car to the roof and set out, just she and I, but with all of our hearts in our hands, waving goodbye, tears running down all of our cheeks, she heading closer to her dream of the writing life, he and sweet Lola (four-legged child) to a new job on a mountaintop, an hour and a half from his home town in Colorado. The plan, to do the long distance thing for the two years that she's in school, then after that, who knows...

I am in awe of them. The way they have processed and worked their way through this. Having the hard discussions, making the heartrending decisions. He honoring her dreams, she honoring his.Taking the risk to follow those dreams, loving each other enough not to hold the other back, trusting that what they have is real enough, strong enough to see them through. And if it isn't, they'll find that out, too, and be better to have found it out.

It's a lesson for me, all this letting go into the unknown following your dream stuff. It's my constant edge. And on a whole different level, to watch my daughter in this process, one of only two people on this earth I would willingly give my life for, setting out on her own for the first time in years, growing her dreams into being alongside the sadness of leaving her home and her family to do it, unloading her car, seeing for the first time her little room in the messy house full of other college students, watching my baby grow up again, my heart breaks in that mother way, and the poignancy of it is just too big for words.

And Crater Lake, well, also too much for words. It was a gorgeous afternoon when we passed through. The light and clouds and mountains just beautiful, and the lake itself stunning, one of those ancient, amazing, indescribable things, like mother love I guess, that cannot really be explained, only felt and experienced and revered.

Posted at The Creative Exchange - thanks so much, Lisa!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 365 Grateful Project

Speaking of what's meaningful... and enough here to be grateful for my entire life...

...and because I've lamented so in this space about how difficult a transition it's been having my older daughter living out of state these past two years, I will share the good news also: tonight I leave for maybe my last trip ever to Seattle, to help her move back to California (to UC Davis, a short hour and forty-five minute drive away!!) to pursue her lifelong dream, graduate work in creative writing. Not only that, but last weekend, I helped my younger daughter move from SF to Berkeley, closer by only about fifteen miles or so, but when considering traffic, crossing the bridge, traffic (!) it feels like a whole world closer.

I know now how precious this time of close proximity is, and I will never again take it for granted. To be able to hop in the car and drive up for lunch, no checking baggage, no taking off the shoes, jacket, and scarf to get through security screening, to have her able to easily pop in for the occasional weekend, to be able to spend birthdays together again, not to mention watching her dreams unfolding, just feels incredible, and I am so excited and so grateful...

Speaking of which. Here's something I've been wanting to write about for a few weeks now. There is something I want to do but that feels like a huge undertaking, a serious commitment requiring daily awareness and effort and discipline that I'm not sure I will be able to see all the way through, and I just want to begin to articulate it, to put it out here, to maybe get some feedback, encouragement, support.

A few weeks ago I ran across the blog 365grateful. It's possible that I'm the last person in cyberworld to find it, but oh well, once discovered, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The 365 Grateful Project started simply as one woman seeking to help her depression through finding one thing each day that she was grateful for and photographing it. For a year. She began posting her photos on Flickr, they began to be noticed and before long, folks around the world were doing their own versions, it has taken off, and lives are changing forever.

I am not one to jump onto the latest, trendy bandwagon. But there is something here that feels so meaningful, and it seems a wonderful way to put into daily practice that shift in attention I wrote about a couple of posts ago. It seems simple and huge and risky all at the same time. Can I do it? What if I can't do it? What if it's too much? What if I fail? What if I do it and it doesn't change my life...?! 

And yet I SO want to do this. And it strikes me that as with anything that feels large and intimidating and possibly impossible, it's all about one step at a time; here, one day at a time. Forget the 365 part, just find one thing each day that I'm grateful for and take a picture of it. What could be simpler, really?! One thing. Each day. Snap a pic. Right?

What do you think?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Living the Questions: A Bit of a Dark Ramble

I've been saying for years that we can trust life, trust the things that are happening; trust that there are no mistakes or accidents or coincidences. How do we know the right thing is happening? Because it is happening. This I've heard over and over from people who seem to have experienced true awakening and observed life and our world from that perspective, from authentic knowing and seeing as opposed to intellectual conceptualizing.

I've also seen from the years on the spiritual path - and to my surprise - that the more I learn and think I "know," the more I see that I don't know, and the further the mystery deepens. I've always loved this, it's felt like its own brush up against the mystical and sacred, and an invitation, as Rilke put it, to live the questions now, rather than the constant quest for the illusion of security I think answers might provide.

Until the dark night that is...

Because the truth is, I have no idea what is truth and what is not. No idea if the right thing is happening, if there are mistakes or not, if it's even in our power to make lemonade when life hands us lemons; if life is the canvas to the imagination. (Though it sounds great, oui? though on second thought, maybe Thoreau had stumbled upon some wild mushrooms out there on Walden Pond :) I used to think so, I used to think we had much more control... before the Dark Night. Sometimes Life takes away even our ability to decide how we respond to things. This I do know from first-hand experience.

I think again of telling my teacher Isaac that I no longer have a clue what's true... and knowing his answer as surely as I know my own first name... Congratulations. And there is a sense that Life is not finished stripping it all away, any ideas, thought, beliefs about what is true or what should be, anything that stands in my way (of what...??), that as I go through my possessions and jettison ever more stuff, as my house continues to fall in value and I lose more and more money waiting for it to sell, as my mood rises and falls like waves on a stormy sea, I am left wondering what it's all really about, pondering the whole idea of mistakes and regrets and security, of what we know and don't know, can ever know or not know, of what is of value and what is not, what, if anything, can truly be trusted.

Living the questions... what choice do we really have? Well, other than making art - and even that doesn't feel like a choice, it seems to just happen - and enjoying the hell out of how people put words together to form a poetic and lovely and inspiring whole.

It could even be, couldn't it, that the Dark Night is a true and real, even necessary part of the path? That any idea of it being bad or wrong exists in the mind only. That what we can see, what we can know, pales completely in comparison to all that goes on in and around us invisibly, the tip of the iceberg being all that can be seen with our human eyes, all else lying beneath the surface, dark, mysterious.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Things We Love

This photo has four of my favorite things: turquoise blue, pink, a tiger swallowtail, and the word joy. As a kid, there were few things I loved more than butterflies, and especially the large, beautiful swallowtails. They were magical to me, how they changed so mysteriously from an ugly and ungainly caterpillar into such colorful, graceful little beings; how they danced, flitting from one thing to the next; the joy they brought then, and still do today when I am lucky enough to spy one, how both my attention and my breath are held in such rapt wonder.

I think about those things that are closest to my heart, the ones that make my soul sing, if even for a brief moment, if only a tiny parting of the gray veil. I'm talking things, not people, the people being obvious and foremost of course. And I'm wondering as I write, what things light you up? What takes you from the normal realms into something quite spectacular, warms your heart, sings to you?

Other than butterflies, for me, it's dolphins, Moloka'i, Maui, the ocean anytime, anywhere, and in any whether, snorkeling, my friend Sharon's mountaintop, a beautiful and profound poem, the music of Lono, a perennial flower garden, taking pictures, Mt. Shasta, Happy Isles at Yosemite.

Speaking of, I still can't quite believe that in six weeks I will be back on Moloka'i. I have never known such sustained joy as I experienced my three months there, the last month in particular. Here on the mainland, real life has intruded once again, the doors of the excitement that animated me as I watched unexpected things fall into place and I made my plans drifting invisibly shut. Sleeplessness, fatigue, the things I long to do but can't quite get going on, the chronic low-grade depression all returning.

Thank goodness for the people and the things that we love. Because life can be hard. I look around at my friends and my family and I see that we all struggle. In our own ways. Like the butterfly must struggle to leave the cocoon. My teacher Isaac has been saying this for years, in a different way maybe, but I get it's the same thing. He says, just find something, one thing, that you can enjoy in this moment. I often resisted, because for some strange reason, I wanted desperately to hang on to whatever the problem was. And yet, except when I was in the darkest of holes, there has always been at least one thing. The vase of flowers sitting on the table next to him, the pink rose in particular; the small stained glass window in the old craftsman style building where we meet; my friend sitting on the floor next to me making jewelry. Right now, my cat Sassy Girl sleeping on my lap, the picture on the mantel of my daughters, the absolute silence, except for the soft hum of my computer.

Getting that it's all part of life; that we walk hand in hand with every bit of it, the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, is my constant learning. And knowing the lesson is also, inexplicably, to no longer favor one over the other; but also, paradoxically maybe, to take the idea of enjoyment - gratitude even (maybe they're really one and the same?) - more to heart. Not as preference, but as practice... not to resist what is, but to make room for more breadth of experience, more totality in each and every moment.

For the first time, I'm posting at Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange, where the theme is, "Your camera in one hand, your heart in the other." (I love it!) Click the icon below to visit and see others beautiful photos from the heart.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Big News

East Side Moloka'i, the silhouette of Maui in the distance

Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you... you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say follow your bliss and don't be afraid... Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
~Joseph Campbell

The last few weeks have been flat out amazing. Awarenesses have shifted, possibilities have appeared, doors have swung wide open, incredible love and generosity has flown in, emails and phone calls have been exchanged , reservations have been made, and in eight weeks, eight weeks, god willin' and crick don't rise, I'm going back to Moloka'i !!!

Probably my Number One Secret Dream... 

It is too early to even begin to really articulate what these weeks have been like, the completely unexpected things that have happened, and the very real feeling I have that the entire trajectory of my life may well be shifting. I am still walking around dazed, a bit blown away, and in the serious process of integrating. Though I can say that I am more excited than I have been in a very long time. The feeling buzzes up and down my body, takes my breath away in a good way, and leaves me in awe again, AGAIN, at the magic and mystery of how life can work. 

My heart is blowing wide open...  a strange effect Moloka'i has on me, and I'm not even there yet. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting Real

Do you have secret desires? Are there things you would do or ways that you would be if there were no obstacles? 

A few posts ago I wrote about the revelation I'd had with the help of a group of friends that I needed to stop "waiting" and start living the life I dream of living. (Hell, start living period some days....) Now, thanks to another friend (a wonderful new friend... hi, MeMe :), I'm being more specific about what that might entail. It's one thing to say I'm going to start living, it's another thing to say, okay, these are the specifics.  And yet another thing entirely to start taking steps to open the door to these things manifesting.

What is it, if anything, that stands in the way of your greatest longings? 

I tend to keep my secret desires secret. And vague. And locked away in some vault inside because what if I speak them and they never happen. What if I try and I fail? How embarrassing and humiliating would that be! But what good are they isolated in the dark, without the light they need to grow, where they can't be fed and watered and nurtured into being; helped along by the loving energy of friends and family and life itself?

What if our dreams are beacons, lights whose purpose it is to show us the way to the life we came here to live?

So today, I'm going to speak one of my top secret desires. There are three that rise like cream to the top when my friend says pointedly, what's next, Debby? There seems to be a conspiracy of late, one arrow after the other pointing me in a certain direction, too many to ignore, including my own thoughts that in spite of depression and fear and the other things that seem so real that stand in my way, if I wait until the conditions are "perfect," I may in fact be waiting forever. 

What if, on some level that we are rarely if ever aware of, anything might be possible? Anything... 

This is not a bucket list. That's a whole other post altogether. These are my secret (or not so secret) personal, heart-and-soul-felt, she-lived-the-life-she-came-here-to-live-epitaph things. These are the things that, if I live a long life, on my deathbed, I will seriously regret that I never gave a go. They are my personal edge right now...  and just the act of making them public is a step off the big cliff, a climb out onto the fragile fruit-bearing limb, a swan dive deep into the ocean of possibility.

What if we actually have the power to visualize into being that which seems not just improbable, but impossible...

So today the dream I am owning and honoring is my desire to write about my journey. Going as far back as I can remember, every "hopes and dreams" list I have made up includes writing a book. Whether it is or ever becomes a book or not is immaterial; the important thing is to begin the writing. I recently did a week-long creativity ecourse, and our assignment for the week was to create a book cover. Other than that parameter, it was wide open what we did with it. Oh My Goodness... could there have been a more perfect prompt for me right now? What came out of me was the front and back cover of my own book. Shocking to see it in reality. And inspiring. And scary. And weirdly, in creating the cover, an opening happened wherein I could actually begin to visualize the writing of it... feel its texture and format, see its chapters, discover its energy and potentials, know it as the creation that Yes! can actually be birthed and brought into being.

What if this "book" could actually come into being...........

Coming soon, numbers two and three (and btw, they are all top of the list, not in order of preference).

Do you have a secret desire that longs for the light of day? Are you willing to climb out on the limb with me and share it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Sister's A Keeper

                                       My sister Cindy

Today I am privileged to attend my sister's graduation from a program which trained and certifies her to be a Certified Nurses Assistant and a Home Heath Assistant. Her goal, to work caring for the dying in home hospice.

To say I am inspired by her courage, her enormous heart, her resilient and hard working spirit, her life's journey, is an understatement. She has not been dealt an easy life; from spousal abuse to panic and agoraphobia, raising two kids alone, helping support her grandchildren, being forced to resign from an unsafe work environment, being unable to find employment in her field (600 applicants for one position), I have watched her walk through fire again and again, and come out not just stronger, but like the phoenix rising; with a heart more and more open; more in touch with who she is, the gifts she has to give, and what, for her, comprises a life worth living.

Never have I seen a person more suited to the work they are drawn to do. She doesn't just bathe, shave, change diapers, braid hair, she respects and loves her patients. She feels honored to be able to work with them. The work is hard, it is grueling, it is emotional. And yet, and even, knowing there's a good chance she'll never make what she did at her former job, that she may not even really make a living wage, but because it makes her soul sing, she can't wait to get at it.

Today, Nin, you are my hero. I am so proud of you. I am so in awe of you. To watch you meet, oftentimes shaking in your boots, all that life has offered you; each new heartache, every new adventure; leaving a husband who beat you, an employer who abused you; paralyzing anxiety; watching your children suffer their own serious hardships; learning to trust life (and men!) again; terrified of flying, but getting on that little plane anyway to visit me in Moloka'i; the fear of going back to school at the ripe young age of 56, then learning anew how smart and capable you are, and a whole new trajectory and meaning to life. And now, oh the irony, valedictorian... I can't wait to hear your speech, knees buckling, voice quivering and all, cuz I know it will come straight from the heart, it's the only way you know to do it - lucky us - and I'm sure there won't be a dry eye in the place.

See you soon! Thank you for all that you are. I  love you so much.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Beginning

Creativity is hard right now. I feel the black hole pulling at me... and then I opened an email yesterday with this poem. There is no way my own words could have captured so precisely and exquisitely where I am right now. I do know there is big change on the horizon. Maybe dancing with the darkness again is part of the shift.  For me, it's a weird poem in that I can't seem to find its rhythm. Perhaps that's by design... so that its beat does not take away from its words, which frankly, turn me inside out and completely undo me.

For a New Beginning
by John O'Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling your emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

I love even just the last lines together:

Waiting until you were ready to emerge
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown
Wondered would you always live like this
A path of plentitude opening before you
That is at one with your life's desire
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

The line that grieves me the most is about still being unable to leave what you had outgrown. What I have outgrown. There is so much sadness and loss in those words I can't even begin to write about them. Not right now anyway. I know that once again I sit at the crossroads of security and growth. Dancing. Waiting. For what my soul senses is the world that awaits. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Something New

This is my first attempt at photo collaging. There are things I like about it, things that aren't quite working for me, but one thing is for sure, I enjoyed the challenge.

I had a "scary" realization a couple of days before I did this. I was bored creatively. Bored with photos and photoshop. Just sitting and fiddling with a photo wasn't floating my boat anymore. This is how it can be with this double Gemini system. Easily bored. On to the next thing before "I" am ready to give it up. I don't want that to happen here, with something that feels so important to me. I realized that I need to challenge myself more. That I need to dive more deeply in to my creativity. Have more of a focus. Take more risks. The collage above was born of that, and whether I love it or not, I was very much engaged in the process. I need freshness, the stimuli of learning something brand new to invigorate me.

And once again, hmm, surprise, surprise, I see that as it is with art, so it is with life. I realize also that I am deep in a process around being bored with life. In the past few days, I realize that I am living life on hold; waiting... for my house to sell, for my depression to lift, for my boat to come in, so that I can get on with life. It's been brewing under the surface, just out of reach of consciousness until yesterday, when I was sitting with friends and it came bubbling up - out of their mouths, not mine - debby, stop waiting, start living the life you want to live... 

Wow, big pause and holding of breath........... then huge exhale. The hitting of truth somewhere deep inside the belly of my being.

"Coincidentally," I had just put together this next collage for an Unraveling assignment. It's a photo representation of all of the "adventures" I've had since stepping outside the box six years ago when I went to swim with wild dolphins. Right here in beautiful color is the life that I dream of living... the life that was manifesting, the life that now feels on hold. Jeez, no wonder I am bored. NO WONDER I am depressed. Looking at the photos, I am reminded that these trips were all made on faith. On huge slabs of trust that they would come together, that the money would be there, that I would, in fact, be able to jump off the side of the boat and not drown in the warms waters of the Caribbean; that I could in fact fly alone all the way to Europe; could drive a car by myself through France; that I would not die of aloneness on Moloka'i. I realize that I am waiting for it to be easy... that having white-knuckled it through these early experiences, that I could now sit back and it would forevermore flow effortlessly. I am struck with the irony of it... how boring that could actually turn out to be...

I feel the quickening of my breath just thinking about it. Stepping outside the box I once again find myself cramped inside of. Going once more out on a limb. Making plans as if. Hmm... I like it. It's fresh, it's new, it's completely invigorating. Diving more deeply into life. Taking risks once again. Living life as the adventure that it actually is. Like the creative process in art, stepping (or falling) into the unknown, and letting it live itself into being one mysterious moment at a time.

I feel the tingling of possibility.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Finding a new way... writing long hand at a coffee shop in Seattle's sweet Fremont district.

I 'm just home from three weeks in Washington State. While there, on the first day of ten days that I was alone grand-dog sitting, my computer crashed. Aside from something happening that was actually serious, it's the worst thing I could think of that could happen, and it sent me into a huge tailspin, wondering what the H I was going to do up there for ten days, all alone, WITHOUT my computer. No writing, no uploading my photos, no photoshopping, no emailing, no flickr, no musings, no Unraveling, no spider solitaire. Nothing but me and Lola and gray and cold and rain. For ten long days.

I'll be writing more about this later, I'm sure, but what I discovered is that Life could not have sent me a greater gift. It put my computer addiction (I prefer to use the term "misuse"...  :)  squarely into my face in a way that I could not ignore. I was confronted with ME, in a way that I haven't been in quite some time, probably since I bought my first laptop many years ago. I was face to face with the knowledge of how dependent I had become, how I've used the computer to deaden the pain and cope with depression (possibly also extending it at the same time), how much of my precious life time and energy I waste on the computer, how it takes me away from myself, my loved ones, my world.

Talk about drifting. Talk about edges. Talk about watching what you ask for. (I'm pretty sure one cannot be danced while one is buried in a laptop...) It was a time of some serious withdrawal; of depression, eating too many comfort foods, and lots and lots of Netflix streaming. But thankfully, there was also discovery; a new and different voice as I started writing long hand, experimenting with drawing, and making art on the dreary, endless-seeming days; there was the joyful relief when on a couple of occasions the sun parted the heavy cloud cover for half a day and I could get out and explore and take pics. And a big, nostalgic reminder of what it's like to simply sit, and be present with whatever it is that is revealing itself in the moment. By the time I got my computer back eight days later, there was - there still is - a huge desire to find a greater balance, to use it - as opposed to misuse - as the great and wonderful tool that it is, to learn, once again, what it's like to be alone, with myself, and to return to those things that in the past, pre computer, nurtured and fed me; simple things like heading outdoors in the early summer mornings, visiting a garden or the ocean, watching the world, picking up an actual pen, or the big one, just being.

The depression has hung on... I realize that though I'm no longer living in the black hole, I am balanced precariously, and it takes just the slightest breeze to nudge me into the real gray again. I'm trying not to resist, I'm trying to look the other way when the negative voice of depression whispers that I'm never really going to get better, that I have no life, that I'll never manifest as I truly desire to, etc., etc., yada, yada. Some moments it is easier than others. Sometimes just being is the ultimate challenge, or, as I've known from the past couple of years, just getting out of bed or up off the sofa. But one thing is for sure, I've come through this latest experience with a great desire not to deaden myself even more with this machine. To use it wisely and with consciousness, rather than the numbing drug of choice to take me ever further from myself and the world.

Letting go, taking risks with pen and paper. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ledges and Edges

For me, the edge is always about the heart. To let mine be open and exposed, to feel its torn edges and rawness, to not turn and run, to allow love (rather than fear) to flow through it and around it and in it. Always the moment to moment challenge. Lately, more and more, the moment by moment longing.

I made a huge realization this week. There's a way - sometimes subtle, sometimes hanging out like laundry flapping in the wind - that I walk this life feeling picked on. It was one of those OMG moments of such clear seeing. And understanding. And compassion. I feel picked on because I was picked on. I learned to expect it. I grew a skin that was both thickened by it and ultra sensitive to it.

I love these epiphanys as much as I hate them. In them is potential for regret and sadness, sometimes shame. But also - gratefully - opportunity, potential freedom, glimmers of grace, doorways to pass through, ledges toward the edges.

I've been saying it for years... that I want to learn to live life from the offensive rather than the defensive. The offensive I get now, being love, the defensive, fear. My first therapist used to tell me there are only two things, love and fear. My spiritual teacher, Isaac, would no doubt say they are opposite sides of the same coin. My friend Sharon says it's all consciousness... indeed, and they dance in me, sometimes a slow waltz, other times a chaotic frenzy, but here's the truth, they have both been my greatest teachers, both ripped my legs out from under me, and each has had me crawling on my knees toward that edge.

And one of these days, who knows, maybe the great leap will happen. Or, maybe it's actually happening, invisibly, one breath, one moment, one day, one seeing at a time.

I'm curious what it is that might take you to your edges...

Big love,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today I Am...

This is how I'm feeling after the first full week of the Unraveling course. The photos, and what I've written, are not part of the course. They're my way of expressing what the experience has been like so far.

Today I am...

thinking I should be careful what I ask for
in pain

Today I am...

feeling young
on the outside looking in

Today I am...

for the first time

Today I am...

to reach out a hand
be met

I'm wondering... what are you today? I'd love to hear...