Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrating 100 !!

Wow. I can’t really believe it. One hundred Musings posts…

It’s pretty amazing to me. It started in June, 2009, a couple of months before I left for Moloka’i, when someone suggested I might want to write about the experience of retreating so far off the beaten path for such a long time. Somewhere I’d never stepped foot. Somewhere that I went on gut trust and okay, let’s face it, no small amount of desperation. My life had crumbled around me, I was struggling to survive, and a small, non-touristy island in the middle of the Pacific sounded like the perfect haven to retreat, to lick my wounds, and hopefully, begin some serious healing. (And indeed it was… read some about the sacred island here)

I wasn’t a blog follower, and I had no idea even how to create one. My oldest daughter taught me how to use Blogspot, and Musings was born. The blog quickly became more than just a place to record my time on Moloka’i. Like all creative endeavors, this one took on a life of its own, and became a place I could go to record, reflect, and process through all that life brought my way. It became the place where I found and then learned to trust my own voice, where I returned to myself again and again, where I took risks with telling my truth, where I poured out the depths of despair and the thrill of joy, where I met inspiration and light and dark and the unknown and courage and fear and tenderness; and where in my writing, in the gamble of putting out there all that I was going through, I was met with beautiful love and understanding and acceptance and support and encouragement. Though the real and only point was getting it out and getting it down, the bonus, the frosting on the cake, was that there were (are) some folks out there that actually liked what I wrote, that maybe were moved or intrigued or provoked or inspired, and truthfully, I would write and blog even if not one soul ever read it, but it’s that much more gratifying that at least in a small circle, it’s been well received and enjoyed.

But of course, there was the secret blog desire that I never voiced. That I would be “discovered,” that I would one day wake up to find that I had been chosen as a Blogger of Note, that my “followers” would rise exponentially from one moment to the next, that they would beg for more, and that I would rocket instantly to the blogger hall of fame… maybe get a book deal… and on and on… oh my. Tongue partially in cheek, right, and yet, isn’t there that part of most of us that yearns or hopes for some sort of bigger recognition? Or is it just me? And all the stuff in the tenth house of my natal astrology chart, the stuff that points to a bigger public life than I’ve so far managed to manifest?

These little fantasies—dreams?—could be embarrassing, or they could be sweet. Today I’m opting for sweet. Same goes when I look back at my very first post (click here if you’re curious!). The honesty, the vulnerability is touching. That first post, as with just about every post, I had no idea what I would write, where it would go, if it would go. I was flabbergasted when all those words found themselves onto the page. And actually made some sense. Since then, surprisingly, blogging itself has become routine. But what is never routine, what knocks my socks off each and every time is how I sit before a blank screen one minute, and sometime later, be it minutes or hours, now and then days, one word at a time, something that did not previously exist is birthed. Somehow, between the first word and the last, something unexpected and quite magical happens; something that feels very much out of my hands, that I could not plan or execute through will alone, and that pretty much astounds me each time. (Not to mention the processing that happens between the lines, and how something so often shifts internally in the telling; the embarking, the journey, the arrival somewhere new.)

And that is perhaps my greatest joy with blogging. (Even if I had a thousand followers :)  That it gives me the reason, the form, the space, to watch and participate in this amazing creative process again and again. And also another big thing… Post Number One Hundred gives me a chance to say thank you to those of you who have faithfully followed along; who take the time to read, and when you’re moved to, to respond, who not only have not been shocked by the sometimes rawness of my words and nakedness of my feelings, but have so generously reached back with kindness and acceptance and support; those of you who have let me know how much you enjoy the writing, have fed back when it’s been thought or otherwise provoking; to everyone who’s ever read or continues to read or is new on board, I’m truly grateful and humbled that there’s even one of you…

I thought I’d include my latest photo, “Growing Strong,” both the original and the “photoshopped” versions. Just like the writing, where it’s one word at a time, here in post processing, it’s one step, one layer, level, filter, texture, and something completely new and unique comes into existence.

The joys of creating…



Thank you all so much again...

All Peace & Love,

Monday, March 21, 2011

We are officially in spring now, though two nights ago I drove home from a gathering around 11 at night, an hour’s ride, in some of the stormiest weather I’ve driven in in years. Huge gusts of wind threatened to hurl me from the bridge into the bay, thick curtains of sideways rain pummelled the car, water pooled and then rippled in deep black sheets across the freeway, and time and again I went to turn my wipers up higher only to find they were already on high, though I could barely see in front of me. By the time I got home, I could barely breathe for being tied up in knots the whole way.

Still, I love a good storm. Especially if I can sit home safe and secure, maybe in front of a fire, hot cup of tea in my hand. Which makes me think of all the people in the world who are anything but safe, anything but secure. Japan. Libya. Haiti. The man I watched bed down in a very small alcove in SF the other night, me sitting warm and dry in my car waiting for my daughter to get out of an appointment, him wedged between the wall and his shopping cart. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to not have a soft and warm and dry bed to come home to each night; what it must be like to search the rubble day after day, calling my child’s name; quaking to the drone of the jet fighter planes as they move closer and closer.

Today I wanted to write a little ditty about spring and then post some of my latest pictures. I wanted to get up early, take a shower, get dressed, get moving. Take some photos when the sun comes out. Instead, I sit nearly paralyzed on the sofa, thinking about depression; thinking about the inequities, injustices, down right unfairnesses of this thing we call life. And the juxtapositions that exist side by side day in and day out: Beauty and ugliness. Chaos and order. Light and dark. Sorrow and joy. Sun and rain. Feast and famine. Love and hate. Gratitude and bitterness, forgiveness and anger.

Spring arrives and with it day after day of stormy weather. Still trees and flowers blossom, the hills turn their rich, forest green, the days stretch longer as each one goes by. I watch the thick gray clouds move in one minute, the sun peak through another, birds circle, trees sway. I wait for the impetus to move, for the internal overcast to lift. I tell myself to stop fighting it, to relax, to let go into it. That this current inertia will pass when it passes, just like this series of storms; I reassure myself that spring will come, it will come because it always comes, year after year after year. It will because it has; because it must.

The last time I drove up to Sonora, a couple of weeks ago, the almond orchards along highway 120 were in full bloom, row after beautiful row. Since then I've started my second and my third Photoshop eCourses. Here's some results. I am falling more and more in love with textures... and each time I work a photo, it's like the clouds part and the sun shines, even for just a moment, and with it, at least for that moment, the beauty shines, and with it, all kinds of possiblity.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ramblings of a Depressed Mind

There are all kinds of words for today. Sad. Disappointed. Hot. Homesick. Tearful. On edge (okay, two words). Overwhelmed. Disappointed. De-flated. De-pressed.

There’s not much to write about right now that isn’t negative. And since I’m traveling and staying in very close quarters with a very negative and self-righteous and critical relative, it’s hard to escape my own tendencies in that direction. I want badly to point the finger. I have pointed the finger. I am pointing the finger… but as teacher and writer Byron Katie says, when we point the finger, there are always three fingers pointing directly back at us. (Try it, you’ll see…) My judgment of this relative is pretty much no different than the judgments she hurls about and that make my skin crawl and my belly tighten. So what if it is a matter of degree. It doesn’t really matter… though I want it to… desperately.

So much of the time, life just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, walking around, doing life, I feel like I’ve been dropped into an alien world, one that I don’t understand, that I’m not a part of, that I have no desire to be a part of. Sometimes, I wonder how we go on about our daily business, or how I can even write how sad and disappointed I feel when half a world a way, in Japan, one of the worst natural disasters in known history is playing out, thousands lost, millions suffering and terrified… and now compounded by a nuclear threat of unthinkable proportion. And that’s just the suffering that’s front and center in the news right now…

On a five-day spring training trip to Arizona, sitting at a ballgame, listening not just to my own inner bitching about it being too hot and not being able to see home plate because the guy in front of me has on a big hat, but also to those around me moaning and complaining and angry because the pitcher’s given up a couple of runs (it’s preseason, for god’s sake, they’re practicing, in training for the real thing), I want to run. I want to scream. I want to hide. I want to shout for it to stop. I want to ask how in the world we (and that includes me) can go on about our daily business, how we can shout for joy at a gap triple or a home run or a double play to end the opponent’s inning as though nothing is happening in Japan or the Middle East or right here at “home.” How it is that we can remain untouched by such unthinkable human tragedy is beyond me. How it is that we don’t stop, even for a second, and honor our brothers and sisters, how is it that our flags are flying proudly at full mast when tens of thousands have died, how is it that we stand, remove our hats for the Star Spangled Banner, and sing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch without one word… without one word… without one single word.

My troubles are not even a blip on the world’s radar. Truly. I’m depressed. And it sucks. I’m on a vacation I thought I wanted to be on but now wish I wasn’t, with people who are very difficult to be with, and it feels like the end of the world. But jesus god. I have a home to return to, my loved ones and neighbors haven’t been ripped away by a raging sea, my air is clean and safe, there is electricity and water and food on the shelves at the grocery store. In a few minutes I’ll get up, take a shower, go downstairs, order breakfast, head out to look for some cowboy boots, call one of my loved ones to complain about my angry and bitter aunt, board the cushy bus to the brand new stadium half an hour away, built on "Indian" land with "Indian" money, order sweet potato fries and pay four bucks for a small bottle of water, stand for the national anthem, and feel that little tingle inside when I hear the words play ball and see my favorite pitcher take the mound. When we return, I’ll have a nice dinner in a nice restaurant, maybe surf the web or read some of my book, Ram Dass's Be Love Now, then come up to the room, turn on CNN, and watch, mind numbed, heart protected, as truly unfathomable events play out on the other side of our earth.

It is a crazy and mysterious world we live in. Full of heartbreak. Joy. Love. Suffering. The kind of Sorrow my traveling companions, my aunt and uncle, have lived through, the likes of which I pray I never even come close to tasting. Maybe it’s what we have to do to live in it: Distract ourselves. Be critical. Be judgmental. Be angry. Be calloused. Be de-pressed. How else does it not blow us up and blow us open? How else do we walk through our daily lives? Although maybe that is the actual point. That we let it all rip us to pieces, shatter us, let it show us the way, coax us to walk this earth with our hearts raw and tender and gaping, bleeding love and compassion and empathy, and not just for our loved ones and our families and our team and our country, but for all beings everywhere, starting, most importantly, right where it can only start, with our own beings, our own confused, bewildered, innocent, guilty, traumatized, terrified, precious selves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Variations of Gray

Today’s word is gray. Gray outside, gray inside. Closet full of gray clothes. Always the color of the visiting team uniforms in major league baseball. My favorite color for shoes (well, other than red, of course), and jeans, and soft heathery wool coats; the one color (other than maybe turquoise) that I can’t think of one flower that blossoms in. The color of the river rocks that lined parts of my old garden, of the BIG, heavy rock that I once fell in love with while hiking that a friend carried wrapped in her sweatshirt about a mile for me to the car, my first cashmere scarf and grown-up cat (me, not the cat), the ocean in the fog, the amazing face of Yosemite’s Half Dome, that wide swath of no-man’s land that stretches between the stark black and the stark white in thinking and beliefs and ideals.

I’ve been trying to place the grayness on the depression scale. Definitely above the black hole (thank goodness), hovering somewhere just beneath the dial tone I think… not that it matters, feeling crappy is feeling crappy, lacking the initiative or energy some days to even move sucks, and to never have a parting of the clouds, to let even a smidgen of sunshine or excitement or happiness or inspiration in is more than disheartening.

It struck me the other morning that it doesn’t seem right that just plain living should have to take such effort; that the simple acts of getting out of bed, of taking a shower, of driving the short distance to the grocery store, of doing laundry, of preparing myself food, of smiling, should seem so difficult. I read yesterday that exercise is the number one thing that helps depression. Far better than anything, including meds, and it makes sense, it gets all the juices and brain chemicals moving, but please, when some mornings it’s all I can do to make it from the bed to the couch, when lethargy flows like thick sludge through my body, asking me to get up and do some sustained aerobics is like asking me to suit up and fly to the moon.

Last weekend, on retreat with my spiritual teacher Isaac, I got a new take on it all. I was introduced to the idea that the depression came about as my system was trying to shed something that needed letting go of and it happened too quickly, plunging me into the abyss. And that the black hole, the blackness, is actually the source of everything. Wow. The source of everything. In a way that I can’t even begin to speak, it made complete sense. Back to the source, to emptiness, nothingness, the beginning, the end, blackness. And suddenly, I had a vision, coupled with a heartrending knowing and an intense longing…

What if… oh my god, what if this journey was recognized for what it was… what if this place was welcomed, what if I’d had the arms, the laps, of wise and understanding women to fall into, to be held by through the dark night and terror of letting go, to be cradled as the emptying happened and all that remained was blackness, to be soothed and coached and encouraged, accepted, loved, through the transformation and rebirth process.


I think it was Einstein who said that the solution to a problem can’t be found within the system that the problem was created. My eldest daughter (who also, along with my other daughter struggles on and off with depression) and I talk often about how we believe that depression is caused by the way we live; by our culture, by how our society is shaped; how isolated we are at a fundamental level, how separated we are, not just from one another, but from our environment and our earth, from our own bodies and our own inner beings, knowing, wisdom. How there are no structures in place, no wise and loving arms to truly care for the soul and spirit; and how incredibly much has been lost along the way to development and civilization.

At the retreat I also bonded more deeply with a couple of women I’ve known over the years of sitting together with Isaac. Maybe for the first time ever, I felt truly, truly held; like some invisible barrier that's been in place most of my life let down and let go, and I found myself surrounded by and bathed in the loving, caring, healing ministrations of these strong, tender, soft, fierce, wise, powerful, compassionate, women. (One with beautiful gray hair, btw.)

It was a glimpse, a peek into the past, and maybe, hopefully, into newness and possibility and some future not yet realized, but there, definitely there, out in the distant gray shrouded landscape, maybe--hopefully--not quite so lost after all.

And post script, I had no idea until after I wrote this that today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. We've come a long way, baby, yay!... and yet, with so much further to go, in possibly a completely different direction.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One Word, One Photo, One Step at a Time

Each month I get an email from NaBloPoMo about the blogging theme for the month. This month the theme is “in a word,” and it was a good reminder, in this stuck place I’ve been in around writing, that that’s where it all begins—with one word. Reading the email, I took a deep breath, getting it for about the millionth time that it’s all about back to basics. Beginners mind, or pen, or keyboard. It’s what I tell the women in my writing group week after week. Just begin. Just put pen to paper. One word is all you need. And willingness I suppose; and maybe a bit of trust; to give yourself over, to let that one word take you to the next, and then the next, surrendering to the process that is oh so much bigger and wiser than we are, getting the magic of it all, letting go, maybe even diving headlong into it. One word, one keystroke, one breath at a time.

It’s exactly why I come back to the “word,” to writing, again and again. It takes me somewhere. Destination most always unknown. Deep into the cavern or flying high or somewhere in between, one thing is certain, I am never the same after I write; I am always someplace new.

Back to basics. Forgetting eloquence or beauty or inspiration or even if it makes sense. In fact, I’m drawn to those writers that just put their thoughts down, don’t have to make a proper essay of it, even a proper sentence, random thoughts, pieces of the puzzle that fit or don’t fit but somehow, amazingly, work. If you follow my drift. I’ve seen it in fiction, too, and it’s been some of my most enjoyable reading, when the writer drops you straight into the moment, no leading up or circling, no extra words, just the middle of a scene or thought. Blows me away.

Here’s some good news in the midst of the current—and seemingly chronic—gray zone. I’m becoming a Photoshop user! Joy of joys. It’s been days now, maybe even a whole week, since I’ve felt the urge to throw my computer across the room. And even better news, it is delivering me to the place that I unknowingly craved being, where my love of taking photographs is merging with my hunger, my compulsion, really, to create art. It’s like I’ve landed where I was always meant to land, I just had no idea where that was, other than vague flashes or ideas, tiny bits and pieces of inspiration, just blindly following where the impulse led. Hmm…

Here are some of my first attempts. And honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased. Learning as I go. And just like it’s one word at a time with writing, here it’s one step, one photograph, one lesson, one application, one texture at a time. Somehow, it’s all coming together, leading me where I was no doubt meant to go all along.